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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2015

Greek elections update

Syriza victory would raise workers' hopes

On 19 January, 6 days before the Greek general election, the Socialist spoke to Andros Payiatsos from Xekinima (CWI in Greece).

Andros Payiatsos, photo Xekinima

Andros Payiatsos, photo Xekinima   (Click to enlarge)

Last time we spoke you told us of the campaign of fear by the establishment to try and prevent people voting for Syriza. How has this developed?

The circus of the ruling class and its political representatives are now demoralised. They started a big fear campaign but it became absolutely clear that it would have no significant effect and that Syriza will be the next government. The question now is, will it be a minority or a majority government?

What now seems the likely outcome of the election?

It's generally accepted here and internationally that Syriza will win. In the last week there has been a small increase for Syriza in the opinion polls - about 1%. Really this is a stabilisation of Syriza's lead. Including abstentions Syriza's support stands at just below 30%, discounting these it rises to about 33% - close to, but not sufficient for, a majority government.

The Syriza leadership see Independent Greeks - a 'patriotic', populist split from New Democracy (the main right wing, capitalist party) as the most viable possibility for a coalition partner. This party took a position against the Memorandum and the Troika from the beginning.

Most of the main left parties are not willing to cooperate with Syriza. The Communist Party rejects even the possibility of voting in parliament for Syriza to form a government - they have a disastrous, sectarian position.

If Independent Greece don't have enough MPs either, then Syriza would be pushed to collaborate with parties which are considered to be 'Troikan' parties (those that have accepted and implemented the austerity policies inflicted on Greece by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank).

What is the response of the ruling class to the increasing likelihood of a Syriza victory?

They now concentrate on trying to make sure a Syriza government will be as stable and effective as possible for them.

There are big sections in Greece and internationally which say it's time to negotiate and be flexible etc. This is an attempt to incorporate Syriza into the establishment and to put a brake on the dangers which Syriza may represent for their interests in terms of releasing powerful mass movements and taking measures which go against austerity.

But it's important to know that it's not uniform. For example, the German ruling class and the countries around it still have a hard line against any serious negotiation.

How is Syriza responding to this pressure?

The leadership is responding in precisely the way that the ruling class would like. Syriza's political programme has become absolutely blurred. Even some of the reforms that have been considered very basic are now under question.

For example, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras was recently asked in an interview about the major struggle of the people of Halkidiki against the gold mines. He didn't take a clear position but he said "the law will be enforced" and "the contracts will be scrutinised" - what does that mean?

In relation to the minimum wage, which was one of the major points in the programme of Syriza, it's now not clear when it's going to be done - there's now talk of a gradual implementation. In regard to the privatisations and the sackings of thousands from the public sector that have taken place, they say: "We shall study the lawfulness of what took place."

So as a general rule in society there is no enthusiasm for Syriza. But there is also a feeling that there is no choice, we have to vote for Syriza and give it a majority government if possible. There is a feeling that even if they do one tenth of what they promise, things will still be better than today.

Xekinima (CWI Greece) are participating in the elections and other struggles,  photo Ged Travers

Xekinima (CWI Greece) are participating in the elections and other struggles, photo Ged Travers   (Click to enlarge)

How has Xekinima participated in the elections and why?

We support Syriza and have launched a very big campaign. We produced 150,000 four-page leaflets and a special edition of our paper which sold out, so we have reproduced it.

The main reason we support Syriza, despite its limitations, is that there is an expectation from the working class that some of their demands will be satisfied. So despite the lack of clarity on the part of the leadership, we believe that a Syriza victory will have a liberating effect on society. It will represent a significant shift in the balance of class forces in Greek society and can unleash a new period of working class struggle

Maybe Syriza will not change the law about the labour market, which has been completely deregulated, but workers will come out to demand their right not to be sacked, to an eight hour day, to overtime payments etc. We expect this throughout the working class movement in Greece.

Whatever compromises the leadership is willing to do, the workers will feel there's a much better environment to fight to defend their rights and this is the fundamental reason that Syriza should be given conditional/critical support.

What does Xekinima think that a Syriza government should do the day after it's elected?

Of course, it should immediately paralyse the payment of the debt and rip up the memorandum with the Troika. It should change the labour laws and laws for the universities (to allow for asylum, freedom of speech, assemblies etc). Raise the minimum wage to what it was before the onset of the Troika - back to €750 a month.

Close down the body which is responsible for the privatisations of the public works and the natural beauties and resources of the country. And freeze and reverse all privatisations that have taken place in recent years. Put an end to controversial projects which are under construction now - like Halkidiki.

This would cause a reaction of major capital, nationally and internationally. So in our opinion they should then begin nationalising the banks and the commanding heights of the economy to plan the economy on the basis of need, not profit. This should be done on the basis of democratic workers' control and management.

And it must be linked to the struggles of the workers across Europe. We are sure that if Syriza went ahead with such a programme it would have a major effect internationally, particularly for the working class of southern Europe.

This can only be achieved through the mass intervention of the working class, and the masses, which could, under certain conditions, push Syriza far further to the left than the leadership envisage. This is what Xekinima will be struggling for in the period after Syriza is elected to government.

Andros' previous interview, 'Greece: towards a Syriza government?', appeared in the Socialist issue 838 and can be found at www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/838/19877

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In The Socialist 21 January 2015:


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