New Government in Greece
The revolution that wasn’t
Since the election of the current government in Greece, there has been a lot of public debate, not only among Greeks but in the wider international community as well, about a “significant” change (according to Greek and international media) that has taken place in the political situation in Greece.
Before we start examining the current situation in Greece and put the above claims under careful, critical consideration, let us begin by giving some information about the formation, the composition and the historical development of the political party now in government, that is SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left).
Some AMR readers may remember that in 1968 there was a split in the Communist Party of Greece, with a small revisionist group splitting away and forming the so called “Communist Party of the Interior”. Their existence as a viable political force was very short. They could not muster enough forces to enter Parliament after the fall of the military junta in 1974 and they disintegrated and withered away by the end of the seventies.
In the early ’80s, however, another group of the same revisionist, social democratic views broke away from the KKE and formed the so called “Coalition of Left and Progress”. Some time after their formation this grouping attracted votes from social democratic and centrist forces and managed to enter parliament.
They remained a small party of 3 - 3.5 percent for a while and then they merged with some middle of the road forces, some anarchist groups, the remnants of the Communist Party of the Interior and some nationalist groupings and changed their name to SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left). They remained small even after the merger mustering about 4 percent of the popular vote.
Things changed drastically at the 2009 elections when, after strong popular opposition to the government’s anti-people policies, PASOK, the main social democratic party which had governed Greece for almost 25 years and was in government with the right wing New Democracy Party. This was at a time when the severe austerity measures demanded by the EU and the IMF were enforced upon the Greek people. PASOK was completely annihilated and its members dispersed into a number of other groupings.
At this point in time, more than half the members and cadres of PASOK moved over to SYRIZA. Thus SYRIZA suddenly became a mass party, its whole composition changed and its outlook and policies moved further to the right.
Therefore, the party now in government in Greece is not a break away group from the Communist Party of Greece that some people argue is trying to correct the allegedly narrow, sectarian attitudes of the KKE and win people over to socialism. SYRIZA is an amalgamation of political forces that have nothing in common with socialism and Communism. They govern together with “Independent Greeks” – a nationalist party, a break away group from the right wing New Democracy.
The basic policy of the new government is to remain within the European Union (EU), to manage capitalism better than its predecessors and to succeed in getting a better deal from the EU.
The Prime Minister himself, Alexis Tsipras, stated in a TV interview on April 2014 that “Greece belongs to the West, to the EU and NATO”. In his victory speech after the election results were known, he stated that “we will not go for a catastrophic rift with the European Union”. It is therefore totally unrealistic for anyone to expect that this government and this Prime Minister will take the revolutionary steps required to put Greece on the road to socialism.
Some people are saying that the present government is putting up a fight within the EU, negotiating hard and trying to achieve things. The question here is: what are they negotiating for, and what are they trying to achieve? We must not forget that SYRIZA won the elections on the promise that it was to end the policies of the Memorandum, the policies of austerity, get rid off the supervision and control of the economy by Troika (the representatives of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) and improve the living standards of the people. The Greek people were frustrated and angry after so many years of poverty and were looking for a change, for a way out of the dark tunnel of depression and misery.
Therefore, the new government must appear to be doing something in this direction. It must give the impression that it is putting up a fight and safeguarding the interests of the Greek people. If they did nothing, they would be driven out of government soon. So the show of talking tough in the Euro-group while at the same time being ready to compromise, was something imposed upon them by the realities of the Greek situation and their desire to remain an EU member.
What were the two main points the Greek government was asking the EU to agree to? The government had promised the Greek people that there would no longer be any Troika in Athens and no more “Memorandum of Understanding”. So they asked the EU for a six month extension – not of the Memorandum – but of the loans agreement, and no more supervision and financial control by the Troika.
As was expected, the EU, with Germany in the role of the uncompromising party, rejected these demands and insisted that there be no loans agreement without conditions and that the conditions were contained in the program set down in the Memorandum. Consequently, Greece could not receive any more money if the current program was not fulfilled in its entirety. Greece was requested to forward within two weeks a list of reforms it would implement in the period of any extension of the program granted. The purpose of these reforms was to ensure the fulfilment of the conditions of the current program. Eventually, the EU granted Greece an extension of four months (not six) and indicated it wasn’t prepared to dispense with inspections by the Troika.
The Greek government forwarded the list of proposed reforms and behind-the-scenes negotiations continued for a mutually accepted compromise that would enable the Greek government to save face and the EU to continue to keep in place its policies as described in the Memorandum.
The relevant resolution of the Euro-group is a product of such a compromise. It changes the name of certain things while the essence remains the same. The resolution extends for four months not the Loans agreement, not the “current program”, but the “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement”, which is the Memorandum with another name. It also specifies that inspection of the work of Greek ministries will continue by representatives of the Institutions. The Troika has been thus renamed as “Institutions”. So everybody is happy. The Greek government interprets the arrangement as having won a battle and the EU knows that the capitalist order of things in Greece will remain intact.
Not everyone in SYRIZA is happy with this arrangement, though. The Government has been accused by leading members of SYRIZA, including two cabinet ministers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker of committing “unacceptable compromises”. Another leading member of SYRIZA, who is a European Parliament member, Manolis Glezos, said that the only thing we succeeded in was to name the fish, meat while everything is the same as before.
So great has been the outcry among the forces of SYRIZA about this arrangement, that in the Central Committee (CC) meeting called to discuss and ratify the Agreement, 40 percent of the CC members voted against the arrangement that the government calls a victory.
As for the Troika, a government spokesman when asked by a journalist what was going to happen with the inspections, he replied that the inspectors will no longer go to the ministries. “They will stay in their hotel and we will take to them the facts and figures they want,” he said. This is the extent of their great victory.
For Greece to be liberated from the present miserable situation capitalism has forced upon the people, what is needed is not a better management of capitalism but the overthrow of capitalism. The party in government in Greece now is not a party aiming at the overthrow of capitalism. On the contrary, it is a bourgeois party aspiring to the continuation of capitalist rule and the continuation of the operation of the EU, NATO and global capitalist domination.
The current situation proves the correctness of the basic policy and strategic goal of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which maintains that the only way forward for the Greek people is the preparation of the forces of the working class movement for the election of a People’s Government of an anti-capitalist orientation, as the first step of establishing a socialist government, the nationalisation of the basic means of production, the utilisation of the country’s resources for satisfying the needs of the people, disengagement from the EU and cancelling the foreign debt.
The realisation of such a policy will be the real revolution that will put Greece on the road to people’s power and socialist development.