The results of the Greek general elections of 7 July highlighted two dominant elements: major class polarisation, and consolidation of the phenomenon of widespread voter abstention. The expression of class polarisation (despite acquiring a distorted character due to the SYRIZA leadership’s complete political submission to capitalism) was evident in the large increase of the votes for N.D. (New Democracy) and SYRIZA compared to the European elections of 26 May. The European elections were just 42 days ago, and saw the same level of participation by the electoral body.
N.D., having managed to bring together the social forces of the modern bourgeois political camp to the fullest extent possible under the present circumstances, gained 378,274 votes more than in the European elections (+6.73 percent). Meanwhile, SYRIZA gained a swathe of anti-right-wing votes from the working class and the other poor layers of society, increasing its support by 437,579 votes (+7.75 percent). The total percentage share of the two big parties increased from 56.24 percent in the EU elections to 71.38 percent, thus surpassing their combined performance in the last general elections of September 2015 (63.56 percent).
Abstention remained very high, slightly surpassing even the levels of abstention in the European elections. Then, the abstention was 41.31 percent, while on 7 July it increased to 42.08 percent. It is the first time that the level of abstention in a general election has surpassed the abstention of the previous European elections. Although the electoral lists haven’t been refined recently (which means that the real abstention is about 10-15 percent lower than the official figure), and despite the fact that many people have emigrated from Greece during the last decade, who were not in the country on election day, this high abstention reflects the crushing political disappointment among the ranks of big sectors of the working class and youth, who have been demoralised by the crisis.
Among the people who didn’t vote (officially 4,191,675 based on the electoral lists, but more likely to be about 2.5 million) there are hundreds of thousands of mainly young people who were disappointed and became passive because of the betrayal of the OXI (“NO”) vote in the 2015 referendum by the SYRIZA leadership. However, these non-voters also stem from working-class and poor social layers, who see no prospect for any immediate improvement of their lives. These layers had already started to abstain from political participation before the crisis, and have now solidified their stance. This kind of class abstention mostly affects the left-wing and working-class parties. This fact reflects the striking inability of such parties to build ties with the masses, and to offer solutions to the dissatisfaction they feel for the nightmarish capitalist reality.
No turn to the right – ND won mainly on bourgeois vote
As was expected, N.D. prevailed and achieved a comfortable majority, with a 39.85 percent vote share, 2,251,411 votes and 158 seats. However, as we have emphasised in our analysis immediately after the outcome of the European elections, the victory of N.D. is not due to any strong right-wing current within society. Rather, it represents the rallying of the social base of the bourgeois political camp, to the largest extent possible in the present circumstances. Against the over-optimistic predictions of the bourgeois for a large percentage of 40 percent and a big majority of 165-170 seats, we anticipated (the day after the European elections) that N.D's would get close to the number of YES votes in the referendum of July 2015. Indeed, this is what happened. N.D. received just 6,000 more votes, compared to the 2,245,537 that YES received in 2015.
Disproving the expectations of the bourgeois – but also the excessive pessimism of most left-wing parties and organisations, which predicted large shifts to the right – N.D. (according to exit polls, and after careful comparison with the European election results) increased its share with votes that came mainly from centre-right and far-right parties, which are in the process of dissolving. It took only 67,000 votes from SYRIZA (5 percent of SYRIZA voters), about 16,000 from DIEM25 (Varoufakis' party) and about 6,000 from the KKE (the Communist Party). At the same time, however, some 47,000 voters moved from N.D. to SYRIZA, making the former’s net gains from the left very weak. Indeed, from the perspective of the final election result, they were negligible.
On the contrary, the main part of N.D.’s new voters (the remaining 280,000) came from the "Union of Centrists" (approximately 50,000, according to the exit poll); the most right-wing voters of the re-branded PASOK, "KINAL" (about 43,000) and from other right and centre-right bourgeois formations that had taken part in the European elections but did not participate in the parliamentary elections. These include POTAMI (from which the N.D. took about 22,000 votes), LAOS (which got 70,000 votes in the European elections), the "New Right" (37,000 votes in the European elections), ANEL (45,000), the "Citizens" of I. Psinakis (51,000) and the "Free Motherland" (41,000).
Just as we predicted, N.D. managed neither to attract a large number of the Golden Dawn voters, nor make Velopoulos' new far-right party disappear, as the bourgeois analysts predicted. The N.D., according to the exit polls, received only 22,000 votes from Golden Dawn: 8 percent of the electoral force of the neo-Nazi party. Velopoulos' "Greek Solution" lost only about 30,000 votes compared to the European elections, with N.D. not benefiting strongly from this loss. This fact confirmed the general assessment we made immediately after the European elections, that the electoral base of the far-right is currently very solid. It is composed of a few-hundred-thousand politically backward, reactionary, petty-bourgeois voters, some of them lumpenised or under the direct threat of lumpenisation, who in the years of the capitalist crisis broke decisively from the traditional bourgeois political camp and do not wish to return.
The class composition of the N.D. voters of the 7 July was clearly predominantly petty-bourgeois and bourgeois. Its prevalence did not rely on a strong current of support within the working class and the poor layers of the people. This was depicted clearly in Attica region, where N.D. came first in its two largest municipalities, Athens and Piraeus, and also in the most bourgeois municipalities of the north and south sectors of the Second District of Athens, and of the East Attica district.
More specifically, N.D. has received high percentages in the rich and traditionally conservative municipalities of Agia Paraskevi, Marousi, Vrilissia, Irakleio of Attica, Kifisia-Ekali (83.74 percent in Ekali and 62.72 percent in Kifisia), Lykovrysi-Pefki, Papagou-Cholargos (65 percent in Papagou), Penteli, Filothei-Psychiko (78.96 percent in Filothei and 75.83 percent in Palaio Psychiko) and Chalandri. It also prevailed in the southern sector and the municipalities of Alimos, Glyfada, Dafni-Ymittos, Elliniko-Argyroupoli, Zografou, Nea Smyrni, Palaio Faliro and marginally in the municipality of Ilioupoli. Its victory was also complete in the bourgeois sector of First Piraeus District and all the islands of the Argosaronic Gulf, while it also prevailed in 11 out of the 13 municipalities of East Attica (Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni, Dionysos, Kropia, Marathonas, Markopoulo, Paiania, Pallini, Rafina-Pikermi, Saronikos, Spata-Artemida and Oropos).
All this proves that any assessment of a conservative, rightward turn of the electorate is seriously mistaken. N.D. was generally voted for by the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois social forces that rallied in the YES vote in the summer of 2015. Their class rival, the overwhelming majority of social forces behind the NO vote (approximately 3.5 million voters, minus the far-right) or in favour of the mistaken position proposed by the leadership of the KKE for abstention, did not go to N.D. or the far right. They voted against the right wing, either for parties perceived as left (primarily SYRIZA, for the reasons that we will explain), or abstained to express their political disappointment.
In fact, N.D. under Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not even manage to get the number of votes the party received in 2009 under Karamanlis, when it was overwhelmingly defeated by PASOK under G. Papandreou. The defeated N.D. at that time received 2,295,719 votes, i.e. almost 50,000 more than those received by the victorious N.D. in the 7 July elections!
The new government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis will inevitably launch a fierce offensive that will also hit the middle-class strata that make up its electoral base (who have already been severely hit by the crisis) in order to increase capitalist profits in the conditions of a new, impending, international recession. Already the first reaction of the European Commission immediately after the election of the new government – highlighting the immediate need to meet the year’s state budget surplus target – precludes any of the tax reductions for the petty bourgeois that were promised by Mitsotakis. In addition, the implementation of the new prime minister’s reactionary programme on labour issues (including a seven-day working week), state finances (channelling of state surplus reserves to the banks with a new recapitalisation), health ("de facto" privatisation of hospitals through "partnerships with private health centres for health services") and social security will make the new government particularly hated in society. Inevitably, in the coming years it will be proved that this victory of 7 July constitutes a minor episode in a larger historical course of the N.D.'s shrinking appeal, which began in 2009.
Furthermore, we should not forget that the high levels of abstention make the new Mitsotakis' government even less democratically legitimised. Mitsotakis is starting from a position of popular support limited to the social minority of the YES vote of the 2015 referendum. This fact alone, objectively, creates a negative balance of forces for his government in society, despite its relatively comfortable parliamentary majority. This balance is the basis, the "raw material", for the inevitable unfolding in the coming years of mass and intense class and political struggles against the government of N.D. and its policies.
SYRIZA benefits from anti-right-wing vote as Tsipras announces new right turn
SYRIZA received 31.53 percent of the vote share, 1,781,174 votes total and 86 seats, becoming the main recipient of a strong labour and youth, anti-right-wing vote. This was despite a sluggish electoral campaign, in which the leadership of SYRIZA did not promise anything substantial for the working-class and poor, except that it would guarantee the "crumbs" that it has given in the recent months to extremely impoverished social strata from the reserves created by years of savage austerity. This result is also in spite of an electoral campaign trying to win over the "middle class" (which nevertheless voted massively for N.D.). The workers and the youth, following their own class motives and without a hint of enthusiasm for the outgoing government's policy, voted overwhelmingly for SYRIZA, just to stop N.D. from coming into government.
In total, the general elections (as compared to the European elections) saw 459,165 more votes for the left-wing parties that entered parliament. Of these, SYRIZA took the lion's share, winning 437,579 of the new votes, and saw massive support from the industrial and poorer municipalities. Indicative of this are the results for SYRIZA in Attica. It came first in the working-class areas of the northern sector of the Second Athens District, such as the municipalities of Galatsi, Nea Ionia, Nea Filadelfia-Nea Chalkidona and Metamorphosis. It also came first in the overwhelmingly working-class municipalities of the western sector of the Second Athens District, namely Agia Varvara, Agioi Anargyroi-Kamatero, Aigaleo, Ilion, Peristeri, Petroupoli and Chaidari. It prevailed in the most working-class and poor areas of the southern sector of the Second Athens District: the municipalities of Agios Dimitrios, Vyronas, Kaisariani, Kallithea and Moschato-Tavros.
In the working-class area of Second Piraeus District, SYRIZA prevailed everywhere except Salamina, i.e. in the municipalities of Keratsini-Drapetsona, Korydallos, Nikaia-Rentis and Perama. Finally, in the poorest municipalities of the Western Attica district, i.e. in the municipalities of Aspropyrgos, Elefsina and Fyli, it also occupied the first place. Amongst 17-24-year-olds, where N.D. had won first place in the European elections, SYRIZA came out on top, with 38 percent versus 30.4 percent for the N.D.
How can this phenomenon be explained? As we have already mentioned, it cannot be put down to enthusiasm for the right-wing policies of SYRIZA. The working class and the youth voted in the vast majority with a progressive, class hatred for N.D. They did not even consider the electoral programme of SYRIZA. Only two categories of people could characterise this anti-right-wing vote as a sign of support for the right-wing, memoranda-friendly policy of Tsipras by the working class and the youth: sectarians, who always look eagerly for such “turns to the right”; and of course, the arrogant leadership of SYRIZA itself.
Naturally, the vote for SYRIZA is not at all free from political confusion and illusions. Undoubtedly, SYRIZA and N.D. are not two identical parties. They have a different social base: SYRIZA’s being working class and progressive; and N.D.’s petty-bourgeois and reactionary. They also have different founding ideological and political positions. However, the firm choice of the leadership of SYRIZA to submit to the ruling class and manage rotten Greek capitalism forces both parties, when in government (and especially in a period of recession and crisis) to apply the same reactionary policies, thus looking like "two drops of water". When the reformists come to power, determined to manage the crisis of capitalism, just as the leaders of SYRIZA did and are determined to do again, then no abstract ideological justification prevents them from becoming the same as the traditional bourgeois politicians, contrary to what many hundreds of thousands of workers and young people naively believe, confused by the tiny concessions of the last period.
But we take our leave of the sectarians who, instead of understanding – we emphasise, not justifying and supporting, but understanding – this “naive” illusion, condemn the working class politically. We insist that the last ones responsible for this "naivety" are the workers. Because things would have been completely different in these elections if, for example, the leadership of KKE had raised their voices to declare that, in its policy and tactics, the party did not simply want to become a “strong opposition”, but wished to open the way for socialism. Then, on the basis of a meaningful alternative, tens of thousands of workers would have "broken" from the passive electoral support for SYRIZA and started supporting the KKE. But when such a political alternative is absent from the immediate horizon of the working masses, then it is a law, which has been proven many times around the world, that workers are limited to choosing on the basis of an illusory "lesser evil" (i.e. right-wing reformism). This "lesser evil", as was proved by the recent victory of N.D., exists not to hinder the "greatest evil", but only to pave the way for it.
Although this may sound like "sophistry", we must emphasise that the electoral victory of Mistotakis' N.D. was "built" methodically by the policy of the leadership of SYRIZA, especially from July 2015 onwards. Initially, by betraying the NO result of the referendum, it turned a major defeat of reaction into a political defeat for the social forces of the revolution. As such, it plunged hundreds of thousands of people into political disappointment and provided the ground for the paralysis of the labour movement. Later, by voting for and implementing the memoranda without resistance from the paralysed labour movement, they revitalised the bourgeois political camp, formerly immersed in crisis. The only thing Kyriakos Mitsotakis had to do from 2016, when he was elected as president of N.D., was to keep this camp together in the favourable new conditions created by the decisions of the leadership of SYRIZA, and wait for the elections in order to reinstate N.D. to government. In this sense, the people who played the key role in the electoral victory of N.D. are not K. Mitsotakis and Co. but the "charismatic" Alexis Tsipras, his government and the leadership of SYRIZA.
Now, the leadership of SYRIZA is once again revealing its ruthless, right-wing political character. Exploiting the massive anti-right-wing vote it received from the working class and youth, and inflated by arrogance, it is attempting to push forward plans for a further right turn of the party. Thus, Tsipras, in his first post-election statement, heralded "the transformation of SYRIZA into a large faction, in a modern and mass, democratic and left, progressive movement".
Behind these obscure words are the following goals:
1) Tsipras wants to get rid of any “left” opposition that remains in the party. For this reason, he wants to dismantle and drown what little democratic processes and structures exist in a much larger political formation, in which his personal supporters will prevail at all levels.
2) He wants to make the party even more friendly to the ruling class and capitalism, proving to the bourgeois that he has completely abandoned his "infantile, radical-leftist disorder". The main instrument for this purpose will be the "enlargement towards the centre", that is, accelerating the integration of bourgeois careerists from the old leadership of PASOK and from the new KINAL. Both are under the control of the bourgeoisie; the latter most of all – and who are forever on the verge of splitting.
Tsipras' new "vision" is of a social democratic party under the strong control of its leadership, officially and wholeheartedly accepted by the Greek ruling class and the right-wing international social democracy. Such a party, however, has no progressive content. It will be an electoral mechanism for careerists to access parliament and the state, which will have no room for the demands and active intervention of the working class and youth. Already, the SYRIZA government, with its memoranda policies, has been shown to be organically incapable of building strong ties with the trade unions and mass organisations of the working class and the youth. A party like the one Tsipras wishes to create will not change this situation.
Most likely, with this new right turn, SYRIZA will prove completely incapable of being actively associated with the mass movements that will rise against N.D. With fresh memories of its anti-labour memoranda policies, it will be able to connect, at best, only with the most passive and politically backward elements of the working class and youth.
The political arrogance of Tsipras and his plans, which are completely mismatched with the spirit of the anti-right-wing vote given to him by SYRIZA’s working-class electoral base on 7 July, will not go politically unpunished. Support for parties to the left of SYRIZA that have parliamentary representation will tend to be reinforced by the working masses and the youth, as they draw conclusions as to the political causes for the N.D. government, and through the experience of new mass movements, in which SYRIZA will be at best a slow follower or a hypocritical and demagogic parliamentary supporter. From this process, it is necessary for the mass communist labour party in the country, namely the KKE, to emerge decisively strengthened. But for that to happen, serious mistakes in the policies and tactics of the party, which have led to its current inability to substantially increase its influence within the masses of the working class and youth, would have to be urgently corrected.
KKE: the "rift" with the working-class masses and how to overcome it
The KKE received 5.3 percent and 299,592 votes, electing 15 MPs and getting almost the same result as in the European elections, with a small loss of 3,011 votes. Once again, since June 2012, the party received the same stable, but also stagnant, electoral result. It continues to derive its electoral stability from its profound historical roots in the working class, the tireless activity of its members and its clear refusal over the last three decades to support any bourgeois government. But at the same time, it still does not show even the slightest tendency to increase its influence, as the results of 7 July have shown. And for this phenomenon, neither the "two-party system", nor any other, insurmountable objective obstacle can be held responsible. The repeated mistakes of the KKE leadership are to blame.
As active electoral supporters of the party, the members of the Communist Tendency are entitled to repeat, without being accused of malicious criticism, that the sectarian tactics of the 2010-2015 period, culminating in the refusal to participate in the battle faced by the working class masses in the referendum of July 2015 – naturally with a revolutionary programme radically different from that of the SYRIZA government – have created a big "rift" between the party and the broader working masses. The task of the KKE is, through exhaustive discussion, to immediately correct these critical errors.
Unfortunately, the first public statements of the KKE leadership concerning the election results are not encouraging. They have argued that “the party managed to survive the Clashing Rocks of the two-party system” and that we saw a right turn of the electorate. As far as the "right turn" is concerned, we have already answered with facts and arguments. When it comes to the "Clashing Rocks of the two-party system", we consider this to be an excuse of colossal proportions.
Undoubtedly, when a strong reactionary bourgeois party like N.D. participates in elections and is ahead in the polls, and when a larger party than the KKE with a working-class electoral base is opposed to it, such as SYRIZA, the working class will show a certain tendency to rally around this larger party, instinctively trying to fight from a better position against the party of the class enemy. However, the electoral policy and tactics of the party surrendered "without a fight" to this tendency, rather than following the appropriate line to mitigate and curb it. The leadership chose incorrectly not to deal with the central issue that the working masses are currently dealing with – the question of power – and instead to raise the secondary issue of “strong opposition”.
Instead of the slogans and speeches of the KKE leaders presenting a party fighting for a working-class government with a socialist programme; and instead of patiently explaining this solution and inviting the workers to actively support it, the Party "buried" its programme for labour socialist power (without intermediate, capitalistic stages), that it had correctly adopted at its last congresses; and replaced it with electoral rhetoric that, directly or indirectly, sent the message that a radical change in power and society is still very far away.
In this way, despite its intentions, it made the SYRIZA government’s policy of combining vicious austerity with some petty concessions to the extremely impoverished seem like the only “realistic solution” in the eyes of the broader masses of the working class and youth. On the contrary, an electoral campaign that focussed on the question of power, certainly could not (in the given conditions) have produced electoral "miracles", but it could have attracted far more people from the vanguard of the youth and the working class. These layers instead eventually either voted for SYRIZA or for Varoufakis's DIEM25.
However, the political situation prior to the 7 July, did not suddenly fall from the sky and was not formed independently of the politics and tactics of the KKE. Unfortunately, it was also shaped by its serious sectarian errors, particularly during the critical period of 2010-2015, predominantly the stance of the KKE leadership in the referendum and its general attitude towards the first six months of the SYRIZA–ANEL government in 2015, which created the existing “rift” between the party and the wider working-class masses.
What should the leadership of the KKE have done in that decisive period for the working class? Let us answer this question in detail once again, in order not to give the impression – as could be maliciously attributed to us by those with an axe to grind – that we argue the KKE should have supported the government of SYRIZA-ANEL or participated in it.
The KKE could have shown with its policies that it was not indifferent to the decisive question of power, which was posed by the working masses themselves with their massive vote for SYRIZA in January 2015. It should have proposed to the winner of the election a vote of confidence for its government, as long as the latter was clearly and specifically committed to abolishing the memoranda, cancelling the debt and denying government co-operation with bourgeois parties, such as ANEL. At the same time, it should have stated that it fully retained the right to exercise harsh, public criticism of every retreat by the leadership of SYRIZA from its commitments. And above all, it should at the same time have defended and disseminated patiently to the working class a revolutionary programme, to be applied through the earliest possible creation of a revolutionary, socialist government based on the organised working class, as the only way out of the impasse created by the crisis of capitalism.
It is certain that the reformist leadership of SYRIZA would have refused to receive a vote of confidence from the KKE under these conditions. But this move by the KKE would have engendered a stream of sympathy from millions of SYRIZA voters for its genuine effort to pose a solution based on revolutionary principles, as well as for its timely unmasking of the true, not at all left-wing, intentions of Tsipras and his leadership team.
Based on this sympathy, in the critical moments of the July referendum, the leadership of the KKE could have built indestructible ties with the masses of the working class and youth, if it had participated actively in the movement in favour of NO, while always putting forward an independent, revolutionary socialist programme and constantly calling on the masses to trust only their own forces and not the intentions of the SYRIZA-ANEL government, which was already seeking to find a way to betray their demands. With such a Leninist tactic, the KKE would have emerged as the natural political alternative for the working-class masses and, sooner or later, the government of SYRIZA-ANEL could have been brought down from its left, on the basis of a massive political movement led by the KKE. Instead, the well-known non-Leninist, ultra-left tactic of a "political Cassandra", which merely predicts and warns the working masses without doing anything, was adopted. The KKE refused to participate in the workers’ battles to resolve the question of power in their interests. These policies and tactics created the conditions for the current electoral stagnation of the KKE.
Let us be honest: if after all this there is something that is admirable, it is not the strength of the party against the "Clashing Rocks of the two-party system", but its endurance in the face of recurrent sectarian errors of the leadership. And fortunately, this endurance is still notable in a number of industrial areas and offers a good base for a counterattack to develop the influence of the KKE in the near future.
Thus, in Attica, the largest working-class area of the country, the KKE came third, surpassing PASOK/KINAL, while its percentages in the working-class municipalities are always maintained at considerably higher levels than its national average. And of course, there is the recent big victory in the local elections in the municipality of Patras (the third-most-populous town in Greece), in which it received 70 percent (!!!) in the second round, which can and must become a lively centre of disobedience and struggle against the new government of N.D., capable of boosting the nationwide influence of the KKE.
The leadership of the party in recent years has played a positive role in the left programmatic turn and also in a bold review of the party's conclusions on the historical defeats of the past. Although, unfortunately, these changes were undermined by the lack of a genuine proletarian-internationalist attitude towards the "national issues" and particularly the "Greek-Turkish" and Macedonian questions. Nevertheless, they remain extremely positive from a historical perspective.
However, the leadership must open up as soon as possible, in the whole party and amongst its supporters, a sincere political debate on how to correct the mistakes that keep its influence stagnant, and determine which policies will make it possible to win over the masses of working class and youth to a communist programme. It is crucial that this happens now, before the party finds itself faced with new mass movements of the working class and youth, and repeats the same fatal mistakes.
For our part, we comrades of the Communist Tendency are always ready to participate in this necessary debate, arguing from the standpoint of the party's active supporters in its battles against the bourgeois political camp. And we are confident that such a debate will erase any bias that still exists towards genuine Trotskyism among party activists, arising from the old campaign of distortions and slander by Stalinism, but also as a result of the political bankruptcy of various opportunistic and sectarian organisations who spoke or claim to speak in the name of Trotskyism.
KINAL (Movement of Change, a centre-left federation or ‘semi-party’ with the old PASOK as its main force) got 8.10 percent, 457,519 votes and 22 seats – in essence remaining stagnant in comparison to the European elections, with only 20,793 more votes. The supposedly left-wing move to exclude V. Venizelos (former vice-president of Samaras’ government) from the ballot papers, was in practice contradicted by the statement of Fofi Gennimata (now leader of KINAL) that she would be willing to give parliamentary support to a N.D. government if it failed to gain an absolute majority. For this reason, there was no motivation for the rising anti-N.D., anti-right-wing vote of 7 July to be directed towards KINAL.
As was shown by the exit-polls, the majority of KINAL voters are older people, with its percentage share among pensioners rising to 12.4 percent. The electoral persistence of KINAL, in contrast to the collapse of PASOK during the crisis years of austerity, is due to the deep roots of the old PASOK in Greek society and its strong base within an elderly section of state employees, appointed during the 1980s. Their support is augmented by small or medium bourgeois who benefited in the same period from state and European funds during 1993-2000, when PASOK was again in government in conditions of a Greek capitalist boom.
After managing the bourgeois state for many years (introducing a series of austerity programmes and submitting the country to humiliating control by the Troika) PASOK decidedly broke its links with the wide sections of the working class and youth. Its electoral support among these layers on 7 July was between 3-4 percent: half its national percentage. KINAL has definitely lost its mass, working-class character and has kept nothing from the old PASOK other than its dedication to capitalist policies. After changing its name, it is a typically bourgeois party of the centre, whose social composition and ageing social base make it a dying entity.
The fragile political prospects of KINAL are already being tested, immediately after the elections. The original relief felt by Gennimata after the electoral result – that gave an absolute majority to New Democracy and spared her the need to form a coalition government under Mitsotakis – was undermined by the participation of two old cadres in the administration: M. Chrisochoidis and S. Mendoni, who were already expelled from the party. However, the pressure on KINAL is not going to stop there.
N.D. and the ruling class are going to demand the leadership of KINAL agree on the abolition of an election model that is based on a (distorted) proportionality, which was introduced by SYRIZA. They will call for the imposition of an electoral law that will give an enhanced majority to the first party. On the other hand, pressure will also grow from SYRIZA. Tsipras’s plans to “transform” SYRIZA into a “democratic party” include the acceleration of some cadre “transfers” from KINAL, and the eventual absorption of a part of it. The balancing tactic implemented by Gennimata between the two is not going to work and, sooner or later, the leadership of KINAL will have to move in one direction, which will cause splits and departures in the other.
MeRA25 (Diem25): its electoral success and perspectives
MeRA25 (European Realistic Disobedience Front) of Yanis Varoufakis achieved a bigger electoral success compared to the European elections, where it missed out on securing an MEP by a few dozen votes. This time, it managed to enter the Greek parliament with a vote share of 3.44 percent; 194,232 votes and 9 seats. In comparison with the European elections, it increased its percentage by 0.45 percent and got 24,597 more votes. However, it only very slightly benefited from the hundreds of thousands of new, anti-right-wing votes compared to the European elections, from which only SYRIZA gained substantially. We can add some additional causes for this, linked with the politics and decisions of MeRA25 itself.
MeRA25 managed to enter parliament because it reminds a section of left-wing workers and youth of the old, anti-austerity SYRIZA, which they actively supported until the summer of 2015. And some of them – the very young – had some memories from that period and especially the conflicts between Varoufakis and the Troika, while the former was minister of finance. The electoral base of MeRA25 consists mainly of white-collar workers such as teachers and doctors, who draw left-wing, but confused and contradictory political conclusions from the defeat of the massive anti-austerity movement of the past period. They see Varoufakis as a man of academic prestige and a former left-wing technocrat, who resisted the Troika and did not surrender.
A key issue for the success of MeRA25 is that Varoufakis seems to have some international political clout, organising a pan-European political tendency that proposes a Europe-wide solution to the crisis. This answers the concerns of his demanding political audience, which understands that there can be no real solutions for the people’s problems in a national context, and that a wider international struggle is required. MeRA25 is providing a substitute for left-wing, proletarian internationalism (though it is far from a genuine example of this), while the majority of the remaining left appears to ignore the international field in favour of national issues.
MeRA25’s programme, for which Varoufakis is the main author, instead of clearing away the political confusion of its activists, has only exacerbated it. The programme is (marginally left-wing) social-democratic, which argues that “realistic disobedience” and a mild rupture with the Troika and the Greek ruling class are possible, in order to get the consent of lenders for a milder, “rational” austerity. It proposes a reconstruction of debt, more investment-friendly private banks (always with state guarantees), social policies and lower taxes (including for the big capitalists, as “incentives to invest”). It does not intend to break with the system that gave birth to the crisis, but to reconcile the working people with it or, more precisely, with its imaginary, utopian form, that can only exist in the Keynesian fantasies of the party’s founder.
The programme’s internationalism is limited to supporting a more social and democratic EU, refusing even to denounce the very imperialist, bureaucratic mechanisms and institutions that have proven the EU’s incompatibility with the interests and the rights of working people. This is a programme written by a party leader and founder who, only a few years ago, had his own bitter experience of the EU’s anti-democratic, corrupt and repressive character.
Nevertheless, the appearance of MeRA25 generated mild initial enthusiasm and an increased interest in Varoufakis’s ideas amongst tens of thousands of left-wing activists, given the lack of a visible left alternative. However, this enthusiasm for MeRA25 was undermined by the contradictions of its central political line in the pre-election period and its candidate selections for the 7 July elections.
Varoufakis's insistence on keeping his distance from class politics, in favour of the “national good” – which he stated could compel him to “cooperate even with N.D. if they were in agreement” – has troubled his new supporters. At the same time, well-known careerists from all political backgrounds, from old neoliberals (T. Mihas) to left-wing nationalists (the cartoonist Stathis), came to MeRA25 to gain parliamentary seats, thus multiplying the contradictions and political confusion of the party line, as well as the concerns of its members and supporters. This was undoubtedly reflected in the stagnation of the upward momentum of MeRA25 after the European elections and its inability to take decisive advantage of the tens of thousands of new anti-right-wing votes on 7 July. This was despite the fact that, due to the electoral law, the presence of MeRA25 in parliament was connected to stopping N.D.’s absolute majority, since it reduced the total percentage of non-parliamentary parties, which led to fewer seats for the first party.
It may be the case that Varoufakis and MeRA25 do not adopt a specific class position, but the party's electoral support on 7 July clearly shows its class base. In all working-class regions and municipalities MeRA25’s vote share was consistently above its national average, while in the bourgeois regions and municipalities its influence was the same or lower. Its support is particularly high amongst young people aged 17-24, with a remarkable 5.7 percent, while for pensioners it is only 1.7 percent.
This class and age composition of the electoral base of MeRA25 reveals that the party may have a future, especially if it emphasises its connection with radicalised youth and the working class in future movements. If this is the case, and if real democratic processes, local organisations and conferences are established within the party (as opposed to electronic online voting), then the limits of MeRA25’s programme and the social-democratic policies advocated by Varoufakis will face scrutiny by its members.
To the extent that a real party with a left-wing youth base is created, thousands of ordinary activists of MeRA25 will inevitably seek more radical, anti-capitalist, and Marxist answers to their questions. That is why the communist movement and its strongest representative, the KKE, should carefully monitor MeRA25. It should seek to create dialogue within the youth and labour movement, and joint action with MeRA25; and, at the same time, persistently and patiently explain the mistakes and dead-ends of its programme and policy, contrasting them with a truly revolutionary, anti-capitalist, communist programme.
With this serious attitude, it would be unacceptable to repeat the slanders and unsupported personal attacks (such as Varoufakis being “a man of Soros”, etc.) that emerged in the pre-election period from forces to the left of MeRA25. Unfortunately, these tactics, for which Popular Unity-LAE cadres were the protagonists, were also repeated in a public statement from the secretary of the KKE. This tactic towards MeRA25 shows a weakness of political and ideological argument against Varoufakis' pro-capitalist political ideas, unbecoming of communists committed to scientific socialism.
Greek solution: a far-right “one-use solution” for the ruling class
The party of far-right politician and businessman K. Velopoulos, Greek Solution (GS), entered parliament with a vote share of 3.7 percent, 208,800 votes and 10 seats, losing only around 30,000 votes from the recent European elections and refuting the bourgeois analysts who predicted that the electoral power of the party would be “absorbed” by the rising N.D.
The rise in support for GS comes a) from exploiting the decline of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, whose former voters refuse to return to the traditional bourgeois political camp; b) because it exploited hypocritical nationalist hysteria created by the Greek ruling class around the Treaty of Prespes [which allowed the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to call itself North Macedonia]; and c) because it had support and funding from capitalists based in Greek Macedonia, connected to Russian imperialism and its interests.
GS is the continuation of the moderate (compared to the Nazis of GD) far-right party of Karatzaferis (LAOS – Popular Orthodox Alarm). It has all the characteristics of a far-right populist party: with clearly nationalist and racist political positions (although without physical manifestations), a mix of religious and metaphysical ideas, and complete agreement on all the strategic concerns of Greek capital, namely remaining in the EU and the Eurozone, compliance with austerity measures and payment of the Greek debt.
Support for GS at the general elections in the regions of Central and West Macedonia increased due to its nationalist rhetoric around the Macedonian issue. It ended up polling more than 5 percent, while its class base, as recorded in the exit-polls, consists of petty-bourgeois, rather than “lumpen” elements, in contrast to Golden Dawn. These are the politically reactionary petty-bourgeois who openly express their positions whenever they have the chance, but are not willing to be active and organised for them.
GS will be used by the ruling class to support the new government of N.D. in parliament, when and where this is necessary; for example, for the change of the electoral law. Furthermore, it will tend to act as an “ally” for the far-right section of N.D. and will absorb cadres abandoning the party from the right and far-right when there is a government crisis, uniting them in a common alliance with former cadres or MPs of Golden Dawn.
However, the inevitable decay of N.D. and the need to establish a stable government in the future will push GS towards participating in a bourgeois government. Then its role will be totally evident: as a far-right supplement of bourgeois governments, which will also be particularly aggressive against its own petty-bourgeois base, for the sake of safeguarding the vital interests of Greek capitalism. And after its usefulness to the system is expended, it will be thrown to the political margins, as was done before, at the start of this decade, with LAOS – the party of Karatzaferis, the political “mentor” of Velopoulos.
The reasons for Golden Dawn’s crushing defeat
The miserable result for Golden Dawn on 7 July, and their expulsion from parliament, is an important, historical event. GD won only 2.93 percent and 165,709 votes. Its vote collapsed from 6.99 percent and 379,582 votes in the parliamentary election of September of 2015: a result that had made them the third party in the Greek parliament. Moreover, they managed to lose 100,000 votes in just 42 days after the European elections were held (down from 4.7 percent in the European elections).
This crushing defeat of GD confirmed precisely the estimations made by our tendency, since the neo-Nazis started to show signs an upcoming entrance to parliament, i.e. a few months before the elections of May 2012. This also defied the predictions of the sectarians and left reformists, who were talking about a certain mass turn of Greek society towards fascism and the rise of GD to power, anticipating a repetition of the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
We explained back then that the phenomenon of GD occurred as the result of the anger of the most reactionary and politically backward petty-bourgeois elements, created by the crisis, the Troika and the memorandum. Such anger couldn’t be expressed by the main far-right force up until that time, i.e. the LAOS.
The participation of Karatzaferis in the pro-memorandum government of Papadimos, which escalated the offensive against the already crushed petty-bourgeois, revealed the nature of LAOS as an agent of the system, and created a convenient vacuum for the neo-Nazis to fill. GD, having already distinguished itself as a genuine force after acquiring 5.29 percent of the votes in local elections in Athens, and exploiting the reactionary sentiments among bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements against the massive arrival of impoverished refugees in Athenian neighbourhoods, seized this unique, historical opportunity. With funding and support from extremely reactionary capitalists and state officials, the party inserted itself dynamically into the electoral scene.
GD’s rise wasn’t the result of the creation of a mass fascist movement, as was the case in Germany and Italy during the Interwar Period, but had rather fleeting and passive support. We pointed out back then that the thousands of GD voters were expressing (in a reactionary fashion) an anti-establishment discontent. They had no intention of participating in the rallies or any fascist-terrorist actions by GD. We noted that any attempts by GD to create a mass fascist movement were doomed to end in failure, because, first of all, in present-day society, not only in Greece, there is not a favourable class balance of forces for a repetition of the phenomenon of Mussolini and Hitler.
We explained that, on the one hand, the classic social basis for such a movement – the petty-bourgeois of the cities and the countryside – is now smaller than ever, and the vast majority of them are closer than ever to the social forces of revolution, i.e. the working class and their movement. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie themselves are not going to trust the fascists in power in the near future, fearing the revolutionary response of the working class and the youth, but also having learned the lesson from the historical experience of the inglorious, fascist adventure in Europe (which resulted in the Soviet Union controlling half the continent). We predicted that, ifr the neo-Nazis of GD were to show impatience and any intentions of gaining complete autonomy from the ruling class and the bourgeois state, moving in a terrorist direction and with attempts to carry out a coup, the bourgeoisie would step in and give them a lesson.
That was exactly what happened in 2012-13. GD, blinded by its rising electoral influence and despite being unable to transform itself into a force able to mobilise the petty-bourgeois masses for fascist goals (i.e. to crush the working class and their mass organisations), started to carry out more and more fascist attacks against immigrants and left-wing activists. This was probably part of preparing a (completely adventuristic) coup in order to rise to power.
The murder of the anti-fascist hero musician, Pavlos Fyssas, was the peak of the first phase of that tactic. At the same time, however, the mass political influence of GD started to decline. The spread of anti-fascist sentiments in society, with the youth as the focal point, alarmed the ruling class and their government, who were immediately forced to indict GD as a terrorist-criminal organisation, even detaining their leadership for a time. The capitalist press was full of commentaries about the terrorist actions of GD. The until-then discrete process of legitimisation of the neo-Nazis in the consciousness of society by the mass media was reversed, with a process of guilt-tripping GD voters, which was continued with a daily bout of “revelations” during the trial.
Under these circumstances, the electoral growth of GD was halted, the internal conflicts inside their leadership intensified, and the pressure from the state and public opinion brought to the fore the cowardice of the neo-Nazis, which led to the shutting down of their offices in one city after another. Through this process, we eventually saw them smashed on 7 July, which rightfully gave left-wing activists feelings of joy and satisfaction. Now, GD has reverted to type, as the controlled, marginal “mastiff” of the bourgeois state, which will be used as and when it is needed to terrify working-class and youth activists.
However, in those seven years, GD found themselves at the centre of the political scene. This should be borne in mind by every left activist, as a warning to the Greek, European and global working class about the nightmarish forces capitalism can bring to the fore during its deep, historical crisis.
The crisis of Greek capitalism has not come to an end. On the contrary, in the coming years we will see even more brutal economic, social and political expressions of the crisis. Although the fascists are withdrawing from the parliamentary scene, they are going to attempt to come back and play a counter-revolutionary role in future. Most probably they will prove incapable of creating a mass fascist movement with a clear road to power, but they will nevertheless subject the working-class movement and the youth to even more brutal attacks and new murder attempts. This will likely occur under a “re-baptised” fascist formation, with a different name, but still the old GD at its core. This will try to penetrate the new mass layers of frustrated petty-bourgeois, crushed by the crisis.
Meanwhile, as “Fuhrer” Mihaloliakos said in his statement after the elections, “GD is going to go back immediately to where they grew, in the streets”. This is not just an emotionally charged formulation, but a clear promise of bloody revenge against the “Bolsheviks” (as they were referred to in the statement), i.e. the left-wing and communist activists. We should prepare, sooner or later, for a new intensification of, at least sporadic, terrorist actions by the GD. This is the only way for them to manage to maintain an active (if small) core of activists, who are going to lay the foundations for a new political counter-offensive in the future.
Thus, building a united front of anti-fascist action by all the organisations of the working-class movement, the youth and the left, remains an imperative, despite the electoral defeat of GD. This front should be massive and militant, with no illusions about the role of the bourgeois state in supporting the fascists. It must be able to act preemptively, but also be determined to respond firmly to each attempt by the fascists to terrify the movement. Such a tactic, in order to be effective, must spread to every workplace and neighbourhood to counter every terrorist action by the fascists. This demands, together with the active participation of every left-wing and anti-fascist organisation and activist, the decisive and leading participation of the only mass, working-class, communist party in the country: the KKE.
Self-destructive tactics of small left-wing organisations
In this last section of our analysis, we also include Plefsi Eleftherias (Course of Freedom), despite the fact that the party of Zoi Konstantopoulou long ago renounced any left-wing identity, adopting the deeply reactionary slogan “Neither right-wing, nor left-wing: forward”. This tactic (aside from being an insult to the left-wing voters who made her a SYRIZA MP three times in as many years), proved utterly useless in getting Plefsi Eleftherias into parliament. The party gained only 1.42 percent and 82,672 votes and saw their vote decrease by about 8,000, compared to the European elections.
This failure to enter parliament (the second in a row) puts into doubt the party’s continued existence. Because of the confused, semi-nationalist, petty-bourgeois ideas and methods of their leadership (i.e. that of Zoi Konstantopoulou), this party, since its foundation three years ago, proved organically incapable of not only connecting with vanguard layers of the working class and the youth, but even of giving the impression of a real, organised party.
The electoral results for the other political formation originating from the old SYRIZA, LAE (Popular Unity), were catastrophic. LAE won only 0.28 percent and 15,930 votes, losing in 42 days half of their electoral percentage compared to the European elections (0.56 percent). They will surely be nostalgic for the 2.87 percent they gained in the parliamentary elections of September 2015.
The leadership of LAE clearly faced disapproval from left-wing voters for their slipping into more and more nationalist views. However, firstly and above all, they continued to pay (as was the case in the former parliamentary elections) for their role when they were the left wing of SYRIZA. Their unwillingness, during the first semester of 2015, to fight to prevent the signing of the third memorandum has been indelibly recorded in the consciousness of the working class.
We repeatedly called on the Left Platform (the current leadership of LAE) to refuse to support the coalition government with Kamenos (former minister of National Security and head of the far-right party ANEL, i.e. Independent Greeks). They should have remained outside the government, and after 20 February 2015, when it became clear that the government was ready to sign a new memorandum, they should have launched a campaign for an extraordinary congress, which would have decided not to sign the memorandum. Had these steps been taken, then the history of the past few years could have been different.
With such tactics, the memorandum might not have been signed, and the clique around Tsipras would have been removed from the party, which could then have been brought under the control of its left wing. And even if the Left Platform had lost the battle, they would have stood out in the consciousness of the working class as a serious political force, that not only refused to sign the memorandum in parliament, but fought with every means at its disposal to prevent its signing.
However, the leadership of LAE proved to be incapable of rising even to the current, fundamental task of preserving their diminished forces. Although it was clear for a long period that LAE didn’t have the necessary support in society to enter parliament, they “closed their eyes”, stood in the European elections and faced electoral collapse. And after the withdrawal of Lafazanis from the presidency, they supplemented that mistake with an even bigger one.
Instead of supporting a class vote for the KKE, opening a serious internal discussion over the mistakes that led to their collapse, and preserving the morale of their few hundred active supporters, they proceeded with one more independent candidacy in the parliamentary elections. This led to an even further demoralisation of their activists, and further damaged the viability of the formation. This outcome wasn’t the one that LAE left-wing activists deserved, but their leadership is 100 percent deserving of its fate.
The ANTARSIA (Anti-Capitalist Left-Wing Cooperation for the Overthrow) front, and the other left-wing organisations that chose autonomous candidacy in the elections, i.e. EEK (Working Class Revolutionary Party, Argentinian PO supporters), OKDE (Organisation of Communists Internationalists of Greece), M-L KKE (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece) and KKE M-L (Communist Party of Greece Marxist-Leninist) faced a crushing defeat, even taking into consideration their typically very weak electoral influence.
ANTARSYA went down from 46,096 votes and 0.85 percent in September of 2015, to 36,361 votes and 0.64 percent in the European elections of May. On 7 July they continued to decline, winning 23,191 votes and 0.41 percent. The two Stalinist-Maoist M-L parties won 0.14 percent (KKE M-L) and 0.05 percent (M-L KKE), EEK won 0.04 percent (1,993 votes) and OKDE 0.03 percent (1,675 votes). Those results speak for themselves.
The Communist Tendency (Greek section of the IMT) had long since supported the need for all communists to call for a class vote for the only mass, working-class, communist party in the country: the KKE.
We explained that, if all the left-wing organisations adopted that tactic, they could contribute to preserving the morale of the working class by securing third place for a mass, declared communist party for the first time since WW2, moreover, for a party with an officially anti-capitalist programme, as decided by its congress. Any supporting organisations would naturally preserve their own political programmes and retain their right to criticism. Instead of using this tactic, however, and despite their disheartening results just 42 days previously in the European elections, these organisations once again followed the same tactic of autonomous candidacy, which is completely pointless from the perspective of the working class and its struggle.
The result of this tactic was that a total of 53,358 votes (including the votes for LAE) were wasted for the communist movement (almost 1 percent), that could have reinforced the KKE’s battle to get to third place, instead of the corrupt KINAL. It also weakened the morale of several hundred good activists, who participated in the electoral campaigns of those organisations, having had their expectations raised by their leadership.
Even worse, the tactic of the autonomous candidacy was harmful, not only for the communist movement, but also for the working class as a whole. It was known in advance to the leadership of the aforementioned organisations that, according to the current electoral law, the higher the percentage of the parties outside the parliament, the lower the percentage required for the first party to form a majority government. This fact should be enough by itself to remove any thought of autonomous candidacy in the elections, when there was no prospect of these formations and organisations entering parliament.
But their leadership pressed on, knowing in essence that every vote they gained for their own narcissistic cause potentially meant more seats for the N.D.! That attitude, regardless of any pure or “revolutionary” intentions of the leading cadres of those organisations, is effectively conscious adventurism against the interests of the working class itself!
To the undoubtedly selfless, militant comrades who advocated this tactic in the name of ”Trotskyism”, we have to say the following: comrades, the fact that you are justly recognised as good and selfless activists within a milieu of a few thousand people doesn’t mean you have the right to ridicule and discredit Trotskyism and its name to the masses of million workers!
The new, right-wing, neo-liberal government was formed with a strong participation of technocrats, in order to be ready to proceed quickly with attacks on the working class and poor layers of society. This has been clearly announced by the new prime minister and the other cadres of N.D., without taking into account the political cost.
The Eurogroup of 8 July repeated even louder the call of the European Commission that the agreed goals of the memorandum for the primary surplus be respected, and its higher official stated to the new government that it must press on with the decrease of the tax-free limit, as decided by the former government had decided. As a result, 4 million working people and pensioners are threatened with losing another months’ wage annually to taxes. All the reactionary “players” – the Troika, the Greek ruling class and the new government – are now jointly signalling the start of a new offensive.
We say again: without this offensive, Greek capitalism – which is yet to recover from the crisis and memorandum, and has even bigger debts than when it first acquired them (334.573 billion euros and 181.1 percent of GDP in 2018, compared to 300 billion euros and 126.7 percent at the end of 2009), can’t avoid bankruptcy and the exit from the Eurozone. Furthermore, the level of investment in the country is at the lowest levels in the Eurozone, and is only 40 percent of that in the period before the crisis. At the same time, Greek capitalism is committed to targets of extreme austerity for the primary surplus until 2060, as agreed by the Tsipras government.
This dire situation of Greek capitalism may have led the working people of the country into a nightmarish situation of mass poverty (the latest figures estimate the percentage of poverty in Greece at 46.3 percent of the population); and unemployment (about one million people). But the new government will oversee even deeper poverty and unemployment, to ensure the profits of their class are protected and increased.
At the moment, of course, the working class is in a state of disappointment after the electoral victory of the N.D. This sees the return to government (thanks to the leadership of SYRIZA) of precisely the same bourgeois leaders they had kicked out with mass struggles and big electoral victories just a few years ago. However, the “whip” of the reactionary attacks of the N.D., sooner or later, will wake up the working class and push it back to the struggle, beginning with its younger layers, which are less demoralised and tired from the defeats of the past.
The elections showed that more than 50 percent of the voters of this new generation voted for parties that are, or are considered to be left-wing. The entrance of this generation into the political scene is going to change the situation by finishing off the old, corrupt bourgeois parties; a process that started in 2012, but which was left unfinished by the older generation.
This new generation will be more open to the ideas of genuine revolutionary Marxism, otherwise known as Trotskyism, which the Communist Tendency, the Greek Section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), consistently puts forward. Our forces are still small, but we have great enthusiasm and maintain an inseparable connection with the mass communist movement in the country.
The legacy of the Communist Tendency (recorded in the consciousness of thousands of left-wing activists), is as the most consistent, honest and insightful tendency from the old SYRIZA. Its intense work in the last few years of propagating Marxist ideas in the universities and schools; the remarkable and systematic publication it conducts with meagre means; the very successful Anti-Capitalist Youth Festival it recently organised; and the positive reception it received in the gatherings and rallies of the KKE during the recent electoral battles, are all valuable steps forward in our struggle.
Those steps show that, during the next period, Trotskyism (genuine revolutionary Marxism) can increase its forces and influence decisively, and start finding a way to the masses. Because it represents the ideas which tens of thousands of militant working class and youth are instinctively searching. These ideas are going to lead, sooner and more surely, to the revolutionary, socialist transformation of society. This is how it must and will be done!