Syriza’s victory has left in its wake a wave of hope that an alternative to neoliberalist orthodoxy is possible. In this piece, originally published in Ceasefire on February 2nd, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen examine the prospects of further breakthroughs elsewhere in Europe.
As in the famous photograph of the Parthenon, the peoples of Europe are indeed rising up – even if the KKE which hung those posters has singularly ruled itself out of taking any part in the remarkable confrontation with the Troika which its one-time comrades in Syriza are now engaging in. Across the continent there is quite rightly a huge wave of hope at seeing that there is an alternative to simply taking our neoliberal medicine and watching as work, education, health, democracy and common decency are hacked to pieces by our increasingly-indistinguishable rulers.
Leaving aside the many possible partial analyses – of the history of German occupation, British military support for the postwar assault on the Greek resistance, NATO’s support for the regime of the colonels, the splits and reorganisation of the Greek left after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the corruption of Greek social democracy, the twisting of arms and breaking of mandates to ensure Troika rule, the perverse effects of bleeding money out of the economy, the rise of “solidarity economy” in response to the destruction of the welfare state, the wave of workplace occupations, the radical Greek diaspora abroad and so on – how can we understand “the movement as a whole”?
Much “radical” writing on Greece is painfully simplistic – the Greeks were suffering, therefore they rose up (but, as activists know in practice there is no linear relationship between levels of poverty and levels of resistance – or neoliberalism would long since have collapsed without us having to make an effort and, more trivially, we would have seen comparable levels of struggle in countries like Portugal and Italy). Or, party-building is always and everywhere the thing to do (but the presence of far-left parties, and the latest new coalition, normally fails to have anything like the desired effects – such coalitions often lose votes by comparison with their previously separate components).
Let’s consider three badly-affected European countries: Greece, Spain and Ireland. The new Greek government certainly rests on a long process of party-building going back to the split between the “interior” KKE (oriented to local struggles) and the “exterior” one (oriented to Moscow). But Spain’s Podemos – now the first party in terms of popular support – has just been invented and stands not in any genealogy of left parties but in a long history of the “anti-institutional left”, going back through the indignad@s, the 2004 protests against the state’s attempt to blame ETA for the Madrid train bombings, the 2003 anti-war movement, the global justice movement of the early 2000s and before that the complex and well-established Spanish autonomist scene. In Ireland, despite the agreement between Sinn Féin’s PR machine and the world’s mainstream media that it is somehow the equivalent of Syriza and Podemos, the collapse of Ireland’s traditional post-colonial party system (two right-wing nationalist parties and a tiny Labour Party) has mostly benefitted independent deputies rather than either SF or the Trotskyist parties, whose alliance recently collapsed.