The contradictions of SYRIZA

Will SYRIZA bring freedom for the Greeks?/ Laura Billett

Will SYRIZA bring freedom for the Greeks?/ Laura Billett

Greece’s new government is far from radical, or predictable.

Greece’s SYRIZA, formerly the Coalition of the Radical Left, have won that country’s national elections in coalition with thirteen members of the newly-formed and right-wing Independent Greeks. Greek resistance to foreign domination goes back to the nineteenth century war of independence waged against the Ottoman Empire and was renewed in the partisan war against German and Italian aggression during the Second World War. This eventually culminated in a civil war between those liberating partisans and the Western-backed postwar military regime.

What can Canadian radicals learn from the recent successes of SYRIZA? Very little, it seems. While Canada is seen as a resource-rich peripheral zone to the American empire, it is a repressive force abroad as seen in its wholehearted support of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, and the state’s financial backing of a host of authoritarian regimes throughout the Global South.

The progressive nationalism of SYRIZA is simply incompatible with a state apparatus along Canadian lines, which oppresses and brutalizes people abroad. A left-wing nationalist government in Canada would function along the lines of the French Socialists during the Algerian and Vietnamese wars of liberation, seeking to provide a good life for people at home while committing what amounts to genocide abroad. While many in the media are quick to play up leader Alexis Tsipras’ former connections to communism, he has been bending over backwards to prove to creditors and Western heads of state that his party will not question the fundamental aspects of capitalism: private property, wage labour, and private wealth concentration. Tsipras wishes to renegotiate the terms under which the Greek people are suffering, not eradicate them.

For many in Greece, SYRIZA represents a democratic panacea. By renegotiating Greek enslavement to the Eurozone and Western capitalism, Tsipras’ party is creating the conditions under which the state will inevitably backslide into a renewed state of predatory capitalism under whoever takes their place – be it under the centre-left PASOK, the centre-right New Democracy, or the far-right Golden Dawn. SYRIZA and the nationalist Independent Greeks are faced with the contradiction of trying to save a national economy while remaining under a hegemonic supranational economic association.

SYRIZA is a very new formation within the Greek system, having previously existed as a coalition of thirteen socialist, populist, green left, Maoist, Trotskyist, Eurocommunist, and other left-wing organizations. The Canadian parliamentary left is not just splintered, it simply does not exist outside of the New Democrats – themselves rapidly sliding rightward in an attempt to form a Big Tent.

A renewed Greek democracy will not simply spring forth fully formed from the head of Zeus with the success of SYRIZA. By remaining in the Eurozone, Tsipras hopes the Greek economy will function as his economic atomic bomb. Rather than dropping out of the Eurozone, he hopes to hold the second-largest supranational economy ransom with his ‘chain analogy’ – there are seventeen links on the Eurozone chain, and the collapse of one will necessitate the collapse of the rest.

Canadian radicals can take little from the success of SYRIZA while we remain under a first-past-the-post system. New Democrats have monopolized and suffocated the agency of the parliamentary left in Canada. Until there is a form of proportional representation in the Canadian system, Canadian radicals have no place in parliament. We radicals belong in the streets, fighting capitalism rather than reinforcing it through ‘respectful’ and democratic debate with reactionaries.

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