Ever since the May 6th elections in Greece I have been reading about it until my head hurts. All those parties and all those numbers. The U.S. press of course seem to have just discovered that "Austerity is a dirty word in Greece". So I moved on to what many others were writing who are actually in Greece and it all seemed to start coming together. In the United States we have only two parties and both are austerity parties - parties of the 1%. So in the U.S. the two parties always seek to divert, demobilize the electorate. Now is the time to do what is important, vote for one of them. No more demonstrations - register to vote, pass recall petitions, phone bank and go door to door.
But in Greece the opposite happened. With a multi party system the ruling political parties were punished by the victims of their policies. The growing radicalization was saying, "Throw the two ruling parties out". In response to savage cuts in public spending, slashing wages for public workers and privatization drives the people said, "no". The draconian cuts were engineered by the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) known in Greece as 'The Troika". All backed of course by Wall Street who wants to turn up the pain some more.
At first glance the losers were the ruling parties - ND - (conservative) and PASOK - (center left) and the winner was SYRIZA who replaced PASOK as number two in the government and has significantly weakened the ND. ND lost 2/3rds of their votes and PASOK lost 1/3 of their votes. Syriza "Coalition Of The Hard Left" called for a government of the left. Their main support came from the working class and the poor. They had support from progressive social movements and the youth in the urban centers. There are reformists and revolutionaries in this coalition. It is diverse and democratic. There is currently rising pressure to develop a socialist program for SYRISA. The SYRISA spokesman is Alexis Tsipras who has been trying to unite all the parties of the left to create a government of the left and replace both ND and PASOK. He had previously been a leader of the (Communist Party) KKE youth organization and had led sit ins against education reform before he ran a campaign for mayor of Athens. He was hoping he would be able to bring KKE into a new coalition. He was not successful as they refuse to participate in the new coalition government saying, "we are not leftists we are Communists". They have their own demonstrations. Their base is primarily with some of the trade unions and they have in the past accused the growing youth movement of being provocateurs. They lost some votes in the cities but kept their 26 seats in Parliament.
The overall swing to the left was huge and unprecedented in the last 60 years. From the last election where they had 872,000 votes to 2 million last week. This comes as a result of the 2008 youth uprising in Athens after the police shot a 15 year old student. In 2010 and 2011 there were 17 general strikes against the IMF and EU austerity measures. At the heart of the electoral swing to the left are veterans of strikes, occupations and confrontations with the police. The result was that SYRIZA got 17%, KKE - 8.5%, DL - 6.1%, and ANTARSYA a smaller "Coalition Of The Anti-Capitalist Left" increased their votes from 25,000 to 75,000, but not enough for a seat. The total election result showed that 2/3 of Greeks oppose austerity and the Eurozone agreement. SYRIZA had the most votes in all major cities and among the 18-35 year olds.
Alexis Tsipras insists that the next government must reject the austerity measures and savage cuts. The first round of negotiations failed as Tsipras held strong to his demands of any new government.:
Immediate cancellation of all impending measures which will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.
Immediate cancellation of all measures that undermine basic worker's rights.
Immediate abolition of laws granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of electoral law and general overhaul of the political system.
Investigation into Greek banks and the immediate publication of the audit of the Greek banking sector.
Setting up an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece's public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit is published.
With these demands and without a united left it looks like there will be another election in June. The polls are saying it looks like SYRIZA will get the majority, KKE will lose more votes and the ND and PASOK will be out.
WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR?
SYRIZA campaigned on nationalizing the banks. Will they stay with this demand and will it be their rallying cry?
The big issue is whether to leave the EU and dump the Euro or will they try to find a way to compromise and stay in the EU? There is no unanimity in SYRIZA.
The countries of Europe are all watching Greece. Will there be a group of countries who leave the EU together? Will there be a Socialist European Union?
The Neo Nazi Golden Dawn Party got 7% of the vote. Will the left in Greece join together in a united front to fight back fascism or will the sad history of Spain and Germany repeat itself?
We should continue to watch.