by Symeon Andronidis
Ph.D Candidate at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The political party ‘Coalition of Radical Left’ (SYRIZA) represents the ‘new’ political change in Greece. The Coalition of Radical Left formed in 2004, as a left-wing coalition which included many left political forces. The political party of SYNASPISMOS (Coalition of Left, of Movements and Ecology) was the largest party of coalition. In the summer of 2013, (July 2013-one year after the parliamentary elections) the coalition decided to transform into a united political party. In this context, all the political forces should go the dissolution of their structures. It was a structural transformation.
In recent elections for European Parliament, SYRIZA received the 26,58% of the votes. In this context, became the first left-wing political party that came first in elections. (In Greece). This electoral and political win, marks a historic political transition in Greece, because for the first time since 1974, a party other than N.D (New Democracy) and PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) wins the elections.
Now, under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, the party wants to change the political and economic ‘situation’ of the country, a country which experiencing the consequences of deep economic crisis since 2009. Recent polls show that the left party is very close to win the next elections.
The social and political developments in Greece run very fast, due to the pressure exerted by the Troika. (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund). Now, all the political parties preparing to elect a new president of the republic. If two parties (New Democracy & Panhellenic Socialist Movement) not collect the necessary 180 votes, will lead to early elections.
It is interesting to see the social and electoral ‘geography’ of the party in recent European elections. «SYRIZA’s base is primarily made up of an alliance of working class and low-income voters. Due to the crisis however it has obtained a strong following among the middle class. In contrast it is almost completely marginalised in higher income areas. New Democracy’s support is a minor image of this indicating a clear socio-political polarisation which marks the competition between the two parties. New Democracy is far stronger in high income areas».
As we see, in the European elections, the party of SYRIZA won the support of lower classes. Also, «there is a major difference in the voting preferences of the unemployed and salaried workers in the public sector on one hand, and workers in the private sector on the other. In the first two categories, SYRIZA has a clear advantage. In contrast, among the salaried workers in the private sector (note: who are currently employed) New Democracy appears to prevail».
The party of radical left won the support of workers. (Especially the support of workers in public sector). The social polarisation ‘defines’ the Greek society and have crystallized in the political ‘conflict’ between SYRIZA and New Democracy. The social polarisation connected with the consequences of deep economic crisis, which transformed into a humanitarian crisis. In the political field, SYRIZA represented the lower classes of Greek society. The Coalition of Radical Left expressed the protest against Memorandum.
For the first time in Metapolitefsi (means fundamental political change) a political party of radical left express the interest of lower classes. The austerity measures in Greece, measures such as the reduction of salaries and pensions, the deconstruction of welfare state contributed to the renovation of party system. The two former big parties (N.D & PASOK) have lost a significant part of its electoral (social) strength. As result of economic crisis, the party of SYRIZA transformed from a ‘protest’ party to a party which claiming the governmental power.
SYRIZA wants to change the neoliberal model, not only in Greece, but also in Europe. But, the political success of such a project requires alliances, especially between the countries of European South. The politics of austerity and financial ‘orthodoxy’ are dominate. Alexis Tsipras was the European Left candidate for president of the European Commission.
The European Left candidate wrote an article for Europe: «Europe needs an anti-austerity and anti-recession front, a solidarity movement for its working people, north and south. This could deliver a pact for democracy, development and social justice. We must rebuild solidarity among the young, the workers, the pensioners and unemployed to break down the new dividing line between Europe’s rich and poor, the ‘mur d’argent’ to use a historical phrase that has become topical».
These few words describe the European ‘vision’ of Greek Radical Left. Nevertheless, the situation is complicated. The build of social Europe requires strong alliances between not only the countries of European South (Italy, Spain, Portugal) but also between the European workers. The other political forces, (especially the N.D & PASOK) blame SYRIZA for populism and ‘extremism’. But, despite the social and political disappointment in Greece, the ‘hope’ is still alive. Especially if the radical left contributed to the redistribution of wealth.
Parties such as SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos (We Can) in Spain can change the agenda of austerity. And just like the Greek radical left, Podemos threatens the traditional parties in Spain (the People’s party and Spanish Social Workers ‘Party). The Podemos comes from the ‘Indignados’ movement. In this crucial moment, the party incorporates the characteristic of a movement. But, «as a destituent, as well as a constituent war machine, Podemos is still under construction».
Both parties, must embody the social ‘vision’. In the period of deep economic crisis, the European political left can change the structure of European Union. Possible victory of SYRIZA in the elections could bring positive changes in the course of Europe, and also in the course of Economic and European Union.
Now, as David Lane and Filippo Addarii said, «inspiring stories do not add up to the systemic transformation of society and its institutions. To achieve that goal, political leaders must foster innovations in participatory democracy at a much bigger scale. That is the challenge that lies ahead for Europe».
An alternative Europe is possible. We want a Europe of hope and solidarity. The left, across Europe, can impart hope.
Guardian, (2014), ‘Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece’s opposition Syriza party: Q&A’, http://www.theguardian.com
Lane David & Addarii Filippo, (2014), ‘Social innovation and the challenge of democracy in Europe, http://www.opendemocracy.net
Tenhunen Lotta & Rodriguez Adria, (2014), ‘Podemos: the machine is still under construction’, Open Democracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net
Tsipras Alexis, (2013), ‘Austerity is wreaking havoc, but the left can unite to build a better Europe’. http://www.theguardian.com
Vernardakis Xristoforos, (2014), ‘European elections 2014: the electorate’s dividing lines.’ http://www.thepressproject.gr (Greek site).