The following is not meant to be an exhaustive, well researched piece of writing. Rather, these are reflections, based on impressions, more put together on the spur of the moment, responses to a variety of ideas and words floating in the air during the past little while.
Samaras the Greek right wing prime minister had been recirculating the idea of “the two extremes”, basically that the extreme right (such as the nazi’s) and the extreme left (he actually had Syriza in mind) coincide. Rather, I would say that the New Democracy Party (the Greek conservatives) and Syriza are much more closer aligned then one would think by listening to their rhetorics: they both operate within the capitalist framework. Where they do defer is that the Greek conservatives have aligned themselves with the neo-conservative (or neo-liberal in Europe) onslaught on the welfare state which has resulted in desolation for large segments of the western middle class (not to speak of the lower working class and those who fall between the cracks of society) and students, while Syriza have emerged (at least in their intentions) as the party of welfare-keynesian capitalism: the tendency within capitalism to save capitalism from itself.
Off hand, one is tempted to say “let them (Syriza) win” these elections: let the – what should we say? – almost comprador type of ruling class of Greece be punished for the fleecing and orgiastic thievery of large segments of their population. Maybe as a friend put it “Syriza may shake things up”. A lot of people may think this may happen. But I doubt it. Even if they get elected to power, which is doubtful too (which does not mean it cannot happen).
First, they are already tempering their rhetoric. They try to appear the party of reason. That sounds hopeful in a world where fear, immediate gratification, greed are fundamental motivators (this is an oversimplification, but more on this on another post). But then what Syriza is proposing, a form of 50s and 60s Keynes with some pseudo-participatory politics thrown is contradictory in the most basic way: Keynes and participation cannot work together. Bureaucratic state management is essential to the quasi-rationalistic requirements of the Keynesian (strong interventionist state) approach. Furthermore, the current capitalist class drunk on its globalized expansion and domination will hardly concede. The only way to take down the economic order is through massive, and this means massive, opposition and direct actions at the level of the grassroots, shop-floors, expansion of alternatives (real alternatives: anti-bureaucratic participation in new forms of productive and creative units) to mention some. At the very least for Syriza to even be minimally faithful to its intention it would need to be able to mobilize massive participation to implement its (apparent) opposition to corporate capitalist politics which it is unlikely to be able to do.
Second, many of the Greek voters are still hopeful they can survive what they take to be a temporary crisis (that has lasted now for almost six years). They think Syriza may either rock the boat too hard and/or the powers of Europe will create more havoc in Greece either to pre-empt Syriza from implementing its anti-austerity program or in consequence of its implementing the program. Even if they do not support the conservatives, they may vote for them because the conservatives appear to provide some kind of stability. The neo-liberal scaremongering seems to have some effect on this population. Even if the conservatives and the Pasok (with whom the conservatives have been running the country) are clearly the ones who (among the politicians) are immediately responsible for the destruction that has taken place in Greece, many people (this is not meant to be “scientific”) still feel that somehow they can be saved by them. (There is also hope that Syriza will be the first of many such victories in the rest of Europe, but I think there too we will be disappointed, even if they are able to come to power).
And in the end this is the real problem that we face today in Greece and anywhere else. We cannot change society without risks, risking what we have, whatever this or these things may be. And definitely if we hope others will fix things for us. There used to be the view that unless things get really bad (economically) there will not be a revolution. Then we had May 68. This changed a lot in the way many of us thought about revolution. Did the communards risk their lives because they were destitute? Perhaps looking at risks is misleading. Perhaps revolutions happen because there is something to look forward to. A new world in our hearts. Looking at the risks, what we have to loose is an expression of fear. Desire turned inwards, into its opposite.
Maybe we need to learn to play among the ruins. So we can create something new.