Greece’s vicious circle

by Michael Roberts

So the full circle is completed.  The corrupt pro-business conservative New Democracy party in Greece that was ousted by the anti-capitalist Syriza party in 2015 has been returned to office in yesterday’s general election, with an outright majority over all other parties.

New Democracy party got just under 40% of the votes cast. Syriza under Alexis Tsipras got just under 32% of the vote. The voter turnout was just over 57%, the lowest rate since the end of military rule in 1974, suggesting huge disillusionment with all parties.  The Syriza vote share was down only 3.5% from the last election in 2015, but the New Democracy share rose from 28% to 40%. The small parties (including the Syriza left breakaway parties) did poorly, although the former PASOK social democrats increased their share from 6.3% to 8% and the Communists were unchanged at 5%. Also a new party MeRa25, set up by former Syriza finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, got over the 3% threshold and will have MPs for the first time.  The neo-fascist Golden Dawn failed to make it.

The last four years of the Syriza government have been both tumultuous and saddening.  Elected to oppose the policies of the Troika (the ECB, IMF, and the EU) in imposing vicious austerity measures on Greeks in return for ‘bailing out’ its banks, foreign banks and government debt, Syriza at first resisted the Troika.  Under Tsipras and Varoufakis, it searched for a deal with the Euro leaders that would not impose the austerity.  When such a deal was rejected by the Troika and the Euro leaders led by Germany and the Netherlands, Tsipras called a referendum on the Troika ‘memorandum’: should Greeks accept the austerity or reject it?  Despite a massive propaganda campaign by the pro-business media in Greece and internationally and lack lustre campaigning by Syriza, Greeks voted 60-40 to reject the Troika.  Little more than one day later, the government ignored the vote and capitulated.

For the next four years, the Syriza government has duly attempted to implement every single demand of the Troika.  Pensions have been slashed, public sector employees have been sacked and wage freezes imposed, state assets have been sold off, taxes have been raised sharply.  Varoufakis resigned after the capitulation and toured Europe; and the left faction in Syriza split away to run its own electoral parties – to no avail.  The Syriza government ploughed on in the hope and expectation that if it met the austerity measures imposed by the Troika, it would eventually be able to resume economic growth, gain some ‘fiscal space’ and ‘return to the market’ for government borrowing. . .

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