Communist Party of Australia

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Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 64April 2017

SYRIZA: A false left

In its first days in office, the Syriza government made important symbolic gestures. Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in as prime minister without taking a religious oath. He later went to pay his respects at a memorial for anti-Nazi fighters massacred by the occupying German army during the Second World War. These were highly symbolic events for Greeks.

The new Syriza-led government also appeared to stand by its pre-election pledges and announced a series of popular new policies. These included restoring the minimum wage to pre-crisis levels; a small raise in low pensions; abolition of hospital visit fees and prescription charges; ending the forced sale of homes of people who cannot keep up with mortgage repayments; scrapping planned privatisations; re-employing sacked teachers; abolishing the civil service “evaluation” system, which was created to provide continuous layoffs; the re-employment of more than 3,500 sacked civil servants and public-sector workers; re-establishing ERT as the state broadcaster and re-employing its workforce; and providing citizenship for children of immigrants born and raised in Greece.

The promise of these policies came as a huge and welcome relief to Greek workers after years of austerity.

SYRIZA has formed a coalition government with the Independent Greeks party, a party that emerged from a New Democracy (ND) split and which therefore is a party faithful to the capitalist system and which is penetrated with the logic of capital and of the “forces of the market”. SYRIZA’s cooperation with such a party is of course a dangerous trap!

SYRIZA moved in this direction after having contacted the KKE (Communist Party of Greek) to discuss the possibility of forming a left coalition government. The KKE refused any kind of collaboration with SYRIZA, even refusing to give a vote of confidence to a SYRIZA government. This stand, a refusal by the KKE of any kind of collaboration and of a vote of confidence in a SYRIZA-led government, was repeated publicly many times in the course of the election campaign by the KKE leadership. Off the record information from inside SYRIZA says that Tsipras telephoned the general secretary of the KKE, Koutsoumbas, on the night of the election results but the latter refused even to meet Tsipras.

Why did the KKE refuse?

The KKE justifies this refusal on the basis of “ideological and political differences”.

But what prevented the KKE from saying “yes” to working with Syriza “under certain conditions”? What prevented the KKE from putting a number of minimum conditions as necessary for possible cooperation or a vote of confidence, i.e. a series of measures in the interests of the working class and the mass of Greek people and against the power of the big capital?

The KKE could have given a vote of confidence to the SYRIZA government, on the basis of, and as long as it carried out, pro-working class policies. It could give given a vote of confidence but at the same time claimed to maintain its full ideological, political and organisational independence. The SYRIZA leadership would thus have had no “justification” for turning to the populist, right-wing Independent Greeks. The KKE would thus have been able to reach out to SYRIZA’s left wing and the millions of workers that voted for SYRIZA, to get rid of the barbarism of the Troikans.

The general secretary of the Central Committee of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, spoke before the multi-faceted program, which included a musical-theatrical production with the participation of 200 artists and technicians, and he stressed amongst other things:

Ninety-six years! We learn from our heroic history, we remain unwaveringly committed to our goal of abolishing the exploitation of man by man. We creatively utilise the conclusions we have drawn from the titanic struggles of our people, with the KKE in the frontline!

In reference to political developments, he noted:

The day after the elections, a government, either based on ND or based on SYRIZA, will take the baton passed by the previous one and even if it follows a slightly different route, you can be sure that it has the same starting point and the same goal, in line with the strategy of the EU, the profitability of the monopolies, the capitalist development path.

For this reason, this government will inevitably be an anti-people one, because it will implement the EU commitments. It will be a government that will negotiate the debt, because it accepts that it is the debt of the people and the country. It will be a government that will defend the interests of the big business groups.

And we are not only ones who say this. They themselves admit it. For example, ND says, that: “We must implement reforms on our own without being asked to do it and we will go beyond our commitments” … and when SYRIZA says that “We will negotiate inside the framework of the European Union and European institutions.”

D Koutsoumpas provided a detailed exposé of the character of the common anti-people strategy of ND and SYRIZA, despite their various differences, and added: “ND with its previous experience in government and SYRIZA with its previous experience in undermining the movement are struggling to undertake the role of the chosen one of the EU and the monopolies.” He made special reference to the president of SYRIZA’s, A Tsipras’ promise, in a statement made on a British TV channel, that SYRIZA will do whatever is necessary “to save our common home, the EU”. D Koutsoumpas noted that this is the reason SYRIZA is promising only crumbs.

Koutsoumpas further commented regarding the Party’s refusal to participate or support a “left” government:

Everyone should consider the following: in previous years one-party and coalition governments came and went, extorting the popular vote sometimes through fear of the “worst” or through illusions about the “lesser” evil.

They are repeating the same fairy-tale now. That if we can agree on two to three issues, we should give SYRIZA our tolerance. But things are not that simple, because the two to three small issues are determined by the big, strategic issues.

In essence, they are asking the KKE to support such a government in its entirety.

Because, in reality, a government in its entirety has to deal with all the issues. The developments do not restrict themselves to two to three issues.

It will deal with all the problems of the economy, health, education, immigration, state repression, justice, foreign policy etc.

There are some who say that if SYRIZA can solve one issue that is good. However, a government does not only deal with one or two issues. It has to deal with a vast range of matters related to the EU, NATO, Greek-Turkish relations, matters related to the Aegean Sea, the Cyprus question, the military interventions and conflicts in the region and beyond, i.e. everything. In reality, has any government ever been judged just on one or two issues?

What we must all be clear about is that as long as a government manages the fortunes of the people and the country, trapped inside the shackles of the EU and the capitalist development path, which is obsolete and rotting, this trap of the lesser evil will continuously lead to new anti-people governments.

The people must be freed from all the anti-people governments and their political line, they themselves must take power. The situation today – both in Greece and internationally – does not allow for any time to be wasted.

With extraordinary speed, the Syriza-led government in Greece has repudiated the landslide “no” vote in the referendum on European Union (EU) austerity demands.

Only four days after Greek workers and youth voted overwhelmingly to reject the dictates of the EU, the government presented a proposal for €13 billion in austerity measures for the consideration of European finance ministers and government heads. This proposal included:

  • A gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 to 67, completed by 2022, along with “disincentives” to early retirement.
  • The elimination of a solidarity grant for poor pensioners and a 50 percent increase in health costs for pensioners.
  • A socially regressive increase in the VAT (sales tax) on most goods to 23 percent, applied also to Greece’s numerous, often remote and impoverished islands.
  • Cuts to public-sector salaries imposed by “unifying” the wage grid for government workers, together with further attacks on labour laws.
  • The completion of all currently planned privatisations, including regional airports and the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Hellinikon.
  • Cuts to fuel subsidies for farmers, along with stricter enforcement of tax laws to increase the tax burden on small businesses, property owners and the self-employed.

The shameless prostration of Syriza to the demands of the EU is the inevitable conclusion of its entire course since taking power in January 2015. From the beginning, it sought nothing more than marginal modifications in EU policy. It immediately pledged not to take any unilateral measures to repudiate Greece’s €300 billion debt, nor to impose controls to stem the flight of capital from Greek banks.

Syriza rejected any appeal to the mass opposition to EU austerity in the European working class. Instead, the government sought to ingratiate itself with the major banks and European imperialist powers, as well as the Obama administration. The European governments, led by Berlin, treated Tsipras with well-deserved contempt, knowing that they had absolutely nothing to fear from the Syriza leader.

Syriza’s move to impose an unprecedented EU austerity package is a serious defeat for the working class. Not only does it place the Greek masses at the mercy of the EU, but to the extent that the cowardly actions of Syriza are understood as “left” politics, the most reactionary political forces, such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, will and have been strengthened.

The working class is seeing as well what a pseudo-left party does when it comes to power. Confronted with the conflict between European capital’s demands for austerity and the social anger in the working class, Syriza fled into the arms of the banks.

No one can claim that the outcome in Greece is the result of a refusal of the working class to fight. The workers voted “no” on EU austerity and mobilised large sections of the youth and the middle class behind them. The central obstacle that emerged to the working class in Greece was the reactionary role of Syriza.

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