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Greece At a Crossroads
Written by Alejandro Iturbe   
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 17:27

On Sunday June 17 legislative elections will be held in Greece in an attempt to form a new government.[1]  All analysts agree that this election may be crucial for the country and be a kind of referendum to define whether Greece continues in the euro monetary system or not. To understand such importance, we must consider the previous evolution of the country.

As a result of staying in the euro zone, the bailout of the banks and the fierce adjustment programs imposed by the "troika" (European Union, European Central Bank and IMF) to roll over the public debt have set the Greek economy in a catastrophic situation: in 2011, GDP fell 6.9%, and in the first quarter of 2012, the drop was 6.5% compared to 2011. It is already a setback greater than that which caused the outbreak of Argentina, in 2001. As a result, the living standard of workers and the Greek people has deteriorated dramatically.

Workers and the Greek people have fought hard against the different adjustment plans that have been applied in recent years. Even though they have failed to avoid the plans implementation, this fight has already weakened and forced several governments to resign: New Democracy (ND- bourgeois right – style PSDB, in 2009), PASOK (social democracy, in 2011), Lucas Papademos (man of the troika who headed a government supposedly "technical", supported by New Democracy and PASOK, resigned in May 2012).

In the last May elections, no party or coalition managed to have a parliamentary majority and, therefore, could not form a government. Even though the most voted party had been ND, the most remarkable fact was the growth of Syriza (front of leftist organizations like PSOL) which obtained 16.8%, raising a program for a moratorium on the payment of the external debt and the cancellation of the adjustment measures and austerity. The vote of the organizations that were placed to the left of Papademos’ government (KKE-Communist; Democratic Left, front Antarzya), including Syriza’s voting, accumulated 33%. Another striking fact of these elections was the growth of neo-fascist party, the Golden Dawn, which obtained 7 %).

Election Forecasts

Previous surveys have shown a tendency to a greater polarization between ND and Syriza, but they differ widely among themselves. In the first places, the newspaper Ta nea gave 26.1% for ND, 23.1 to Syriza and 9.9% to PASOK. Whereas the daily newspaper Kathimerini projected: Syriza, 31.5%, ND, 25.5 and PASOK, 13.3.

These possible outcomes would not guarantee a result different from the last May situation, when it was not possible to form a government. But each of them would also open the possibility of one of these two alternatives: a government of ND (comprising also the PASOK) or a government of Syriza (comprising also other leftist forces).

Possible Scenarios

In case a rightist coalition wins, the situation of recent years could be repeated: a weak government whose axis would be the implementation of a new and tougher adjustment plan to continue to refinance the debt and keep Greece within the euro zone, at any cost. A scenario in which, by not seeing it as "their" government, almost certainly, workers and the Greek people will return to face the new setting going to hard struggles, strikes and mobilizations. Something like "more of the same" of what we have been seeing in the country.

Conversely, a government of Syriza and other leftist organizations would open different scenarios. This result would be the electoral expression of a shift to the left of the Greek workers and the masses, and would be seen as a victory that would give them greater confidence in their forces. Undoubtedly, Syriza would come to government holding a deep contradiction. On the one hand, its electoral triumph would be due to its refusal to the adjustments and its proposal for a moratorium in the public debt, and these measures lead to a rupture with the EU and the euro zone, but on the other hand, the leader of Syriza, Alexia Tsipras stated before the ambassadors of the G-20 that he is against this sort of solution and that, on the contrary, the program of his coalition is the only guarantee of permanence in the euro zone.

Two irreconcilable things

But both options (to stay in the EU and the euro zone and have, at the same time, the payment of public debt suspended for a period and not applying the adjustments plan) seem impossible to reconcile in practice. Angela Merkel has made it clear that Greece can only stay in the euro if it accepts the conditions imposed upon it, and the director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, reaffirmed that "the Greek people should make more efforts" and that this was "the price to pay for being a membership of the eurozone ". Few words to the wise are sufficient.

And this will be the great contradiction of a Syriza government. If they are consistent with the Greek people’s necessities, they would have to left the euro zone and be free from the imperialist domination of the country. That is to say, it would have to assume a totally different program to the one they now raise. We claim that a possible government of left in Greece assumes this program of split, aiming an alternative for the entire European crisis.

But if they win and keep their program of staying in the EU and the euro, they will be able to do so only under the terms of Merkel and Lagarde, and will become one more party of the adjustment plans.

In either case, it will be up to the workers and the Greek people to defend, with their struggle and mobilization, that the adjustment plans stop to be applied, don’t mind what party is heading the government.

An emergency worker program

The Greek election result is very important to European imperialism and for the U.S. There is a lot of concern for the consequences, throughout the continent and the whole economy and the global financial system, if Greece leaves the euro. Obama said that if the Greeks have already sacrificed so much, things will be even worse if they choose to leave the euro. In line with this position, a special note of the British magazine The Economist warned that a return to drachma (Greek old currency) would bring hyperinflation and an even worse fall in GDP (around 40 or 50%), etc.

This is somewhat of a campaign of "terrorism" to strengthen the ND vote and weaken Syriza and the left, while seeking to convince the Greek masses to accept more adjustments because otherwise the alternative would be even worse. This campaign is based on a true story: most Greek families, including those of many workers, are heavily indebted in Euros, especially mortgage loans and high inflation in drachmas would highly increase the burden of these debts in their budget and the risk of losing their homes.

To avoid this potential catastrophic scenario of hyperinflation and brutal fall of GDP, it is necessary that the non-payment of public debt, the cancellation of the adjustment measures and the exit of the euro zone are the first steps of a workers’ emergency economic plan. In addition it must be included in this plan measures such as expropriation and nationalization of all banks and foreign trade, which would make it possible to transform family debts into drachmas and adjust the amounts of fees at levels suitable for the possibility of each family. Also, the expropriation of large industries and businesses under workers' control.

An emergency plan whose main objective is to ensure the satisfaction of the most urgent needs of the entire Greek people: food, health, transport, energy, etc. But one must be realistic: a small country like Greece could be drowned and choked by imperialism (as an example of what happens to the "disobedient" ones) if the Greek people fight and this program of rupture with the euro are not extended to other European countries. Currently, most notably Spain, whose reality has been becoming increasingly similar to the Greek. Thus, in addition to breaking isolation it will be starting to build a "Europe of the peoples" as an alternative to the EU ("Europe of the Capital") and its permanent adjustments plans.    


[1]  - The Greek political system is parliamentary: governments must be supported by a party or a coalition that holds a majority in the Congress of 300 deputies. Let us remember that the Greek system provides a "premium" of 50 representatives to whom gets the first place in the elections. That means that the party or coalition that accumulates 41% could have the parliamentary majority even if that does not express the number of votes obtained.


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