Elections in Greece: Vote SYRIZA but Don’t Trust the Tsipras Leadership!
Organize the Struggle in Workplaces, Schools, and on the Streets! Fight for a Workers’ Government!
Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 22.1.2015, www.thecommunists.net
1. According to all opinion polls, the upcoming elections in Greece on 25 January will bring about dramatic change. With the left-reformist SYRIZA in the lead, for the first time in the country’s history – and also in those of capitalist Europe’s since 1919 – a government is set to take power dominated by a party to the left of social democracy. An electoral victory for SYRIZA will open a new political phase in Greece and will have profound effects on the European Union.
2. Greece’s election is taking place after the country was forced into a traumatic four years of the worst economic and social crisis which Western European countries have experienced since 1945. Economic output has dropped in Greece during these years of austerity by 26%. Wages are officially 18% below the level of 2007. The government has eliminated 150,000 jobs in the public sector. Unemployment among youths stands at 58.3% and total unemployment is officially 27.5%. These are clearly bureaucratically embellished figures, since the employment rate of the economically active population (i.e., those who have a job among the 25–64 year old population) dropped from 61.9% (2008) to 49.3% (2013), i.e., less than half of this population.
3. In the past four years, Greece – a semi-colonial country oppressed by the global imperialist system – has been shamelessly squeezed and exploited by the IMF and, in particular, by the EU Troika which serves the banks and corporations. Under the dictates of these colonial masters, Greek governments have been ordered to destroy the country’s social benefits and health care systems. At the same time, Greece’s public debt rose dramatically from 113% of GDP in 2009 before the onset of the country’s crisis to 321 billion Euro or 175% of its 2014 GDP. According to the progressive economist Eric Toussaint, some 80% of Greek public debt was held by the private banks of seven EU countries in 2009. Fifty percent was held by French and German banks alone. Most of the new loans in the last years were used to repay the EU banks so that they can retain their high profits. At the same time, EU banks are already intervening to take over Greece’s financial system.
4. These years of depression and misery have provoked a massive upsurge in the class struggle. More than 30 general strikes have been held in recent years. A number of smaller and middle-sized enterprises and social and health centers have been taken over by workers and are continuing to operate under worker self-management. However, these struggles have not been able to stop the reactionary austerity offensive of the ruling class. The reason for this is that the Greek working class lacks a revolutionary leadership. Instead, it only possesses a leadership which is either incapable or unwilling to serve its interests.
5. The trade union bureaucrats at the top of the labor federations GSSE and ADEDY are only looking to compromise with the government and the capitalists in order to save their own personal privileges. Under massive pressure of the rank and file, they announce numerous general strikes which, however, always get limited to one or two days and, thus, are insufficiently intimidating to achieve real concessions from the ruling class and the EU Troika. These trade union bureaucrats are always looking to save their own skins by looking for a parasitic relationship which powerful parties like the social democratic PASOK in the past and SYRIZA today. In order to revive the trade unions and to transform them into real instruments of struggle for the interest of the working class, the rank and file must throw out these bureaucratic parasites and put the union under their democratic control.
6. The left-reformist Stalinist KKE, a small bourgeois workers’ party, and its affiliated trade union PAME present themselves as a radical alternative. While the KKE certainly retains important influence among the vanguard of the working class, its leaders are just a smaller version of the trade union bureaucrats. They sabotage any militant dynamic of the class struggle and poison it with Greek chauvinism. They refuse practical collaboration with other parties of workers’ movement like SYRIZA. In October 2011 – when hundreds of thousands of people marched to the parliament where a crucial vote on additional austerity measures was to be held – KKE’s security service even defended the parliament against the angry demonstrators! It is hardly surprising that, after years of class struggle and capitalist crisis, this “Communist” party has lost much of its previous support and is weaker than ever both in membership as well as electoral support.
7. Against this background of massive class struggles and failed hopes placed on traditional leaderships, a fundamental change has taken place in the class consciousness of the Greek workers and youth. They have understood that limited strike actions or peaceful square occupations cannot stop the austerity offensive of the ruling class. For this, it is necessary to seize political power. Hence, many Greek working class people have dropped their support for PASOK (and also the KKE) and now support a party which promises to end the austerity regime and to fight for an anti-capitalist, socialist program. This explains SYRIZA’s dramatic rise from a party which received only 4.5% before the elections in 2012 to the most popular party in the polls, with currently about 30% electoral support.
8. However, socialists have to warn the Greek working class that such hopes in the SYRIZA leadership are absolutely unfounded. Yes, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras promises a number of social reforms. But he has also already announced that he will do whatever is necessary for Greece to remain a member of the Eurozone. This means that he is willing to subordinate the interests of the Greek workers to the dictates of the EU Troika. He has also already retracted the party’s official goal of stopping the serving of debts, but now he only wants “to re-negotiate them with the EU-Troika.”. George Stathakis, SYRIZA’s shadow minister of development, seeks to reassure the capitalists: “We want to make life easier for business people, to help remove problems with bureaucracy that they complain about. ( ... ) It’s important to be able to create jobs” (Financial Times, 6.1.2015). Let us also not forget that SYRIZA, which is a bourgeois workers’ party, is part of the left-reformist European Left Party (ELP) – a coalition of ex-Stalinist parties. Key organizations of the ELP have already been in power, like the French PCF in the Jospin government from 1997 to 2002 or the German Linkspartei, in various regional coalition governments. The Cypriot AKEL, which has an observer status in the ELP, was the leading government party between 2008 and 2013. In all these cases, the ELP parties supported the neoliberal austerity policy!
9. Nevertheless, many banksters, corporate bosses, and EU politicians are nervous about the likely electoral victory of SYRIZA. This is because the reformist SYRIZA leadership is under tremendous pressure from a radicalized working class base. Under such circumstances, it may be forced to be less submissive to the capitalist’s demands than it is actually willing to. In addition, an electoral victory of SYRIZA would raise the self-confidence of workers and harden their determination to reclaim what they have been robbed by the EU Troika and the Greek capitalists in recent years. To give an historical analogy, we refer to the events in France in early June 1936, after the electoral victory of the Popular Front – which was dominated by the Socialist and the “Communist” parties. Following this victory, the French working class launched a week-long general strike and occupied many factories. This general strike could only be ended by the determined and tireless efforts of the Socialist and the “Communist” leaders, efforts which ended the revolutionary possibilities and opened the road to defeat and, later, World War II. We therefore do not exclude the possibility that a massive electoral victory for SYRIZA could open a pre-revolutionary situation and ignite the class struggle. Of course, the Tsipras leadership will do everything in its power to contain and liquidate such an explosion of the class struggle.
10. It is an urgent task for the workers’ movement in Europe to organize a solidarity campaign with the working class in Greece. Such a solidarity campaign must, of course, include material support for the workers’ organizations and enterprises under worker self-management. However, it is even more important to wage a massive campaign to force the EU and the banks to cancel all debts which are mercilessly squeezing Greece to the limit.
11. The RCIT warns that a sustainable improvement for the Greek workers and youth will not be possible under a SYRIZA government. A Tsipras government will inevitably betray the hopes of the working class, because it is neither willing nor able to break with Greece’s elite and the EU and to lead the country out of its capitalist prison cell. Such a way of out of misery for the popular masses can only be achieved on the basis of a socialist program. Such a program has to focus on taking the instruments of power away from those who have driven the country towards national collapse. Hence, socialists fight for a workers’ government based on action councils organizing the workers and popular masses as well as an armed workers’ militia. Only such a workers’ government is capable of implementing a socialist program which will focus on expropriating the capitalist class and, in particular, the so-called “50 families.” Associated with this is the struggle for the nationalization of the key corporations without compensation and under worker control. A socialist Greece would break all links with EU institutions and cancel all debts. It would introduce a public works program in order to rebuild the country and its infrastructure and abolish unemployment. It would significantly raise the minimum wage. It would eliminate the oppression of migrants and national minorities and establish complete equality (full citizenship rights, right to use one’s native language, equal wages, etc.). Such a workers’ government would disband the police and army and replace them with an armed workers’ militia.
12. The RCIT stresses that revolutionaries must never spread illusions about the possibility of a peaceful transformation towards socialism. If the ruling class feels threatened in its wealth and power, it will inevitably launch a civil war against the working class. The Greek working class already experienced this in the years after 1944. The working class can overthrow capitalism and open the road to socialism only via an armed insurrection led by a revolutionary workers’ party. This is why it is urgent that socialists prepare the working class for the inevitable clash with the fascists and the ruling class’ state apparatus by building armed self-defense units which can form the basis for popular militias.
13. It would be a terrible mistake if socialists would only passively wait until the SYRIZA leadership has discredited itself. The Greek working class does not have unlimited time. The foreseeable betrayal of the SYRIZA government will inevitably lead to disappointment among the masses who will look for a more radical alternative. If the socialists do not succeed in breaking important sectors of the masses away from SYRIZA and in building a new, revolutionary workers’ party, it is likely that the fascists of the Golden Dawn will be the main beneficiaries of the crisis and the ruling class will be able to conclude the SYRIZA episode in one way or another – including by means of a military coup d’état.
14. It is vital that socialists intervene by issuing a revolutionary program during the election campaign, and by continuing the class struggle after the elections. They should warn of the coming betrayal of the masses by the SYRIZA leadership. But they need to combine this with a tactic which takes into account the tremendous shift to the left among the masses which will find expression in mass electoral support for SYRIZA. Currently, the workers and youth hope that Tsipras can implement their desire for social justice and democracy. They will have to go through this experience and disappointment, and the task of socialists is to support them in drawing the correct conclusions. This requires the application of the united front tactic, both in the elections as well as in the struggles ahead in the workplaces and streets. Hence, socialists should call for a critical vote for SYRIZA in the upcoming elections. They should call for a SYRIZA-led government, which would be a bourgeois workers’ government, and organize a mass struggle to force this government to implement the social demands of the working class. Socialists should raise key demands before the SYRIZA leadership, like canceling all debts, expropriating the super-rich, nationalizing the corporations, leaving the EU, etc. They should call for the formation of rank and file action committees to put pressure on the leadership and to prepare the workers’ struggle independent of the SYRIZA leadership. They should call upon the Stalinist KKE to support a SYRIZA coalition government, and try to integrate KKE workers into a united front, despite the sectarian refusal of the KKE leadership.
15. The key to the present situation is to break the vanguard sectors of the working class away from SYRIZA and to build a revolutionary workers’ party. Only if such a party exists, can the working class be won over to a program calling for the socialist seizure of power. It is urgent that the left-wing opposition in SYRIZA immediately start preparing and organizing itself to split the vanguard workers away from the party. If the workers’ vanguard does not possess a party which is independent of the capitalists and a pro-capitalist SYRIZA government, it will inevitably loose the battles which lay ahead.
16. All Revolutionaries in Greece outside of SYRIZA who are willing to build a Revolutionary Workers Party should not ignore the developments inside SYRIZA, i.e. the formation of a Left wing Opposition. It is necessary to work together with all Left Wing activists who are opposed to the Tspiras leadership's perspectives of collaboration with bourgeois forces and who are trying to build a revolutionary alternative. It is important to join forces with all those activists and lead the way to the formation of a Revolutionary Workers Party. This could involve the policy of an Entry tactic in SYRIZA to develop a revolutionary opposition in order to win a significant sector of the Workers Vanguard which is currently organized in SYRIZA.
17. The first step in this direction is the creation of a revolutionary pre-party organization to fight for an authentic socialist a program and to unite activists on this basis. The RCIT looks forward to collaborating with Greek revolutionaries and to support them in achieving this goal.
The RCIT proposes to Greece’s socialists to fight for the following slogans:
* Cancel all debts!
* Expropriate the capitalists and in particular the so-called “50 families”!
* Nationalize the key corporations without paying compensation and place them under worker control!
* Break all links with EU institutions and leave the Eurozone!
* Significantly increase the minimum wage!
* For a public works program in order to rebuild the country!
* For the right of national self-determination for national minorities! Equality for migrants (full citizenship rights, right to use their native language, equal wages, etc.)!
* For a workers’ government based on action councils which will organize the workers and popular masses and establish an armed workers’ militia!
* For a workers’ republic in Greece! For a United Socialist States of Europe!
International Secretariat of the RCIT
For our analysis of Greece we refer readers to:
* RCIT: Greece: Honor Pavlos Fyssas! Smash the fascist Golden Dawn, 21.9.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-smash-golden-dawn/
* RCIT: Greece: Down with the Trial against Savas Michael-Matsas! 23.7.2013, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-solidarity-with-savas-matsas
* Nina Gunić: Solidarity with the Hunger Strike in Greece! Forward to a Revolutionary Migrant Movement! April 2013, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-solidarity-with-migrant-strike
* Michael Pröbsting: After the elections on 17th June: A new phase of the Greek Revolution is beginning! 19.6.2012, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-after-17-6-elections
* Michael Pröbsting: Greece: For a Workers' Government! Critical electoral support for SYRIZA and KKE! Workers: Organize and prepare yourselves for the struggle for power! 6.6.2012, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-for-a-workers-government
* Michael Pröbsting: After SYRIZA’s victory in the Greek elections: The question of a Workers Government and the revolutionary way forward, May 2012, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/after-the-greek-elections
* Michael Pröbsting: Perspectives on the Greek Revolution, 10.11.2011, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-revolution-or-tragedy