By Panos Garganas
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 392

Greece moves to the left

This article is over 8 years, 2 months old
The Euro and local elections have confirmed that the surge in support of the left wing Syriza was not a flash in the pan. But the party is now shifting to the right.
Issue 392

The election results in Greece confirmed that there is a swing to the left. Many commentators were saying that the election results in 2012 were an “accident” – the fact that the left wing party

Syriza came very close to winning in 2012 was dismissed as a “moment of anger” from Greek voters. These results now show that this was not true. Syriza led in the European elections by four points ahead of the conservatives in New Democracy.

In 2009 New Democracy and Pasok (Greek Labour party) could command 69 percent of the vote. Now they are down to 30 percent. They have lost 39 percent of voters.

The bulk of this went to the left, with less than 5 percent turning to the right. These figures show that Greece is part of the polarisation that is pushing some people to the far-right, but it’s also to the left. In Greece the bulk of the swing is to the left.

Inside Pasok there are those saying that the centre-left must align with Syriza. So there’s a vague prospect that the forces of the centre or the centre-left that used to be aligned with the conservatives are now in the process of readjusting their position, aligning with Syriza.

There are two sides to this. On the one hand it means a defeat for the Tories, but on the other it means that a left government will have an alliance with the same forces that were part of the previous austerity government.

With the prospect of Syriza winning the next general elections, it is now presenting itself as a European force that defends European institutions, although it wants to democratise them. Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, has said: “We are a pro-European force that wants to change Europe, not dismantle it.”

This represents a shift to the right by Syriza. Tspiras is backing the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the Brussels Commission. Juncker is the leader of the conservatives in the European Parliament, so Tspiras is backing a Tory.

This move to the right has been confirmed by a recent speech Tspiras made to the Hellenic Federation of Industries, the Greek equivalent of the CBI. He told the bosses’ meeting that he wanted to agree a “social deal” and ruled out renationalisating everything privatised by the current government.

It is clear that the rank and file in Syriza are to the left of the leadership. That was shown in the election in 2012. The vote for the radical left then was squeezed, but we are now seeing a partial recovery in the local elections and in the European elections.

Supporters of the Communist Party and revolutionary left alliance Antarsya who voted for Syriza in 2012 are shifting back. This is the result of Syriza’s leadership shifting to the right.

Greece has seen a very big wave of struggle over the last four or five years. So it’s safe to say that many of the people who voted Syriza, not just the people who shifted to the Communist Party or to Antarsya, are prepared to join the struggle rather than to align with the leadership.

Golden Dawn
The polarisation in Greece is also reflected by a 2 percent rise the votes for the Nazi Golden Dawn – up from 7 percent in 2012 when it burst onto the stage, to just above 9 percent in the recent elections. But we have to see this rise in context.

The anti-fascist movement was very important in holding back any further substantial growth of Golden Dawn. The Nazi party attempted to build on its 2012 election results by organising squads to terrorise working class neighbourhoods.

That was the thrust of their campaign for a year and a half. But they met with strong resistance. The anti-fascist movement grew massively following the murder of the left wing rap artist Pavlos Fyssas by a member of Golden Dawn.

We have adopted a twin track strategy in the struggle against the fascists. There must be no return to neo-Nazi squadism, so we are campaigning for the trial of Golden Dawn to take place and those who are implicated in murders and racist attacks must go to jail. This is a strong campaign, and the trial has to take place within the next 12 months.

The second track is that we need to build an anti-capitalist alternative. There are so many people who are desperate because of the economic crisis. We have to win these people away from the clutches of the far-right.

New Democracy faces a choice. There’s a wing inside the Tory party that wants to align with Golden Dawn on the condition it abandons neo-Nazi symbols. This is a very dangerous strategy when there is a general swing is to the left.

Another wing of the party wants to cut out Golden Dawn and try to regroup the centre-right. There have been many splits from the Tories over the last couple of years. So this wing wants to win these people back to the party.

The leadership of New Democracy is trying to balance these two wings. Everybody is expecting a reshuffle in the government over the next couple of weeks.
We will see if the reshuffle indicates if the two wings are balanced.

Radical left
There’s going to be a general election in Greece because the government cannot survive. The mainstream parties have a very tough agenda of cuts and austerity ahead of them, so people expect that elections will take place next spring when parliament is to elect a new president of the republic.

There is also the possibility that the government may collapse sooner, as it no longer has a mandate to implement the next tranche of austerity. That means that a Syriza-led government is a serious prospect within the next 12 months.

If that happens the presence of the radical left is very important. It will be a focus for all the rank and file who are not prepared to follow Syriza to the right.

People are expecting that a Syriza-led government will restore some of the cuts that have taken place, in wages, in pensions, in social services and so on.

The Syriza leadership says it will only implement this gradually, and only as the economy recovers. Many people will not be prepared to just sit back and wait.

This means that Antarsya has a role to play in helping people fight back.

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