Syriza: Past, Present and Future

In the third in a series of articles in response to the Greek elections, George Patsiaouras, lecturer in marketing and consumption at the University of Leicester School of Management, reflects on the formation of Syriza and what the future might hold. Click here and here for the first and second parts in this series.

Since 1974, the end of the military junta in Greece, two major parties have been consistently elected, one following the other through a series of elections, to form governments in Greece: the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the New Democracy. Yesterday, the Coalition of the Radical Left, known as Syriza, broke with this tradition and its success constitutes by all means a very important event for both Greek and European politics.

Syriza, in its current form as coalition, evolved as an amalgamation of several groups – from Euro-communists to green-left and Trotskyists, to name but a few – which over the last decades created the space and unity needed by a New Greek Left to disengage their ideas, positioning and rhetoric away from the historic but arguably monolithic Communist Party of Greece.

Supports of Syriza. Source: Michalis Famelis , Creative Commons Attribution License

Supports of Syriza. Source: Michalis Famelis , Creative Commons Attribution License

A short pre-electoral period was characterized and perhaps dominated by the efforts of the second party (New Democracy) to infuse and imbue the climate with fear by presenting Syriza as an anti-European party whose victory might become the starting point for the exit of Greece from the Eurozone, leading to an unstable economic and social future for the country. On the other hand, the political marketing strategy of Syriza had been carefully and meticulously designed avoiding personal attacks, big promises or explicit references to the European currency.

36,34% of Greeks voted for Syriza which formed an (expected and inevitable) coalition government with the right-wing and anti-austerity party Independent Greeks. This extraordinary victory of the radical left in Greece can and will be subject of several interpretations and readings which I can’t really analyze with this short opinion piece.

Syriza’s main promise is to put an end to the long-standing and extremely painful austerity measures by renegotiating the national debt. Nobody knows whether – or possibly to what extent – the new government will achieve this but what we have learned from the results of the elections is that majority significantly large number of Greek people didn’t hesitate to vote for an anti-austerity party which will attempt not only to challenge the demands of the troika (EU, IMF and ECB) but a party that will also try to reverse many austerity measures. This represents, I believe, a very important message to Europe.

Such an outcome will pave the way for and give voice to young, existing or embryonic anti-austerity parties all over Europe, especially in the European South. Their emergence and popularity might induce and by all means prompt the introduction of a different attitude of European central bankers – or the strategists of the European Central Bank – towards the colossal debt of many countries in the continent. This won’t be easy and it will require political coordination and support from centre and left-wing parties all over Europe.

For the time being, the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, accomplished a skilful unity and held together an alliance of 12 left-wing groups into a single party. He managed to gain the confidence of many of the Greek people and create the first left-wing government in Europe in decades, a remarkable achievement. The ‘alternatives’ offered by centre and right-wing parties in Greece didn’t convince long-term unemployed young people in, workers and middle class citizens who weren’t able to afford medicines after six years of economic asphyxia.

It won’t be easy for Syriza to implement a triptych of an ambitious welfare programme, renegotiation of the troika’s structural adjustments and the infusion of justice and anti-corruption measures but at least the hope and vision for the implementation of these plans emerge on the horizon.

Symbolically, the new prime Minister paid homage to the war memorial in the area of Kaisariani in Athens where about two hundred Greeks (primarily communists) were executed by Nazi forces, but let’s not forget the very worrying fact that the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was voted for by almost 400,000 Greek.

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