Initial Thoughts on the Results of the Greek Elections and Lessons for Ireland

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The Greek Elections’ Results

The number of the people that did not vote is the largest one in the elections history so far. This is to do with the capitulation of Tsipras, and the enforcement of the left TINA, as well as with financial restrains for the voters that had to travel.

Syriza’s victory was not based on ‘hope’ or any expectations for a more socially just governance. It was a personal victory for Tsipras, which tapped into the emotional “he’s a good kid, the EU were hard on him, at least he negotiated hard” on one hand, and the more moderate, centrist “Now that he got rid of the left burden, he will be more sensible and the government will be more stable” on the other. The new left TINA, in particular, played a role in reversing the radicalisation of large groups of the Greek population (especially the young, and working class urban areas), and appealed to the collapsing middle classes. “Stability” has entered Syriza’s vocabulary.

Tsipras’ victory was also based on the ideological and organisational defeat of the left alternatives. KKE’s stance in the memorandum sounded like a broken clock that tells the time correctly twice a day, but they failed to support and express the OXI. LAE (Popular Unity) ran for the elections attempting to express the OXI, while at the same time attempting to revive Syriza’s -in my view bankrupt- programme. However, their focus was on humourous TV spots, rather than the programme itself and the fact that it was mostly a party/front of prominent ex Syriza MP’s that have not addressed what their role in the Syriza government was turned a lot of people off. Antarsya-EEK, going through a split (with ARAN and ARAS siding with LAE), got a few thousand votes more than they did in the January elections. However, their programme needs to be substanciated. It also has not reached the wider population (partly due to the small organisation and lack of access to the media) and they failed to present it in detail. In this sense, Antarsya is seen as a useful force for the struggles, but not good enough as a parliamentary force.

A separate mention to the declining votes of Golden Dawn is necessary here. Golden Dawn did not manage to grow in an environment, which is characterised by disappointment on one hand, and the refugee crisis on the other. Even though their votes were higher than last elections on the Islands of Kos and Lesvos, they were not significantly higher and they were mostly votes that came from other right wing parties, such as New Democracy. It is also important to stress that dispite their attempts they have not managed to build a fascist movement on the streets as their presence, on those islands too, is very limited and they are outnumbered by the activists standing in solidarity with the refugees.

In all, the 2.86% (155000 votes) of LAE. the rise of votes to Antarsya-EEK (by 4200 votes), as well as smaller maoist and troskyist parties, such as the ML KKE-KKE (ml) coalition and OKDE, and the stability in the votes of KKE would not allow anyone to say that the Greek left is dead and buried, far from it. This is evident especially in comparison to the losses of votes for Syriza, and the establishment parties. Syriza lost 320000 votes, while New Democracy lost 192000,To Potami lost 151000, Golden Dawn 8800.

Regardless of the voting outcome, I believe, discussions and other collaborative efforts from a movement-building perspective between LAE and Antarsya-EEK and other anticapitalist organisations-parties will take place the following period, as the struggle against the 3rd Memorandum will start unfolding.

Syrisa’s Capitulation and Transformation

Going back to the January elections and the period from 2008 up to 2014, there are a few things we can draw lessons from. Firstly, it was the involvement of Syriza with the social movements that gave Tsipras the ticket to power, so to speak. Syriza back then was a different beast than it is today, they opened up to people, to their struggles and got in dialogue with them. In return, the people bet all their money on Syriza to represent their struggles politically. The transformation of Syriza is not new, did not just happen out of the blue the day Tsipras and the leading group in the government turned the OXI referendum vote into 222 big fat yeses. The roots were in Syriza’s belief that they can negotiate successfully, within the EU, the Eurozone, and the restrains and inflexibility their institutions pose to democracy. It was then reflected in the “divorce” the leading governmental group got from the party, and at the same time from the movement. Syriza’s electoral victory in January and the negotiations with the EU put the social movements on hold, with the majority of the people either waiting as passive observers, or backing Syriza. This was also the case with international solidarity, and the naive approach to stand in solidarity with Tsipras and his government, rather than the people of Greece (Mostly evident in the UK Greek Solidarity Campaign, but I should go back to this with a separate piece at some point).

Building a Left Alternative in Ireland

The discussion about a broad left is still going on, with the Trade Unions of Right2Water forming Right2Change and advocating a policy document with some broad left programmatic statements. I have personally taken part in this process, co-signing suggestions with community activists and left party members. I believe the document is a good starting point in order to discuss a more analytical programme, but as it stands it is still good as a discussion generator in our communities, work places and elsewhere that the left parties have no access to.

However, there are two dangers that I would like to point out.

The first one lies in the fact that there is no analysis in regards to the EU, the role of its institutions and their determination to prevent any change for the benefit of the 99% to happen. This is indeed a very political position, it is ideologically rooted in neo-liberalism and the very rational argument “it is fiscally established and can be done within their rules” is invalid as the example of Greece has already demonstrated. The duty of our movement is to prepare people for a long struggle, for a break with the EU and its institutions, and its replacement with the internationalist anti-capitalist struggle for a different organisation of society that benefits the people that produce the wealth rather than the punters. This can use broad left principles to generate discussions but a broad left coalition will not be the answer to the problems that will occur, and particularly the attack on democracy, as we saw in the case of Greece.

In light of this, the movement needs to keep putting pressure for more radical demands, as it is this pressure that will shift politics to the left. It is this same pressure that forced more moderate politicians and trade unionists to respond to and got the Trade Unions and parties such as Sinn Fein to get involved. The example of Corbyn’s victory of the Labour Party leadership is also a valuable one. He did not win the elections with moderate demands, he did it with a clear, socialist programme that inspired people, and something that got people involved en mass, and registered only to back his campaign. Which brings me to the next point.

Democracy itself. If we are to change how politics is done, internal democracy is our starting point. The fact that the Trade Unions asked for submissions is undeniably a great thing, the fact that there were 2 conferences for consultation is also very welcome, but saying the 200 hand-picked people that represented the huge anti-water charges movement is the best we can do is far from the democracy we need. There is a need for more open, more participatory processes, locally and nationally, a need for discussions to take place based on the policy document proposed, and more suggestions in order to enrich it.

For this process to be successful, and for unity to be strong, there is a need to be critical, instead of attempting to mute any critical voices with a broad and vague call for unity, and accusations that these purposely endanger unity. Activists that are critical to the policy document, and/or the process, are not so because they want this project to fail (at least I can speak for myself here). The example of Syriza, its transformation and its intolerance to critical voices within and outside the party, and its vague call for unity was an integral part for its transformation to a Leader’s party, to the abandonment of the radical demands and to its political shift to the right. We should look into this lesson reflectively and in a serious manner.

Along those lines, we need more of what’s already started in our community groups, in our campaigns, in our trade unions and left parties; we need to discuss weaknesses of the process along the way in order to make this as democratic and open as possible, as dangerous to the system as we can. In this process, time cannot be used as an excuse. We cannot afford to cut corners to democracy; we cannot afford to exclude individual activists or groups. We need to form local branches; we need accountability, transparency and open democratic processes from day one to the end!

Image taken from wikipedia: Summary of the 20 September 2015 Hellenic Parliament election results 

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