Greece: Syriza congress aims to unite forces for a left government

Delegates vote during Syriza's first congress.

Pedro Filipe Soares is a Left Bloc MP in the Portuguese parliament. Soares attend the first congress of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) from July 10-14. Syriza, a coalition of left groups, decided to become a new political party after it came close to winning elections on an anti-austerity platform last year. The article was translated by Dick Nichols.

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History knows this sort of thing ― when only an historical event allows us to move forward. This can be true even when, at first sight, it does not look much like that, or when our powers of perception fail to detect it.

Over July 10-14, however, at the first congress if the Radical Coalition of the Left (Syriza), it was obvious that history was being written in indelible ink. This was a congress of almost 3500 delegates that also changed the Greek left.

Faced with the challenge of rising growth, opening the door to future government, the coalition took the step to become a party. At the first congress, everything was spelled out―from founding principles to political orientation and statutes. And, of course, where everything was discussed and different positions clarified, always with typical Greek passion.

It was attended by 3430 delegates. This statistic reveals the enormous commitment that the party invested into building this congress. Its deliberations lasted five days, and culminated with 3412 delegates taking part in the election of the president.

It was an extraordinary sensation to enter that hall and feel the energy of the delegates, the intensity of the discussion, and the attention given to all points of detail.

The draft declaration of principles and political document were developed over the congress by a representative group of delegates chosen for that purpose. Plenary sessions were devoted to discuss and vote on the general line and to voting on amendments and counter-positions.

Starting with the goal of rescuing Greece from the clutches of austerity, the new party adopted socialism as its strategic objective.

Worth registering was the discussion around questions that are also close to us [in Portugal]: the position of the party with regard to the euro and public debt, and the composition of a future government committed to overthrowing the Troika [of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund].

The final goal is the renegotiation of the debt, with a sharp reduction in amount owed, but without any surrender of Greek rights in the eurozone.

And also without surrendering to blackmail over the common currency. A Syriza-led government would not take Greece out of the eurozone, but it will not accept any more sacrifices in the name of the common currency.

The party strengthened its commitment to governing by rejecting austerity.

The high point of the congress was the embrace of Manolis Glezos with Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras. Glezos, a 90-year-old Greek resistance fighter in World War II, is famous for having pulled down the Nazi flag flying over the Acropolis and replacing it with the Greek flag. The act inspired Greeks to resist the occupation.

At the congress, Glezos made an inopportune first speech, rejecting the proposed approach of transforming existing parties in the coalition into internal tendencies. News of divisions within Syriza were not slow in coming to light and everything appeared to be going badly as the congress proceeded.

The next day came Tsipras’s reply, in which he appealed to the need for unity and for Syriza to project itself as a party to win the next elections. Glezos stood up and gave Tsipras an enormous hug, then asked for the floor to demonstrate the unity between the various generations of the left.

The party left the congress united, with a short period granted for existing affiliates who had not yet dissolved to do so.

Discussion on the statutes and elections attracted great participation. The method of election of the president and central committee took up most of the interventions, with the model of election of the president being by vote of all delegates.

Tsipras was elected president of the new Syriza with 74% of the vote, a result exceeding initial expectations.

The method of election of the central committee was also debated in depth. Among the methods presented, the winning proposal was that of a united, open list, which competed against alternative lists.

The results were as follows: The united list obtained 67.61% of the votes, the Left Platform 30.15%, members not aligned to any tendencies 1.03%, the Communist Tendency 0.74% and Citizen Intervention 0.27%.

The Intervention for Unity Tendency did not elect any member, achieving only 0.21% of the vote.

A personal note should record the meeting that Tsipras had with the Left Bloc delegation. Marisa Matias and Alda Sousa [Left Bloc Members of the European Parliament] and I brought fraternal greetings to this new page that has opened in the history of the Greek left, expressing the hope it will lead to the rapid defeat of the Troika.

From Greece came a word of hope for the Portuguese people in the struggle against the polities of austerity, in the certainty that while a sea may separate us, the values that unite us are stronger.