Above: Prime Minister Samaras and Syriza leader Tsipras
According to protothema news.com the main Greek opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party continues to be ahead in the opinion polls following an opinion poll by Rass polling agency for last Sunday’s issue of Eleftheros Typos: SYRIZA would gather 30.4% of the votes if elections were held now, followed by the conservative New Democracy (ND) leadership that would gather 27.3% of the votes. This puts SYRIZA 3.1 points ahead, down from 3.4 units that had been shown in the previous poll.
The Greek Communist Party (KKE) follows in third place, gathering 4.8% of the votes, marginally ahead of To Potami with 4.7%. Ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn follows with 3.8%, socialist PASOK with 3.5%, rightist anti-austerity Independent Greeks (ANEL) with 2.5% and ANDARSYA with 1.4%. Democratic Left (DIMAR) is not recorded.
3.8% of respondents said they would vote for another party whereas 2.6% would cast an invalid ballot and the undecided vote gathers 15.2%.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has the highest approval rating with 7.6% ahead of SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras when respondents were asked about who would be a better prime minister. Mr. Samaras gathered 41% and Mr. Tsipras gathered 33.4% approval.
A majority of people (74.2%) believe that Greece should remain within the euro area at whatever cost. 41% fear the prospect of Mr. Tsipras being elected Prime Minister and 38.1% says it gives them hope.
Only 6.1% said they trust former prime minister George Papandreou and his plan to form a new party.
On Monday 29 December, the Greek parliament failed to elect a new President for the third time. The result is parliamentary elections at the end of January, elections which it looks probable that SYRIZA will win. Shortly before the vote, Workers’ Liberty member Theodora Polenta – who is based in Greece – wrote this:
Where is Greece going?
This Christmas story does not have a beginning and we do not know the end yet. Will we get the present the majority of the combat working class movement and all progressive/libertarian forces are long awaiting for: a government of the Left, not as the final aim and not as an end in itself, but as a starting point towards another route and another narrative that we are going to be the protagonists and the story-makers of our own destiny?
My story, although it covers a very short period (shorter than the British extended celebration Christmas period) has it all: the heroes and the villains, the omnipotent external forces, bribery, corruption, blackmailing, backstabbing … as well as bravery, dignity and resilience. It is not an ‘objective story’. The heroes and the villains are interchangeable, dependent upon which side of the fence one is sitting. I am going to attempt to tell this story from a very class biased way, from the perspective of the working class interest.
However, paraphrasing Orwell, within the context of capitalism in crisis describing reality is a revolutionary act of itself and I will commence by stating the facts.
Resurgence of the class struggle and the combat working class movement with sectoral strikes and occupations with the public sector workers in “reserve employment” in the vanguard, increased militancy of the student/university students movement with on-going occupations and demonstrations resisting the further business orientation of the education and the government’s vision of an education that fits the needs of the Greece under continuing austerity and memoranda.
The uncompromised hunger strike of the anarchist Nikos Romanos defending his self-evident right to life and education and the enormousness of the erupted movement that encompassed not only the usual suspects but broader layers of the Greek society.
The spread of the Greek virus to the very epicentre of the EU/Eurozone with militant protests and strikes in Belgium and Italy.
The disclosing of the farce of the Government’s “success story” and the balanced budgets, and the end of the memorandum and austerity…
The total mismatch between the Greek population’s wishes and political beliefs, and the existing balance of forces within the parliament. The continuing fragmentation of the two party coalition government of Samaras Venizelos and the decimation of the once all powerful two party political system.
The grim future of another memorandum and Troika’s pressure to the Government to speed up the austerity reforms, with the banks confiscating “bad/debtors” (i.e. working class people that have become unemployed and/or their income is diminishing) people’s homes.
The Presidential election
Panicked and deadlocked, the government rushed, hurriedly, to announce the launch, conduct and completion of the procedures for electing the President of the Republic in December, before the end of the year (which were previously scheduled to take place in February). Three elections were to take place for the parliament to elect the President of the Republic: 17th of December, 23rd of December and 29th of December.
For the first two elections the unattainable number of 200 MPs was required. For the third and critical election the government is in search of the magical even/rounded number of 180 MPs. In the first two elections, despite the national and international orchestrated blackmail of the financial oligarchs and their media barons (from the massive crash of the stock market to the direct intervention of the president of the back of Greece and former minister of Finance Giannis Stournaras to the non-subtle intervention of Luxembourgian European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the nominally French “socialist”, former minister of Finance in Hollande’s government and European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs (that’s a Royal Name!) Pierre Moscovici) the Samaras statements about the threat of instability and other “bigger catastrophes” if Greece was to be led into elections; the government managed to “collect” a meagre 160 MPs (only five above the current 155 ND-PASOK MPs) at the first election on 17 December and 165 MPs at the second election 23 December; which are far behind the 180 benchmark.
ND has 127 MPs and PASOK 28 so a total of 155 out of the 162 initially elected. SYRIZA has 71 MPs and KKE 12 exactly the same as they were initially elected. DHMAR has only 10 MPs left out of the 17 MPs initially elected, ANEL has now only 12 MPs out of the 20 MPs initially elected and Golden Dawn has 16 MPs out of the 18 initially elected (the majority of which are residents of the prison). On the whole there are 24 “independent” MPs that is MPs who have become independent of the parties with which they were elected. These 24 MPs are the main fishing pond for Samaras government; bribery (in the form of promising a cabinet position in the future extended government and other more direct forms of bribery as revealed recently by one of the ANEL MPs) and under the table negotiations and agreements are on the government’s agenda in their fervour to avoid elections which will more certainly be the political death of this governments and their MPs.
Behind the election: vicious class struggle
The government, probably in collaboration and in agreement with its TROIKA partners sped up the procedures for the election of the President of the Republic two months upfront, so that the parliament votes for the President prior to the approval in parliament of the new memorandum agreement with the troika. This is because this agreement involves a package of anti-social and anti-working class measures, and will follow a new harsh memorandum in the name of preventive support line. Both government and TROIKA were fully aware that the ratification of a new memorandum (whatever they will be baptising it) through parliament would have put the final nail in the coffin of this government and would have made the number of 180 MPs totally unattainable. At the same time the government seeks to pose massive and extortionate dilemmas at the MPs, projecting a picture of uncertainty and insecurity for the country, which, supposedly represents SYRIZA, against a government which should by electing the President of the Republic, strengthened to ensure a new era ” memorandum stability” (read: new looting).
This development has to do with the fact that the end of February ends the current memorandum. The Memorandum expires on December 31, but the ND-PASOK government has agreed with the Troika for a two month extension period till the “fine details” of the next Memorandum – which certainly will not be referred to as Memorandum- are agreed. Actually this move of Samaras and Venizelos was the best they could do, faced with the deadlock of their policies and “bullying by” the Troika, who was not prepared to accept the myth about “leaving the Memorandum”, “return to growth” and “return to the markets” with the government has saturated the Greek public over the last months.
The “success story has started”-“Years of Growth are coming”-But…The austerity is getting deeper and deeper. The duo of Samaras and Venizelos have passed by the parliament a hard unpopular budget for 2015 (so much about overcoming the crisis, entering development and being ready for the markets …). This budget provides among others: new tax increases in the amount of 1.5 billion hitting disproportionally the working class people, a further reduction in social spending by 1 billion, reducing public investment program by 400 million etc. But there is one item in taxes which will be reduced – and this is the tax on the profits of business!
All this austerity to allow the government to pay the instalments and interest to lenders – only for 2015 the interest the government will pay reaches 5.7 billion. In 2015, to have an overall picture, Greece must pay to the lenders 22.5 billion euros. The “institutions” of the EU and Europe will take from Greece 6.68 billion, the IMF will make a good collecting of 8.71 billion in 2015, while our country will pay the exorbitant amount of 5.35 billion euros for interest on loans! The government must pay 1.4 billion. for other obligations, while the “vultures” will receive from the collapsing Greek economy 363 million euros. These measures did not entirely meet the Troika’s “needs”, which calls for more. Namely: further tax increases in food, medicines, books, drinks, cigarettes ; facilitate asset confiscation from those who owe the banks (with the epitome of first home confiscation and auctioning from the banks) ; new attack on pensions and the social security system ; reducing the EKAS and the number of those who are entitled.
With unemployment, in “decline” to 25.7% (1.24 million Greeks) and the government of Samara – Venizelos and their media acolytes celebrating about it, when before the crisis, unemployment stood at 7% and 8%, the workers in Greece counted to 3.59 million people, with the economic inactive people being almost as many as the workers – 3.29 million people; the government cannot definitely talk about the road to development…
With the pending of such a double package, of continuation of austerity and a new memorandum, the government would have been unable to face Presidential elections within the first 3 months of 2015; it was a certainty that the government would not have been able to persuade 180 MPs to elect a president or would have stood any chances to beat SYRIZA in the next parliamentary elections…
So the government took the risk to speed up the process of the presidential election in order to avoid annihilation. The government’s move therefore, is not erratic. It is true that the basic choice of the government and the political establishment was to keep the government until 2016 which is the year of the parliamentary elections. They were gambling on the fact that after five years of continuous shrinkage of the GDP (total collapse of 30%) there is bound to be some economic growth. With this growth as their banner, the government and the Troika would have been able to celebrate for the success of their policies. They were hoping, vindicated by the success story of growth and the dividends of their post memorandum policies, to squeeze SYRIZA and the Left and regain power in the elections.
This plan stumbled in Troika’s denial to make the concessions they wanted in order for the government to be able to pass the hurdle of the presidential elections. The government then chooses to wage the battle of the 180 MPs for the president, now, before it will be stripped naked ridiculed by the new memorandum, becoming more isolated from society.
In Samaras’s last statement, his attempt to temp further the “un decisive” independent MPs, he has put forward three points, adopting the independent MPs proposal while “winking” to expand the positions in the Cabinet. The three points concern, election of the president of the republic by this parliament, Parliamentary elections by the end of 2015 (instead of June 2016 that are due) and start of the constitutional review process.! However, he conveniently omitted to incorporate 17 main reasons for voting against the President of the Republic.
Election of the Greek President by the current Parliament = new Memorandum
The possible election of the president of the Republic by this government, i.e. the extension of the life of this government entails a new Memorandum, more painful than the previous ones. These measures are known and are “just around the corner” after agreement with the troika. If the government gets a new lease of life, the new cut blind attacks and anti-working class measurements will be implemented from the beginning of 2015. It is in 17 axes and includes amongst others: large cutbacks in pensions (above 20%), additionally salary reductions in the public sector( 7-12%), increasing VAT to medicines, foods, books, increases in excise taxes (drinks-cigarettes) , lift of restrictions in redundancies, elimination of tax exemptions, maintaining of the “solidarity taxes”, essentially banning the right to strike, introducing the right to capitalists lock-outs, further cutbacks in social welfare and development spending cuts. Most importantly, the government will put into motion the mechanism of auctions of primary residence for ‘red’ debts to banks (i.e. lower middle class and working class homes), while the ENFIA (taxation on property) will continue the pious work of “bleeding” and “evaporating” the small households and the small shopkeepers lead to further evictions and padlocks.
Failure to elect a President = new parliamentary elections = formation of a left government with Syriza at its centre
The non-election of the President will open the way for parliamentary elections and the formation of a government of the Left. A secular government which will cancel the memorandum and put an end to austerity, will default from the debt, will place the banks under worker’s management and control, will prioritise the drastic reduction of unemployment, drastic increases in wages/pensions and benefits at the pre-memorandum levels as a starting point. A government of the Left, whose first step would be to address the humanitarian crisis, the return of fundamental labour and trade union rights and institutional reconstruction of the state. The first steps will strengthen the links with the working class people and popular strata and facilitate their mobilisation in defence of their government as a first step towards a socialist future.
1. Every vote for the election of the President of the Republic is a vote of confidence and endorsement for the government and its policies that are responsible for 1.5 million unemployed. For the 700,000 malnourished children. For braziers. For the 6.3 million citizens living in poverty. For looted salaries and pensions. A vote in favour of bankers, contractors, the “investors” and the financial speculators and creditors that are currently protected under the English Law.
2. Every vote for the election of the President of the Republic, apart from validating all the previous and current austerity ultra-neoliberal policies, is a vote in favour of the continuation of the same ruthless policy, but with even greater intensity! The government knows that if the preceding Memoranda constituted an antisocial anti-working class tsunami, the new Memorandum under the codename “precautionary credit line” would be equivalent of a social Armageddon. The “end of the Memorandum ‘for which keep speaking the Prime Minister includes an increase in VAT, new and unsustainable direct and indirect taxation including the regressive property tax and people’s first homes confiscations by the bankers, new salary reductions and elimination of pensions, wrapped up in elimination of workers and trade union rights, unrestricted redundancies, restrictions on the right to strike and organise and unrestricted freedom of the capitalist bosses to lockouts
3. The government knows that to proceed in such a totalitarian reversal of worker’s rights it needs some form of legality. The government knows very well that it cannot seek this legality from the Greek population and fresh elections. So the government has selected the “bypass” of the presidential election to be able to survive for 1.5 years in governance. The current parliament has no effective political legitimacy to elect a President. The “formal democracy,” may (albeit increasingly unlikely) actually have the capabilities to collect the beans to override the political arithmetic, blanking out/ignoring the political will of the electorate .
4. The failure of election of a President from this parliament will immediately trigger parliamentary elections. The tactics of this government and their national and international allies can be easily predicted. A climate of polarisation, alarmism and blackmailing dilemmas wrapped up with the resurrection of the Greek-exit and the theory of two extremes would be on the daily menu. The scapegoating and demonization of SYRIZA (falling short of describing it as an extremist terrorist organisation) that is currently taking place and took place in the 2012 elections would be pale in comparison to what will be followed. The “Memorandum or tanks” and “Memorandum or chaos” will be in the core of the narrative of fear of SamaroVenizelos attempt to remain like a zombie in government aiming to obtain the consent of a terrified society for the continuation of the policies that impoverishes and annihilates them. There is no repository of “success” stories left there is no dangling carrot what is remaining is a negative narrative of “asymmetric threats, enemies within and fears”.
5. In every election and even more at this election what is uniquely at stake is not “which government” but “which policies” and “whose class interests this government represents”. The past is a safe witness: The experience of switching parties in power, even the experience of three different governments in the era of Memoranda (Papandreou, Papademos, and Samaras) is a concrete manifestation that the people have no need for a “change of government”. They need a change of policy. The policy change will never come with the working class people and popular strata passive observers of political developments, the restriction of their role as a voter and the creation of the climate of SYRIZA as government in waiting. The status of a demonstrator, the striker, the contender of “another policy” on the road, in the office , in the workplaces, in the neighbourhood, everywhere will only by the guarantor of radical/subversive changes and a new wave of radicalisation of SYRIZA.
6. The framework set by our so called EU and IMF partners, allies and friends is more than suffocating for the working class rights and working conditions and for the majority of the Greek society. With full responsibility, of course of the dominant political system. This suffocating framework which has as its pillars: “we belong to the west” and “every sacrifice to pacify the markets” has the total consent and strategic commitment of our “national” riling class and political establishment. The government is looking for the legalisation of the continuation of the memorandum/austerity policy, not by the society, but by the parliament using the election of President as its by-pass route. In any case, however, whether this parliament elects a president (increasingly unlikely) or we go to national elections, the suffocating framework remains. And this applies not only to the government but to SYRIZA too. This involves the leadership of SYRIZA that has been repeatedly declaring that the safeguarding of Greece’s position within the EU/Eurozone/European Central Bank and NATO is not negotiable. If however, the context is not disputed, it is not contested and the ability of those who define the space to constrict it or dilate to at will. And we need to factor in that we are playing in their terrain…Neither bright technocratic proposals nor negotiating skills from above can shake significantly the borders of this framework
7. This is another opportunity for the Left and the working class movement to re-think what policies/program of transitional demands and what working class structures and forms of workers power and control are needed to open the passage outside the stifling framework
Being able to find the 180 MPs is very difficult, but not impossible for the government; they do not find the 180, we will go for elections. Of course, in this case we will again see a game in which we are accustomed: the terror of the prospect of the exit from the Euro. “Gods and demons” will be mobilized to convince society that if this government and their policies are overthrown, all of our “hard work” will be lost, we will be outside the European” family “, we will lose all the benefits of the euro and ultimately we will “burn together in hell.” They do not understand that they have already created the hell for us, condemning (based on their own official figures) 6.3 million Greek workers to live below the poverty limit.
However, the Left should not underestimate the fear that this propaganda can create to millions of Greeks, orchestrated by the media, ship-owners, bankers and industrialists who support the government of Samaras Venizelos.
The continuation and implementation of the Memorandum/austerity policies, is the only way for the Troika and government to overcome the crisis for the benefit of the bourgeoisie/capitalist class. This road leads to crushing of the working class and the popular strata.
The battle lies ahead of us and is definitely not going to be plain sailing. The Left, in front of this battle should be united – to ensure victory, to give hope to the workers, the unemployed and the poor. But refuses. On the one hand, the leadership of the Communist Party refuses to cooperate with anyone, because in their view those who do not agree with them are “traitors” and have already predetermined the failure of the attempt to build a government of the Left and on the other hand, the leadership of SYRIZA constantly puts waters down their policies, alienating the more militant elements of society and providing an excuse for the leadership of the Communist Party.
But despite the limits and deficits of the Left there is no choice: we need to fight for a government of the Left, and that, given the current balance of forces within the Left, means voting for SYRIZA and a government of the Left with SYRIZA at its epicentre. Otherwise TROIKA will govern for another four years smashing whatever still remains standing.
It is of absolute urgency the emergence of a government of a Left that will eliminate the Memorandum and all its implementation laws, and implement a pro working class program of transitional demands which as a first step will provide relieve to the working class, unemployed, pensioners and popular strata, and lay the foundations for the transformation of society in a socialist direction. Faced with the colossal anti-working class attacks, the answer from the Left can only be a coherent and documented radical program exodus from the crisis in an anti-capitalist socialist direction.
Primary objective of such a program should be the abolition of the Memorandum and this objective is closely tied to the refusal to pay the debt, the nationalization of the banking system and the strategic sectors of the economy under social and workers’ control, and the implementation of a program of progressive reconstruction of the economy. The implementation of this program should not be limited by Greece remaining in the Eurozone at all costs and should be strictly implemented even if that means breaking with the EU and the monetary union.
Demands for the struggle
The class struggle between the capitalist and working class, is in full swing in recent years. The outcome of this battle has yet to be finalized. But today more than ever it is possible, for the working class people and popular strata to elect a Left government that will open a period of political battles and class confrontations persevering and not even taking a step backwards in its commitment to:
• Abolishing the memorandum and its implementation laws
• Terminate the burdensome loan agreement and default from the debt
• Meet the basic demands of working class movements with emergency procedures
• Restore the pro-working class legislations and collective burgeoning agreements at the 2009 levels,
• Deliver increases in wages and pensions, Restore the minimum wage and Take immediate measures to alleviate unemployment.
• Remove all regressive property taxes and over-taxation, protect the workers homes from the tax office and bankers auctioning and confiscations and proceed to abolish the debts of the working class
• Will stop the suppression of protests, strikes, demonstrations and marches from the courts and the police repression, the deep state: as a first step disarming the police, ban the use of chemicals, dismantling the riot police and liquidation of all fascist elements aiming at the most extensive form of worker’s democracy and the creation of the worker’s militia to defend the worker’s state
• Will support/extend/upgrade the social security system, and its redistributive, social and public character as well as the public and free healthcare, education and transportation.
• Will take steps for the exemplary punishment of the political and administrative staff of the capitalist state who are responsible and involved in squandering of public funds, corruption, selling off public property.
• Struggle for worker’s power and control, social planning of the economy, protect the interests of the impoverished peasants
• The defence and expansion of democratic rights and freedoms of the working class and popular strata against the reactionary reforms of state repression and oppression, with measures such as the abolition of Kallikratis, the dismantling of the state forces of repression against the people (MAT, DELTA), dismantling of the anti-terrorist legislation, promoting organs of struggle and working class self-management throughout society
• The struggle to crush the fascist gangs and racism.
• Providing asylum to refugees and the legalization of all immigrants
• The defence of peace, the non-participation in any way in imperialist wars, the closure of foreign bases, the exit from NATO, the promotion of internationalist cooperation in our region and around the world.
It is important that the above positions that are and have been part of SYRIZA’s program and conference proceedings to be re-affirmed and re-formulated by SYRIZA as a commitment to the working class movement and popular strata. The above framework can only be imposed by the power of a class reassembled working class movement and a working class uprising which would exceed the union bureaucracies of GSEE-ADEDY powered by a united front of all radical forces of the Left.
The emergence of a government of SYRIZA is the only way to halt the destruction and for the working class moving to transfer the counterattack in the political sphere. And then, of course, we need to fight the battle for this government to implement socialist policies and for worker’s management, power and control. Otherwise a new historical disappointment and defeat is looming, not only for SYRIZA but for the entire Left and the whole of the working class movement.
In recent days there has been a gradual escalation of terrorism from both national and international centres; which is anticipated to escalate further in the next days till the final attempt for a presidential election (29 of December) and will change a gear in the most likely scenario of national election. In this campaign of fear central role is played by the mainstream media, business groups, pollsters, institutional persons of EU and of international finance capital.
It is naive to believe that the dominant bourgeois parties, ingrained with the state apparatus and the state fed private sector will deliver “smoothly” the government to SYRIZA. It is naive to believe that the Euro-Atlantic partners, will risk this little “accident” to happen at this particularly critical, period for capitalism in crisis worldwide. As the days go by the terror business will intensify, with a possible peak in the interval between Christmas and the third vote. There is not impossible to have unusual developments, deflection phenomena and economic “events” and/or “national” destabilization.
Nobody should be complacent, however: the defection of 1965 was followed not only by the July Days of popular anger and protests but as well by the seven year April dictatorship of the CIA militarists. Vigilance is needed and escalation of the struggle against the capitalist state and all its sub-state, against real fascism and aspiring dictators.
And history can repeat itself as a farce or as a tragedy.
And as in December 44 or as in April 67, it is of urgent importance for the left not to harbour illusions about the limits that our class opponents cannot exceed. When the big “who is who” is at stakes and the time is critical no “gentlemen agreement” and/or kind fair play do apply. And the enemy is ruthless. And merciless.
If the Left chooses to compromise or fleeing to the future, it will not be saved. Each step backwards or each step of avoidance and shifting of the conflict to a more ideal environment, simply strengthens the opponent.
The Left united, around a radical, realistic rupture program that responds to the immediate needs of the working world and will include the prospect of an overall transformation, must fight back.
Only in this case the working class movement and popular strata can hope to win a real and not a “victory” – hostage. The small window of time is again open:
Our lives and our freedom are not negotiable!
The memoranda will not be torn by the winner of the next elections but by the victorious combat working class movement!
The debt to the international usurers will be abolished by the workers and revolutionary people themselves, with their own organs of self-organization and power!
For the democracy of worker’s councils, workers power and social revolution in Greece, the Balkans, Europe and around the world!