The U.S. Left and the Audacity of SYRIZA

Northstar is running a thoughtful series titled on The U.S. Left and the Audacity of SYRIZA: an Online Roundtable on the success of Syriza in Greece and what Occupy and the hard left can learn from them.

The North Star’s name is a conscious reference to the The North Star network set up by Peter Camejo in the 1980s after he left the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (it is also the name of his wonderful autobiography). At the time, Camejo concluded that the future of radical politics in this country lay not with the plethora of three-letter left groups but elsewhere; Occupy has born this out in way he could not have imagined, creating an entire infrastructure of ongoing protest and resistance almost overnight independently of the existing left.

This is a work in progress. Articles so far include –

Party-Building in the 21st Century by Louis Proyect

Another Occupy Is Possible – and Necessary by Chris Maisano

What Can American Leftists Learn from the Success of SYRIZA? by Richard Estes

Lessons for Socialists, From Occupy Boston to Greece by Doug Enaa Greene

A New Socialist Left Emerged by Billy Wharton

SYRIZA: Lessons for the Grassroots by Bob Morris. This is an expansion of my IVN article on the same topic.

The American Left has been a bit comatose lately. Part of the problem is too many lefties assume that the fightback, when it comes, must be led by revitalized unions. I disagree. Unions are now too often the problem not the solution. Besides, waiting for them to revive themselves, if it could even happen, will take too long. Another problem is the hard left, especially the socialist left, has seemingly been mostly disinterested in analyzing the financial crisis beyond much more than chanting “Smash capitalism” (with a fist pump, of course.) But organizing among those who lost homes to foreclosure means they need to understand what happened to them, and why and how it happened. And it needs to be explained in non-leftie terms.

There’s a wealth of information in this Northstar series. Jump on in.

How Syriza rose to power in Greece

Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza. Credit:

Radical left Greek party Syriza didn’t win the election yesterday but did come in second with a highly respectable 26%. They did this by grassroots organizing over several years. (The center-right New Democracy Party won with 30%.) But Syriza, which was scarcely more than a blip a few years ago, is now assured of being a political force in Greece (and the Eurozone, assuming Greece stays in it) for the foreseeable future. The New Democracy Party may be ruling Greece, but the strong showing by Syriza will be a persistent thorn in the side for the neo-liberal agenda of austerity in the Eurozone. Even New Democracy says terms of Greek bailout will need to be renegotiated. This is almost certainly due in large part to Syriza and their opposition to neo-liberalism.

How Syriza rose to power is an instructive tale for organizers regardless of their politics. After all, more than a few organizers on the US right have read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and applied them in their organizing. His rules aren’t left-wing at all. Instead they are about how to build community power into political power, because politics at core is about getting power then using it.

Syriza began in 2004 as a coalition of thirteen left-wing radical groups.

Read more about Syriza and their rise to power.

The Greek elections. Syriza didn’t want to win. Yet.

I’ve been waiting for the smoke to clear a bit before posting the Greek elections. I’ll have a detailed piece up tomorrow on how The Radical Left (Syriza) built themselves up from nothing to getting 26% of the vote in just eight years and came in second to New Democracy. And yes, Syriza are real radicals. This could be a sea change.

For now, consider this from Zero Hedge. None of the parties including Syriza really wanted to win because they know a train wreck is coming and would rather take power months from now when the other parties have been blamed for the imploded Greek economy.

New Democracy may still face a lot of trouble building a coalition to try to keep Greece in the bailout, and in the Euro . There has long been a rumour that Tsipras wanted to lose, so as to (rightly) blame the coming crush on the status quo parties. What fewer of us counted on was that the status quo parties wouldn’t want to win the election either. The pro-bailout socialists Pasok have thrown a monkey wrench into coalition-building by claiming they won’t take part in any coalition that doesn’t also include Syriza. This seems rational; when the tsunami hits, all parties in government will surely take a lot of long-term political damage.

The Eurozone will not survive in its current form and everyone knows it.