Greek elections: a most fragile victory of the ruling class whilst Syriza is enormously strengthened (Part A)

Written by Editorial Board of Marxistiki Foni

Marxist Voice greek newpaper/e-paper, and of ‘Epanastasi’ Revolution greek magazine

Athens, Monday, 18 June 2012

The Greek and international bourgeois media orchestrated a huge terror campaign, painting a picture of economic chaos and collapse if Syriza were to win the elections. Thus by a small margin New Democracy (ND) scraped into first place. However, the rise of Syriza, despite all this, indicates the continuing shift to the Left in Greek society. Now ND will attempt to form a coalition government with the PASOK, and possibly with the other political expressers of the ruling class, which will be one of continued austerity. Nothing has been solved; the problem has only been postponed. All the conditions are being prepared for a victory of Syriza in the near future. Here we publish an analysis on the elections, written by Greek Marxists in SYN and Syriza in the course of today.

Samaras-New Democracy

Antonis Samaras, leader of New Democracy. Photo: Νέα Δημοκρατία

The results of yesterday’s parliamentary elections are a “fragile” political victory for the Greek ruling class. Meanwhile we see a massive shift of the working masses towards Syriza in the major cities, among the working class, the very young and the productive. Among these layers there was a veritable avalanche of support for Syriza

Number-crunching…

New Democracy (ND) ranked first winning 29.66% and approximately 1,825,000 votes. They won nearly 635,000 votes more compared to the elections of 6th May and an almost 11% increase. Of the 52 constituencies, ND came first in 36, including the A district in Athens, the A and B of Thessaloniki and the A district of Piraeus. According to the figures provided by the various exit polls of the television stations, the main age group of ND voters is to be found in the over-55s, among whom ND won 39%. But among the 18-34 year olds ND won only 20% and the 35-54 year olds won 24%.

The electoral recovery of ND is mainly due to the massive terror campaign conducted by all the sections of the bourgeoisie, with the full support of the traitors of the communist movement, the leaders of the Democratic Left, with their main slogan “A vote for SYRIZA = a return to the drachma and economic disaster”. This dirty campaign resonated with those traditional conservative layers of Greek society, which their economic situation and position predisposes them to fear “adventures” or “uncertainty” created by the unusual prospect of a government by a party from within the communist movement.

Apart from the capitalists and owners of large incomes and property, these layers are on the one side those who still enjoy “middle-class” incomes, and still have significant savings from the past, owning assets and also generally profitable small properties, and on the other side those whose livelihood directly depends on state revenues, such as pensioners and permanent civil servants. As is shown clearly by the election result, the leadership of Syriza failed to convince this latter category that the abolition of the Memorandum and the general programme of the party could directly ensure their current income.

One factor that particularly favoured New Democracy was the unexpectedly high abstention rate of 37.5%, or 2.5% more than May 6. It is true that great economic hardship was once a barrier to the movement of voters who live far from where they are officially registered to vote, especially in the small towns and villages in the rural areas. But such a high abstention rate, in such a critical and polarized election, can only reflect a real, albeit minority, trend of political apathy, mainly among the youth in these areas, which largely reflects a lack of trust in the government alternative programme, put forward by the Syriza leadership.

The Gains of Syriza: An unprecedented electoral rise of the Left

Syriza, however, objectively speaking is the great winner of these elections. It won second place with 26.9% and about 1,655,000 votes. In just one month it won almost a further 10% of the overall electorate and approximately 600,000 votes, reflecting the rapidly growing strength of the left, the fastest growth of the left not only in modern Greek political history, but probably in modern political history of the capitalist world as a whole. The key point, however, is that this shift is within the most active and the most progressive sections of Greek society: the working class, together with the majority of unemployed, the youth and in general, the bulk of the electorate in the major urban centres and among those age groups that are productively active.

According to the TV exit polls, in the 18-34 year olds Syriza won 33%, and among the 35-54 year olds, Syriza won 34%. The strength of Syriza in the main urban areas speaks for itself. Overall in Attica (Athens-Piraeus) Syriza came first with about 600,000 votes, compared to 406,667 in May, the map in those areas which are at the heart of economic and political life of the country has been painted red.

Especially in the largest constituency of Greece, in the second district Athens, Syriza came first, going from its previous 21.82% to 31.43% and from 223,416 to about 314,000. For example, in the Municipality of Nea Ionia it went up from 24.62% to 36.65%, and in the Municipality of Peristeri from 24.9% to 37.71%. In the second district of  Piraeus it came first with 36.30% compared to its previous 23.85%, and with 63,285 votes compared to the earlier 43,122 received in May. We have the example in the Municipality of Perama, where it went up from 22.3% to 35.79%, and the Municipality of Keratsini-Drapetsona where it went up from 24, 41% to 37.23%.

In Thessaloniki (A and B region) Syriza increased its percentages of votes impressively. In the first district it went from 17.46% to 29.95), while in the second it went from 14.42% to 24.40%. Also in the large municipality of Patras, Syriza went from 25.42 to an impressive 35.86%.

All these results confirm the assessment that we made immediately after the elections on 6 May that Syriza is becoming the undisputed political voice of the broad masses of the working class.

Syriza is now the new mass workers’ party of Greece.

And this dynamic cannot be stopped, unless the leadership makes some serious mistakes. This leadership, no doubt – and we Marxists are the last to deny this – has contributed with its overall positive stance to date in the development of Syriza’s influence within society

Why SYRIZA lost the elections

However, we do need to ask ourselves as to why Syriza did not come top of the polls, disappointing the great hopes of millions of workers and youth? The causes are to be found in a combination of objective and subjective elements.

Objectively, the political correlation of forces, from the very first moment was stacked against SYRIZA. New Democracy, with all the other right-wing parties backing it, the leaders of PASOK and Democratic Left, all Greek SME supporters of the troika, together with the major international media set up jointly a powerful terror campaign against Syriza, targeting the petty bourgeois and more politically backward layers of Greek society.

On its part, the leadership of the Communist Party (KKE)– which has also been punished very hard by the working class – played a destructive role, attacking Syriza in a sectarian and myopic manner throughout the campaign. It rejected any form of government cooperation with Syriza, and thus weakened the prospect of a government of the left, making it a less feasible political solution in the eyes of the petty bourgeoisie. If the leadership of KKE had worked with Syriza on the basis of a joint electoral platform, now we would not be witnessing the swearing in of a pro-memorandum Samaras government, but a left-wing, communist government! The workers will never forgive this political crime on the part of the leadership of the KKE.

Also, we have to consider as factors that explain the number of people who feared the prospect of Syriza forming a government, both the conservative tendencies and fears of chaos in the rural households and the elderly – particularly in the provinces – faced with what they believed was the “destabilizing” prospect of a conflict with the Troika over the Memoranda, together with the existence of political apathy among a certain layer, mainly among the younger voters.

However, the leadership of Syriza should and could have faced up to all this and found the appropriate political solution.

The dirty campaign of the bourgeois politicians, media and the troika should have received an immediate response, as we have already explained previously, with a serious effort to mobilise the members of Syriza in the workplaces, in the urban neighbourhoods and in villages, with the aim of organising thousands of new fighters for this battle.

Instead of dedicating energy to this vital task, the election campaign was limited to badly organised local gatherings – discussions that were described incorrectly as “popular assemblies”. Instead of developing stronger electoral campaigning, they maintained a routine approach with tired old members and supporters with clipboards. All the “prominent leaders” put their efforts into participating in TV panels, instead of going down to, the base of their support, the ranks and organising mass campaign in the neighbourhoods. Syriza, from an organisational point of view thus appeared as having a very weak electoral apparatus, and not one that could mobilize the thousands of fighters it had encountered in recent weeks. Syriza’s apparatus considered them as mere voters and did not try to boldly and decisively organize them so as to strengthen the forces of the party at rank and file level.

The programme presented by the leadership – without any serious discussions with the rank and file – gave some hope to the workers, but it was not the nesesary for giving them enthusiasm and the certanty that this can solve their problems and it was not enough in terms of an effective policy to answer the fears and anxieties of thousands of petty bourgeois, pensioners and unemployed youth.

The leadership of Syriza failed to convince the majority of the people that its programme and the cancellation of the Memoranda of austerity could be applied “peacefully and safely” while remaining within the euro and at the same time it also failed to convince a large part of the people that the EU’s threat to expel Greece from the euro was a “bluff”. Faced with the real risk of a generalized economic declaration of war on the part of international and local capital against a future government of the Left, the leadership, instead of responding with a comprehensive and openly expressed programmatic plan, rushed to calm and reassure people with the simple statement that they “would not dare” do such a thing. Even worse, the leadership spoke of plans that were “not reportable!!” (Press conference by Tsipras, 12 June). A hostile bourgeois campaign based on fear, can never be answered with vague and abstract positions that leave room for even more fear to grow!

Instead of adopting this approach, the leadership should have patiently and insistently explained the need for a comprehensive programme for the nationalisation under democratic workers’ control and management of the commanding heights of the economy as part of a centralised plan. The plain truth is that without the establishment of a socialised, democratically planned economy, the survival of the people and the paying of wages and pensions – in spite of what the leaders may say – is not at all assured under capitalism.

Also, the hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people did not feel at all assured that the programme presented by the leadership of Syriza was sufficient to combat unemployment. Instead of proposing to increase unemployment benefit by 100 euro and granting it one year earlier, the leadership of Syriza – as we pointed out in an earlier article – should have raised that long-established demand of the labour movement, a reduction in working hours without loss of pay, so that the unemployed would have seen that there was a reasonable expectation that a Left government would be able to provide them with jobs immediately. In defending such a demand, Syriza would have been able to show to the unemployed just how reactionary this system of capitalist anarchy is, a system which condemns them to chronic poverty, and this would have helped them to understand that the only realistic option to live in dignity is to establish a socialised democratically planned economy.

In drawing some conclusions as to the causes of the recent outcome, in our view, Syriza could have won the elections had its leadership equipped it with the appropriate programme of action for carrying out the pre-election campaign, and foremost, with the appropriate programme and plan of policies for the day after.

However, all that has hitherto been achieved is far from insignificant! For the first time after EDA (i.e., progressive party during the 50s and late 60s set up principally to circumvent the outlawing of the KKE by the bourgeoisie) in 1958 has a party, springing from the communist movement, taken such a high share of the popular vote, thus, shattering a historical barrier and demonstrating that the ideas of genuine socialism are capable of sudden appeal to society at large.

In a few weeks, the ruling class has attained, once more, a powerful political enemy, and the workers have gained the most powerful political weapon with which to change society. This remarkably significant and effective step forward cannot and should neither be overcast by a sense, nor drowned by words, expressing disappointment for scoring second. It is a step upon which we ought to establish out further struggle and to prepare for assuming power.

There is neither place nor time for ‘tears’ and for condemnations against any section of the working class that did not vote for us. We must soberly and with clarity examine our political failures and seek to correct these. As soon as possible we must devote ourselves to the struggle for the construction of a Syriza that be a revolutionary mass organisation, and an invaluable tool in the hands of the masses for the socialist transformation of society!

The results of the other parties (Pasok, DIMAR, ANEL, and ‘Golden Dawn’/XA)

Once it was clear that Pasok and DIMAR results had remained fairly static in relation to the earlier elections in May, the writing was on the wall that Syriza would not be ranking first. Having said that, and contrary to how the bourgeois media seek to present this, the “leadership” of Venizelos and Kouvelis should certainly not receive any credit for how their respective parties fared. The failure on the part of Syriza to abstact some votes from Pasok or DIMAR was essentially down to the political weakness of the Syriza leadership politically to convince workers and some relevant layers of the petty bourgeoisie to vote it into government.

 

Had the leadership a well-thrashed out, clear and well-defined socialist programme, then PASOK and DIMAR would have collapsed; the former to single digit shares of the vote whilst the latter to a share of the vote that would have excluded it from parliament.

 

In comparison to the May 2012 results, PASOK received 33 seats from its previously secured 41, that’s to say, 12.28% from 13.18%, on, in other words, 755,832 votes from 833,527 previously. It remained at desperately low single digits throughout Attica (Athens, Piraeus, and the remaining prefecture) at just 7-8% Attica. In Thessaloniki and Patras, it received less than its national average, whilst this downward trend continued at a more mild rate in the other sizeable Greek towns. What this illustrates is that Pasok has definitively ceased to be the principal party of the working masses in Greece.

 

In comparison to how it fared in the May 2012 elections, DIMAR, for its part, received 17 seats from the 19 previously secured, 385,079 from 386,273 votes, despite the .15% increase between 6.26% over the previous figure of 6.11%. The ruling class must surely be delighted at the results of DIMAR which it will use as the ‘fig leaf’ of a new bourgeois government determined on imposing the austerity and anti-labour measures against the people. Both DIMAR and Pasok, by willingly participating or supporting a new government configuration that advances the dictates of the bourgeoisie and of the ‘Troika’ (i.e., EU, ECB, IMF), shall inevitably obliterate support from their electoral bases. Again, had the leadership of SYRIZA put forward a different programmatic plan, that would have been achieved without the need for workers and the poorer layers of Greek society to painfully experience a coalition along the Papademos government lines albeit headed by Samaras.

 

The ANEL party (i.e., ‘Independent Greeks’) share dropped significantly thus confirming that it is a demagogic bourgeois opportunist bunch that attempted to speculate on the palpable political “anti-Memorandum” popular mood. In comparison to the May elections, seats dropped to 20 from 31; 7.51% from 10.61%; and it received 462,456 votes from 670,957 previously. It is now certain that the pressure of the ruling class over ANEL shall intensify so that the flimsy bourgeois careerist MPs in P. Kammenos’s party (ANEL) support a government led by Samaras and potentially return to the ND fold. Such pressure shall have the incidental effect of revealing in the minds of the people, as clearly was the case of Samaras himself, that no bourgeois party can sincerely and consistently forcefully oppose the Memoranda and severe austerity.

 

Most sadly, the faring of the neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ party (XA) remains troubling. XA seat share dropped from 21 to 18; its share from 6.97% from 6.92%; and from 441,000 votes to 425,000. Despite the most public and primitive display of its true instincts (cf., the beating of Liana Kanellis (MP of KKE) by Kassidiaris (MP of XA)) this fascist formation kept its rates. The inevitable collapse of the LAOS party (i.e., ‘Popular Orthodox (Christian) Rally’) type of Far-Right along with the political despair of the most politically backward layers of the distraught petty-bourgeois, has opened up space for the Greek neo-Nazis to have some sustained political resonance in Greek society. The discovery of advanced corruption of bourgeois parliamentarism and the development of impoverished migrant ghettos in Athens and other major cities, has created the opportunity for XA to gain electoral benefits by capitalising on the raw, unprocessed, anti-parliamentarist mood of the petty-bourgeois and of the ‘lumpen-ified’ unemployed, mainly from layers of the youth who lack the political and contemporary life experience of the atrocities of the military dictatorship in Greece and of the Nazi occupation. Having said that, presently there is no strong current in the direction of the Far Right and of fascism. Unquestionably, the most powerful social current is towards the Left and especially SYRIZA.

The dozens of attacks against leftist activists during the campaign, along with the anaemic response from the Greek State, stress the need for a single fighting front of the Left and of the trade unions to protect the population,  and to oppose these Nazis. Only self-organisation can throw the spanner in the works of the growing terror of XA. The XA, for its part, is surely emboldened by its electoral gains, and will, no doubt, escalate the anti-migrant pogroms and attacks on Left activists. Pro-fascist layers within the Greek State-apparatus will provide even greater faciliation.

In the final analysis, only the struggle for the most rapid rise to power of a Left government – one that is equipped with a revolutionary programme of work, that would dismantle the reactionary and repressive mechanisms of the current State and that would solve the problems of the unemployed and the petty-bourgeoisie – would be a solution capable of causing the dissipation of the resonance of, and support to, XA in Greek society, and would also promote and entrench the necessary political framework within which to outlaw XA along with any other fascist formation.

[TO BE CONTINUED]

Source: Marxistiki Foni (Greece) and  In Defence of Marxism (English-version) (International/UK)

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One response to “Greek elections: a most fragile victory of the ruling class whilst Syriza is enormously strengthened (Part A)

  1. In delving into the electoral voting patterns in the various constituencies, a number of things have begun to appear which don’t add up. Using Athens B as an example, the largest voting territory in Greece with 42 seats up for division, the vote for New Democracy increased more than 100% compared with the 6 May vote. That is, the vote total for New Democracy went from 126,000+ in May, to 261,000+ in June.

    The question needs to be posed: where did these votes come from? Since political science tells us that the fairly constant voting universe does not expand or contract that much normally, changes in voting is nearly a zero sum game. What one party gains, another loses. Applying this methodology, and giving New Democracy all votes which were lost by the parties of the right (particularly the Independent Greeks, the vote total for ND should have been in the 175 to 180,000 vote range. That leaves the origin of 80,000 votes unaccounted for.

    There are only two possible explanations for this phenomenum. If there were an increase in the number of persons actually voting between the two elections, then if 80,000 of them voted for ND that would explain it. But such an increase would also be reflected across the board on a percentage basis. But such is not the case. The increase in vote totals for SYRIZA can easily be explained in the shift in the votes of the KKE, Antarsya, and to some extent the PASOK. So this is ruled out, if no increase of voters took place. (It would be highly unusual to see this large a sample go against a national trend towards greater abstentions).

    That leaves the only other plausible explanation: voter fraud. Or, in plain English, ballot box stuffing, particularly in the middle and upper bourgeois areas of the northeast municipalities, but not necesarily confined to that stratum. As I can’t seem to find voter turnout statistics for the past two elections, perhaps someone can point me in the right direct.

    This phenomena is not just confined to Athens B. Athens A, Thessalonika A and B, Pireus A, all appear to have the same unusual voting statistics and patterns for ND. With each 70,000 votes equalling 1% of the total, it wouldn’t take much to push ND into their first place. I think this a useful project to spend a bit of computer time on, if I can get access to the stats.

    Sol
    Elena
    Costa Rica

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