This book shows how Syriza went from 5 percent in 2007 to the government of Greece by resolutely opposing austerity and by calling for a “government of the left”.
Ovenden illustrates that Syriza’s support rested on the radicalisation of the population through mass struggle.
The 30-plus general strikes, the occupations and the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement are all outlined with eyewitness accounts.
One of the main strengths of the book is its focus on struggle in which workers not only resist the bosses and the Troika but begin to challenge for control of production.
The central example of this is the occupation of ERT (Greek public broadcasting) against its closure, in which the workers took over production and used it as a platform for the movement.
Ovenden captures well the optimism produced by the Syriza victory in the 2015 elections and the confusion when it unnecessarily formed a coalition with the racist populists of ANEL.
Ovenden analyses the web of connections known as the “deep state” that links business, far-right politics and the repressive parts of the state.
He exposes the limits of implementing fundamental change through the state with its unelected military, police and civil service.
The book really comes into its own when discussing the failed strategy of Tsipras and his circle.
The notion that the rejection of austerity is compatible with membership of the euro and the EU is tested and fails. German Chancellor, Merkel and co are in no mood to give concessions.
The bodies of the EU do not respect democracy (despite the referendum result) as they force even worse measures on the Syriza government.
Ovenden is keen to point out that Tsipras’s implementation of austerity should not be seen as a personal failing or due to a lack of principles but as a failed strategy.
The book highlights an alternative strategy put forward by the anti-capitalist left coalition Antarsya and others formerly on the Syriza left that calls for a “rupture” with the euro and the EU. This would only work if coupled with a confrontation with the Greek ruling class and nationalisation under workers’ control of banks and key industries.
The key to beating austerity remains the struggle of the unbowed working class.
Ovenden intentionally sidesteps historic debates between revolution and reform in the socialist movement, and the book could have been more explicit in its position on this question. A minor criticism of an excellent resource for all those fighting back.