What SYRIZA stands for

June 6, 2012

Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left, known as SYRIZA, stunned the world with its second-place finish in parliamentary elections on May 6, climbing from small-party status past the main center-left party PASOK, which has ruled Greece for a majority of the last four decades, and nearly catching the main conservative party New Democracy. After none of these three parties could form a governing majority in the new parliament, new elections were set for June 17, and SYRIZA is predicted to place first or second.

SYRIZA, a coalition of 11 different left-wing organizations along with many individuals, is massively popular because of its stand against the austerity measures that have come as conditions--contained in what is called the "Memorandum"--of the bailout of the Greek financial system by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known together as the "troika."

The following are SYRIZA's proposals in a document titled "The Exit from the Crisis Is on the Left."

1. Creation of a shield to protect society against the crisis:

Not a single citizen without a guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benefit, medical care, social protection, housing, and access to all services of public utilities.
-- Protection of and relief measures for indebted households.
-- Price controls and price reductions, VAT reduction, and abolition of VAT on basic-need goods.

2. Disposal of the debt burden

The national debt is first and foremost a product of class relations, and is inhumane in its very essence. It is produced by the tax evasion of the wealthy, the looting of public funds, and the exorbitant procurement of military weapons and equipment.

We are asking immediately for:
-- A moratorium on debt servicing.
-- Negotiations for debt cancellation, with provisions for the protection of social insurance funds and small savers. This will be pursued by exploiting any available means, such as audit control and suspension of payments.
-- Regulation of the remaining debt to include provisions for economic development and employment.
-- European regulations on the debt of European states.
-- Radical changes to the European Central Bank's role.
-- Prohibition of speculative banking products.
-- A pan-European tax on wealth, financial transactions, and profits.

Alexis Tsipras speaks to a mass rally of SYRIZA supporters in Thessaloniki
Alexis Tsipras speaks to a mass rally of SYRIZA supporters in Thessaloniki (Asteris Masouras)

3. Income redistribution, taxation of wealth and elimination of unnecessary expenses:

Reorganization and consolidation of tax collection mechanisms.
-- Taxation of fortunes over 1 million euros and large-scale revenues.
-- Gradual increase, up to 45 percent, of the tax on the distributed profits of corporations (SA).
-- Taxation of financial transactions.
-- Special taxation on consumption of luxury goods.
-- Removal of tax exemptions for ship owners and the Greek Orthodox Church.
-- Lifting of confidentiality for banking and merchant transactions, and pursuit of those who evade taxes and social insurance contributions.
-- Banning of transactions carried out through offshore companies.
-- Pursuit of new financial resources through efficient absorption of European funds, through claims on the payment of German World War II reparations and occupation loan, and finally via steep reductions in military expenses.

4. Productive social and environmental reconstruction:

Nationalization/socialization of banks, and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers' control, in order to serve developmental purposes. The scandalous recapitalization of the banks must stop immediately.
-- Nationalization of all public enterprises of strategic importance that have been privatized so far. Administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control and democratic planning. Support for the provision of Public Goods.
-- Protection and consolidation of co-operatives and SMEs in the social sector.
-- Ecological transformation in development of energy production, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. These reforms will prioritize nutritional abundance and fulfillment of social needs.
-- Development of scientific research and productive specialization.

5. Stable employment with decent wages and social insurance:

The constant degradation of labor rights, coupled with embarrassing wage levels, does not attract investment, development or employment. Instead, we are calling for:

Well-paid, well-regulated and insured employment.
-- Immediate reconstitution of the minimum wage and reconstitution of real wages within three years.
-- Immediate reconstitution of collective labor agreements.
-- Instigation of powerful control mechanisms that will protect employment.
-- Systematic opposition of lay-offs and the deregulation of labour relations.

6. Deepening democracy: Democratic political and social rights for all:

There is a democratic deficit in the country. Greece is gradually being transformed into an authoritarian police state. We are calling for:

The restoration of popular sovereignty and an upgrade of parliamentary power within the political system:

-- Creation of a proportional electoral system
-- Separation of powers
-- Revocation of ministerial immunity
-- Abolishment of economic privileges for MPs

-- Real decentralization to create local government with sound resources and expanded jurisdiction.
-- The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of self-management under workers' and social control at all levels.
-- Measures against political and economic corruption.
-- The solidification of democratic, political, and trade union rights.
-- The enhancement of women's and youths' rights in the family, in employment, and in public administration.
-- Immigration reforms:

-- Speeding up the asylum process
-- Abolition of Dublin II regulations and granting of travel papers to immigrants
-- Social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection

-- Democratic reforms to public administration with the active participation of civil servants.
-- The demilitarization and democratization of the Police and the Coast Guard. Disbandment of special forces.

7. Restoration of a strong welfare state:

Anti-insurance laws, the shutdown of social services, and the steep fall in social expenditures under the Memorandum have turned Greece into a country where social injustice reigns. We are in need of:

An immediate rescue of the pension system, to include tripartite financing and the gradual consolidation of separate pension fund portfolios into one public, universal system of social insurance.
-- A raise in unemployment benefits until the substitution rate reaches 80% of the wage. No unemployed person is to be left without unemployment benefits.
-- The introduction of a guaranteed minimum income.
-- A unified system of comprehensive social protection covering the vulnerable social strata.

8. Health is a public good and a social right:

Health care is to be provided for free and will be financed through a Public Health System. Immediate measures include:

Support and upgrades for hospitals. Upgrade of health infrastructures of the Social Insurance Institute (IKA). Development of an integrated system of first-level medical care.
-- Covering the needs of medical treatment in both personnel and equipment, in part by stopping layoffs.
-- Open and cost-free access to medical treatment for all residents in the country.
-- Free pharmaceutical treatment and medical examinations for low-income pensioners, the unemployed, students, and those suffering from chronic diseases.

9. Protection of public education, research, culture and sports from the Memorandum's policies:

With regards to education, we are calling for:

Consolidation of universal, public, and free education, including coverage of its urgent needs in infrastructure and personnel at all three levels.
-- Compulsory 14-year unified education.
-- Revocation of the Diamantopoulou Law.
-- Assurance of self-government for Universities.
-- Preservation of the academic and public character of Universities.

10. An independent foreign policy committed to the promotion of peace:

The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country's independence, peace, and security. We propose:

A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
-- Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
-- Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
-- Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.

Furthermore, on the basis of international law and the principle of peaceful conflict resolution, we will pursue improvements in Greek-Turkish relations, a solution to the problem of FYROM's official name, and the specification of Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone.

THE INCUMBENT economic and social system has failed, and we must overthrow it!

The economic crisis that is rocking global capitalism has shattered the illusions. More and more, people understand that capitalist speculation is an inhuman organizational principle for modern society. It is also widely acknowledged that the private banks function only for the benefit of the bankers, harming the rest of the people. Big business and bankers absorb billions of euros from health care, education and pensions.

An exit from the crisis requires bold measures that will prevent those who created the crisis from continuing their destructive work. We are endorsing a new model for the production and distribution of wealth, one that will include society in its totality. In this respect, large capitalist property is to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.

We are changing the future; we are pushing them into the past!

We can prevail by forging unity and creating a new coalition for power with the left as a cornerstone. Our strength in this endeavor is the alliance of the People: the inspiration, the creative effort, and the struggle of the working people. With these, we will shape the lives and the future of a self-governed people.

Now the vote is in the hands of the People! Now the People have the power!

In this new election, the Greek people can and must vote against the regime of the Memoranda and the Troika, thus turning over a new page of hope and optimism for the future.

For Greece and for Europe, the solution is with the Left!

First published at The Bullet.

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