On the Doorstep of a SYRIZA Victory
Mike-Frank Epitropoulos, Guest Blogger
Five years ago, Greece was still in the early stages of the austerity measures imposed on it by the “Troika” (the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)). The other countries of Europe’s “periphery” (the so-called PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) watched and waited to see what would come of the confrontations in the streets of Athens and the menace of a new and brutal neoliberalism. At the time, I wrote that the intense focus on Greece was arguably over the value of that obscene experiment in a country whose people had a history of standing up for themselves, even against world powers (Greece as a Demonstration Project, D&S, May/June 2010).
Since then, Greece has continued to take the bitter medicine prescribed by the Troika, in the form of severe cuts to the public sector and the social welfare state. Those cuts were initiated through Troika “Memoranda”, known in Greece as the “Mnimonia” (Μνημóνια). And, as even the casual observer knows, the Greek political landscape has witnessed the virtual demise of the center-left party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), and decreasing support for the center-right party, New Democracy (ND). Those two parties have been the dominant “two-party” rulers of Greece, and have aligned in a coalition since the crisis hit Greece. Greeks have taken to the streets—they are known as the Aganaktismenoi (Αγανακτισμενοι), or “outraged”—in concert with the Indignados (indignant) in Spain. Disgruntled Greek voters have distributed themselves to both the left and the right in newsworthy ways. To the right, we have seen the rise of the hyper-nationalist, neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, which went from obscurity of less than one percent to just under seven percent (6.92%) in the last parliamentary elections. To the left, SYRIZA—the Coalition of the Radical Left—has emerged from a small, marginal parliamentary party, comprised of a wide array of left groupings, to become the frontrunner in this Sunday’s crucial elections. Both phenomena—the neo-Nazi right and anti-austerity left—have garnered significant attention in both theoretical and policy circles. The anarchist and anti-authoritarian movements have also made their mark in Greek political life during this very difficult time.
Frustrated youth and people disgusted and disenchanted with traditional parties are seeking something—anything—on which to seize.