As the dust is still settling in Greece after the latest round of elections and a narrow win for new democracy the centre right party has a narrow majority and will try and govern. The most remarkable story of this election has to be of Syriza the radical coalition of the left have became the official opposition party in Greece. Even to reach this stage it cannot be underestimated how far they have come from being on about 3-4% a few years back to gaining 28 odd % of the national vote this weekend is some surge and just goes to show how a party with the right ideas and a correct programme at the right time can be thrust forward on a wave of support.
The results of this election are just a snapshot of where Greece is the major political parties largely discredited with new democracy being the preferred option for the capitalists to prop up their failing system. It will now face a huge opposition lead by Syriza who will now go back out into the streets and form opposition to any further austerity new democracy tries to ram down the Greek workers throats. The elections are over in Greece but the battle for a change in society is just starting with capitalism rocking own in the EU and with outside forces like the US and China faltering and slowing the EU is the hotpot where the water is coming to boil. This is sure to spill over at some point and eyes will turn to Spain and Italy and Ireland where further austerity will only aim to make things worse still.
Since the introduction of the first memorandum of austerity, Greece has been convulsed by massive social struggles. In the past two years, it has seen 17 general strikes. It also saw the development of the ’Squares’ movement, in parallel to the development of the indignados movement in Spain, but which had a greater connection and impact on the workers’ struggle. It is these movements that laid the basis for the smashing of the Troika parties elect orally in last month’s election and for the meteoric rise of Syriza. At the rallies I have attended, Syriza speakers have explicitly connected themselves to these movements as representatives of them.
There are some struggles ongoing now, including the strike led by the KKE (Greek Communist Party) in the steel works in Athens; it has now been ongoing for around 200 days. In recent days, a court ruled that the strike was illegal. Scandalously, a prominent Syriza representative declared that although the strike was heroic, the law was the law and the strike should now end. That is not the Syriza position, however.
The movement to boycott the payment of tolls on the road ebbed as a result of the sanctions which the state was able to implement. The boycott of the household tax continues however, although the levels of non-payment are significantly lower than the 50% there is in Ireland, because the bill was linked to the electricity bill and they threatened to cut off electricity from those who didn’t pay. This was defeated in the courts and now the government plans to shift collection to Revenue, a possibility for the property tax in Ireland that has been mooted by the government.
Right now, although there are some isolated struggles, things are relatively quiet on that front. Exhaustion flowed from the repeated general strikes and with the number of working poor, the choice to strike and lose another day’s pay in the absence of a strategy to win, is not an easy one to make. The attention and hopes of activists and workers have therefore very much focused on today’s elections.
It is clear that new workers parties are needed urgently across Europe to oppose austerity out right and offer that alternative.
However, make no mistake that post-election is likely to see an upsurge of extra-parliamentary struggle. The lessons of the general strikes and the inspiring ’Squares’ movement, which gave a glimpse of the power of people to self-organise, will not have been lost.
However, now in the event they have won and can cobble together a right government, the problems for Greek capitalism are far from over. They will be unable to implement the level of austerity demanded by Merkel and Co and despite their promises of stability; I believe Greece will be forced out of the euro. Such a government would be inherently very weak and would face a strong left and workers’ opposition in the parliament and on the streets.
In such a situation, the task for the left would be to organise to resist the imposition of yet more austerity and to prepare to bring the government down with struggle from below. That would also provide an opportunity for Syriza to turn itself into a party with full rights for tendencies within it but allowing individual members to join. A very significant debate within Syriza and the left would probably ensue about what programme for power.
Certainly Greece is in very unstable and unpredictable times, The crisis in capitalism is deepening even still and will only weaken what is left of democracy what is most worrying is the fact that even still all the TV appearances and the threat of the far right the Golden Dawn’s vote in Greece stayed largely at the same level this shows there is a base of support out there for far right anti immigrant ideas and needs to be combated head on. With workers defence councils set up to defend workers rights and pickets where possible. This is a much read threat and needs to be faced with a serious response from those on the left.