[Marxism] Syriza surrenders: time for renewed grassroots resistance
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Mon Jul 13 18:23:05 MDT 2015
Syriza surrenders: time for renewed popular resistance
by Theodoros Karyotis
ROAR magazine, July 13
Now that Syriza has caved in to the creditors, the need for grassroots
mobilization is more urgent than ever. A new cycle of struggles is
ahead of us.
. . .
For about three years, grassroots social movements in Greece had
deeply contradictory sentiments towards the electoral rise of Syriza.
On one hand, the prospect of a left government was an opportunity to
bring the conflict to an institutional level; after all, many of the
demands of the struggles were reflected in Syriza’s program and the
party always kept a movement-friendly profile.
On the other hand, Syriza has been an agent of demobilization, ending
the legitimation crisis that gave a protagonistic role to the social
creativity and self-determination of the movements, and by promoting
the institutionalization of the struggles, the marginalization of
demands that did not fit into its state management project, and the
restitution of the logic of political representation and delegation,
which promoted inaction and complacency.
At the same time, Syriza cultivated the illusion that real social
transformation was possible without breaking with the mechanisms of
capitalist domination, without calling into question the dominant
economic paradigm, without building concrete bottom-up alternatives to
capitalist institutions, without even calling into question the
country’s permanence within a monetary union that by design favors the
export-driven economies of the North in detriment of the Europe’s
Syriza’s leaders detached themselves from the party base and their
former allies within the movements, and stubbornly resisted a public
debate on the elaboration of a ‘Plan B’ outside the Eurozone, should
the ‘Plan A’ of an ‘end to austerity within the Eurozone’ fail, for
fear that this would be used against them by the pro-austerity
opposition as proof that they had a hidden agenda from the very start.
Unfortunately, recent developments tend to confirm the views of those
who claimed that, given the extreme delegitimation and fragility of
the previous government, a new memorandum was only possible through a
new and popular ‘progressive’ government. This is probably the role
that Syriza unwillingly ended up playing, using its ample reserves of
Lifting the veil of illusion
Syriza’s failure to deliver on any of its campaign promises or to
reverse the logic of austerity lifts the veil of illusion regarding
institutional top-down solutions and leaves the grassroots movements
exactly where they started from: being the main antagonistic force to
the neoliberal assault on society; the only force capable of
envisioning a different world that goes beyond the failed institutions
of the predatory capitalist market and representative democracy.
Undoubtedly many honest and committed activists are linked to the
Syriza party base. It is their task now to acknowledge the failure of
Syriza’s plan, and to resist the government’s efforts to market the
new memorandum as a positive or inevitable development. If Syriza, or
a majority part of it, decides to stay in power — in this governmental
arrangement or in some other, more servile, put in place by the
creditors — and oversee the implementation of this brutal memorandum,
it is the task of the party base to rebel and unite with other social
forces in search of a way out of barbarity, to break the ranks of a
party that might quickly be turning from a force of change into a
reluctant administrator of a brutal system they have no control over.
The role of the left, broadly defined, is not that of a more
benevolent manager of capitalist barbarity: after all, that was social
democracy’s original purpose, a project that exhausted itself already
in the 1980s. There can be no ‘austerity with a human face’:
neoliberal social engineering is an attack on human dignity and the
common goods in all its guises, right-wing and left-wing.
I have argued elsewhere that the NO in last week’s referendum was
ambivalent, and the struggle to give meaning to it has only just
begun. Hours after the announcement of the result, Prime Minister
Tsipras interpreted the verdict as a mandate to ‘stay within the
Eurozone at any cost’. It is evident, however, that the new ‘bailout’
package obviously is outside his mandate: Plan A, Syriza’s only plan,
envisioning an end of austerity without challenging the
powers-that-be, has utterly failed.
Plan B, promoted in various forms by Antarsya, the Communist Party and
Syriza’s own Left Platform advocates a productive reconstruction
outside the Eurozone. Although increasingly popular after the
inflexibility of the European project has been made evident, it is
still a productivist, state-centric, top-down plan that doesn’t put
into question the dominant meanings of capitalism: endless capitalist
growth, an extractive economy, the expansion of production, credit and
consumption. Furthermore, by promoting national entrenchment it
entails the danger of authoritarian deviations.
A decisive turning point
As always, the Greek crisis is a turning point regarding the future of
the European project. The Eurozone hardliners insist on blaming the
people of the European periphery for the structural defects of the
single currency and their own insistence on socializing private debt
through the euphemistically called ‘bailout packages’. At the same
time they have poisoned the minds of the people of the North of Europe
with a neocolonial moralistic discourse propagated through the mass
The perceived loss of political power over their lives is turning many
Europeans towards reactionary xenophobic parties that promise a return
to the self-contained authoritarian nation-state. The European left
looks on perplexed as its hopes of an EU based on solidarity and
social justice vanish along with Syriza’s bid to negotiate a humane
way out of the Greek debt crisis.
Now is the moment for a broad alliance of social forces to bring
forward a ‘Plan C’, based on social collaboration, decentralized
self-government and the stewardship of common goods. Without
overlooking its significance, national electoral politics is not the
privileged field of action when it comes to social transformation.
The withering away of democracy in Europe should be complemented and
challenged by the fortification of self-organized communities at a
local level and the forging of strong bonds between them, along with a
turn to a solidarity- and needs-based economy, and the collective
management and defense of common goods. The social counter-power of
the oppressed should confront the social power of capital directly in
its privileged space: everyday life.
Within Greece, after a full circle, the debate on our future beyond
austerity has only now started. The resounding 61% rejection of
austerity serves to remind us that this debate is now urgent, and the
reactivation of the social movements that envision new social
relationships built from below is imminent, after some years of
relative demobilization. We have ahead of us a new cycle of creative
resistance, of forging collective subjects and of tireless
experimentation for the bottom-up transformation of our reality.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Theodoros Karyotis is a sociologist, translator and activist
participating in social movements that promote self-management,
solidarity economy and defense of the commons in Greece. He writes on
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