One big point is missing from a lot of the British left’s commentary on Greece and particularly the role of SYRIZA argues Liam Mac Uaid. It’s the simple, unavoidable fact that the political situation in that country and across Europe has been transformed by the existence of a pluralistic far left political formation which is willing to stand in elections and take to the streets. Its name is an acronym for “Coalition of the Radical Left” and until recently its membership was in the low thousands, this in a country with large Communist and social democratic parties which have long had mass working class support.
Home grown efforts to create something similar have repeatedly failed and the British far left is utterly marginal as a political factor. The results of the plethora of left candidates standing under various banners in the recent elections is grim reading. The contrast with SYRIZA which is now going mano a mano with Angela Merkel and the leaders of European capitalism couldn’t be starker. .
What has become clear as the convulsions in Greek society have intensified is that the alternatives to the crisis are articulated through organisations and parties with programmes. Greek workers and youth will be striking and demonstrating in the coming weeks. They will also be voting for parties which are making serious proposals about how, and in whose interests they will run society. Massive support for SYRIZA, especially if it emerges as the largest party, will be confirmation that Greece is in a pre-revolutionary situation and will be the single most power challenge to the European bourgeoisie since the Portuguese revolution in 1974.
SYRIZA has lessons to teach the British left. These confirm much of what Socialist Resistance has been saying for a number of years on the need for stable, left of social democracy (Labour) political organisations.
The first of these is that SYRIZA functioned in between elections campaigns. In Britain the far left’s electoral interventions are transparently futile efforts to fly the flag for socialism and maybe win a couple of recruits to whichever organisation holds the franchise in a locality. As soon as the campaign is over it’s back to the normal routine of paper selling, front organisations and branch meetings. Despite its interminable capitulations to neo-liberalism most working class people in Britain still see the Labour Party as their defence against the Tories. That situation is not likely to change until a force emerges which is understood by significant sections of militant workers, radical youth and anti-capitalists to be a permanent part of the political landscape.
The second is that SYRIZA makes a virtue of the breadth of opinion within it. Its very name proclaims that its component parts grasp that no single political current has a monopoly on truth. Dissent and opposing points of view which are tested out in class struggle are much more necessary to the working class than one small propaganda group winning phony victories in internal arguments. A consistent feature of the Occupy Movement and recent radicalisations has been an embrace of democracy and debate which some on the left find challenging.
It is not overstating the case to say that if either the Socialist Alliance or Respect and their major components had shown the same commitment to creating a broad left of Labour party the position of the working class in Britain would be much more favourable. It would have served as a pole of attraction in communities fighting cuts and workers facing job losses and pay cuts. It would have made it harder for bureaucrats like Dave Prentis to sell out the pensions struggle.
This is quite a good description of what’s happening in Greece in the pre-election period:
“…at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime… The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”
Trotsky was writing about the Russian revolution but the leaders of PASOK and the KKE must be thinking very similar thoughts as they see leadership of the most audacious members of the Greek working class passing to SYRIZA. It is what anti-capitalist parties are for and it is proving its value at the very moment the working class needs it most. That is what SYRIZA teaches us.