Workers around the world took hope from the radical left party Syriza’s victory in Greek elections. But weeks later that hope is wearing thin.
Syriza signed up to a compromise with Europe’s rulers which falls short of its most moderate aims.
For the mainstream media, the moral is that it’s not worth trying to take on the bosses and bankers.
The debate on the left is almost as gloomy. For some it’s a sellout. For others there was no chance of getting anything better.
To workers in Britain, it’s a familiar disappointment.
How many times have union leaders built up strikes only to sign some shoddy deal? How often are we told to swallow our disappointment with Labour—or the Scottish National Party—or risk getting something worse?
Socialists standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Britain and Antarsya in Greece argue that something better is still possible. And it is.
Differences between left and right wing politicians matter. So do negotiations between the Greek government and its creditors.
But they’re far from the most important part of the picture.
The one force that can liberate humanity is the working class.
Working class life can feel like a series of humiliating reminders that we are powerless.
Where and how we live is dictated by what the market has to offer. If we step out of line we’re demonised or repressed.
Fundamentally, our survival depends on selling our ability to work for whoever will hire us.
But look at this situation from the bosses’ point of view.
Our rulers depend on using our labour to generate profits.
Without workers to exploit, banks’ wheezes and the politicians’ manoeuvres come to nothing.
This divide between workers and bosses lies at the heart of the system—and the fight against it. As the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg put it, “Where the chains of capitalism are forged, there they must be broken.”
Bosses trying to divide us, terrify us or buy us off is a recognition of our potential power.
They know they’d be finished if they couldn’t keep us down.
Those who try to help workers by winning office or carrying out individual direct actions can be important allies. But they are up against a system they can’t break. US socialist Hal Draper called this “socialism from above”.
In contrast, “socialism from below” recognises Karl Marx’s argument that “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”.
Strikes and mass demonstrations open the door to a glimpse of workers’ strength.
Any hope of socialism must come from pushing it open.