Monday, January 26, 2015

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It is quite a fillip for morale to watch the anti-austerity party, Syriza, take office in Greece. Joyous Greek citizens seen taking to the streets, hope written all over their faces, will send waves of unease throughout Europe’s political elite if only for the rising tide of expectation it might produce within anti austerity movements
throughout the continent. 

Syriza Party leader Alexis Tsipras declared upon being elected that:
The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain.

Hopefully this proves to be so but it remains a bold and ambitious claim from a party that has taken office but not necessarily power. The possession of power will be determined by the wider European constellation of social and political forces that will be watching the Greek situation unfold and its ability to insert and impose its own strategic preferences into and onto Greek society. Alexis Tsipras, if he has not already done so, might consider taking a look at the work of the late Greek Marxist theoretician Nicos Poulantzas who wrote persuasively on the circulation of power within capitalist society, emphasizing that when parliament is captured by democratic forces the centre of power shifts elsewhere.

Already the international opposition is shaping up, with the architects of austerity firing warning shots across the Greek bow. British Chancellor George Osborne charged that Syriza’s promises will be “very difficult to deliver and incompatible with what the eurozone currently demands of its members." Germany and France are insisting on Greece meeting its obligation to be screwed.

It is a decisive juncture but not just for the citizens of Greece. Syriza will be asked to show the colour of the money it intends to take from the rich and give to the poor, and the power it hopes to move from the troika to people on the dole queue, who are left to starve if they are in receipt of income support for more than a year. It falls on Syriza to demonstrate that opposition discourse is not just hot air bellowed out by fantasy economics, that there is in fact an alternative that can work. If it fails in Greece then the logic of capital will pronounce itself more assertively as the only show in town, every town.

The question is will Syrzia live up to its opposition promises now that it is in office? Or will it deliver to Greek society the Rabbitte punch - 'Isn't that what you tend to do during an election?" - where politicians in pursuit of office promise the electorate anything to get it just to shaft them once they get their bums on seats?

Moreover, can anti-austerity in one country survive? Will it not be a rerun of the old argument about the limitations of socialism in one country that so plagued the Marxist project of the last century?

Greece, through no fault of Syrzia, might find that it cannot deliver over the wishes of the austerity phalanx who will seek to crush it, at least by stealth. It might discover that it can’t raise money to fund itself and that without radical international solidarity Greek society alone is too easily marooned in a capitalist world.

If this does happen we must hope that Syriza will not conceal the gap between what it promised and what it ultimately delivered; that it will not fuel public suspicion about the opportunist nature of oppositional politics.

The Left has in the past all too often resorted to authoritarianism to prevent scrutiny of its role and failings in office. If Syrzia fails this time, it should allow democratic forces to understand why rather than claim things would be much worse were it not for their presence in office.  There really does need to be something to distinguish the radicals from the reprobates, Orwell's animals from the farmers.


AM said...

From Niall

Niall has left a new comment on your post "Change Not Chicanery":

Syriza - We had the Arab spring that mounted to the removal of dictators and replaced by, mmmmmm, dictators and mass killings and a return to what went before so I wouldn't expect that the wave of change coming from Greece will be as tumultuous as perceived....the Troika isn't going to sit on its arse and allow Greece to upset its finances....Syriz could find itself with a fate similar to the Muslim Brotherhood.