Monday, June 25, 2012

Greek Elections Over, Class Struggle Continues

Greek elections over, class struggle continues

By G. Dunkel
Published Jun 25, 2012 7:18 AM

As the news spread that New Democracy, a pro-austerity party, finished first on June 17, “winning” the Greek elections, and will be able to form a government, a temporary sigh of relief went up from the boardrooms and bank offices scattered throughout the world's financial centers.

The imperialist ruling class had warned that the euro was at risk, but it survived the weekend. The banks' operations staffs could go home and rest up for the next crisis, which will be here soon enough.

Comparing the number of seats it won, 130, to the number of seats its main rival Syriza won, 71, it appears New Democracy won big. But this is because the leading party in Greek parliamentary elections gets a bonus of 50 seats.

If you look at the actual votes cast, New Democracy got 30 percent while Syriza got 26.7 percent, both gaining about 10 percentage points since the indecisive May 6 elections. As the election approached, the German imperialist government and the European Union pressured the Greek electorate to vote for ND.

Remember, this vote is in itself incapable of changing the system or of resolving the economic crisis. At most it determines who forms the parliamentary government in a society that remains capitalist. The banks remain in the hands of big capital. The state power is still the army and the police, which remain under the control of the Greek big bourgeoisie, while imperialist NATO backs up the banks and the Greek state.

Nevertheless, a large number of Greek voters were able to show that they rejected the austerity package that the Troika — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — has imposed on the backs of the Greek workers. Most of those opposed to austerity voted for Syriza, just as most accepting austerity voted for ND.

Knowing the winner would get the undemocratic 50 extra seats, many supporters of other anti-austerity parties undoubtedly switched their votes to Syriza, when compared to how they voted in the May 6 elections. Thus the Communist Party of Greece saw its vote total drop from 8.5 to 4.5 percent. Despite the vote loss, this party remains influential in the PAME union confederation, which held a dozen general strikes in the past two years. (Vote totals from Ministry of Interior press release)

PASOK — the party considered “center-left,” though it supports austerity — got 12.46 percent and 33 seats, slightly less than in May. This time, unlike in May, PASOK and some other smaller parties will join the ND-led government and support an austerity deal with the Troika.

The other significant result was that the fascist party, Golden Dawn, got 6.9 percent and 18 seats. It already translated this electoral boost into an attack on a Syriza meeting, where an organizer was beaten unconscious.

Economic crisis wracks Greece

This election barely gave the world markets a lift. Renegotiating the onerous terms of the current bailout package is not going to solve the economic crisis of Greek capitalism.

The Greek economy has contracted every quarter for the past five years. It is down by 15.9 percent, more so than Portugal, Italy and Ireland. (New York Times, June 16) Since the official guideline for the bailout from the Troika cuts Greece’s budget deficit to 128 percent of its gross domestic product, as its GDP declines, Greece needs to cut spending even more. (Wall Street Journal, June 17)

The austerity the French and German banks imposed on the Greek workers, with the firm support of Greece's bourgeoisie, has been used as a club to beat down their living standards. Few of the so-called “bailout funds” have remained in Greece. Most funds were just recycled to pay for Greece’s short-term debt to the French and German banks.

The high unemployment figures of 22 percent overall, with 50 percent for youth, still don’t tell the whole story. Many who are working have suffered repeated wage cuts. Many small companies skip paychecks a month or two, claiming their customers haven't paid them. No worker, even those in government jobs, feels secure.

Some pensions have been cut in half and then cut again. One government ministry has forced workers within months of retirement to leave early, which severely cuts their pensions.

The Greek section of UNICEF released a report April 2 which claimed “a growing number of parents with young children are struggling to make ends meet.” As many as 439,000 children across this country of nearly 11 million people live in households with incomes below the poverty level.

The Hellenic Statistics Authority (Elstat) reports that in more than 400,000 households, no one in the family is employed. (

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said at his party's rally on election night: “[T]he people have won the elections because now [the European Union] cannot proceed with bailout agreements, and they recognize this, both in Greece and in Brussels.”

Communist Party Secretary General Aleka Papariga concluded in a June 18 statement: “We assure you that we ... will be in the front line in every struggle, we will support every militant initiative regarding the acute problems which are in progress, and we will prepare, to the extent that it depends on us, the people so that they can deal with the new torments which are on the way. We hope that this retreat of the radical orientation, which was particularly marked in the second electoral battle, will not last long.”

Of note, Papariga criticized Syriza for a statement just before the election pledging not to leave the euro zone.

The workers of Greece have struggled valiantly against the austerity imposed on them by the international bankers. Now that the election is over, the political parties will prove themselves by defending the workers’ interests through mass mobilization.
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