A month from now Greece will hold snap elections for its parliament. The most likely candidate for winning power is the left-wing SYRIZA, which opposes the brutal austerity measures implemented in that country and seeks to cancel, or at least renegotiate, part of Greece’s external debt. Late in 2015, Spain will also hold parliamentary elections, and according to some polls Podemos, which formed as a party emerging from the Indignados movemement – which led the massive protests in Spain in 2011 – is poised to win there.
Although there is some merit to criticisms of SYRIZA (and Podemos) drifting towards the center, criticisms directed at the two parties as they gain support and move closer to taking power, there are several factors to keep in mind. Essentially, both SYRIZA and Podemos are coalitions, and within the parties there are several factions and currents which democratically debate strategy and the party’s future course (from social-democratic ones to those openly anti-capitalist). Those debates and their outcome will largely be influenced by the amount of pressure and radicalism from below, and one can hope that both influences will intensify once the parties assume power. Furthermore, the moderate stances that SYRIZA and Podemos have assumed recently could also be simple electoral posturing – although rare, there are indeed examples of parties and leaders who radicalized and moved leftward after winning power (Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is here a prime example).
The strongest enforcers of the capitalist system – the IMF, EU, ECB and the like – can of course be expected to use every resource at their disposal, no matter how dirty, to either prevent these parties from taking power or to bend them to their will if they do. The only question is how strong the counter-pressure from below, from Greece and Spain‘s impoverished working masses, will be so that the masses stand up to the inhuman conditions that a system in deep decay seeks to impose on them for its own self-preservation. The actual direction and measures undertaken by SYRIZA and Podemos once in power will in a large part be determined by the interplay between these two opposing forces on them and their relative strengths.
Finally, even if they were to become really moderate, SYRIZA and Podemos clearly still pose a threat to the current neoliberal order in Europe, judging by comments and reactions from the political mainstream, and in the case of Greece, also by capital flight and stock market crashes in response to SYRIZA‘s expected power grab. Thus, their victories are not only a chance for themselves to eventually move to the left once in power, but are also an inspiration to other movements and parties across Europe which hold similar goals – even more radical ones, because the list of allies across the continent that SYRIZA and Podemos will be able to count on will be practically zero as concerns the traditional “left” (“social-democratic”), which are in reality neoliberal pro-market, parties.
Under such conditions, the only sensible option for all progressive, left-wing movements and parties is to give their full support to SYRIZA and Podemos through the challenges they will undoubtedly face, to urge them to stay true to the hopes and expectations of the millions of capitalism’s victims in their respective countries, but also all across the world, and to be ready to show material and physical support and solidarity if needed. For their part, SYRIZA and Podemos should do as much as possible, especially once in the position of being a ruling party, to support and promote similar parties throughout Europe which could join the growing coalition of resistance to the brutal effects of neoliberal capitalism. Close relations with left-wing governments in Latin America should also be a priority, in order to strengthen resistance to capitalism and to work towards building an alternative model of world-wide solidarity and cooperation. We can only win if we are united and honestly internationalist in our struggle!