In Greece’s parliamentary election of 20 September, Syriza received 35.46%, almost the same in percentage terms as January’s 36.3%.
Syriza has maintained its coalition government with the right wing nationalists of Anel (Independent Greeks).
In absolute terms the party lost 320,000 votes. New Democracy won 28%, almost the same as January’s 27.8%, but it lost nearly 200,000 votes.
Many more people abstained this time round. In January 37% did not vote. This time it was 43.5%. Of those who went to the polling stations, 2.5% cast a blank vote. This shows the depth of disappointment among a wide layer of the electorate.
In May 2012 abstention was at 34.9%. Before the memorandum years, abstention was below 30%. In 2004 it was 23.5%. In the 20 September 2015 election, two million fewer people voted than in 2004.
Those parties who voted in favour of the new Memorandum on 20 July lost a total of 1.1 million votes.
To the left of Syriza, neither the KKE, nor the new Popular Unity party made a breakthrough. The KKE won 5.5% of the vote, exactly the same percentage as in January, but in absolute terms they lost 37,000, and they are down 2% on their vote before Greece’s long crisis erupted, in 2009.
The Popular Unity party, formed out of the left wing of Syriza, with 25 MPs, won 155.000 votes, only 2.86%. It was 11,000 votes short of crossing the 3% threshold for proportional representation and therefore gets no MPs.
Antarsya won 0.85% of the vote, a bit up from 0.36% in 2009 but still at the margins of the political process in Greece. In January they won 0.64%.
The parties of the anti-memorandum Left, the parties that attempted to political express the movement of the “oxi” (no) to austerity in the 5 July 2015 referendum failed to fill the void left by the mutation of the leadership of Syriza.
The result is a house of parliament with six memorandum parties plus the Nazi party of Golden Dawn. The only political expression of the left is KKE. KKE devoted the bulk of its political electioneering to a campaign against Popular Unity, indicting it as representing “drachma capitalism”.
This elections politically signify the end of an historical era of Syriza as a multi-tendency party of the radical left which can be traced back to the Space for Dialogue for the Unity and Common Action of the Left in 2001.
The Syriza of social forums, community rank and file movements, anti-memorandum struggles, the square movements, the re-invigoration of the trade union movement, no longer exists.
The new balance between the ND and Syriza has some common characteristics with, but also major differences from, the two-party system of Pasok and ND in the past. The two largest parties, Syriza and New Democracy had between them, in this election, 3.45 million voters. In, for example, the March 2004 elections, Pasok and ND had between them 6.36 million votes and 86%. Even in the 2009 elections, which were the swan song of the “old” two-party system, Pasok and ND gathered 5.3 million votes. Weaker support will make the new coalition government unstable.
Golden Dawn has been established as the third party in a third consecutive election since the European elections in 2014.
It increased its percentage by 0.6%, although its actual votes were down by about 10,000 nationwide. In large urban centres (Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki), Golden Dawn shows stagnation in rates but lower votes in absolute terms.
These Nazis are, however, becoming a constant counter-revolutionary factor in political life. Their vote even doubled in the islands where the wave of migrants came this past summer. The Nazis have consolidated their place despite the start of the trial for the majority of the Golden Dawn leadership (including its president and vice-president), on accusations of the formation of a criminal organization, and despite the fact that the leader of Golden Dawn has recently (two days before the elections) admitted political responsibility for the murder of the left-wing anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. This must be dealt with the required seriousness, by the left and the organized labour movement; on all fronts, political, ideological organisational.
The 155,000 votes and 2.86% for Popular Unity are far below the initial estimates of its leadership and below the objective possibilities.
Lack of time to establish the new party before the election is one explanation. But it would be wrong to see that as the main factor. Popular Unity fell far short of its intention to create a united political front to represent the referendum “oxi”, though its central slogan was: “Oxi has not been defeated; the struggle continues”. It fell short despite reaching out to the revolutionary left outside Syriza, and despite the fact that it included very prominent ex-Syriza people such as Zoe Kostantopoulou, who was the president of parliament, Costas Lapavistas, Nandia Valavani, etc.
Popular Unity was unable to shake off the characterisation of it as the “drachma party” and the advocate of “a currency road to socialism”. And many of its leaders, Lafazanis, Stratoulis, Hsyxos, etc. were part till recently of the Syriza-Anel cabinet, and did not raise any audible public voice against the decision of the Syriza’s leadership to form a coalition with Anel, against Syriza’s support for a right-winger as president of Greece, or against the 20 February pre-agreement which was the prelude to the 12 July surrender.
At one point the majority of the Syriza Central Committee was against Tsipras, the Political Secretariat was against, the youth wing of the party was against, Syriza’s trade union cadres were against.
Had Syriza Left Platform leader Lafazanis wanted to, he could have launched a battle to take Syriza, to win a majority which was there for the taking. But he preferred to go for an “amicable divorce”, as some have put it. He thus handed Syriza over to Tsipras.
Again, Antarsya-EEK was unable to express the world of working class society and movements.
Antarsya-EEK called on the people to vote solely for a combative workers’ and popular opposition. EEK fought in an electoral bloc with Antarsya, on the basis of a transitional program for an end to austerity, for a break with the EU, the abolition of the debt, nationalizations of the banks and the strategic sectors of the economy under workers control etc., but insisting on a struggle for workers’ power and a socialist unification of Europe.
Many people see Antarsya-EEK as militant organisations useful for the everyday struggles but not yet as an alternative to power. In trade union and student elections Antarsya’s percentages are noticeably higher.
While the majority for the parties of the Memorandum in parliament may seem overwhelming, it is clear that the social majority of working-class people who voted for Syriza did not vote for the enforcement of Enfia (property tax), auctioning-off of houses, selling-off of public property, collective redundancies, cuts in wages and pensions. Now the role of Parliament will be just implementing Memorandum laws and further the de-legitimisation of the whole of the political system.
What Syriza succeeded, by turning the referendum no into a yes, is expelling from parliament in the true sense any working-class representation. We have to wait for the precise details of the demography of the abstention, but the first impression is that many of the most progressive sections of the poor and young people who had voted massively no in the referendum turned away from the polls.
This means that the political battle around the memoranda has to be transferred to the streets.
The Greek people looked, first of all, at the question of what kind of government, not just an opposition force, could stop the on-going catastrophe. And it has chosen, without much enthusiasm nor great expectations, the lesser evil, the Syriza of Tsipras, to avoid a full revanchist restoration of the discredited old corrupt regime of the right wing New Democracy. The new administration will be a weak government tied to the orders of the financial oligarchy, the Troika, the international and Greek ruling class, to implement the most savage austerity program on a devastated people, in conditions of a worsening world capitalist crisis.
What is necessary is to conduct systematic preparation for the new and major class struggles that lie ahead. This must be done through a sincere evaluation and analysis of the reasons for the defeat and through the necessary political redirection that flows from this. A fundamental aspect for this will be to elaborate, defend and circulate widely an anti-capitalist and socialist programme, rejecting reformist illusions or “panaceas” of capitalist management. In this way, we will decisively confront the disappointment and remove the political confusion that exists today within the working class, the youth and the poor layers of society.
Challenges lie ahead of us: The building and reinvigoration of the labour movement and of community movements of resistance. A stronger anti-capitalist front. A broad socio-political front that will defy the policies of Memoranda and national and international capital. A mass revolutionary force aiming for a workers’ government which can put a definitive end to the the dictatorship of the markets and capital.
With “invisible” refugee infants and children slipping out of the hands of their uprooted parents to be washed out dead in the Greek beaches, with the extreme capitalism of the Memoranda, and democratic deficiencies sleepwalking again towards fascism, “the time are out of joint”.
We need new structures, new shapes and new ways of thinking to concretise and organise the seething anger and despair. Otherwise this rage will become individualistic, dark and racist; looking for scapegoats at refugees and for salvation to fascists and charlatans.
The black is not yet, and should not be, the most likely scenario. The red is. Those who exchanged freedom for security will realize once again that they end up losing both freedom and security.
Oxi! We will not surrender.
We want to live.
Yes, Greece can get out of the swamp of Memoranda!
Politics is in the streets.
And as Oscar Wilde said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”