Why We Broke With Syriza

Outgoing members of Syriza Youth explain why they won't be supporting their parent party in tomorrow's election.

Members of Syriza Youth protest the new austerity package in July. Panagiotis Maidis / VICE Greece

On September 1, the majority of the Syriza Youth‘s leadership signed the following statement. Eight out of the eleven Left Platform members in the organization’s leadership had already resigned by that point.

While the Syriza Youth was always affiliated with its namesake party, it maintained organizational and political autonomy. And despite its modest size — fluctuating between 2,000 and 2,500 members — it was a force in Greece’s influential student movement.

Rifts developed between the Youth and its parent formation over Syriza’s handling of eurozone negotiations, particularly in the wake of the July 5 referendum. After Alexis Tsipras opted to call a snap election, ignoring the party’s desire for a conference before such a decision, approximately 500 former members of the Youth signed the statement signaling the “end of the Youth Branch as we know it.”

The activists that supported the statement have not collectively joined any other political organization so far, including Popular Unity. However, the document states their shared belief that Syriza can no longer be considered a means for conducting radical left politics, and it calls for electoral support for anti-austerity leftist forces in the spirit of the referendum’s “Oxi.”

This new phase for Syriza is neither a tactical nor a partial retreat from its goals and positions, but a strategic defeat or — more accurately — a bankruptcy. Voting for the third bailout, actively supporting it and adding it to Syriza’s strategical goals, the governmentalism and the marginalization of the party are the main reasons behind this bankruptcy, as well as behind the fact that we cannot see ourselves as a part of Syriza or even try to support a left-wing strategy with Syriza as its political vehicle.

Calling for elections before the party’s congress that had been decided by the central committee of Syriza is a decision which enjoys lenders’ support while it blocks any debate about how Syriza could exit austerity politics, a choice that is solidified day by day. In this context, Syriza’s electoral agenda ended up being a better management of the reality of austerity and the search for reforms in a progressive [sic] direction on the details of austerity. From a left-wing point of view, we couldn’t care less about this agenda.

Besides this socially devastating deference toward neoliberal demands, the crisis of our collective political function, and the depreciation of internal democracy and collective decisions of the party by the government’s leadership, are indicative of the total transformation that is already taking place.

As a result, we will not support Syriza in the upcoming elections. Neither will we participate in its electoral lists. At the same time, we are unable to stay politically active under the auspices of Syriza and we are obliged to look for a necessary plan for our struggles, outside Syriza and its austerity strategy.

However, we carry an important political heritage. Our persistence for the unity of the radical left (as it has been a constitutional principle for Syriza), the participation in the social movements, and the genuine interaction with social processes have all been basic conditions for Syriza’s existence.

Moreover, the prospect of a left-wing government, which provided a political horizon for the struggles of the last few years and the inspired activists of all generations, are valuable elements for what comes next. Those of us who worked hard in this context, we cannot and should not accept Syriza’s turn to austerity as an inescapable reality.

Our criticism is not a self-righteous one. On the contrary, we believe that a thorough self-criticism is essential for everyone involved with Syriza, and it has to be harsh and in depth. Whoever does not seem to feel the need for it is simply unreliable. Since the very beginning we objected to facile reductionism and the apolitical logic of “betrayal” as much as we objected to a “really existing governmentalism” distant from class consciousness and pointing towards a bankrupt ideology with no future prospect.

The decisions of the tenth summit of the Central Committee of the Youth of Syriza (July 2015) will serve as the basis of our self-criticism.

An Ending We Didn’t Wish For

We believe that such a debate and such a decision to oppose and distance ourselves from Syriza should have been the central issue not only for the meeting of the Central Council but also of a wider national political meeting that would involve all the members of the Youth Branch of Syriza.

This was the direction that we pushed for during the meeting of the Central Council on Sunday, August 30, which was centered around the following points: first, to provide an ideological compass for our organization regarding the elections in autumn and secondly, to decide on the conduct of a Panhellenic conference in the immediate future, which would have as its topic the detachment (or not) of the Youth of Syriza from the political plan of Syriza.

Regrettably, certain members of the Central Council did not show up at the meeting or resigned their positions before the meeting, which led to our inability to achieve quorum. This is why we are forced to issue this statement to explain our views on what’s going on, even though our original intention was to reach a public statement of the Central Council.

At the same time, we believe that this (intentional) failure of the Central Council to reach a decision, leads the Youth of Syriza — at least in the form we knew — to an end. This is not an ending that we wished for, and definitely not under such circumstances.

However, it is clear to us now more than it ever was that the radical political orientation of our organization, our collective past in social movements, and the struggles, the agonies, and critical inquiries of its members are in fundamental tension with membership in Syriza. In the absence of an organizing process to determine the common future of the members of the Youth Branch of Syriza, and given the deep contradiction between the current profile of Syriza and that of its Youth Branch, the Youth of Syriza has now reached an undeniable end of an era.

However, a political collectivity cannot be reduced to its brand name. It is, rather, its practices, its values, and the depth of its political concerns. As a result, the words “Youth Branch of Syriza” will not correspond from now on either to an empty signifier or to something compatible with the “really-existing Syriza.”

This “silent ending” of the Youth Branch of Syriza does not necessarily mean that its past statements have lost their voice, that its marching blocks are not still full of voices, that its cultural festivals have lost their songs. Let us not fool ourselves about all these.

What Is to Be Done

Under these new circumstances, and given the urgent political necessity to make a statement about the upcoming elections, we simply implement the decision of the last meeting of the Central Committee of the Youth of Syriza on the eighteenth and nineteenth of July, which was clearly stating our objection to the voting and implementation of a third memorandum, since it “is against our ideological origins, our electoral commitments, our collective decisions and is an effort to overthrow Syriza’s long course of action, and dashes the thoughts and hopes for an alternative path in the only European country that the Left accomplished an historical victory.”

In fact, it was in the same decision that we elaborated our analysis about crucial issues such as our stance against political institutions of the capital, such as the European Union and the eurozone, declaring that

we ought to examine, how after all the E.U. and the Eurozone function as constitutionalised neoliberalism, and profoundly restrain potentials for transformation. We must re-evaluate our internationalist strategy through the prism of rupture and disengagement from these super-national formations, as a demand for democracy and popular sovereignty, but also a necessary prerequisite for questioning neoliberal orthodoxy.

Finally, we stated explicitly that

fighting for a just world was not for as a moral (istic) choice but a way to change our everyday lives, to transform our way of living and society. It is in this path that we will keep walking bearing in mind that history is a terrain of possibilities in which we are constantly struggling to render possible what might seem impossible to others.

In light of the above, and given our explicit position about our inability to support or participate in Syriza, we urge for voting leftist, radical, anticapitalist formations that participate in the elections that echo the premises of the last decision of the Central Committee of the Youth of Syriza, as sketched above, and incorporate a rejection of TINA (There Is No Alternative) regarding austerity, in order for “No until the end” to find a political expression, but also with a prospect of wide social and political changes.

In this framework we will keep fighting in those social spaces where we ourselves live and intervene — be it schools, universities, neighborhoods, or workplaces — so that the youth, the vast majority of which voted “no” in the referendum, chooses the path of resistance and political rupture instead of anti-political choices or abstention.

Especially regarding the referendum, youthful creativity and spontaneous contributions to the No campaign are of great significance and constitute elements through which we can envisage the evolution of these social dynamics and their transformation.

The Struggle for Socialism

The horizon of our actions, however, is not limited by the elections. Moreover, this new political mode neither can nor do we want it to be based on a traditional concept that shrinks our political horizon into institutional demands or into changes only through the parliamentary path. We believe that since nothing can be given to us, society must be able to claim everything, and therefore we focus on the forms of social organization and the organization of power from below.

Following this path, we claim that a break with the eurozone and the EU acquires left, radical meaning and simultaneously becomes a means to unfold an internationalist strategy by the European working class, far from any sense of national retrenchment or exit from the crisis through the notion of “competitiveness.” Besides, we believe that the social-democratic demands and programs of benefits, as well as a limitless productivism, are concepts already swept away from history itself.

We need a process involving ruptures and transformations aiming at social liberation. That’s why we think that a strategic debate about what brought us to this point, without certainties and disclaimers, is necessary, as this debate is a precondition for establishing anything new under the framework of the Left. The refusal of the young people related to the lack of an alternative to the memoranda and capitalist barbarism, is a challenge of historical dimensions for Greek society and much more for the working classes.

The old world dies every day around us. Since the crisis and the decline of capitalism deepens, political powers are becoming increasingly authoritarian by intensifying their own crisis and day by day, across the length and breadth of the world, those that capitalism cannot integrate, those who rebel against exploitation and oppression, those who put the seeds of another model of production and of another society, are becoming increasingly prevalent.

The youth, the working classes, women, immigrants and refugees, the LGBTQI community are potentially the “yeast’” of a truly revolutionary social majority. Within this context, the building of the organization of collective resistance, in a way will be able to truly threaten the existing balance of forces, will be our paramount concern for the upcoming period. Accordingly, regarding our position, we will insist that the issue of building another world remains on the agenda, the historical task.

The reformation of the radical and anticapitalist left forces, as a necessary condition to broaden and update our plan for the socialism of the twenty-first century, is one of our key objectives in the future. Our main concern remains the participation of large groups of the Greek and European youth in such a perspective, as well as the existence and the enforcement of strong political frontal movements against the ΤΙΝΑ of rough austerity.

We underline the need for the hegemony of a culture of “creative anti-capitalism,” taking full advantage of the knowledge and the skills of young people in a direction of questioning the capitalistic “common sense.” Within this context, we intend to experiment with new forms of organization, less hierarchical and outdated, testing knowledge and experience that we have gained from our active participation in the social struggles, even testing our own selves.

As we stated in the first manifesto of the Youth of Syriza,

“in all major historical moments in Greece and the World, the youth was always playing a key role: from EPON (i.e. the organization of Greek youth against the Nazi occupation) and the anti-dictatorship struggle, until the post-dictatorship battles and modern movements. From May ’68 until the recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere.

However, we are not looking for heroes, neither for nice stories to narrate when we will grow up. The historical moments of the youth movement in Greece and our collective knowledge, skills and experience give us the strength to continue. These days are days of beauty. There are days that only because we have nothing to lose, we can fight for everything. We are not asking the revival of lost promises of neoliberalism. We have the willing to be part of a process that goes far beyond us and therefore it completes us: the construction process of our new world, the world of dignity and solidarity.”

Following this course, we shall continue.

This announcement is addressed to all members of Youth of Syriza, who, as far as they agree, can cosign it. On the basis of this text, right after the elections on September 20 we intend to organize local discussions, but also a nationwide meeting-debate aiming to discuss how we continue to fight from now on, within the context we roughly outlined above and given the end of the Youth of Syriza as we knew it.