- Wednesday, 20 June 2012
- Written by Marxistiki Foni Editorial Board in Athens
The results of Sunday's parliamentary elections are a "fragile" political victory for the Greek ruling class. Meanwhile we see a massive shift of the working masses towards Syriza in the major cities, among the working class, the very young and the productive. Among these layers there was a veritable avalanche of support for Syriza
New Democracy (ND) ranked first winning 29.66% and approximately 1,825,000 votes. They won nearly 635,000 votes more compared to the elections of 6th May and an almost 11% increase. Of the 52 constituencies, ND came first in 36, including the A district in Athens, the A and B of Thessaloniki and A of Piraeus. According to the figures provided by the various exit polls of the television stations, the main age group of ND voters is to be found in the over-55s, among whom ND won 39%. But among the 18-34 year olds ND won only 20% and the 35-54 year olds won 24%.
The electoral recovery of ND is mainly due to the massive terror campaign conducted by all the sections of the bourgeoisie, with the full support of the traitors of the communist movement, the leaders of the Democratic Left, with their main slogan "A vote for SYRIZA = a return to the drachma and economic disaster". This dirty campaign got an echo within those traditional conservative layers of Greek society, which their economic situation and position predisposes them to fear "adventures" or "uncertainty" created by the unusual prospect of a government by a party from within the communist movement.
Apart from the capitalists and owners of large incomes and property, these layers are on the one side those who still enjoy "middle-class" incomes, and still have significant savings from the past, owning assets and also generally profitable small properties, and on the other side those whose livelihood directly depends on state revenues, such as pensioners and permanent civil servants. As is shown clearly by the election result, the leadership of Syriza failed to convince this latter category that the abolition of the Memorandum and the general programme of the party could directly ensure their current income.
One factor that particularly favoured New Democracy was the unexpectedly high abstention rate of 37.5%, or 2.5% more than May 6. It is true that great economic hardship was once a barrier to the movement of voters who live far from where they are officially registered to vote, especially in the small towns and villages in the rural areas. But such a high abstention rate, in such a critical and polarized election, can only reflect a real, albeit minority, trend of political apathy, mainly among the youth in these areas, which largely reflects a lack of trust in the government alternative programme, put forward by the Syriza leadership.
Syriza, however, objectively speaking is the great winner of these elections. It won second place with 26.9% and about 1,655,000 votes. In just one month it won almost a further 10% of the overall electorate and approximately 600,000 votes, reflecting the rapidly growing strength of the left, the fastest growth of the left not only in modern Greek political history, but probably in modern political history of the capitalist world as a whole. The key point, however, is that this shift is within the most active and the most progressive sections of Greek society: the working class, together with the majority of unemployed, the youth and in general, the bulk of the electorate in the major urban centres and among those age groups that are productively active.
According to the TV exit polls, in the 18-34 year olds Syriza won 33%, and among the 35-54 year olds, Syriza won 34%. The strength of Syriza in the main urban areas speaks for itself. Overall in Attica (Athens-Piraeus) Syriza came first with about 600,000 votes, compared to 406,667 in May, the map in those areas which are at the heart of economic and political life of the country has been painted red.
Especially in the largest constituency of Greece, in the second district Athens, Syriza came first, going from its previous 21.82% to 31.43% and from 223,416 to about 314,000. For example, in the Municipality of Nea Ionia it went up from 24.62% to 36.65%, and in the Municipality of Peristeri from 24.9% to 37.71%. In the second district of Piraeus it came first with 36.30% compared to its previous 23.85%, and with 63,285 votes compared to the earlier 43,122 received in May. We have the example in the Municipality of Perama, where it went up from 22.3% to 35.79%, and the Municipality of Keratsini-Drapetsona where it went up from 24, 41% to 37.23%.
In Thessaloniki (A and B region) Syriza increased its percentages of votes impressively. In the first district it went from 17.46% to 29.95), while in the second it went from 14.42% to 24.40%. Also in the large municipality of Patras, Syriza went from 25.42 to an impressive 35.86%.
All these results confirm the assessment that we made immediately after the elections on 6 May that Syriza is becoming the undisputed political voice of the broad masses of the working class.
Syriza is now the new mass workers' party of Greece.
And this dynamic cannot be stopped, unless the leadership makes some serious mistakes. This leadership, no doubt – and we Marxists are the last to deny this – has contributed with its overall positive stance to date in the development of Syriza's influence within society
Why SYRIZA lost the elections
However, we do need to ask ourselves as to why Syriza did not come top of the polls, disappointing the great hopes of millions of workers and youth? The causes are to be found in a combination of objective and subjective elements.
Objectively, the political correlation of forces, from the very first moment was stacked against SYRIZA. New Democracy, with all the other right-wing parties backing it, the leaders of PASOK and Democratic Left, all Greek SME supporters of the troika, together with the major international media set up jointly a powerful terror campaign against Syriza, targeting the petty bourgeois and more politically backward layers of Greek society.
On its part, the leadership of the Communist Party – which has also been punished very hard by the working class – played a destructive role, attacking Syriza in a sectarian and myopic manner throughout the campaign. It rejected any form of government cooperation with Syriza, and thus weakened the prospect of a government of the left, making it a less feasible political solution in the eyes of the petty bourgeoisie. If the leadership of the Communist Party had worked with Syriza on the basis of a joint electoral platform, now we would not be witnessing the swearing in of a pro-memorandum Samara government, but a left-wing, communist government! The workers will never forgive this political crime of the leadership of the Communist Party.
Also, we have to consider as factors that explain the number of people who feared the prospect of Syriza forming a government, both the conservative tendencies and fears of chaos in the rural households and the elderly – particularly in the provinces – faced with what they believed was the "destabilizing" prospect of a conflict with the Troika over the Memoranda, together with the existence of political apathy among a certain layer, mainly among the younger voters.
However, the leadership of Syriza should and could have faced up to all this and found the appropriate political solution.
The dirty campaign of the bourgeois politicians, media and the troika should have received an immediate response, as we have already explained previously, with a serious effort to mobilize the members of Syriza in the workplaces, in the urban neighbourhoods and in villages, with the aim of organising thousands of new fighters for this battle.
Instead of dedicating energy to this vital task, the election campaign was limited to badly organised local gatherings – discussions that were described incorrectly as "popular assemblies". Instead of developing stronger electoral campaigning, they maintained a routine approach with tired old members and supporters with clipboards. All the "prominent leaders" put their efforts into participating in TV panels, instead of going down to the ranks and organising mass campaign in the neighbourhoods. Syriza, from an organisational point of view thus appeared as having a very weak electoral apparatus, and not one that could mobilize the thousands of fighters it had encountered in recent weeks. Syriza’s apparatus considered them as mere voters and did not try to boldly and decisively organize them so as to strengthen the forces of the party at rank and file level.
The programme presented by the leadership – without any serious discussions with the rank and file – gave some hope to the workers, but it was not the nesesary for giving them enthusiasm and the certanty that this can solve their problems and it was not enough in terms of an effective policy to answer the fears and anxieties of thousands of petty bourgeois, pensioners and unemployed youth.
The leadership of Syriza failed to convince the majority of the people that its programme and the cancellation of the Memoranda of austerity could be applied "peacefully and safely" while remaining within the euro and at the same time it also failed to convince a large part of the people that the EU's threat to expel Greece from the euro was a “bluff”. Faced with the real risk of a generalized economic declaration of war on the part of international and local capital against a future government of the Left, the leadership, instead of responding with a comprehensive and openly expressed programmatic plan, rushed to calm and reassure people with the simple statement that they "would not dare" do such a thing. Even worse, the leadership spoke of plans that were “not reportable!” (Press conference by Tsipras, 12 June). A hostile bourgeois campaign based on fear, can never be answered with vague and abstract positions that leave room for even more fear to grow!
Instead of adopting this approach, the leadership should have patiently and insistently explained the need for a comprehensive programme for the nationalisation under democratic workers’ control and management of the commanding heights of the economy as part of a centralised plan. The plain truth is that without the establishment of a socialised, democratically planned economy, the survival of the people and the paying of wages and pensions – in spite of what the leaders may say – is not at all assured under capitalism.
Also, the hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people did not feel at all assured that the programme presented by the leadership of Syriza was sufficient to combat unemployment. Instead of proposing to increase unemployment benefit by 100 euro and granting it one year earlier, the leadership of Syriza – as we pointed out in an earlier article – should have raised that long-established demand of the labour movement, a reduction in working hours without loss of pay, so that the unemployed would have seen that there was a reasonable expectation that a Left government would be able to provide them with jobs immediately. In defending such a demand, Syriza would have been able to show to the unemployed just how reactionary this system of capitalist anarchy is, a system which condemns them to chronic poverty, and this would have helped them to understand that the only realistic option to live in dignity is to establish a socialised democratically planned economy.
The conclusions we can draw from our analysis is that SYRIZA could have won the elections if the leadership had been equipped with the appropriate programme of action in the election campaign and, above all, if it had had the right political agenda. However, it is also true that what we have accomplished so far is by no means negligible!
This is the first time since the 24.2% won by EDA in 1958, [EDA was the then KKE front] that a party from within the communist movement has won such a high percentage in elections, breaking a historic barrier and revealing that the ideas of genuine socialism have the potential to become a majority in society.
Within a few weeks, the ruling class has had to come to terms with the presence of a strong political opponent and the workers have emerged as the most powerful political force that can change society. This truly great step forward must not be allowed to be drowned in words and feelings of frustration for having only won second place. We must base ourselves on this big step forward to strengthen our struggle and prepare for power.
This is not the place or time for shedding "tears" or cursing, especially those sections of the working people who did not vote for us. The political mistakes we made are very clear to see and we must correct them. The urgent task of the day is to dedicate ourselves to the struggle to build a mass, revolutionary Syriza as a valid tool in the hands of the masses for the socialist transformation of society!
The results of the other parties
Syriza’s failure to win was a natural consequence of PASOK and the Democratic Left holding on to their votes. But this was not due to the "leadership" of Venizelos or Kouvelis, as the bourgeois media have been trying to convince us. It was an expression of the political weakness of the leadership of Syriza and its inability to politically convince enough workers and petty bourgeois layers to be elected to government. If the leadership had presented a clear socialist programme, then the vote of the PASOK and Democratic Left would have collapsed, the first to single digits and the second to a level that would have meant they would not have received any MPs at all.
PASOK compared to May’s 41seats won 33; it’s vote in percentage terms went down to 12.28% from its previous 13.18% and its votes in absolute terms went down to 755,832 compared to its previous 833,527. However, in areas such as Attica (Athens, Piraeus...) it remained at desperately low single digit levels of 7-8%, and it remained below its national level in Thessaloniki and Patras, and its downward trend was also noticeable in other cities around the country. All this demonstrated that it is finished as the leading party of the working masses in the country.
The Democratic Left compared won 17 seats compared to the 19 it won in May, with 6.26% compared to the previous 6.11% and an overall number of votes of 385,079 compared to the previous 386,273. Thus, the ruling class was able to issue a sigh of relief in seeing the survival of this precious left "fig leaf" for a government that will impose anti-working class austerity measures. However, with both the Democratic Left and PASOK willingly participating or supporting a new government of the Troika and of the Greek bourgeoisie, they will inevitably see electoral base being whittled away. With a different programme on the part of the leadership of Syriza, this could have been achieved without the need for the workers to have to go through the painful experience of a new coalition with the same programme as that of Papademos, but under the new prime minister Samaras.
The Independent Greeks revealed signs of serious decline, confirming that it is an opportunist demagogic bourgeois party, which attempted to cash in on the "anti-Memorandum" mood among the mass of people. Compared to May’s elections its seats went down to 20 seats from its previous 31, while in percentage terms its vote went down to 7.51% from 10.61%, and its overall number of votes in absolute terms went down to 462,456 from 670,957. It is clear that the ruling class will put immense pressure on the volatile bourgeois careerists of this party to support a government led by Samaras and to go back to the ND. This pressure will reveal, as was the case with Samaras, that no bourgeois party can honestly and consistently oppose the fierce austerity of the Memoranda.
Unfortunately, the neo-Nazi "Golden Dawn" proved to be particularly resilient. Compared to the May elections it won 18 seats instead of 21 seats, with 6.92% instead of 6.97% and 425,000 votes compared to 441,000 votes. Despite the full, public exposure of the true face of the Golden Dawn in the recent TV chat show when the infamous Kasidiari physically attacked Liana P. Kanellis, this fascist formation managed to keep its votes. The irreversible decline of the far-right LAOS, together with the feeling of desperation among the most politically backward layers and the impact of the capitalist crisis on layers of the petit bourgeoisie, have all opened up space for the Greek neo-Nazis. The revelations of high levels of corruption in the bourgeois parliamentary system, as well as the creation of ghettos of impoverished immigrants in Athens and other major cities, has given the opportunity to the Golden Dawn to reap electoral benefits from a crude anti-parliamentary disposition of the petit bourgeois and "lumpenised" unemployed, mainly youth, who have no memory or experience of the 1967-74 Colonels’ junta and even less of the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. For now, however, there is not a strong current to the far right and facism. Unquestionably, the most powerful social current is towards the left and especially towards SYRIZA.The dozens of attacks against leftist activists during the election campaign stress the need for a united fighting front of the Left and the trade unions against the Nazis. Only such action can put the brakes on the growing terror of the Golden Dawn. The Golden will clearly be feeling encouraged after its electoral success and will escalate its campaign of anti-immigrant attacks and also its violence against left activists. Pro-fascist nuclei within the state will provide even greater cover for them. In the final analysis only the quickest coming to power possible of a United Left Government, which would dissolve the reactionary and repressive apparatus of the current state and provide a revolutionary programme to solve the problems of the unemployed and the petty bourgeoisie, can a solution be found that would erode the social base of the Golden Dawn and provide for a political set up where the outlawing of all fascist formations would be possible.
KKE suffers biggest electoral defeat in the last 40 years
The KKE, Communist Party of Greece, saw its vote fall to 4.50% from the 8.48% it had won in the May elections, losing half its votes, going down to 277,179 from 536,072 and 12 MPs instead of the previous 26. This is the biggest electoral defeat of the KKE since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974.The leadership of the Communist Party with its policy led to a situation where the party’s votes have fallen to below the 4.54% it received in the elections of 1993, just two years after the split, and also the collapse of the USSR and other Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe, which had a huge negative impact on the morale and consciousness of the working class.
This recent defeat did not surprise anyone. It was the expected result of the total inability of the leadership of the Communist Party to give an expression to the radicalisation and the left turn taking place within large sections of the working masses. The painful result in the elections was clearly a product of the escalation in recent years (on the part of the leadership of the Communist Party), of its attempt to lead the most historic, mass workers' party of the country with the policies, tactics and methods of a Stalinist sect.
If the leadership of the Communist Party had formed a coalition with Syriza, defending a revolutionary programme and also criticising the reformist mistakes of the leadership of Syriza from the standpoint of such a programme, today we would have had a government of the Left which would have been in a position to pave the way for the overthrow of capitalism and a party that would have emerged from the elections as the guarantor of the necessary working class policies of this government. But the leadership of the Communist Party chose to adopt a sectarian stance towards Syriza, "washing its hands" like Pontius Pilate in the face of the real concrete choice between a “Right or Left government" and thus, in practice, provided a crutch for the ruling class to lean on.
The old generations of communists view with sorrow this historical party of theirs, which led the epic popular resistance against the Nazis during the Occupation, winning only a little over half of what today’s Greek neo-Nazis won. And the new generation of communists find it difficult to understand why it is that after two years of massive workers’ struggles, where they fought in the forefront, the vote for their party has collapsed.
This huge defeat of the KKE underlines the urgent need for leadership and policy change. The analysis of the election results carried out by the Central Committee, which justifies once again their line as a political imperative, referring to abstract concepts such as “subjective weaknesses”, shows that with every minute that passes with this leadership and this policy, the KKE will be discredited more and more in the eyes of the masses of the working class. With this leadership and this policy, the party will not recover.
The Marxists of Synaspismos and Syriza who publish the journal “Epanastasi” ["Revolution"] and the magazine “Marxistiki Foni” ["Marxist Voice"] in principle believe that the working class needs a strong Communist Party that will be able to contribute decisively in the victory of a socialist revolution in Greece. This can be achieved, however, only on the basis of the genuine revolutionary, internationalist, democratic and unifying principles of Bolshevism-Leninism, which should immediately replace the various Stalinist in the party. The tools in achieving this vital task are the ideas and methods of Lenin which must be retrieved from historical obscurity, and restored to their rightful place. It is time for every conscious member of the KKE and the KNE [Communist Youth] to come out firmly against this downhill Stalinist path the party has embarked on. The only way of putting a stop to this slippery slope is to immediately create a mass Leninist tendency within the party, which at the next Congress would fight for a genuine Marxist-oriented party.
The Samaras government and prospects
The ruling class very shortly will have a new government with Samaras as Prime Minister, and with the generous support of PASOK and Democratic Left. The treacherous behaviour of these former “communists”, with their support for this new government of the ruling class, confirms the fact that the position of the leadership of Syriza, which was one of treating them as credible and necessary allies in a government of the Left, was wrong. Meanwhile, the PASOK leadership has demonstrated once again its slavish adherence to the interests of the ruling class.
After the election night was over, Samaras has abandoned his populist calls for "renegotiation" of the Memoranda and has shown once again that in reality he remains firmly wedded to the line of draconian austerity as a means of saving Greek capitalism from steep decline and remaining within the Eurozone. Those workers and voters in the poor working class neighbourhoods that were taken in by the demagogy of Samaras and voted New Democracy cannot expect to see even one single measure in favour of working people from this new government.
Fundamental democratic rights, such as the right to demonstrate and to strike, will be in jeopardy according to the campaign promises of the leadership of ND. Immigrant workers will be targeted by "official" police pogroms with the "unofficial" help of the neo-Nazi thugs of the "Golden Dawn". The new emergency taxes will simply be presented under a new name and tax cuts will be granted only for the capitalists. There will be an epidemic of wage cuts and so-called “free economic zones” with “Chinese” wages and working conditions, will make their appearance, as a model for the entire Greek economy. The collapse in government revenues as a result of the recession will inevitably lead to new measures, perhaps before this summer, as the second Memorandum refers to the need for further cuts of 11.5 billion euros. New reductions in salaries and pensions are therefore inevitable. This time, we will see massive layoffs of government workers, with the use of shock methods and not the gentle practice of transforming them into "reserves".
The troika and especially Germany, in conditions of recession and indebtedness across Europe, will not help the new government in any fundamental way, except perhaps for a slight extension of the period in which repayments have to be made and the concession of so-called "growth" funds – i.e. they will prescribe aspirin for cancer! But the depth of the recession is such that it would very quickly become clear that without any major new loans and new cuts in spending, Greece will not be able escape a generalised default and a return to a national currency.
As the crisis deepens in Portugal, Spain and Italy, Greece is rapidly being seen as an "unnecessary burden" within the strong areas of the eurozone. The constant need for repeated "rescues" will no longer be tolerated, as this creates a precedent for other over-indebted countries, whose "rescue" would be infinitely more costly. In addition to promoting a pan-European policy of draconian austerity, German and other European capitalists require a "scapegoat" to be made an example of, and which better candidate can they find than Greece? Therefore, the prospect of Greece being pushed out of the euro, despite the election of a right-wing government "vowing" to stay in the euro, remains the most likely perspective.
Had a government of the Left been elected, the troika, and especially the German bourgeoisie, would have push for an early exit of Greece from the euro, among other things for political reasons as they would have wanted to expose Syriza in the eye of its voters and to put the blame on Syriza for the financial disaster and also reducing the large European-wide political influence the party has. With a Samaras government, the looming exit from the common currency will be presented as being a more consensual affair and would also be accompanied with some financial rewards to "sweeten the pill" and promises of some future reintegration. The 70 billion owed by the Greek state to the private banks in the form of the "public" debt, they will attempt to cover directly with the money from the "bailouts" and which would possibly be accompanied by a new deal involving some further "concessions" to big European capital.
Thus the Samaras government will most likely have to manage the precipitous move towards a disorderly default and exit from the euro. In these circumstances the attitude towards the government of the working class and petit bourgeois layers that have been seriously affected by this crisis will soon become a militant one. The workers and poor who voted Syriza now feel disappointed by the rise to power of ND. But they also realise that they have in their hands a valuable political weapon, which they did not have in previous years, a strong and popular Syriza. The sense of political strength that Syriza gives to the working class will boost the forthcoming struggles against the new austerity measures, the mass layoffs and the attempts to restrict democratic rights. These struggles will soon erupt as an inevitable response to the attack by the Samaras government.
In the course of these struggles the new unified Syriza will be built, tempered and prepared to come to power on the back of a massive wave of popular support. In the course of this process a vital question is that of correcting the serious mistakes of the leadership, in terms of its tactics but mainly in the programme of Syriza.
The widespread view held within the leadership of the party that electoral victory was not achieved because the radical political stance that was adopted "startled" the petty bourgeois and the pensioners is fundamentally a mistaken one. Actually, the opposite is true. It were the unclear "moderation" and the reluctance to adopt a coherent and revolutionary plan that confused thousands of petty bourgeois, pensioners, housewives, unemployed and politically inexperienced youth, creating the widespread impression that Syriza "did not know what it wanted”, so they chose PASOK, Democratic Left or abstention. The majority of these people are not "solidly conservative". What they feared was to support a leadership who were presumed to have populist intentions, but also with a programme that lacked clarity.
If the leadership of Syriza shifts towards the so-called "moderation" of the Democratic Left – as is already beginning to happen in the media with Stathakis and Papadimoulis who are receiving a lot of coverage – then the thousands of Syriza supporters will be disappointed and the authentic voices of right-wing "moderation," Venizelos and Kouvelis, will take advantage by getting an extended lease of life. The ruling class through the media are already taking advantage of these "moderate" views and are specifically targeting figures within the party such as Lafazanis [traditionally the leader of the left of the party], but also what they view as “extreme trends and currents” within Syriza, in an attempt to push the leadership of Syriza to the right, to get them to "clean up" the party and remove what they view as the annoying voices of the Left, in order to guarantee that once a Left government inevitably comes to power it will leave intact the foundations of rotten Greek capitalism.
These attempts to shift the party to the right and undermine its radicalism can only be stopped by the thousands of ordinary activists and supporters. In order to achieve this, what we need is to call as soon as possible a democratic congress to refound Syriza as a unified, mass workers' party with the right of tendencies to exist. At such a congress, the forces that base themselves on revolutionary Marxism must unite around a programme, which in our view should be based on the principles and positions of the proposals we worked out and presented in a creative discussion with thousands of activists of Syriza in early June. [See Η Μαρξιστική πρόταση για το πρόγραμμα της κυβέρνησης της Αριστεράς].
- Do not be disappointed! Say no to the venom of scepticism and pessimism! The struggle continues for a better position of the party!
- Syriza must take a leading role in fighting back against the measures that will be presented by the new government and the troika!
- No shift to the right! Correction and completion of the programme from the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism!
- We must organise the thousands of Syriza militants now!
- Put an end to the paralysis of agreements reached by the leadership that do not involve the rank and file – open the doors of Syriza to the workers and youth!
- For a democratic congress to reorganise Syriza as a unified mass workers’ party with the right of tendencies!
- For the Marxist orientation of a revolutionary Syriza through the creation of a mass revolutionary, Marxist tendency!
- For a government of the Left to implement a programme of socialist transformation of society!
- For an internationalist policy, for the Socialist United States of Europe!