Jerome Roos: A fresh left wind is blowing through Europe

Painting by Philippos Theodorides Painting by Philippos Theodorides
Jerome Roos
A fresh wind is blowing through Europe – and it is blowing left. When the gates around Greek Parliament came down this week and the new SYRIZA government announced that it would be reversing a raft of austerity and privatization measures as well as granting citizenship rights to migrant children living in Greece, it gave off the exact right signal: this popular government means business. No time is to be wasted in the defense of human dignity and democratic values.

SYRIZA's leadership now carries a heavy weight on its shoulders. Its victory and its election pledges have returned hope to Greek society and have inspired millions around the world – but it has also instilled fear among the Greek oligarchy and the European bankocracy. In the weeks, months and years ahead, internal and external forces will conspire to exert enormous pressure on the government to capitulate and to moderate. Some of the more careerist and opportunistic elements within the left will be happy to do so. This tendency towards moderation must be fiercely resisted.

If there is one lesson that we must learn from the our long history of defeat and self-destruction, it is that there can be no radical emancipatory project without sustained mass mobilisation and active popular participation. Now is the time for the Greek movements to jump back into action and for Europeans to actively demonstrate their solidarity. Our presence in the streets will be absolutely essential to pull SYRIZA as far to the left as possible, to strengthen more radical voices inside the government, and to create new autonomous spaces, post-capitalist structures and democratic institutions from below.

While these exciting developments unfold, the rest of us Europeans look to Greece with great hope and admiration. We know that we have many lessons to learn from you: about the importance of militant and dynamic movements in the process of social transformation; about the necessity to overcome sectarian divides and build a broad common front of radical, antagonist and progressive forces; about the need for hope and enthusiasm in times of widespread despair and despondence – and most importantly about the active desire to grow stronger and the sheer audacity to win.

But there is another, much older Greek lesson that Europe must now recall, which is that debt cancellation and democracy go hand in hand. As I’m sure you know very well, Solon's first democratic constitution of the sixth century B.C. arose out of a repudiation of the “Draconian Laws,” which allowed for poor Athenian peasants to be sold into debt slavery to their creditor landlords. Everyone in Europe knows that classical Greek democracy, for all its flaws and limitations, was a major leap forward. But few know that this leap forward was born in a spectacular debtors' revolt that resulted in the abolition of debt slavery and the “shaking off of the burdens.”

Now that Greece is once again making world history, contesting the absolutist rule of global finance and the anti-democratic bent of European institutions, let's make an international vow not to back down until our most radical demands are met. It's time to make the creditors and oligarchs shudder once more.

Jerome Roos is the founder and editor of
ROAR Magazine, an online journal of the radical imagination
  • Translated by: Iraklis Oikonomou
  • The original text was first published on: Written for AnalyzeGreece!