By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
I had not seen him for years. He was an old SYRIZA cadre, not the worst and he left in 2015. I met him the other day in the street and the first thing he said to me was: “You don’t know how happy I was to see Tsipras hit bottom!”
He was probably expecting me to share his enthusiasm. I asked him quietly, “But you hit bottom too, isn’t it so?”, meaning his group whose performance in the elections was also very bad. He was rather embarrassed, started telling me that Syriza should disappear for what it has done, so that “rebuilding” the left could start from scratch. First of all, I asked him, can you tell me where is it this new left, its people, its ideas? Syriza has already gone through a huge crisis, did you see anything better coming out of it, inside or outside this party? Put yourself in the shoes of the people who will lose their homes, won’t have a NHS, will live in the most beautiful country in the world and won’t be able to go on a week’s holiday. Did you go to a farmer’s market to buy cherries? What are you going to say to them? “Let Tsipras hit bottom”? To have only the Right in the country, and this particular Right moreover? Is this what we want?
I was on a roll too and I wouldn’t stop. I told him that one of my formative experiences was when I went to the USSR to study perestroika up close. I had no regard for the Soviet regime and at first I was excited about the “reform-revolution from above”. But I realized soon that we were heading for disaster. A problematic regime was about to be replaced by a much worse one. Unfortunately, the predictions came true in the most dramatic way, and indeed worldwide. The main conclusion that I have drawn from this experience is that it is certainly important and we must confront the situation we wish to exist to the one existing, but this must be done in a way that facilitates the replacement of an existing order by a better, not a worse one.
Otherwise, one risks blundering like the German communists who helped the Nazis come to power in 1933 with their sectarian, “ultra-left” policy and consoled themselves by saying “after Hitler, Thälmann comes” (Secretary of the German Communist Party, the largest in the world after the Soviet one). Thälmann, of course, died in a camp and the only people who remember him today are the residents of the Aeroport district in Moscow, who see his statue outside the Metro station. To get rid of the Nazis (temporarily as it turned out) humanity had to fight a world war.
Let me say that this is not an isolated case. I meet these days many cadres of the left, in particular of the “revolutionary” left, who consider the defeat of SYRIZA a great success, while completely ignoring the bankruptcy of their own currents and the characteristics of the rising power in the country. Some people tell me that Syriza is not even left-wing, that it doesn’t even make a difference whether ND or Syriza wins. But in order to characterise a force, with the relativity that all characterisations have, one must certainly take into account its politics, ideology and history, but one must also take into account the social forces that support it. The bulk of SYRIZA’s supporters are people of the left, who do not want a super-neoliberal, predatory restoration that will come as a completion of the defeats of 2010, 2012-13 and 2015, they want above all to protect the living standards of the people and they want to defend democratic and social rights in the country. Even if it did not want to, the leadership of SYRIZA is, if anything, obliged to take them into account. The Syriza government was a memorandum government, it was also disappointing regarding the reforms it could and did not promote, it “betrayed” the ideals of the party and its people, yet it was at the same time the best of the memorandum governments. And I cannot even imagine a Syriza government or even a Syriza-PASOK government that is worse than a government of the new New Democracy. It seems just impossible to me. Not to mention the political, ideological and moral-psychological effect, for the country, not for the left, of approving the outgoing government and its actions.
I know how deeply Tsipras’ policies have hurt people on the left. As a friend of mine said, in 1949 <the end of the Greek civilwar by the military defeat of the left tr.n.> they killed the body, in 2015 <Tsipras’ capitulation, n.tr.>, they killed the soul of the left. I also know how disappointing was Syriza’s lack of policy or positions on various issues. I do not want to attribute to the social situation of the left’s cadres the views they adopt. However, my “statistics” say, it may or may not be a coincidence, that none of the cadres who today say “New Democracy, SYRIZA, that’s one and the same” are facing serious financial problems, some even have a lot of money, can blow the dough and usually evade taxes. They feel more comfortable discussing the country with the bliss of one who has nothing to lose personally. After all, isn’t it the “middle classes” that Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the outgoing PM and leader of the ND, n.tr.> promises to help more than anyone else…
The main and basic reason for the failures of the left in Greece and worldwide in our time is that the vast majority of its cadres have been bourgeoisified (gentrified), one sees very few workers, peasants, unemployed, people from the popular strata in the leadership, if any. They are interested in a quota for women, but they should probably implement a quota for poor and lay people, otherwise what kind of left is it they claim to represent? This is the case with SYRIZA, but it is also the case with the vast majority of all organisations that refer to the left. (And we mean working people, not those turned into “professionals” of their parties). Not only are the leaderships and cadres not democratically controlled by the base and the members of their parties and organizations, but, anyone who wants to be honest and has some experience knows that 90% of the cadres are primarily interested in their own personal and group interest as they perceive it. What other than the pathological egos of their protagonists prevented, for example, the various currents that left SYRIZA in ’15 <LAE, MERA, Zoi Konstantopoulou, KOE, DEA etc. n.tr.> from running a joint ballot in the elections? If the left is failing today, not only in Greece, but throughout Europe, it is because it has ended up expressing nothing but itself, the layer, that is to say, of (usually middle class) cadres who run it, and not the popular strata in whose name it exists.
Mitsotakis’ American advisers Stan Greenberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Greenberg and the firm Edelman. Both have been accused of helping tobacco companies, energy companies to deny climate change, Monsanto and have defended Saudi Arabia in the Khassogi case. They helped also Clinton and Blair to be elected. https://www.reportersunited.gr/en/6422/greek-governments-hiring-of-pr-giant-edelman-raises-questions-of-ethics-and-transparency/, https://info-war.gr/to-skoteino-parelthon-ton-symvoylon-mi/?doing_wp_cron=1687321382.8507740497589111328125) They have achieved however the eighth wonder of the world: first to use the information about the state of the country, like the tobacco companies use the warnings about smoking on packets. They increase smokers’ anxiety and make them smoke more. In medicine this is called autoimmune disease, the body beats itself up. Second, not only did they push the Greeks to do α “repulsion of reality” but they managed even to turn the election into a referendum on Tsipras! With the help of the latter of course!
I sent to a friend of mine, an old leftist, of the “patriotic right” today, who was highly critical until May 21 and deeply disappointed with the course of the country, the photo of the palms they were putting up for Mitsotakis in Patras. “A deluge”, he replied, “a deluge brought to us by Tsipras!”. Forgive me, I replied, but you suffer from stalking frenzy. We have a lot to blame Tsipras for, but not the palms for Mitsotakis. This country has known others than Mitsotakis and Tsipras, there was Simitis, Karamanlis, George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras, Vaggelis Meimarakis, the Communist party, the various other tendencies of the left. I don’t agree with Tsipras and his policies, but why should we blame all the evils of our fate on SYRIZA?
In fact, of course, he knows it too. I fear that the indictment of Tsipras and Syriza is often aimed at nothing more than justifying our own shift. We hide behind the real or imagined failures, mistakes and betrayals of SYRIZA and Tsipras to justify to ourselves our withdrawal. Except that the problems will not “withdraw” because we withdraw.
SYRIZA and Tsipras of course helped this development as much as they could. They lack a coherent vision for the country and the world and made fatal strategic mistakes both in 2012-15 and now, now by setting as their main objective the attempt not to lose the favour – which they thought they had – of the domestic oligarchy and the foreign powers, and to present a reassuring profile, appealing mainly to the middle classes. They thus achieved the impossible: not to win the ‘middle classes’ and lose the popular strata. Their political tactics were the opposite of the tactics that both Andreas Papandreou and Tayyip Erdogan applied with triumphant results.
But we forget that SYRIZA and Tsipras are nothing but the result of the bankruptcy of the two Greek parties (PASOK and ND) which ruled the country for decades only to surrender it to foreigners and agree to implement programs of destruction and plunder of the country. SYRIZA and Tsipras were blast off to the government not because they had some great ideas that the Greeks suddenly discovered, but because the Greek people were desperate for a political tool to support them. Even today, despite the serious and unjustified concessions it has made, SYRIZA remains in its social policy very different and much more pro-people than Kyriakos’ new New Democracy. If it has failed, and to the extent that it has failed, it is not only a failure of itself and its leader, nor is it only a defeat of the left, it is and will be a defeat of the country.
Of course, it has been proven that Tsipras and SYRIZA Greek cannot get the country out of its crisis, nor can they open a new way out, something very different is needed, and this is nowhere to find in the country today. As a tool to get the country out of the crisis, SYRIZA and Tsipras have completely failed. But they are still a useful, relative but real obstacle to the most destructive trends that have emerged in the country as a result of a series of defeats.
As for the possible future Prime Minister, he will certainly be very happy about his possible triumph. But let him not forget how close triumph is to tragedy. In the months and years to come, Greece, Europe and the world will experience very great turbulence. The prime minister’s office can easily become an electric chair, even if supremacy in the ballot box and all sorts of mechanisms give today an impression of invulnerability and omnipotence.
Translated from Greek https://kosmodromio.gr/2023/06/22/%ce%b4%ce%b5%ce%bd-%ce%be%ce%ad%cf%81%ce%b5%ce%b9%cf%82-%cf%80%cf%8c%cf%83%ce%bf-%cf%84%ce%bf-%cf%87%ce%ac%cf%81%ce%b7%ce%ba%ce%b1-%cf%80%ce%bf%cf%85-%cf%80%ce%ac%cf%84%cf%89%cf%83%ce%b5-%ce%bf/ by Christos Marsellos