By Dawn M. Sanders
On 25th of January in Greece, Syriza, a left-wing party, won the election – igniting widespread reaction, particularly on the left in the UK.
Background and austerity
Forming in 2004, Syriza evolved from a collection of left-wing groups upon the fall of Communism in 1989.
On a Socialist platform, they have challenged harsh austerity measures set out by the European Union and trans-national financial institutions.
Linda Duckenfield, sixty-seven, retired community education worker and Green Party parliamentary candidate for Sheffield southeast, said:” It was ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Even in 2007 austerity was a smokescreen devised by the capitalist speculators within the banking crisis on the money markets.” In reaction to the Greek election, she said: “It meant finally, a party could get passed the language of austerity and that’s what happened.”
The UK Left
Historically, the UK left has encountered huge challenges.
Similar to Syriza, the left comes with internal differences in tactics and a contrasting revolutionary versus transitional approach.
The four main Socialist parties in the UK are: the Socialist Party (SP, formerly militant, established in 1991) the Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP, formed in the 1950s as a revolutionary group) the Green Party (originally the Ecology Party) and the Communist Party of Britain (formed in 1920 from a collective of Marxist organisations).
These parties mentioned were born out of frustration with Labour, which is widely recognised as disassociating itself with the union movement it came out of – adopting a more right-wing model.
Thatcherism, which introduced some of the toughest anti-union laws, the defeat of the minor’s strike and recent youth riots in 2011; are just some of the setbacks endured by the British working-class.
Alistair Tice, organiser for the Socialist Party in Sheffield, said: “despite the student’s, TUC and pensions demonstrations, within days of the heightened mood the right-wing moderate trade union leaders, sold out on the pensions deal; thus leading to disempowering the electorate once again.”
The upshot of collective struggle and need for a new worker’s alternative, was the forming of the Trade Union Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in 2011.
Initiated by the Railway Maritime Transport (RMT) union, so far TUSC is made up of the RMT, the SP, SWP and a handful of breakaway Labour counsellors.
Unfortunately, TUSC has not yet secured full backing from the unions, a vital political/financial ingredient.
Despite this, Mr. Tice has pointed out how TUSC has stood 560 council candidates nationally; in last May’s local elections, quadrupling previous years.
He said: “With these significant gains, it does not mean TUSC will be in power, but it shows the need for an alternative, as well as how quickly things can change.”
He cited how in 2009, Syriza won less than 5% of the vote, clenching a victory within 6 years.
With our general election looming, in Sheffield alone, TUSC has parliamentary candidates standing in all the parties highlighted, including the Greens; standing candidates for all of the twenty-eight wards, a true reflection of discontent with the main parties.
Mr. Tice stressed the need for councils to challenge austerity.
Sheffield has experienced some of the worst austerity as the gap between the fortunate and impoverished has widened in the last eight years, according to a Sheffield University study.
However, David Blunkett, Labour MP for Sheffield’s Hillsborough and Brightside, said the UK economy was picking up – being partially redeemed through the banking sector; thus off-setting some austerity measures.
By contrast, facing extreme austerity, Greece’s Syriza has opened the flood gates for change.
Jay Williams, district coordinator for the SWP, said: “I think that Syriza represents the politics of hope…”