Μanos Avgeridis: The long path from… “RED TZATZIKI” to “ANALYZEGREECE!”

Note from the LeftEast editors: this talk of Μanos Avgeridis was given at the session “Diasporic Networks and Social Movements in the Aftermath of Syriza’s Victory” in GCAS-Democracy Rising conference, Athens, 7.2015.

Loukia Kotronaki, Chris Giovνanopoulos, Margarita Tsomou, Modestos Siotos, Despina Lalaki, Katerina Anastasiou, Manos Avgeridis and George Giannakopoulos at the session “Diasporic Networks and Social Movements in the Aftermath of Syriza’s Victory”, GCAS Conference, Athens, 17.7.2015. Photo by Nicholas Evangelos Levis

Loukia Kotronaki, Chris Giovνanopoulos, Margarita Tsomou, Modestos Siotos, Despina Lalaki, Katerina Anastasiou, Manos Avgeridis and George Giannakopoulos at the session “Diasporic Networks and Social Movements in the Aftermath of Syriza’s Victory”, GCAS Conference, Athens, 17.7.2015. Photo by Nicholas Evangelos Levis

I am here on behalf of the editorial board of AnalyzeGreece! –we present “left news and politics”, as it is written on our website– at a time when the dream of the Greek and indeed European left is in quite profound jeopardy.

I will now say a few words about our initiative, one which I am quite sure is relevant to the panel’s subject. Whilst I cannot represent the varying views of every member of the editorial team and our contributors, I do not think that I will express myself only.

AnalyzeGreece! is a very young project, yet, with the thickening of time over the last months, it feels –to me at least– to have existed far longer than, in fact, it has. Certainly, the idea of an Anglophone, politically radical source for news on Greece had existed for some time. As the crisis deepened, and more and more international attention was given to the country, it became clear that the Greek left needed to communicate its own experiences, ideas, and analyses to the wider, global movement: we could no longer leave the English commentary of Kathimerini uncontested. So, we have focused most on translating articles originally written in Greek into English, and on supporting the various actions, interventions and movements that make up the Greek left.

Some words on the first question we asked ourselves. Yes, such a project is necessary; is it possible? At first we were seven people: some from Enthemata, a Sunday supplement of the Avgi newspaper, some from the website Rednotebook, plus friends such as Kostis Karpozilos. We had no budget whatsoever, and were all extremely busy with various under-paid and even non-paid jobs. Still, we had some experience of ‘by the bootstraps’ efforts, having successfully worked together to translate the Occupy Wall Street Journal into Greek. So, first, we re-formed that group of highly competent, volunteer translators, as well as reaching out to our friends and comrades abroad. We have managed to bring together perhaps 90 translators, all working on a volunteer basis; some live in Greece, and others overseas.

We struggled together, and were able to cover the January elections. Now, six months later, we clear-sightedly acknowledge both our weaknesses (for example, we need more articles on gender and culture issues, not only “pure” politics) and our strengths. We have co-operated with so many groups; I mention our relations with Roar magazine and LeftEast in particular, but there are many others such relations, also. We remain, still, without any budget, though we continue to deepen – and to make new – alliances and friendships across the world.

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The name of our website was the idea of our moderator, Giannis Hatzidimitrakis; it took more votes than any other suggestion (to name two less popular options, we considered both Red Tzatziki and Zorba the Left). The name refers, of course, to the American comedy Analyze This!, with its portrayal of the relationship between a psychotherapist and his patient, a mob moss who is struggling to go beyond his life as a Mafiosi. Are radical politics therapeutic, I wonder? Certainly, both psychoanalysis and politics take dreams seriously.

So, is the «dream» for Syriza over? After the prime minister’s interview on Tuesday, I realized, more clearly than before, that if that is how Syriza will now discuss and practice politics  –and I’m not saying that it will necessarily do so– our project, if it is not entirely ended, has developed into a new and dangerous phase.

Tsipras said, as I understood him, that in these difficult circumstances the only choice is for Syriza to become a Centre-Left Party, that is, one without any radical identity. Must it deliver a neoliberal program crueler than even the previous two? Must we, as Tsipras seemed to say, simply resign ourselves to ‘realism’ (in the same way that this realism has been described by the previous governments as well), hoping for something better than the current power balances within the EU? Let me be clear, I don’t think that there is an easy answer to these questions. Reliable alternatives don’t exist yet.

But, in any case, if that is indeed what Syriza is now arguing for, we appear to me to be faced with three choices

Our first choice is to adapt to the new situation; we must accept the painful distance between what we believe and what we do. And perhaps, the only thing to have changed will be our selves.

Our second choice is to remain with the party, though at the margins, perhaps working to maintain its radicalism via connections with social movements; that is, to follow the Anglo-American model of political radicalism

Third, we can decide that the dream of the Left Government is over, for now, and so return to being “the opposition”. We will be out of office, though at least we will not suffer that painful distance between belief and deed, between our hopes and our actions.

Each of those three would mark the collapse of a hope-filled, pluralistic, and indeed powerful movement. We must not be forced to choose between them: so, how to go beyond them? Of course, we must do many things (and surely not create new fairytales around a liberating Grexit or new saviors). I will refer now to only one of those things, one that is related both to AnalyzeGreece! and to the subject of the panel. Diasporic networks and international social movements have played an important role at crucial moments during the previous period. A very recent example is the referendum. During the first days after the banks closed, almost no member of the government was advocating a NO vote in public. Much of Greek society seemed, let me be frank, resigned to defeat; certainly, the spirits of Syriza’s base were lower than ever. However, international solidarity lifted our spirits, and indeed came to be crucial in motivating the party’s members and the youth to form what was, of course, a very successful campaign for NO; such a victory, and with almost no central guidance.

For international reasons, we have arrived at a dead-end; surely, the hope that internationalism brings will be vital to our resurgence

Manos Avgeridis is a historian, and member of the editorial board ofAnalyzeGreece!