by Dimitris Papazacharias
Optimism’s foothold in the future
On Synantisi’s 2nd conference (Synantisi = Initiative for an Anti-capitalist, Internationalist Left)
If anything, intense socio-political conjunctures are what we have become accustomed to, in the last decade. However, the intensity and critical nature of the current one has dramatically overshadowed every other moment of the social conflict, at least over the past five years. The COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented event for modern, “developed” societies, intersects with the current, twelve-year-old capitalist crisis, thus severely disrupting the “post-memorandum”, economic and social normality of the previous period. And all this, against the backdrop of an increasingly severe climate and in a broader sense, environmental crisis, which has already been shifted away from the center of the public debate, something that may have a further negative impact on it.
On top of all this, we have the worst, government since 1974, engaging in extreme right-wing politics: the health and education sectors’ harsh, neo-liberal, pandemic management, the massive repression – both institutionally and through unprecedented police abuses – the refugee population’s inhuman management, the Orthodox church’s appointment as the privileged regulator of the government’s agenda and finally, the creation of a nationalistic and militaristic atmosphere through the “maintenance” of the Greek – Turkish conflict both as a pretext and an objective. Furthermore, one can hardly overlook the mainstream media’s suffocating and provocative pro-government affiliation, SYRIZA and KINAL’s (former-PASOK) weak – even consensual in some areas – opposition and the “historic low” the radical and anticapitalist Left has reached.
It was within this context that Synantisi’s 2nd conference took place on October, 10th and 11th, 2020, with the following goals and challenges ahead:
First, to shape an analysis that highlights the interdependence of health, capitalist and environmental crises. The pandemic may have triggered a new, recessionary spiral for global capitalism, nevertheless, the root causes of the capitalist crisis itself are structural. Likewise, structural are also the causes of the climate crisis – and not human activity at large – a crisis which, in each own turn, has a multiplier effect on social inequalities and exclusions that capitalism produces.
Secondly, to identify priorities in fronts where political intervention is necessary, on the basis of a short to mid-term forecast for the future course of events. The worsening pandemic -while coronavirus cases are growing exponentially- as well as the rise in poverty will be the main problems in the coming months. Social reactions provoked by the state’s limited – if not bordering on indifference- response to these issues are expected to be met with new incidents of repression. Junior and high school students’ unjustified arrests and detention during their protests also reflect the government’s choice of strategy. Therefore, the social struggles’ empowerment calls for solidarity to be better organized, so that anything, from food and basic necessities to legal aid, can be provided to those in need. It also means standing up against the onslaught of conservatism (sometimes courting obscurantism), as there can be no social, emancipatory movement if anti-science, conspiracy theories, racism and post-civil-war «nationalism»* prevail.
Finally, to persist in finding ways for the necessary recοnstitution of the anti-capitalist, radical Left. The immense tasks being set by the aforementioned triple crisis, combined with a far-right regime of “organized deceit” established by the government in tandem with the media, cannot be fulfilled by the mere sum of the existing Left’s components, neither does it simply require a slightly better coordination. Its fragmentation and shrinkage are only symptoms of a deeper cause: the Left in Greece has virtually no new plan to propose to the subordinate classes since the “left government” was defeated in 2015. Here, the qualifier “new” must be underlined. Serving the same dish again and again with the only difference being a more “honest” government, turns a blind eye to a number of distressing but critical questions both old and new. To name but a few: what the economic and geopolitical rupture with the E.U. entails, how the Left can withstand the adverse effects of the “struggle within the state”, how (and if) it opposes the bourgeois institutions and finally, how a democratic and no-growth economy can be built, something that not only past, bureaucratic experiences, but also the impending environmental threats, seem to demand. Without answers to these and other relevant questions, what remains of the Left cannot go on pretending that it knows what it is doing. The fact that it cannot provide a convincing alternative, despite the impasses described above, is no mere chance.
Obviously, Synantisi’s 2nd Conference is only one of the first steps towards the radical Left’s reconstitution. However, the fact that the beginning of this course has been established and the interest in a broader process shared with like-minded groups and activists, has been renewed, is of utmost importance. Especially at a time when the “outside-the-walls” Left is being plagued by a combination of both demobilization and pugnacious self-justification. Despite the novelty of the fact that the conference was held online, the combination of its results along with the procedure itself, the quality of the discussion held, its youthful composition and the unexpectedly high attendance of both members and observers, made it a foothold of optimism in a future that many hastily discount as futile.
Coordination of Synantisi / Initiative for an Anti-capitalist, Internationalist Left
*Ideology of the police state established after the Greek civil war (1945 -1949).