“We can learn a lot from Syriza, work together with them and the other movements on the ground on issues such as social justice, solidarity and civic mobilization in border regions; developing cross-national strategies for inclusive economic development; as well as standing together for the rights of the growing number of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants that cross and are abused at the Greco-Macedonian border.”
Anastas Vangeli is a doctoral researcher at the Graduate School for Social Research at the Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw
1. What would it take for you to consider Syriza a success?
Syriza faces an immense challenge in the months to come. Given the unfavorable starting position and the pressure it endures in the negotiations with the creditors, it is ungrateful to have extremely high expectations or to be overly judgmental, especially from afar. This being said, within the left, including the left in Macedonia, there is no consensus as to what will constitute Syriza’s success – depending who you ask, everything from Grexit, to debt restructuring, to a facelift of the arrangements, could be considered a success. In my opinion, it is important for Syriza to follow the basic line shared by the millions of supporters, and that is the scraping of the austerity measures. Beyond this, its success is dependent on maintaining its unity, mending fences with other leftist movements and parties, balancing out the influence of its right-wing coalition partner, maintaining the promise to fight the unjust economic system and corruption; but most importantly, making Greece a more humane place for those who live there.
2. And what would make you consider it a failure?
Again, there are different measures of what can be seen as a failure as well. Many activists are concerned about Syriza not staying true to a particular set of principles, and a particular ideology, and consider any compromise to be a “treason,” thus a sign of failure. However, it’s not how politics work. For me, the worst-case scenario is Syriza losing the support of its constituency, bringing Greece in a worse-off situation, and eventually falling from power early, in disgrace.
3. What do you think will actually happen?
Syriza is in a sort of terra incognita, as there are not that many possible comparisons to be made on a global level. However, so far, it has demonstrated a strong power of will to follow through on their principles and idea. That gives grounds to be cautiously optimistic for their work, at least in the short term.
4. What does the victory of Syriza mean for Macedonia and the left there?
The victory of an authentic left party in a neighboring country is certainly empowering for the left in Macedonia. By coming to power, Syriza has overcome the stereotype that the position of the left is on the margins. Moreover, Syriza’s victory also ended the entrenched New Democracy – PASOK bipartisan model, which gives many Macedonian citizens – not just leftists – hope that our own VMRO-DPMNE – SDSM bipartisan model can be brought to an end. However, there are some delimiting factors regarding the positive vibrations from Syriza’s victory. For one, the mainstream media and experts tend to examine Greek politics only through the prism of the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece, and so far it seems that Syriza does not consider this a priority. Finally, a number of activists are deeply concerned about the future of Syriza – should there be a failure, it will have a devastating effect on the confidence in the left idea, and might reverse the enthusiasm that was born out of Syriza’s victory.
5. How do you imagine your organization cooperating with Syriza?
A number of activists from Macedonia already had fruitful cooperation with the Greek movements and Syriza itself. Overall, I expect that we can learn a lot from Syriza, and work together with them and the other movements on the ground on issues such as social justice, solidarity and civic mobilization in border regions; developing cross-national strategies for inclusive economic development; as well as standing together for the rights of the growing number of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants that cross and are abused at the Greco-Macedonian border. I also hope for a revival of the joint anti-nationalist initiatives (such as the one in 2008), although there is a great asymmetry nowadays – the Greek left is now part of the government and has to officially deal with the name dispute, its negotiating partner is the nationalist Macedonian government, while the Macedonian authentic left is still outside the institutions.