In Greece today manifests the deeply contradictory dialectic of modern capitalism – the ‘weakest link’ in the neoliberal Eurozone, possessing perhaps the most ‘dynamic’ of politics. While I will not be bold enough to place it at par with Lenin’s ‘weakest link’ (Russia), but as far as the victory of the Syriza is concerned, the ‘election’ of a ‘far-left’ party in a crisis-plagued Eurozone means a tectonic shift in European politics just occurred. What stands out however is that the ‘weak links’ have been adeptly exposed by a relatively newly sculpted radical-left formation (2004), which did not even hold massive sway over what is supposed to be left’s traditional social base – the organized working classes.
The objective conditions for such a change in Greece were of course ripe – the broth had been brewing for a bit now – in form of a deep and pervasive economic crisis – with unemployment reaching above 60 per cent among youth, real wages had fallen by more than one-third and austerity had been hammered in by the troika, striking Greek sovereignty where it hurt the most. This created conditions that simulated Germany’s in the post-Versailles (Treaty) era and predictably gave rise to political upheavals and uncertainties – with existing centrist dominations losing appeal and extremes (the left and the right) gaining. Very few revolutionary situations lend themselves to a revolution, but Syriza did make the most out of this one.
While being upbeat of the ‘success’ of the ‘far left’, we should hence be cautious of the ‘success’ of the ‘extreme right’ too – as it has come about as a result of the same objective conditions. We already know that Golden Dawn, the extreme-right in Greece has come in third in electoral standing. The politics of austerity in effect has made it possible for the rise of an antagonizing politics producing two poles caught in the logic of equivalence. Thus it is not surprising to see the xenophobic right getting significantly stronger in Europe (but also elsewhere), where the left still languishes in its effort to deal with the shifting topographies of neoliberal politics.
That is one of the biggest reasons why Syriza’s electoral ‘victory’ (though still two seats away from a clear majority at the time of writing) becomes so important. It not only signifies the possibility of an anti-austerity, anti-capitalist left alternative but also demonstrates how this ‘success’ can be made achievable. Broad based agendas and alliances on the left with social movements – support from eco-socialists, the greens, etc. are supposed to as much be the key here as ‘what comes after’ – i.e. how the mobilization is sustained and channelized in support of the transformation once political power is achieved.
Consequently, intellectuals and analysts have increasingly tried to grapple with the nature of emergence of parties of the likes of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain – formations that are on the ‘far-left’ yet unconventionally, don’t proffer grand socialist solutions in their programmes at the outset. The ‘new’ left strategies have been attempted to be understood from different angles – ranging from the theorisation that is a combination of poulantzas’-gramscian’ theorisation of state/ state power, to that of the new-left-radical populism of Laclau-Mouffe, Hardt and Negri – on the lines of what one sees in Latin America – especially with the Chavistas in Venezuela. Pablo Eglasias (Podemos, see his article in Jacobin Magazine – The Left Can Win) and prominent spokespersons from Syriza have practically led this reconceptualisation of the left strategy.
Coming back to the consequences of the electoral success of Syriza in Greece – an anti-capitalist/ anti-austerity political formation coming to power will definitely have a real impact on European politics and the kind of ‘common-sense’ neoliberalism that is promulgated by the ‘troika’ (of the ECB, European Commission, IMF). However, any the talk of building of a internationalist socialist bloc – is by and large inconsequential right now. Taking premeditated stances that follow certain ‘socialist teleologies’, no matter how obvious they may sound to those accustomed to the rhetoric, are neither an option, nor on the agenda for parties like Podemos or Syriza. This seems pretty reasonable, given that the stakes are heavily stacked against them – the troika led by the ruling political formations of established powers in Europe will not take this lying down.
The path for an impending collision is set. Rest assured however, a strong and stable transformation of Greek and Spanish societies based on anti-austerity and counter hegemonic politics will definitely destabilize the neoliberal ‘extreme centre’ (to borrow Tariq Ali’s term) all over Europe and strengthen the leftist imperative. More importantly it will give a boost to progressive politics in not just other ‘weak links’ – Ireland, Portugal but also give hope to anti-austerity politics within the ‘strongholds’ – the UK (I’m looking at the Scottish first), France and Germany. This could itself be the ‘unintended internationalism’, a domino-effect we are looking for, but again it looks like this will be decided on the level of sovereigns first.
Photo Credit- Fanis Xouryas(Flickr)