Eight Lessons for Progressives Inspired by Syriza

You can’t watch what is unfolding in Greece and not marvel at the clarity, fortitude and nerve of the new government there. In fact, we’re pretty sure that many progressives across North America are saying to themselves, even if just quietly, “We’d sure like to do that.

And who wouldn’t? Syriza is standing up to the powers-that-be in European capitalism in a way that seems almost impossible to imagine in places like Canada and the United States. Greece is not these places, of course, but let’s not let ourselves off the hook that easily.

Syriza is a heterogeneous party, made up of diverse strands of the Greek left, but united by the view that the country’s ruling parties were too compromised to deliver a departure from the crushing economic conditions imposed on it. Although it didn’t initiate them, Syriza opened itself to the social movements that emerged to challenge austerity and has become their authentic political voice. Now it has taken power peacefully and formed the first European government of the radical left since the Second World War. It did what parties are supposed to do. We think it’s appropriate to be inspired.

Syriza has also been level-headed — and so must we. There are at least four preconditions for Syriza’s January electoral breakthrough that don’t exist in the U.S.: proportional representation in elections; an economic crisis of immense, social fabric-destroying proportion; a history of subjugation by foreign powers; and disciplined, determined activists raised in the radical movement. Still, there are significant lessons to learn from what is happening in the Mediterranean in America, where our organization is based, and elsewhere.

Lesson 1: Clearly identify the enemy.

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