Greece’s three-party coalition government, under the leadership of Antonis Samaras and the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party, is trying to stabilise itself.
It is trying to construct an alliance with the most reactionary and backward elements of the Greek population — conservative older people, and petty bourgeois layers who yearn for “law and order”. And it could succeed.
The latest polls are showing a stagnation of support for the left-wing party Syriza, which nearly won an election in June 2012. Of course the polls cannot be trusted, but it would be foolish to ignore their evidence.
One on 10 January gave first position in ND to 29%, with Syriza coming second with 28.5%. Another on 19 January shows Syriza leading by just 0.1% (18.8% Syriza, 18.7%, ND). A third shows ND and Syriza tied with 29.5%.
In each case, the same poll company had Syriza well ahead in late 2012.
Why can’t Syriza extend its support, faced with a government that continues a policy of brutal austerity against the working class and the people?
Because Syriza leaders have been increasingly making their positions more “rounded” — in fact moving more and more to the right.
Syriza’s leaders have arbitrarily (without consulting Syriza’s committees) replaced the policy of refusing to repay Greece’s debt with one of renegotiation of the debt in a Europe-wide framework.
Syriza leaders such as Giannis Dragasakis have declared that “Syriza will not take unilateral action against the Troika”. The policy of nationalisations has disappeared from the statements of prominent members of Syriza.
Syriza’s central leader, Alexis Tsipras, went to Berlin on 14 January to meet German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and declared a shared commitment to “achieve primary surplus” (though “through the fight against tax evasion and wealthy tax evaders”). Tsipras also said he agreed on the need for “structural changes that will allow the establishment of an effective state,” but added that there need to be a “European solution to the debt problem” with a “generous haircut” and “terms of development”.
At a speech to the Brookings Institution in the USA (22 January), Tsipras said: “We look for allies, but the policy of Germany is catastrophic. Here [in the US], we can find allies to prevent disastrous policies”.
The Syriza leadership’s shift to the right has disappointed the working class. That is reflected in the polls. The workers and youth who voted en masse for Syriza — and, the most advanced of them, joined Syriza — want a radical Syriza that will confront the vested interests of the capitalist class and its political representatives, a Syriza that will smash the Memorandum, and not a Syriza that tries to reconcile the interests of the financial oligarchy with the interests of the workers.
Syriza leaders increasingly present the changes they want as peaceful, common-sense adjustments. Alexis Tsipras has said: “The Memorandum is already dead... we will re-negotiate the loan agreement without the Memorandum... because the cost of the exit of Greece from the euro is greater for the eurozone than the cost of rescue...” But the Memorandum is anything but dead for workers and the people. Salaries and pensions are being cut to starvation level, trade union rights are being smashed, official unemployment is at 27%, public services are being dismantled, and taxes on the majority are being increased.
In the last few months ND and the government have unleashed ideological warfare against the left in general and in particular against Syriza. They are targeting the trade union movement or any other movement which ventures into “illegality” (meaning, any collective and social organisation that challenges the core values of the capitalist system).
The offensive started in December 2012 with the storming by police and evacuation of squats which were well-connected with neighbourhood and community movements. “Villa Amalia”, a squatted former high school in Athens, was an oasis for cultural events and daily solidarity, and a fortress of resistance against the spread of the fascist vermin in the Agios Panteleimonas area. The police said they had found glass bottles and masks there and “criminalised” the squatters; the government declared that it would cleanse Athens of all squatting.
Syriza was cornered and bullied for not wholeheartedly condemning and denouncing the squats and for embracing and supporting illegality. Syriza’s leaders responded, after long hesitation, by eventually condemning “illegality” and declaring its faith in the constitution and parliamentary democracy, while still denouncing the government’s attempts to distract the public from the burning issues of the cuts “Memorandum” imposed by the European Union, European Central Bank, and IMF.
Syriza’s shift to the right was also signalled in Tsipras’s tour of Latin America in late December 2012. His itinerary excluded, as probably too radical and left wing, Chavez’s Venezuela and Morales’s Bolivia, opting instead for talks with the leaders of the alternative “management models”, within the framework of IMF, such as Rousseff in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina.
Yet the overthrow of the Memorandum will not come by following Obama’s model, or Rousseff’s, or by reformist illusions. It will come through the escalation of working-class struggles while building the anti-capitalist left.
Syriza is due to hold a congress in the coming months. On Sunday 3 February, its Central Committee met, and Syriza’s Left Platform put down four amendments:
• that Syriza should avoid taking important initiatives without involving the collective bodies of the party (this was a reference to meetings like the one with Schäuble)
• that Syriza should reaffirm that it will re-nationalise all the privatised companies, starting with those that are of strategic importance to the economy
• commitment to a government of the left (and not the centre-left, let alone one with sections of the “patriotic-populist” right); initiatives for joint action and a united front to KKE and Antarsya and other left forces
• that Syriza should realise that the EU leaders, the IMF, and the USA, despite all their differences, will share an intense hostility to a government of the left operating outside the strait-jacket of Memorandum-restricted parliamentary democracy. Syriza should prepare for confrontations to come, and realise that a government of the left cannot play off the different big-power blocs to gain a position of tolerance.
The Left Platform argues for a new wave of radicalisation. It calls for new re-orientation of Syriza’s leadership and rank and file organisations towards the working-class movement, with particular emphasis on the youth, in order to overthrow the three party coalition government and all governmental policies. Syriza should link its perspective for a government of the left with every struggle that erupts in the industrial and social field.
As a first step Syriza must mobilise to radicalise and politicise the 20 February general strike in support of workers’ rights and collective bargaining called by the union confederations GSEE and ADEDY.
Ruling circles in the EU are now saying that the chances of Greece leaving the euro are eliminated because of Greece sticking to the memorandum austerity packages.
All that, however, remains dependent on continuation of the resolute implementation of austerity and harsh neoliberal restructuring. Syriza should once again underline that it will not accept any blackmail, and will stick to its progressive anti-memorandum proposals regardless of threats about the position of Greece in the eurozone.
If Syriza sticks to its promise that when in government it will abolish the Memorandum and all the laws introduced under it, what do Syriza’s leaders really think the response of the EU/ ECB/ IMF Troika will be?
Will they accept the democratic will of the people and continue to provide the loan installments? Will they sit down to talk with Syriza? Or will they carry on being inflexible and stating that any bailout funds will be provided only on condition that Syriza will stick to the Memorandum program?
The cost to the EU’s big powers of the exit of Greece from the euro would indeed be great. But the political cost to the EU leaders of continuing the bailout fund without Greece following the Memorandum would be huge.
If it is accepted that Greece is bailed out without implementing austerity measures, then Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland will demand similar treatment.
Global capitalists, despite their conflicts among themselves, including the Greek capitalist class, will try to smash a government of the left upon its infancy. They will strike without mercy, they will cut the funding, they will move to push Greece out of the euro.
They will want to make an example of Greece, so that no one else dares to challenge their policies, their hegemony and the profits of the bankers and bondholders
A frightened and compliant Syriza, a Syriza which ultimately accepts the framework of its opponents, will not be able to resist effectively.
And unless Syriza shows a will to resist effectively, it quickly lose its base in the world of resistance and among thousands of leftists who saw in the Syriza project the greatest hope in decades.