Athens Without Slavery:
The Battle for Europe
Syriza the the New European Left
‘First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin’ – Leonard Cohen
‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take Madrid’ – Syriza with Podemos
‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take London’ – Anti-Austerity UK
‘A Spectre is Haunting Europe…’ – Karl Marx
European Democracy and the Limits of American Hegemony
A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Greek democracy.
We have been here before in Greece, of course… at least four times.
First, there is the celebrated original emergence of democracy millennia ago; second, the Greek War of Liberation from the Turks (1821-1832), immortalised by the poet Bryron; third, the attempt by Leftist partisan organisations (EAM, KKE, ELAS) to form a Provisional Government in 1946 (in the stead of the Right-Monarchist government, returned from exile, and elected in 1946 in elections which the Left had boycotted), but defeated by the intervention of the United States and the United Kingdom, thus beginning the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), which ended with thousands of deaths and Greek membership of NATO; and fourth, the re-emergence of democracy in 1974 after the fall of the US backed military junta installed in the 1967 pre-elections coup d’etat, the so-called ‘General’s Coup’, eventually replaced by the government of exiled Constantine Karamanlis, which put the monarchy up for a referendum, and with its rejection by the people, negotiated a new presidential constitution, and inaugurated the Greek Republic in 1975.
And, now, fifth, with the people’s mandate, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has taken power in Athens – not ironically with the help or participation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), who were re-legalised in 1974 – promising the people of Greece not only the ‘end of austerity’, privatisation, unfair strike laws, among other transformations, but also, and more fundamentally, the end to the system of oligarchy, propped up by seventy years of external intervention and centrist-conservative governance (New Democracy or PASOK).
Indeed, as we have repeatedly seen in recent modern and contemporary histories, democracy, the vote, the pebble (psḗphos) of the people does not often seem sufficient to challenge the hegemonic narrative of the victor of the war of Europe, the United States.