As thousands of left-wingers and Syriza supporters both from Greece and from the broader European and international anti-Memorandum movement celebrated in Athens on 25 January, Alexis Tsipras made his first speech as the first ever Prime Minister of Greece who belongs to the left.
Red flags were waving, the Internationale was sung, and slogans were chanted about the “Time of the left that has arrived”. Alexis Tsipras promised to scrap the memorandum from Monday, reverse austerity, beat unemployment, renegotiate the bailout agreement, fight against corruption and ensure “democracy, decency and justice”.
He pronounced Syriza’s victory as the victory of the Greece of the 99% against the 1%. He reiterated that he wants to keep Greece in the euro but lift the austerity and have large amounts of the unpayable Greek debt written off.
He pointed to the need for a change in Europe as a whole; restating the party’s slogan: “Hope is coming. Greece is going forward. Europe is changing”.
Despite the crowd’s chanting, he failed to attribute Syriza’s victory to the continued efforts over the years of the class struggle and the historic movement of the left. This contrasts with the June 2012 elections, where Syriza was narrowly defeated by the ND.
Then, Alexis Tsipras, at his post electoral rally, in a symbolic gesture, walked alongside Manolis Glezos, a veteran of the World War Two anti-Nazi resistance, and promised him that a government of the left would be formed in the next elections.
Syriza has achieved a great and historic victory. From Kastelorizo to Othonous, the working classes resisted the scare campaign from both foreign and domestic centres and asserted their demands for an end to the Memorandum era. Syriza got very high percentages in working class regions and municipalities.
The Syriza victory marks a dramatic change in the relation of forces between the working class and capital in Greece. It can have a domino effect throughout Europe, for example with Spain and the Podemos movement.
This time the big electoral rise of Syriza was not accompanied by absorption of votes from other forces of the left, on the contrary both KKE and Antarsya-Mars have increased their percentages in comparison to the June 2012 elections. This is an indicator of a shift to the left.
Syriza’s vote expressed the result of the over 30 general strikes and other anti-Memorandum movements since 2010. The battles by teachers, transportation workers, laid-off public sector workers, school guardians, cleaners, ERT and other media workers, Greek Steel, Coca Cola, General Recycling, and many neighbourhood movements that were partly defeated, scored a delayed victory in the vote.
The ideas and principles of the left now win wide sympathy and are no longer taboo for the majority in society, as they used to be.
Paying tribute to secular democracy and confirming his atheism, the chair of Syriza took his oath as prime minister without the traditional religious references. After taking the oath, Alexis Tsipras want to pay respects at the war memorial in Kessariani for the anti-fascist fighters executed by the Nazis during World War Two. The crowd accompanied him to the monument.
Election day was, rightly so, a day of celebrations for thousands of left activists across the country. Tomorrow, for conscious leftist militants, the celebrations will give way to organised political struggle.
The revolutionary left should be loud and proud — not in an introspective, gloating way, but with the inner confidence to re connect with the wider masses, and remain firm in our belief that major changes are made with the participation of the masses and the great social and political movements, and not via “institutional” management. Big changes can only be achieved through ruptures and overthrows and not via gradual tweakings.
The overthrow of capitalism, the smashing of the capitalist state and the struggle for a revolutionary government on the basis of power of the working class is the only way out of the capitalist crisis not only in Greece, but throughout the world. It is time again to dare to fight and dare to win:
The future that was well overdue has arrived. It is time not only for our dreams to take revenge and become reality but to start forming new dreams and follow undiscovered roads and paths. And in the words of the Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet:
The most beautiful sea hasn’t been crossed yet.
The most beautiful child hasn’t grown up yet.
The most beautiful days we haven’t seen yet.
And the most beautiful words I wanted to tell you
I haven’t said yet.
The people who will take the strategic economic posts in the new Greek government — the economists Yanis Varoufakis, Giannis Milios, Giannis Dragasakis and Giorgos Stathakis — are adamant that they will not be confronting the EU and they will not be acting unilaterally. In the words of Varoufakis, all negotiations will be performed within the framework of EU and the Eurozone.
They aim to renegotiate Greece’s terms with EU and ECB so that its debt burden is eased and social cuts can be reversed. As Syriza has come close to office, its representatives have more and more pointed to the need for a change in direction across Europe as a whole. Syriza’s central election slogan was: “Hope is coming. Greece is going forward. Europe is changing”.
Tsipras welcomed the moves by ECB and Mario Draghi to follow the US Treasury and the Bank of England in injecting cash into the banking system through Quantitative Easing.
The programme of Syriza is more realistic even in capitalist terms than Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s “voodoo economics”, which claims that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, and eliminates public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.
The economist Paul Krugman, in his recent article “Ending Greece’s nightmare” (bit.ly/krugma), has stated that Syriza’s politics are more realistic and likely to have an effect in the economy than the currently implemented ultra-neoliberal austerity politics. From back in May 2010: “The Troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy.
“Why were the original projections so wildly overoptimistic? Supposedly hardheaded officials were in reality engaged in fantasy economics. Both the European Commission and the European Central Bank decided to believe in the confidence fairy — that is, to claim that the direct job-destroying effects of spending cuts would be more than made up for by a surge in private-sector optimism...
“And here’s the thing: If the Troika had been truly realistic, it would have acknowledged that it was demanding the impossible. Two years after the Greek programme began, the IMF looked for historical examples where Greek-type programmes, attempts to pay down debt through austerity without major debt relief or inflation, had been successful. It didn’t find any...
“In calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare”.
Syriza spokesman Giorgos Stathakis has said that the new government had no plans to meet Troika negotiators and would instead seek direct talks with governments. In his victory speech Tsipras stated: “Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, fear, authoritarianism and five years of humiliation and anguish... The verdict of the people means that the Troika is finished”.
Still, ECB president Mario Draghi has said that a precondition for extending Quantitative Easing to Greece is that the new government must continue with the agreed cuts in welfare expenditures and “reform of the labour market”. In other words the Syriza government must slash workplace protection, eviscerate trade union organisation, and drive working people further down.
It is real naivety to believe that capital, especially international capital, will come to our country to make massive investments and “bring development” under a government of the left which is committed to respecting living standards and workers’ rights.
Capital will do just the opposite: it will blackmail the government of the left to surrender. It is vicious and it is not susceptible to the moderate and highly reasoned arguments of Syriza’s negotiating team.