SYRIZA Party in Greek Debt Crisis Shows How Occupy Wall Street Groups Can Change Politics

For the past several weeks election polls have demonstrated that Greece’s left-wing coalition, the anti-bailout SYRIZA party, is likely to win the general elections in June. Previously a relatively insignificant coalition that gained between 4%-5% in general elections, SYRIZA is now expected to win between 21%-28%, gaining exponential importance in Greece’s political playing field and increasing the likelihood that it will become the country’s next governing coalition. Politicians around Europe have been speculating over the effects a SYRIZA victory will have on Greece’s willingness to renegotiate the terms of debt repayment and bailout.

The upsurge in SYRIZA´s popularity has taken place in the context of the global economic crisis, Greece’s surmounting debt, and the influence of the Occupy movement and other resistance movements that have gained influence in Greece as a result of economic hardship. The desperate economic situation has demonstrated to the Greek population that it needs parliamentary politicians that protect their interests as opposed to those of the banks. The victory of the SYRIZA coalition could have widespread consequences for European politics, demonstrating to the world the way in which resistance movements are changing the face of politics as we know it.

On May 25, 2011 Athens´ Syntagmata Square was occupied along with another 60 squares around the country. People stayed occupying the square for two months until Greek riot police entered, declaring the camp illegal, and began forcibly removing the encampment’s infrastructure. According to one Greek professor, the lessons learned during those two months, in which activists organized workshops and major discussions, are what allowed a coalition like SYRIZA to gain in popularity. The people in the square learned communal and democratic thinking, and came to the conclusion that they needed to find parliamentary parties that represent these idea, taking the wisdom from the squares and translating it into parliamentary politics.

SYRIZA, an acronym meaning “Coalition of the Radical Left,” was in the perfect position to gain the support of this widespread and diverse movement. Itself an umbrella organization of the far left, that includes such diverse members as the original Greek communist party (KKE), Eurocommunists, ecologists, and the left-social Democrats, SYRIZA represents both the diversity of the Occupy movement and the anti-austerity sentiment that the movement is calling for. The ability of SYRIZA to gain the votes of everyone from anarchist youth to middle-class and professional workers whose job security has been threatened, to migrants and the urban poor, is what will account for the coalition’s success in June.

The possibility of a SYRIZA victory has politicians around Europe visibly nervous. Many European politicians have even speculated over the possibility of Greece quitting the euro zone if the new government does not wish to comply with the austerity program linked to the 130 billion euro bailout. The Greek population, however, has vehemently demonstrated its anti-austerity convictions through frequent strikes, violent demonstrations and even a public suicide staged in front of parliament. Now it is only left to see if these sentiments will be translated into political change in the June elections, bringing SYRIZA to power for the first time in the country’s history.