Monday, March 02, 2015

Syrzia - A Much Needed Primer for Progressives Everywhere.

No, we're not Greece.  We don't have their crushing economic crisis.  We don't have the punitive austerity regime they had.  Yet there are many problems, existing and looming for Canada, that will require progressive solutions and Syrzia affords us a mirror in which to take the measure of our own political parties.  We have much to learn.  From The Tyee:

You can't watch what is unfolding in Greece and not marvel at the clarity, fortitude and nerve of the new government there. In fact, we're pretty sure that many progressives across North America are saying to themselves, even if just quietly, "We'd sure like to do that."

Syriza is a heterogeneous party, made up of diverse strands of the Greek left, but united by the view that the country's ruling parties were too compromised to deliver a departure from the crushing economic conditions imposed on it. Although it didn't initiate them, Syriza opened itself to the social movements that emerged to challenge austerity and has become their authentic political voice. Now it has taken power peacefully and formed the first European government of the radical left since the Second World War. It did what parties are supposed to do.

The article lists eight rules that progressives need to learn from the example of Syrzia:

1.  Clearly identify the enemy.  

It is sometimes necessary to identify your own government as your enemy, especially when it is operating in collaboration with other entities in ways that are detrimental to your country and your childrens' future.  Don't forget who started this.  It was the Harper government, especially Joe Oliver, who smeared a goodly segment of our population as dangerous radicals, inimical to the interests of the country.  Returning that greeting is not only justifiable, it's essential.

2.  The forces of democracy have an obligation to fight back against the oligarchs and the "totalitarianism of the market."

Only a few benefit from the oligarchs' policies, but they have the power and they have a grip on the political system. The oligarchs prevent the creation of a genuinely fair electoral playing field via a rigged campaign finance system and the rollback of voting rights. The oligarchs bring in cheap immigrant labour but prevent immigrants from getting citizenship. The oligarchs buy politicians. Democracy -- real democracy -- is a threat to them.

3.  Inequality can only be fought when it is articulated what it means for people, how it denies them things that they need.

4.  Draw a link between what people need and what society itself needs.

Concentration of economic and political power in an elite ultimately weakens the country.  There is a need to stimulate demand which cannot be achieved as an increasingly large portion of the economy goes to just a few.  We must rebalance the rights of labour versus capital, rehabilitate the role of labour and collective bargaining, and restore public investment.

5.  Have a programme.  Say what you will do.  Don't get dragged into debates about how you will do it.

Syriza convinced voters that it was going to take action to end austerity. Incessantly, the right, the media and the European elite tried to goad them into saying that executing their program would require leaving the Eurozone, but they never took the bait.

What enabled Alexis Tsipras to give such a defiant speech earlier this month was that his party had campaigned and won on a clear platform. Not for ideological reasons, but because the Greek people instructed him to. He has no right to bow to the demands of Greece's creditors.  

6.  Electoral reform.  

As we've progressed steadily into the depths of neo-liberalism, political parties have shunned expressions of vision and platforms that resonate with the public. We've learned that politicians that don't make clear promises, arguing that it would put them at a disadvantage during a campaign, almost never introduce them afterwards when they're successful.  This is the formula for elected dictatorship.  

7.  If the political system is broken, be willing to start again, from scratch.

The adage that the way to reform is by getting inside and changing the party is a load of hooey.  That doesn't effect real change but merely sublimates dissent.  If the system is broken, try a new party, a new movement.

Too often political parties have become insular, out of touch with the public. They exist, seemingly, for the sake of existing, of preserving "the club."  

8.  Don't Seek a Return to the Good Old Days.

The support progressives need to mobilize is the young adult vote. Progressivism is about the future and the future is theirs.  Older voters may yearn for the good old days or whatever facsimile exists in their memories but they think it best not to stray far from today's "business as usual" political parties.

The 60s are gone and they're not coming back.  We have changed the world in ways we cannot fully comprehend.  We have to let the past go.

The article concludes with a plea for progressives to do whatever we can to help out Spain's new left-wing movement, Podemos.   For all the successes Syrzia has achieved, a victory in the upcoming polls for Podemos will be a massive breakthrough for the future of us all. 

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