Last year SYRIZA, the left coalition party elected to lead the Greek government and face down its creditors and European overlords, lost its high-stakes confrontation with neoliberalism. Greece has plunged into an even-deeper, demoralizing and perilous social and economic crisis, exacerbated by the flood of Syrian refugees.
So what does the SYRIZA experience have to teach us about the potential of democratic politics to bring about economic and social transformation? Andreas Karitzis, a former SYRIZA member and former member of its Central Committee and Political Secretariat, provides a rich and penetrating analysis in an essay at OpenDemocracy.net. "The SYRIZA experience': lessons and adaptations" crackles with shrewd, hard-won political insights explaining why SYRIZA failed to prevail and the necessary future strategies for transformational change.
SYRIZA failed to stop the neoliberal juggernaut, Karitzis argues, because it thought it could work within the established political structures and processes. But the gut-wrenching drama showed that conventional democratic politics is futile when state sovereignty is trumped by international finance. SYRIZA's ultimate acceptance of the Troika's deal "arguably betrayed the hopes and aspirations of the popular classes and those fighting against financial despotism," says Karitzis. He now calls on the left to develop a new "operating system," or what some have called "Plan C":
We know that the popular power once one inscribed in various democratic institutions is exhausted. We do not have enough power to make elites accept and tolerate our participation in crucial decisions. More of the same won't do it. If the ground of the battle has shifted, undermining our strategy, then it's not enough to be more competent on the shaky battleground; we need to reshape the ground. And to do that we have to expand the solution space by shifting priorities from political representation to setting up an autonomous network of production of economic and social power.