Matija Medenica is a sociologist from Belgrade and member of Marks21 and the Left Summit of Serbia.
1. What would it take for you to consider Syriza a success?
The current situation where Syriza has inspired millions across Europe to rise against austerity — and in some countries even to start building similar political projects, from Spain to Croatia — can already be seen as a huge step forward, a success in its own right. Syriza faces resistance from some of the most powerful international institutions and world leaders. Thus, in a narrower sense, Syriza will need workers and popular mobilizations in order to accomplish its proclaimed objectives – and to ‘formally’ succeed. If they manage to creatively combine popular mobilizations and remain firm during the negotiations, they will be able to help change the balance of forces not just in Greece, but probably even beyond Europe. Their victory and firmness in these first few weeks are an inspiration; in that sense, they had already helped set in motion forces potentially much bigger than one radical left party can ever be on its own.
2. And what would make you consider it a failure?
Imposing control or halting movements from below would, in my view, represent a failure — but for Syriza, not necessarily for the movement. Though, I must say, at this point this seems highly unlikely. Obviously, accepting a ‘compromise’ with the Troika and imposing a ‘milder’ austerity would also represent a failure on its part. That’s precisely why mobilizations of both people in Greece and internationally are crucial to both support Syriza’s fighting attitude, and to secure the people against any possible retreats.
3. What do you think will actually happen?
I think that the new Greek government will hold the line; that the movements within and without Greece will grow in numbers and strength and that this will be a historic opportunity for rebuilding the anti-capitalist Left and developing strategies based on the needs of people rather than capital. This will open new fields of struggle, since we are not struggling to repair capitalism, but to smash it. After decades of defeats we have a chance for a break-through. But this will not depend solely, or even mostly, on what Syriza does in the coming months.
4. What does the victory of Syriza mean for Serbia and for the Left in your country?
The new political movement rising in Europe on the tide of Syriza’s victory means that the Left has much better conditions to organize than in previous years — especially in indebted and ex-‘socialist’ countries in a way similar to Serbia, where Left and workers’/progressive movements have traditionally been weak. The ideology of neoliberal austerity is finally met with an alternative people can believe in. Even the prime minister Vučić admitted that Tsipras is more popular in Serbia than him. The political climate is changing rapidly. This is a chance we are not planning to waste.
5. How do you imagine your organization cooperating with Syriza?
We have comradely relations with DEA, a revolutionary organization that is an important component of Syriza’s Left Platform. We had their leading member, Panos Petrou, give a speech in Belgrade last year, we attend their summer camps etc. As an organization, we are trying to learn as much as possible from all aspects of the Greek dynamic, and building relationships with other revolutionaries in midst of this process is a crucial aspect. But we also see it as our duty to organize solidarity with the ongoing struggle in Greece. We do not see ourselves as mere observers and ‘students’ — this is an international struggle, and Greece is at the forefront. That is why a coalition we are proud to be part of, Left Summit of Serbia, signed LeftEast’s letter of support to Syriza and is joining the solidarity day of action on 15/2, by calling for a demo in downtown Belgrade.