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.
Continuing our series of blogs on the UK General Election, today we bring you an extract from Peter Mair's Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy. Peter Mair was one of the leading political scientists of his generation before his death in 2011. Posthumously published, Ruling the Void offers Mair's chilling diagnosis of the EU and the slowly eroding mass democratic politics of Europe since the 1970s. Perfect reading before you cast your vote!
The age of party democracy has passed. Although the parties themselves remain, they have become so disconnected from the wider society, and pursue a form of competition that is so lacking in meaning, that they no longer seem capable of sustaining democracy in its present form. Ruling the Void is about this problem. It deals with the problem of parties, of governments and of political representation in contemporary European democracy, and stems from a wider concern with the fracturing politics of popular democracy. It deals with how the changing character of political parties impacts upon their standing, legitimacy, and effectiveness, and thereby also on the standing, legitimacy and effectiveness of modern democracy. Although focused on Europe, and highlighting problems that are of particular relevance to Europe, the implications of the argument run much more widely.