The Critical Mass: (ii) Syriza – A Step in the Left Direction

February 1, 2015 12:05 am

Ever since the banking and financial system crashed back in the autumn of 2007/08, the buzzwords from our politicians have always been ‘austerity’, ‘cuts’, and that ‘we’re all in it together’. That has been true in the USA – where the ‘contagion’ first broke out – as on this side of the pond, right across Europe.  It is the speculators of Wall Street and our bankers, tied to them by a thousand threads, who can be held directly responsible for this state of affairs.

Millions of ordinary working and middle class people have been expected to pick up the tab. It was our tax money that bailed out those greedy bankers and they still award themselves bloated bonuses, while we’re supposed to take a hit on wages, jobs, services. The capitalist media, and their poodle politicians, have continuously repeated the mantra that there is ‘no money’, that recovery can only be achieved if we attack those on benefits,  public sector workers and immigrants. The steady drip-drip of  placing the blame on these sections of society has resulted in the rise of far right formations both in the UK and across the continent.

Rather than admit the failure of their system, politicians prefer to scapegoat the more vulnerable and this has found a dangerous echo in some quarters, to their eternal shame. The mainstream parties have responded to the rise of the rightwing parties by adopting some of their anti-immigrant, anti-working class rhetoric.

Yet, the reality is very different.

Dawn of a ‘Red Spring’?

Since the recession (commentators have pulled out all the stops to avoid calling it a ‘depression’) unemployment has soared, which forced a certain level of ‘Quantitive Easing’ from the banks – that is, priming the pump – to help stave off the worst effects of austerity, to little avail. Yes, unemployment began to go down somewhat and benefits were slashed, but the jobs created were low paid, temporary, even zero hour contracts increased to its height of 700,000. 65,000 claimants have not been included in statistics since the stringent benefit rules have been applied.

Yet Britain itself remains the sixth or seventh wealthiest country on the planet and the European Union (EU) still rivals the USA. The poorer members of the EU – the offensively named PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) – have been hit the hardest, a sure fire example that the ‘one size fits all’ single currency, without equal re-distribution of jobs, services and wealth, just doesn’t work. Added to that, the undemocratic, unelected EU commissioners demand that loans they handed out with such largesse in good times, to the ruling classes of those countries, now have to be paid back.

The last five years have seen mass impoverishment across the board. In Greece, there’s 26% unemployment, and 49% youth unemployment. Wages have slumped and the working week – if you’re lucky enough to have a job – has now increased, in some cases, to 12 hours a day with no paid overtime. The minimum wage slumped to 450 euros per month, public sector jobs have been hacked away, and much of the private sector jobs have suffered the same fate. There has been the rise of the far right party ‘Golden Dawn’ who offer racist, fascist solutions, who have attacked and murdered immigrants and trade unionists.

A chain breaks at its weakest link…

Alongside these developments, Syriza – ‘Coalition of the Radical Left’ – lay on the fringes of politics, only polling around 4% in 2010. They are a coalition of medium to small groupings of minor Leninist, Maoist, socialist and trade union parties. But it took the testing out, and failures, of the mainstream political parties to propel Syriza to power as they offered an anti-austerity, pro-nationalisation programme.

In 2012, they gained 25% of the votes and earned the scorn of capitalist politicians and press. Now, they gained 36.6% at the elections of January. Two seats short of an outright majority, Syriza joined forces, paradoxically, with the only other anti-austerity party, the right wing ‘Independent Greeks’, a splinter group from the Greek ‘Conservatives’, New Democracy.

There followed a massive outpouring of fear mongering both from the Greek press, the EU and the IMF. Nevertheless, the Greek masses turned to the left. The chain breaks at its weakest link…

Since then, the Syriza leadership around Tsipiras have become slightly blurred around the edges compared to what they said on the campaign trail,  practically ruling out leaving the single currency, and being more open to negotiations. The EU, in the form of German chancellor Angela Merkel, insists there will be no let up on demands for loans to be repaid.

However, there ARE sections of the financial hierarchy, both in Europe and in the US, who are urging more circumspection, that maybe they have gone too far with austerity, to the extent that their very system may be placed in jeopardy with the growth of such movements from below.

After one year in existence, the Spanish left wing party – Podemos – leads the polls

Already, we see the growth of new forces of the Left in Europe. In Spain, Podemos (‘We Can’) is leading the polls and it was only founded a year ago. Their leader, Pablo Iglesias, said there is a ‘wind of change’ blowing through Europe.

The Greek workers’ movement is acting as a beacon and poses the question from countries like Spain: ‘If it can happen there, why not here?’

Already, some are calling it the ‘Red Spring’. Well, there had to be a turning point at some time when the population of Europe could take no more and a fight back is now underway.

The pendulum swings…

%d bloggers like this: