Rebuilding social power from the ground up

Interesting strategic reflections from Andreas Karitzis, one of the people who left Syriza after it signed the austerity agreement. Interview by Jacobin magazine.

The following insights come very close to the p2p approach:

“Many are gradually coming to understand that it’s not possible to change our basic coordinates without exploring new ways of creative social mobilization. There are many in Greece who are ready for this (and I don’t mean only those who left Syriza). What we need is to find ways to make this more widespread within society.

This is the only way to truly liberate ourselves — whether by staying in the eurozone with a degree of autonomy or leaving the eurozone with a degree of autonomy. Independently of what we may think is the right decision in terms of the currency, we must make sure first that we have the power to carry out our plans under the severe pressure of elites. For this, we need new organizational forms, political imagination, and methodology, and that’s what we are trying to invent and figure out.

* The first half of 2015 in Greece showed just how strong the interests of capital are across Europe. How do you reconcile your strategy with the crippling power of elites? How do you reconcile the big international forces at the official political level with action at the most local level?

According to my understanding of our situation, it’s not that there isn’t enough space for alternative politics. What we need most is to increase our real power. If we had greater power, we could use electoral politics and a left government to initiate a process of liberating our society.

The Greek experience teaches us that we need to go beyond electoral politics, not against it. We need to have a broader idea of what it means to do politics in the new conditions. We have entered a new era in which our societies are deprived of the right to have access to crucial decisions.

It goes beyond the eurozone, though that is important. Look also at the TTIP and other trade agreements. All these new institutional forms and regulations create a universal problem, but in order to respond universally, we need to fight efficiently on the local level.

My main concern is to grasp and put into action new ways of mobilizing people in order to gradually reclaim control over basic social functions that are local but are today under the control of anti-democratic institutions shaping the ground for our enslavement. Organizing efficiently at the local level allows us to eventually scale up to the European or international level.

* How do you implement this in a very practical way? How do you get over the fear and blackmail that to some extent has been proven effective?

The main problem in Greece, and likely in modern society in general, is not just fear but whether there are organizational and methodological principles to make any mobilization powerful enough to counterbalance the power of elites. Our inherited principles are not adequate to what we need to do today.

The signs of collapse of the standard economical circuit are obvious in Greece but not only here. There is a growing exclusion of people from the economic circuit — having a job or a bank account, having a “normal life.” Modern society in general is in decline.

From history we know that societies in decline tend to react in order to survive. It is up to us to grasp this and start building networks that can perform basic social functions in a different way — one that is democratic, decentralized, and based on the liberation of people’s capacities.

First, this would allow society to survive and give people who are today excluded the means to survive in meaningful ways. Second, this could begin a transition towards a better and mature society.

There are no empty spaces in history, so if we do not do this, the nationalists and fascists — with their militarized way of performing these basic functions — may step in to finish off the decline. In Greece, a left government that implements austerity creates fruitful conditions for the nationalists and fascists to grow, especially in the poorest regions and neighborhoods.

* Finally, what are the lessons for the broader European left from the Greek experience of the first Syriza government?

We now know for a fact (this is not an assessment) that it is not enough to engage in traditional ways of doing politics to reverse our declining course. We must move beyond elections, not against them. We have to combine what we used to do with new elements, and we need new priorities.

Both within society and within the economy, we need to build our own networks that extract people’s capacities and produce real power that can then be used to make meaningful change. That’s a positive lesson from what happened here.

If we think differently, we will realize that we are far stronger than we think. Our established political imagination — which sees the political and social conditions underlying postwar social democracy as not having changed — was wrong.

Things have been changing for years. If we train ourselves to see things differently, we will realize that we are stronger than we think. This is the message for the Left everywhere.”

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