Is SYRIZA Europe's first green gov't?

January 30, 2015

The sound system was playing the famous Italian resistance song “Bella Ciao”. Flags of parties from across the left and the continent wiggled as their bearers danced and sang along to celebrate SYRIZA's win in the January 25 Greek elections.

Ouzo flowed and fireworks flared. We could have been outside a G8 summit in the early noughties.

Only the explosives weren’t directed at police lines, but in the air. The crowd chanting at the politician wasn’t protesting, but cheering. An international movement that has become very good at licking its wounds was learning to celebrate.

In fact, with perhaps 10% of the people at the rally coming from outside Greece, this was very much a party for the European left ― in the beer, loud music and dancing sense of the word.

But also, of course, in the political sense of the word. So when I say that SYRIZA's victory is in a sense the first green government in Europe, I don't just mean Greens.

Because SYRIZA is essentially a merger between most of the left-wing parties in Greece, most left parties in Europe can reasonably see it as their sister. For a couple of years now, it has been the archetypal party of the European left.

Green government?

Having said that, there is a remarkable extent to which SYRIZA is in practice a Green government. First, the Greek Greens ― Ecologist Greens ― is a part of the SYRIZA coalition ― it got one MP elected, who was promptly promoted to deputy environment minister.

Second, as Kostas Lukeris, a member of the Ecologist Greens ruling council put it to me over souvlaki on Syntagma Square on the day of the vote “they adopted all of our platform”.

Look through the policy commitments of Alexis Tsipras’ government and the manifestos of British Green parties, and you’ll find little to separate them.

Some of these similarities are unsurprising, and could be found within the platform of most contemporary parties of the left ― rejecting austerity, opposition to privatisation and corporate domination of politics.

Some of the similarities are on issues which haven’t always united the left, but which tend to today ― feminism, anti-racism, LGBTIQ rights and environmentalism, unfortunately seen in the past by some from the socialist tradition as “distractions” from the class struggle.

But not for SYRIZA ― whose colours are green and purple as well as red, indicating that they are proud feminists and environmentalists as well as socialists.

I could go even further: they support decriminalisation of drugs, cutting military expenditure and the introduction of direct democracy in some areas. They have already scrapped two of the tiers of school exams.

These are not policies universally supported across the left, but are found in Green manifestos across Europe.

Then there are a few issues on which the original SYRIZA coalition needed to be pushed. When the Greens discussed merging into the broader party, they first published a list of 21 demands ― policies SYRIZA would have to adopt in order to get their support.

The list includes independence from fossil fuels within 20 years, addressing desertification by supporting forests, protection of fisheries; participatory processes in public services, equal treatment of the islands in what they see as an over-centralised state.

SYRIZA accepted every one of the policies.

[Abridged from Adam Ramsey is a green activist based in England.]

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