Our basic goal is to move forward with the reshuffling and mobilisation of the movement within the Left
Interview with Sokratis Giannopoulos (former SYRIZA Youth)
The Greek elections are coming on the 20th of September. We ask four comrades and friends (Anastasia Giamali from SYRIZA, Yiannos Giannoulos from Laiki Enotita, Sokratis Giannopoulos from the former Youth of SYRIZA, Kostas Gousis from ANTARSYA) some questions about their experience of the Left Government, the split of SYRIZA, the relationship between Greece and Europe, the Memorandum, and the political positions of the party they support. They answered not as representatives of each party, but according to their personal opinion and, at the same time, as supporters or candidates of each party.
Syriza Youth was founded in 2013 as a radical Left youth organisation aiming to contribute to a contemporary left project for the 21st century. It grew from critically drawing experience from the political projects undertaken by the Left during the past century, as well as the anti-globalisation movement, the Greek and European Social Forums, the feminist and LGBTQI movements, the environmental movement and the new social movements. Syriza Youth struggled for an alternative social example based on democracy and social justice.
At the same time, Syriza Youth was firmly rooted within Syriza and strongly committed to the task of organising the representation of both the working people and the youth, as well as trying to establish the possibility of unity and re-composition of the forces of the Left.
Both the adoption of the 3rd Memorandum by the government and the subsequent manipulations by the Syriza leadership that did not allow for collective, democratic procedures for the evaluation and reconfiguration of our strategy, trapped Syriza in having to manage and implement an austerity program with no room for maneuvers. This was a framework within which the Syriza Youth could no longer function with its basic characteristics intact. Following the failure of Syriza’s executive members (as well as the sabotage of our collective procedures) to call for a party convention to resolve issues, the majority of the executive board of the youth organisation expressed its disapproval and left the party (cf. Communication note of the majority of the members of the Central Committee of the Youth of SYRIZA).
How do you evaluate the experience of the government of the Left these seven months?
A government of the Left was clearly a very difficult and unprecedented task/, especially under the given circumstances (globalised capitalism, EU, global economic crisis). We already knew that such an effort would require multiple confrontations with well-grounded mechanisms in the Greek state, but we underestimated the international aspect. It is extremely difficult to evaluate the work of the government outside the matter of the negotiation with the creditors, because the whole governing strategy followed pre-existing assumptions that dictated the pursuit of a “mutually beneficial agreement”, and so led to the government avoiding confrontation with vested interests within the country (the February 20 agreement played a crucial role here, because it restrained the government from unilateral policy changes). As a result, the government did not dare to make any radical ruptures in favour of the weak, with the exception of some bills on human rights (prisoners, migrants etc.). In any case, what became evident was that the Left needs a holistic approach for an alternative government and for the citizens' relationship with the administration. On both political and technical levels, the state apparatus faces everyday pressures and tasks that cannot be dealt with easily. But this real problem must not become an alibi, on the contrary it must be surpassed towards the transformation of social relations in a radical direction. The effort to construct left governmentality has surely a lot to learn from the experience of these past 7 months.
After the whole period of negotiations, we would like shortly your opinion a) the Eurozone and whether Greece should stay or not in it b) the EU as a field of struggle (for the movement, the Left etc).
Any type of social or political institution (such as the EU) is de facto open to transformations and therefore is a field of struggle. Yet this does not mean that all institutions are open at all times to any kind of transformation and in any desirable way. After the experience of the Greek negotiations, it is now clear that under the given power relations in Europe (not only on the central political level, but also the asymmetric and heterogeneous development of the European movement), the way capitalism has evolved the past few decades and the way the Eurozone has been constructed, the possibility for radical changes by a sole left government in the EZ (even if this would cause a domino effect in other countries) is virtually non-existent. The Eurozone functions as institutionalized neoliberalism. Therefore we have to rethink our internationalist strategy through the prism of rupture with and disengagement from these supranational formations, as a question of democracy and popular sovereignty and as a prerequisite for disputing the neoliberal TINA doctrine. And we must underline that it has created a strong movement in Europe, against austerity and the authoritarianism of the Eurozone (i.e. This is a coup) – it is very important to remember this, and not to close ourselves in the fortress of nationalism and national isolationism.
The Greek Left after several years of initiatives of collaboration like Syriza and Antarsya know is getting again split and divided. How do you evaluate the current situation and which do you believe are the future perspectives?
Without a doubt, the defeat of Syriza and the bankruptcy of its strategy (SYRIZA was a hegemonic force in the Greek Left but also in the Greek society during the past few years) will have a profound effect on the rest of the Left. Besides, the strategic excess needed for the Left to threaten the capitalist imperative doesn't apply to Syriza alone, but to all forces of the Left. Syriza itself ended up failing because it couldn't exceed a series of strategic deadlocks of the traditional Left, even though it was one of its founding goals. However, the historic course of Syriza and of the social movements of the past decades have left an important legacy, with both positive and negative elements, by , with,which a culture of reshuffling of the forces of the Left could be re-established.
In order for this process of reshuffling to succeed, two factors will need to emerge simultaneously. Firstly, social factors that will bring forth new radical demands and ideas for the construction of social counter-paradigms; secondly, political factors that will engage in transformative procedures and at the same time try to take on the strategic questions the left has been facing from the beginning of the 21st century.
I think that there is a lot of potential in Greece, and young people have a catalytic role to play in these processes because they have accumulated huge amounts of knowledge, new ideas and capabilities that modern day capitalism casts aside. The challenge we face is to channel all this wealth into a direction of creative political engagement that will aim at the construction of social relations in direct opposition to the dominant ones. There are already examples of such efforts around us and organised forces of the left have significant contributions in them. The question is how to turn these examples that are now the exception into the rule in the lives of the people and also how to combine them with new relations and institutions of representation. All these are basic elements of a new political plan for the Left. The organised Left has what it takes to be the catalyst in this process.
What do you think are the immediate political priority for the majority of the executive board of the youth organisation of Syriza who left the party (cf. their communication note here) after the elections of 20/9?
Our basic goal for the next day of the elections is to move forward with the reshuffling and mobilisation of the movement within the left. There is no blueprint for it nor could there be from this conjuncture. Of course there are many interesting ideas, discussions and possibilities. It is very important to leave the necessary space for strategic discussion and evaluation of our experience this far, as well as for political planning and action.
The recent years, Greece became the center of interest for the international movement because of the struggle of Greek people against austerity and also because of SYRIZA becoming the first left government. Where do you think we stand today after the signing of the third Memorandum? What is your message to the people that struggle in Europe and in the whole world?
We are certainly not where we were in recent years. The situation has changed dramatically and the experience of the Greek negotiations has offered food for thought and action for all European people. We are now in a situation where a lot is at stake on many different levels. It is not enough to wait for the “Greek miracle” anymore, in order to defeat austerity and initiate a domino of change in Europe. Initiatives of coordination, planning and common action are of course indispensable. Internationalism must remain the cornerstone of our political strategy when we talk about the potential that a disengagement from the EU might unleash (easily said than done, of course). In any case, we have to work on the question of an alternative perspective for Europe, not as an abstract appeal or battle cry, but as a live process that will change the everyday lives of the people.
Sokratis Giannopoulos is a trainee psychiatrist, former member of the executive board of the youth organisation of Syriza
- Translated by: N/A
- The original text was first published on: Written for AnalyzeGreece!