The slogan “First-time victory for the Left!”, chanted on the evening of 25 May, denoted a genuinely unprecedented event: for the first time in 180 years of the existence of the Greek state, a leftist party had come out first in nation-wide elections.
In the Euro-election, Syriza got 26.6%, and the ruling conservative New Democracy party 22.8%. The results create a new post-election political landscape. In fact the election results represents a major policy reversal of quality, substance and political orientation, which overcomes the numerical rates.
Now the call for a united front of the radical left in all areas (the trade unions, the neighbourhoods, the councils, the regions, the parliament) becomes more urgent. That united front largely took place, in an unofficial way, in the second round of the municipal and regional elections (voting on 18 May and 25 May 2014 for 13 regions and 325 municipalities).
Syriza and Antarsya both supported the best-placed Left candidates in the second round of the elections. The KKE [Greek Communist Party] stuck to its self-absorbed sectarian politics and denounced Syriza and all other left candidates, but with KKE’s rank and file and supporters refused to follow the leadership’s line.
Across Europe, we saw a “two-speed” Left — some groups making gains like Syriza, and some losing ground. The unevenness shows that the European left lags both in developing an overall strategy and in terms of the development and coordination of a pan European anti austerity working class movement
Syriza achieved something that seemed unthinkable four years ago. (It won just 4.6% of the vote in Greece’s October 2009 parliamentary election, and subsequently suffered a split by its right wing, who formed the Democratic Left).
However, Syriza did not achieve the second objective summarised in its election slogan: “On 25 May we vote, on 26 May they are overthrown”. That was the call for the elections to be the great political event — like a great political strike or a vast radical movement on the streets — that would overthrow the wretched coalition government.
The results of the European elections and the second round of local elections show the shift of a significant part of society to the left, but also the contradictions of the left as to whether and how much it can inspire such confidence in the working class and popular strata as could lead to big changes.
The official slogans of Syriza for the European elections included, among other things:
• an end to the policy of austerity
• increasing the EU budget and strengthening the weaker countries
• a “New Deal” for Europe with massive public investment to find new jobs and revive the economy
• a European conference on the debt similar to that of 1953, where Germany was relieved of its financial burdens.
The leadership of Syriza also advocates measures to strengthen democratic institutions in Europe.
The problem with this programme is that it does not correspond to reality and the current context of national and international capitalism in crisis, although it presented by the leadership as a “realistic” program.
Neither in Europe, nor in any other country in the world, is likely to implement a comprehensive “Keynesian” public investment program like the “New Deal” of the 1930s. Nor are the strong European capitalists of the North likely to agree to put “their hands deeper into their pockets” to help southern Europe. For now there is no force that can convince the Germans and the other northern capitalists to give more money to Greece and Southern Europe for social policies.
The European conference on the debt for 1953 Germany was motivated by the USA’s desire to create a strong capitalist Europe as a counterweight to the USSR. No factor like that operates today.
On the other hand, it is important to highlight that the problem for the workers in Greece is not the EU but the crisis of the capitalist system. The euro is not the cause of the crisis. A return to national currencies under present conditions, without replacing the foundations of capitalism, would deepen the crisis. It would lead to the collapse of the currency, inflation, and expansion of the debt burden.
Neither with the euro nor with the drachma with there is a solution for the working class under capitalism. The left in and outside Syriza should fight for a socialist programme that will overthrow the rotten capitalist system.
A united front of the left, and predominantly of Syriza, KKE and Antarsya, under a socialist program, would directly open the prospect of power for the working class in Greece. One such example would find itself quickly imitated throughout Europe, making possible the realization of the slogan for the United Socialist States of Europe, as the first big step for the Socialist States of the World.
New Democracy and the government suffered a major political defeat. New Democracy has lost a large chunk of its voters and is now four points behind Syriza, and Pasok has gone down from 44% of the vote in October 2009 to 8% for the coalition it took part in for these Euro-elections.
But the coalition government is not yet falling apart. During the next period the government will force through the implementation of more unpopular measures and possibly a new memorandum, and simultaneously work towards creating a “success story” and “primary surplus” narrative on the short legs of a possible anaemic economic semi-recovery. The government will try to implement all its Troika commitments then hold on until the presidential elections in February 2015.
The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn scored just under 10% at the European elections and got double digit results in most of the regional and council elections.
Ilias Kasidiaris, on bail from prison and facing charges of leading the training of Nazi paramilitary squads, polled 16.62% in the municipality of Athens. Ilias Panagiotaros scored 11.13% in the region of Attica.
In the area of Keratsini, and in the neighbourhoods where the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas lived and was murdered by Golden Dawn members in September 2013, Golden Dawn scored double-digit percentages.
Not all Golden Dawn voters should be treated as hard core neo Nazis. Among Golden Dawn voters there are hard core supporters of Nazism. But in research suggests that this core does not exceed 2% of voters -the ideological descendants of the Nazi-collaborator “Security Battalions” during the Second World War, and those nostalgic for the days of the military junta in Greece (1967-74) - people who believe that the Jews are ehind everything, that foreigners are taking our jobs and that the junta did the soundest work in construction for Greece’s future.
There is a layer of Golden Dawn voters who think of the Golden Dawn vote as an anti-systemic and anti-government vote.
Golden Dawn has reached a level of strength that the criminalisation nor imprisonment of its leadership, the uproar around the revelations of its criminal, murderous activities, and the scandal around the cold blooded murder of Pavlos Fyssas cannot reverse.
The first focus should be to rally the anti-fascist movement which today should be able to win the overwhelming majority everywhere. In Athens the 16.2% of Kasidiaris was alarming. On the other hand, the left in Athens (Syriza, KKE, and Antarsya) exceeded 30%.
If that force had been united and had the right program would have inspired a large chunk of the population that abstained (50%) and would have rallied the immigrants ruled out of the electoral process.
The biggest responsibility lies within Syriza as the biggest party of the left. Syriza’s positions include clear reference to the importance of the fight against neo-fascism. However, in practice Syriza has not taken the necessary political initiatives and organizational measures for the development of a massive nationwide anti-fascist movement.
The youth of Syriza has a very serious involvement in the anti-fascist movements and initiatives, and overall Syriza’s rank and file is involved in anti-fascist committees and demonstrations. But it is the duty of the party as a whole to develop the fight against fascism in a centrally-organised and planned way, fusing it with the anti-austerity anti-memorandum struggle.
For the leadership of the KKE [Communist Party} the antifascist movement virtually does not exist, especially when it is not under their control. KKE has made no serious initiative by itself to build the anti-fascist movement, and no attempt at united action with the rest of the anti-fascist movement.
The result of KKE (6.1% in the Euro-election, up on its 4.5% in the 2012 parliamentary election, though down on its 7.5% in the October 2009 poll and similar results in previous elections) may indicate a degree of survival and stabilisation of its influence, but not in any degree a radical change in the balance of forces within the Left. KKE’s electoral results were enough to stabilize the position of the new leadership team installed in April 2013, but only for a while.
A key element of KKE’s political orientation is to pose as the “anti-capitalist fortress” against the “onslaught of Syriza”; which is treated by KKE as the new Pasok, to denounce equally the class enemies of Pasok and ND and the supposed “enemy in disguise” of Syriza.
There is an old saying in the Greek radical student movement that there is a revolutionary way to talk about your school library and a counterrevolutionary way to talk about the revolution. The KKE leadership unfortunately confirms this saying. When KKE chooses to postpone the battle until new working class struggles fit in with the party’s requirements, when everything is confined in the straitjacket of party patriotism, when you do not actively participate in the struggle to translate the people’s rage into a positive working class perspective, then its formally revolutionary-sounding political manifesto and analysis are of secondary importance.
The result for Antarsya [a coalition of radical left groups, including SEK, linked to SWP in Britain, and NAR, a left split from KKE] was negative. It got 0.7% in the Euro-elections. The argument that this result was due to being squeezed by the main parties is inadequate, because despite the political polarization over 17 % of voters chose parties that could not have electoral representation.
The ideological and political rearmament of the Left, overall, should be at the top of our agenda. Syriza’s problem is the refusal to adopt a clear socialist program to break with the status quo. KKE’s and Antarsya’s major issue is their refusal to form a united front with the rest of the left in order to build broad social fronts and movements.
There are many thousands of activists inside and outside the Left parties who understand those deficits. The struggle of all these should be coordinated in order to bring results. The Left has an obligation to see the issue of cooperation of the Left as a priority.
Syriza should be pressed to persist on the call of a united front with KKE and Antarsya, aiming at forming a government of the left and gaining power. KKE and Antarsya must be pressed to abandon their “isolationism” and “sectarianism”.