The poor performance of Syriza in the recent European elections may well sound the death-knell for Alexis Tsipras’s discredited government
The results of the European elections in Greece possibly mark the beginning of the end for Syriza’s government. The fact that the conservative New Democracy party gained the most votes, beating Alexis Tsipras’s party by a margin of over 10% of votes, forced Tsipras to announce early general elections, which will take place on 7 July. In power since January 2015, Syriza has now been in government for longer than any other party since the outbreak of the financial crisis. Syriza got elected by promising to ‘’wipe out the memoranda’’ – the coercive austerity plans foisted upon Greece by European financial institutions in return for emergency bailouts – but swiftly back-flipped into voting for the third memorandum in July 2015. This committed the party to adopting neoliberal policies in accordance with EU guidelines, leading to further privatization, permanent supervision of the economy by European financial institutions, and a continuing escalation of the capitalist assault on wages and social welfare. The defeat of the government speaks to massive popular discontent with these policies.
It is worth mentioning that, despite the rise of nationalism and the far-right across Europe, the main Greek far-right organisation, the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, lost many votes in these elections. This is due to the presence and strengthening of the antifascist and antiracist movement, which is fighting for open borders and freedom for the thousands of refugees who are still kept in concentration camps across the country. Anti-fascist activity at grassroots level is a reaction to the stasis and inadequacy of official state responses to Golden Dawn: the mass trial of Golden Dawn leaders and members for murder which began four years ago, which has been described as one of the most important trials in modern Greek history, has yet to successfully convict the organisation’s leaders. More than 350 witnesses and 100 lawyers are involved in the trial, but despite the efforts of the antifascist movement there is no press coverage and the trial is getting more and more delayed, with the blame being placed on the Syriza government.
Despite the success of the antifascist movement, more needs to be done to eliminate fascism and also to fight against sexist discrimination and attacks, which have increased as the crisis has deepened. Neither the KKE (Communist Party) nor Antarsya (Front of the Anti-capitalist, Revolutionary, Communist left and Radical Ecology) managed to increase their voteshare despite Syriza’s decline. We failed to transform people’s disappointment into radical energy for a left anti-capitalist alternative, and this left some voters drawn to the Conservative party to show their anger with Syriza.
It is quite difficult to predict the results of the coming national elections. The Conservative party will very likely come first, but it may need to form a coalition government with other right or far-right parties. They have already announced a further attack on the working class, with a proposed extension of working hours to seven days per week, cuts in social benefits and tax exemptions for the capitalists and the ruling class. Syriza, on the other hand, presents itself as an anti-austerity party, but they try to obscure the neoliberal policies that their own government has imposed, attacking even the right to strike. In fact, they have worked hard to allow their successors to continue the attack on the working class. The struggling forces of the Left need to fight the electoral battles and build up a strong labour movement, as this is the only way to fight for stable work with rights, against flexible work and unemployment, and for the end of austerity. It is our responsibility to make it clear that this is the only realistic alternative for the working class, not only in Greece, but in the whole of Europe.