Looking past the first steps in Greece

February 9, 2015

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras formally introduced the new government's plans to confront the austerity agenda in a speech to parliament on Sunday. Two weeks earlier, the Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, won a historic victory in parliamentary elections, trouncing the two main parties of Greek capitalism, the center-right New Democracy led by former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and the center-left PASOK led by Evengelos Venizelos. New Democracy and PASOK ran the governments that negotiated the Memorandums--agreements to impose devastating austerity measures in return for a bailout of the Greek financial system.

SYRIZA's promise that a government of the left would renounce the Memorandums and reverse austerity has had strong support since the last elections in 2012. Now, SYRIZA is in charge--though Tsipras' agreement to make the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) part of the government stirred criticism on the left within SYRIZA and internationally.

Tsipras promised that the new government will implement the Thessaloniki program--measures that the SYRIZA leader announced at a speech last year at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair as a left government's first steps in dealing with Greece's humanitarian crisis. Tsipras also ruled out an extension of the austerity program in return for EU help with debt repayments that are coming due soon. This puts the government on a collision course with European officials over the debt issue. The left in SYRIZA wants Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to stick to the position laid out in declarations from SYRIZA conferences that much of the debt must be written off.

The Greek socialist group Internationalist Workers Left (DEA) was a founding organization of SYRIZA in 2004 and today plays a prominent role in the Red Network and the Left Platform within SYRIZA. This editorial appeared in the February 4 issue of DEA's weekly newspaper.

THE ELECTORAL victory of SYRIZA is turning point. The social resistance, the working class and the popular masses of Greece have defeated the Samaras-Venizelos government to demand an end to Memorandum barbarism and the reversal of ongoing austerity policies.

The people expect, as a first step, the implementation of SYRIZA's commitments made last year at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, including the restoration of the minimum wage to the pre-Memorandum level, re-establishing collective labor agreements, helping low-income seniors by returning to the additional pension payments abolished under the Memorandum, restoring the tax exemption on income up to 12,000 euros, and repealing the unfair United Estate Property Tax (ENFIA) and taxes on heating oil.

These are measures, as Alexis Tsipras has correctly pointed out, that can be immediately implemented, regardless of negotiation with European Union officials over Greece's debt. They are non-negotiable.

The establishment of a government dominated by SYRIZA, but in cooperation with the Independent Greeks, has created a shadow of doubt over people's hopes in the new government. That debate will continue with the crucial choice in nominating a candidate to be president of the republic.

Syriza supporters at an election rally
Syriza supporters at an election rally

The political victory of the left in Greece has already led to international mobilizations. A good example is the massive demonstrations in the squares of Spain on January 31. They show the potential for a wave of resistance that can reach France, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and more.

This sympathy with SYRIZA around Europe, together with the sharpening of the contradictions and antagonisms within the international system, is the background for the cracks that have appeared among Greece's lenders. Exploiting these cracks and internal conflicts among the EU governments is legitimate, but it must not be a reason to accept a compromise on the issue of Greece's debt. On the contrary, only by insisting on the complete reversal of austerity in Greece can we strengthen international solidarity with the struggle here, which can in turn help stop the creditors from strangulating the government and the resistance in Greece.

The reversal of austerity begins with implementing the Thessaloniki commitments, but it does not end with them. The left government must now deal with the crises--like mass unemployment and impoverishment, to name two--left behind by Memorandum barbarism.

Curing these social ills must involve a reversal of privatization; the complete renationalization of the utilities company DEKO; the nationalization of the banks under popular control; taxing the rich; and the reversal of the deregulation of financial firms and capital that were implemented during the years of neoliberalism. All of these are measures put forward in the declarations of SYRIZA conferences in setting out a transitional path toward socialist liberation.

To achieve all of this, one critical ingredient is the mobilization of SYRIZA as a mass political party. But an even more important ingredient is the mass movements, the popular masses of people and the impact of the struggle from below.

With the mass movements coming to the forefront in the period that began with the electoral victory of SYRIZA, we put forward our demands and reclaim everything that has been lost.

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