Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency: the Marxist voice of labour and youth.

Greek voters have decisively rejected the terms of an international bailout. Sunday’s referendum was a slap in the face for the bankers and capitalists of the Eurozone. The "OXI" victory marks another turning point in the development of the European revolution.

Greek voters have decisively rejected the terms of an international bailout. Sunday’s referendum was a slap in the face for the bankers and capitalists of the Eurozone. The final result in the referendum, published by the interior ministry, was 61.3% “No”, against 38.7% who voted “Yes”. Most predicted Yes to have a base in the rural areas but in the end that was shown to be false.

The results were as follows:

National results with 100% of votes reported:

Yes/Accepted

38.69%

Votes

2,245,537

No/Not accepted

61.31%

Votes

3,558,450

Turnout

62.5%

Public Issue published a detailed breakdown analysis of the NO vote by age, gender, occupation, January 25 election vote, etc. The results were very interesting and reflect the real character of the NO vote. By age group it is clear that it was the youth which was carried the day:

18-24: 85%
25-34: 72.3%
35-44: 67.4%
45-54: 69.2%
55-64: 59.4%
65+: 44.9%

When we look at the breakdown by occupation we see the class character of the No vote: 70.9% public sector workers and 71.3% of private sector workers, as well as 72.9% of the unemployed, while doctors, lawyers and engineers voted Yes, though by a very small margin. Also voting No were 85.2% students. The vote was also clearly left-wing with 91% of those who declare themselves to be on the left and 73.6% of those who consider themselves centre-left supporting the No. Among those who voted Syriza on January 25, 87.3% voted No almost as much as among KKE voters (86.9%) despite the party's line of a spoilt ballot.

Every single district in the country voted NO but this was stronger in the working class areas, like Piraeus B which voted over 72% NO, with only 27% for the YES. In this same district, the KKE had won 8.19% in the January 25 election, now the number of invalid votes was only 5.15%. Of the country’s 56 electoral constituencies, the NO won in every single one, and in all but 7 of them the margin was over 10 points, in 30 of them the margin was over 20 points.

This was a great victory above all for the Greek working class who have seen their living standards destroyed by the brutal austerity policies inflicted on Greece for the past six years. The paper Efymerida ton Syntakton carried an analysis of the class composition of the vote in Athens. This shows clearly that the NO vote won overwhelmingly in the poor working class neighbourhoods, while the YES vote only had some success in the wealthier middle class suburbs:

“The ballot boxes sent a strong message from the working-class districts of Athens, where the NO vote won with an overwhelming difference over the YES. In the rich suburbs, the result was exactly the opposite. (...) Tellingly, the NO won 79.20% in the municipality of Agropyrgou, 77.22% in Phyli, 76.64% in Perama, 75.25% in Acharnes, in the municipality of Keratsiniou-Drapetsonas 72.84%, in Nikaias-Agia Ioanni Renti 72.61%, in Agia Varvara 72.75%, in Elefsina 71.88%, in Lafreotiki 71.81%, in Tafro 71.28%, in Aigaleo 70.68% and in Peristeri 70.31% [all solidly working-class areas, many traditional bastions of the KKE]. In the northern and southern suburbs [the most bourgeois areas] the YES carried the day, in Ekali 84.62%, in Dionyso 69.78%, in Vouliagmeni 66.27%, in Kifisia 64.59%, in Drosia 65.42% and in Voula 63.88%.”

oxiThe referendum has transformed the mood in the factories and on the streets. It has boosted the morale of the workers and strengthened their self-confidence. This was revealed in the mass rallies that occurred both before the referendum and after the result became known.

Thousands of No voters poured into Syntagma Square in front of the parliament in Athens to celebrate, as the magnitude of the result became clear, waving Greek flags and chanting “No, no.” As the No camp celebrated, the Yes camp was thrown into confusion. This is a huge defeat for the troika and a further nail in the head for their supporters in Greece.

Antonis Samaras, head of the opposition right-wing New Democracy party and former prime minister, who campaigned for a Yes vote, has resigned. The news of his resignation was greeted with more cheers by the crowds in Syntagma Square.

However, the present mood of euphoria will not last. There are still huge obstacles to be met. The biggest and most decisive battles lay in the future. And Greece is now deeply polarised along class lines. The gulf between the classes has widened into an unbridgeable abyss. The antagonism between the YES and NO camps resembles in many ways the extreme polarization we see in Venezuela – that is to say, it resembles a revolution.

Ferocious campaign

This victory was all the more remarkable given the ferocious campaign waged by the Yes camp, which included almost all the Greek media, backed by the leaders of the Eurozone who used all their political and financial muscle to put pressure on the Greek people to vote Yes. The leaders of the European institutions and the IMF waged a campaign of threats, blackmail, openly advocated regime change and told the Greeks which way they should vote.

The Troika and its allies tried to turn this referendum into a vote for or against Europe, but the masses ignored the propaganda, and in fact all attempts to push the Greek people to vote YES, among which bringing out all the old politicians, including Papandreou and all the past five prime ministers, had the opposite effect. It was seen as an insulting provocation and it served only to push people in the direction of a NO vote.

The political parties in Greece that campaigned for the YES enjoyed a virtual monopoly of access to the media. The overwhelming majority of the press, as well as all of the private TV channels (which blanked out the huge No rally last Monday and ran a campaign of fear), are in the hands of the Greek capitalist oligarchy.

The ECB forced the banks to close during the referendum campaign. On Friday, the Financial Times published a story that the Greek banks were going to apply a 30% haircut to any deposits over 8.000 euros, which proved to be false. The Greek bosses engaged in all sorts of dirty tactics, including direct intimidation of workers to vote Yes, withholding their wages, threatening them with the sack, etc.

It was in fact an attempted coup. The leaders of the Eurozone did not bother to conceal the fact that their aim was to use what they hoped would be a Yes vote to force the resignation of the Syriza government and replace it with a compliant “Government of National Unity” composed of “technocrats” – that is, obedient stooges. This campaign can only be described as “terrorism”, in the words of Varoufakis. But their plans misfired.

The result has encouraged the workers in Greece. After all, they saw a clear attempt to overthrow the elected government, with European finance capital taking on the Greek people directly, stating that if there were a "substantial" Yes vote then negotiations could continue. It was seen as blackmail and the people responded accordingly.

“Greece has just signed its own suicide note,” predicted Mujtaba Rahman, head of European analysis at the Eurasia Group risk consultancy. “Only the French will want to salvage something from this vote, but they’re unlikely to win the debate in the euro group.”

Tsipras said late on Sunday in a televised address that Greeks had voted for a “Europe of solidarity and democracy… As of tomorrow, Greece will go back to the negotiating table and our primary priority is to reinstate the financial stability of the country.”

“This time, the debt will be on the negotiating table,” he added, saying that an International Monetary Fund assessment published this week “confirms Greek views that restructuring the debt is necessary.”

But these remarks are overly optimistic. The referendum result will have set the alarm bells ringing in every government and chancellery in Europe. A summit of Eurozone heads of state has now been called for Tuesday. And European officials have already said that a “No” would be seen as an outright rejection of talks with creditors.

From the beginning Tsipras has insisted that this is a mandate for negotiations. But German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel – a Social Democrat, by the way – was quoted as saying: “Tsipras has burnt the last bridges” This is hardly the language of a negotiated settlement! Gabriel went on to say that renewed negotiations with Greece were “difficult to imagine.”

He is not the only one. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurozone’s group of finance ministers, said the referendum result was “very regrettable for the future of Greece”. Mr Tsipras and his government were taking the country down a path of “bitter abandonment and hopelessness,” he told the Tagesspiegel daily.

Greek banks are running critically low and will need another injection of emergency funds from the European Central Bank. In order to prevent a total collapse of the Greek banks, which have been bled white in recent weeks, a deal with the Eurozone has to be struck fast. But the bosses of the Eurozone will insist on the imposition of harsh conditions that are completely contrary to the programme on which Tsipras fought and won the election last January.

But the past two weeks have increased still further the bad blood between the Athens government and the leaders of the Eurozone – particularly the Germans who hold the purse-strings and who really decide everything.

The surprise resignation of Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s Finance Minister, was undoubtedly dictated by Brussels and Berlin as a prior condition for any new talks. They have not forgiven him for calling the Eurozone’s bullying tactics by their right name – “terrorism.” They have obviously decided to exclude him from the negotiating table. Tsipras may think that this will make an agreement easier. It will not. The whole experience of the past five months shows that any concessions will only harden the resolve of the other side.

Meanwhile the banks are running out of cash, tax revenues are plummeting and the Greek economy has once again been plunged into a slump, making a deal even harder to reach. On Sunday night, while the people of Greece were celebrating their victory, voices were already being raised in German banking and trade circles that the scale of the No vote meant that Greece would need to be ejected from the Euro.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a phone call with the French president, François Hollande, on Sunday night that a Eurozone leaders’ summit should be held on Tuesday. France’s Élysée Palace confirmed that Merkel is due to travel to Paris for dinner with Hollande today (Monday).

Divisions in Europe

grexitThe European bourgeoisie is divided between the hard faction, mainly Germans, who want to humiliate and crush Syriza, and those who see the dangerous consequences of such action. This could provoke a revolutionary uprising of the Greek masses. The referendum was a warning to them in this sense. The other wing will therefore try and use the so-called "moderate" wing of Syriza. This would involve some kind of deal. But even that would not change anything fundamental for the masses. In fact the compromise Tsipras was contemplating just one week ago was already a major retreat.

There are signs of a split in the Eurozone. Hollande is inclined to make concessions to the Greeks and so are the Italians. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: “Now it is right to start trying for an agreement again. But there is no escape from the Greek labyrinth with a Europe that’s weak and isn’t growing.” Belgium’s finance minister said the door remained open to restart talks with Greece “literally, within hours”.

Benoît Cœuré, a member of the executive board of the ECB, hinted at support for Greece. He said on Sunday: “In the current circumstances of great uncertainty in Europe and the world, our will to act in this matter should not be doubted”. But that comment was probably just a part of the campaign for a Yes vote. It should not be taken at face value.

In any case, it is not the French but the Germans who decide the actions of the ECB, and they remain implacable. According to Der Spiegel, Merkel concluded over the last three weeks of frantic negotiations that Tsipras was a “hard and ideological” gambler. He was “driving his country to the wall,” and “playing roulette with an entire country,” she told a private meeting of her Christian Democrats over the last week, the news magazine reported.

Events on the economic front are moving far faster than in the legal and political field, and that may now determine the outcome. It does not seem likely that Greek banks will reopen without a fresh infusion of cash. But that can only come from the ECB, the governing council of which is supposed to be deliberating on the issue today.

Greece’s latest bailout expired last Tuesday and Greece missed a €1.6bn payment to the IMF. Greek banks are desperately in need of money to save them, and the Greek economy. But the European Central Bank (ECB) is not prepared to provide this. The bankers (that is to say, the Germans) fear that by supplying more liquidity to the Greek banking system, they may be throwing good money after bad. If, as seems likely, there is a default, the Greek banks will not be able to stay afloat for long.

The European Central Bank’s policy making governing council was due to meet this afternoon in Frankfurt. There the council hardliners, particularly Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank president, will argue that Greece is heading for a default. On July 20 Greece is due to pay €3.5bn on a bond held by the ECB. If, as seems inevitable, Athens defaults on that bond, the ECB may decide to cut off any lifeline.

What happens then? The Bank of Greece could make unsecured loans to Greek banks without the ECB’s permission. That would be seen as tantamount to leaving the euro. Or it can explicitly create a new currency, which may or may not be called the drachma. That could then be used to finance Greek banks and the Greek economy, but it would explicitly signify Greece’s exit from the Euro.

The reason for the implacable hostility of Merkel and the others to Greece is not, at bottom, a question of economics. There is no doubt that if instead of Syriza there was a right-wing government in Athens, the Germans would have found ways and means of providing some funds for the Greek banks.

The reason why they cannot tolerate Syriza and its anti-austerity programme is that it sets an example for other left-wing and anti-austerity parties and movements in other parts of Europe. Some time ago The Economist warned of the danger of “austerity fatigue” on the part of the masses. There is only so much that people can tolerate before moving in the direction of open revolt. Greece has already passed that critical point. But other countries, notably Spain, Italy, Portugal and even France, are moving in the same direction.

The beginning of the Greek revolution

Syriza is now very popular. If they were to call elections at this moment in time they would increase their vote and be able to govern without the Independent Greek MPs, some of whom joined the Yes camp before the referendum. This shows that the only way forward is to base oneself on the masses, and not rely on manoeuvres and diplomacy at the top. If Tsipras tries to do this, he will be caught like a fly in a spider’s web. The popularity of Syriza would evaporate and the disappointment of the masses would prepare the way for a government of the right.

The Syriza leaders will find themselves ground between two huge millstones. On the one hand the European bankers and capitalists will be demanding more cuts and austerity as a condition for releasing any money to the Greek banks. On the other hand, the Greek masses are now aroused and determined to resist any attempts to make them pay for the crisis of capitalism.

Government officials are still insisting that rejecting bailout terms would strengthen their hand, and that they could rapidly strike a deal for fresh funding in resumed negotiations. But any such negotiations could only start when the Greek side agrees to further cuts and austerity. Tsipras has said: “I understand that voters have not given me a mandate against Europe, but a mandate for a sustainable future.” He warned that there would be “no easy solutions.” What do these words mean? Time will tell…

If Tsipras makes any concessions to the Troika he will enter into collision with the working class and the rank and file of Syriza. The Greek bourgeois is in such a weak position that it has no party of its own on which to rely upon. The only hope is therefore to foment a split between the right wing and left wing of Syriza: between those who support more austerity and those who stand firm against it. The Troika will undoubtedly be manoeuvring to split Syriza, bring down the government and install a coalition of obedient stooges. That would be something the Greek workers and youth must fight against with all their strength.

The Bible says: “You cannot serve two Masters: You cannot serve God and Mammon.” We say to comrade Tsipras: You cannot serve two Masters: the Troika and the Greek people. Sooner or later a break will have to be made. If Tsipras and the Syriza leadership wanted to, they would be in a position to set in motion a process that would lead to the expropriation of the banks and the oligarchy. They would have the support of European workers who sympathise with the Greek workers with all their heart.

It is interesting to note how the referendum mobilised a significant wave of solidarity across Europe and beyond. Thousands marched in several demonstrations in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Dublin, Paris and Brussels (and smaller numbers elsewhere) where the referendum was rightly seen as a vote on austerity across Europe. Thousands of people attended an Irish protest in solidarity with the Greeks calling for a no vote in the referendum.

Particularly striking was the rally in the Irish capital. Demonstrators in Dublin marched from the Central Bank to the Dáil (parliament) in what they are calling “a common battle against austerity in both countries'.

People Before Profit TD Joan Collins has said: "If the Syriza government were to succeed in getting a debt write-down that will be huge egg-in-the-face for the governments of Europe. They want to strangle the Syriza movement, and they want to replace them with technocrats, the same people who brought the country to its knees. So I think and I hope that the people of Greece send out a clear message on Sunday.”

greeksolidarityfeb15thThis is internationalism in action! The workers and youth of Europe are rallying to the side of Greece! How much more enthusiastically would they respond if they saw that Syriza was taking action to overthrow the dictatorship of the bankers and capitalists!

The coverage of the media outside Greece was almost as bad as the media in Greece. The supposedly progressive Guardian wrote: “The no vote was supported by the hard left and the neo-fascist right in Greece, while the mainstream centre-left and centre-right campaigned for a yes vote.” The fact that Golden Dawn supported the No vote is really an anecdote. They really had no other alternative, since they have been losing ground in the last period and to advocate a Yes vote would have finished them off completely.

It is worth reminding ourselves that up until recently all the media – and also, to their shame, most Left groups, were shouting about the “threat of fascism in Greece” – something which we correctly ridiculed. Now we see the real situation, which is precisely what we have been saying: the pendulum in Greece is swinging to the Left, not the right. What is on the agenda is not fascism, but revolutionary developments.

The balance of forces is now very favourable to the Greek working class. But bold leadership is needed! Supporters of the Communist Tendency of Syriza reported that in the No vote rallies the mood was revolutionary. People on the rally felt they were taking part in a revolution. A report by British socialist Kevin Ovenden in Athens, reveals discussions taking at a hospital: “We should surround the City Hall in Athens until Giorgos Kaminis resigns.” Kaminis is the centre-left politician who helped front the Yes campaign and is widely believed to have abused municipal facilities to do so.

He tried to use his power to cancel the rally in Syntagma on Friday night. The hospital porter continues, “He was part of a coup d’état. One of the chief plotters. Treason! We know what happens to traitors.” He also reported from a worker at ERT, the state broadcaster which was closed by the previous government and reopened by Syriza, but with a PASOK director in charge: “Can’t wait to be at work tomorrow. We’ll see who runs the place now!”

This kind of mood would indicate that in future the remarkable vote in the Referendum could be seen as the beginning of the Greek revolution, which in turn would be the beginning of a European revolution.

Published on In Defence of Marxism

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