Greek elections: the parties of the thieves are back in office

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.

  1. Comrades:

    Well said. Readers should contrast this clear and unequivocal read of the aftermath of the Greek elections with the temporizing and, in its conclusions, dangerous statement of the Belgium section, the LCR/SAP as printed in International Viewpoint.

    Two crucial points need to be stressed, agin and again in this discussion.

    1. The strategic errors of ANTARSYA and the OKDE-Spartakos, as well as the comrades of the original OKDE, are a result of their non-Marxist characterisation of SYRIZA as reformists, based upon the orienation of its leadership. Any political formation must be based on its class composition and its political history and trajectory, not on the ideas in the heads of a section of its leadership.

    In an article written by Andreas Kloke, of OKDE-Spartakos, and printed in Europe Solidare San Frontiers, this error is made quite explicit, with Kloke claiming that all their orientation is based around their understanding that the leadership of SYRIZA is dominated by reformist forces. This idealist, and empiracist method has nothing in common with the Marxist method of classifying political formations.

    Kloke (and LCR/SAP for that matter) say nothing about the fact that SYRIZA has twice now emerged electorally as the dominant workers party. They say nothing of the Leftward evolution of the leadership, and the fact that the split of the Democratic Left formation represented a decisive rupture with classical social democratic conceptions. They say nothing of the political conjuncture wherein the growing social polarization is represented by its political polarization, with the workers gathering around SYRIZA on the one side of the political struggle, and the rest of the bourgeois political forces huddling around the New Democracy-PASOK axis.

    The second point of the discussion needs to center around the relationship between the transistional governmental demands, and the united front tactic in the Greek reality.

    This is not, I repeat not, a debate about tactics. It goes to the heart of the ultraleft and secterian positions taken by ANTARSYA, the KKE, the original OKDE, and others. It is a fundmental debate about revolutionary strategy.

    Our conception of this should be understood in the context of the following slogan:

    “After the elections, a Front of the Left to prepare the way for a workers’ government”.

    That is, the call for the creation of a Front of the Left is the concrete form of building a united workers’ front, not only on the street, but at the political level to prepare for the fall of the government of the theives.

    It also links concretely the coming clashes with the bosses, the state and the fascists, with the solution to the crisis- a workers government.

    It allows the far left to work with SYRIZA at the political level, that is to build the united front from above, not just from below.

    It provides the framework where the forces advocating this approach can approach the working class base of the KKE and further drive the wedge between its secterian and divisive leadership, and the industrial proletariat which is quickly losing confidence in the Paparigia leadership clique.

    The comrades of ANTARSYA must be made to understand that the creation of a worker’s government will involve SYRIZA; whether they like it or not is not important. While the most important battles, for now, switch to the street, the linking of these battles to a political solution for the working class is crucial to solving the underlying startegic problem: how to bridge the gap between the ripening objective conditions to the political immaturitiy of the proletarian vanguard.

  2. I would agree with most of Bob’s letter. But and it is a big but. Why the hectoring tone? the comrades “must be made”.Where is the “patiently explain” of Trotsky. the comrades have made a mistake. But it has not isolated them from the membership of Syriza and that is important. In between elections they can and will work together. Now the real sectarians are the KKE, unreformed Stalinists.Diplomacy is a necessity on the left. There is too much of seeing every scratch turning into gangrene.In Ireland the main task is keeping the ULA together.This is a question of diplomacy.The Greek comrades both inside and outside Syriza are in the eye of the storm.Hopefully they get it right.

  3. Thank you Jim, you are right, the tone is hectoring, and I didn’t mean it to be. I should have used the following: “We need to try and find ways to convince the comrades to see that the creation of a workers’ government will involve SYRIZA…etc.

    On an other note, the interview in International Viewpoint with Dimitris Hillaris, where he says that there needs to be a united front of SYRIZA, ANTARSYA and the KKE makes it appear that there is some rethinking going on in the OKDE-Spartakos, as well as ANTARSYA. There certainly is within the SEK.
    Perhaps the voices raised publicaly by a broad array of forces within the International, and as well as in web journals like LINKS, the Socialist Unity website, and the very lively discussion at Richard Seymour’s blog, “Lenin’s Tomb”, have promoted a more rounded view of the conjunture within the Greek left itself.

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