Greece

The following article was written forSocialist Appeal, the British website of the International Marxist Tendency. It discusses the betrayals of the Syriza government in Greece, and explains the lessons of that experience for the British working class and youth should a Corbyn-led Labour government ever come to power.

The results of the Greek general elections of 7 July highlighted two dominant elements: major class polarisation, and consolidation of the phenomenon of widespread voter abstention. The expression of class polarisation (despite acquiring a distorted character due to the SYRIZA leadership’s complete political submission to capitalism) was evident in the large increase of the votes for N.D. (New Democracy) and SYRIZA compared to the European elections of 26 May. The European elections were just 42 days ago, and saw the same level of participation by the electoral body.

An announcement from the Communist Tendency (Greek section of the IMT) on the 7th July elections.

The only possible way to stop the advance of the ND is a mass class vote for KKE: A mandate to fight for power!

The solidarity campaign for Rawal Asad (who has been held in custody since February on the scandalous charge of sedition after attending a peaceful protest in Multan, Pakistan) shows no sign of slowing down. On 4 March, comrades and supporters of the International Marxist Tendency coordinated a day of pressure against the Pakistani state by picketing, protesting and telephoning Pakistan's embassies all over the world, so the regime knows the world is watching, and we will not stop until our comrade is released. 

Alek Atevik, a member of the Central Committee of the Macedonian organization Levitsa(Left) and a leading figure in the Yugoslav section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), spoke to Epanastasi [‘Revolution’] about nationalist myths and the need for internationalist class solidarity.

Last Wednesday, Greece was shaken by a general strike. On Thursday, there were protests in all major cities against a new round of austerity measures. Unlike previous general strikes, which are regularly called as a formality and fail to mobilise significant sectors of the working class, this time important services were affected and various ports, hospitals, and airports were paralysed.

The impasse of Greek capitalism, the lessons of SYRIZA and perspectives for the socialist revolution.

For decades the main party of the Greek working class was the PASOK, founded in 1974 immediately after the fall of the military junta. It won 13.5% in the first elections it stood in that year, seven years later going on to win a landslide victory with 48% of the vote and forming the first left government in Greece’s history. The rise of PASOK between 1974 and 1981 was a clear expression of a radicalisation to the left of Greek society.

The Greek economy has always lagged behind the much more developed economies of countries like Britain, Germany, France and other advanced capitalist countries, mainly of northern Europe. The Greek bourgeois arrived late on the scene of history, with its own independent state only in the 1830s. Ever since, Greece has struggled to establish itself economically in the face of far more developed economies on the continent of Europe.

Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and adopted the euro in 2001. What impact did these two events have on the Greek economy? Within the general boom conditions across Europe pre-2007, Greece also boomed, but this hid the real underlying weaknesses of the Greek economy, in particular its declining productivity.

The suffering of the Greek people is deep, very deep. Austerity is pushing larger and larger sections of the population into poverty. With this comes also a seriously worsening healthcare situation which is a direct consequence of the cuts imposed by the Troika, and suicides have also been going up in line with the increase in unemployment.

One year ago 60% of the Greek population said OXI [No] to the Troika’s austerity. One year later we see austerity continuing and getting much worse! I have been travelling to Greece at least once a year for close to twenty years to attend meetings and conferences and in the recent period the decline in living standards has been palpable.

Greece has been in and out of the news headlines, as other more pressing events push it into the background, such as the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, or the risk of a Brexit vote in the UK referendum on the EU, or the tumultuous class conflict gripping France. Nonetheless, Greece remains the weak point within the EU. Its crisis is being “managed”, i.e. delayed, but the country moves inexorably onwards towards a major crisis that will affect the whole of Europe.

On Sunday, May 22nd, the Greek Parliament voted in favour of a new austerity package. The austerity measures include a raise in taxes of 2.8 billion euros, the largest privatisation programme in the history of the country and the acceptance of an automatic mechanism that triggers generalised cuts in the event of excessive budget deficits in the future.

An analysis by the Greek comrades of the IMT of Thursday’s general strike, an important political development marking a new stage in the class struggle. But where should the movement go from here?

Spain is moving inexorably towards a Greek-style situation with Podemos potentially being placed in the same situation as SYRIZA. The same process is underway across the whole of Europe. Therefore the lessons of Greece must be taken on board by the European left if we are to avoid the same mistakes made by the SYRIZA leadership. Here we provide the outlines of a speech given by Stamatis Karagiannopoulos of the Greek Communist Tendency (the IMT in Greece) during his recent tour of Spain.

Here we provide an analysis of Popular Unity’s first steps, its programmatic statement and the political tasks facing the party. This was written before the recent Greek elections, in which the party failed to win any MPs, but its criticisms of the party programme and methods remains valid.

SYRIZA won the elections yesterday, which Tsipras claims gives him a mandate to continue on the road he had already embarked on this summer, i.e. to apply the conditions dictated by the Troika. He, however, conveniently ignores the not unimportant detail that his government coalition (SYRIZA-ANEL) lost a total of 416,000 compared to the vote in January.

Greece goes to the elections on Sunday, the outcome of which will be determined by several factors, an important one being the sense of betrayal and disappointment among many of the SYRIZA voters, but there is also a process of radicalisation taking place on the left.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras just announced he will step down. He has lost his parliamentary majority and Syriza is split, with left leader Lafazanis announcing the formation of a new party, Popular Unity. Speaking in a televised address last night, Tsipras stated that the Syriza government would tender its resignation and call an election. Tsipras said Greeks still have struggles ahead of them, but that Greece is “determined to honour” the latest so-called bailout package. What does this mean?

It was after midnight on July 15 when the Greek parliament finally approved an omnibus law containing all of the “prior actions” demanded by the institutions. The vote was met with strike action, demonstrations, a rebellion by 38 Syriza MPs and the opposition of the majority of the party’s Central Committee members. Tsipras survived but he had to rely on the votes of those parties which passed the previous two Memoranda which Syriza was elected to oppose.

The deal imposed on Greece in the early hours of July 13 after an all-night Euro Summit can only be described as a humiliating capitulation. Greece has basically given up sovereignty to the Troika in exchange for a new strings-attached bailout and some vague promises that debt restructuring (but not debt forgiveness) will be studied, at a later date, perhaps. This deal will not work. It will politically destroy Tsipras and Syriza and economically will plunge Greece even further into recession. It has also exposed deep rifts within the European Union.

The next few hours are, again, crucial in Greece. The victory of the OXI in the referendum is being quickly turned into its opposite. The government has sent a proposal to the Troika which in essence represents accepting what people rejected in the referendum on Sunday. This in exchange for a new, third, bailout it has requested from the European Stability Mechanism, which is thought to be worth 70bn euro. It remains to be seen if this will be enough for the Troika Minotaur. Opposition is also growing in the ranks of Syriza and beyond, among the Greek working masses aroused by their victory in the referendum, but the government has worked to secure the support of bourgeois opposition

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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.

We received the following letter from a comrade who recently travelled to Greece.

The working class based victory for the "No", with more than 60% is a revolutionary event. The people have given a mandate for revolutionary resistance and against Memorandum agreements. It's time for the nationalization of banks, repudiation of the debt and the overthrow of Memoranda and barbaric capitalism which spawned them.

Last night, Friday 3 July, there was a massive pro “OXI” (no) demonstration in Athens ahead of the referendum on the austerity policies of the institutions, or Troika. The demonstration gathered in Syntagma Square, outside of the Hellenic Parliament.

An open letter appeared in the Guardian newspaper on Sunday 28th June appealing for debt relief for Greece. The letter is addressed to David Cameron, the head of the Tory government. It is signed by, among others: Frances O’Grady (general secretary, TUC); Len McCluskey (general secretary, Unite the Union);recently knighted Sir Paul Kenny (general secretary, GMB); Manuel Cortes (general secretary, TSSA); Paul Mackney (Chair, Greece Solidarity Campaign); Jeremy Corbyn MP; John McDonnell MP; and Caroline Lucas MP.

The Greek crisis is approaching a denouement. This marks a turning point for the working class of Greece and the whole of Europe. Last January Greece voted for a government that promised to end the austerity policies that have ruined the country. The election of Syriza gave hope to many people throughout Europe. But precisely for this reason, the political leaders in Brussels and Berlin decided to crush the new government, to humiliate it, to sabotage it and finally to bring about its overthrow.

As the referendum approaches, political polarisation is reaching unprecedented levels in Greece. Events in the last 48h have revealed the sham of bourgeois democracy, as the Troika is not prepared to accept the Greek government’s willingness to make concessions and demands Tsipras’ removal. The conclusion is unavoidable: there is no way to end austerity within the limits of capitalism, and even less within the strait-jacket of the German dominated capitalist eurozone.

We already find ourselves fighting in a bitter class war that has been declared against the vast majority of the Greek people by the “black front” of the Troika and the Greek oligarchy. Wars are not won with passive “serenity”, but with militancy and a proper plan. The time has come for mass action and radical measures.

Late on Sunday, June 28, the Greek government decided to introduce bank and capital controls until July 7. This is in response to the provocative moves by the Troika institutions aimed at sabotaging the planned referendum in Greece. The war is being escalated, even though some are pushing for a deal to be reached for fear of the catastrophic consequences of a Greek default for the world economy.

A few hours ago, in a televised address to the nation, the Greek PM Tsipras has announced that he will put the latest ultimatum from the troika to a referendum on July 5. This marks a qualitatively new stage in the Greek crisis, one which can unleash the accumulated anger of the masses against the constant humiliation at the hands of the troika. 

The latest provocative demands and ultimatums placed by the troika on the Greek government have one clear aim: to destroy it. They cannot be interpreted in any other way and all the pieces of the puzzle are now falling together.

Thousands of workers, pensioners, self-employed, and youth took part in the demonstration at the centre of Athens that the Communist Party trade union front PAME organised and which was accompanied by a march to the Maximus Mansion (i.e., prime ministerial residence) thus expressing their opposition to the looming ‘Memorandum’.

At the last minute, when it seemed that a break was inevitable, the Greek government made a new proposal which included substantial additional concessions to the demands of Europe’s bankers and capitalists. It is not only that the Syriza government has been forced to abandon substantial points of its own election program, but even the famous “red lines” have been crossed.

The protracted negotiations between Greece and the troika which started after the election of Syriza on January 25 this year seem to have reached a dead end to which there seems to be no negotiated solution. This perception has accelerated the withdrawal of deposits from the banks which in turn brings the outcome closer. The troika is tightening the noose and unless the victim manages to break free it will choke.