Greece: the future belongs to the left that dares

Submitted by Matthew on 20 June, 2012 - 9:14

A spectre is haunting Greece: the spectre of Syriza. All the powers of old Europe and the world have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.

Neoliberals Merkel and Schäuble, social-democrat Hollande, unelected officials of IMF and EU, pink-green Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and the presidents of Slovakia and of Malaysia, all united in ideological terrorism and blackmail.

Yet Syriza won 27% of the votes on 17 June and was only narrowly defeated by ND [New Democracy, Greek equivalent of the Tories].

This historical challenge should not to be dismissed as a mere illusion or as an attempt to create a “new Pasok”.

The heavy artillery of the psychological warfare was the economic terrorism exercised by “our European partners”. In response to the 6 May electoral results Brussels arbitrarily withdrew one billion of the agreed loan instalment. The 4.6 billion euros that were paid went straightly to pay interest and maturing bonds. The one-billion shortfall caused chaos in public funds — hospitals with no supplies, cancer patients with no drugs.

This was a chilling warning from the Troika to Greece about their understanding of dialogue and other surplus-to-requirements democratic procedures such as elections. The message was clear to the Greek people: “next time, you should vote correctly if you do not want to starve”.

The atmosphere of chaos, dissolution, and fear was thickened by the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and its attacks against refugees, immigrants, and left wing trade unionists and activists.

Despite it all, on 17 June the Greek working class gave the left in its highest-ever percentage. This was the first time in Greece’s history that the left had gained one third of the Greek electorate.

Temporarily the shock doctrine therapy seems to have partially worked. A new pro-memorandum government is about to be formed. But the foundations of this government are very fragile, and its life is likely to be short. The storm is about to erupt.

A record 37.5 per cent abstained. That reflected broad-based disgust with the entire political establishment, as well as the inability of many voters to pay for traveling from their home villages to the cities and back in order to vote.

Only 40 per cent of those who did vote backed the parties overtly supporting the memorandum, ND and Pasok. They have a parliamentary majority only thanks to the 50-seat bonus ND receives as the winning party under Greece’s electoral laws.

Such a government will have no popular mandate for its policies.

A coalition government of ND and Pasok with the Democratic Left (DL) is the most likely outcome. The two old pro-memorandum parties know that a coalition government of them alone would be too exposed.

Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos initially stated that Pasok would not participate in a coalition government unless Syriza also did. Journalists and other “voices of reason” joined in, asking Syriza to be responsible and help in save the country.

The demand on Syriza to join the coalition was preposterous after the aggressive anti-communist witch-hunt conducted against it since 6 May.

During the electoral campaign ND accused Syriza of being the party of the drachma, of harbouring terrorism, of liaising with Trotskyists, Maoists, and other communist forces to start urban guerrilla warfare, of supporting the revolutionary semi-paramilitaries, and of siding with the anarchists and “hooded youth” and other demons.

Syriza rightly and instantly rejected any participation in a pro memorandum government.

In order to form a government with some chance of survival (though nobody is talking of a lifespan of four years), ND and Pasok need a third partner untainted by the crimes of the two and a half last years.

That is the role of the Democratic Left (DL), which split from Syriza in 2010.

The new coalition will hope for the so-called re-negotiation of the memorandum, or “gradual disengagement”, as DL leader Fotis Kouvelis terms it.

The carrot and stick approach has been initiated. The otherwise intransigent Foreign Minister of Germany, Guido Westerwelle, and the stone faced IMF president Christine Lagarde, have stated that now that the Greeks have “chosen the European route”, some aspects of the memorandum could be up for negotiation and the time schedules can be rethought.

The stick is wielded by Merkel and Schäuble, who clearly state that the hard core of the memorandum is not up for negotiation. “It is no time to make concessions in Greece”, said a German government representative: “the timetable for Greece remains as agreed... It is critical now to convince the Troika that Greece will honour its commitments and fully implement the agreed reforms”.

Both EU leaders and ND and Pasok leaders are caught in a dilemma here. Any concessions will be seen by Greeks to be the result of Syriza’s strong showing, and so will tend to increase support for Syriza. Lack of concessions will discredit ND and Pasok further.

In any case, the following measures are certain to be implemented promptly by the new coalition government, with or without DL:

1. Cuts have already been agreed and planned of 11.5 billion euros from pensions, welfare benefits, closing of schools and hospitals

2. Salary reductions and the further dismantling of labour law

3. Increase in electricity bills

4. Dismissal of 150,000 public sector workers and privatisation of 50 billion euros’ worth of public assets (infrastructure, water, energy, natural resources)

5. Creation of a special fund abroad where the country’s revenues will be directed to cover obligations to bond holders. Only if anything is left over will the diminishing wages, pensions, unemployment benefits and social services be paid for.

Interestingly, the creditworthiness of Greece has not been altered by the election results. The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s still estimates at 33% the probability of Greece being expelled from the euro.

This election should not be assessed via the limited perspective of party patriotism and a small shopkeeper attitude. Syriza managed to become the major vehicle by which which the people’s anti-memorandum anger and wish to fight back and demand a decent future was expressed.

The working class chose Syriza for a various of reasons, including the absence of a revolutionary party, but mainly because it insisted on a left united front (albeit in a distorted way, by including the pro-system Greens and DL in its call) and on the formation, here and now, of a left government that would scrap the memorandum and throw the Troika out of the country.

Syriza was seen by the majority of the working class as the medium to smash the memorandum and open the way for a progressive development of Greece, even if it was not fully understood or formalised what that development can be.

The social dynamism encompassed in the 27% vote for Syriza well exceeds the political reformist limitations of Syriza and presents the whole left with a historical opportunity.

The revolutionary socialists who are within, or orient to, Syriza must fight for it to radicalise and sharpen its politics especially on the preparation of the Greek working-class movement for a possible expulsion of Greece from the eurozone and EU.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras correctly dismissed without a second thought the possibility of Syriza participating in a national coalition government. He committed himself to fight against the memorandum, but only from the position of an opposition in parliament.

Yet the working-class, neighbourhood, and youth activists who voted for Syriza are looking to continue their struggle. They will go back to their workplaces, back to their neighbourhoods, back to their universities, so that the memorandum gets scrapped and the new government gets overthrown as soon as it is formed.

The left in Syriza, as expressed by Panagiotis Lafazanis, has reaffirmed the necessity of remobilising Syriza’s social base and escalating the struggle, both inside parliament but also and mainly outside parliament. Lafazanis re-emphasized that the main duty of Syriza now is to ensure that the memorandum and austerity measures will be resisted and overthrown by a militant and combat working-class, neighbourhood, and youth movement.

The gap between Tsipras and Lafazanis portrays clearly the battle that is to be fought within Syriza between the tendency to buckle down and convert Syriza into a tame left social-democratic force, and the tendency to persevere and transform Syriza into a serious fighting party, even if only fighting only for serious reforms. This outcome of this fight cannot be predetermined and its importance should not be underestimated.

It is a duty for the revolutionary left to give up the role of an observer, spotting Syriza’s reformist statements and social-democratic deviations in a self-indulgent way, or dreaming of a Syriza with a socialist programme or of a different left government of KKE and Antarsya that would implement a pure revolutionary programme.

Unfortunately the assessments of the election from both KKE (the diehard-Stalinist Greek Communist Party) and Antarsya have fallen into that trap. (Antarsya is a coalition containing some Trotskyist groups, including SEK, which is linked to the SWP in Britain, and Okde-Spartakos, which is linked to the NPA in France. Some other Trotskyist groups are in Syriza — DEA and Kokkino — or orient to it — Xekinima).

KKE assess the electoral results as negative and a step backward for the working-class movement.

According to KKE, the electoral result helps promote and support the plans of the bourgeoisie in the country to replace the rotation of the two bourgeois parties ND and Pasok with ND and Syriza, now that Syriza has absorbed a large part of the electoral base of Pasok. Syriza is a useful tool for the ruling class because it controls and manipulates the working-class movement and confines it within the constraints of pro-EU ruling-class ideology.

KKE correctly recognises the dangers of the Golden Dawn neo-Nazis becoming rooted in communities and their establishment in parliament as a credible force, it does not drawn any conclusions, and does not recognise the need for a united front of left wing organisations, neighbourhood movements, refugee organisations and others to confront and smash Golden Dawn.

KKE strikes a martyr-like pose of defiance, pledging to persist in the rightness of the party line until the working class matures, realises the “accuracy of the party’s predictions and analysis”, and joins KKE.

NAR, one of the major components of Antarsya, follows a similar line in its assessment of the election.

According to NAR, Syriza’s pro-EU stance led to it adopting a watered-down “renegotiation of the memorandum”. Syriza’s stance hinders the political consciousness of the working class and places barriers to the development of the working class movement.

NAR assesses the electoral decline of KKE as negative, because it has led to the empowerment of the “pro-EU reformism” of Syriza.

It is one-sided and simplistic to dismiss Syriza collectively as the “reformist pro-EU left”. It closes any discussion of a united front of the left in the industrial and political sphere to confront the memorandum and the attacks from the ruling class bloc.

The NAR statement ends in a more promising tone by stating its commitment to start initiatives for a united front of all the fighting left forces on an anti-capitalist programme.

The great success of Syriza reflects a new stage in the struggle of the Greek labour movement to overthrow capitalism. The main axes of struggle should be the following:

Fight for the development and escalation of industrial and social struggles against the coming attacks from the government and the Troika

Fight for the overthrow of the new coalition government

In every neighbourhood the trade unions alongside the neighbourhood committees should form popular defence squads and solidarity squads aiming at solving the social problems via solidarity and cooperation, the establishment of a sense of safety within the neighbourhoods, and the self-defence against the fascist thugs’ violence.

Fight for a united front and cooperation of the left in the industrial and in the political sphere.

Fight for a government of the left and a workers’ government.

Fight to alert and prepare the working class for the prospect and the consequences of Greece being expelled from the eurozone or EU.

Fight for a programme of transitional demands based upon workers’ self-organisation and workers’ control. It should include the nationalisation of the banks and the main pillars of the economy (energy sector, transportation, utility services , health sector) without compensation to the capitalists and under workers’ control.

Fight alongside the European working class and particularly the working class of south Europe hard hit by the capitalist crisis, for the overthrow of the capitalism and the establishment of a United Socialist States of Europe.

Paraphrasing Tsipras’s election statement, the future does not belong to the forces of fear and the dark forces of decaying capitalism. The future belongs to the new carriers of hope.

The future belongs to the revolutionary left. The revolutionary left interprets the world in order to radically change it, to make way for the power of workers, socialism and communist liberation. The future lies with the revolutionary left that will dare, with the movement that will fight for the struggles that are to be won.

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