Monday, September 24, 2012

Greece: Collapse of the traditional parties

The news out of Greece the past few weeks is that the traditional political structure has completely collapsed.  This was already evident in the election in May when a coalition led by the right wing New Democracy Party that received barely 30% of the vote came to to power.  The previous ruling party, the PASOK, which obtained a mere 13% of the vote in that election, joined the coalition with their right wing rivals in order to ensure that the austerity measures being dictated by the European Central Bank were carried out without interruption.  However,  things have progressed since then to the point where there can no longer even be a pretense that these parties have any support.  An overwhelming majority of Greeks oppose further austerity measures and the parties identified with them have borne the brunt of their anger. New Democracy, the main party of the ruling coalition government, now commands support from less than 20% of the population.  They are now the second party in Greece, trailing slightly behind the left wing opposition party SYRIZA, which now commands the support of slightly over 20% of the population.  SYRIZA was until a few months ago, considered a far left fringe group, although its actual policies are far from being "extreme" or "far left".  Even more astounding is the rise to third party status in Greece of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.  They now command approximately 13% support according to the latest polls.  And PASOK,  which everyone had thought had seen its low point at 13% in the May elections, now commands a miserable 7-8% support among voters.  Also significant is the near obliteration of the once formidable Communist Party, which has been marginalized to between 3-4% approval.  Europe has seen nothing like this swift collapse of traditional parties and the rise of new political groups both on the left and on the right since the crisis of the Weimar Republic in Germany opened the door to the triumph of Nazism in the 1930's.

But while the threat of fascism in Greece is quite real, so are the possibilities for a working class socialist revolution,  one that could garner wide support internationally. Even the most cursory walk in Athens these days reveals the depth of political activity.  Graffiti, mostly of a left wing political nature, is ubiquitous.

 So is the presence of heavily armed police and para-military units at major intersections and areas where people might congregate.

Posters from various left wing groups are everywhere, especially in the area around Syntagma Square and the University.

There has been a period of relative quiet in the past few months compared to the daily mass demonstrations of a year ago, but that can likely change at any time.  Another general strike has been called for this week. Like previous general strikes, this is designed by the trade union bureaucracy to be a toothless one day protest. Most people who participated in such demonstrations in the past did not see any positive result emerge from merely protesting and thus are no longer demonstrating. However, that does not mean that they have adapted to the relentless rounds of austerity measures without end.  Rather, they are at this point biding their time and looking for a real alternative to the bankrupt politics of austerity.  The problem they face is that while the traditional parties and their leaders have been discredited, a new leadership has not emerged that can credibly point to the alternative. It is certainly not SYRIZA, whose leader Alex Tsipras was recently quoted as saying that his model of a leader was the late Salvador Allende.  One may recall that Allende led a  leftist government in Chile that was drowned in blood by the military in 1973.  And just prior to his murder in the Pinochet coup, Allende, like Tsipras, appealed to the military to safeguard democracy.  With significant sections of the Greek military and police said to be sympathetic with the neo-Nazi  Golden Dawn party, this is as suicidal a strategy in Greece in 2012 as it was in Chile in 1973.  If the Greek working class is able to overcome their illusions in leaders such as Tsipras, then a new dawn could indeed arise in Greece. It will not be the "Golden Dawn" of the fascists, but the "Red Dawn" of the socialist revolution. That is the only viable answer to the twin evils of the austerity imposed by the European bourgeoisie or the equally reactionary nationalist solution of a return to the drachma based on Greek capitalism.

Alex Steiner

No comments: