Greece: What now?

In the recent period the response of the Greek working class to a series of severe austerity packages has been magnificent. We have seen mass mobilisations, public sector strikes and general strikes. In spite of all this, the PASOK government has pushed through several austerity packages and is preparing even more attacks. The question is therefore posed as to where the movement goes from here. What is the next step?

Greece is the weakest link in the euro, and in spite of all the aid packages that the EU has come up with it still risks defaulting on its foreign debt. In the recent months it has regularly made the front pages of major newspapers and has been a main item on TV news broadcasts. The main concern of the bourgeois media has been to highlight the severe economic crisis that Greece is going through. However, the other side of this story has been the powerful response of the Greek working class, which has shown quite clearly that it is not prepared to take the severe cuts being carried through by the PASOK government without a fight.

We have witnessed two major general strikes, one on May 5th and another on May 20th. Prior to that we saw two powerful strikes of the public sector workers, that section of the working class that is bearing the full brunt of the cuts in public spending. And since the general strikes there have been two further demonstrations of the public sector workers.

All this shows the real anger that exists within the Greek working class. This crisis is not of their making and yet they are being blamed for it or, more importantly, they are being made to pay for it! However, what needs to be underlined is that whereas the Greek workers are showing an enormous will to struggle, the same cannot be said of their trade union leaders. Initially, these leaders sought “dialogue” with the PASOK government. It is also true to say that initially Papandreou tried to appease the trade unions by offering some token measures, but very quickly the reality of the depth of the crisis facing Greek capitalism forced the PASOK government to move towards severe cuts in spending.

This situation forced the leaders of the public sector union ADEDY to start taking militant action. This was later followed by the leaders of the private sector union, the GSEE, to add their forces to the protest. With each successive mobilisation one could see the growing anger and willingness to struggle on the part of the workers.

The role of the leadership of the working class

What more could one ask of the Greek workers? The leaders called them out and they responded... and kept responding! At such a juncture in the class struggle the role of the leadership of the working class becomes very clear. And the present leadership has gone as far as it is prepared to go under pressure from the ranks. However, a series of general strikes and mass mobilisations have not stopped the austerity measures from being implemented. Far from it! More measures are on the way. The fact is that the bourgeoisie can live with a few general strikes and protests as long as these don’t seriously challenge their power.

So where should the movement go from here? What is required is a 48-hour general strike of all sectors, both public and private, with mass rallies all over Greece. But that would only be the next step. After that the movement needs to be taken to a higher level. Once a powerful 48-hour general strike has shown to the workers themselves that a mass movement on a higher scale is possible, this would prepare the road for all-out struggle, and the aim would be to stop the PASOK government in its tracks.

Then, however, the question of who is to govern the country, and in the interests of which class, would be posed. The present leaders of the PASOK are wedded to the interests of the Greek and European capitalist class and are obeying their masters. They received the vote of millions of Greek workers, who voted for them expecting something different from the previous right-wing New Democracy government.

What is required, therefore, is a political alternative to the present government. That alternative can start to be built from the base of support for the KKE (Greek Communist Party) and the Synaspismos/SYRIZA (the electoral front of Synaspismos) that stand to the left of the PASOK. However, their electoral support is not sufficient to form an alternative government.

This is the impasse now facing the Greek workers. Roughly 60% of the Greek electorate voted for what they perceive as left parties, the KKE, Synaspismos/SYRIZA and the PASOK. What they have is a PASOK government carrying out an even more draconian anti-working class policy than that carried out by the previous right-wing New Democracy government.

What is required is therefore a united front of the KKE and Synaspismos/SYRIZA aimed at the wider labour movement, at the ranks of the GSEE and ADEDY unions, and especially at the workers that support the PASOK. Such a united front would also require a radical change in the programme and tactics of both the KKE and the Synaspismos/SYRIZA. Unless these two parties adopt a fully worked out socialist programme, come together and direct their propaganda at the ranks of the labour movement who support the PASOK, then the present stalemate will continue. This is not an easy task, but it is the only way of breaking the logjam that has formed in the Greek labour movement.

It is because of this impasse that we see the present situation. The trade union leaders, instead of stepping up the level of mobilisation are playing games with the working class. They have adopted tactics that we have seen in other countries in the past. Instead of mobilising with the clear objective of stopping this government, their tactics seem to be designed to tire the workers out with endless rallies and demonstrations that lead nowhere, with no clear future plan of action.

Even PAME, the KKE’s faction inside the trade unions seems to have no clear plan of action. After the big 5th May general strike they seem not to know where to take the movement from here. What we are seeing now is a kind of trade union “gymnastics”, with no clear perspective of where to go.

Mood of confusion

The Greek labour movement is left without a perspective, and this has created a mood of great confusion among the rank and file workers. After such a huge movement they have seen no concrete results. In spite of their immense will to struggle, in spite of the general strikes and mass mobilisations, the austerity packages have been approved and there seems to be no end in sight to this constant onslaught on their living standards. In the public sector the mobilisations go back to December of last year, and since then we have seen 2 to 3 days of strike action every month at one level or other. All this has created a mood of anger combined with a feeling of resignation among ordinary workers. It is the concrete, living proof that the working class is not a tap that the trade union leaders can turn on and off at will.

General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris.General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris. However, this mood is not going to lead to a long period of lull. It is the crisis of Greek capitalism that is pushing forward the class struggle. Greece is moving towards a situation where it will have to default on its payments of the foreign debt. If the perspective facing Greece were one of imminent economic growth, of a renewed boom, there would be some room for manoeuvre for Greek capitalism. It would be able to “grow out of the debt”.

The latest figures, for the first quarter of 2010, indicate that GDP fell by 2.5%, and this was without the impact of the austerity packages recently implemented. Now that the austerity measures are beginning to bite, one can easily predict that the fall in the coming period is going to be even steeper. Already, there are forecasts that Greece will suffer a fall of 4% of GDP this year, but in reality this could even go as high as 6-7% and possibly even more.

Recent figures published for the construction industry give an idea of the extent of the recession in Greece. In March, year on year figures, revealed a 40% drop in activity. Industrial production for the first quarter of this year fell by 5.1%, while total investment in the same period has fallen by 15%. Thus the perspective is not that of recovery in the short term, but of a deepening of the crisis. Unemployment has now officially reached 11.9%, up 2 percentage points since January, and is growing.

In these conditions it is even more difficult to raise the necessary funds to pay even the interest on the national debt. In the next four years alone Greece is required to raise €450billion to make its repayments of interest and debt. The total debt now stands at €320billion. If we consider that total annual Greek GDP presently stands at €250billion, we can get an idea of the nightmare scenario that is opening up for Greek society.

More austerity measures

This explains why the PASOK government – after cutting wages and pensions in the public sector by 30% ‑ is now preparing another austerity package. The new measures are aimed at the private sector. The government is trying to cut pensions in the private sector by up to 50%, and from this year onwards any private sector worker retiring will see his pension cut by half, or even more in some cases.

The government is imposing the rule that to get a full pension 40 years’ contributions into the social security system are required. One can retire after less than 40 years, but no earlier than the age of 65; and if one does retire at that age if there aren’t the 40 years of paid contributions then one doesn’t get a full pension. Considering the past of Greece with long periods of quite high unemployment and the fact that many bosses in the private sector for years evaded paying into the social security system, it is obvious that a large layer of the Greek workers, especially in the private sector, does not have this level of contributions paid. In reality all these measures amount to an all out attack on the pension system and its systematic destruction, especially for the younger workers.

This is provoking anger and consternation among the private sector workers, who are asking the question: “You imposed austerity measures, involving the public sector because of the spiralling debt and risk of default, but now why are you attacking the private sector?” They are drawing more conclusions from all this about the nature of the crisis and the very system that has caused all this. Young workers are coming to realise that they may never get a pension and will have to work till they drop.

Further to the attacks on pensions, we are also seeing a so-called “reform” of redundancy payments. The amount of money employers will have to pay out has been reduced by 50%, and a measure allowing for these payments to be made in six instalments is also being introduced.

Parliamentary bonapartism

All these measures are to go through parliament by the end of July. However, a new element is being added to the equation of Greek politics. The government has signed an agreement with the European Central Bank, the IMF and the EU that states that any economic measure requested by these bodies of the Greek government does not need parliamentary approval. If the government agrees to the measures then the Minister of Finance can simply proceed to apply them, while parliament will be allowed to “discuss” them!

Why this agreement has been reached is very clear. The Greek bourgeoisie are not sure they will be able to hold together a majority for long in parliament around these austerity packages. For example, in the recent period three PASOK MPs refused to vote in favour of the government’s proposals. They were promptly expelled from the PASOK parliamentary group – although not from the party as such.

General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris.General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris. Such a measure is an indication of the growing parliamentary bonapartist tendencies present in Greek politics today. And it is in an indication of how things will develop in the coming period. Already serious bourgeois commentators have made the point in the recent period that what is being imposed on Greece is pushing to the limit what can be asked of a democratic government. We can therefore ask ourselves the question: what kind of government can achieve what the bourgeois requires?

Already, back in 2008 during the massive youth rebellion after the killing of a young 15-year old student, the then New Democracy government ministers discussed the option of asking for an army intervention to calm the situation down. The conclusion the ministers reached was that that option was not an option. The Greek workers and youth still remember what the 1967-74 colonels’ regime stood for. Every year on November 17 mass rallies fill the streets of Greek cities to commemorate the 1973 killing of students at the Athens Polytechnic, which was the last gasp of the hated military junta before it collapsed under the pressure of the mass movement in 1974.

Today the working class in Greece is far stronger than it was back in the 1970s. Decades of economic growth and development have urbanised Greek society, with a large number of former peasants moving to the cities. The balance of forces between the classes has now decisively shifted in favour of the working class. That explains why the Greek bourgeoisie has no option – at least for now – but to lean on the PASOK leaders and the trade union leaders. They are using the leaders of the working class to get the workers to swallow the bitter pill of austerity.

Having said that, it is also true to say that the parliamentary game for the bourgeoisie is not an easy one to play. Yes, they have a majority PASOK government in office. The PASOK has 160 MPs out of a total of 300 that make up the Parliament. That should provide stable government, if it were simply a question of parliamentary arithmetic. But the PASOK is also riven with internal divisions. There are three recognisable groupings within the PASOK parliamentary group, those who see themselves as supporters of the old (“Blairite”) right-wing Simitis, Papandreou himself, and Venizelos, another openly right-wing leader who received 38% in the internal elections for party leader. All of these stand on the right, but under the pressure of events even such a seemingly solid majority can break down.

To be an MP and to be seen in public has become a dangerous thing in Greece these days. Every day we see news reports about this or that MP being attacked in public by ordinary working people on the streets. MPs that belong to the two main parties, PASOK and ND, can no longer go out openly on the streets without someone shouting abuse at them, so hated have they become.

Under these conditions the bourgeois are afraid that this government when it moves to push forward the present new set of austerity measures may find greater opposition among the PASOK MPS than they had bargained for. That explains why they have reached the agreement with the EU, ECB and IMF over passing measures directly through the Ministry of Finance, by-passing parliament.

In the coming period the perspective is one of growing class struggle. We will see wave after wave of strikes, mobilisations and protests. Because there is no revolutionary leadership, the workers will have to go through many experiences, of defeats and partial victories. The process will not be a linear one. In this period the Greek workers could take power. The conditions which are being prepared are intolerable and there is no other way other than on the road of the socialist transformation of society. If, however, the workers should fail to change society, at a certain point an impasse will be faced and the bourgeois will start to draw conclusions that the democratic parliamentary system that has served them well for decades can no longer guarantee them a stable form of government. From the present parliamentary bonapartist tendencies they will begin to move towards openly bonapartist methods of government.

This danger was clearly spelled out last week by the head of the European Commission, President Jose Manuel Barroso (and a former prime minister of Portugal). He explained that democracy could collapse in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal unless something is done to tackle the debt crisis.

In a meeting with European trade union leaders last week, Barroso set out what the media have described as “an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups”. According to trade union leaders present at the meeting, Barroso said, “Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They’ve got no choice, this is it.”

However, Barroso, also stated that there could be “popular uprisings” as interest rates soar and public services collapse because national governments run out of money. Thus, what Barroso is saying is that we are entering a period of both revolution and counter-revolution; there could be “popular uprisings”, i.e. revolutions, or military coups. This process is at an early stage. In the coming period the bourgeoisie will continue to govern through parliament, but the words of Barroso are an indication of what could happen in the future.

Shifting public opinion

The collapse in confidence in the present political system in Greece is revealed by the sharp change in public opinion in the recent period. Recent polls reveal a sharp shift in public opinion. Only 18% of the population actually agrees with Papandreou’s policies. And when it comes to how people would vote now, after several austerity packages have been passed by parliament, we note a significant shift. The PASOK stands at 30-31% and the New Democracy at a record low of 20%. Here we see how, in spite of the PASOK’s unpopular measures, the New Democracy is incapable of gaining from this. In fact, its level of support has gone down even further, even though its leaders in parliament have demagogically voted against Papandreou’s measures. Ordinary working people have not forgotten what the New Democracy stands for!

General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris.General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris. To the right of the New Democracy, the far right LAOS (the “People's Orthodox Alert”), a previous split from the New Democracy) stands at around 5%, which shows they are failing to cash in on the decline in New Democracy’s support. This can also be explained by the fact that the LAOS leader, Karatzaferis, has supported all the measures introduced by Papandreou. In fact, he has been one of the most ardent supporters of such policies. This has led to his image as a populist leader collapsing.

The KKE (Greek Communist Party) stands at around 8-9%, which is a slight increase on the elections when it got 7.6%. SYRIZA has seen a significant decline in support, down from 4.6% to around 3.5%. The decline of the latter is due to an internal conflict between its right and left wings, where the right wing has recently split away taking a number of MPs with it to form a new party, (but more on this below).

What is significant about the polls is that they reveal a growing number of people who don’t know who to vote for anymore. The number of those who have stated quite categorically that they do not want to vote for any of the present parties has reached the level of 30% of the population. This shows the seething discontent within society as ordinary working people see their living standards slashed and see no party offering a credible alternative.

Among the youth the situation remains one of radicalisation. The results of elections in the Universities held in May reveal a sizeable level of support for the left, the combined vote of the KKE, Synaspismos and the smaller left groups was 30%, while the PASOK received 31%, and on the right the New Democracy received 38%. This comes after three years, 2006-09, of almost incessant mobilisation of the youth. Now, however, for about one year, there has been “calm” on the youth front. The front stage was taken up by the movement of the working class. However, we should not forget that the youth movement of 2008 was an anticipation of the movement of the working class and as things get worse on the economic front a new eruption of the youth is inevitable at some stage.

So far, the PASOK leaders have been able to push through a series of austerity measures thanks to the lack of perspective on the part of the trade union leaders. As we have seen, these leaders are not preparing the movement to move onto a higher plane. On the contrary, their tactics seem to be aimed at diffusing the movement. We must remember that the PASOK leaders depend on the trade union leaders and they need to keep them on board to get their policies accepted by the workers in general, but for this relationship to be held together, the government must give at least some token concessions.

As the trade union leaders have nothing to show for their cosy relationship with the PASOK government, they have come under growing pressure from the ranks to take militant action. For example, faced with the latest measures, explained above, the GSEE leaders yesterday called a new general strike for June 29. This pressure on the trade union leaders will continue and they will be forced to adopt even more militant positions.

Generalised mood of anger among Greek workers

In spite of the vacillating position of the trade union leaders, one thing is clear: there is a generalised mood of anger among Greek workers. This has been expressed by the massive response to the recent calls to mobilise and also in the opinion polls. But one can also feel it on the streets of Greek cities, in the bars and shops, in the working class neighbourhoods.

The answer of the bourgeois to all this has been a campaign aimed at personalising the responsibility for the present economic crisis. They are terrified of the revolutionary conclusions that many workers can begin to draw from the present situation. In order to distract attention away from the real causes of the crisis, i.e. the contradictions within the capitalist system itself, the media have been digging into the past, back to 8-10 years ago, highlighting a series of corruption scandals involving ministers in past governments, of both the New Democracy and the PASOK.

Two ministers in past PASOK governments led by Simitis have been involved. One of these, Tassos Mandelis, former Transport and Communications Minister in the government of Costas Simitis, has openly admitted to having received 200,000 marks from the German company Siemens back in 1998. This is the first time an ex-minister has openly admitted to taking money "under the table". He further compounded the problem by stating that this is "common practice among politicians in the country". This is something everybody knows, but no one at the top has ever been so outspoken about it. It shows to what depths these people had sunk!

The other is Tsochatzopoulos, who was the leader of the “left” in the PASOK in the 1990s who only lost by a small margin to Simitis in the internal party elections for leader of the party. He is accused of taking money from other arms manufacturers in exchange for state contracts. It has now been revealed that this worthy individual has many offshore companies to his name, companies where he keeps his wealth hidden from the Greek tax inspectors. It has, in fact, been estimated that €500billion – twice Greece’s annual GDP ‑ are being kept in offshore companies by Greek capitalists in order to evade paying taxes.

Other scandals are being highlighted, involving ex-ministers in the New Democracy government who made deals with leaders of the Orthodox Church. Apparently this involved declassification of pieces of land reserved for the port in Porto Lagos, which were then transferred to the Vatopedi Monastery (in the north of Greece) at a price much lower than the market value, which was then sold off by the Monastery at a sizeable profit. All this was done with the support of the then New Democracy government led by Karamanlis, and some ministers are accused of having taken bribes to facilitate this operation. This has led to Karamanlis’ personal popularity ratings falling from the high of 50% in the past to the present 10%.

One can imagine the anger of ordinary Greeks at seeing all these scandals being uncovered, where ex-ministers are found to have been involved in lining their pockets while workers are forced to undergo stringent cuts in welfare spending and jobs. The point, however, is that while all these corruption scandals are an indication of the rottenness of the Greek political system and of Greek capitalism, they are not the cause of the crisis. The cause of the crisis is to be found in the contradictions of capitalism in Greece and internationally. No amount of scapegoating of individuals is going to change that.

The crisis is not due to corruption, although Greek politicians in general can be very corrupt. It is about the real state of the Greek economy. Although Greece comes within the sphere of the advanced capitalist world, compared to major power such as Germany and France it is a relatively underdeveloped economy. The problem of the Greek bourgeoisie is not its corrupt nature – which national bourgeoisie does not dabble in corruption? – but its historical incapacity to develop the Greek economy to the levels required to compete with more powerful economies such as Germany. Greek industry is far less developed in terms of productive capacity, of technological content, of productivity of labour, than its major competitors. This is due to the lack of investment over decades on the part of the Greek bourgeoisie, and also because of the very domination of the major imperialist powers in Europe ever since Greece emerged as an independent nation. The Greek bourgeoisie has its own local interests, but it is also dominated by more powerful bourgeoisies, and thus has assumed a parasitic nature, making money through state support, speculation and so on.

It is this position of Greek capitalism within the chain of capitalist countries that determines the present situation. Greece is merely one of the weaker links in the chain of global capitalism. Because of this, the present world crisis is putting immense pressure on Greek capitalism, and it is beginning to break.

This dictates economic policy inside Greece, a policy which on the basis of capitalism means only one thing: a major onslaught on all the gains of the Greek working class since the Second World War. It means savage cuts in spending, massive layoffs and an attack on everything that makes for a reasonably civilised existence. Already in the last few weeks there have been reports that Greek public hospitals have been suffering shortages of basic materials, such as bandages, surgical gauzes, etc.

General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris.General strike in Greece on May 5, 2010. Photo by George Laoutaris. There are daily rumours – that the government is forced to deny but that will not go away – that the EU is going to have to expel Greece from the Eurozone and that the government is going to have to bring back the Drachma. Bloomberg recently carried out an opinion poll among 1000 economic analysts and financial experts. The poll found that 75% of those questioned stated that Greece is near to complete bankruptcy and 41% predicted that Greece is going to be expelled from the Eurozone in the future.

So bad is the situation that in the last few days there have been rumours (published in Avgi, the official Synaspismos paper) that the government has been negotiating behind closed doors with the IMF, the Central European Bank and the EU to get a part of the public debt cancelled and that Greece be allowed a longer period in which to make the repayments.

The point is that the severe programme of cuts to be pushed through requires that the Greek ruling class keeps a tight control over the political system. They must stabilise the economy, but to do that requires destabilising society as a whole. It also means coming up against the powerful Greek working class and its organisations. The bourgeoisie understand very well that a new wave of strikes and demonstrations is inevitable at some stage.

Government of national unity?

So far the Greek bourgeoisie has been able to use the system based on two major parties, the New Democracy and the PASOK. When one lost consensus the other could be brought into office. That has been the picture so far in recent decades. Last year the New Democracy government fell, after massively bailing out the banks, and the PASOK won the elections. But now that the PASOK has been called to apply the austerity measures dictated by Greek and international capital, its popularity has already fallen sharply in just a few months.

With an unpopular New Democracy party and falling support for the PASOK, this poses a dilemma before the Greek bourgeoisie. It also explains the pressures that are being brought to bear on parties, both to the left and the right. We have seen a split in the Synaspismos and the expulsion of Dora Bakoyanni from the New Democracy.

Dora Bakoyanni is the former Foreign Minister of Greece and daughter of Constantine Mitsotakis, who was prime minister of Greece from 1990 to 1993 and leader of New Democracy. After last year’s defeat of New Democracy in the elections, she stood for the leadership of the party, but lost to Antonis Samaras, the present leader of the party.

Bakoyanni was leading an opposition within the New Democracy and this was expressed in her vote of support in the Greek parliament for Papandreou’s austerity measures. Samaras has been putting up a demagogic opposition to the measures in an attempt to win back support the party lost in the elections. Samaras proceeded to expel Bakoyanni for breaking party discipline on the vote in parliament. She is now moving towards building a new liberal “centre” party. This is in preparation for an eventual coalition government, possibly still centred on the PASOK but with the support of parties such as the one Bakoyanni is attempting to build.

The bourgeoisie is preparing for the possible collapse of the present government, which it believes will not be able to last the full term, and is preparing the ground for some kind of government of national unity, and Bakoyanni is trying to muster the forces to back such a move.

Synaspismos splits

The mirror image of this development on the right is the split in the Synaspismos, where a new formation has emerged called the “Renewal Wing”. Four members of the Synaspismos parliamentary group have gone with this split, led by Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of the right-wing faction within the party. On the last day of the recent congress of the Synaspismos 300 delegates [out of a total of 1350] walked out. They did so in protest at Alexis Tsipras’s [the party president] refusal to consider their call for Synaspismos to put an end to the SYRIZA coalition and stand alone as a party. Before splitting away they accused the party of having a “leftist” policy.

Alexis Tsipras, chairman of Synaspismos. Photo by karpidis.Alexis Tsipras, chairman of Synaspismos. Photo by karpidis. This faction for the past six years has been working to push the Synaspismos towards support for the PASOK, and also some form of cooperation with the Greens, but they failed to get significant backing for such a policy within the ranks of the party. Now that they have split they are putting their four parliamentary seats at the services of Papandreou should he require them in the future.

This wing was actually in the leadership of the party in the 1990s. However, since then the turn to the left within the party and its youth significantly reduced the influence of this faction. Having lost control of the party, they spent the recent period in speaking publicly against the party and attempting to undermine the left turn and weaken the party as a whole. This provoked the anger of the rank and file.

In fact, the ranks of the party felt a sense of relief when the right wing split away at the national congress. Unfortunately this was not the reaction of the party leader, Tsipras, who in attempting to avoid a break with this faction, moved to the right before and during the congress. In an attempt to appease the right wing he began talking about a “progressive” government as opposed to a “left” government, as he had done previously. He also promised to the right wing of the party that he would clean up the supporters of Alekos Alavanos from SYRIZA. Alavanos is the ex-president of the party who split away but remained within the SYRIZA electoral front, inside which he formed an alliance of Maoists and other ultra-left groups under the name of “Front for Solidarity and Overthrow”. Even after the split had been consummated, Tsipras tried to get the right wing to come back to the party, but to no avail. All these gestures on the part of Tsipras could not avoid the split.

All this had an impact on the results of the internal elections inside Synaspismos. Tsipras was elected party president with 75% of the votes; although 20% cast a blank vote and 5% voted for a completely unknown left candidate, Giorgos Vlachogiorgos, who announced his candidacy just before the voting with only 3-4 left slogans, such as a “pause in the debt payment”, “nationalisation of the banks”, etc., which is a significant sign of opposition. In the elections of the party’s Central Committee, Tsipras’s wing did not do so well, winning only around 50%. The left list headed by Panayiotis Lafazanis won around 30%, while on the right, the remnants of the right wing that did not split away, gathered around Yannis Balafas and the MP Dimitris Papadimoulis, won 17%.

Return to Marxism

This was a big step forward for Lafazanis and the left wing of the party. It is also an indication of how the crisis of Greek capitalism is impacting on the ranks of Synaspismos. Lafazanis has openly called for a return to Marxism, for opposition to the capitalist European Union ‑ which he says cannot be reformed, as opposed to the right wing which says it can – and for the nationalisation of the banks. He has also called for a clause to put into the party constitution stating that the aim is to build a revolutionary Marxist party. The document put forward by Lafazanis is in fact very much to the left.

Thus we see how the pressures of the crisis of Greek capitalism have pushed different wings of Synaspismos apart. One wing has come out openly in favour of de facto supporting the policies of the PASOK government, while on the other hand the left wing has been strengthened. The only direction this left wing can move in, if it wishes the party to play a role in the coming class battles in Greece, is towards revolutionary Marxism.

The Marxists intervened in the debates at the congress, raising the need for a Marxist programme and policy. They explained the need for a United Front of the Synaspismos with the KKE and a campaign aimed at the ranks of the trade union movement.

What we see here is the bourgeoisie preparing for the coming period, pushing forward its programme of drastic cuts and at the same time weighing up its options politically in the clear understanding that whatever party or coalition of parties carries out the austerity measures required by the system will also be punished on the electoral front.

While the bourgeois are drawing conclusions, however, the workers are also working out what all this means. They are coming to the realisation that it is not this or that politician that is at fault, it is not this or that single policy that has to be changed, but that what is required is a radical change of direction. They have shown they are prepared to struggle. What is required now is a leadership that is up to the task.