The tasks for the left after SYRIZA’s victory

January 28, 2015

Alexis Tsipras is now prime minister of Greece, at the head of a government formed after the election victory of the Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, which comes to power with a clear mandate to reverse the austerity agenda that plunged the country into crisis. But the SYRIZA-led government also includes a right-wing nationalist party, the Independent Greeks, whose reactionary founder and leader will become defense minister.

The announcement that Tsipras had made an agreement with the Independent Greeks came quickly the day after the election, in which SYRIZA trounced the former ruling party New Democracy, led by ex-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, but fell just short of an outright majority in parliament. The agreement was criticized by SYRIZA members and international supporters alike--particularly among the Left Platform within the party.

With a cabinet sworn in, the first tests of Tsipras and the government will come quickly: How will they honor SYRIZA's promise to overturn the Memorandums--the agreements on austerity measures, negotiated between the so-called Troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, and previous Greek governments led by Samaras' New Democracy and the center-left PASOK, now led by Evangelos Venizelos?

The Internationalist Workers Left (DEA) is a revolutionary socialist group in Greece that co-founded SYRIZA in 2004 and today plays a prominent role in the Red Network and the Left Platform within SYRIZA. On January 27, DEA issued this statement commenting on the agreement with the Independent Greeks and the questions ahead for SYRIZA.

1. The defeat of the coalition government of Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos in the January 25 elections is a historic political victory of the forces of social resistance.

The working class and the popular masses in Greece have struggled constantly since the outbreak of the crisis and the introduction of the Memorandums, challenging the agreements made by the Greek ruling class with the Troika and international lenders, which have imposed a brutal austerity policy. This election victory is the result of the general strikes, mass demonstrations, the "movement of the squares" and decisive sectoral and local struggles that have continued, despite the decline of the great wave of resistance between 2010 and 2012.

During this time, the people who participated in these grassroots struggles expressed a set of demands, hopes and expectations that remains alive today. At the center of them is the demand for the overturning and reversal of austerity, and despite the smears of the mainstream media, they have insisted on placing their hopes on the left to accomplish this. This is the basis of the election victory of SYRIZA, which grew larger than many expected, as well as the endurance of the vote for the Greek Communist Party.

Supporters of DEA and SYRIZA rally against austerity
Supporters of DEA and SYRIZA rally against austerity

2. The massive shift to the left, while manifested in the results from January 25, gives SYRIZA more political momentum than is revealed by its 149 seats in parliament--which is just short of the 151 seats needed for an outright parliamentary majority.

Despite the scandalous support of local and international conservative forces, the New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras sank to 27.8 percent of the vote, marking a new low point for its influence. New Democracy emerged from the electoral battle deeply wounded, both politically and strategically. The differences between far-right populism, with its emphasis on racism and nationalism, and the "social radicalism" of traditional center-right, will inevitably emerge again inside New Democracy. For now, it is unknown whether there is a united future for conservative party in the area it has dominated on the right.

3. The decision of the leadership of SYRIZA to form a coalition government with the Independent Greeks [known by its initials ANEL, it is a populist right-wing party that holds nationalist positions, but is also against the Memorandums] led by Panos Kammenos, underestimates this dynamic.

Forming a coalition wasn't a necessary response to the outcome of the elections, as there was the possibility of proceeding with a SYRIZA government on its own by asking for a "vote of tolerance" in parliament [with MPs from other parties either voting or abstaining] on the basis of the commitments at Thessaloniki [where Alexis Tsipras unveiled a "reconstruction" plan that he said would be the first steps of a new government of the left once it took office] and the program of the founding conference of SYRIZA.

The decision of the SYRIZA conference, which confirmed its founding declaration, repeated the longstanding rejection of searching for political alliances with the center-left. We believe that applies--much more so!--to alliances with the center-right.

ANEL’s conditions for being part of the coalition government contradict the mood of a large part of SYRIZA's membership. They will also act as a transmission belt through which the system will put its pressures onto the government of the left.

Under these conditions, the coalition agreement with ANEL jeopardizes the political project for a government of the left with a transitional policy and strategy.

4. For members and supporters of SYRIZA, for the whole left, for activists in the social movements, new circumstances have arisen.

The implementation of the commitments made at Thessaloniki will be the first stop for the new government. Restoring the minimum wage to its pre-crisis level; returning to the additional pension payments for the poor that were abolished under the Memorandum; re-establishing collective labor agreements; and lastly, restoring the exemption on income taxes up to the minimum level of 12,000 euros and abolishing the United Estate Property Tax [an unfair tax on any property, even if it is empty, that was implemented as a temporary measure under Samaras and later made permanent] and the special tax on heating oil--all this should be the first strong political message to stop the downhill slide caused by austerity.

With the social movement at the forefront, we should open the way for the overthrow of austerity, once and for all. To reclaim everything that has been lost! In this vein, restoring the jobs of the workers at ERT [the public radio and television station closed down by the government in the spring of 2013], the cleaners at the Ministry of Finance [who have also waged a long struggle after they were fired when their jobs were subcontracted] and other laid-off workers will send an equally important message, both to working people on our side, and to the other side.

5. In these new circumstances, the role of SYRIZA as a political party is irreplaceable. The functioning of its organizational bodies and membership, with collective participation and democracy throughout the party, is not an optional extra, but a pre-condition for the final victory of SYRIZA, and the final victory of the whole of the left and of our people.

Internationalist Workers Left
January 27, 2015.

Corrections made in this statement for editing errors. First published in Greek at the RProject website.

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