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Syriza’s victory and what comes next: Claudia Ciobanu, Romania/Poland

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“Like in most of Central and Eastern Europe, Polish left wing activism is quite marginal, though it’s been steadily growing. Over the last years, not in the least because of the influence of global movements like Occupy and Indignados, Polish activists have been thinking about a model of social change that would involve building a broader social movement that stands for participative democracy and social justice, and then creating a political party that would give electoral expression to such a movement.”

Claudia Ciobanu is a Romanian freelance journalist based in Poland. She also works with the environmental NGO Bankwatch.

1. What would it take for you to consider Syriza a success?

All my friends from Greece invariably have told me that Syriza’s victory in the elections has restored their hope and sense of dignity after many years of despair. I consider that an early success of this party. And there are at least two more early successes: providing inspiration for the left in many places; and simply standing up as a European government which rejects austerity on the basis of a well thought through political programme.┬áIn the longer term, of course, the daunting task ahead of them is to make their anti-austerity programme work. First of all, for the sake of the Greeks who have suffered enough. And also for reviving hope in Europe that left-wing governments can implement real left wing policies, which work. And then they should also continue to be close to citizens while in government (like they symbolically took down the fences surrounding parliament); in this era when citizens everywhere reject the entire political class, being a government that citizens feel they can trust (even, mostly trust) would be revolutionary.

2. And what would make you consider it a failure?

I don’t know right now. Expectations placed on them are enormous and the waters they have to navigate are very stormy. I would not consider it a failure if they do not fulfill all the perfect dreams of leftists everywhere. I would certainly watch closely their further steps and policy proposals and analyze in detail what impacts they bring on the Greek society, but I would not set right now the parameters for their failure.

3. What do you think will actually happen?

I’ll let wiser people try to anticipate the future! I personally think that right now, the ball is high up in the air and it is up to us, in Greece and elsewhere, to play it. When it comes to the future of our economies, of our political systems or the climate. I don’t know what will actually happen, but I have no choice but to hope that we are able to transform our societies and communities to make them more cooperative and democratic, more resilient and sustainable. The alternative is frightening.

4. What does the victory of Syriza mean for the left in your country/local context?

Like in most Central and Eastern Europe, Polish left wing activism is quite marginal, though it’s been steadily growing. But over the last years, not in the least because of the influence of global movements like Occupy and Indignados, Polish activists have been thinking about a model of social change that would involve building a broader social movement that stands for participative democracy and social justice, and then creating a political party that would give electoral expression to such a movement. Syriza and Podemos have been certainly fuelling these scenarios and Syriza winning elections has given many hope that this is a good model for social change. Poland right now does not appear to be close to such a transformation. Yet at the same time, lurking below the surface, here too there is quite a lot of energy for change. If and when this energy will be triggered to materialize, we will have to see.