Greece: leaders try to crush election mandate

Submitted by Matthew on 16 May, 2012 - 7:31

Since Greece’s election on 6 May, frantic attempts have been made to try cook up a pro-cuts government of some sort in defiance of the Greek people’s electoral wishes.

As Solidarity goes to press on 15 May, it looks as if Greek president Karolos Papoulias will take the risky course of calling new elections on 10 or 17 June, hoping that between now and then the voters can be blackmailed into voting for pro-cuts parties.

Despite the grossly unfair Greek electoral system, which gives as a bonus an additional 50 seats to the first party (so ND [Tories] ended up with 108 seats instead of 58), ND and Pasok have in total 149 seats. Therefore, they need the cooperation of one more party to form a coalition.

Theoretically Democratic Left could provide them with the seats, since Pasok and ND have agreed to seek a moderate re-adjustment of the cuts package. However, Pasok, ND, and the Democratic Left insisted that Syriza must be part of the coalition.

Democratic Left and Pasok even proposed to Syriza to form a mini version of Syriza’s “government of the left” — that is a coalition government with Syriza’s anti-cuts manifesto and no political pre-conditions, with the participation of Democratic Left, but depending on support of the pro-cuts Pasok and a vote of confidence from ND.

The leader of the Greek bosses’ federation made a statement expressing his belief that Syriza should “recognise its responsibility” by being part in a national united government.

National and international blackmail has been employed, with Venizelos, Samaras, Papademos, Junker, Barroso, Rehn, Merkel, and Schäuble all threatening that if Greece does not form a government and which will respect the signed agreements then the bailout fund installments will be suspended and Greece will be bankrupt and kicked out of the eurozone.

All the members of the political establishment have demanded that the Greek people’s electoral wishes should be ignored, and a pro-cuts coalition government. They want Syriza to be part of this government to appease the people that supported it and to give a friendly anti-cuts mask to it.

Syriza has not surrendered and has refused to be blackmailed.

Despite the fact that the three left wing parties (Syriza, Democratic Left and KKE) have fewer than 150 seats between and therefore the numbers do not add up for them to form a government, Syriza has called for a government of the left, as a propaganda slogan and in line with its electoral promises.

KKE refused to meet Syriza.

Syriza proposed six points to the other political leaders as pre-conditions for Syriza’s participation in a coalition government:

• Introduce proportional representation

• Scrap protection for MPs from being prosecuted for acts of corruption and robbery of public money.

• Reverse all the anti-working-class policies implemented during the last two years — wage and pension reductions and abolition of collective bargaining agreements, union rights etc

• Elect a committee to examine and assess the Greek debt and write off the “illegal” part of the debt

• Freeze all debt payments. A moratorium on the debt for at least three years.

• Nationalisation of the banks under workers’ control.

Instead of spending time behind closed doors, Alexis Tsipras and other Syriza representatives opened up the discussion on the need for left unity and the manifesto of a left government to other left-wing organisations which did not gain parliamentary representation, like the anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya, the moderate Green party, and Louka Katseli’s “Social Agreement” party (an anti-cuts splinter from Pasok).

Syriza organised meetings with trade union representatives, progressive academics and councillors. Tsipras called an extended people’s meeting at Nikaia which, at a few hours’ notice, drew thousands of people. This massive participation shows the people’s willingness to get active and themselves be the agents of a political change and progressive solution to the crisis.

Tsipras declared: “It is Syriza’s commitment not to be introspective and self indulgent but open itself to society. We are not going to take decisions behind closed doors or within our party’s offices, but alongside the people that believe in us and support us... Syriza’s responsibility is to the people and the social movements, and Syriza commits itself to fight for the implementation of its electoral manifesto”.

This is a positive move. The bit that is missing or not as developed is recognition of the centrality of the working class in shaping the future, a call for escalation of industrial action in response to the continuation of attacks on the working class, a call for the “indignant citizens’” movement to occupy Syntagma Square and open up discussions in defence of the people’s electoral wishes, and a call for new elections to make clearer the left wing mandate.

The only answer that serves the popular and left-wing trend of the 6 May elections is the fight for a real left-wing government, a workers’ government.

As a minimum this government should ensure the cancellation and reversal of all the cuts, opening the road for the enforcement of a radical programme with the working people at its centre.

The call for a workers’ government has a few critical prerequisites.

First of all, the people should be in the streets. Without the escalation of the struggles, a workers’ government cannot impose its program and cannot survive.

Secondly it requires a united front with the other forces of the left (KKE and Antarsya) within a framework of solidarity. A workers’ government dependent upon votes of confidence from pro-system ruling-class parties is not a workers’ government.

It is important to remember that according to the Marxist tradition the “moment” of the workers’ government is only a transitional stage in the struggle for socialism.

The left has a duty not to forget the lessons of Chile, where a left-wing government was overthrown by the military in 1973 and replaced by a dictatorship that murdered at least 30,000 workers.

On 6 May Pasok and ND plummeted from 5,300,000 votes in the October 2009 elections to 2,000,000 votes. Their combined percentage went from 77% to 32%.

Their partner in crime, the other party in Papademos’s coalition, Laos, saw its percentage plummet from 5.6% to 2.9%, losing all its seats in parliament despite its last-minute turn against the second cuts memorandum.

The almost two million votes for the left wing parties (Syriza, KKE, Democratic Left, Antarsya, and others) expressed, albeit still in an incomplete way, the drive of the people towards a left-wing solution to the crisis.

Syriza gained an extra 746,000 votes, topping one million in total, and saw its electoral percentage increase from 4.6% to 16.78%. Among young voters and in the inner-city working-class areas, Syriza came first.

The diehard-Stalinist KKE stagnated, gaining only 18,000 extra votes (from 7.5% up to 8.48%), despite its strong trade union links and its identification with the Greek Steel workers, who the two years of struggle against the cuts.

The votes for the revolutionary left coalition Antarsya increased by 51,000 votes, 0.36% to 1.19%.

Democratic Left, a right-wing legalistic splinter from Synaspismos (the main group in the Syriza coalition) got 6.11%.

The political parties which scored below 3% and so did not enter parliament totalled 19% between them, more than the vote for ND. The openly Nazi party Xrisi Aygi (Golden Dawn) increased its percentage from 0.29% to 6.97%.

Xrisi Aygi did not dramatically increase its percentage in the inner city and the ghettos, where it operates like a state within a state, persecuting refugees and other vulnerable sections, but it did sharply increase its percentage in remote villages and islands where there are no refugees.

This suggests that the majority of the people that voted for Xrisi Aygi are not definitely Nazis and some of them not even structurally racists, but vote for Xrisi Aygi to express a vague nihilistic anti-systemic view.

With a positive initiative from the revolutionary forces and with the formation of a united front Xrisi Aygi can quickly be sent to the dustbin of history, where they belong.

Syriza’s success was due to its persistent call for a united left, and its emphasis on the necessity for a pan-European struggle putting at the front of its agenda the necessity for Europe-wide overthrow of the pro-austerity governments and explaining that a left wing electoral result in Greece would have a big impact in the rest of Europe.

KKE, however, responded to the people’s desire for a left-wing solution by calling on them to vote for KKE so that an electorally stronger KKE in parliament would enhance working-class defensive battles.

In its election manifesto KKE raised a series of radical transitional demands (though not described as such by KKE, due to its Stalinist ideological hang ups). But those demands lacked any use as a guide for action, as KKE declared that most of its demands could only be implemented under a workers’ government in the distant future.

KKE effectively denounced the Greek workers that voted for Syriza as being trapped by utopian reformist illusions, and stated that Syriza will end up implementing the same policies as Pasok and ND as things can change only under workers’ power in the indeterminate distant future.

Since 6 May election KKE has had page after page in its newspaper Rizospastis attacking and “exposing” Syriza as traitors to the interests of the Greek working class and as a force that will divert people’s anger into the illusions of parliamentary solutions.

KKE organises rallies with “Against the EU” as its major slogan, segregating and isolating its troops from the rest of the working class.

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