Tomorrow the Greeks go back to the polls in one of the most historically important elections of the century so far. Having put our garden tools and pointing up trowels down for the weekend we’d like to follow on from our article on the Euro Crisis and share some thoughts on this pivotal election and what it means to us.
This election began in October 2009 when Greek voters turned to the left following the global crash. Pasok, the centre-left ‘socialists’ who won that election, immediately dashed all leftist illusions with an austerity package in February 2010 and followed with a hard punch the very next month in a second austerity package slashing wages and spiking VAT taxes (that hits poor people harder). Two months later the IMF held a bailout to the head of Greek politicians and forced their signatures on yet another crippling austerity package; in the ensuing popular outrage and working-class strikes three people died. Even as the Austerity measures hit hard and the Greek economy spiralled down the government introduced yet another austerity package with more wage slashes and VAT hikes. Public sector workers had seen a 40% wage slash and VAT taxes were drowning the economy but the government hiked VAT again saying ‘it is an absurd measure, however, the government took the pistol to the temple’.
The EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF, (the ‘Troika’), bowing to market pressure and market ideology, held a gun to the Greek government’s head and said cut your fingers off and drink the poison. In Austerity Greece unemployment skyrocketed. With high unemployment comes less government income (in all fields of taxation) which destabilises Greece’s budget even further, which means markets won’t buy Greek bonds which means Greece didn’t have any money to continue operating. Greece, sabotaged by austerity, scrounged out the begging bowl again asking the Troika for more. A fifth austerity package was the price of a new loan. The Greek prime-minister, Papandreou, with one eye on the increasing hatred for austerity in the country and another eye on upcoming elections and votes of confidence, said sure, let’s put the plan to a nation wide referendum to give it a mandate. To be clear, the Greek people had not once voted for austerity, though violent protests and repeated general strikes demonstrated a clear, growing, dark mood against austerity. The mention of a referendum was the first whiff of democracy that rose since Greece was taken down this extraordinary economic pummelling. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that very night, said in response that Greece would not see any money unless any referendum resulted in a very swift yes. Merkel threatened ‘does Greece want to remain part of the eurozone or not — that is the question the Greek people must now answer’. The markets recovered as the referendum was cancelled the very next day. The international institutions defending the capitalist market and its demands, austerity, squashed that small whiff of democracy into the dirt.
But the referendum arose again in a different form with the national election in May 2012. Greek voters were finally given a chance to respond to what Europe, the ECB, the IMF and the markets had been forcing on them since 2009, and in a remarkable election two thirds of voters backed parties against austerity. The socialist ‘centre left’ vote plummeted and a, until then, fringe leftwing radical coalition of eco-socialists, feminists and eurocommunists, Syriza, thrust up into second place. As it became clear that a government could not be formed and another election was necessary Syriza quickly shot up in the polls to first place. Since 2009 Greece, through a torturous route, has been in the process of learning that to really reject the impositions and logic of capitalist policy, you have to ditch centre-left parties and turn further left.
Now we’re on the eve of an yet more interesting election. The future of Syriza, Greece, Europe and the world hinges on it. Former PASOK advisers are said to be jumping ship to help ‘moderate’ Syriza as far-left campaigners and politicians from across Europe (and the globe) have made their way to Greece to help campaign for Syriza. Paul Mason has written a brief history of Syriza. The future of Syriza has yet to be written. No doubt immense pressure will come from the right to ‘help’ Syriza to be ‘responsible’. But there is enough content in Syriza’s economic programme that if working class organisations and left wing activists can demand Syriza stick to that it could keep Syriza moving forward as a force to help people organise in Greece and Europe against capitalist policy.
What does a Galician eco-socialist farm have to do with Greek politics? Besides the fact the economic fate of Spain is closely connected to Greece’s, what we’re watching now is an important shift in global history. The triumph and dominance of free market capitalism proclaimed in the 1990’s has degenerated into global economic capitalist crisis. The sudden vaulting of a leftwing radical party into a position of dominance in national politics is a very important precedent as many of the countries we live in will continue to spiral into crisis like Greece. The seeming invincibility of centrist two party politics has been been torn wide open as we’ve all seen how rapidly the political scene can change radically. It seems more clear than ever that it’s important for us to help build leftwing eco-socialist and anti-capitalist parties in our countries along healthy, democratic lines.
The power structures of capitalist markets transcend national lines and any bottom-up movement must also transcend national lines. The Greek people, as they seek to fight back against the austerity undemocratically and tyrannically imposed on them, will need the help, support and solidarity of the working people of europe and beyond.
The question for our farm is: how does an eco-socialist neo-rural movement, organisation (or even two person farm) help build and provide solidarity for the urban working class and broader political movement both locally and internationally? Small scale neo-rural projects like ours are fundamentally necessary for building transitions to more local post-capitalist economies. But we have to begin identifying where the material interests of small scale rural land holders (not necessarily owners) differs from the needs of the landless urban working class movement and how to construct an anti-capitalist movement that integrates the two. We want to expand the dialogue on these questions and look forward to exploring solutions.
We absolutely support Syriza in this election. No matter the outcome of the election, whether Syriza comes first or second, the election will mark a turning point. Syriza will come under immense pressure to shift into the ‘centre’ and moderate their position on capitalism. It will be up to the working class of Europe to hold Syriza accountable to their programme and the workers voting for it.