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SYRIZA in Distress

It seems that the main party of the coalition which forms the Greek government has entered a tumultuous period. On July 12th, in order to secure the funding of the Eurozone, the government signed an agreement to impose extreme neo-liberal measures. These policies appear to be in complete contrast with the character and identity of SYRIZA.
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by Gerasimos Livitsanos

In any European country, a party which identifies as Socialist-,Democratic might have been able to accept a program of reforms based on the ideas of (German) neo liberalism. It would have possibly been able to absorb the consequent shock on its social basis and its political character. This is not so for a party like SYRIZA. The recipes of the dominant politico-economic European status quo appear to be hard to swallow. Accepting that program brings the Greek party close to an identity crisis of unpredictable proportions.

The elected leader of SYRIZA is only 42 years old, he came to power at just 34. His main associates, Minister of State N.Pappas, Party Spokesman G.Sakelaridis and Party Secretary T.Koronakis, are of a similar age, but that is not so for the rest of the party’s heavies. The core of SYRIZA is formed by members whose political action started in the ‘60s and ‘70’s. They have been active in the political areas of Eurocommunism, the Modern Left, as well as classical Marxism-Leninism.

It is telling that the main associate of Mr.Tsipras in matters of economy is Y.Dragasakis, who, in 1990, was a candidate fro the leadership of the Greek Communist Party (GCP) ; a position he lost for just a handful of votes. The former minister for the Reconstruction of Production P.Lafazanis, the former Alt.Minister of Foreign Affairs N.Chountis and the former Alt.Minister of Finances N.Valavani, have also been members of the GCP for decades. Notably, all three left the government when they denied to vote “yes” for the “prior actions’ vote on July 12. The majority of the members who form the “Initiative of the 53” belong to the Modern Left. This group is an often unpredictable factor, since it is their position that usually tips the balance at the party committee meetings. A smaller group consists of those who’s ideology draws heavily on Trotskyism. Their numbers are not great but they are treated with respect, mainly because of their active participation in the various social movements, which are related to SYRIZA. Behind the office of Christos Spirtzis, Alt.Minister for Infrastructure, one can see a huge painting of Aris Velouchiotis, an emblematic figure of the Greek partisan movement at the end of WW2. The symbolism of this image can be understood if compared to images of Latin American revolutionaries (ex. Che Guevara).

The politics of SYRIZA can also be found in its founding manifestos which were written within the past five years.

According to the party charter, the aim is “to organize society’s working classes in the common struggle against the disaster that is being imposed on the country. These struggles will also realize the hope for the overthrow of the dominant capitalist relations and the current social structure. It will also strive to drastically reform the status quo of production and consumption. 

According to the same founding statement, the social vision of SYRIZA is “socialism”. Specifically it is “the formation of a society which will be based in the common possession and management of the means of production. This demands democracy in every aspect of public life where commonality proves to be superior to individualism, and solidarity is stronger than antagonism. Thus, those who work will be in a position to plan, manage, control and protect their production via their elected representatives in order to satisfy the needs of society.”

M.Voridis, spokesman for the rival, rightwing party, New Democracy, referred to those very principles when he accused SYRIZA of wanting to come to power in order to impose communism to the country. A few months before SYRIZA’s rise to power Mr.Voridis said: “I read the founding charter of SYRIZA:”Socialism as a strategic goal. Another world is possible. It is the world of socialism, democracy and freedom. It is the world where man and his needs is more important than profit, since profit is no more the main motivation of society. It is the world which finds it hard to speak its historical name.”What is the name that they find hard to speak? It is Communism. They simply cannot say it”…”

The fears of the rightwing spokesman do not seem close to becoming reality. Indeed it seems that Tsipra’s agreement with the European Creditors has shocked SYRIZA’s followers, and organized members to such an extend that they have yet to overcome.

It is not widely known, but since the “agreekment”, local branches of the party have held meetings where accusations against the leadership were openly and loudly voiced. There have even been instances where members of the party resigned or appeared heavily depressed.

It seems that the situation inside the party is potentially explosive. For that reason, A.Tsipras is eager to bring forward policies and legislation that will ascertain the “leftist” character and vision of SYRIZA.

The spearhead of his effort will be his attempt to fight against the Greek economic elite. The infamous “100 families” which seem to have the country’s economic life under control. Their infrastructure is like a net, seeming to extend and connect to every vital economic activity of the country, (energy, maritime, large scale construction) while controlling all the mainstream media (TV, Radio, newspapers).

The success of A.Tsipra’s endeavor will be the main factor that will determine the cohesion of SYRIZA. 

It seems that the situation inside the party is potentially explosive. For that reason, A.Tsipras is eager to bring forward policies and legislation that will ascertain the “leftist” character and vision of SYRIZA.

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