Lessons must be learned

Elections held in Greece on 7 July confirmed the developments seen in May’s Euro elections. New Democracy (ND) – Greece’s traditional right-wing party – won. Formerly governing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) lost votes because of their capitulation to austerity policies. The left in general failed to convince voters and received a weak vote. A historically high abstention rate of 45% exemplifies the increasing distrust that working-class people place in electoral politics.

The brutal austerity imposed on Greece by the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the Troika) in the wake of the 2008 economic crash brought the downfall of the old two-party system in Greece as voters turned away from ND and PASOK (the traditional Greek social democratic party), who both dragged the country into a profound economic crisis because of their support for the Troika’s extreme austerity policies. Over that period, support for SYRIZA increased by 88%, leading to their election. This support came from SYRIZA’s vocal opposition, at the time, to austerity. However, after SYRIZA’s capitulation to the Troika – under threat of economic sabotage from the ECB – and implementation of the harsh austerity policies it had previously rejected, disillusionment set in.

Despite winning the election, ND failed to gain anywhere near the number of votes they received before the crisis. They also failed to win over a significant section of those who voted SYRIZA in 2012 and 2015. ND’s “successes” came from voters’ abandonment of smaller nationalist-right and centre-right parties. SYRIZA lost the election because of their capitulation to austerity politics, leaving voters struggling to see a fundamental difference between them and ND. However, SYRIZA did manage to maintain a significant vote due to working class-people’s fear of the harsh neoliberal politics of ND’s leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

One of the few positives from this election was the collapse of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (GD), failing to keep any of their parliamentary seats. One of the key factors in the collapse of GD has been the constant mobilisation of the anti-fascist movement, exposing them as a murderous gang (some of their leaders are currently facing murder charges) and proving the power that working-class people have when they organise.

The anti-capitalist left was noticeably absent in this election. However, the fact that SYRIZA managed to hold onto some seats, and the extremely high abstention rate, suggest that if a credible left party emerged with a socialist programme capable of taking on the Troika and pointing a way out of Greece’s economic quagmire, it could quickly win support. It’s vital that the left now build in Greece, learning from the mistakes of SYRIZA and refusing to back down under pressure from the capitalist system and its institutions.

by Cerys Falvey