Socialist Worker

Greek left’s obstacles and opportunities

The effects of the December revolt that rocked the government are still being felt, argues Nikos Loudos

Issue No. 2160

The eyes of Europe were focused on Greece after the revolt that broke out here last December.

The police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15 year old school student, in Athens on 6 December sparked riots. A series of strikes, student occupations and protests then followed.

The events sent the right wing New Democracy government into despair. The “December rebellion” was over within a month. But the political crisis is still being felt.

The results of June’s European elections seem to contradict the usual view of what the effect of the rebellion would be.

The elections saw vote for the radical left stagnate. The combined percentage vote of the Communist Party and the Syriza left coalition – which is made up of the Synaspismos party and far-left groups – stayed at roughly 13 percent, the same as in 2004.

But their number of votes dropped by 180,000 from 2004. In contrast the fascist Laos party jumped from 4.1 to 7.1 percent.

This has frustrated the parliamentary left.

Syriza had been promoted as a party that was about to make a major breakthrough with some polls putting it at 18 percent last year. It is now in the middle of a major debate.

Some are arguing that the coalition should take a more right wing course towards the Pasok Labour‑type party.

Others argue for keeping the coalition’s left wing policies, and say that poor election results are a necessary price to pay for principles.

Both of these arguments are similar to those of the Communist Party – which says the results reflect the “low level of people’s consciousness”.

In other words, the working class is to blame for the failures of the left.

The Communists condemned the December events, and tried to keep its members away from the riots. Syriza, along with Pasok trade unionists, called off a demonstration during a general strike after the government asked for self‑restraint to avoid violence.

This was the point when the anger at police brutality was beginning to enter the workplaces.

Teachers, lecturers and civil service workers had staged strikes in support of the students. But the parliamentary left tried to keep this road closed.

Syriza’s poll showings made it put all its hopes in the elections and it overlooked the real battles needed to take movement forward.

Pasok used the slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” during its election campaign. The party is now holding its trade unionists back from fighting the right wing government attacks.

Pasok beat New Democracy by 4.3 percent in the elections. It now wants to wait until the next general election to form a government.

The reality is that the movement hasn’t retreated. The government is even weaker after the elections.

New Democracy lost around one million votes – more than 10 percentage points – since the 2004 European elections. It now has a parliamentary majority of just one.

Many groups of workers have challenged the government’s policies recently and it is nervous about what a new strike wave would mean.

One sign of the continuing willingness to fight is the inspiring story of a group of journalists and other workers at the Eleftheros Typos, a newspaper in Athens that was closed down.

They occupied their workplace to fight for their jobs. This has provided a focus of resistance for many other workers.


The ruling class and the government are attempting to use racism to organise a counter-offensive against the movement.

After being targeted as “child murderers” for the killing of Alexandros, the police are now posing as defenders of society against “illegal immigrants”. They are persecuting Asian workers across Greece.

The parliamentary left has failed to challenge the government on this field and allowed the fascists to mobilise.

But there is resistance to racism. A big anti-racist and anti-fascist march took place in Athens on Thursday of last week.

Initiatives such as this, taken by the Anti-Capitalist Left – a revolutionary current in Greece – are spurring the parliamentary left into action. The Anti‑Capitalist Left have won a number of key elections in the unions since December.

The radicalisation of December hasn’t gone away. The anger will explode again and the left has to continue to build its strength to fan these flames.

Nikos Loudos is a journalist for Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece

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Article information

Tue 14 Jul 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2160
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