Greek Elections Produce a Stalemate – For Now

Photo: Eric Ribellarsi

“Bringing down the memorandum is a national obligation … From Monday, we continue the struggle. The future is not for the terrorists. A new day of Greece is yet to come. Our struggle continues.” –Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)

ATHENS, GREECE—I’m sitting in a communist bar with thoughtful activists of the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), the second largest organization of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), watching coverage of the election on TV. The comrades attentively surf the various stations discussing exit polls and analysis of voting patterns. They periodically curse at the television commentators.

Most elections in the Western world are meaningless affairs because the choices are set by a political establishment, and few major decisions are up for grabs. They often play a role of co-optation, consuming the resistance and independent politics of the people.

But Greece, even Europe itself, is gripped by a major crisis. It also appears New Democracy, Greece’s right-wing equivalent to the Republican Party of America, will win these elections with SYRIZA coming in second. Even so, hundreds of thousands of the Greek people have shifted like a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.

Hundreds of thousands of Greek people have decided to send a giant “fuck you” to the bankers and dominators of Europe’s big powers. Even amidst their obnoxious celebrations of poverty and terror, the Troika trembles with fear. For this reason, the PASOK party (a government like the Democratic Party of America), is refusing—for the time being—to form a government with New Democracy unless SYRIZA joins that government. This bizarre power move is all about confusing and demobilizing the radical and militant base of people that have regrouped around SYRIZA. It is the same as the months of mass media mounted attacks on SYRIZA, both within Greece and Europe generally.

What now?

The atmosphere in this bar is both angry and thoughtful. People have had a sense that these elections may have opened up a radical break with the previous politics of Greece, and provide them a way out of endless austerity imposed by Euro-IMF technocrats. Hundreds of thousands of the people of Greece decided to give themselves a chance to fight and dream. But this election will not be the vehicle for those dreams. On the other hand, it is not clear yet whether SYRIZA has definitively lost in this arena, as there may be another round of elections.

Even if they had won, in a basic way, capitalism would still rule Greece: The economy would still work by profit. The poor would still be poor. Investment and employment would only appear where profits are made. Town squares would still be filled by desperate immigrants, squatting, stuck, far from their homes. The Army would still be conservative, the police still riddled with Nazi “Golden Dawn” activists. The election of SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, would not have changed those fundamentals.

But what has changed no matter what is that millions of people have stood up – have dared to take an uncertain path that began in the street fighting of 2008 and the Squares Movement of 2011, and that the faith of millions of people in this system has been decimated.

In that sense, this election (even if it couldn’t and didn’t overturn the fundamental power and rule in Greece) represented a public demonstration of change – change in Greek politics, growth of determination to resist and fight austerity, change away from conservative mainstream politics, despite the gloating of New Democracy that “the memorandum [of austerity and Troika] will not be withdrawn.”

It now seems apparent that SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, which contains a minority wing of communist revolutionaries and as a whole, this coalition declared that it would tear up the austerity memorandum agreements between Europe and Greece, and will continue to struggle toward this end with the massive energy this movement has produced.

Around 25% of the voter base of the opportunist-liberal Democratic Left (a split from The Coalition of the Radical Left that chose to defend the austerity agreements) have left that party to support SYRIZA.

So what will SYRIZA continue struggling for?

SYRIZA’s program contains a number of radical transformations of Greek society.

This includes the end of the austerity memorandum agreements between Greece and the Troika (the Troika is the three pillars dominating Greece: the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank).

SYRIZA plans the nationalization of the banks of Greece, and the use of those funds to provide guaranteed wages, housing, and all public services. Its program includes declaring all of Greece’s debt based upon financial speculation to be invalid, and a moratorium that would research and ultimately find that the whole of the debt was illegal.

SYRIZA also fights for the issuing of travel papers to all immigrants seeking the ability to work in the European Union, against treaties and the demands of the E.U.; disengagement of Greece from NATO; expulsion of all foreign military bases from Greece and the refusal of all future cooperation with Israel (including in a possible war against Iran).

These things also mean that the threat of some form of coup d’etat from reactionary political forces is not out of the question should SYRIZA come to power in a future round of elections or a coalition government cannot be formed. SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA, plan for a radical restructuring of the state, including the disarming and dissolution of Greece’s hated riot police.

Within this mix, communists such as those of the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) are planning to work for a particular red pole inside all of this. They are fighting to radicalize SYRIZA as a whole, while at the same time, if SYRIZA were to be elected, would likely plan to remain outside of key ministerial positions, so that they can lead as communists independently around any future SYRIZA government.

As extraordinary austerity has been unleashed on the Greek society, great crises and struggles, perhaps even a revolutionary crisis, may now emerge from the fall out of these contradictions.

This election was a manifesto for what is soon to come. Millions no longer believe in this system. People have started out on a certain road – and while we don’t know where it leads, we know what it rejects. This struggle will continue.

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