June 2016 Political Theses of SYRIZA’s Central Committee for the Second Congress held on October 13-16. (Hyperlinks added by this blog.)
1. SYRIZA’s Victorious Advance – Unification at the First Congress, Preparation to Assume Responsibility for Government
The starting point of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) great advance dates back to the late 1980s, when the first signs of a general political crisis and the crisis of the bourgeois party system appeared. This happened when the Greek Socialist Party (PASOK) started being fully controlled by the state, placing the state’s imperatives and rationale, as well as the particular vested interests it was involved with, at the core of its existence, gradually acceding to the rising neoliberalism and abandoning the political representation of those afflicted by the inequalities perpetually produced by capitalism. New Democracy (ND) emerged as the pure champion of neoliberalism and, thanks to PASOK’s shift and the now apparent corruption, managed to have two short, but equally scandalous, terms in government.
On the other hand, badly affected by the collapse of the so-called real socialism and the discrediting of the anticapitalist-socialist platform, the Left couldn’t deepen — and capitalize on — its critique of the Soviet system and dogmatic communism. The forces that eventually formed SYRIZA soon responded creatively and democratically to the political crisis, which did not offer society a political way out, as well as to the Left’s existential crisis after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The majority of the members of the groups and parties that contributed to SYRIZA’s creation were in direct contrast to the practices of all the established parties after the fall of the dictatorship. This breakthrough, which also overcame negative ways of the Left, did not only undermine the traditional rationale of partisanship, substitution and governmentalism (i.e. unprincipled clinging to government power), but also constituted a real promise for a democratic way out of the then already foreseeable crisis. Despite the apparent difficulties, young SYRIZA responded consistently to this strategy, even when it had to take a stand against the bourgeois political and social powers and the media of the vested interests that now played an instrumental role.
Important milestones in this course were: the participation in the anti-globalization movement and in the proceedings of social forums, the Greek contribution to the founding of the European Left Party, the movement for the support of public education and the prevention of the 2006-2007 reactionary constitutional reform, participation in the mobilizations after the signing of the 2010 Memorandum (mobilizations whose momentum was arrested after the still unsolved murderous attack on MARFIN), ground-breaking participation in the “Movement of the Squares” and helping to isolate the extreme right elements that tried to infiltrate it, and the resistance to Neo-Nazi as well as state pogroms against immigrants.
SYRIZA’s form as a political and electoral front of multi-tendency Synaspismos with various smaller left-wing organizations differing significantly from one another, did not stop it from achieving — unprecedented for the Radical Left in Greece and in Europe — electoral successes in May and June 2012 (16.8% and 26.9%, respectively).
These were due to:
- The collapse of bipartisanism on account of the social destruction inflicted by the two Memoranda (2010, 2011) signed by the governments of Papandreou and Papadimos and because of people’s rage against the old regime.
- The leading role of SYRIZA members in popular resistance.
- The formation of instrumental representational relations with large parts of the working and popular classes, particularly with the lowest levels in the social stratification, mainly due to SYRIZA’s key role in the creation of “solidarity structures.”
- Alexis Tsipras’ appeal, who for large numbers of people symbolized the new radical political current that came to replace the old and corrupt regime.
- The fact that lots of everyday people, as well as senior members leaving PASOK, joined SYRIZA.
- The prompt adoption of the slogan “Government of the Left,” which opened up political prospects for the various resistance movements and for the rage of the popular classes.
- The fact that SYRIZA displayed to Greek society the new characteristics and the new ideas of the 21st century Left.
SYRIZA’s rise was also helped by the fact that the ideology and practice of austerity never and nowhere else took on the obsessive objective and implementation of the Eurozone economic policy mix. With the first Memorandum six years ago, Greece was turned into a quasi-social laboratory for neoliberal experimentation at a terrifying humanitarian cost. The established parties of the Political Changeover (after the dictatorship) — for three decades having made the state partisan, having lost any genuine democratic representational function, having corrupted generations of citizens in patronage exchange and self-interest — saw the crisis as an opportunity to apply the most aggressive neoliberal plans. The notorious policies of labor flexibility and restriction of social rights were attempted in a country that for years had been plagued by hidden pockets of precariousness in employment, undeclared work, insurance evasion, fragmented social benefits, in transparency in resource allocation, dysfunctional institutions; conditions that ideally matched the established parties’ traditional rationale of partisanship, substitution, and governmentalism.
The memoranda period of the Political Changeover is the turning point for SYRIZA’s emergence as the force that resisted with clarity and persistence the Brussels’ bureaucratic logic, which displaces any sense of political participation and process. At the same time, SYRIZA put a stop to the Greek governments’ compliance with any measure that gradually and systematically destroyed the country’s last hopes for growth and productive reconstruction. The demand that the government step down was a normal evolution of the 2009-2012 social struggles and not a violent outside intervention of party planning. The social struggles’ intervention met up with the political demand for subversion to transform the economic crisis into hegemony crisis.
The moment of the movement’s explosion at the “squares,” the popular classes’ emergence to the fore, reflects a long history of social pressure and popular anger that rose above political prejudice and party identity, forming the yeast for the actual challenge of Troika’s failed recipes. At the same time, it was the basis for SYRIZA becoming the political entity that would represent not only the hopes for exiting the crisis, but also the need to implement the groundbreaking changes that would put an end to a state problematic in its administrative organization, designed as a system of political patronage, and incessantly hostile to its citizens; undermining, all things considered, the very concept and value of public good.
In an asphyxiating framework for the Left in Europe and in the world, SYRIZA’s dynamic rise gave birth to hopes and not unjustifiably so. The Coalition of Radical Left represents, by its very constitution, a paradigm and a reference point for the forces of the Left signifying that they can and will cooperate to form a united, powerful front against austerity and fight for their rise to power and the production of a leftward policy with an emblematic social footprint.
From the very first moment, in collaboration with the foreign neoliberal centers, the old bourgeois party system implemented a recipe that led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The adoption of such a policy cannot be considered naïve or politically neutral. It was in fact the policy whose implementation had been attempted for decades but to a certain degree had been cancelled by popular resistance. The same political personnel, who smoothly moved from the one party to the other — proving there are no ideological barriers or real political differences between the two poles of the traditional post-dictatorial bipartisanism, corroded the state, and vaporized its resources — were now trying to resurrect themselves politically, putting forward the pretext of a reform logic and thus revealing the close links between their perspective and that of the lenders.
SYRIZA succeeded in intervening effectively during the aforementioned period and in deepening the representation crisis of bipartisanism precisely because of its political practice. This practice was shaped through our participation in the European and international movement against neoliberal capitalist globalization. Through this participation, a number of political and organizational characteristics were crystallized, drastically helping us to push forward. On the political side, the most important one was the questioning of the concepts of the “end of history” and the capitalist dominance as a one-way street, as well as the aim to change the balance of power through wider alliances that would form a front against neoliberalism. On the organizational side, the creation of a new culture of dialogue between various currents of the Left and also between political organizations and social movements. It was a valuable lesson for the Left that there is a lot to learn from social struggles instead of just leading them from above and outside.
The success in the 2012 elections sparked a lot of enthusiasm and great expectations in SYRIZA’s members and friends, who had passionately fought for it. The new conditions and the dynamic the party gained showed the limits of its organizational structure as a coalition of parties and groups. Its configuration not only became dysfunctional, but it could not even observe the basics of intra-party democracy. Although opinions about the intensity, feasibility and means of meeting the demand differed among members, tendencies of Synaspismos or SYRIZA components, SYRIZA’s transformation into a unified party became a imperative political and democratic demand that no one could ignore. This was clearly understood by the senior members of the tendencies and the founding components of the party, regardless of the degree to which they agreed on this turn of events.
Requirements related to this unification were that:
- SYRIZA should become “a party of members” so that political resolutions would not be contingent on non-transparent agreements heads of tendencies and components under the party president’s arbitration.
- The party’s image should be shielded from the attacks of the rival political and media system, which took advantage of any disagreement, any ideological or strategic deviation in order to weaken SYRIZA’s appeal, on the pretext of the “multilingualism of the multiple components.”
- There should not be any discrimination against SYRIZA on the grounds of the electoral law which does not favor party coalitions.
The first step in this direction was the First Pan-Hellenic Conference in December 2012. The election of joint higher party bodies and its political resolutions signified to both the party’s interior and society that SYRIZA had developed into a mature party, ready to claim the representation of wider popular classes afflicted by the Memoranda policies. The Conference’s resolutions, but mostly SYRIZA members’ participation in the social sphere, showed that the target was not only the subversion of the Memoranda austerity regime, but also the reversal of the bipartisan corrupt logic in favor of society. At the same time, it became clear that SYRIZA’s honest promise to the Greek people for democracy was intertwined with a solution to the social question.
In the conference’s declaration it was apparent that for SYRIZA the “other world” which “is possible” is the “world of socialism with democracy and freedom” and that “socialism is not the amelioration of capitalism”; therefore, accession to social democracy was not part of the party’s platform.
The founding first Congress in July 2013 — despite its ceremonial character and massive participation — solved the organizational issue but did not lead to the party’s political and organizational upgrade. Procedural and technical issues (abolition of components, election of Central Committee, election of the President) and the details of the new statutes dominated. The exceptional legacy of the Conference’s documents was not enhanced, nor was it in effect brought up to date. Thus, the Conference’s political theses left room for multiple interpretations of both the Declaration and the Political Resolution, which at the end of the day did not decrease deviations on strategic issues (transition and social transformation, stance toward the Eurozone and EU, the importance of solidarity structures, etc.)
The debate focused mostly on the issue of currency [Euro or Drachma], producing a number of negative repercussions for the whole political discussion inside the party organizations. A range of essential political characteristics of the restructuring process that go together with today’s crisis were underrated. The whole party found itself discussing in the framework of a simplistic economic rationale, underrating critical political questions related to the reversal of the present situation. In that specific framework, the alternative to the Memoranda program proposal often appeared to be formed on the basis of a currency depreciation plan as a move that would essentially help lead to economic growth. In conditions of generalized capitalist crisis, however, the answers the Left gives should to a certain degree take on universal characteristics; that is, be formed on the basis of guidelines that can be implemented on an all-European scale. A policy of competitive depreciations and export war cannot be an alternative to the plans for internal devaluation. Such an alternative should be formed on the basis of a redistribution of power and wealth in favor of the world of labor and the social majority against the forces of capital. All of the above-mentioned do not mean that we naively believe we should wait for a complete change in the balance of power in Europe in order for things to change in Greece. A plan of competitive depreciations would constitute a decision to escalate economic competition, which would rapidly develop into competition between nation-states. This would probably fuel the Far Right and generally cause a shift to the right in Europe.
From the start, SYRIZA functioned as a multi-tendency democratic party, as do all parties of contemporary radical Left, in which the free functioning of intra-party tendencies is acknowledged as an element of respect for freedom of opinion, both individual and collective, and of the members’ sense of responsibility for the party’s unity. However, from SYRIZA’s initial phase as a cooperative formation made up of autonomous components, it inherited a mode of operation that did not foster the synthesis of different viewpoints and the members’ leading role in decision-making. It would be a mistake though to limit the problems of collective and efficient organization of the party to the issue of tendencies.
In the three years since its founding Congress, SYRIZA hasn’t managed to acquire a culture of synthesis, of combating exclusions, of respecting the majority to the degree that these are essential for the democratic as well as efficient operation of a party of free people who think and act collectively. The intra-party tendencies made the impression that they were organizations within the party, with their own discipline and their own autonomous agendas and pursuits. This was manifested both in decision-making, which often involved not a synthesis but an unlikely assortment of different views cobbled together and in the election of senior members with quotas and intra-tendency lists while personal responsibility and accountability had in effect been cancelled. This operation of tendencies also had its impact on the operation of party organizations, where partitions were created and exclusions were made.
The non-transparent operation of the tendencies favored but did not cause the split of SYRIZA last July. The split may have been determined by the negative characteristics of the overall operation of the party, but arose mainly as a result of the crisis created by the [Troika’s] blackmail and the signing of the agreement in July and the questions stemming from this new situation. This situation also exacerbated the rivalry between the different platforms within the party.
After the congress, SYRIZA focused its action almost exclusively on its attempt to topple the government so that national elections would be held. Meanwhile, it prepared its election platform. As a result, the involvement of its organizations in the restructuring of the social subject subsided, and – in combination with the decline in social resistance, which had offered so much since the beginning of the crisis – a peculiar logic of delegating the social to the political prevailed in the country. This, of course, was assisted by the dominance of bureaucracy and dependence networks in trade unions, local governments, professional associations, and cooperatives, which the party had neither sufficiently analyzed nor drawn up a political plan to deal with.
With hindsight, it is obvious that the early and up to a point – as far as the May election is concerned – unexpected success in 2012 elections led a large part of the party and its leadership to believe that the road to power would be a relatively easy process. That particular tactic was in part a result of the popular pressure and the party’s corresponding commitment to stop the social destruction that had been caused by the policies of the previous governments. The devotion to the quick subversion of the old regime contributed to underestimating the need for upgrade and adaption of the party’s operation to the new conditions. Even though the need to adapt the platform was acknowledged and efforts were made, in which thousands of our senior members took part, the party never actually benefited from the results of those efforts because there was never any organized discussion – not even in the party’s leading bodies. Moreover, there was no planning or any assembly procedures of the party’s academics and scientists’ sections that could probably give our policies a scientific basis and renovate our theoretical tools. There is still an imperative need for this given the fact that the opponent is more powerful, with means both in Greece and abroad.
From the start, but primarily in the two years after the 2012 elections, there was a necessity – which was not met – to set up procedures for the political and scientific equipment of our party members so as to reinforce our presence in critical sectors – the state, local governments, trade unions, but also the party itself – and our competence in staffing them, thus helping the consolidation and improvement of the party’s strategy, which had proven so successful. Even the initiative for a broad committee of scientists to process positions did not go beyond the level of a temporary communication policy. The results were submitted but were ignored and never reached party members. This material remains an essential and topical contribution to the now opening discussions about the revision of the constitution, about the political system, freedoms, and rights.
This was also essential for the encouragement of the social alliance that supported the party electorally to participate, and even more importantly for the politicization of young people and the adaptation of the old party members to new and novel conditions.
A key factor in the success of our policies is international solidarity. SYRIZA’s bonds with the parties of the European Left – but also the interest shown by trade unions, citizen initiatives, church organizations, parts of Social Democracy and the Greens – were the basis for the planning and development of our policy to this purpose. SYRIZA needed and still needs a new solidarity movement, especially in Europe, militant but broad, far beyond the Left itself. The party leadership underestimated this need and has not been able to plan the necessary actions, which were undertaken by party senior members under their own initiative, with modest results – compared to the potential ones.
Despite important actions in the social field and mainly in the field of social solidarity, the party seemed to be guided by conventional practices, which, being somewhat hasty, drastically limited our political intervention to the Parliament and the (mostly electronic) media – in both which cases it was admittedly very well planned and quite effective.
Furthermore, the party leadership has not been able to organize its operation in a way that would enable the party to play an instrumental part in the preparation to assume governmental responsibility and participate in guiding government. This was manifested in the lack of preparation in critical fields, where ministers improvised (successfully or not), either because they had no ready material in their hands or because they did not care for it. In addition, in the two years of its preparation, the party did not manage to connect specific policy fields with specific persons, to prepare party officials for government responsibilities. What is more, the selection of persons was often made according to “communication” abilities or “intergroup” profile without thorough scrutiny of their qualifications and competence.
The virtual paralysis of the party’s collective operation – especially of the intermediate and leading bodies, with the Central Committee often confirming rather than processing and making decisions – and the inability to set up a legitimate and cohesive leading center led to the operation of informal and illegitimate decision-making centers and to a strong tendency to weaken SYRIZA’s collective and democratic operation. This tendency was further fueled by the need for fast decision-making – even more so after its accession to government.
During the period until the January 2015 elections, the view that prevailed in SYRIZA, as expressed by the majority of the party’s leading bodies, was that the “Government of the Left” would cancel the austerity memoranda, would oust the Troika from Greece, and at the same time would negotiate with the lenders to write off most of the debt. The majority in the institutional bodies of the party thought that the aforementioned goals were attainable inside the Eurozone, estimating that the lenders wouldn’t risk the Eurozone breakup that a Greek exit (Grexit) would cause. On the other hand, the Left Current and then the Left Platform kept their old disagreement with this estimate, believing there was bound to be a clash with the lenders, which would inevitably result in the country exiting the Euro, a development their majority considered desirable, one way or another.
This is how SYRIZA proceeded from its first Congress to the triumph in the January 2015 election. A landmark in this course was the great victory in the European elections. Alexis Tsipras’ nomination as a candidate for European Commission president helped internationalize the Greek issue and establish SYRIZA as a party that could play a key role on the European political scene. Moreover, Tsipras’ presence in European capitals and mostly his presence as the candidate of the European Left against the other parties’ candidates in that Pan-European election highlighted him as a leading figure of the European Left, a reflection on SYRIZA’s prestige in Greece.
In the 2014 local and regional elections, despite significant successes – first of all, the victory in the region of Attica and the very good result in the municipality of Athens, both in the most “politicized” areas – the overall results were inconsistent with SYRIZA’s appeal to society. The party and often its local organizations underestimated the power of local interest networks and collusion that bolstered local authorities. The importance of distinguished local officials and of an alliance policy on a local level was also underestimated. What prevailed was the notion that SYRIZA’s prestige and the citizens’ indignation against the old regime would suffice for the success of the lists we supported. Yet again, it was confirmed that nothing can substitute for lack of sufficient preparation. Instead, this lack is conducive to opportunistic and often unfortunate decisions and choices, which in certain cases were due to inter-tendency compromises. On the other hand, wherever the party, in few cases altogether, chose candidates with high local status and experience in local matters, it was often successful – with the exception of some special cases, of course.
The prospect of SYRIZA gaining power in the elections and taking the reins of the government gave the party the opportunity to draw up a realistic “transitional” program that wouldn’t ignore the country’s tragic predicament (economic and social crisis, unemployment and precariousness, destruction of the production web, lack of access to markets, lack of funds, etc.)
The Thessaloniki program, which was drawn up by a relatively small staff, was SYRIZA’s first serious move to get rid of a tradition of far-reaching objectives and historic demands of social transformation that ignored the compelling pressures of the time, context, and the international balance of power. The Thessaloniki program’s objectives, as were expressed in its four pillars (confronting the humanitarian crisis; restarting the economy; regaining employment; democratic restructuring of the state) were part of SYRIZA’s overall government plan, serving its wider political and programmatic targeting for the termination of austerity policies and the promotion of social justice. The core of the Thessaloniki program’s rationale was characterized by the wish to defend the interests of the popular classes and its central aim was to confront the humanitarian crisis. In the same spirit, there were some more demands — just but hard to achieve — because of the extremely harsh economic reality and the given balance of power. In addition, the feasibility of an increase in revenues from various sources was overestimated while underestimating the danger of our lenders imposing a state of fiscal asphyxiation, not only during the negotiations but much earlier, when the PASOK-ND government, with the assistance of EU’s conservative circles, was formulating the “Left parenthesis” plan [a scheme of sabotage to ensure that any SYRIZA government would be short-lived and that the old parties would quickly return to power, rendering SYRIZA’s importance in Greek history to that of a parentheses or footnote — P.W.].
2. The January 2015 Victory and the First Term in Government – the Negotiation, the Government Policy, the Party
The January 2015 election and its outcome will go down in the history of the European and World Left as the radical Left’s first victory in the 21st century and indeed in a country of the hard core of capitalism. The formation of a coalition government the day after the election took opponents both in Greece and abroad by surprise. This decision thwarted the plans to drag SYRIZA into either long negotiations with other parties or into an unstable minority government, or even to make the country enter the adventure of a new pre-election period at a very critical moment. Of course, the coalition (in addition to the Ecologists Greens and other political forces of the Left, such as the group “Pratto,”there was also the participation of persons from the wider Left, socialist and democratic spectrum) with Independent Greeks (ANEL) – an anti-memorandum party that does not belong on the Left – made a negative impression to a part of the Left in Greece, but also to a part of the European Left. However, we managed to convince them that our decision was correct and absolutely essential.
The new government was called on to implement its program while calculated efforts were being made to trap it in a state of absolute financial asphyxiation. When SYRIZA came to power, the projected cash deficit was at 500 million Euros and there were suffocating deadlines for the completion of the fifth assessment, which had been deliberately left unfinished by the previous government. Moreover, no tranches had been disbursed by International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) since April 2014 while the ability to issue treasury bills had been exhausted and the European Central Bank (ECB) was taking restrictive measures, excluding Greece from the protective shield of the European financial system offered by the commencement of the ECB’s quantitative easing program just before the January 25 election.
Despite all this, the government succeeded in implementing part of its pre-election promises, such as restructuring the payments of arrears to tax offices and social security organizations, protection of primary residence for the most vulnerable households, rehiring unfairly laid-off state employees, re-opening ERT [Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation], and the program to confront the humanitarian crisis. All of these gains were legislated and implemented – as far as possible – in conditions of unprecedented economic strangulation.
From the beginning of its term of office, the government was faced with a cruel asymmetric war through financial asphyxiation. The last tranches had been disbursed by IMF and ESM in April 2014, just before the European elections. Since then the country had been regularly servicing its debt obligations to its lenders without receiving the owed tranches though. At the same time, after five years of supposedly “successful” memoranda policies, in late February 2015, just a few days after the new government had sworn in, the country already couldn’t fully pay salaries and pensions. Meanwhile, the ECB’s restrictive measures and the uncertainty that was deliberately cultivated by local and foreign officials exacerbated the acute liquidity problem since the flight of deposits increased, as did the non-performing loans.
Apart from the country’s economic strangulation there were plans and attempts from European power centers – as well as from domestic forces that aimed not only at exerting pressure but also at creating chaotic economic conditions – to cause the government to collapse or be overthrown.
The dominant forces in Europe got scared that a left government in Greece could set an example and be the harbinger of radical political developments and renewed demands for progressive alternatives everywhere in Europe, particularly in its southern part. In addition, domestic established interests foresaw that the successful outcome of the negotiation and the signing of a mutually beneficial agreement by the government of the Left would put their interests at risk and would signify a strategic victory that could establish the Left in power. The fierce attack that was launched aimed at forcing the government to exit the Eurozone voluntarily or overthrowing it and make SYRIZA split under the strain of trying to accept an unsustainable agreement.
The government made a series of moves to strengthen its negotiating position and cope with the unprecedented economic strangulation that was imposed on it. It sought – unsuccessfully – alternative funding sources abroad to cover the country’s borrowing requirements and start the disengagement from the memoranda. It suspended the payment of the loan installment owed to the IMF and secured the transference of the public sector’s cash reserves to the Bank of Greece in order to safeguard the payment of salaries and pensions as a priority over meeting the lenders’ demands. After the ECB cut Greece’s liquidity when the [July 2015] referendum was called, the government went on to implement the decision to impose controls on capital movements with the sole purpose of securing the solvency of the bank system and protecting citizens’ bank deposits. From the beginning of its term of office, the government stressed the failure of the policies of austerity, internal devaluation, and harsh fiscal adjustment – which the Greek people expressed their disapproval of with their vote – and pointed to the pan-European dimension of the Greek problem in any attempt to find a truly sustainable solution.
The government’s target was to find a “middle area” that could become the common ground on which the two sides would find a new, mutually acceptable agreement to stabilize the economy and stop the economic destruction, opening the way for a transition to a new, post-memoranda era. To this purpose, it aimed from the start at a functional and honest compromise that could on the one hand satisfy the popular will democratically expressed in the election and on the other secure the respect for European Union (EU) rules and for the principles of solidarity, democracy, and parity between member states. From the first day it was elected, the government fought for the signing of a bridge deal that would allow it to gain time and certain degrees of freedom in order to implement part of its program within the asphyxiating framework of its commitments and the pending fifth assessment of the second memorandum, which was never concluded.
However, the government’s policy presented serious weaknesses. Our major strategy to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement did not let us see clearly – even when we cited it – that for the neoliberal forces, both in Europe and in Greece, we constituted a systemic danger. Our political opponents’ objective was to overthrow the government, or at least humiliate it. This was absolutely clear, especially after the February agreement.
In this context, we inexcusably underestimated a number of crucial factors:
- We underestimated the political time factor, which resulted in delaying interventions that would have offered us significant popular support and advantages in negotiations, so today we are trying to realize them in a more negative environment.
- We underestimated the operation of the state apparatus, and as a result, even today in important areas there are administrations that sabotage central policy directives or openly operate in a different direction.
- While we used a number of weapons in the negotiations, we never had the first-move advantage. The default, the capital controls, and even the [July 2015] referendum were all done as our ultimate line of defence against the financial asphyxiation and not as part of our planning.
- We did not continue the unilateral legislative intervention as we had done about the humanitarian crisis and the 100-installment plan (for debts to tax office) – measures which, to a considerable degree, averted the exhaustion of the popular classes and brought households and small businesses out of tax debt, preventing them from being destroyed. In a number of sectors with positive or neutral budgetary balance, such policies might have led us to a better position.
- We did not realize either a plan of defence or a plan to limit the damage from the asymmetric war that was launched on us with the operation of the banking system as a major weapon. We found ourselves watching the banks go bankrupt due to the flight of capitals, without taking any action.
- We underestimated the need for fast tactical moves that, in the new suffocating context, would enable us to implement as much of the Thessaloniki program as possible, as well as execute readjustments, wherever it was necessary.
- We did not utilize – to the highest possible degree – the dynamics of the people, who supported us in the negotiation with mass mobilization in Greece and in Europe.
The above problems magnified the apparent weaknesses of a party that is trying to govern for the first time. The field of programmatic elaboration manifested the party’s overall difficulty in prioritizing, both centrally and in the various particular areas. It was also clear that a large part of our work was limited in generalizations and that we were not ready to translate it into practical policy. The result was that even in fields where there was no disagreement, e.g. restoration of collective bargaining and combating undeclared work, we were not ready to legislate.
In the government and SYRIZA’s efforts to cope with the new situation resulting from the January election, the party’s substantial assistance was essential. The party was principally required to do the following three things: form a new political hegemony in society on an ideological and theoretical level; provide the necessary political and state personnel so as to promptly realize all the necessary amendments in the government’s policies and in the state itself; and finally be transformed into a political formation of the governing Left, taking on the role of feeding the government with social demands, securing the popular movement’s support of radical reforms, but also planning a strategy that would relate the current administration to the purpose of social transformation.
In the new conditions, SYRIZA emerged as a dominant model for both the European Left and the international left radical movement. In this framework, it needed to give a practical answer to the primary question: How could a government of the Left operate effectively and leave a positive footprint in a small European country inside the Eurozone, in conditions of absolute neoliberal hegemony? And in conditions of general crisis in the country (debt crisis, crisis of state structure and function, crisis of the production model), could it cope with the critical problems, which had taken on an acute form, and seek recovery and transition to a different path of sustainable development?
Therefore, it was necessary that measures be taken for the restoration of the party so that it would respond to the necessities of this new period. It is the responsibility of the leadership elected at the first congress that the party has failed in this duty. Although in the previous congress it was decided that the party should be reinforced with new members and that new party officials should be promoted, there was no planned policy for new membership or for matching the party’s organization with its social and political dynamics. As a result, these decisions merely remained a declaration of good intent.
Moreover, we failed to develop the so necessary gender-equality culture and this, as a rule, led to silencing of women’s experience in the party’s decisions and functions. Thus, even though the party managed to listen to the demands of the people, the movements and the “squares,” and to relate to them, to affect and be affected, it was unable to acquire close organizational bonds with them and incorporate new ideas. It remained a small party without new party officials emerging from the struggles of this new period and with a relatively limited presence of women in its leading bodies, which is also apparent in the parliamentary group and the government. All these are a problem for a party that is supported by such a large part of the voters, already 26.5% in 2012.
A significant exception was the party’s great successful intervention in the mass movement of solidarity – to the victims of both the economic and the refugee crisis; a new, patently real and grave problem, which is like no other experience in the recent past. Despite minor differentiations that did not seriously affect our stance and practice, the members and the organizations of the party dealt with it in unison. With consecutive initiatives, they secured equal participation, without partisan or other narrow criteria. There was also a natural emergence of leadership, full autonomy of the structures and cooperation with any other initiatives appeared.
3. The Clash, the Referendum, and the Compromise
The deal of the February 20, 2015 — which foiled the plans of those who had invested in the government’s immediate fall — shaped a new field for the clash that would follow, in which a major tool the institutions used was economic asphyxiation. At the same time, the completely unrealistic targets for enormous primary surpluses, to which the previous government had committed itself, were revised downwards and the newly elected government was given the necessary time to draw up its own package of reforms and changes in the state, society, and economy.
That deal contained ambiguities and did not include an explicit commitment for funding. It was interpreted in an undermining way by the lenders as a continuation of the fifth assessment, which had not been concluded by the previous governments, and the new government was called on to do so in conditions of economic asphyxiation.
In addition, despite the merciless war from domestic circles who held the keys of power, the government went on to make crucial changes in the criminal justice system in the direction of humanization, virtually abolishing juvenile prisons and generally promoting favorable arrangements that up to a point corrected injustices and created a humane environment in Greek prisons. Meanwhile, the citizenship law was passed while the policy on immigration-refugee issues largely upset established xenophobic conceptions, but also practices of repression and deterrence, which fueled racism and far-right poisonous rhetoric during the whole previous period. SYRIZA’s policy at that time decisively contributed to the creation of a movement of solidarity to refugees and put our country in the path of international legitimacy and defence of human rights.
The changes were not made without shedding any blood, metaphorically speaking. The conflict grew, as the opposite side felt that the core of their ideology was being affected. In the clash between Left and Right in the field of values, the deep state wholeheartedly supported and promoted the positions of the bourgeois parties.
Continuing the negotiation, until the referendum was called, but even afterwards, the Greek side submitted proposals that could lessen the distance with its creditors and set the basis for the promotion of a number of critical and mature economic, social, and institutional changes aiming at the recovery of the economy and the financing of growth, the restoration of tax fairness, the redistribution of burdens, and the democratic reconstruction of the state apparatus.
By contrast, after every attempt of the Greek side to bridge the differences, throughout the long tough negotiations, the lenders always made new demands, constantly undermining the necessary common ground. The institutions’ intransigent hard line, as expressed through Juncker’s ultimatum, torpedoed any prospect of achieving a sustainable agreement and led the Greek government to resort to the people’s verdict so that a democratic way out would be given and the negotiation process would resume.
In this process, the party was not as present as it should be. The leading bodies did not operate appropriately so as to elaborate on the party’s tactic in the negotiation and see that – through the party’s organizations – it was assimilated by the members. The effect was that at every turn of the negotiation the party was taken by surprise by the ever-changing circumstances and was unable to react to the opponent’s attacks and undermining actions.
The declared objective of the referendum was to improve the government’s negotiating position in an unequal and asymmetric battle. In conditions of unprecedented economic asphyxiation and the opponent’s overwhelming political and institutional superiority, the government sought democratic mandate in order to repel a proposal that specified a five-month extension of the previous loan contract, without sufficient funding, prolonging the economic uncertainty and merely shifting the danger of a Grexit to the immediate future. It called upon the Greek people to reject the lenders’ proposal and keep alive the hope for a sustainable and realistic agreement in the context of the existing, particularly adverse, European balance of power.
With the referendum we proposed a new paradigm, beyond the logic of submission with which all the adjustment programs had been connected so far. It was the first time the government of a country member of the EU and the Eurozone had directly challenged the policies of aggressive austerity, internal devaluation, suffocating supervision, and harsh fiscal adjustment. It was the first time a European people had directly claimed the right to assess, judge, and co-decide everything that concerns it. Even though the endeavor was not fully successful, it did manage to wedge a new paradigm of political instrument into the heart of Europe, at the opposite end to the until-then prevalent logic of unconditional surrender and blind submission of the previous governments.
We brought back to the fore the issues of democracy and respect for popular sovereignty, awakening people’s consciousness and activating democratic political reflexes. The Greek government claimed – on behalf of all the European peoples – a different path and a different Europe. The outcome of the referendum and the punitive logic of retaliation that came as a reply to the “No” (OXI) of the Greek people revealed how visible the danger of the revival of nationalisms is in a Europe led by a single power and showed that the abuse of a people’s democratically expressed will can be a severe blow to the foundations of the entire European institutional edifice. All this led to the mobilization of progressive forces, intellectuals, and politicians. In addition to the traditional allies of the Left (European Greens, a part of European Socialists), a lot of European political forces stood with the government and SYRIZA in asking that the democratic will of the Greek people be respected.
Both the institutions’ ultimatum and their entire policy was part of an ongoing coup with a dual purpose: to preserve the existing memorandum framework and overthrow the Greek government. The overwhelming “No” of the vast majority of the Greek people did not allow the fulfillment of the above plans. Moreover, until the referendum was called, the only proposal on the negotiation table on the lenders’ side was the conclusion of the fifth assessment – at a standstill since August 2014 – together with a third harsh memorandum.
The July 5 referendum made possible a three-year agreement with coverage of the country’s funding needs and commitment for debt adjustment at a specified time and with a relatively defined content.
It is true that we did not manage to secure the agreement we wanted. The agreement did not represent the government’s will. Even though the agreement was signed under coup d’état circumstances after an unprecedented blackmail and was marked by an asymmetric negotiation determined by the lenders’ unwavering insistence on the strict application of the same policies; it was also shaped by the Greek government’s will to resist this prospect and obtain the best result possible under the circumstances.
In the aftermath of the referendum, the government was faced with the following extortion dilemma: either to sign an agreement that would secure a three-year funding of 86 billion euros, in return for the adoption of a series of undoubtedly harsh measures or lead the country to an uncontrolled default with unpredictable economic and social consequences. Besides, the dilemma in which we were put was not “memorandum or drachma” but “memorandum, either with euro or drachma, or uncontrolled default.” Rejecting both a blind rift and unconditional submission, we opted for retreat and tactical redeployment in order to regroup and move on, keeping alive our hope of eventually prevailing in an ongoing unequal fight.
As regards the first part of the agreement – that is to say the loan contract – the Greek government managed to avert the plan of continual financial blackmail, which was supported by extreme conservative European circles – mainly the Schaeuble group – and which remained active until the August 14 Eurogroup. According to that plan, Greece would either have to content itself with a five-month program as an extension of the previous loan contract, or face a series of consecutive repayments that would prolong the uncertainty but also increase the possibility of blackmail from the lenders for the implementation of recessional and anti-social measures and policies.
Instead, we managed to secure, on the one hand, the change of the legislative and institutional framework with a new loan agreement, and, on the other, the financing of the country’s borrowing needs for the following three years – both its foreign obligations and the state’s domestic debts.
Another positive point is the reevaluation of fiscal targets, which allows for a definitely milder adjustment, reducing the possibility of new blackmails for additional measures in the next years. Most importantly, though, the agreement for the first time sets a binding timetable for the commencement of discussions about the restructuring and repayment terms of the public debt, while – although it imposes privatizations – it also allows for the utilization of public property with a view to planned development.
Certainly, though, the agreement, the memorandum, is not SYRIZA’s government platform, nor is it property of the Left, as is publicly claimed by the lenders’ representatives, in an attempt to rewrite the history of the tough negotiation and our struggle and to erase the traces of their unscrupulous blackmail. Our platform, as detailed in our collective decisions, opposes the memorandum commitments, endeavoring to weaken them and lay the basis for breaking the asphyxiating neoliberal framework.
The effort to break out of the memorandum and the guardianship is exceptionally hard and demanding. However, it is a condition necessary for society to remain standing on its feet, to open the way to democracy and popular sovereignty, which in the present circumstances are being held hostage. It also requires an overall competitive political project, which is detailed and coherent, with international allies – parties and radical movements, progressive governments, especially in the South – with definite dividing lines that the government of the Left will not cross, even if this means clashing with the European elite, such as anything that is related to labor rights, collective agreements, the right to strike, salaries, etc.
In the next period, we will have to accelerate actions in the “parallel” program in Education, Healthcare, Solidarity, etc, which are oriented towards meeting people’s needs and will work as far as possible as a relief for those afflicted by recessional memorandum measures or as opposition to the dominant conservative and authoritarian policy promoted, tooth and nail, by the lenders and local bourgeois forces.
In addition, there are measures and interventions for the implementation of which SYRIZA did not need any external intervention: reform of the tax system with the aim of tax fairness and increase in public revenues; the fight against tax evasion and corruption; the construction of a National System of Social Solidarity; the profound change in public administration; the regulation of the television landscape and the elimination of the vested interests in the media. All of these are measures that the previous governments and the lenders agreed on, but the parties of the old regime in Greece showed no intention of decisive intervention and the lenders never exerted any real pressure. Today, as well, we see that SYRIZA’s initiatives in such a direction are met with objections from the lenders and strong reaction from the opposition.
In this respect, the government’s task is difficult and demanding since it first requires the implementation of the agreed measures in a way that will minimize or offset their negative impacts by a series of specified interventions, within the designated fiscal framework. It also calls for constant vigilance and persistence so that the measures stipulated in the agreement will be included in the context of a broader project of radical changes that will lay the foundations for a new development and production model that will go beyond the asphyxiating neoliberal framework.
4. SYRIZA’s Split, the Victory in the September Elections, the Government Policy, the Party’s Reorganization
SYRIZA’s split, after the July agreement, was bound to happen. The extent of the demobilization, though, could have been reduced if the party leadership had readily organized the necessary intra-party discussion. The decision to convene an extraordinary congress and its later cancellation, due to the definitely necessary calling of a general election, distanced a lot of people from our lines – people who could and should have been with us, even after the disappointment caused by the July agreement.
The calling of the election was necessary because, first of all, the government had been forced to retreat and reevaluate its policies and therefore had to – as was SYRIZA’s commitment before the elections – ask the people anew, and, secondly, because it did not have the parliamentary majority after a significant number of its MPs refused their vote. The demand of the bourgeois opposition and our comrades who founded Popular Unity [LAE] – each having their own different motives – that a new government be formed by the same Parliament would have dragged SYRIZA into a coalition government with the parties of the old regime and practically led to the irrevocable cancellation of January’s breakthrough – contrary to the popular mandate. The victory in the September election proved that SYRIZA had built a strong bond with the popular classes, while the bourgeois opposition continues to identify with the old regime.
With the September popular mandate, SYRIZA has been established as a dominant force in the country’s political scene and as a new hegemonic pole in the evolving domestic and European political landscape. SYRIZA’s second electoral victory cancelled the plans of local and foreign forces that had invested in the strategy of the “Left parenthesis,” dashing the hopes of those who had been engineering the early end of the Left government and the restoration of bipartisanism.
If the collapse of bipartisanism had helped the accession of the Left to the government for the first time a year before, SYRIZA’s second electoral victory accelerated the decomposition of the old political system and sparked procedures and processes of reformulation and reconstruction of the country’s political map. It particularly pressurized the forces of the so-called Center and Social Democracy (PASOK’s existential identity crisis, Democratic Left’s (DEMAR) three-way split, POTAMI’s shrinking, ND’s so far fruitless search for political, ideological, and programmatic character under its new leadership). It discredited the myth of SYRIZA’s supposedly accidental or coincidental rise to power the previous January.
It also showed that the strengthening of the Left forces in Greece was not an isolated or passing incident but part of a wider social dynamic against the policies of austerity, internal devaluation and tough fiscal adjustment. This social dynamic spurs a series of progressive shifts and changes elsewhere in Europe as well (new government supported by Left forces in Portugal; crisis of bipartisanism in Spain after Podemos’ great electoral success and the retreat of the conservative forces; defeat of the rightwing government in Ireland; radicalization of the Labour Party under Corbyn in Britain; etc.).
It proved wrong those who believed that the July blackmail and the fact that the government was forced to withdraw from its aims and commitments would cancel the leftward tendencies in the rest of Europe halting this dynamic. In defiance of the lenders’ tough line against SYRIZA’s government, that second electoral victory proved that the fight against the neoliberal policies continued, keeping alive the hope that a new political situation is gradually taking shape.
At the party’s base, with the exception of the Youth, SYRIZA’s split did not reach the size many had expected. However, its leading bodies and many Prefectural Committees were mutilated; organizations disbanded or lost a considerable number of members. With the measures provided by the party’s statute, after considerable efforts, the Prefectural Committees, the Central Committee, and the Political Secretariat were reorganized; the organizations were reconstructed and, to a limited degree, new members came or comrades that had left came back.
The party’s reconstruction was greatly helped by last September’s election battle, in which our members and officials, despite the exceptionally adverse conditions, gave their best; and, of course, by our new electoral success.
The completion of the first assessment provides us with valuable conclusions. It is clear that the blackmail method on the lenders’ part will continue in an attempt of a continual negative shift of the agreement’s initial framework. In addition, it is inferred that the aim to overthrow the government is still active on the part of the neoliberal forces inside and outside the country. In contrast to a dominant narrative, both right and left, the signing of the agreement after the summer blackmail did not create a mutual political center without political oppositions between the government and the institutions. In spite of the asphyxiating supervision they tried to impose on the entire governmental organization and policy, there will be a number of critical conflicts, as has already happened. The realization of the uninsured citizens’ access to the health system happened through a long process of conflict with the old regime inside and outside the country. The same happened when the government tried not to cut primary pensions but increase insurance contributions instead.
In this respect, the party and government’s central priority is not defined by the verbatim implementation of an agreement that is the result of blackmail but by the efforts to organize the social forces so that the conditions which have turned the lenders into a super-government will be lifted and valuable time will be won, so as to follow a different policy.
The issue of labor relations is now the central front that lies ahead of us. The core of our project is the redistribution of wealth and power in favor of the working classes. This process cannot but have as its most crucial element the repulse of the neoliberal plans for collective redundancies, lockouts, attack on trade union freedoms and on the right to strike.
But this is not confined to defence. It also involves the fight for the substantial reinstatement of collective bargaining agreements with safeguards in favor of employees, such as arbitration, extensibility, continuance, etc., as well as the determination of minimum wages through collective bargaining procedures.
In this struggle we must give all our strength for the development of multiform social and political initiatives in Greece and Europe. What is happening in France shows that even governments that for their own reasons try to distance themselves from a restrictive fiscal policy can implement labor deregulation plans. In this respect, our central alliance must be first of all formed at a grassroots level, with the working classes and the European trade unions.
5. Youth of SYRIZA
The Youth of SYRIZA with its members was present in every battle we fought at the social level against memoranda imperatives in these last years. It actively participated in all the great labor struggles, the youth rebellion in December 2008, the fight for the defence of Education, at the squares, the Hypatia building (migrants’ hunger strike in 2011), in every clash, in every movement event. We should acknowledge that the Youth Organization made great efforts to give SYRIZA’s battles the features that would bring the young generation to the center of the events. The struggles against the management in the workplace, the active presence in the great movements of the last five years, in universities, schools, neighborhoods were all very important. Particularly during the “hot” time of the Referendum, the Youth of SYRIZA fought everywhere in Greece, participated in mass events in favor of “No” and contributed to the great struggle against austerity.
In the context of this review though, we must acknowledge that the Youth of SYRIZA was an organization which, since its birth, had been suffering from a strong internal conflict; a conflict that reflected antitheses characteristic of the intra-party landscape, but with far more intensity. Despite efforts made, the Youth organization hardly managed to break away from its involvement in the “internal front” and play a hegemonic role in the Greek youth movement.
In the previous years, there had not been any success in the endeavor to form a creative
and integral political project for the youth that would orientate towards mass work in the places where young people live, study, and work and could also smooth disputes that had existed in the organization since as early as 2012. The inability to synthesize even in issues self-evident for a Left youth organization exacerbated the problem. If to all these we add the party’s incompetence to function helpfully, the mixture created was often quite explosive. SYRIZA bears the responsibility for many of the organization’s ills because in critical moments it failed to offer de facto solutions – respecting of course the Youth’s independence. Moreover, there was never any substantial political or organizational care, on the part of the Central Committee or the Political Secretariat, for strengthening mass work on a youth level. The party often dealt with the problem in “family” terms rather than politically. A characteristic example was the Youth’s 1st Pan-Hellenic Conference and the first congress – the latter never happened. In both cases, the party’s decisions exacerbated rather than helped resolve the political impasses.
We must not, of course, belittle the fact that during the critical conclusion of the negotiation the Youth’s split worked negatively, much more for the Youth than for the party. After the split and the disbandment of the Youth’s leading bodies, in late November 2015, the 2nd Pan-Hellenic Conference took place, which mainly aimed at the organizational and political reconstruction of the Youth of SYRIZA, its refoundation in effect. In a very short period of time, the Youth managed to reconstitute its organizational web, started the first steps of its intervention in youth places, schools, universities, and neighborhoods. It also published its own magazine, recruited new members, intervened in refugee solidarity actions and hospitality centers. In the last months, the Youth of SYRIZA has managed to recover some lost ground. However, a lot more has to be done to create a mass left youth organization, essential oxygen for SYRIZA itself. To this purpose, the Party forces must give priority to the establishment of youth organizations; support our comrades who selflessly fight the everyday battles with us.
B. The Present and the Future (The Left in the 21st Century)
1. International Situation
In the present phase of human history, humanity as a whole is experiencing an ongoing prolonged undeclared war. What is at stake here is the character of our societies in the decades to come. The dominant conservative forces aim at societies with harsh austerity and permanent – or even escalated – repression. In contrast, the progressive forces aim at societies where social justice and democracy will not be absent. The outcome of this war cannot be taken for granted.
In the whole world, especially in the most developed countries, inequalities are broadening and sharpening. An increasingly small percentage of the population possesses the overwhelmingly largest and ever-growing part of the wealth. These inequalities have reached unprecedented levels, as they expand geographically and deepen socially, taking on new features every day.
The continual intensification of the financial and economic crisis is fueling and being fueled by the multidimensional social, humanitarian, cultural and ecological crisis. All these aspects of the crisis together are leading capitalism to a structural crisis, which is characterized by a long-term transference of power and resources from the South to the North and from the East to the West and by the emergence of new powerful economic centers that are claiming a position in the rearrangement of the international balance of power. This development challenges in practice the established supranational formations and institutions. The increased inequalities on an international, peripheral and national level are accompanied by a generalized insecurity in the world, a tendency for militarization of international life and wars. Rivalry for zones of influence and control of resources is intensifying, which brings great and medium-sized powers in confrontation with each other and every now and then causes new war conflicts.
Democratic achievements are being undermined both inside countries and in international relations. Peoples’ right to choose their own path to growth, the form of their own social organization – in other words, popular sovereignty – tends to be cancelled in the conditions of neoliberal capitalist globalization. Democratic institutions are weakening while international institutions and international law are being cancelled due to the interests of powerful capitalist groups and imperialist centers. Never before in history were political and social rights so inextricably linked.
Generalized crises, increasing inequality and wars cause huge refugee and migrant flows and favor the rise of reactionary and fundamentalist forces. It is imperative today for peace initiatives to be undertaken for the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The Left must contribute to these in cooperation with trade unions and other civic organizations, with citizen initiatives, with every peace-loving force, in a new large and multiform anti-war movement. In direct connection with this goal, there is a dire need for a peace plan with democracy for Syria, for a fair solution to the Palestinian issue, as well as for highlighting the Cyprus question as a problem of peace and security in the Mediterranean.
The crisis is taking on particular characteristics in Europe and the EU, where neoliberalism – being modernized and in admirable collaboration with the dominant reactionary forces in the North – continues its dogmatic effort to impose austerity policies on countries of the South, accompanying them with dehydration of democracy and restrictions on popular sovereignty.
The partial retreat of the left and progressive forces in Latin America, whose rise had marked the previous decade, coincided with victories of left forces in Greece, Portugal, Spain; the rise of Sin Fein in Ireland; the Sanders phenomenon in the USA; differentiations in the European Social Democracy, as can be seen in the emergence of Corbyn in the British Labour Party; but also with processes in the Spanish and Portuguese Social Democracy under the effect of the rise of the Left in the Iberian Peninsula. All these, together with SYRIZA’s four consecutive electoral victories, can be the beginning of a neoliberal retreat and at the same time act as the catalyst for more general changes.
The Left today, with the representation of the demands of the labor movement and the critique to capitalism stemming from this movement, is called on to resist the instrumentalization of the Logic of the Market; to defend freedom values of the Enlightenment, of Democracy, and of social justice; to defend the antifascist tradition of the 20th century; to re-establish a program of social and political subversion, the program of 21st century socialism.
The diversity of the socioeconomic conditions, as well as of the social resistances, is reflected today on the multiformity of the political representations of the Left. However, it urgently raises the matter of the political synthesis of those who express the wider struggling social majorities. These majorities, as shown by the recent refugee crisis, include different kinds of minorities and organize multilevel resistance initiatives. In this way, they open up new prospects for broadening democracy and promote new radical paradigms of social organization.
Therefore, there is a need for revitalization and the formation of new social and political alliances in Greece, in Europe and in the world. By today’s standards, central issues are the efficient organization and cooperation of the forces that are members or observers of the European Left Party, the dialogue and cooperation with the European Greens, as well as with those parts of Social Democracy that do not tolerate the neoliberal hegemony anymore and resist austerity and the accompanying authoritarianism. In this context, SYRIZA must in practice contribute to a “pan-European coalition against social destruction.” This pan-European coalition will not be built through only one – the socioeconomic – front but also through other ones, such as the antiracist, the antimilitarist, the peace, the democracy, and the ecology fronts.
2. Europe at a Crossroads
The developments in the last three years confirm what SYRIZA’s founding congress noted about the extent and the depth of the European crisis. The Congress’ position about the refoundation of the EU remains exceptionally topical. While it appears to have been stemmed in the USA, the international financial and economic crisis continues in the EU and in some aspects is even deepening, as it has laid bare the contradictions of the European integration project. The crisis, along with the popular resistances in the EU countries, challenges the cohesion of the alliance between Conservatives and Social Democrats that has been leading the course of European integration in these last decades.
But the EU is in crisis even as regards its position in the world. There is a strong tendency for the EU to develop into an imperialistic center under Germany’s leadership. That is the purpose of its aim to reinforce its military power and its military interventions, either autonomously or in collaboration with NATO. The other path, supported by the European Left, is the development of Europe into a pole of peace and democracy.
The crisis in Ukraine and other crises highlighted the EU leadership’s refusal to make the Union a pole of peace and stability in the whole European continent and the neighboring regions (Mediterranean – Middle East). The crisis in Ukraine, as a pan-European problem, is a result of the fact that the country has been a field of fierce competition between Russia and the great Western countries, as well as of its own internal contradictions. The European Left has consistently supported a peaceful resolution to the crisis on the basis of the Minsk peace process, with OSCE’s assistance.
The consequences of the multidimensional crisis inside and outside the EU have led to the reemergence and development – with considerable percentages in elections – of the forces of xenophobia, sexism, racism, and Nazism. These forces have also instigated the recent outbreak of Islamophobia, particularly after the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Apparently, extreme Islamic fundamentalism constitutes a major international danger but it cannot be fought either with new wars – on the basis of the belligerent theory of the “Clash of Civilizations” – or with dilemmas of the “security or democracy” kind, which stem from Europe’s dominant circles. The far-right threat cannot be warded off with concessions to its ideology.
Due to its geopolitical position, Greece can play an instrumental role in the abovementioned issues. The choice of a multidimensional, actively peaceful foreign policy – participation in international peace initiatives and support for demilitarization and denuclearization processes – is a prerequisite for the economic and ecological recovery with social prosperity and of course the only roadmap for our party.
The refugee-immigration issue is becoming a major international and European problem -not only a result of wars but also of the absence of democracy, along with blatant global inequalities, on whose ground extreme reactionary phenomena and forces of religious fundamentalism grow.
The so-called refugee crisis, which actually is a crisis of today’s unfair and antidemocratic world system, reveals the glaring failure of European policies to address the immigration-refugee issue with integration of refugees and migrants into European societies.
The EU has also completely failed in its relations with the rest of the world. The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) still moves on the Atlanticist orbit, thus making it difficult to draw up and apply a new EU policy in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Above all, it is essential to have an EU plan for peace in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, with Greece’s contribution; a plan that should principally aim at bridging the explosive North-South gap in the Mediterranean and building new relations with Africa as well.
The refugee issue revealed not only the absence of an EU peace policy but also the necessity for inter-Balkan cooperation based on co-development and mutual security. This necessity was underlined by the bilateral tensions that followed the appearance of the refugee-immigration issue.
We believe that the Greek government generally acted properly on this major problem. It abolished the previous inhuman and unlawful status quo, asked for a radical change of the EU’s immigration policy, impelled pan-European developments and helped to awaken European societies, promoting the demand for a truly mutual European solution to the crisis.
Refoundation of the EU
The slogan “A new Europe for a new world” has gained greater value today and demands, first of all, the effective challenge of the neoliberal hegemony, which leads to the militarization of the EU. It is also necessary that the struggles of the Left, the ecology, and the peace movement acquire a pan-European horizon.
SYRIZA, like the European Left Party, persists in the refoundation of the EU, setting as a first central aim the defence of the “European social model”, whose content is constantly shrinking but whose cancellation would amount to a cultural counterrevolution. On the contrary, the refoundation of the EU, which would be based on the activation and expansion of democratic institutions and processes and have an explicit social content in favor of the socially disadvantaged, would constitute a cultural revolution for the whole Europe. The “refoundation of the EU” with such content is the only hope for the salvation of the EU and European societies from the menace of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The current balance of power in the EU and generally in Europe continues to be against the Left. The crisis of democratic legitimacy remains and is intensifying, with the European Parliament undervalued, the national parliaments just confirming decisions made undemocratically, behind the backs of the people and their elected representatives.
The dominant forces in the EU “address” the crisis abandoning fundamental declared principles of the European integration, overlooking important aspects of the primary Community law. It is time for the Left and all the democratic forces to set as priority the defence and expansion of democracy in the EU. This requires claiming a Europe of Rights, where civil and social rights would be considered indivisible and interdependent.
Even before it came to power, SYRIZA had not only noted the processes in the European South but also based the prospect of a different path in Greece, the prospect of a progressive government, on countries, governments, political forces, the Left of the European South. The developments confirmed that estimation. Today the processes and developments in the EU call for strengthening cooperation in the European South. The refoundation of the EU, as well, is dependent on cooperation and political reinforcement not only of the European Left but also the European South in the context of the European integration.
3. Which Left in the 21st Century?
SYRIZA’s second congress is called on to affirm the Declaration of Principles of our founding congress. As a party of the contemporary renovative Left, we must seek our vision in the daily action of a complex, contradictory, exploitative and alienating capitalist today (on a national, European and international level), without forgetting the principal humanistic tenet that created the Left two centuries ago.
The politically organized Left, as a political expression of the labor movement, has a history of two centuries, during which it “stormed heaven” and led social and national liberation revolutions. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a deep schism in its lines caused by the accession of a large part to the pro-war side in the First World War.
The two currents that emerged – the social democratic and the communist – failed, each in its own way, to realize the vision of social and human emancipation. The collapse of “real socialism” in 1989-90 led the entire Left to a crisis. From that crisis emerged the demand and the aim to create a new Left, not only with the transcendence of the two earlier great currents but also with a new character and characteristics; through the synthesis of the ideas and values of the labor movement with those of ecology, feminism, and the other contemporary social movements. SYRIZA is an expression of this need to refound and reconstitute the currents of the labor movement and the Left.
The international and European developments in the socioeconomic field themselves – as well as the environmental crisis – have expanded the field of action of the Left and of its potential social and therefore political alliances. At the same time, both the pan-European and the planetary horizon of the Left and its platform are coming to the fore.
The current multidimensional global crisis highlights the impasses of capitalism and the bankruptcy of the Thatcherite dogma “There Is No Alternative” (TINA). For Europe and the world to be saved, a radical social and political change is essential, which in the current conditions cannot be limited to national level. A new contemporary internationalism of the Left is necessary; internationalism that will be based on the historical legacy of the struggles and will utilize the new knowledge and technology, which emerge as important factors of political mobilization.
The emergence of a series of contradictions and conflicts – which, despite being determined in terms of class, go beyond this categorization – helps the establishment of political formations besides the representational parties and the traditional trade unions, as well as of new decentralized, thematic and flexible forms of popular mobilization and political action. All these change the central political scene and the concept of politics, freeing large parts of the population and particularly many women and young people from the traditional forms of political affiliation. Others distance themselves from politics though, causing a representational crisis and a retreat of democracy, while others shift towards radical positions that lead to progressive developments.
In Greece, the political representation crisis had started manifesting itself before the Memoranda, but took on gigantic dimensions during their implementation. Its symptoms are – among others – the unprecedented for the Political Changeover’s standards weakening of bipartisanism, the decline of certain forms of party organization, the fading of the dividing line between Left and Right for large parts of society, since this too had already shrunk in the consolidated bourgeois bipartisanism. There was also a depoliticization of the youth and a clear decline in gender claims; a general lack of trust in the political system; crisis of classical trade unionism and considerable drop in participation; shift, although limited, towards forms of autonomous labor and social organization. SYRIZA’s electoral successes are also owed to the fact that it promptly comprehended these developments and managed to represent the class – anti-memorandum – struggle of the Greek people.
Neoliberalism has increased inequalities and compromised democracy. The growing social disparity undermines equality before the law and even in voting rights. Neoliberal globalization dehydrates representational institutions. In this context, in today’s world, democracy interests the few only as a formal (empty) shell and a pretext for power. On the contrary, for the many it is becoming an absolute requirement. When the many are oppressed, the requirement and the claim for democracy becomes their vehicle for their penetration of the world of the privileged, and the democratic institutions become a demand for radical change.
4. Left Program, Social, and Political Alliances
The Left of the post-Cold War era had suffered theoretical failures and political defeats worldwide. The radical Left, therefore, has a duty to reestablish a program of subversion that responds to the long-term changes in society and the critical present conditions. The modern party of the Left is not at a distance from the popular classes – in the role of the “guide and leader” – and does not integrate itself into the government. It represents the forces of labor and the other popular social strata; organizes the alliance with the traditional and the new middle class that is crushed by the aggressive neoliberalism; has structural bonds with the social movements; aims at the broadest possible political and social alliance for the social transformation.
The program and the partial objectives of the Left stem from the demands and the struggles of the many and (they) are shaped by scientific analysis and their actual implementation. Thus, it is specified for every branch of social life and this is the way the party of the Left organizes its social and political struggles and seeks to win the majority of the people and the political power.
The class character of the vote for SYRIZA in the January and September elections shows that workers, young people and the unemployed are the main body of the broad social alliance the party aims at. In society, we aim at formal and informal association with the movements and the parts of the population afflicted by the recession. On a political level, we aim to create the conditions for program agreements and join hands with all the forces of the Left. We also seek alliances and relations with parties and groups associated with social democracy, as long as they are free from commitments to the old partisan system and neoliberalism, as well as with political formations of the ecology movement, first of all with the party of the Greens.
The 20th century taught us that socialism cannot exist if it is not democratic. The abolition of capitalist property alone does not suffice for the building of the new society. 21st century socialism means democracy in all aspects of life – in the economy, the banks, large production units, institutions and organizations. Second ingredient of the Left program is therefore the constant expansion and deepening of democracy. The democratization of the state, the public sector, education and culture needs to be combined with multiform direct-democratic institutions, so that large parts of social policy will gradually be decided through collective processes. Thus, democracy embraces all the expressions of social life and is transformed from an institutional process into a new form of life, with its gender dimension stressed. Moreover, this struggle involves repeated democratic challenges, transference of responsibilities and resources to new institutions of direct democracy that change the balance of power in society. The struggle for the expansion and deepening of democracy is an essential element of the struggle for socialism – it helps democracy and at the same time creates the conditions for socialism.
The democratic transformation of society must learn a lesson from the various initiatives of autonomous social organization and action and encourage the blooming of such initiatives. In this respect, any governmental policy must relate to democracy and equality and be checked for the defence of class interests. The constant reduction of inequalities, the improvement of citizens’ everyday life, and the expansion and deepening of democracy are the essence of the daily efforts of the modern radical Left.
C. For a party of active citizens, expression of society’s anxieties and aspirations SYRIZA is a party of active citizens, men and women, who want to express the renovative radical and democratic Greek and European Left. Its friends and members fight inside and outside institutions “to overturn all the circumstances in which man is a humiliated, enslaved, despised and rejected being” (Marx), for the transcendence of any form of exploitation and oppression in today’s adverse conditions, through continuous daily democratic breakthroughs and clashes.
Through today’s contradictions and difficulties, we endeavor to reconnect the labor struggles that have marked the historical course of societies in the last two centuries, the feminist movement, and the new social movements and sensitivities, with demands for substantial institutions of representational democracy, which the bourgeois class has never really wanted, in order to create direct-democratic institutions and pockets of self-management in the production base; in order for freedoms and rights to be respected and continually enriched.
With these goals of an open democratic course to socialism and an ever-expanding intra-party democracy, we construct our ideological/political identity.
In this new reality, the basic contradiction between capital and labor is enriched and updated, but this does not mean the exploitative and alienating processes decrease. On the contrary, they combine with new intensifying contradictions of ecological disasters, climate disasters, water shortages, genetically modified products, multiple forms of violence against women, new forms of slavery and fundamentalist barbarity, wars, an unprecedented immigration flow and a huge humanitarian crisis on a local, European and global level.
In this new complex reality new resistances are born – new movements, new challenging forms of civil disobedience – creating the conditions for a new social-political-cultural radical, progressive pole against the forces of the big capital of the neoliberal capitalist exploitation.
It is this pole that SYRIZA tries to express both in the Greek and the European reality, acting as a catalyst for the subversion of the dominant neoliberal capitalist logic.
For this pole to adapt to the new circumstances, it is necessary first of all to drastically reduce the one-way vertical intra-party hierarchal structure by creating parallel horizontal structures; disseminate all the information and data to all the members that together constitute our original and unprecedented venture and simultaneously create conditions of collective control, critical in-depth analysis, and real participation in decision-making. It is also necessary to enrich the party life with new analyses focusing on the multiform structures and cultural processes of the solidarity movement that have emerged during the economic and refugee crisis, but fully respecting the autonomy of these structures.
We need a party that will be able to open up new paths in society, plan new policies, change the balance of power through struggles, and help create a new context of popular participation and control; a party governed by the culture of equality between its men and women members and aiming at their balanced participation in its leading bodies.
The party we need is a party that will really operate as a collective intellectual, aiming at the hegemony of the practices and ideas of the Left in society; a mass party of the Left that will be able to learn from the struggles of society, encapsulate the best features of these struggles and transform them into a part of the collective intellect, with an operation that will not convert our forces into internal pressure mechanisms or government officials’ personal armies.
Thus, the party will be able to contribute more effectively to the implementation of our program but also check on the government. A critical issue we will need to address in the next period is the creation of an overall framework of participation and control that would unlock popular inventiveness and social availability. This requires imaginative, open to the new reality, operation of the party organizations, which would develop into attractive places of society’s expression and action – without losing their party character – with open meetings and public events, where members, friends and fellow citizens in general would be able not only to go but also submit proposals, share their concerns and critical opinions, put forward ideas for discussion and decision. In addition, on specific issues, such as the concept of self-management and the example of VIOME [Thessaloniki metal manufacturer run by a workers’ cooperative] or the social dialogue for Education and the problems in healthcare, there could be open forums on the internet so that friends and members would discuss in-depth analysis and enrichment of positions and ideas, as well as informal referendums for intervention in problems in the local area or in a particular economic sector. People that keep in touch with our policies but do not necessarily want to be party members could be encouraged to participate in our concerns and explorations at all the levels of party structure – from primary organizations to the party’s sections. This could be the means for the party to root in society and make its affairs, public affairs.
As a further step in this direction, a daily struggle is needed in order to transcend – in the intra-party life, too – the dominant logics: the discrimination between “high” and “low” people, the “assigning” mentality, the clientelism, the apparatuses, the dominant traditional attitudes and mentalities – all in conditions of a peculiar war of position on all levels in our country and in Europe, taking advantage of the cracks and contradictions of the dominant system. Cracks have multiplied thus creating new promising fields of class struggle in the EU. We also need to overcome the mentality of the “closed party” that hesitates or even refuses to recruit new members.
It is very important that we organize and utilize the party’s scientific resources, both in the party’s sections and in the Nikos Poulantzas Institute, by reinforcing and reorganizing it. This way the party will strengthen the scientific and theoretical foundation of its policy, provide its members with up-to-date knowledge of their field and disseminate in society the theory and explorations of the Left in their latest version.
Especially in the present circumstances, when the party is called on to lead Greek society out of this guardianship regime, but in an unfavorable context, given the opponent’s persistence to reverse the course that started in January 2015 – either by overthrowing the government or by integrating SYRIZA into the system – the party’s reorganization and recovery is essential.
A strong and dynamic party is imperative for the successful outcome of our venture. These are the requirements for this:
- Ample ideological reserve of completely elaborated principles and strategy tools. Analytical skills and ability to devise strategies collectively and democratically.
- Ability to plan the tactic collectively and promptly based on everyday observations and adjusted to the circumstances of the negotiation.
- Sound primary organizations rooted in the social web, which would help devise the party’s program; able to promote it to the people and create the conditions for social support to the government.
- Democratic operation, so that junior/senior members and friends of the party, without exclusions – especially due to sex or to gender identity –,would recognize their own contribution in the party’s decisions and activities.
- Elaborate positions that enjoy maximum acceptance in the party; able to assist the party to undertake government responsibilities and accelerate the government policy on the basis of SYRIZA’s new political paradigm.
- Constant care for the scientific foundation of our policy and the exploration of new challenges and new paths, by utilizing the party’s scientific resources.
The development of such a party – democratic, open and effective, too – is the greatest challenge for the leading bodies, the primary organizations and the members in the next period. The leading bodies in particular must constantly concern themselves with the implementation of these guidelines.
Party Outside the State
The assumption of the country’s administration in these adverse and suffocating circumstances of economic crisis, loan commitments and huge refugee problem poses additional difficulties to intra-party life. It is an unprecedented course, of which there is no model, in a period when collective subjects – political and trade unionist – have been downgraded and systematically vilified. Without collective political expressions, there is no democratic life, though. This is exactly why the party’s energetic and appealing operation is more important than ever.
Without party, there can be neither government nor alternative government plan of exiting this complex crisis. Constant vigilance and opposition to governmentalism should go together with the effort to acquire a culture of government administration, of co-responsibility and collective intra-party control and instill it in the social forces that follow our venture; with the effort to conquer a new propelling dynamic of a reconstruction open to social and cultural developments. Neither behind nor ahead of the government.
SYRIZA is not just another collective political expression of the Left; it is also the guardian of the program and the principles of the Renovative Radical and Democratic Left; the government’s shield against dirty war and the vigilant protector that connects it with social demands, promptly pointing out deviations, statist inflexibilities, and lapses, so that they can be remedied. Therefore, it is the government’s living left conscience.
To achieve this aim, we must upgrade the role of the party’s bodies and primary organizations, discussing the government proposals and initiatives there before they appear in public and thus showing our respect for the members’ opinions, so that members will not be made to feel discredited and alienated from the government decision-making.
SYRIZA should prove every day that it remains a sensitive recipient and a propelling force of social demands and sensibilities, an active participant in popular struggles, in social solidarity forms, and in the ethos of the Left.
These functions concern all of us and our members who participate in government or parliamentary positions. Particularly these latter ones – as their attitude and ethos reflect on the entire party – must exhibit transparency in their action, have knowledge of and respect for the party’s elaborations, resolutions and program, adhere to our statute and the code of conduct they have co-signed, as must all the other members of the party.
Apart from the statutory commitments for the best function of the members of parliament, members of the European Parliament, and government officials, men and women, it is imperative that these also retain their functional relationship with the primary organization they belong to and with the party’s respective thematic groups and to promote the party’s elaborations, which need to be enriched constantly.
The coordination and close cooperation of the party with the Parliamentary Group and the government are essential for the party in order to establish the political framework and feed the MPs and the government with elaborations, but also with social demands and concerns. For the MPs this is a prerequisite for contributing to the government work with proposals and control. To secure this cooperation it is essential that representatives of ministries and party groups participate permanently in EPEKE [Committees for Production and Control of Government Work], and that the party and the MPs be briefed regularly on ministries’ plans and, of course, on bills, before they are introduced in the Parliament.
The organizational and political autonomy from the government and the state and the respect for the party’s decisions and choices are basic prerequisites for the party to perform as a collective intellectual, in which all the members – whatever their position – find their expression.
The petit-bourgeois concept of politics as a private sport is foreign to our perception of politics as a constant effort to express the social demands and needs, especially of the oppressed parts of the population – those who “have no voice.” We achieve this by being fully aware of the internal and international balance of power and by keeping our antennae raised so as to perceive the processes taking place, the gaps and clashes both in Greece and abroad; by comprehending – far from “left purity,” absolutisms, and nihilistic criticisms – that actual history is like nature: more capricious and imaginative than the bureaucratic logic of classifications and systematizations; and that only through history, through struggle, can we learn that we have to fight, understanding the developments of our times and changing our course accordingly.
We should not forget though that the necessary daily struggle for improvement in circumstances of the working classes, for social reforms, for elimination of any discrimination based on sex, sexual or cultural preferences, as well as the parliamentary struggle for democratic reforms, must go hand in hand with our efforts to materialize our objective, which still is social transformation. The whole secret of historical subversions through political administration lies exactly in the conversion of simple and continuous quantitative modifications into a new quality, in other words, the change from one historical period to another, from one social form to another.
If this historical moral is understood, we will not end up in a course of integration, as it is often repeated by many anti-establishment radical movements and constantly desired by our opponents.
This is an open bet and the outcome is up to us, both individually or collectively.
D. Left Program, Disengagement from the Causes that Have Led Us to the Memorandum, Disengagement from the Neoliberal Economic and Political Framework in Greece and in Europe
1. Since the first congress of SYRIZA in 2013, there have been dramatic developments in our country, in Europe, and in the world. For the first time in post-war history, in a European country, a government led by the Left – as its main participant- has been formed, and this has opened up the path for a rise of the Left and the formation of progressive governments in other European countries as well. In Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian civil war has brought a new confrontation between Russia and the Western powers. The war in Syria and Iraq has led to a huge concentration of armed forces of rival states in the region and has caused a giant wave of refugees that poses intractable problems to Greece and Europe. The rearrangement of the international balance of power with the emergence of new powerful economic and military forces continues at a rapid pace. All these create new challenges and raise new issues as regards our immediate goals and the party’s practice in the next period.
The experience of the party’s course during the first phase of its presence in the government as the leading main participant and the signing of the agreement with the lenders by the SYRIZA-ANEL-Ecologists government, which creates a different framework from the one SYRIZA sought, make it imperative to reevaluate aspects of our program and reconnect our wider objectives with the immediate needs of our political action.
2. It is the constant pursuit of our opponents, both in Greece and abroad, either to overthrow the government or force SYRIZA to adapt to the bourgeois framework – become a party like the rest. This is why the last summer’s agreement was followed by pressure for an ecumenical [national unity] government. The optimal implementation of the agreement was presented as the reason for such a choice and politics as a technical managerial procedure. The purpose of that attempt was, on the one hand, for the parties of the bourgeois opposition to avoid the September 2015 election and, on the other, push SYRIZA towards integration into the “constellation of the Memoranda”, which had been dominant in the previous five years. Such attempts are to be expected to continue in different ways every time and the party’s program should give the members, the organizations, and the leadership itself the theoretical equipment necessary to fight back.
3. Today, especially after the enforced signing of last summer, SYRIZA’s program takes on even greater weight. Because our party is called on to prove – programmatically, as well – that, even in the harshest and most suffocating context, left policy-making is possible and to defend the popular classes’ entrance to the political arena, which is what made SYRIZA a leading political force in Greece. This is possible because, first of all, there are still certain open issues in the agreement. Secondly, because the way of implementing a series of agreed measures includes the option of different courses – and, therefore, of clashes. Thirdly, because apart from the agreement there is a whole range of political options that can not only reduce the negative consequences on the working classes and the youth but also create the conditions to eliminate the causes that led us to the Memorandum, so that our country can come out of this predicament with a strong capability of progressive changes, which – together with the struggles of our comrades in the other European countries – will open up the path to the prospect of socialism.
Program – Social Struggles – Changing the Balance of Power
4. SYRIZA’s program is not just a sum of claims and demands addressed to the state, the government or other institutional administrative agencies for implementation. The program of a party of the Left should express and be shaped by an active social relation. It combines active social struggles with critical study, scientific research and documentation. It defines a series of clashes and, thus, actively contributes to the construction of the subject that will implement it.
5. In the present circumstances, it is vital for us not to forget that the key to drafting a left program lies in the active concerns of society and in the class struggle in all fields. No government initiative can be enough for a change in the balance of power or for transformations that would favor the popular classes without active popular movements in labor relations, in education, in the country’s productive reconstruction, or in the consolidation of peace in our region. It is of decisive importance that we set up institutions which will utilize the specific framework that can be created by the government policy of the Left. Our aim is that all the above will have their institutional crystallization on a government level.
6. Common denominator of our policies should be the satisfaction of social needs, which is related to the change of the social balance of power. Our aim is to check the dominance of the logic of profit and competition through the mobilization of the social majority and the creation of a new democratic participation framework. To make room for the logic of solidarity, of cooperation on the basis of satisfaction of social needs.
7. Our proposals obviously cannot snub the present balance of power. Knowing though that the balance of power is a dynamic and not a constant situation, we should plan on the basis of the ambition to change and not respect the given balance. In the light of this, every given time, we should choose and prioritize the moves that will help us to achieve the above aim: the fronts, the spearheads, the breakthroughs that can form majority social blocs and at the same time demobilize the opponent forces.
8. Besides immediate and mid-term goals, we also set objectives of strategic character, whose realization goes beyond the horizon of this administration and which take account of the tactics, the timings, the limitations, but also the potential of the present administration under SYRIZA’s leadership.
9. Our goals form a cohesive and feasible plan of reforms and rifts that can be promoted by SYRIZA in the present circumstances and that will be facilitated by the enhanced action of grassroots movements and by the active intervention of radical and progressive sociopolitical forces on many levels. We are putting forward a specific number of ground-breaking proposals that epitomize SYRIZA’s radical reform agenda and that can be consolidated socially and cemented institutionally, so that they will constitute the achievements of this current period’s left administration.
10. In particular, the programmatic positions outline and integrate in their analysis the alliances with those social forces and collective actors that will be most of all called on to promote them and will be especially benefited from their implementation. Conversely, they also define the fronts against neoliberal policies and vested interests, which SYRIZA is opposed to in practice. This definition of the fronts also applies to any practice or perception in the interior of the dominated classes that may reproduce the dominant rationales. Practices dominated by the logic of competition or attempts at resolving particular issues against the social majority do not befit the demand for a society of democracy and solidarity. Finally, the fronts we select place at the heart of all our political proposals the revived role of actors of social intervention – such as labor unions, scientific and other multiform social associations – and the future role of the party forces in the development of new ways and tools of intervention on the social level: through primary labor unions, neighborhood assemblies, production cooperatives, public services users’ associations, etc. Especially in the present conditions of radical rearrangements in the conscience and action of the social forces, SYRIZA’s reorganization must be consistent with the new needs and possibilities.
11. Today, SYRIZA is called on to draw up a three-year program, until its next congress; a period that coincides with the duration of the agreement the government signed with the lenders. However, as the leading party in the government, SYRIZA’s potential to draw up a program is subject to certain limitations: first, the international and European environment, which is dominated by neoliberalism, with powerful control mechanisms despite all the cracks that can already be seen; secondly, the terms of the agreement and the lenders’ imposed supervision. In this adverse context, we need a realistic program that would utilize every potential in order to achieve the programmatic goal of the productive, social and environmental reconstruction of the Greek society.
The first concern of this program in the present conditions is to reverse the recession course of the Greek economy with the highest possible rates of economic growth and unemployment reduction. The new development law will help in this direction as, for the first time, aid to business plans is contingent on their effectiveness and emphasis is placed on spatial planning, the selection of privileged sectors given special advantages, the aid to small and medium-sized enterprises, and social and solidarity economy. Another encouraging element is the sound designing of the 2014-2020 NSRF and the inclusion in it of the combat against corruption, patronage, and mismanagement – which had often been exhibited by the old regime governments.
In order to be sustainable, economic growth has to be linked to social justice and social control – this means decent and well-paid jobs, benefits for local economies, redistribution through taxation and social expenditure, protection and enhancement of the environment, and good planning. In this respect, there is an imperative need for the regeneration and support of the labor union movement and the ecology movement, as well as the development of a solidarity and social economy movement – these are fields where the party organizations are called on to play a leading role.
26 POLICY BREAKTHROUGHS SYRIZA PROPOSES AND DEMANDS
A. Transformation of the State
Socialism’s programmatic objective demands and includes a fundamental transformation of the state that was constructed as a means of bourgeois class dominance – a change outlined in SYRIZA’s Founding Declaration. This transformation is not a momentary action, but a process whose speed and components are contingent on the current domestic and international balance of power. In the present phase, it is necessary to make certain timely changes so as to democratize and modernize the operation of the elected bodies of the state in all its levels. These changes can weaken the nexus of political and economic power; boost the citizens’ participation in decision-making and in controlling state activities; combat corruption and bureaucracy; help to utilize public servants’ knowledge and skills. Having a combination of honesty and effectiveness as their main feature, these changes are necessary in order to combat authoritarianism and violation of citizens’ rights, which – after the democratic breakthroughs of the Political Changeover – returned and were even strengthened so that the neoliberal project would prevail.
1. Democratic Reinstitution of the Political System
The Greek Constitution needs reforming. This reform is not a technical affair and procedure though. In every attempt of a revision of the Constitution, two diametrically opposite aims will clash: on the one hand, the deepening of democracy and the protection of social acquisitions, and, on the other, the constitutionalization of neoliberal barbarity, which the parties of the old regime keep pursuing. For this reason, any plan to revise the Constitution should take careful steps that would take account of the balance of power. However, regardless of the procedure and the time of the constitutional revision, there are important changes that need to start immediately and be implemented as soon as possible. For SYRIZA, a key element in these changes is the strengthening of the elected collective bodies of popular sovereignty and the increase in the citizens’ participation in policy and decision making in every level.
2. Fair Electoral System and Strengthening of the Role of the Parliament
It is SYRIZA’s constant aim to establish the electoral system of proportional representation for all the elected bodies of the state: the Parliament, the Regional and Local Councils. It is a procedure that – as far as our party is concerned – involves the preparation for political cooperation as well as legislative interventions. The proportional representation – more than any other system – requires the thorough and prompt process of an alliance policy worthy of its name and not a last-minute one. Of course, it goes without saying that SYRIZA’s aim is to achieve the highest possible electoral percentage and the absolute majority of the Parliament seats, as well as to rally as many social forces as possible around the program of the Left.
Over the last decades – especially in the last five years – the autonomous controlling and legislative role of the Parliament has been downgraded. Therefore, there is a need for legislative interventions: starting with the statute of the Parliament today and then proceeding to the revision of the Constitution, so that the Greek Parliament will become the center of the political processes.
The legislative procedure, in particular, requires systematization and simplification; repeal of redundant and contradictory laws; constant increase in the participation of civil society in the whole process.
3. The Effort to Reform the Public Administration
The administration of the modern state should be lean in its structure and democratic in its operation in order to promote the values of an open democratic society and thus serve the general public. Our opponents in this effort are the chaotic legislation with redundant, contradictory and bad laws; the time-consuming procedures that annoy citizens – the well-known bureaucracy. We continue steadfast in our objectives, utilize our findings and safeguard the legal framework wherever necessary.
The effort to reform the Public Administration includes its reorganization, aims at the reduction of bureaucracy and better services for the citizen, while the simplification of administrative procedures and the removal of overlaps in authorities will contribute to better services for the administration users.
The effort to utilize the Public Administration’s human resources started with passing the 4369/2016 law, which boosts meritocracy and considerably reduces partisanship in the Public Administration. We are also advancing important changes regarding the mobility of human resources (reassignments, transfers, etc.). Meanwhile, the reorganization of the entire Administration is beginning with the elaboration of new organization charts, which respond to the real capacities and needs of all the main administrative bodies, the public services and the public organizations.
This reorganization effort will be assisted by the improvement of infrastructure in information and telecommunication technologies, as well as by the interoperability between public administrative bodies.
Complete transparency, active participation and genuine social control are requirements for the democratic reconstruction of the Public Administration and the expansion of its social effectiveness, and they are key features in SYRIZA’s political perceptions and objectives. In this framework, we can and must take measures for the citizens’ information about the Administration’s decisions, for the substantial consultation on legislative bills, for the Public Administration’s compulsory compliance with the decisions of the control institutions.
In addition, considerable steps have been made for the rational management of public contracts with the assistance of the new legislative framework, and for the increasingly wider use of electronic systems and the introduction of new administrative procedures in public tenders.
The comprehensive application of our plan for the Public Administration may incorporate these measures in our political project as integral parts and highlight them as key factors in its success and generally in the country’s economic growth.
Finally, the existing bureaucratic and meaningless controls should be reconsidered and probably abolished as they cultivate a climate of responsibility avoidance and hinder the Administration’s ability to meet social needs. The role of the central control institutions must be redefined and upgraded.
4. Participatory Local Government, with More Responsibilities and Resources
For the radical Left, Local Government is the most important institution of local democracy and participation, playing an instrumental role in local economic development, social policies, and environmental protection. We intend to redesign the institutional framework of primary and secondary Local Government and establish a new architecture that will clearly specify the responsibilities and functions of each level, as well as the fair allocation of public resources. In the administration of the local government organizations, it is necessary to strengthen local bodies instead of one-person institutions and encourage active participation of the citizens in local affairs.
5. Uncompromising Stance Against Collusion and Corruption
Corruption is an indispensable – as well as crisis-producing – element of the capitalist system of power; it preserves and perpetuates this power. The experience of the regimes of “real socialism” shows that, even after the change in the relations of production, the lack of democracy, transparency and social control are fertile ground for the development of corruption. In Greece, the parties of the old regime – with the collusion between political and economic interests and the extensive corruption in the Public Administration bred by those very parties – created the (still existing) conditions that contributed to the intensity of the crisis. At the same time, the very forces that bred corruption in the Public Administration use it to slander the public sector and its workers in favor of self-serving interests. The systemic connection between capitalism and corruption by no means cancels the need for a permanent struggle to eradicate any pocket of corruption and create institutions to combat it. On the contrary, this struggle is an integral element of the effort to transform the state.
6. The Police on the People’s Side – Not Against Them
The conditions are ripe today for restructuring and reorganizing Public Order and Security [Police Forces] as part of the necessary democratization of the state. There needs to be a dialogue about the reorganization of EL.AS [Greek Police], which should start immediately with the participation of the police themselves and their unions, security specialists, Local Government, civic organizations and political parties – under the responsibility of an inter-party parliamentary committee.
Our proposals regard changes in the institutional framework of EL.AS’s functioning (e.g. parliamentary control, criteria for assessing and selecting its leadership, police training)so as to gradually eliminate all its militarist vestiges and transform it into a civil service with highly qualified staff, but with high discipline as well, aiming at policing to the citizens’ benefit, with respect for everybody’s rights, without authoritarianism, and with an institutional ban on repression of popular protests and demonstrations. In addition, we need a modern anti-crime policy that would aim at the triangle prevention-deterrence-suppression of crime and would be combined with measures to stop the social marginalization of a large part of the population and prevent people who need help from resorting to illegal actions.
SYRIZA will continue to take initiatives for the transparent and effective control of violence or of inhuman behavior against citizens. It will also continue to support progressive reforms in security, justice, and prison policy.
B. Society and Rights Against Neoliberalism
The dominant neoliberal forces have turned this crisis into an opportunity to realize their most aggressive plans for a more authoritarian framework, at the expense of the social majority’s living standards. This process leaves its substantial traces on the dismantled labor relations, the restriction of access to social welfare and healthcare, the degradation of education, the attack on freedoms and rights, the rise in racism, fascism and sexism. Our aim is not just the reversal of these tendencies, but the overall transformation of the conditions that breed them.
7. Protection of Labor and Boost of Employment
SYRIZA aims at and demands the creation of quality employment positions and the support of the rights of those already working. To combat unemployment, it is obvious that we cannot rely on the timing, functioning and priorities of the “free market.” There is a need for a number of public interventions, which should be different from training programs that in effect just recycle unemployment. The protection of the rights of those working will involve a clash for the re-regulation of the labor market and the fight against delinquencies such as undeclared and unpaid work.
The groundbreaking changes SYRIZA proposes:
- Real restoration of collective bargaining with all safeguards in favor of workers. Effective judicial and extrajudicial protection of employees and acceleration of procedures.
- Creation of a new upgraded framework for combating delinquencies in the labor market with reinforcement of control mechanisms.
- Keener regulations for hygiene and safety, occupational diseases and industrial accidents.
- Public projects for combating unemployment, limitation of flexible forms of work, labor rights in common for all workers.
- Establishment of labor participation and social control. Social economy framework so that abandoned or bankrupt factories can be reopened by their workers.
The orientation of our forces towards work in the field of labor will contribute greatly to the realization of the above guidelines. The clashes that lie ahead of us are not only with employers and neoliberal forces in the EU. It will also be necessary to give important and tough battles inside the labor movement against practices that have stalemated and discredited the labor unions. We need a network of unions and initiatives that will be combating employers’ arbitrariness, will be supporting mobilizations and will be standing with every employee who wants to fight.
This above all demands the organization of our own forces, not in a self-referential manner but in the context of frontal cooperation, which would respect the autonomy of social spheres. Our aim is to create broader labor groupings, with democratic and collective procedures, on the basis of joint practices and mutually shared perceptions of demands as regards social spheres and with defending labor interests as our central criterion.
8. Universal Access to an Upgraded public Health System
Upgrading the public Health System and relating it to social needs was already a demand before the crisis. Features of the system were: the malfunctions in citizens’ daily contact with it, the disparities in access and the difficulties in providing prompt quality care. These were due to burdens and dealings and the low level of work ethics in the structures of health services. Furthermore, there was never an integrated system of public primary healthcare. Underfunding and suspension of staff recruitment also created an atmosphere of collapse of many understaffed structures in the system. Meanwhile, however, it created a lot of new “opportunities” for business profit.
Changes in Health supported by SYRIZA to secure universal coverage of the population by the public Health System, with everybody’s equal access to quality services:
- A single integrated network of Primary Healthcare with decentralized neighborhood units, family doctors and interdisciplinary health teams.
- Reorganization of the operation of public hospitals: Better quality and security, rationalization of hospital care, support for NHS to cover its operational requirements and fill its huge vacant posts.
- Adequate and sustainable funding of the Health System. Resource efficiency.
- Investment in e-governance in Health, reduction of bureaucracy and citizens’ massive inconvenience, attack on squander and corruption in the Health System.
- Restructuring of the Health System’s administration aiming at effectiveness, transparency, and protection of the patients/health services users’ rights.
- Institutional arrangements for the overall reorganization of the system and introduction of institutions that will consolidate democratic decision-making, accountability of the administrations, and check on the responsiveness to local social needs. Establishment of a different social ethos in NHS, in cooperation with its most honest and reliable forces.
SYRIZA guarantees sustainable funding of the public Health System with parallel reduction of the cost to be borne by the patient as a percentage of the total amount spent, with gradual return of public health expenditure to EU average levels. It also guarantees the transparent funding of Health facilities; the re-investment in medical prevention and primary public Health, which will reduce healthcare costs in the long run; the sustainable pharmaceutical policy in favor of patients, the country’s public finance, and domestic pharmaceutical production.
9. Human Rights for Refugees and Migrants
The refugee-immigration issue is global, multi-dimensional, difficult and complex. In the last 25 years, it has been handled by the powerful of the world with the recipe of repression, restrictions, persecutions, and even crimes against the hopeless. This recipe has completely failed. The fences, repression, FRONTEX, even the threat of death are not an obstacle for those who seek hope. The refugee influx and the mixed migration flows are not a national but a European and international issue.
The unprecedented refugee and migration flows highlight the problem as a major issue in Greek and European politics. Greece is faced with the phenomenon both as a transit and as a host country. Meanwhile, the dominance of extreme and xenophobic perceptions in Europe unsettles if not directly violates international law and the Geneva Conventions, dismantling the status of decades.
Europe must seek viable solutions to the unprecedented refugee and migration flows and isolate extreme xenophobic far-right viewpoints that try again to identify security with repression and fear. The militarization of the refugee issue through NATO is the culmination of this approach.
The only path that Greece and Europe can choose against regression, racism, and xenophobia is the safe passage of people who are in need of international protection; their immediate proportional resettlement in all European countries; cooperation and solidarity, without fences; respect for the Geneva Conventions; the pursuit of the common goal, as a strategic objective, to eliminate all wars, poverty, and increasing social disparities.
SYRIZA aims at an overall framework of realistic refugee and immigration policy based on the defence of human rights and the values and equality among all people. SYRIZA aims at alliances with movements, social and political organizations so as to exert pressure on a pan-European level in favor of safeguarding the international legitimacy in granting asylum. There is also a need for a project for hosting and integrating refugees and for a constant cooperation and coordination with local communities, volunteers and organizations that show real solidarity.
A large part of the people who have come this last year will stay in Greece. It is necessary, especially in crisis circumstances, to elaborate a policy of integration of these people into Greek society – that is, in the education system, at work, in civic life. To achieve this, there is a need for European cooperation on the government’s part, but also active involvement of citizens and solidarity movements.
10. Solidarity and Welfare Policies
The social welfare system in Greece was built from the start without a plan, with patronage and corruption. Particularly during the crisis, needs soared in quantity and expanded to more and more social groups. The already deficient welfare state and services shrank considerably.
The dismantlement of the welfare state is not only due to the restrictive policies of the memoranda. It stems from the neoliberal framework at European and national level, which confines welfare to dealing with extreme poverty as part of a “social protection network” that does not intervene to prevent and tackle the causes of this poverty. In these circumstances, the public policies of social welfare and solidarity are of strategic importance to maintain social cohesion and apply Left policies. The development of a social welfare system has to have two strands: The immediate and (ideally) short-term goal to respond to urgent needs so as to confront the humanitarian crisis, and the long-term one to restore, reform and consolidate the welfare state.
In the first case, the key thing is the optimal utilization of the available resources with transparency, equality, fairness, invention of new procedures for the elimination of bureaucratic obstacles and of the state apparatus’ inertia (mobilizing, on the other hand, all the active forces in it), involvement and participation of all the active social forces.
In the second case, the key thing is the gradual refoundation of the sector of social protection in Greece, with steps such as the establishment of a unified public system of Social Solidarity that – with equality, transparency, and social justice – will endeavor to protect the economically weakest, the socially excluded, and in general the vulnerable social groups.
We insist that public expenditure for welfare be redesigned and increased according to present needs; in parallel with the rationalization, rehabilitation and reinforcement of public structures, utilization of new technologies and tools for the simplification and debureaucratization of the procedures for access to services and benefits.
Social participation and social control are absolutely necessary: Delineation of distinct roles and establishment of new relations between central state, local government, civic institutions, citizens (users of services) in the provision of welfare/social protection at all levels. Emphasis should be placed on welfare provision to the community, deinstitutionalization, promotion of voluntary blood donation and organ donation, utilization of available resources, and adaptation of the model to the needs and particularities of Greek society.
11. Elimination of Discriminations Based on Gender and Sexual Orientation
Authoritarian relations and multifarious discriminations connected with the sexes and governing all aspects of both the private and public spheres of life constitute a considerable democratic deficit. Gender discriminations are a serious inhibitory factor in social development and in the efforts for human emancipation.
In Greece, the crisis’ multiple attack on women’s acquired rights multiplies the obstacles to their equal inclusion in the labor market, enforces their mass return to home, burdens them with the deficit of the welfare state, and in addition deprives them of their personal time and the possibility of civic engagement and participation. Women by far outnumber men in the worst-paid, most vulnerable part of the labor market.
Violence against women, in all its forms, has taken on unprecedented dimensions worldwide. In our country, this fact – especially in the area of domestic violence – is exacerbated by the crisis. In addition, as it is well known, Greece is unfortunately a hub of human trafficking. Women faced with grave financial problems, unemployed women, precariously working women, and refugee women find it extremely difficult to publicize their problem.
Interventions are necessary for the elimination of gender discriminations and gender obstacles at work and in professional and family life. Measures should be taken to protect maternity with access of all women to high level healthcare as regards pregnancy, labor, the postnatal period, as well as the medically assisted reproduction. The paternal role should be redefined, reinforced and highlighted as a requirement for reconciliation in working men and working women’s professional, family, and personal life. There is also a need for universal access to contraception methods and to artificial termination of pregnancy; for interventions to upgrade support facilities for women; for serious treatment of crimes such as rape and trafficking.
Sexual Orientation, Expression, Identity and Gender Characteristics
The struggle for rights and equality of the members of the LGBTQI community is part of the struggle for social emancipation. We demand the state’s immediate and instantaneous intervention to eliminate any practice of discrimination due to gender, sexual orientation, expression, identity and gender characteristics – wherever it comes from. We also demand a ban on the rhetoric of hate, with enforcement of all legal sanctions provided for.
After the expansion of the civil union contract, it is essential to establish civil marriage with full and equal rights derived from it, to immediately revise family law, to legislate the legal recognition of gender identity with self-determination as the only criterion. This should reflect a modern perspective with a wider perception of family, which acknowledges the diversity of family relationships as well as free – without discriminations – development of each human being’s personality.
In this respect, the change of education policy and the systematic training of all public servants – especially teachers – in equality issues will lead to an open educational process, which in turn will result in a society free from the distortions of the past.
12. Education Focused on People
For SYRIZA, education is a universal human right and a social good. It is the State’s obligation to provide everyone who lives in this country – without discriminations or exclusions – public free and democratic high quality education as well as access to all the levels of the education system adopting measures that will help to reduce the multiple social disparities.
The chronic underfunding of education and the neoliberal choices of the ND and PASOK governments led to the erosion of the public and free character of the education, to its degradation and discredit.
Today, SYRIZA as government is organizing a public dialogue aiming at the broadest possible consensus to promote the necessary democratic educational reform, adopting all the immediate measures that will put an end to the chronic problems of our education system.
SYRIZA aims at a radical reconstruction of the Greek education in order to secure the universal right to learning in an upgraded democratic public and free education system. For SYRIZA, primary mission of the education system is the spiritual, cultural and physical development; comprehensive learning and critical thinking; development of democratic awareness; creation of autonomous citizens able to seek creative work, to question authority and fight, to debate, to cooperate and show solidarity, to struggle, to create civilization.
SYRIZA encourages educational processes that moderate the consequences of class differences, cancel social discrimination and exclusion, and offset socially distinct educational backgrounds. It also encourages educational processes of inclusion and differentiation that enhance the opportunities for students with special needs while they offer chances of real personality development and allow for initiatives. SYRIZA considers its crucial obligation to promote integration policies and to secure sufficient education for the children of refugees that are in the country.
SYRIZA sets as immediate goals for the first two levels of education:
- To ensure the material and educational conditions for:
- Enhancement of preschool facilities so that all infants can participate in preschool education.
- Establishment of unified full day primary schooling in the whole country so that all students can have access to an enriched curriculum.
- Implementation of a twelve-year compulsory education system, preserving all the existing structures of Senior High Schools [Lyceums] (General and Vocational) as a transient phase until the conditions are created for a Unified Senior High School of Theory and Practice and the introduction of public and free post-lyceum Vocational Education and Training.
- To reduce family expenses for the acquisition of the essential knowledge that it is the state’s duty to provide in a public school [foreign language learning, computer training, sports, arts education (visual arts, music, drama), health education, environmental education, etc.].
- To support and upgrade school staff with further training programs on the basis of true needs; to utilize all forms of further training and education; to improve working conditions by encouraging democracy at school; to fill vacancies for teaching staff mainly with permanent appointment and full-time substitutes.
For private education, in particular: Compliance of private schools with the Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, stop to wrongful dismissals in private schools and to undeclared work in private preparation schools.
SYRIZA envisages a substantial reform in Higher Education and Research. Its fixed objective has always been a unified and public space of higher education and research. What is necessary for this is a real dialogue with everyone involved: teaching staff, learners, researchers. This dialogue has to continue towards the creation of a common modern framework within the national planning of a long-term national policy for research in the context of the country’s social and economic reconstruction. To prevent the commercialization of research and knowledge, SYRIZA proposes laying down rules for the removal of fees for postgraduate courses and for research conducted at universities.
SYRIZA is in favor of preserving the public and free character of the tertiary education and research; in favor of the self-government of universities; in favor of the abolition of university boards [consisting of professors and non-academics]; in favor of the participation of all the components of the academic community both in the election of administrative authorities and in the institutional bodies; in favor of transparency in the finances and in the educational process; in favor of meritocracy in the selection of teachers and other staff; in favor of the reinstatement of academic freedoms and restoration of academic asylum. Finally, SYRIZA is in favor of an immediate rehabilitation of student welfare with catering and accommodation programs and decentralized services and resources in universities and technological institutes so that all students can complete their studies.
13. Culture, Art, and Creation
During their last six years in office, ND/PASOK governments practically handed over the responsibility of planning and implementation of any cultural policies there were to private interests and the laws of the market, both in the field of modern culture and that of our cultural heritage.
Regarding culture as a value in itself and a public good to which everybody should have equal access, SYRIZA aims at drawing up an alternative plan of revival and rehabilitation that would break down stereotypes, create a new paradigm for culture, and liberate the most productive forces.
The state will play a decisive role in planning, coordinating, and creating cultural facilities, securing the pluralism of artistic expression and action, without any form of censure or repression. It is essential to deal at last with the chronic underfunding and transparency deficit in the use of public money and in the selection of people.
Cultural development and rehabilitation needs to:
- Defend the public character of the cultural good
- Be a component of local, regional and national development
- Balance the actions in the fields of cultural heritage and cultural creation
- Contribute to the creation of permanent and not casual employment
- Promote equal opportunities without exclusions (racial, of national origin, of people with special needs, due to gender identity, etc.)
- Develop historical memory, not as national exclusiveness but as part of the global cultural heritage
- Highlight the use of smart technology in culture
- Create interactive relationships with education (historical education – artistic education)
- Rely on comprehensive proposals of managing the structured and unstructured natural and cultural landscape.
13a. Sports – a Social Good
Sports contribute enormously to the formation of supportive, active and cooperative personalities, to physical and mental health through practices that integrate social groups, but also participate considerably in the country’s GDP. However, they were treated by the PASOK-ND governments as a prime field for patronage, suspect dealings, corruption, and senseless waste of millions of public money. What the world of sports needs today is a reorientation of its function and a complete transformation of its structures. People comprehend the inability to invest and fund. They expect of us, though, the institutional changes necessary to solve the problems of the past.
Such changes are:
- Establishment of proportional representation as a fixed electoral system in sports clubs, associations and federations. The proportional representation and the representation of organizations through bottom-up procedures would release forces, ideas and people that so far remained fenced and isolated.
- Introduction of a term limit in leading positions, which would rejuvenate human resources in every administration board. The new people would back up the measures to combat corruption, which need to expand.
- Funding by GSS [General Secretariat of Sports] with objective criteria and established rules, feasibility studies and automation of procedures would bring about rational utilization of the available resources and maximization of return and result.
- It is also necessary to ensure the unhindered access of citizens to sports. Public sports facilities are intended mainly for amateur sports. Professional use cannot be free of charge. On the contrary, the fee has to be such as to offset the society’s needs. Thus, facilities could be built to support not only sports clubs but also people with special needs and in general all the people who want to do sport in a decent and safe way – especially today when people are seeking new outlets through alternative forms of sport inside and outside the urban web.
Schools, Local Government Organizations, and the General Secretariat of Sports can play an important role in sports and physical education if they collaborate and connect their processes under a common goal.
C. Productive Reconstruction, Focused on People and the Environment
The neoliberal strategic horizon is unquestionably the “internal devaluation,” the reduction of labor cost and the overexploitation of common resources in order to restructure the economy and maximize capital profitability. Against this strategy, SYRIZA fights with all its power so that a different orientation will become socially dominant; that of the reinforcement of labor and rights, with a shift towards innovation and quality, of the reinforcement of society against the market, with an ecological dimension. Two different orientations clash in a battle that in the next period will be constant, open and under ceaseless negotiation.
SYRIZA’s policy for productive reconstruction responds not only to the need for reversal of the collapse course of the Greek economy, but also to the timeless questions regarding the causes of the crisis of the neoliberal development model in Greece. For SYRIZA, productive reconstruction with a social and ecological character will not be an easy or technocratic affair but a long, sociopolitical process of breakthroughs and rifts.
The new production-development model that SYRIZA proposes:
- Utilizes scientific knowledge and research, specialized technology in productive and organizational innovations, and the creation of quality, differentiated products and services of high added value – instead of seeking the constant reduction of labor cost and the privatization of public goods and services.
- Secures and expands public goods; protects and utilizes public property with social and development criteria.
- Uses the institutionally reconstructed state as an assistant to reconstruction, a lever for growth and a guarantee of fairness in healthy entrepreneurship instead of limiting its role to just creating a favorable business environment.
- Is built on a pluralistic economic system that comprises a restructured public sector, a private sector defined by clear rules and led by small and medium-sized enterprises, and – as is SYRIZA’s aim – a new robust sector of social economy that invests in the principles of solidarity and cooperation.
- Protects the environment and manages natural resources in a way that secures the long-term sustainability of the new model instead of senselessly wasting resources and continually downgrading the quality of life.
- Is based on the principle of the country’s regional convergence with systematic efforts to reduce the great inequalities and disparities.
14. Banking System Serving the Real Economy and Society
The public control of the banking system remains our party’s programmatic objective so as to serve the purpose of productive, social and ecological reconstruction. Although today the possibility of the public administration immediately taking over the banks has been lost, there is still a need for defence mechanisms and appropriate measures.
Such measures are:
- The development of a parallel banking system – public and cooperative – both in general banking and with special purpose banks (development, housing, agricultural development), which will serve the public interest and the productive, social and ecological reconstruction.
- The development of alternative – non-profit but sustainable – financing tools for small to medium-sized enterprises and for social and solidarity economy; especially micro-financing tools.
- The protection of the financial system from the tendency for mergers and for the creation of monopolies and the expanding social control over the banks through the organization of workers, depositors and borrowers’ movements
- The restoration of the healthy operation of the banking sector as the lifeblood of the economy, addressing the causes of the banking crisis
- The protection of the public interest through monitoring the observance of the banks’ operating rules and the protection of the public property that is in the banks.
- The supervision of bank managements in achieving specific goals and the increase in the number and presence of members that will be suggested by the public administration for appointment in bank boards.
- The improvement of human resources in banks and the restoration of meritocracy.
- The consolidation of a sense of social justice and of a new democratic and social ethos, through scrutiny of all cases of mismanagement.
- The treatment of all non-performing loans in an economically sustainable and socially just manner for over-indebted households and businesses, the central aim being to protect primary residence and jobs.
Our objective is to establish strict rules and guidelines for the banking system that will provide for the elimination of the unfair charges in the seven years of the crisis, the reduction of interest rates – not only today’s rates but retroactively for the past seven years – to the levels at which the banks borrow from the ECB plus a profit margin determined by law and taking into account the borrower’s overall financial situation.
Introduction of loan repayment map with a clause for the survival of the borrowing business; i.e. the installments will be adjusted according to the annual turnover, and so will the charges, which should lead to the gradual reduction of the outstanding loan aiming at repayment and not at perpetuation.
14a. Protection and Utilization of Public Property and State Participation in Companies
We support the concentration of public assets under a single roof and their management as a whole, in order to improve their utilization, reduce deficits and increase revenues due to their effective management. We also intend to develop a united long-term strategy for public property and to unify the fragmented responsibilities of the public authorities.
We advocate the principles of transparency, responsible management, consultancy with companies’ interested parties in order to overcome the chronic lack of accountability and the introspection in the way a lot of public utility organizations operated. We also favor the incorporation of the views of civic and environmental organizations in the planning and actions of public companies.
We will consolidate the potential and the need for provision of public utility services and social goods of high quality, security and affordability, without commercialization, with equal treatment of users and promotion of universal accessibility and protection of the users’ rights. Beaches, archaeological sites, and generally non-tradable public property assets are exempted from utilization.
15. Developing the Social Economy
Social economy constitutes one of the central development levers of the productive reconstruction, but also an alternative model for the organization of production. Social economy ventures are based on the participation of the working members of cooperatives in all production stages, on democratic decision-making, and equitable distribution of the revenue.
SYRIZA’s policy sets as a goal to drastically expand the social sector of the economy. Our aim is that cooperative ventures are not in the margin but in the center of the economy, taking part in activities in sectors such as the agriculture and food industry, manufacturing, energy production, tourism, etc.
Social practices, such as democratic organization, self-management, and solidarity, which characterize the social economy, should spread to other economic sectors and to society in general.
16. Supporting New Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
For SYRIZA, the development of small and medium-sized entrepreneurship is a fundamental element of its policies in the effort for the economic recovery and the emergence of counter-paradigms in organization, in the production process, in the relationship with the state, in the use of new technologies, in the development of innovation. Meanwhile, the creation of economies of scale through the creation and promotion of cooperatives of a new type could render them directly competitive to larger companies.
Despite SYRIZA’s commitments that stem from the agreement with the lenders – particularly as regards the deregulation of certain sectors – the battle is open for the emergence of an innovative, extrovert, productive, and more collective entrepreneurship aiming at the qualitative differentiation and the optimization of the comparative human and natural advantages of the Greek economy.
17. For a Reliable Framework of Environmental Protection and Spatial Planning
SYRIZA acknowledges that the global economic crisis has as its integral dimension the environmental crisis, the climate change, the overexploitation of natural resources, and environmental disasters on a planetary and local level. Particularly in Greece, the environment and physical planning were gradually undermined during the last decades in a variety of ways: e.g. with the implementation of infrastructure projects without any overall spatial planning or environmental protection conditions, with tolerance and encouragement of arbitrariness, with deliberate delay in marking the boundaries between private and public property. This specific neoliberal model that undermined the protection of the environment was further consolidated by the memorandum legislation before 2016.
The country has a unique natural and residential environment, with special characteristics, which we ought to protect and which adds value to the entire production process, to different productive sectors (tourism, food, manufacture, energy), and to various regions of the country. Developing sectors, with the focus on the environment, can create thousands of quality jobs, both directly and indirectly, and support local economies in particular.
To promote the necessary environmental and social transformation of production today, SYRIZA has submitted proposals and claims changes mainly regarding: a democratic and effective framework of spatial planning and land use; the protection and sustainable management of forests, water, seashores, the natural environment in general; the introduction of “cyclical economy” principles in dealing with waste material and the shift towards green construction and (public) infrastructure; the efficiency and simplification of the procedures for environmental licensing and public control on investments.
18. Radical Policies for Research, Innovation, and New Technologies
SYRIZA seeks to implement a cohesive framework for a digital policy that will help to spread knowledge and information to society as a whole, without exclusions. Research, innovation, and new technologies can and must encourage the modernization and development of many productive sectors, contributing substantially to the production of goods that will be of quality, differentiation, high added value, and low ecological footprint.
A great advantage here is the most important asset the country has: its scientists, especially young scientists. Therefore, it is of vital importance to implement policies that would dynamically utilize this human capital in order to reverse the brain drain that we have experienced during these last years as a result of austerity policies.
Our aim is to effectively support the knowledge economy with the development of cooperation between thematic clusters of companies and a consortia of universities and research centers in environments that are conducive to scientific quality and would favor creativity, protection of public interest, and research independence. This production paradigm of the Left moves one step forward: seeks to boost those organizational models of production that use high technology to develop peer production. For this reason, we promote those production models that support and are based on a variety of common goods.
Priorities for digital policy and e-governance are mainly actions of coordination of e-governance and public agencies with by adopting as principles: common standards, interoperability of digital records, introduction of open technologies and creation of a common, secure and flexible infrastructure that will be available to the entire public sector aiming at the reduction of bureaucracy in public administration. These are policies that will contribute to information accessibility and to the reuse of the general public sector’s information and data by private organizations and the public.
19. Agricultural Production Aiming at Food Sufficiency
The neoliberal farming policies aim at securing the profitability of the large manufacturers of agricultural products, large supermarket chains and export companies. These policies intensify nutritional risks and seek to complete the extreme liberalization of the agricultural products market, the control of seeds by multinational companies, the uncontrolled use of genetically modified organisms in food production and trade.
SYRIZA’s aim is that a new production and nutrition model should be consolidated, which would be based on long-term sustainable agriculture, fishery, and food and drink industry, would cover the country’s basic nutritional needs and would re-determine the Greek products’ share in the global market with products of high added value and highly recognizable identity. This model will be based on a production that respects the environment, is cooperatively determined and is designed so as to serve the needs of society.
Fundamental elements of our strategy for the primary production of agricultural products are nutritional sufficiency and everybody’s access to healthy and safe food of high nutritional value at affordable prices and with redistribution of the produced wealth in favor of small and medium-sized producers. We will submit proposals for a development program regarding: the review of the Common Agricultural Policy in favor of our country’s small and medium-sized producers, the protection of the producers’ income and the fair distribution of burdens, the protection of the agricultural income against the market’s ruthlessness, the strengthening of the farmers’ position with the encouragement of producers’ markets and consumers’ local networks. Changes are needed as regards the public agencies of agricultural policy, the framework for social utilization of non-arable land (public, private, belonging to the Church, etc.) or specific projects to boost the country’s nutritional sufficiency with agricultural and fishery products.
20. A New Energy Paradigm Giving Priority to Social and Environmental Needs
The energy sector is of strategic importance to the country and can constitute a key sector of production, growth, and innovation. SYRIZA’s energy policy intends to respond to the absolute necessity of addressing the problem of energy poverty and reducing the energy cost for household consumers and for professional and industrial activities, along with environmental protection. These are essential requirements for the productive reconstruction and the formation of a new development paradigm in favor of society.
To this end, we will promote the gradual disengagement from fossil fuels, the increase in energy efficiency, and the expansion of renewable energy sources [RES]. The utilization of the country’s RES is of strategic importance as it helps to diversify the energy mix, to offer energy security, and to protect the climate. The public formulation of an investment project in energy saving will help to reduce energy costs, protect the environment, improve the citizens’ quality of life, and create thousands of new jobs.
Due to the country’s particular geopolitical position, it is imperative to draw up a far-sighted strategic project for the energy sector that will aim to take advantage of the country’s position as a base for investments, to achieve the technological renewal of the existing productive infrastructure and to contribute as greatly as possible to the public revenue. Forthis purpose, we will form a pluralistic public sector with PPC [Public Power Corporation] at its core with a parallel existence of sustainable partnerships, particularly with the participation of cooperatives and local governments. It is necessary to control the natural gas market and in the mid-term replace the old polluting lignite plants with modern, more efficient ones with clean technology.
21. A Modern Model for the Development of Industry and Manufacture
The five years of memoranda exacerbated the records of industrial degradation and discredited the country’s production assets, which resulted in a decrease in the already low contribution of manufacture to GDP and employment. The central aim of SYRIZA’s industrial policy is to increase this participation, which will have as a positive effect the creation of new quality jobs in manufacture. The utilization of the creative and productive potential of the Greek society may be included in a cohesive policy of endogenous growth based on both traditional and new local labor specializations, technological knowledge, and practical skills – starting from the local level.
Our main goal is the development of production clusters that are not formed on a narrow sectoral basis but include activities in different sectors. These production clusters allow for the effective utilization of the potential of the primary and secondary sector, as well as of the relevant agencies, through the establishment of strong added value chains.
Due to their special feature – their small size – Greek businesses can take advantage of the cracks and weaknesses of the global model of the production of cheap mass products and exploit the new technological potential and their valuable human resources to produce internationally marketable goods of high domestic added value, incorporating our qualitative local comparative advantages.
22. Construction, Infrastructure, and Transport for the Public Interest
The collapse of the construction sector during the crisis was almost complete mainly because of the extensive privatization of public infrastructure in the past decades. As a result, what prevailed was the logic of quick and easy profit, the lack of reliable far-sighted spatial planning, and the existence of powerful rings of collusion and corruption that shared between them the public resources for infrastructure projects.
The policy choices of the previous governments in the transport sector can be described as anti-developmental, anti-social, and anti-environmental. Of all the transport networks, the neoliberal perception and policy focused investments almost exclusively on large road projects, which were advertised as the sole motor for growth, their sole yardstick being to serve specific interests.
Affordable and quality transportation is everybody’s right and transport infrastructures are a significant factor of growth and quality of life. For SYRIZA, the expansion of the transport network should be focused on the promotion of combined transport. This combined transport will develop mainly around the rail network. We claim a public system of urban transportation that will provide accessibility, mobility, and road safety for most citizens and will improve town life. In sea transport, we intend to redesign the coastal shipping network in order to meet the social and economic needs of the island regions.
23. Sustainable Tourism to Benefit Local Societies and Economy
The impact of the crisis on tourism brought on a violent internal devaluation of labor in the whole tourist industry and an analogous violent change in the model of Greek tourism. The Left intends to reverse this impact in order to stop the destruction of our tourism product and generate substantial profits for the Greek economy and society.
By strengthening tourism, we aim at maximizing its contribution as an integral part of the overall growth of the economy in combination with the other sectors – production, manufacture, services. To secure the development of Greek tourism with social good, SYRIZA’s policy will promote the linking of domestic tourist consumption to domestic production on a national, regional and local level – particularly through new agents of small, medium-sized, and cooperative entrepreneurship. This reinforcement of the core of the Greek tourism’s quality will be achieved through the reversal of the standardization and homogenization procedures that are prevalent in the formation of the international tourism product.
D. The Country’s Foreign and European Policy and Defence
In a geopolitically turbulent time and region, SYRIZA believes that the Greek foreign policy should not be aligned with the commands and desires of the USA and the most powerful countries of the EU, but take advantage of the historical and geopolitical position of the country in accordance with the great changes of our times.
24. Multidimensional and Peaceful Policy, Determined to Claim Its Rights Inside the EU.
SYRIZA intends to boost the “peoples’ diplomacy,” as the defence of peace – particularly in our unstable region – is of special importance to our party’s action. SYRIZA is opposed to military interventions, even when they are baptized “peaceful” or “humanitarian,” in an abuse of the UN’s name. SYRIZA is definitely opposed to Greece’s participation in aggressive military action. It vehemently supports that there is a need for new international security and cooperation structures that will be based on the reduction of armaments and on understanding and dialogue instead of on the militarization of international relations prevailing today.
Middle East: Key to peace in the Middle East is the resolution of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the UN resolutions. This would pave the way for a peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Arabs. Our firm solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggles is not hindered or cancelled by the development of bilateral relations between Greece and Israel on the basis of common interest and far from any involvement in war scenarios of any kind.
As for the Syrian crisis, SYRIZA believes that all the involved global and regional forces and ethnic groups should contribute to a peace plan as well as to the isolation and defeat of the Islamic State.
SYRIZA supports the Greek government’s efforts to develop the Iran-Greece relations at all levels. Meanwhile, it stands in solidarity with the Iranian Left and the other progressive forces that are fighting for the democratization of their country.
SYRIZA proposes that the Greek government should demand a European plan of action for peace in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Greek-Turkish Relations: SYRIZA supports Turkey’s bid to join the EU on condition that Turkey complies fully with international law, respects the principle of good neighborliness, guarantees democratic rights, and honors its international and European obligations regarding minority and religious rights of all Turkish citizens. In this framework, SYRIZA cooperates with the Turkish Left and the country’s movements and supports their demand for the termination of conflicts and the oppression of the Kurds of Turkey. The Greek-Turkish differences (demarcation of the continental shelf and the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone) cannot be resolved but on the basis of international law.
Cyprus: For SYRIZA, the solution to the Cyprus issue on the basis of the UN resolutions is at the top of the Greek priorities in its foreign and international policy. The fair and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue with respect for the rights of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities will be a breakthrough in the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and will contribute to the consolidation of peace in the region. SYRIZA remains committed to the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, which will mean the withdrawal of the Turkish occupying troops and will lead to the reunification of Cyprus in the form of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with one sovereignty, one citizenship, and one international personality. The solution that will be agreed on must be consistent with Cyprus’ capacity as a member-state of the EU and must pave the way for the people of Cyprus – both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots – to rid themselves of the presence of foreign armies, as well as of the obsolete system of international guarantees.
The Balkans: The cooperation between the countries of the Balkan peninsula is vital to peace in the region and to the prevention of the re-ignition of conflicts. The closer cooperation of the Balkan states should include the total respect for the rights of minorities – ethnic or religious – and the abandonment of irredentist claims. This cooperation can and should expand – in addition to the commercial and cultural exchanges – to issues of growth and environmental protection. SYRIZA’s constant concern is the cooperation of parties and organizations of the Left in the Balkans and the assistance our party can offer to sister parties of the Balkan countries through the European Left Party.
We support the accession of the West Balkan states to the EU, rejecting the EU leadership’s constant pursuit of forcing these countries to implement neoliberal adjustments, privatizations, and social spending cuts.
World: Greece should have active presence in the international efforts so as to address the great problems of humanity, such as the nuclear threat and the climate change.
25. A New Role for Greece in Europe
Over the last years, the crisis of the European integration process has intensified. The economic crisis, the debt crisis, the Ukrainian crisis, and the refugee crisis, along with the war in the Middle East, have had a disintegrating effect. The EU leadership’s policy in the above mentioned fields makes the Europe of 28 part of the problem.
Against this backdrop of crisis, SYRIZA repeats its position that in this European integration process the Left cannot but be opposed to the dominant policy and propose different ways to the people of Europe. However, the current balance of power – although more favorable in comparison with the situation at the beginning of the crisis – could justify any concern about the future of EU and the Eurozone. The Left is not seeking the disintegration of the Union – quite the opposite actually. It is, though, an obligation of the Left, of all the progressive forces in Europe, to prepare – both at a national and a European level – for any event that might stem from the policies of the current EU leadership and of the social forces it represents.
SYRIZΑ’s position for a Europe of democracy, peace, social justice, and ecology is as relevant as ever and is getting stronger with the strengthening of the Left. SYRIZA backs the Greek government’s principled stance on the critical European political issues. However, the party’s action in this field has to be redesigned. SYRIZA is now a leading political force in Greece and the most powerful party of the European Left. Therefore, it has greater responsibilities.
We support efforts to democratize the EU and the Eurozone, in opposition to the pursuits of the current EU leadership to fortify the political unity through controlling the member-states with anti-democratic methods, through circumventing or patronizing the elected bodies of popular sovereignty.
Our firm position to bring the ECB under democratic control, to strengthen the role of the European Parliament over the European Commission and the European Council, but also to boost the role of national parliaments in controlling the decisions of the European bodies, has much greater appeal today.
While preserving its character as a party of the Radical Left, SYRIZA will pursue broad political collaborations and the establishment of social alliances on a European level in order to form a front against the disastrous policies followed today and against the Far Right.
SYRIZA is working for a European peace and security system, repelling the resurgence of a Cold War climate and of new divisions in our continent.
25a. The Greek Diaspora
The Greek diaspora, with its diversity and contradictions, has great potential for highlighting at an international level the efforts, the anxieties, and the struggles of the Greek people; for promoting Greek culture and values.
On the basis of a modern and coherent strategy towards preserving and developing the bonds between the Greek state and the communities of the Greek diaspora, we are working to build up a two-way relationship in order to address chronic and pending problems (education, overlapping services and competent bodies, pension and tax rights), on the one hand, and, on the other, allow for a more dynamic contribution of the diaspora communities to the country’s productive reconstruction and development course (tourism promotion, cultural diplomacy, investment attraction, export boost, etc.)
Over the last years of the crisis, a new wave of emigrants has been added to the already existing Greek diaspora. Most of them are Greeks of working age, with high academic qualifications. Our aim is to enable them to contribute with their innovative ideas and know-how to the country’s productive reconstruction while in the long run we seek to create the circumstances that would allow them to return to Greece – if they wish – through improvement on living and working conditions brought about by the gradual recovery of the economy and the job market in our country.
26. Democratic Reconstruction of the Armed Forces
Defence of peace, peaceful foreign policy, and democracy in the armed forces are integral parts of SYRIZA’s political project. We demand and propose a modern system of democratic control of the armed forces, with the parliament playing a more instrumental role, with a new strategy for defence planning and for the development of the Greek defence industry, which is a requirement for the army’s operational autonomy. New strategy for the supply of defence materiel, meritocratic policy in the utilization of human resources, better-organized national service with parallel promotion of alternative social service in civic organizations, reorientation of military educational institutions and schools, improvement on the personnel’s living and working conditions, and enhancement of the social role of the armed forces.