By Nicky Dempsey
The Greek general election of June 17 will be closely watched by all the main political forces and classes in Europe. It marks the next phase in the struggle against the offensive to cut wages, public services and the incomes of the poor in order to restore profits.
Workers and the oppressed throughout the whole of Europe and beyond have a direct interest in a victory for those parties that oppose the current offensive.
In Greece, these forces are currently led by SYRIZA. Before the two-week moratorium ahead of the election, the latest opinion poll showed SYRIZA as the leading party with 31.5 per cent of the vote, six points ahead of the mainstream right-wing New Democracy. The average of the three most recent polls is much closer, putting SYRIZA on 26.4 per cent, compared to New Democracy’s 26 per cent. If the three most recent polls are aggregated from the most accurate pollsters in the inconclusive May election, SYRIZA is also ahead, by just under 3 points.
There is a very clear polarisation around the two main rivals SYRIZA and New Democracy. The latter has risen approximately 7 points since the election. This is drawn from the rightist Independent Greeks (down 6 points) and the openly fascist Golden Dawn (down 4 points), based on the last recent polls, dated June 1.
Against this SYRIZA has risen by 10 points in the polls since May. This is drawn primarily from the Communist KKE (down 3), the Democratic Left (a rightist spit from SYRIZA, down 2 points), and from the traditional Social Democratic party PASOK (down 2 points).
The resilience of the SYRIZA vote is a testament to the unbroken struggle against austerity by Greek workers and social organisation over four years. Its continued rise is a reflection of that militancy in the face of a 24-hour propaganda bombardment.
It is also a testimony to the bold tactics of the SYRIZA leadership after the May election, which demonstrated clearly that they were willing to work with other forces, on the condition that they opposed the impositions of the ‘Troika’ (EU, ECB and IMF) in practice.
The apparent slump in the fortunes of the Democratic Left and the KKE were because, on one hand the former were clearly willing to compromise with pro-austerity parties and on the part of the latter, refused to offer any practical co-operation, or even speak to, their fellow opponents of austerity in SYRIZA.
On the right, New Democracy has been consciously promoted as the sole viable opponent of SYRIZA, and it has garnered votes to its right. The electoral dip in the fortunes of Golden Dawn, if that is confirmed, should not be confused with a qualitative decline in its threat, which remains primarily a fascist street-fighting organisation. Their violent attacks on immigrants and ethnic minorities have only increased in the course of the campaign, amidst widespread reports that they are supported by members of the police force.
SYRIZA’s platform is to oppose the impositions of the memorandum of understanding between the former Greek government and the Troika. The relentless propaganda campaign against it features those bodies prominently. They have both falsely claimed that the poll is a referendum on continued membership of the EU and that is under threat from SYRIZA’s policies.
SYRIZA insists, correctly, that the election is a referendum on the memorandum, that is, on the entire attack of the Troika’s policies.
It is argued that the necessary steps following any Greek government’s rejection of the memorandum, taking custody of Greek bank deposits, abrogating the existing debt, taking control of key industries and probably imposing capital controls are all ruled out by EU Treaties.
This is correct, but given that there are no legal mechanisms to expel a member state from either the EU or the Euro, the struggle could only be resolved in a contest between the Troika and the mobilisation of the workers of Greece and their allies, including their international allies. It will only be possible to determine finally what the relationship of forces is on a continent-wide basis in the course of the struggle itself.
Clearly, all socialists and other progressive forces are on the side of those resisting these attacks, led by SYRIZA. But, even in the event of a SYRIZA victory at the polls, socialists in Greece and all across Europe will need to intensify their efforts to offer practical solidarity.
The first two points of SYRIZA’s programme are for a debt moratorium, which is a demand that should be pursued all across Europe, especially in the big EU countries, Germany, France, Britain and Italy.
The second is the call to change the ECB into an institution which funds public investment. This would benefit the whole of the European economy and address the investment strike which is once again leading Europe into recession.
That struggle and the mobilisation of solidarity for Greek workers and the poor would be immensely advanced by a SYRIZA victory on June 17.