Greek elections: web round up #2

All signs point to a Syriza victory today, with the very real possibility of an overall majority, depending on the vote for smaller parties. Since our last round up, even more has been written about Greece, and what it means. Dan Swain continues the coverage.

(pic: thierry ehrmann via flickr)

(pic: thierry ehrmann via flickr)

As the reality of a Syriza victory gets closer, the voices of mainstream British media and politicians have got louder. The Guardian’s Jon Henley interviewed people at the Peristeri health centre, one of 40 volunteer health centres that have sprung up to support Greeks without health insurance, part of a wider network of social solidarity developing in the country:

As well as helping people in difficulty… Greece’s solidarity movement is fostering “almost a different sense of what politics should be – a politics from the bottom up, that starts with real people’s needs. It’s a practical critique of the empty, top-down, representational politics our traditional parties practise. It’s kind of a whole new model, actually. And it’s working.”

It also looks set to play a more formalised role in Greece’s future under what polls predict will be a Syriza-led government from next week. When they were first elected in 2012 the radical left party’s 72 MPs voted to give 20% of their monthly salary to a solidarity fund that would help finance Solidarity for All.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Labour affiliated TSSA union, called for Labour to support cancelling Greece’s debt in an article for LabourList. In a particularly eyebrow raising article, Daily Telegraph columnist Charles Moore suggested he might vote for Syriza if he could:

The eurozone is run colonially – with Greece as a troublesome outlying territory and Germany as the dominant and most exacting power. Syriza is the logical, desperate response to this. If I were a Greek, I might well think: “Why not vote for it and see what happens? I have little to lose.”

Paul Mason’s blog before the election offered 5 final thoughts, ranging from the question of how Syriza will deal with the old, corrupt institutions of state to the likelihood of the debt write-off they hope for.

Following on from the articles we highlighted yesterday, Verso Books have produced an instant ebook, written by Heiner Flassbeck and Syriza economist Costas Lapavitsas, with a preface from Paul Mason.

Stathis Kouvelakis gave this interview with Tariq Ali:

Syriza Interview MASTER from Tariq Ali Show on Vimeo.

Portuguese social movement activist Catarina Principe offered a thorough presentation of the programme Syriza will attempt to implement:

Some of the immediate measures to be applied by a government of the left:

  1. Employment program for three hundred thousand new jobs;
  2. Free electricity to three hundred thousand households currently under the poverty line;
  3. Program of meal subsidies to three hundred thousand families without income;
  4. Program of housing guarantee;
  5. Restitution of the Christmas bonus, as 13th pension, to 1,262,920 pensioners with a pension up to €700;
  6. Free medical and pharmaceutical care for the uninsured unemployed;
  7. Special public transport card for the long-term unemployed and those who are under the poverty line;
  8. Restoration of the minimum wage to €751.

Syriza’s success is often spoken of in the same breath as Podemos, the insurgent party in the Spanish state. Their leading figure, Pablo Iglesias, has spoken strongly in support of Syriza. A translation of one of his speeches is available here:

Winning elections is far from winning power. That’s why we must bring together everyone who is committed to change and decency, which is nothing more than turning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into a manual for government.

Finally, there has been a flood of British activists arriving into Athens in the past few days, and whilst it’s easy to poke fun at this phenomenon, they are producing a range of valuable insights and interviews: Kevin Ovenden continues his dispatches with voices from Syriza’s left, while Jonathon Shafi interviewed people in Syriza’s main organising hub for the Scottish Left Project.

There are 15 comments

  1. Mark

    OK, Antarsya got 0.65%. Meanwhile (and the reason we’re all paying so much attention in the first place) Syriza win massively. Anyone care to explain why an Antarsya vote was a good idea? The Antarsya people should immediately join Syriza and work to strengthen the left there. Syriza is the centre of working class politics and political life currently. Why stand aside? In the name of what?
    The alternative is hanging about on the edge, sniping from the sidelines. Trotsky’s comments on the De Man plan from the mid-30s are the model: we could have written a better programme, but the workers chose Syriza, not us. So we go with the workers through the experience, saying we will help Syriza in so far as it confronts capital. That way we get a hearing now and prepare the future.

  2. James

    This was the arguement of course of the labour left in the 1980’s…the left can side with the workers supporting Syriza but keep its political independence.

  3. Ray B

    Congratulations on Syriza’s success, hopefully this will be a huge boost to the left across Europe, but this event needs to be viewed in the context of the Greek situation to understand why there needs to be a revolutionary alternative to Syriza.

    The day after the election Syriza creates a coalition with the right. Is that the kind of pragmatism Mark is recommending? Once again we’re in the territory of those who view winning the most votes or recruiting the most members legitimises their politics regardless of the consequences. In the midst of the most convulsive class struggles in Europe for over 20 years, according to Mark, there’s no space for a revolutionary alternative to Syriza and revolutionaries in Greece must back the coalition come what may? So if Syriza ends up managing Greek capitalism (not very well probably) or is usurped by the right, there’s no other left organisation to offer an alternative. Unlike the UK where the low level of struggle might favour a coalition of the left, tactically this is not the case in Greece.

  4. Ray B

    Thanks for the heads up! Certainly unmissable. I hope you’ve all got dressed up in the latest fashionable, age appropriate, attire otherwise you’ll be breaking the faux pas of poor presentation which, if I recall, seemed to be the most important factor of Newsnight appearances for some sections of the left.

  5. Mark

    You don’t necessarily lose your political independence by simply joining a bigger party. You lose political independence by changing what you say – and who is suggesting that?This is what Trotsky thought (French turn etc), it is what some people from the IS Tradition in Greece (DEA, inside Syriza) think, it is what Cliff etc thought in the 60s about the LP. Joining other parties when you are a very small isolated minority (as Antarsya are) can be sensible to get a hearing, win influence. Unless you’ve erected the idea of isolation as a political principle, the case should be argued concretely, case by case, as a practical political matter. And entry into Syriza is much clearer than the LP in the 80s: Syriza has little of the bureaucracy the 80s LP had, it is open and relatively fluid, it has a very sizable revolutionary wing, it is a left wing party in a way the LP of the 80s was not, it is absolutely central to working class political life in the middle of a crisis. So, what’s the issue? It is mad not to be part of it.

  6. Ray B

    Well Syriza’s “revolutionary wing” didn’t prevent Tsipras forming a coalition with racists. So much for their alleged internal influence! Already there seems to be a narrative developing among some of those hoping to gloss over this problem by blaming Antarsya for not handing Syriza a majority. No doubt the first of many excuses if Syriza doesn’t deliver reforms. At which point the possibility of a left formation outside of Syriza could only have legs if it was already being built.

  7. Mark

    Syriza’s leadership shouldn’t have made the coalition deal, true. But to go from that to say the revolutionary wing (why the inverted commas?) has, therefore, no influence, is silly; nor will this issue go uncontested in future (although it is easier to contest the matter if you’re actually in the party, rather than as a spectator on the sidelines). There will be battles on such questions within Syriza, as well as within the broader workers’ movement.
    How do you expect the revolutionary party to emerge? Through a process of conflicts and political struggle? – or fully formed from birth (RS21 grows one by one, with perfect politics until you come to power?) Surely the experience of the early Comintern is important here: contest for communist politics inside the mass movement and be willing to wage the political struggle inside mass workers’ parties too.
    It might be different if the left had an independent mass voice – but Antarsya is tiny. Insignificant, unfortunately.

  8. Neil Rogall

    Mark, not sure why you name name check rs21 other than this is its website. The person you are arguing with is, not an rs21 member. I quite agree with what you say about the way revolutionary organisations grow. It is certainly not by 1s and 2s though this maybe all they can do at certain times. It certainly wash’t what for example the IS/SWP believed in the 70s. When we built factory branches (I was in Hull at the time) we recruited groups of militants together. Further I have no belief that rs21 is potentially any more than one current in a larger stream that can create a revolutionary party as opposed to a self-proclaimed one.

  9. Ray B

    Mark you make the classic mistake of identifying the struggle through the organs of the state and that is the biggest problem with Syriza. Don’t confuse the parliamentary vote of Syriza with the building of a revolutionary current. Forming a coalition of all the left in the UK during a low level of struggle is one thing but in Greece it’s not the way forward, especially at this point..

    Your example of Labour in the 80’s is wrong – the far left, including Militant, were completely subordinate concerning policy making during that period as the far left in Syriza are now and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. In the past the KOE has already split and moved to the right within Syriza, even advocating a coalition with the ANEL, so perhaps you’re right – the far left in Syriza has had an influence after all! If anything, the direction in which Syriza and its constituent organisations have developed since the article below was written further confirms the need for a revolutionary alternative.

    http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=889

  10. Mark

    Hi Neil. OK your IS experience in the 70s is interesting. But even if you recruited, say, 10 new members as a group of workers came towards your organisation, that’s still a very different to revolutionary and reformist currents battling inside mass workers’ parties. Ray’s attitude seems to be: we’re only going to take part in such struggles if we always win, or know in advance we’ll win.
    Ray. I don’t think Syriza’s leaders are proto-revolutionaries, or crypto-revolutionaries. They are left reformists; they are not going to make a revolution. Equally, what they’ve done has taken the movement a step forward (and we should back and help every single small step they take against capital), the situation gives revolutionaries a big opportunity to get a bigger hearing and the workers have gained confidence. Again the model is Trotsky’s attitude to De Man in the mid-30s (which was really a version of the Comintern’s Workers’ Government policy in conditions where the revolutionaries are a tiny minority).
    This isn’t a matter of an obsession with the bourgeois state, but of the importance of politics and political struggle (rather than simple abstract propaganda).
    I think there are now 5 DEA MPs, elected under the Syriza banner. Is that just irrelevant? It seems very important to me. And it tells you something about Syriza – how open it is to people like us. I was in Athens a while back talking to the Kokkino people: they said Syriza is open enough to allow someone to wander across the floor of a Syriza conference and sell Tsipras a Trotskyist paper and no one would bat and eyelid. I don’t know if you’ve ever been inside a Labour Party conference – but, frankly, it is a little different.

  11. Ray B

    No one is disputing that the situation is different to Labour in the 80’s. You’re the one making that comparison and I’m stating why I think it’s necessary to have a revolutionary alternative to Syriza in Greece. The article I linked to also explains very clearly why this is necessary in Greece during this period. It addresses all of your points.

    In case that’s not persuasive enough then this Jacobin article by a member of Syriza raises similar concerns about it’s trajectory. This member of Syriza has a more realistic grasp of what’s at stake than you appear to have.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/01/syriza-greece-victory-kouvelakis-left/

  12. Ray B

    No one on the revolutionary left in Greece has been or is “standing aside” or “moaning”. Petty moralising is not a substitute for a political argument supporting your position. Syriza’s politics have been and continue to be contested and the fact that you don’t know this or won’t acknowledge it keeps you clinging on to the narrow confines of Syriza where the revolutionary left have no influence on policy despite your claims to the contrary.

  13. James

    Mark, this arguement that if you are not in the main left organisation as a matter of principle then you are moaning outside the movement is exactly the line of the militant when they were in the Labour Party. So of course there are tactical questions which are not always simple you are rigid in your thinking. People who look to Syriza do go to work, college, demonstrations etc and do not only speak to others at the monthly Syriza meeting!

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