By a narrow margin – of 29.9% to 27.1% – the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party won the June 17 elections, leaving Syriza in second place. Despite this negligible difference, because of the completely anti-democratic Greek system that guarantees control by the traditional parties of the regime, ND received a “bonus” of 50 deputies (that no one voted for) for having won the election. This permitted it to form a government in alliance with the other party of the “troika,” PASOK, in spite of the fact that PASOK only got 12.3% of the votes. At press time for this article, the Democratic Left (a split to the right from Syriza in which several former PASOK parliamentarians show up) had added its support to this conservative governing coalition.
Syriza increased its vote by 10 points, compared to the May 6 elections, and turned into the main force of the opposition, with 72 deputes, which is interpreted by several analysts as a political victory for the center-left coalition, that was in an excellent position to capitalize on the discontent with this new right-wing government.
The other important fact of the election results is the consolidation of Golden Dawn, that almost kept intact the 7% of the votes that it had gotten previously. In its campaign, this far-right neo-nazi formation openly exhibited not only its xenophobic and reactionary program, but also its character as a paramilitary shock force, that is now directing its attacks against immigrants and left-wing deputies, but, tomorrow, if the crisis and the class struggle intensify, will attack all the workers.
One of the big losers in the elections was the Greek Communist Party (KKE), that got a measly 4.5%, its worst result since the beginning of the 1990’s, when it suffered a profound crisis because of the combination of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and its participation in a coalition government with New Democracy. Clearly, Syriza kept a large part of the electoral base of the KKE and also of the broad anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya, that moved back to 0.33%.
The leaders of the EU, that, together with the main imperialist press media, carried on a brazen campaign of terror and blackmail to discourage voting for Syriza, breathed a sigh of relief in view of this adjusted victory of the “pro-memorandum” parties. But as the high rate of interest that Spain had to pay for its debt bonds the day after the Greek elections shows, this victory of the right wing in Greece, that would authorize the freeing up of 130 billion from the bailout to continue paying its debt to the mainly German and French banks, is hardly a relief in the framework of the economic crisis, and it fails to resolve the uncertainty around the future of the euro zone.
Everything would indicate that this will be a weak government, to impose the adjustment demanded by the “troika,” that has already provoked 17 general strikes and no end of mobilizations in the last two years. The elections, in which a high level of abstention, 40%, was shown, will hardly manage to reverse the profound loss of political legitimacy of the forces responsible for the catastrophe that the Greek people are experiencing. The fiasco of PASOK, that, together with ND, are the main bourgeois parties that have guaranteed governability since the fall of the colonels’ dictatorship in 1974, has left the two-party regime in crisis, a regime that now appears to be rearming around two coalitions, one of the center-right, headed by ND, and one of the center-left, headed by Syriza, a much more unstable electoral phenomenon, despite having a program that does not call either the EU or capitalism into question. Perhaps because of this precarious position, Antonis Samaras, the leader of ND, implied that he will try to negotiate with the EU the terms of the new memorandum that his government will have to sign.
The limits of Syriza’s reformism
Despite its “anti-memorandum” rhetoric and the distrust that it creates among the European leaders, Syriza showed in the elections that its program does not differ radically from that of the parties of the “troika,” with which it shares the policy of keeping Greece within the imperialist structure of the EU. Alexis Tsipras, its main authority, has noticeably moderated his political positions, trying to appear as a “responsible” leader in front of Greece’s markets and creditors. Not a single word that would affect the interests of banking and the big Greek capitalists and those of the EU.
In the closing speech of his campaign, Tsipras maintained that Syriza was the best choice for negotiating with the EU, that it was taking “responsibility for governing the country and guaranteeing a steady, safe and fair course for the people and the country inside the euro zone” and that it would restore “credibility and international prestige” (Greek Left Review, June 13). As an example to follow, he even took Spain, no less, that obtained a loan from the EU, without having to sign any memorandum. But what Tsipras forgot to say is that precisely Spain, with its brutal austerity and its labor reform, shows that, with or without a memorandum, either the capitalists pay for the crisis or they make the workers pay for it.
As we have discussed, despite the abundant proofs of the fact that Syriza’s program is limited to re-negotiating points of the adjustment, to make Greek capitalism “viable” inside the eurozone, the majority of the tendencies that claim to be Trotskyist, among them the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the LIT, and even the Partido Obrero, have had an opportunist policy of supporting Syriza’s call to form a “government of the left,” even saying that it could give rise to a “workers’ government” (see “Revolutionaries and the ‘government of the left,’” LVO 478). This policy of adaptation to left-reformist election phenomena strengthens the workers’ illusions that it is possible to exit the crisis peacefully and without a program that attacks the fundamental capitalist interests, beginning with the nationalization of banking and the big monopolies, under workers’ control.
Syriza has already indicated that its position in the new scenario will be limited to playing the role of a parliamentary opposition to the right-wing government, that is, of containing and channeling the repudiation of the traditional bourgeois parties through the institutions of the regime and of the EU. The workers, the young people and the Greek urban poor, that, for more than two years, have been resisting the austerity plans implemented by the very parties that will now take office as the government, must prepare to confront, with the general strike and mobilization, this new attempt by the bourgeoisie to make them pay the costs of the crisis.