Trying some more to get through writing block.
This article – ‘The End of TINA‘ – by Peter Bratsis in Jacobin is well worth reading. It provides strong reasons to support Syriza and a pretty powerful critique of Syriza’s (ultra) left critics. Neverthless, I don’t (or don’t think I) agree with the underpinning idea that Syriza ‘is not as radical as we would want’ and that supporting it is a necessary sort of trimming of our political sails under current conditions.
In his fantastic book, Socialist Reasoning, the late Andrew Collier argues (drawing on the radically anti-utopian elements of Marx’s thought) that the purpose of socialists should not be conceived as the ‘establishment of socialism’ – that is a utopian mode of thinking that focuses on the inadequacy of existing society when measured against a transcendent and external standard. Rather the purpose should be to implement practical measures designed to improve conditions, concretely in the here and now, for the oppressed. Thus the primary focus of a “workers’ government” should be on the provision of jobs, decent housing and so on not the ‘realisation of socialism’ or the establishment of ‘another world’. In this sense Eduard Bernstein was right that ‘the goal is nothing [and it is literally nothing – a vision is nothing], the movement is everything’ – it is just that (what Bernstein didn’t see) any major and determined attempt to achieve these short-term improvements will tend to run up against the logic of capitalism and must push beyond it.
For me it’s precisely the ‘modesty’ of Syriza’s demands – the fact that they correspond to immediate needs of Greeks (an end to austerity, provision of free electricity, subsidised food and rents) – that makes Syriza’s programme radical in a real sense. I’ve no time for (abstract, hand-waving, never spelt out) demands (on whom?) for SOCIALISM NOW! It’s clear that the determined and consistent implementation of these ‘common sense’ policies (which are eminently sensible, modest demands for basic human dignity) will bring the reform process into progressively sharper conflict with the economic order in a way that the most abstractly ‘radical’ of programmes never could – because these latter programmes are mostly hot air – castles in the sky – with no significant political purchase.