Big left victory in Greek elections shows growth, depth of anti-austerity feeling

Posted: January 27, 2015 by Admin in capitalist crisis, Capitalist ideology, Class Matters, Economics, EU and Euro, Europe, Greece, Limits of capitalism, Political & economic power, Protest, Unemployment, Workers history, Workers' rights, Youth rights
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras and party supporters

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras and party supporters

The Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) has won the general election held in Greece on January 25. It took 36.4% of the vote and 149 of the 300 seats, compared with 26.9% of the votes and 71 seats in 2012. (Whichever party gets the most support in the election is handed an extra 50 seats; last time it was the right-wing New Democracy, this time it is Syriza).

Syriza’s support is concentrated in the big working class areas, but has spread out to other layers of the population.  The vote indicates a radicalisation of the working class and some of the middle layers of Greek society under the impact of the years of austerity imposed by PASOK (the Greek equivalent of the NZ Labour Party) and New Democracy, separately and together. PASOK, for many years the dominant force in Greek politics, secured just 4.66% of the vote and 13 seats!

The result is seen within Greece as a big victory for those who have been battling against austerity, both at the level of personal survival and in the streets and workplaces.  For instance, since the global financial crisis broke the percentage of Greek children living in poverty had doubled and almost half (49%) of people in their twenties are unemployed at present.

Syriza’s election platform included increasing the minimum wage by 50%, re-establishing workplace collective agreements, reversing pension cuts, and reversing regressive taxes that hit workers and the poor in general particularly hard.

At this stage, however, the opposition to the troika – the European Central Bank, EU and IMF – is primarily a protest movement and an electoral party whose message has moderated the closer it has gotten to the possibility of forming a government. The anti-austerity movement is still young and finding its feet.  Indeed, street mobilisations have decreased over the past year or two.

As yet there don’t seem to be any sort of institutions of dual power emerging out of the very big struggles in Greece and Europe motre widely (Spain, Portugal, Ireland).
They’ve had general strike after general strike in Greece – but it also means a general strike isn’t a big deal anymore, including for the ruling class. They can sit them out and wait for them to peter out.

You can’t make a revolution from defensive actions – at some point you have to struggle for power and, as long as you don’t, the bourgeoisie don’t really have too much to fear.

That’s why May-June 68 in France frightened the bourgeoisie. Workers started occupying some of the major factories and on a small scale alternative forms of power started to emerge. Unfortunately, the revisionist Communist Party was big enough to stymie it all and the far left was just far too small to take it forward.

The far left itself probably needs to be more united and to hammer out a common strategy that has as its aim the formation of some kind of bodies of dual power which can then take the struggle to the next level.

What that next level might be is suggested by events such as the occupation in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city.  See the articles below:
Greek lessons in four parts (about the background to austerity and the rise of Syriza)
Greek lessons: workers occupy factory, continue production
Video on the struggle
Greek factory: “the machines of self-management have been turned on”
Workers’ self-management only solution: interview with spokesperson for the occupation

  1. S.Artesian says:

    And the selection of ANEL, the part of belligerent nationalism, chauvinism, and anti-immigrants? How can you avoid mentioning the fact that Syriza has selected ANEL as its governing partner?

    Stinks just a wee bit, don’t you think?

  2. Phil F says:

    The piece was simply a comment on the election and why Syriza won. It was written before we had news that ANEL was selected as the coalition partner. Also, we’re in NZ, so we don’t have a line on how to make a revolution ion Greece. But I agree that the selection of ANEL stinks.


  3. Phil F says:

    The most sophisticated bourgeois daily in Ireland is the Irish Times. This is from its editorial response to the Greek election:
    “The election of Syriza, the most leftwing government in Europe since the 1936 Spanish and French Popular Fronts, should be a profound wake-up call, not only to Greece but to Europe. The Greek people have said that enough is enough, Europe must change course. The politics and economics of austerity have dragged Greece into a downward spiral of crippling, unsustainable debt and decline from which there appears to be no escape.”

    It is certainly interesting that Syriza won. After all, it’s not like one of the European SPs winning. It’s a different order of things.

    However, what interested me most about the Irish Times piece is the way it shows how divided the European bourgeoisies are over austerity. Austerity, according to the theorists who advocate it, *should work*. It should destroy swathes of ‘inefficient’ capital, reduce drains on surplus-value (like a chunk of government spending) and raise the rate of exploitation. It *should* therefore significantly raise profit rates and lead to expanded, new investment that would introduce a new round of dynamism to an economy. But, by and large, this hasn’t happened.

    Instead, there is greater and protracted stagnation.

    In the case of Greece, Syriza’s economic policies, even at their most radical, are a very left form of Keynesianism. Until and unless workers take power, there is no ‘solution’ to capitalist economic crises today, and the general ongoing malaise, that doesn’t involve further sacrifice on our side.

    Whether the Syriza victory will heighten workers’ expectations and confidence, so they move forward under their own steam, fighting for their own independent class interests, obviously remains to be seen.


  4. C. H. says:

    The KKE, who this time received 5.5% (+1%) and 15 MPs (+3), is calling Syriza the ‘left-reserve force of capitalism’.

    “By restricting its criticism to so called ‘neoliberal capitalism’ SYRIZA is fostering illusions amongst the working people that there can be another “good” capitalism… due to its position as the official opposition, [it] bears a great share of responsibility for the conscious deception of the working people because it claims that the EU can allegedly be democratized and humanized.”

    Elisseos Vagenas, CC Member

    “This view causes a great deal of damage, it erodes consciousness. It starts from the dangerous illusion regarding the humanization of capitalism while at the same time the system in its current imperialist stage becomes even more reactionary and dangerous…

    “The KKE in the resolution of its 18th Congress (2009) which refers to the causes of the overthrow of the socialism in the Soviet Union mentioned amongst others that ‘since the 20th Congress of the CPSU (February 1956) and its thesis for a ‘variety of forms of transition to socialism, under certain conditions’, the line of ‘peaceful co-existence’ was also linked to the possibility of a parliamentary transition to socialism in Europe, a strategy that already existed in a number of Communist Parties and ended up gaining the upper hand in most of them. This thesis constituted in essence a revision of the lessons of the Soviet revolutionary experience and a reformist social democratic strategy.”

    Giorgos Toussas, MEP