Socialist Resistance statement
The right-wing New Democracy (ND) and its reactionary allies have won the Greek elections by a slim majority. As a result the Greek and European elites have been given a reprieve although if the lack of response of the markets is anything to go by this will be very temporary. A coalition government, based on support for the memorandum, between ND, PASOK, and (scandalously) the Democratic Left, which had claimed to be anti-austerity, has now been formed. As is being said in Greece, the parties of the thieves are back in office!
Syriza, however, deserves the wholehearted congratulations of the left and the workers’ movement across Europe for the battle it has waged and the vote it has won against tremendous odds. Syriza’s vote has risen from 4.6% in 2009 to 26.89% today – with massive support amongst the working class and young people in particular who flocked to it in large numbers. Over the same period the ND vote fell from 33.5% to 29.66% and PASOK’s from 43.9% to 12.28%. Syriza immediately ruled out any form of coalition with pro-memorandum parties and will now form the principal opposition in the Greek parliament.
This was a vote against the parties which want to destroy Greek society on the altar of neo-liberal ideology and for a party of hope and a socialist vision of a different society. It was a vote against those parties which have presided over a 20% decline in the Greek economy, created 25% unemployment with 50% amongst young people and have brought hunger and desperation onto the streets and for a party pledged to scrap austerity, restore the cuts, and freeze debt repayments.
Despite narrowly losing, Syriza’s achievement is an inspiration to the left and the anti-austerity movement across Europe. It narrowly missed forming the first real left-wing (anti-capitalist) government in Europe in the post-war period. This, in the face of an onslaught – extreme intimidation in reality – not only by the Greek ruling class and the Greek employers but by the EU elites backed up by the G20 world-wide. A vote for Syriza, voters were told, would not only result in expulsion from the Euro but the end of civilisation as they have known it. Employers told their workers they would lose their jobs of they voted for Syriza and Syriza’s anti-racist and pro-migrant stance was used against them.
Despite this defeat, this result puts Syriza in a strong position. Having being placed centre stage, and with its reputation greatly enhanced, it is not only in a position to play a leading role in the ongoing struggles, but to continue to build itself as a party in preparation for the next election – which given the speed of developments in the EU, and the precarious situation of the new Greek coalition – might not be very far away.
Although Syriza was fully involved in the opposition to austerity at all levels, from the movement on the streets to the strikes and the social movements, it was the most natural demand of all – the call for a united left front in the elections and a government of the left anti-memorandum parties afterwards –which won it the most support.
In fact Syriza would have been the biggest party, with all the possibilities which go with this, had the other anti-austerity left forces backed it, once it had become the main party on the left.
Unfortunately the other parties sat on the side-lines predicting retreats by Syriza – which in any case was the least effective way of guarding against any such retreats – instead of backing it in the struggle for an anti-memorandum government and making themselves part of the discussion on the way forward. They were punished at the polls by a collapse of their own vote, much of which went to Syriza anyway, but the damage had been done and a right-wing government installed. In fact the KKE lost half of its electoral base and Antarsya 75%.
They had failed not only to transcend ultra-leftism but to understand, not only that unity was the key to the situation, but that militancy on the streets even at the level of 17 general strikes and thousands of demonstration and occupation of workplaces which have taken place was not enough, if this did not result in a governmental dimension, in a left or a worker’s government. It was a big mistake and an object lesson for future struggles. This was a concession to syndicalism even if the organisations themselves are not syndicalist.
The outcome does not resolve anything for the Greek ruling class or the EU elites. Even if the Troika make some token concessions in an attempt to bolster the coalition’s popularity, the new government will remain weak. It will have nothing to offer the Greek people. It is a collection of deeply discredited parties with no legitimacy (in fact if the right is included, anti-memorandum parties won a majority of the vote) and with the task of continuing with unpopular policies in the face of what will undoubtedly be a new round of struggles.
Although the attempt to smash Syriza during the election campaign failed, it will continue apace. Greece is a template for the shock tactics of the neo-liberal fundamentalists and a party such as Syriza is unacceptable to them. According to a recent post on the SR site, the right wing press in Greece are already calling for an internal purge of Syriza before it can be treated as a “responsible” opposition party. They put it this way: “If Tsipras really wants to be treated as a convincing and responsible political leader, he will have to begin by controlling or doing away with the extremists inside his grouping whose statements and actions have placed them beyond the limits of parliamentary democracy — even by the standards of Europe’s most progressive left-wing parties.”
Alexis Tsipras told Syriza supporters after the result had been announced: “The future does not belong to the frightened, but to the bearers of hope”. He denounced the austerity of the Troika and called for the struggle to continue. Far from been smashed in the battle, as was the plan of the elites, Syriza has emerged stronger than before It is clear that it will continue to play a central role both in the popular mobilisations and next time the struggle returns to the electoral arena.
It is a sharp reminder, if such a reminder is necessary, of the urgency of building such broad left and pluralist parties across Europe which can embrace a range of radical opinion within a single organisation. Parties which can provide working class representation under conditions of crisis which can consistently reject austerity and reject all cuts. Parties which have democratic internal structures in which policies and programme can be openly debated and the way forward thrashed out. Parties in which revolutionary socialist currents can play a full and crucial role.