The concluding essay referred to is by Andreas Karitzis who at the end of August resigned from the Syriza Central Committee in the face of Syriza failing the test, after going up against the limits of democracy in European capitalism. The following excerpt from Karitzis, anticipating his resignation in a speech in Montreal on August 22, 2015, may now be taken as an epilogue to his concluding essay in the 2016 Socialist Register on ‘The Dilemmas and Potentials of the Left: Learning from Syriza’:
After the Greek experience we now know that the elites are today openly hostile to democracy. In the first days of June, after months of negotiations the lenders made their first proposal. They openly sidestepped the negotiation process until those days and demanded that the Greek government should violate the democratic will of the people. At the end of June they openly declared that Greece should comply with their demands within 48 hours. A few days later, in the middle of July and after the referendum, they openly threatened that Greek society would face the consequences of a sudden default if their demands were not accepted. In the course of one and a half months in Europe, democracy was openly rejected. I am stressing the fact that this happened openly and not in a disguised way because I believe that this point is of extreme importance. We witnessed a major historical event: democracy is no longer relevant when it comes to serious social, economic and financial issues.
Of course, this is not the first time. All over the world – even in Europe, especially Eastern Europe a few decades earlier – we have witnessed similar anti-democratic developments. However, the true recipients of the message this time were the people of so-called developed western societies. The elites are no longer willing to share with the people the crucial decisions. Democracy – which is a name for any institutional configuration that allows people outside of positions of power some kind of access to crucial decisions – will no longer be tolerated. The message should be clear and reach every one of us, independently of our nationality, religion, origin or political conviction. That’s why the rejection of democracy had such an open character. We should not underestimate the importance of a historical event when it takes place just because we might be able to anticipate its coming beforehand. Our analysis of the neoliberal character of the eurozone, of global capitalism, etc. should not make us devalue the fact that we witnessed a clear defeat of democracy in Europe. Things will never be the same again.
Is this surprising? Yes, if we take for granted in western countries that the post-war social and institutional configuration of liberal capitalism, or democratic capitalism is irreversible. No, if we take a wider and more historical view, and also take into consideration the profound and structural distress of the elites towards democracy. Neoliberalism is not an economic policy; it’s an ambitious strategy of fundamentally transforming the physiognomy of modern societies and subjectivities as well, of ending once and for all the democratic and emancipatory wave that emerged in human history after the French Revolution. In this light, the aggressiveness towards the Greeks and the suffering of this small nation only foreshadows a much broader, and thus even more dangerous, development. In the era of the despotism of the market, in the era of the neoliberal order, democracy – in any of its varieties, even the most modest ones – is not accepted.
This general escalation by the elites and their strategy of blackmail requires, as I already said, a counter-strategy of empowering the people so that we will be in a position to perform the basic functions of our society in an alternative way. No matter how difficult this may seem to us it is necessary since the lenders control the flow of money and through it the whole network of traditional social functions. That is why I was saying that in order to be able to confront the elites we need not only the traditional means of doing politics – since the elites are gradually freeing themselves from their commitments towards our societies by undermining those traditional means to a considerable extent – but a different strategy of empowering the people. This means extracting and developing human capacities, combining them with the remaining resources of the state, and creating economic and social circuits able to take on the responsibility of running the basic functions of society. You cannot be free unless you acquire the necessary power to run basic social functions.
Let me conclude with a final remark. The Greek government’s only real plan throughout the process, since we didn’t manage to modify our mentality and methodology fast enough, was to trust that a shred of democracy would be respected at some point during the negotiation process. The government decided to use the last institutionally available democratic tool, the referendum, in an effort to achieve an agreement that would acknowledge that Greek society could no longer endure a policy that destroys it. For many of us it was clear back then that there was no possibility that the European elites would show any respect for even this shred of democracy.
However, the importance of the referendum exceeds the strategy of the government. During the week before the referendum a massive ‘bio-political’ experiment took place. The closure of banks, the extreme propaganda by the media, the threats by the domestic, European and international political and financial establishment, the terrorism in workplaces, the hostility and threats towards “no” supporters at the interpersonal level, etc. created an environment we have never encountered before. Our opponents deployed all their resources to the maximum and they lost! The Greek people refused to voluntarily declare that they embrace a life without dignity instead of a sudden death. We are talking about an extremely hopeful and important event for the battle against neoliberal irrationality. The Greek people proved that the bio-political control exercised by elites over the people is not so powerful as we might think it is. The battle is not over yet and human societies will not surrender easily.
Actually, it is up to all of us to change the course of things, if we deeply appreciate the fact that we are far stronger than we think when we rally the various logics of cooperation and democracy. This is true today more than ever, having developed our embodied capacities in the course of our evolutionary history from so many fields of human intellectual and practical activity and values from so many diverse cultures within our reach.
And the same is true about the final assessment of the Syriza experience. It is up to all of us to learn from this experience so that the forces fighting for emancipation will be better adapted and more effective in the future. If you think about it, most of the important historical experiments in emancipatory politics have failed. But that’s the beauty of human history: we are evolving as long as we maintain our ability to adapt. So, please, let us all learn from the Syriza experience through our future actions.