Ioanna Gaitani is a supporter of the Greek socialist group Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA) and a Syriza member of the Greek parliament.
The people tried to overthrow the memoranda between 2010-13, but they couldn’t overcome the state’s reaction, the brutality of the police and legal system, the betrayals or lack of planning from their own trade union leaders. It was natural that they started moving away from their political and trade union leaders (from the neo-liberal parties) and place their hopes on Syriza. Their interest was elevated towards the question of power, even in a “distorted” parliamentary way, as a next means of tackling the crisis.
Increasingly, since 2012, it has been up to Syriza to direct the people’s attention towards a reconstruction of the movement on a higher basis, with a friendly government on its side. A Syriza victory and the implementation of some of its urgent measures, could encourage the workers to fight for all they have been deprived of.
There are struggles still going on, such as the laid-off public servants (teachers, janitors, school guardians [caretakers]). Nevertheless demonstrations and strikes have weakened and people in struggle are also are waiting for the elections, at least temporarily. Yet all these struggles (and the recent victorious one, against the lay-offs in the public sector, against the “redeployment” process) have created a mood of public exasperation. That hindered the next memorandum planned by the former government and forced them to resign in the hope that a “left-break” would be short-lived.
If Syriza wins the urgent measures for the first 100 days will, as set out in the Thessaloniki declaration, consist of some measures that we, as DEA, find useful or critical to give confidence to the labour movement. These are:
• Restoration of the minimum wage (up to 751 euros, a 30% raise),
• Restorarion of all the labour laws and the collective labour contracts
• A €12, 000 tax-threshold
• Free health care for all the uninsured
• Abolition of socially unjust taxing
• Free electricity for 300,000 households
• A programme for 300,000 new jobs in the public and private sector.
Not every issue is fully addressed. The question of unemployment and even more urgently that of the evaporated pension funds need more immediate and determined attention. We hope that the movement will push for the most radical solutions, the ones Syriza’s majority faction try to overlook or postpone. But the overall programme of priorities is very promising. Many people hope for half of it to be realised as fast as is being promised.
There have been clashes inside Syriza over the question of candidacies for the municipal and more recently the parliamentary elections. This was over programmatic points and lately over the necessity of the party itself and the party’s democratic processes. These battles have produced a wider realisation of the hard dilemmas and dangers in our way. This has potential for the more radical wing of Syriza. The political scenery is going to change drastically with Syriza in office. The pressure of the movement will be an added factor. Everyone, and not only the left theoreticians and politicians and activists, will find him/herself at the crossroad of rupture of the consensus within the system. The capitalists are not going to offer even a minimum wage of €751 or the recognition of collective labour agreements and contracts. They will not tolerate a rejuvenated public health or public education system. And they will certainly not accept paying more taxes for the above. There are retired policemen, now members of Syriza, who are warning us of provocations and turmoil to come from the so-called “deep-state”.
That’s why a radical working-class programme will need pressure and protection and criticism and support from the movement.
There is a majority for Syriza among the people. There are messages coming from abroad from those who intend to vote. In the “plebian” strata, there is a minority of Syriza enthusiasts and a hostile minority as well, who are intimidated by the mass media’s fear-for-the-tomorrow-campaign. Most people support Syriza passively, some with not much hope. “I’ll be satisfied if Tsipras does one-third of what he promises”, they often say. They are disenchanted with the old political system, yet Syriza has not managed to convince them. It’s partially Syriza’s fault as well, with their lack of initiative etc. Partially this is from people who have never been unionised or organised.
On the other hand, I believe that it is going to be the activists and the strikers of the past years that will make the difference in the next stage. We should also bear in mind that in periods of social turmoil — and I hope we witness one after 25 January — the most passive oppressed strata become electrified and burst into the foreground as protagonists.
Syriza and Tsipras declare publicly that the memoranda and the internal austerity policies will not be “negotiated” but cancelled immediately. It is the debt and its payment that will be negotiated. I personally believe that for the questions of debt, banking system and the relations with the EU, Syriza will be obliged to implement even more radical policies in order to achieve even the minimum goals of the first 100 days — policies such as not paying the debt, nationalising the banks and quickly expropriating wealth (e.g. with urgent taxes) — for example to fund the pension system, even before they try to implement public investment.
We will face the deep-state apparatus and the mass media as well as capitalists thugs and economic sabotage. In this process the choices are either backing-off and being overthrown or taking further and further steps. Which of the two will happen, for how long and with what other developments ? It is no time for prophecies, but for political and organising struggle.
DEA try to patiently explain what is at stake and what is the right solution for every problem that will get in the way of a left government. That means we work inside Syriza. We try get the fighters of the movements we meet in the streets involved in Syriza. Some of these leaders and people from unions are in alignment with our cause and organisation.
We try to do many things with relatively small resources and membership. We think the most important thing we do is within Syriza itself, as a partial but unique example of a political front between revolutionary and reformist left, There are high stakes here, in our era of crisis. This work has succeeded in making the left the epicenter of political life and that has managed to involve and keep large masses of people in touch with politics.
Assemblies of Syriza members still exist, but they have faded. Usually they are partially regrouped just before the elections. There is a lack of political discussion and therefore of will for action. This has to do with the electoral tradition of Synaspismos (SYN), as well as the lack of a centrally coordinated specific political plan and aim for most of the time. The first time we remember a wide gathering of regional Syriza caucuses for an aim other then elections, was just recently — for the general strike of 2 November. Syriza’s people, that is the vast majority of the active leftists in Greece, have been used to just following and defend the movements. Those who might have had the numbers to take initiatives, weren’t used to taking it. The more radical people, with their minority numbers, often don’t know how. We’re still learning.
I think there is a high chance the KKE will be forced to back Syriza, if it is the first party in parliament, but with no absolute majority. We will call on the KKE to critically support the 100-day programme, and it will find it hard to refuse. If they do, they will undoubtably pay a high price.
European workers and the left can support us by gathering around existing or new political parties of the left, unite as much of the the bigger left groupings as possible and fight against your own austerity programs. In the near future this will involve rejecting all the anti-Greek propaganda and not allowing any country to be isolated, economically or politically. I also want to underline resistance against racism, Islamophobia and imperialism, as this seems to us that these are intensifying.
It would be rather hard for the Troika to expel Syriza-led Greece from the Euro. But nevertheless they can put financial or political pressure on Syriza with other means, as they did with Cyprus. All kinds of such pressure should be answered with equal determination. We want extra burdens and difficulties to be loaded on the capitalists, not the people. “Enough sacrifices”, as Tsipras recently said, or “no sacrifice for the Euro”, as our Congress had exclaimed.
Nothing is to be taken for granted, for Syriza, or for our class adversaries. It is going to be a period of strife, class struggle, abrupt and frequent political manouvering from all sides. Whether it’s going to be a short period or a prolonged one, a short failed left, before a rise of the far-right or the beginning of a workers’ counter-offensive, nobody really knows. We can only fight for the best.
Nicos Anastasiadis from Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA) also spoke to Solidarity.
The first reaction to a Syriza victory will be great joy from the working people and poor who have suffered from Memorandum policies. We will see great wave of expectation of change.
We already have some sign of how the right wing and the capitalists will react. There are two types of reaction against the possibility of a Syriza win. Part of the capitalist class wants a hard line; but another part wants to negotiate. This is because the crisis is very deep, and they are not sure if Greece was forced out of the Euro, what result that would have. They will have a huge fear of what our message will mean to the people of Europe.
The capitalists will wait to see what Syriza does; they will not immediately react against the government. But if Syriza’s policy deepens, and holds to what it has promised, we can see many different reactions. People in Syriza are discussing the possibility that the organs of the state will not co-operate with us, but obviously no-one knows what is going to happen. We in DEA think that a large scale victory will block any possibility of action against the government for a period, but that period will not last long. We have seen how bosses react to class struggles — lock-outs and so on. But no-one knows for sure exactly what will happen.
The class struggle is lower now than it was in 2010-2. I think the reason is the labour movement and the unions, who were controlled by Pasok and ND, did not want to overthrow the Pasok-ND government. The mass movement overthrew the first two governments [after 2010], but not the Memorandum policies as the political forces in the unions did not want to, and Syriza was not strong enough. That contributed to demoralisation.
Another reason is that the left, Syriza, KKE and Antarsya, did not co-operate. This was not Syriza’s fault. The KKE and Antarsya were resistant to the discussions about a left Government. And we, Syriza, had told the mass movement that the government would collapse from its own difficulties, but this also did not happen immediately. But this was a lesser problem. The people got tired, they believed that they could not overturn the Memorandum, and they waited for the elections. Now we have elections, and people will vote for Syriza, but this is not enough.
We can see a current among the people which is pro-Syriza, but this does not mean that there are strikes or things like that.
It is not that there were no fights since 2012. There were many small but hard-fought struggles. For example the sacked teachers, the school guardians, the women who cleaned the Ministry of Finance, the Coca Cola factory workers who are still in dispute. All these fights meant that many working-class people began to understand that the only way to win is to fight to overturn the government by electoral means. People are realistic, they want a way to change things and see that in the elections. The mood is calm right now. There are no demonstrations or fights. But there is clearly a left wing current and that has to do with all the fights that have happened over the last three years.
There has been no change in Syriza policy change. We have never said that we would re-negotiate the Memorandum. Some Syriza candidates said that, maybe, but our conference decision is that we will dismantle the Memorandum.
As for nationalising the banks, there is a discussion. We will have to react in a certain way, depending upon how the capitalists react. If people try to move money out of the country, we would have to respond. But we want a radical policy.
There is a majority and minority in Syriza. The majority has come from a reformist party (a part of it at least), Synaspismos. But Syriza is moving, even the majority is not fixed. Political tendencies who are against some left ideas in the party may change their views. There is not a majority that can do everything and a minority which can do nothing. This is part of the dynamics behind Syriza’s success.
Kokkino and DEA are now one organisation, and we believe that this unification has strengthened revolutionary left ideas within the party and this will help us to face the difficulties which changes in policy from the majority of Syriza will produce.
There were many candidates that the majority leaders wanted to be Syriza candidate, but the party did not like it, so they were not include. For example Harklin, a comedian in Thessaloniki, was wanted on the list by the leadership but they could not do that because the party reacted. Not only left platform members reacted, majority members also reacted. So nothing is fixed. The reaction from the party rank-and-file was the reason for the collapse of recent co-operation talks between Syriza and Dimar. I don’t know if Dimar will even be in the next parliament.
DEA have five candidates, including in Thessaloniki. We want to have a presence in the parliament. We also want to help Syriza to have a large-scale victory. We try to contribute to every action of Syriza in the electoral campaign. Apart from that, we try to win people to revolutionary ideas. All the people who work with us in the elections are people who we will discuss with about continuing to work with us; we will be part of the struggles and fights for the next period.
The most important question under discussion in Syriza is whether we will have a majority in the parliament. If we do, we will not be obliged to go to a second round of elections or look at something like a “Government of National Salvation”, which some in Syriza leadership want. Some in Syriza think that this could be an answer to the problem we will face if we do not have 151 MPs. This is an open debate.
KKE have said that they will not support a minority government of Syriza. But I do not believe that this will be easy for them. If we go to a second round in the elections, KKE will suffer and lose a lot of votes to us. They will not want to face this problem. Rank-and-file members of KKE have had a change in mood. They think they want Syriza to form a government. They won’t be easy allies, but most of them will give Syriza a chance. The leaders of KKE have no intention of co-operating with Syriza at all, however.
Golden Dawn, including their youth support, have fallen back. This does not mean that they will not get a lot of votes. It will be nothing like when they participated before, but they do have a base of support and we do not ignore the danger. They have fallen back because most of the leadership is in jail, and they have a lot of difficulty in doing what they do – killing innocent immigrants, destroying left-wing gatherings and so on. Also there is an anti-fascist movement in Greece which has stopped them from doing these things. That movement is the reason why the ND government sent them to jail.
The European dimension is something that bothers us. The victory of Syriza will have an impact on the left throughout Europe. Hundreds of comrades will be coming to Greece from all over Europe to see what happens. Comrades must send the message throughout Europe that the left alternative to neo-liberalism is something that can happen. There are two pictures: France, with Le Pen and the army on the streets; and the other picture is that of Greece and the left hope which comes with the victory of Syriza.
All possibilities are open, including revolution, and we must work together for a left alternative, for socialism. This is what we must go on fighting for.