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As Greece rejects austerity – we can do it here

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Issue 2438
Syriza supporters celebrate after the party won Greeces general election last Sunday
Syriza supporters celebrate after the party won Greece’s general election last Sunday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Greek election result is an inspiring boost to everyone fighting the warped priorities of the bosses and the Tories. 

It has shouted loud that we don’t have to accept austerity.

Two main factors explain Syriza’s success. One was the scale of the economic assault. 

When the economic crisis swept the globe, the Troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund provided £165 billion of loans to Greece.

But 90 percent of it went to bail out Europe’s banks and hedge funds. 

And the Greek people were left with the bill.

Workers faced devastating cuts in wages and pensions. Large swathes of the health service were effectively abolished while unemployment rocketed. 

A recent report from the European Commission admits that those affected by “severe deprivation of basic goods” doubled to one in five between 2008 and 2013.

The result of the bankers’ “fiscal waterboarding”, as new prime minister Alexis Tsipras calls it, was soaring rates of homelessness, illness and suicide. 

But suffering can lead to despair or racist scapegoating.

So the Syriza vote is inconceivable without years of relentless class struggle. 

This began in December 2008 when people rioted after the police killed school student Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

Instead of meekly accepting the demands of the bankers and the bosses, Greeks fought back. 

There were 32 general strikes, hundreds of smaller strikes, occupations of city and town squares, and student mobilisations. Syriza’s support soared.

But the battles are only just beginning. The ruling class has two ways to deal with the election of radical governments. 

It first tries financial pressure to threaten economic annihilation unless the new rulers “see sense”. 

If that doesn’t work, more violent methods can be used.

The people of Greece have voted to end austerity. But capitalists don’t care about democracy. 

Their power doesn’t live in parliament but in their control of banks, industry, the unelected state apparatus, the police and the army. They will seek to use this power now.     

The Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday of this week admitted, “To service its debt burden would require Greece to operate as a quasi slave economy”. 

But it insisted that Tsipras must compromise.

The choice for Syriza is to surrender to the blackmail or to confront the bankers. 

Tsipras’s choice to go into a “national unity” government with the right wing Independent Greeks is a warning of how he sees the future.

Austerity will not be reversed without refusing to pay any of the debt, taking over the banks under democratic ownership and encouraging workers’ control in key parts of the economy. 

This is what Greek workers must fight for.

And they should use the same methods that have brought them to this success—strikes, mass mobilisations, occupations and democracy from below that can go further than Syriza offers.

Everywhere we should raise the demand “Cancel the Greek debt”. But there are other key lessons from Greece. 

Katerina Thoidou, a candidate for the Antarsya anti-capitalist coalition, said, “The best form of support for the fight in Greece will be to build strikes and resistance all over Europe.” 

So we need to push for more resistance and solidarity.

We need to get behind any groups of workers who strike back.

And we need more battles against racism and Islamophobia.

The 21 March anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrations, which were originally called from Greece, will be particularly important.

Katerina added, “The biggest challenge for people across Europe will be to build new anti-capitalist parties.”

Britain is not in the same situation as Greece. But we have to do more than applaud and observe.

The SWP has called for a more united left, and a stronger left electoral challenge through the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. 

We hope that everyone cheering when Syriza won will fight together here.

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