Workers Hammer No. 232
Greece: No vote to Syriza! No vote to Popular Unity!
For workers struggle against the EU and the euro!
On 20 September Greece once again goes to the polls in a general election. The current ruling coalition led by the bourgeois Syriza party was swept to power in January based on its promises to oppose the crippling austerity imposed by Greece’s imperialist creditors. But, committed to keeping Greece in the EU and in the eurozone, in the course of protracted negotiations for debt relief and more funds Syriza caved in to the diktats of the Troika (European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank).
In a 5 July referendum Greek voters decisively rejected the rapacious “bailout” terms demanded by the Troika. Yet one week later, the Syriza-led government thumbed its nose at the referendum result and agreed to a “Third Memorandum” that includes measures even harsher than those rejected in the referendum.
Although Syriza prime minister Alexis Tsipras received an overwhelming parliamentary endorsement of his rotten deal with the EU/IMF imperialists, dozens of his own party’s MPs voted against or abstained, destabilising the government. When Tsipras announced his resignation as prime minister, snap elections were triggered.
The blatant betrayal by Syriza of the millions of working people who voted “no” to austerity, has led to widespread outrage in the country. Sensing which way the wind was blowing, around 29 Syriza MPs quit to form a new party — Popular Unity.
We reprint below a 7 September election statement by our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece.
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SEPTEMBER 7 2015 — The Trotskyist Group of Greece stands opposed on principle to any vote for the capitalist Syriza party in the 20 September elections, just as we opposed it in the elections of 2012 and in January of this year. In power, Syriza proved to be exactly what we said before they were elected — committed to the imperialist EU and an enemy of the workers and the oppressed. We also oppose on principle any support to Popular Unity (LAE), the split from Syriza. LAE is a bourgeois-populist “front” trying to salvage the muddied anti-austerity banner that Syriza trampled within months of their election.
LAE leader Lafazanis and Co do not offer any kind of working-class alternative to the bourgeois Syriza. They stayed in the Syriza government until Tsipras resigned, demonstrating that they are devoted to maintaining capitalist stability and that their vote against the memorandum was just for show. LAE promises to exit the euro (but not the EU) only if it becomes necessary! Yet the events of recent months have made crystal clear that there is absolutely no way forward for the workers and the oppressed of Greece within the straitjacket of the imperialist EU and its instrument, the euro. Down with the euro and EU! Rip up the Third Memorandum! Repudiate the debt!
In order to punish the Greek working people for daring to vote no in the 5 July referendum, the Troika pushed an even more savage programme of starvation, misery and humiliation. Syriza accepted this imperialist blackmail. Enough! This crisis cannot be resolved at the ballot box. The only road forward is hard struggle by the working class, at the head of all the oppressed, to repudiate Syriza’s sell-out. On 17 July the TGG issued a call [reprinted below] upon the broadest layers of the workers movement and its allies to form workers committees of action:
“The EU and euro must be repudiated. Committees composed of workers from different tendencies and their allies — youth, unemployed, immigrants, pensioners — must be set up throughout the country to struggle for this and towards a government which will act in the interests of the working people and be subordinated to them. This battle cannot be won within a parliamentary framework.... Break with the Capitalists and their Banks!”
We also call upon like-minded and class-conscious working people throughout the European Union to support these aims and for common class struggle of Greek, German and other European workers against Schäuble, Merkel, Hollande and all the EU criminals!
The International Communist League, of which the TGG is a section, has opposed the EU on principle from its inception. The EU is an unstable consortium — dominated by German imperialism — aimed at driving down the living standards of working people throughout Europe, including in imperialist countries like Germany. The euro is an instrument for economic domination of the major powers over the poorer states. The only way out of the nightmare of recurrent capitalist crises is to unite the workers throughout Europe in struggle to sweep away the imperialist EU through the fight for socialist revolutions here and internationally. For a Socialist United States of Europe!
In both 2012 and the January election this year, the TGG called for a vote to the reformist KKE because it had consistently opposed both Syriza and the imperialist EU. But in the 5 July referendum the KKE leadership called on working people to throw away their vote by casting spoiled ballots with the KKE’s own slogans. This betrayal stood in direct counterposition to the KKE’s stated opposition to the EU. We call on the KKE to repudiate its position on the 5 July referendum. If the KKE does so, we will extend critical electoral support to it in this election.
The KKE’s response to the 5 July referendum also went against every other call the KKE has made for a no vote in EU referenda — from the Maastricht Treaty to the Lisbon Treaty. And in 2011, the KKE called for a no vote in the referendum proposed by PASOK’s Papandreou on the Second Memorandum (see 3 November 2011 Rizospastis, front page). The KKE leaders claimed that to vote down the Troika’s deal on 5 July was an implicit vote for Syriza’s own rotten austerity package. Whether in 2011 or 2015, voting down the Troika’s deal was nothing other than a message to the imperialist rulers of the EU to go to hell.
In the lead-up to the 5 July referendum the TGG issued a statement calling: “Vote NO! Down With the EU! No Support to the Syriza Government!” We explained that a yes vote would be a terrible defeat for working people across Europe, giving the imperialist and capitalist rulers the green light to devastate conditions of life even more for millions of people. It would also have made life easier for Syriza, because they could have claimed that a yes vote forced them to impose austerity. The resounding no vote means that Syriza now stand completely exposed as craven bootlickers of the imperialists who capitulated to the Troika despite the popular mandate to reject the deal.
The 5 July vote has served to destabilise the parliamentary order in Greece, providing an opportunity for the working class to come to the fore in struggle. Such struggle must go beyond the bourgeois electoral circus and the strategy of trying to pressure parliament for a return to the pre-Memorandum days. It must point instead towards the need for a revolutionary, proletarian solution to the crisis.
The TGG opposes any support to the electoral bloc of Antarsya and the Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK). These reformists were first a tail on the bourgeois Syriza and are now a tail on the bourgeois-populist LAE. While claiming to oppose Syriza in the January elections, these groups showed their true colours in February when they flocked to pro-government demonstrations in favour of national unity. These demonstrations were aimed at strengthening Tsipras’ position in the “negotiations” for the sell-out to the Troika. Now Antarsya/EEK whine in their 3 September “Declaration of ANTARSYA/Elections 20 September” that LAE “seems not to have drawn conclusions from the path taken by Syriza”. Clearly the reformists of Antarsya and the EEK are also incapable of drawing the appropriate “conclusions”. Their election statement calls for a vote against Syriza, New Democracy, PASOK, Potami and Golden Dawn but not against LAE. It is clear that Antarsya/EEK want to pressure LAE to become the “new” (ie old) Syriza.
Such parliamentary pressure politics pushed by the reformist left throughout the crisis are a dead end. Our call for workers action committees is a call on forces much larger and wider than our own to take up the struggle against the EU and the euro based on the mobilisation of the independent power of the working class. It is not a call to pressure forces like LAE to move to the left, nor to elect a more left-wing capitalist government. The demands suggested in our call address the immediate, urgent needs of working people: For jobs for all through a shorter workweek with no loss in pay! For decent pensions for all retirees pegged to the cost of living! Quality health care and housing for all! For workers control of food distribution and prices! Abolish the VAT! The capitalists, including their “left” agents like Syriza, have demonstrated that their system is incapable of providing the basic necessities of life for the masses. It is high time that the working class fought to take control of society: Expropriate the banks, utilities, transportation, ports and shipping industry!
If the ruined petty bourgeoisie and masses of unemployed do not see the working class leading such a fight, they will be increasingly attracted to the “radical” solutions offered by the fascists. The fascist Golden Dawn came third in last January’s election and now seeks to take advantage of Syriza’s sell-out to posture as the populist “saviours” of the nation. Golden Dawn is currently feeding off the government’s chauvinist abuse of the thousands of desperate immigrants arriving every week, who’ve risked their lives to make it inside the borders of racist Fortress Europe through Greece. In opposition to the racist scapegoating of immigrants by the state and by the fascists, the working class must fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants! Workers committees of action would fight for jobs for thousands of unemployed construction workers building free, quality housing for all those immigrants who’ve made it here, as well as for the increasing number of homeless Greeks.
The fascists seek to deflect the anger of the dispossessed not only towards immigrants but also leftists, gay people and trade unionists. Their ultimate goal is the physical destruction of the unions and the left, which is why the capitalists keep the fascists in reserve. This makes it urgently necessary to mobilise the social power of the unions and workers more broadly in massive, united-front mobilisations to stop the fascists. For workers defence guards to smash the fascist threat! Defend immigrants against racist attacks!
The KKE, despite its social weight in the trade unions, has no perspective of taking the lead in mobilising contingents of workers, based on the unions, to defend immigrants, leftists and gay people by sweeping the fascists off the streets. Instead it calls to “isolate” the fascists, as if fascism were merely a question of bad ideas. The KKE’s nationalist populist programme, which is expressed in its calls for “people’s power” and for defence of Greece’s borders, is an obstacle to combating the populist demagogy of the fascists. It is also a political obstacle to the struggle for the revolutionary seizure of power by the working class, because it chains the working class to its capitalist exploiters.
If many workers today lack revolutionary consciousness, it is not merely because of “objective” conditions, but because of the opportunist character of the existing leadership of the workers movement, and in particular the KKE. What is needed is a revolutionary party like Lenin’s and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks. Such a party will be forged through the struggle against capitalist ruin and fascist reaction. Such a party cannot be a “national” party, but must form part of one international revolutionary party, with sections in each country. It is the perspective of the TGG to fight for such a party as part of a reforged Fourth International.