On 25 January 2015, Syriza, the radical Left coalition lead by Alexis Tsipras, won a historic election victory winning just two seats shy of an absolute majority in the Greek parliament. As Etienne Balibar observed at the time:
“This is the first time that any popular force has proven able to pose a challenge to the ‘governance’ that has dominated Europe ever since the ‘neoliberal’ turn. This rupture is taking place in a ‘small country’, but the Greek experience has its echoes everywhere."
The election was won on the back of a campaign that promised to renegotiate the terms of the country's bailout by the European Union, in stark contrast to Northern European ideology of austerity. Syriza's election win sent shockwaves throughout the international money markets, with the European Central Bank implementing credit controls on Greek banks, restricting its cash flows and making prohibitively expensive for those banks to access capital. After months of negotiations between Greece and its creditors, there has been an impasse, with Germany and its Northern European aliies unyielding despite extensive concessions given by Syriza on the conditions of its €8bn austerity package.
On 27 June, Tsipras called a referendum to decide whether or not to accept the bailout conditions given by the EU. It is a gutsy decision that took much of the world by surprise. A 'No' vote would galvanise Syriza and give it a public mandate to bolster its position against the country's creditors, whereas having its own subjects voting 'Yes' to extensive cuts would deliver perhaps the punishing final blow to any credible alternative to austerity in the Eurozone.
With this in mind, we bring you an essential reading list that aims charts the trajectory of Syriza from its origins as a loose coalition on the fringes of Greek politics to being the only credible party on the European Left that is openly fighting back against the violent ideology of austerity.
What follows is an extract from Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.
Farmer, day laborer, 32
Born in Bethlehem, West Bank
Interviewed in the West Bank
[Editors] The first thing we notice as we drive to Laith Al-Hlou’s home southeast of Bethlehem is the challenge presented by the roads. Some roads are almost too steep to climb, and others almost too muddy or rocky to navigate. The bottom of our car crunches and scrapes as we creep along toward his village. Eventually we reach the compound where Laith lives with his family. Laith’s house, the family’s olive trees, and two other houses belonging to his extended family are surrounded by a short rock wall topped with barbed wire. When we pull up in our car, a dozen or more kids come spilling out to greet us—Laith’s children and nieces and nephews. Some wear cracked plastic shoes, some wear no shoes at all. Laith is a skinny thirty-two-year-old with a wife and five young kids. The seven of them sleep in a twelve-foot by twelve-foot room that includes a wardrobe, a crib for the baby, and twin bunk beds piled with blankets. This is the main room of the family’s living space. They also have a small kitchen and toilet, all of which is on the second floor, above a chicken coop.
After a tour of his house, we sit with Laith on plastic chairs outside, and he tells us about the ways his community has changed since 1996, when Israeli settlers first moved near his home. His wife stays close by, and even though she is hard of hearing, she interjects periodically with her own stories. Laith is one of up to 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C—the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank that is still under full military and administrative control of Israel following the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993.1 Area C also contains many of the West Bank’s Israeli settlements, a collection of villages established by Israeli citizens following the occupation of the region in 1967. Today, there are 400,000–500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank outside of Jerusalem. The guard tower of a nearby settlement looms above Laith’s property as we sit and talk. He tears up as he tells us that pressure from the settlements may force him to someday relocate his family.