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SYRIZA's Metamorphosis as Seen by The Turkish Left: A Critique of Leftism without Economics and Class Analysis

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Abstract

SYRIZA' was like a magical word for the Turkish left and those hopeful for a leftist government in Turkey in 2015. 'SYRIZA' was the secret formula for the success of the left, a model to be followed to take over the government. Just like SYRIZA, the Turkish left had to be united and form a front-like organization. Thus, SYRIZA's pro-capital, pro-IMF and pro-establishment tendencies and activities were not noticed earlier among some of the Turkish left factions and its sympathizers and were hard to be accepted. SYRIZA had brought hope for the Turkish left, but then left its legacy as a symbol of disillusionment. However, it may not be true that the Turkish left drew its lessons from SYRIZA's symbolic and de facto shift. It appears that romanticism and idealizations are part of the identity and modus operandi of (at least some factions of) the Turkish left although it is claimed to be otherwise. In this article, views of various Turkish leftist writers on SYRIZA are presented, analyzed and discussed.
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SYRIZA’s Metamorphosis as Seen by The
Turkish Left: A Critique of Leftism without
Economics and Class Analysis
By Ulas Basar Gezgin
‘SYRIZA’ was like a magical word for the Turkish left and those hopeful for a leftist
government in Turkey in 2015. ‘SYRIZA’ was the secret formula for the success of the left,
a model to be followed to take over the government. Just like SYRIZA, the Turkish left had
to be united and form a front-like organization. Thus, SYRIZA’s pro-capital, pro-IMF and
pro-establishment tendencies and activities were not noticed earlier among some of the
Turkish left factions and its sympathizers and were hard to be accepted. SYRIZA had
brought hope for the Turkish left, but then left its legacy as a symbol of disillusionment.
However, it may not be true that the Turkish left drew its lessons from SYRIZA’s symbolic
and de facto shift. It appears that romanticism and idealizations are part of the identity
and modus operandi of (at least some factions of) the Turkish left although it is claimed to
be otherwise. In this article, views of various Turkish leftist writers on SYRIZA are
presented, analyzed and discussed.
Keywords: Greece, Left, Mass Media, SYRIZA, Turkey.
Introduction
In this paper, Turkish left‟s perspectives on SYRIZA especially on its
heydays are presented and discussed. As a research methodology, texts on
SYRIZA penned by Turkish leftist writers, movements and parties are surveyed
to identify the main elements of the discussions. It is observed that almost all
factions of Turkish left were euphoric with SYRIZA‟s victory, but that euphoria
would be dismantled soon. But from the very beginning, why had Turkish left as a
whole with notable, but rare exceptions failed to see SYRIZA‟s true nature and
promoted false hopes among their followers? The paper concludes that that is
because of the leftist analyses without reference to the reality of the classes, the
underlying economy and SYRIZA‟s proposed economic policies before its first
victory. In fact this is not endemic to Turkish left. The mainstream left, globally
speaking, reduces its analyses to cultural studies with a focus on self-proclaimed
political identities without considering the infrastructure. The lethal test of left
is in fact its economic policies, not its political views. The paper accordingly
concludes with a number of recommendations for Turkish left which may have
implications for the „global‟ left.
Professor, Duy Tan University, Vietnam.
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SYRIZA: Early Signs
Almost all factions of the Turkish left were quite happy after SYRIZA‟s
January 2015 election victory. The leftist newspapers, journals and websites were
full of articles analyzing SYRIZA‟s success and discussing how the same tactics
could be utilized in Turkey. However, there were exceptions to this festive
atmosphere, especially those affiliated with the Greek communist party and the
Greek leftists other than SYRIZA. Let‟s start with these exceptions.
A cautious essay published before SYRIZA‟s election victory in 2015 (Alpan
2015) was prescient to propose that SYRIZA will possibly win, and discussed
the unrealistic, romanticist and idealizing atmosphere of some factions of the
Turkish left. Doubting the revolutionary and leftist character of SYRIZA even
before the election, Alpan (2015) successfully chronicles deradicalization of the
critical discourses of SYRIZA. The examples he focuses on are SYRIZA‟s
discourses on what to do with the Greek debt and whether Greece would continue
to be a member of NATO. Alpan (2015) wishes that SYRIZA would win, as he
thinks that that is the way to show the reactionary character of reformism to
people. Of course this understanding refers to Marxist idea of „the deepening of
the conflict‟.
Alpan‟s cautiousness, prescience and SYRIZA-skepticism can be dated
back to 2012. In Alpan (2012), after presenting a brief history of the Greek left,
he claims that SYRIZA‟s radical rhetoric in no way matches its program and
practice. Alpan (2012) also reminds the people that SYRIZA is not a new
movement and reminds the readers of the deteriorated left alliances and coalitions
in previous decades. According to Alpan (2012), even in 2012 SYRIZA was
signing deals to reduce workers‟ wages for austerity. He draws our attention to
the fact that even in 2010, SYRIZA‟s policy of alliance did not preclude fascist
parties against Greek Communist Party. Ahmet Insel, a self-proclaimed left-
leaning liberal writer claims that 7 months in power was sufficient for SYRIZA
to turn from a radical left party to a reformist one (Insel 2015a), while he was
hopeful and expecting a domino effect just before the January 2015 elections
(Insel 2015b). However, Alpan (2012)‟s elaborate depiction of SYRIZA‟s
„notorious past‟ testifies that the warning signs were visible far earlier than widely
known. In fact, SYRIZA‟s pre-victory policies offered clear evidence for its future
metamorphosis. A shorter but equally reasonable essay warning the likely
sympathizers of SYRIZA prior to January 2015 elections was offered by Onur
Devrim Üçbaş. Üçbaş (2015) briefly compares SYRIZA and Podemos and claims
that sooner or later they will feel the pressure of the crossroad of changing sides.
As both movements get massified and popularized their revolutionary discourse
cools down to the extent that the final version looks like any other reformist party.
In another essay penned after 2012 elections by Foti Benlisoy, one of the
leading commentators on the Greek left movements, it was stated that SYRIZA
is far from clear about a number of vital issues such as debt, nationalization and
European Union (Benlisoy 2012). On the other hand, he also cricitized the Greek
Communist Party for sectarian policies and inability to formulate a relevant
political program. Metin Çulhaoğlu from HTKP, a splinter group of the Turkish
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Communist Party
1
and Fatih Polat from Evrensel newspaper
2
were more cautious
right after the January 2015 elections. Çulhaoğlu didn‟t reject SYRIZA outright
and talked about historical possibilities while Fatih Polat favors a critical but
not a skeptical attitude towards SYRIZA (Çulhaoğlu and Polat 2015). Meanwhile,
Kemal Okuyan, one of the leading communist politicians was quick to call
SYRIZA as a fake leftist government right after the January 2015 elections
(Okuyan 2015).
Benlisoy appears to be more hopeful just before January 2015 elections
(Benlisoy 2015a) and thereafter (Benlisoy 2015b). He would be saying that at
least a party that challenges neo-liberalism and austerity measures would be in
power and that SYRIZA‟s victory could be a catalyzer for anti-neo-liberal
social movements. Benlisoy who had criticized SYRIZA earlier believed in a
domino effect in 2015. Nevertheless Benlisoy identifies the dramatical changes
in SYRIZA‟s discourse in recent years. He notices the increasing number of
people saying that SYRIZA becomes another PASOK, but he thinks that such a
position (i.e. acting like PASOK) can‟t be kept for long. Benlisoy draws our
attention to the fact that SYRIZA becomes more like a leadership-oriented party
rather than an organization with strong grassroots ties.
According to Yeşiltepe (2015) who occupies the middle position, sometimes
negotiation and bargaining may be necessary for ultimate success. Sometimes
revolutionary movements need to unite forces. Yeşiltepe is in the opinion that a
new leftist government can‟t do nationalization the day after. He thinks that
Soviet Union collapsed because of this mentality. However, the essay includes
a number of unanswered questions and conditional statements (what if sentences)
that didn‟t ultimately work that way. In contrast to Alpan, Benlisoy and Savran,
Yeşiltepe asks the readers to wait more to see whether SYRIZA is „in treason‟ or
in tactical retreat on July 2015. Obviously, this is quite late to decide.
In his column after the January 2015 elections, Ergin Yıldızoğlu, a prominent
Marxist economist and writer blamed the Greek left which did not support
SYRIZA. Greece was lucky that SYRIZA won without their support and he asks
“but what if their non-support would lead to the victory of a conservative party?”
(Yıldızoğlu 2015) According to him, non-SYRIZA left‟s voter base was 5-6%
only; so their campaign was negligible. It looks like he implicates the Greek
Communist Party. Obviously, Yıldızoğlu was another victim of short-sighted
thinking about SYRIZA.
Why could some factions of the Turkish left had more reasonable predictions?
That is because they have been either affiliated with or active followers of the
Greek left other than SYRIZA such as the Greek Communist Party and/or
ANTARSYA. For example, Bolşevik website translated and published an
interview with an ANTARSYA member criticizing SYRIZA (Skoufoglou 2015).
1
HTKP is the acronym for People‟s Turkish Communist Party.
2
As of 2017, 3 leftist dailies („Cumhuriyet‟, „Evrensel‟ and „Birgün‟, listed in order by their
foundation dates) are published in Turkey in contrast to tens of mainstream and pro-government
newspapers. One can also consider to add „Özgürlükçü Demokrasi‟, the Kurdish daily in Turkish
language to this list.
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SYRIZA: PASOK 2.0
Munzam (2016a) states that SYRIZA turned out to be PASOK 2.0 with its
policies serving the bosses and draws the readers‟ attention to the fact that
SYRIZA and its far right coalition partner have no difference in terms of what
to do about the Greek crisis. Both are supporting an economic model based on
investments and exports and of course, austerity measures. Why do the Greek
and foreign bosses like SYRIZA? According to Munzam (2016a), that is because
of the fact that SYRIZA resumed the pro-capital, anti-labor policies from
where its predecessors could not dare. Greek workers have already lost some
portions of their salaries since SYRIZA took power. SYRIZA also kept the
minimum wage as it is which was significantly lowered by its predecessors.
The proposal by the Greek Communist Party to return to past minimum wage
level was rejected. Munzam (2016a) also points out that in addition to the
unemployment rate, the proportion of the part-time workers over the labor
force has increased during SYRIZA‟s term. Furthermore, purchasing power of
Greek citizens has dramatically decreased. Retirement at grave policy is
implemented by SYRIZA which means retirement age is postponed and pensions
were cut. The number of workers with social security has decreased as well, as
well as their salaries, as stated above.
Munzam (2016b) reports that various sections of the Greek society such as
workers against privatization, students and pensioners are protesting against
SYRIZA. The government response was not different compared to SYRIZA‟s
predecessors. A remarkable point made by Munzam (2016b) is the fact that
Greek people, although protesting, although in great rage against SYRIZA feel
hopelesnees as SYRIZA had been promoted as the „ultimate solution‟.
Defections from SYRIZA and Grexit
Prominent former SYRIZA members are featured in the Turkish left
publications. For instance, Özgürlük (Freedom) Magazine published the
translation of an interview with one of the leading voices of the leftist opposition
within SYRIZA (the Left Platform) Costas Lapavitsas that originally appeared on
Jacobinmag (Lapavitsas 2017a, 2017b). This translated interview was also
reprinted on one of the leading online news sites, Gazete Duvar (Lapavitsas
2017c). According to Lapavitsas, the solution for the „Greek crisis‟ was exiting the
European Monetary Union and reinstating the former national currency, the
drachma. While the metamorphosis of SYRIZA according to Munzam (2016b) is
due to the fundamentally wrong assumption that the solution would be found in
reforming capitalism rather than replacing it, Lapavitsas identification of the main
problem with SYRIZA is naturally more nuanced:
The problem with Syriza, however, was not its methods, but its strategy. They
did not understand what Europe was about, how implacable the lenders were.
Above all, they did not understand that the only way to combat the enormous
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power of the European Central Bank over the availability of liquidity in the
economy was to produce a national currency. There was no other option for a
left government. I told Tsipras this in private conversation but he did not want
to hear it, for that would have involved a real break with the institutions of the
European Union. And a break was not what he wanted by training,
disposition, and political outlook.” (Lapavitsas 2017)
Lapavitsas thinks that „the Greek crisis‟ is similar to the Latin American
debt crises, however a closer comparison could be with the German crisis after
the 1st World War. On this occasion, he hints that the situation may bolster
Nazi-like equivalents and rise of a new Hitler in Greece. Same warning is voiced
by Benlisoy (2012) who points out the popular rise of the fascist movement
(„Golden Dawn‟) in Greece.
Another interview with a former SYRIZA member was the one that appeared
on daily Evrensel. In the interview with Panagiotis Lafazanis, the former minister
of productive reconstruction, environment and energy and the leader of the
Popular Unity, a group that emerged out of SYRIZA forming the Left Platform,
SYRIZA was designated as a traitor for Greek people (Koşar 2016). Lafazanis
agrees with Lapavitsas about the solution: Grexit and Drachma. According to
Lafazanis, by the new deals with the troika, Greece is increasingly colonized
(Koşar 2016). In addition to Grexit and Drachma plans, he proposes to cancel
the Greek debts and nationalization of the banks. Being part of the European
Union, Lafazanis continues, brings neo-liberal policies as default (Evrensel 2016).
However, Tsipras does not view Grexit as a viable solution. According to
him, it is not a progressive plan and it would bring worse consequences for Greek
people (Aldoğan 2016). Of course, Tsipras lost credibility long time ago; so Grexit
is still the only option not tried. In the near future, it won‟t be surprising to see that
an increasing number of Greek citizens would vote for Grexit and Drachma.
Although the troika was said to be blackmailing the Greek government with
Grexit, it also appears to be the only „trump‟ card or bargaining tool the
government has. However, SYRIZA precluded this possibility since its election
campaign. Birdal (2015) briefly discusses the implications of Grexit. It would
not only turn out to be one of the new episodes of the dismantlement process of
the European Union, but Greece would be closer with Russia, due to cultural
and historical ties which would not be an outcome that European hegemons
would be fond of. Thus it appears that the barganing character of Grexit reigns
supreme over its blackmailing function. It may well be a future possibility that
Russia and/or China would be involved in restructuring of the Greek debts.
China is especially notable, as the Chinese government designated and bought
Piraeus Port as the gateway to Europe on its giant project to revive the Silk
Road (Kolasa-Sikiaridi 2017, Mathews 2017, Putten 2016). In that sense, Greece
is not without alternatives (cf. Kampanis 2017).
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SYRIZA, HDP and ÖDP
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Dimostenis Yağcıoğlu claimed that people in Turkey were excited about
SYRIZA‟s victory, that is why they exeggerated the party, and expected that
people would have a more reasonable understanding of SYRIZA soon (Dede
2015). That was truly the case in Turkey. There are 4 major political parties in
Turkey in terms of voter base: AKP is the pro-Islamic party in power. CHP is a
mass party comprising secular, centrist, left etc. elements. HDP is the Kurdish
party, aiming to be inclusive of liberal and left groups as well as minorities,
while MHP is the Turkish nationalist party. Strangely enough, some mainstream
rightist writers also likened SYRIZA‟s success to that of AKP (Benlisoy 2015b),
as both got popular due to economic crisis. In fact, MHP is the only major
party that was not used for comparison, while CHP was also compared with
SYRIZA on other occasions. As Benlisoy (2015b) elaborately puts it, various
Turkish political actors approached SYRIZA‟s victory instrumentally, rather
than aiming at truly understanding what was happening in Greece. They were
in competition to pose as the “SYRIZA of Turkey”.
Especially June 7th election (2015) which led to a short-term victory for
HDP and again the short-term defeat of the incumbent government (AKP)
allowed more people to draw parallels between HDP and SYRIZA. Although
the Kurdish movement formed the backbone of HDP, it offered a uniting
umbrella for various factions of the Turkish left with candidates from various
leftist groups. SYRIZA as well was a united movement. Other than this point,
the comparison was completely unfounded. For one thing, SYRIZA was not a
party that emerged out of a national (minority) question. Secondly, the vote
percentage of SYRIZA was quite higher than that of HDP. Furthermore, SYRIZA
had no public image that is associated with blind terrorism as has been the case
with HDP. Finally, the motivation for the voters to vote for SYRIZA and HDP
were completely different: SYRIZA won due to anti-European sentiment in
Greece and the economic situation while HDP won due to the regular Kurdish
voter base and sizeable add-ons from leftists and liberals that hoped and expected
that HDP could distance itself from or even condemn the deadly violence in the
ongoing Kurdish war.
SYRIZA‟s message supporting HDP bolstered this unlikely comparison.
Consequently, HDP and its followers were the last to get off the train of SYRIZA
clappers.
4
Another reason for this belatedness was the fact that HDP did not have a
clear economic model. Politics had prevailed over the economy. There was no
consensus about which economic model would be pursued. In fact a leading
SYRIZA politician considered HDP rather than Kemalist CHP to be closer to
SYRIZA since “they support the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, they are
sensitive to gender issues and they have a pluralist perspective of the society
(Kanellopoulos, 2015) which naturally does not intend to draw any parallels in
3
ÖDP is the abbreviation for Freedom and Solidarity Party.
4
Even on a date as late as October 2016, HDP was still sending his representatives to SYRIZA‟s
2nd Congress (Aldoğan, 2016). Demirtaş, the co-head of HDP had a speech in this congress, still
claiming that SYRIZA was HDP‟s brother party (Aldoğan, 2016).
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their economic models. Contrary to the attitudes of the Turkish left factions
supporting not only political socialism, but also economical socialism, for
HDP, SYRIZA‟s economic policies did not matter much.
With a similar perspective, Polat notes that HDP was more democracy- and
identity-oriented while SYRIZA was more labor- and economically-oriented
(Çulhaoğlu and Polat 2015). Polat also mentions the parallelisms drawn between
Haziran Hareketi (the June Movement), a movement formed by various
organizations that joined Gezi Park protests, but states that not all of the
constituents of the movement was in favor of SYRIZA, as the movement also
included parties affiliated with Greek Communist Party. On the other hand, HDP
was not alone in his support for SYRIZA. ÖDP, a tiny socialist party that was
originally formed as an umbrella of various leftist movements was another party
that considered SYRIZA as his brother. In fact they are as fellow members of the
Party of the European Left. Oğuzhan Müftüoğlu, a leader of one of the largest
leftist movements in Turkish history even stated: “We are SYRIZA” (Müftüoğlu
2015a). He is among those who subscribed to the domino effect which didn‟t
come true. He claimed that the success of SYRIZA could be replicated in Turkey
through Haziran Hareketi (Müftüoğlu 2015b) which was refuted by recent events.
Anybody Still Supporting SYRIZA?
Mustafa Yalçıner, one of the leaders of Turkish 68 was critical about the
Turkish „liberal left‟ which hailed the rise of SYRIZA as a model for Turkey
(Yalçıner 2015). He attributed SYRIZA‟s success to its exploitation of the anti-
capitalist sentiments of the Greek masses. According to him, the fact that SYRIZA
was not willing to exit EU or even Eurozone was indicative of its petite
bourgeoisie character from the very beginning. Superficial observances such as
„governing without ties‟ and refusing to swear by religion were falsely considered
as signs of progress. However, as stated above when we discussed SYRIZA with
regard to HDP, the true class character of SYRIZA would emerge in its economic
policies which were not radical at all according to Yalçıner. He is also critical of
the leftists in SYRIZA. He was surprised to see that SYRIZA MPs opposing
Tsipras‟ bills form a minority.
It is highly likely that those who sticked to SYRIZA despite of submissive
politics kept their posts due to careerism. The cool seat of the government is so
sweet. Why would anybody resign from a minister post if s/he is driven by
personal ambitions? On the other hand, the Popular Unity could not enter the
parliament with 2.86% of the votes on September 2015 election. SYRIZA‟s
losses were minimal, which was also surprising (Aldoğan 2015a). Maybe it
was too early to be hopeful for the rise of the Popular Unity which had a very
short time to prepare for the elections. They may win in the next election. Let
us also note that the turnout rate was quite low (56.6%) which shows a decline
compared to January 2015 election (63.6%). These figures are thought to
reflect the widespread feeling of hopelessness among the Greek citizens
(Benlisoy 2015b, Çetinkaya 2015). The Greek Communist Party (KKE) would
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likely to rise due to the disillusionments of SYRIZA. The party now is able to gain
ground by claiming that KKE is the only party truly against the troika (Aldoğan
2015a). Benlisoy (2015) reflects on the possibility of SYRIZA forming a coalition
with KKE rather than the far right. He thinks this possibility was not fully explored
and exploited by both sides.
The question Yalçıner asks in the title of his column is meaningful: “Anybody
Still Supporting SYRIZA?” However, some other Evrensel columnists are not as
cautious as Yalçıner: For example, Imrek compares SYRIZA with Kobanê, and
with euphoria names both as „revolutionary development‟ (Imrek 2015). He
claims that by SYRIZA and Kobanê victories, humanity had two gates to hope
and victory, one in Europe, another in the Middle East (Imrek 2015). However,
let us also note that those who misinterpreted SYRIZA is not only some factions
of the Turkish left, but also some groups of European and American left, as Petras
explains (Petras 2015).
Taner Timur and Sungur Savran: The Missing Links
Taner Timur, one of the greateast historians of the Turkish left surprised to
see SYRIZA‟s self-confidence after January 2015 victory about the Greek debt.
He thinks that they just inherited a wreckage that is quite hard to manage (Timur
2015). Timur provides an account of SYRIZA and the Greek crisis from a Marxist
class perspective which is rare among the works about SYRIZA in Turkey. He
states that the Greek crisis is due to a handful of ruling families that reaped
enormous profits from privatization and by other means. They are Greek families,
which means the roots of the Greek crisis is in the Greek oligarchs before
European Union. The money borrowed from the troika is at the hands of these
oligarchs, not at the hands of Greek people. Thus the solution had to be sought in
heavily taxing oligarchs in the short term and remove class-based society in the
long term. Grexit and Drachma would be the very first steps for true solutions for a
crisis due to the usurpation of the public resources by the Greek oligarchs. As
James Petras explains, there has been no way to bail out Greece by paying the
debts incurred by the kleptocracts without radical measures (Petras 2015). Even
acceptance of this debt as Greek people‟s debt and negotiating the terms to pay
back are wrong in principle. In that sense, SYRIZA‟s term aggravated the situation
not only due to the new and worse submissions to the troika, but also due to the
fact that the kleptocrats were allowed to keep and transfer their illegal assets
abroad (Petras 2015).
Timur‟s discussion reminds us the strange fact that most of Turkish leftist
columnists think that they are doing a Marxist analysis of SYRIZA and the Greek
crisis, but in fact they are not. There is no class reference in their discussions. That
matches Ihsan Çaralan‟s (the chief columnist of Evrensel Daily) warning: He said
that after SYRIZA‟s victory, some will run socialist analyses without referring to
the notion of class (Çaralan 2015). Without class analysis, it is easy to understand
why some factions of the Turkish left failed to grasp the true character of SYRIZA
from the very beginning.
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The author of these words (Gezgin) has been skeptical of SYRIZA for a
long time. That was because of his readings of Sungur Savran‟s essays (e.g.
Savran 2015) about the matter.
5
Savran had warned the readers about the
possibility that SYRIZA may easily and quickly move to the capitalist camp.
This move is hinted, according to Savran, by SYRIZA‟s belief that economic
problems of Greece can be and will be solved by keeping to be a part of the
European Monetary Union. A more blatant sign of this likely move could be
seen in the fact that SYRIZA had no program to build socialism (Aldoğan
2015b, Savran 2015). According to Savran, as we saw the emergence and rise
of a fresh movement like SYRIZA, we may also see that of a new truly Marxist
movement in the future. Thus, SYRIZA as Savran states, is not an absolute
political agent to reckon on. Class struggle is dynamic; which means subjective
as well as objective conditions will change. SYRIZA may disappear in the near
future to pave the way for another movement in this extraordinary period of
Greek history. Extreme times will lead to the formation of extreme leaders as
well as extreme movements.
In Gezgin (2015) where SYRIZA‟s metamorphosis was called as „Frankestei-
nization, the following were proposed for why SYRIZA could not be considered
as a leftist movement:
- Without an economic model or without designation of an economically
socialist model, whether a party is a socialist or not is a moot issue.
- On July, SYRIZA had removed leftist cabinet members.
- An aggressive and tragical continuity between how SYRIZA and its
predecessors treat protestors was to be noted.
- SYRIZA‟s preference for a far right partner to form coalition rather than
tiny leftist parties is questionable. A member of the coalition partner was
appointed for National Defense Ministry which could be considered as a
key post for nationalist politics.
- SYRIZA‟s minister of finance was not a Marxist, he was a Keynesian
which aimed to reform capitalism by government intervention.
- By SYRIZA‟s support, Prokopis Pavlopoulos who was the Minister of the
Interior when Alexis (Alexandros Grigoropoulos) was killed was
appointed as the president of Greece (still in this position).
Thus, there were notable signs pointing out SYRIZA‟s fast and forward
metamorphosis, but this was ignored by Turkish left factions. This ignorance is
also fed by the fact that none of the major parties in Turkish politics is socialist or
even defines itself as leftist. CHP, the second party in the parliament is the
founding party which oscillates between nationalism, etatism, social democracy
and political protectionism, while HDP, the third party is an umbrella organization
led by the Kurdish movement and supported by tiny little leftist parties and
factions. The way they interpret SYRIZA and situate themselves vis-à-vis
SYRIZA is unsurprisingly affected by the characteristics of their organizational
5
Of course, that doesn‟t mean that they (both Savran and Gezgin) would be fail-proof in future
occasions.
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structure. That was another reason for Turkish left‟s euphoria over SYRIZA‟s
victory. Economic policies of CHP is based on IMF-styled social democracy
(which is obviously contradiction in terms) and those of HDP is based on
liberalism without identifying the real sources of economic exploitation and
oppression.
Conclusion
Some of the Turkish left factions were quite euphoric after SYRIZA‟s victory,
as the result, they thought, confirmed the fact that leftist ideology was still the
hope for humanity. They expected a Lenin, but Tsipras turned out to be a
Kerensky in his attempt to save and restore the status quo. They even expected a
butterfly effect ultimately sweeping Turkey on the way (e.g. Ünker 2015). In fact,
this was not only Turkish leftists‟ wishful thinking, it was also the nightmare of the
financiers (Ünker 2015). A likely Grexit was expected to drive the final nail in
European Union‟s coffin. 2 years after what they wrote, it is somewhat surprising
to see that some of the essays about SYRIZA were removed from Turkish left
factions‟ websites. It looks like they ultimately understood that they were wrong.
But will they draw relevant lessons for future look-alikes of SYRIZA in Turkey, in
Greece or anywhere else applicable? That is the billion-drachma question.
The way to accommodate SYRIZA‟s metamorphosis can‟t be removing pro-
SYRIZA articles penned by the Turkish leftists. They should stay as they are. A
better way is self-criticism, acknowledgment of the fact that analyses can
sometimes be wrong, and identication of the source of the problem which is
leftism without economics and class analysis. Another way is to form close ties
with the political organizations of the world to receive more accurate information
and commentary. As discussed before, the Turkish leftist factions which were right
about SYRIZA from the very beginning either had close ties with the Greek left or
conducted class analysis referring to the economic policies of SYRIZA.
Particularism as to SYRIZA would be another error to avoid. The source of the
wrong analyses among some factions of the Turkish left is not peculiar to the
matter of SYRIZA, it is endemic and universal.
To conclude, the Turkish left needs class analysis referring to economic
relations rather than self-proclaimed political designations (e.g. „Radical Left
Party‟) and closer ties with the international left. Drawing lessons from the errors
committed in analyzing SYRIZA will help the Turkish left to be less fallible in the
future which may help to analyze the situations correctly which in turn can
increase the likelihood of an emergence of a strong leftist movement with large
masses of supporters in Turkey.
Athens Journal of Mediterranean Studies
XY
11
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