Socialist Worker

Workers in Greece say no to parties of austerity

Workers have rejected austerity—now we need to push for a people’s default, writes Panos Garganas

Issue No. 2303

Members of the anti-capitalist group Antarsya march in Athens earlier this year(Pic: Smallman )

Members of the anti-capitalist group Antarsya march in Athens earlier this year(Pic: Guy Smallman)

The mass vote to reject austerity has sparked Greece's biggest political crisis for years.

It saw big losses for the pro-­bailout parties and a huge rise in votes for the anti-austerity left—especially radical left party Syriza.

The pro-bailout parties had been trying to form a government.

But the deadline for these attempts has now expired and the country is heading for repeat elections in three or four weeks time.

The president stretched his constitutional powers to the limit. He tried to avoid a new election by cobbling together a new government of “technocrats”—but failed.


The reason for the stalemate is that the old political establishment does not accept that the left has a mandate to break austerity treaties.

These treaties were imposed on Greece by the “troika”—the International Monetary Fund, the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank.

Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative party New Democracy, and Evangelos Venizelos, of the Labour-type party Pasok, conceded that they cannot continue with their two-party austerity coalition.

But they were demanding that Syriza should break its election promises and join them in a government of “national salvation”.

All sorts of red-baiting was used in this campaign.

Samaras accused Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, of “having discussions with the extra-parliamentary left rather than with responsible parliamentary leaders”.

This was because Tsipras met with a delegation of Antarsya, the anti-capitalist left coalition to which SEK (the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in Greece) belongs.

And when a leading Syriza MP made a statement about nationalising the banks, he was accused of wanting to confiscate ordinary people’s deposits.

But the EU is the main blackmailer. It threatens to cut off funds and push Greece out of the eurozone if the left wins a repeat election.

Officials of the outgoing government of Lucas Papademos have even claimed that Greece will run out of funds before the new election can take place.

The menace of a default is used to try to push the left and the working class into submission.

But if a pro-austerity government were formed despite the election results, there would be an immediate response in the streets. Antarsya is certainly pushing in that direction.

Apart from workers’ courage and determination, we will also need a clear radical response from the left.


We can counter the threat of a troika-organised default by pushing for a people’s default.

Stopping all the interest payments to the bankers would save almost 40 percent of the whole Greek budget.

That is enough money to restore all the cuts in wages, pensions and social services. It could make real all the pledges that workers have voted for—and do more as well.

We will not be alone if it comes to that. Already many people across Europe express their solidarity by saying “we are all Greek”.

The election result in France and the demonstrations in Spain show the same anti-austerity mood across the continent.

A red hot summer is ahead of us—and workers’ solidarity is what we need.

Back story

Greece has become the centre of the economic storm sweeping the eurozone

  • The radical left party Syriza won nearly 17 percent in recent Greek elections—ahead of Pasok and just 2 percent behind New Democracy
  • Stock markets dived on the news that the left had done well—and again when Syriza didn’t join a coalition
  • Bankers fear that combative workers will end the consensus that Greece’s bank loans and massive interest must be repaid

Panos Garganas is the editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker's sister paper in Greece.

Crisis and turmoil across Europe: how can the 99 percent win? Special meeting with a socialist from Greece: Giorgos Pittas, journalist on Greek newspaper Workers Solidarity, Charlie Kimber, SWP national secretary, and a public sector striker. Wed 23 May, 7pm, Soas (Khalili Lecture Theatre), Russell Square, London WC1H

And in Manchester: Thu 24 May, 7pm, Manchester Metropolitan Uni, John Dalton Bldg, Chester St, M1

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