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newsletter 04a2012 Special Edition of the transform! europe newsletter on the recent elections in Greece and FranceSYRIZA comes second in the Greek elections, with 16.8% and 52 MPsA Triumph of the Radical Left in Greece – A Message toEuropeBy Haris Golemis, Athens* The recent electoral results in Greece One could legitimately claim that the reason why the country went to the pollswas a serious blow to the governments election results were due exclusively to should be traced to the resistance of theof Merkel and Sarkozy, as well as to all the fact that the crisis and the policies Greek people mainly in the streets, butthose arrogant neoliberal parties, politi- for a way out of it destroyed the tradi- also in the workplaces (through thecians, analysts, EU, ECB and IMF offi- tional ties connecting the lower and movement of the squares, the strikes andcials who thought that the European middle strata of the Greek society with mass demonstrations, civil disobediencepeople can suffer passively and for an PASOK and ND, creating a rupture to like the “no pay movement”, the jeeringindefinite period the extreme austerity the powerful bi-party political system of mainstream politicians wherever theypolicies of neoliberal orthodoxy, which which dominated the country since the appeared in public etc).supposedly aim to an exit from the capi- fall of the dictatorship in 1974. In fact, At the same time, the success of thetalist crisis in Europe. within the two years that passed since radical Left in the elections was not a the bail-out package agreed between the Although resistances in the streets and linear function of the bad economic Greek government(s) and the “Troika”,hopeful results in the ballot boxes have situation. History has taught us that a large number of PASOK and NDhappened in almost all EU countries unemployment, poverty and generally deputies resigned, became independent,since the crisis began, it is interesting the worsening of economic conditions created other political parties or enteredthat the clearest message against neolib- do not necessarily create a favourable other parties or coalitions.eralism in the EU came from a small political environment for the Left. Thecountry of the European South. The However, neither the rupture of the situation in the countries in Central andpeople of the most notorious of the political system happened automatically Eastern Europe after the demise of thePIIGS, instead of accepting either to nor the increase in the power of the so called “really existing Socialism” is awillingly go or forcibly be drawn to the radical Left was a “natural” consequence painful example.slaughter house, decided to revolt by of the crisis. Early elections were pro- The unexpectedly high electoral per-voting massively against the centre-left claimed not out of the free will either of centage of the radical Left can, to a largePanhellenic Socialist Movement (PA- the collapsing Greek political system or extent, be attributed to good politicalSOK) and the centre-right New Democ- of Merkozy, Lagarde, Trichet/ Draggi or party strategies: a) the establishment andracy (ND, the two parties which, to- Barroso – in fact, the wish of this “Holy maintenance of the Coalition of thegether with the extreme right Popular Alliance” and of the “markets” was that Radical Left (SYRIZA), a difficult alli-Orthodox Rally (LAOS) had signed the the three-party government under the ance of “Synaspismos” with smallerMemorandum of shame with the unelected technocrat Papademos re- parties and groups mostly of the extreme“Troika” and participated recently in the mained in office for two more years, just Left, b) the alliance of SYRIZA withPapademos’ government. like Monti in Italy. The most important groups or individuals coming from PA-
SOK who had a large appeal to the gen- Although SYRIZA was certainly the and the Party of the Democratic Lefteral public (in fact the name of the elec- big winner of the elections, one should (DIMAR) failing to define the limits oftoral list was SYRIZA-Unitary Social not miss another very important fact. its juxtaposition. This is why the victoryFront), c) to the appeal made to all Ignoring the funny claim of KKE that of SYRIZA was so important. But thereforces of the Left, mainly to the Com- they are communists and not leftists (!), was also one additional reason that mademunist Party of Greece (KKE) and the the combined result of the admittedly all of us proud for being members orDemocratic Left (DIMAR) – the party fragmented Left in Greece is the biggest supporters of Synaspismos and the otherwhich was created two years ago after in recent political history, overshooting groups of this political alliance. Despitethe split of Synaspismos – to forge an 30% and thus breaking the record of the intensive pressures from almost all partsalliance which could govern the country old party of United Democratic Left of the political spectrum and the media,– an extraordinary ambition for the (EDA), which in 1958 (9 years after the SYRIZA did not retreat from its valuescommunist, post-communist, renovating end of the civil war) managed to reach of defending immigrants – opposingand radical Left in Greece. In a country 25% of the vote creating a shiver to the clearly the, not so unpopular, establish-where personalities play a crucial role in then “free world”. ment of concentration camps for theirpolitics, one of the reasons for the suc- containment, the first of which inciden- Although it is too early for a detailedcess of SYRIZA should also be attrib- tally opened just a few days before the analysis of the radical Left vote, weuted to the personality of its leader elections – and of arguing for the protec- think that it is useful to refer to some ofAlexis Tsipras, a charismatic and popu- tion of human rights in a period where its important qualitative characteristics:lar young politician. society was open to mass propaganda of SYRIZA came first among young vot- this type. Coming to the actual election results, ers, as well as among the voters ageingthe Coalition of the Radical Left up to 55 years. It prevailed in the big The electoral results in Greece are im-(SYRIZA) achieved a percentage as urban centers, where the economic and portant not only for this country, but forhigh as 16.8%, overtaking PASOK social crisis is particularly acute. It even Europe as whole. Now, it is more evi-which lost 30% of its power and col- managed to represent big parts of the dent than ever how interdependent thelapsed from 43.92% and 160 seats in popular strata in the poor neighbour- European countries are, since develop-2009, to 13.18% and 41 seats in 2012. hoods of Athens and other big cities, ments even in a small country of theNew Democracy fell from 33.47% and where traditionally its penetration had Southern periphery can create a “butter-91 deputies to 18.85%, but due to an been low. fly effect”, so strong that it can shakeincredibly unjust electoral law now has European decision-making in its core. Allow me to close this first note on the108 deputies (getting a scandalous bo- This is the reason why Synaspismos Greek election results with two finalnus of 50 seats – out of a total of 300 – never accepted the dilemma that Greece remarks:which go to the first party, independ- should either accept the present politicalently of its percentage), while the Com- First, one of the reasons why the vic- and economic framework of the EU (asmunist Party of Greece (KKE) margin- tory of SYRIZA is such important de- supported by the PASOK and ND) orally increased its power from 7.5% to velopment on a European scale is due to voluntarily get out of the Union – a8.5%, loosing for the first time its domi- the fact that, although one could expect demand put forward by KKE, but alsonant position within the broader Left. that the two – former – big parties would some groups of SYRIZA. On the con-LAOS, the party of the extreme Right lose power because of popular dissatis- trary, we believe that struggles and dis-which participated in the recent Pa- faction, the political force which would obedience at the national level should bepademos coalition government, didn’t benefit from the delegitimization of the combined by coordination at the Euro-manage to enter the parliament and the political system and the mounting of pean level for the refoundation ofsame happened with the Ecologists- social unrest was not obvious. National- Europe, which is also the aim of theGreens, a member of the European ist, xenophobic and even fascist groups Party of the European Left. EU willGreens. The rest of the seats are occu- were racing to this end, propelling ar- either change or stop existing.pied by the party of the Independent guments for “a strong, pure and inde- In our hard times, victories of theGreeks (a nationalist, xenophobic party pendent country”. Fears and blackmails movements and the radical Left in onecreated by a split of New Democracy, for the dangers of an exit from the Euro- European country can positively influ-which denounces the “Memorandum” zone – that would amount to a complete ence the political and social struggles inwith the “Troika” – 10.6%), the Democ- collapse of the country’s economy – another. The victory of SYRIZA inratic Left (the party created in 2010 from were consistently spread by the political Greece belongs also to the indignantthe split of Synaspismos – 6.11%) and elites, inside and outside the country, as movements around Europe, the victoriesthe fascist group of Golden Dawn, well as by the mainstream media. At the of the Spanish strikers, the success ofwhich managed to gather 7% of the same time, the Left remained frag- comrades of the French Communistvotes and 21 seats in the Greek Parlia- mented, with the Communist Party re- Party and the Front de Gauche in thement. fusing to engage in any kind of dialogue transform! newsletter 04a2012 page 2 www.transform-network.net
recent French elections. We were in- Despite our victory, we are well aware Front in France, the Golden Dawn inspired by them and had the conscious that no victory can be taken for granted. Greece and their allies in other Europeanfeeling that we were returning this inspi- In our struggle we have to face, on a countries.ration. In this framework, we will never daily basis, two big enemies: a) the po- The struggle goes on!forget the actual presence of representa- litical forces of the establishment whotives of the parties of the European Left want to subjugate the peoples of Europein our rallies and the moral support we to their austerity policies and b) the * This article is the result of discussion andgot from comrades all over Europe. forces of the reactionary radicalism, the exchange of views and ideas between the extreme and fascist Right, the National author and Elena Papadopoulou.Election in FranceBy Elisabeth Gauthier, Paris First and foremost, Hollande’s elec- Sarkozy himself became more “rightist“ In its campaign, the Front de Gauchetion is a clear rebuff for the “President of and the FN stronger. (FG) had presented a new and further-the Rich” and the power of the oligarchy reaching political ambition. On the one Many votes for Hollande were casthe embodies which has become stronger hand, by calling for voting Sarkozy out without enthusiasm, thus on the onein the crisis. of office, while at the same time linking hand, being regarded as votes against this up to the perspective of a political In spite of the relief felt about Sarkozy Sarkozy and at the same time as votes to change instead of a mere change ofhaving been voted out, the mood can by prevent Le Pen. As opinion polls majorities. With this position the Frontno means be compared to 1981 (Mitter- showed, J.-L. Mélenchon had to pay the de Gauche opened a broad debate reach-and’s election). It is too uncertain what price for this, since many potential vot- ing far beyond its own ranks, on whatHollande’s politics will consist of, if he ers decided in the very last moment to left politics could consist of in times ofwill act against the causes of the crisis cast a “useful” vote. the Great Crisis.and challenge the neoliberal direction Backed by her election result, Le PenEurope is moving to. It is also quite It is interesting to observe that Le has announced that “the struggle foruncertain which majority the parliamen- Pen’s ideological discourse only works France is just beginning”, that in thetary elections on 10 to 17 June will pro- as long as she does not have to answer to future she wants to be the “party of theduce. In case of a left majority the precise arguments. When that is the case patriots on both the Right and the Leftweight of the representatives of the (and only Mélenchon takes such an side”. In her endeavour to become theFront de Gauche will decide if the po- offensive position) it becomes visible number one force on the Right, shelitical orientation will shift to the Left. that she is indeed positioned very far on recommended to the voters in the second the Right. In the first ballot Hollande received election campaign not to vote for28.7 % of the votes, with all left candi- Sarkozy but to invalidate their ballot. French society today is deeply di-dates together gaining 43.6 % (com- vided: During Sarkozy’s time in office, Although in opinion polls the majoritypared to 36% in 2007). The entire “Left unemployment has risen from 7.8% to of the French claim unemployment, theof the Left” gained 13% in 2012 (8% in 10.5%, unemployment among the youth loss of purchasing power and the de-2007), with the Front de Gauche to 23% and among migrants to 15.3%. creasing quality of the health care and(11.11%) representing a pole of a new Today, the number of poor people in education systems as their major con-quality. France amounts to 8 million. That is cerns, with only a minority of 15 % what the alliance around J.-L. Mélen- The Front National (FN) has gained saying that they are worried about the chon tries to respond to with a new con-17.9% (compared to 10.44 % in 2007 problems of integration, these play a ception of a society of solidarity and ofand 17% for FN and 2.5% for a splinter disproportionately important role in the mixtures (“société métissée”), the de-group in 2002). The (right) centre of political debate, a fact which only serves mand of participation embedded in theBayrou was weakened, the polarisation the Front National. The FN pretends to demand for a Sixth Republic, for a so-of Left / Right has increased, in particu- be critical of the system without indeed cial re-foundation of the state, in whichlar under the impact of the offensive tackling the core questions of the eco- the people itself are seizing power – thatcampaign of Front the Gauche (FG). nomic and social development. As a is what it says in an election poster. kind of “comfort devil” it also serves to Altogether the weight has shifted from keep the two-party-system alive.Right to Left, while at the same time transform! newsletter 04a2012 page 3 www.transform-network.net
With well above 11% of the votes, the With the Front de Gauche (11.11%, identity. Our discourse lends a commonLeft succeeded for the first time in po- almost 4 million votes) a new political perspective to each of us” (Mélenchonlitically uniting the once split camp of force is presenting itself in which the in Humanité, 20 April 2012).Communists, anti-globalists, left Social- constructive and radical Left are united. The consequences at a European levelists and left Radicals. In the parliamen- This is an alliance which does not un- of Hollande’s victory, to which the Lefttary elections taking place early this derstand itself as a coalition of parties, has contributed decisively, cannot yet besummer, the SP and Hollande will sup- but rather as a partnership between left overlooked. The extent to which hisposedly not be able to win a majority of parties and social movements in which suggestion for European growth will betheir own, thus depending on the Left also citizens without any party- able to challenge the power of the finan-Front. Therefore one of the major politi- affiliation can join in. The political tradi- cial markets and of austerity politics,cal challenges of the FG will consist in tion and culture reach from the left wing will also depend on the future move-providing an answer to the question of of the Social Democracy to left radical ments and power relations in France andwhich ways will lead to a Left which movements. “We represent six parties Europe. In any case the goal of the Frontsets as its task to disarm the financial and even more trends. No member of the Gauche is to put into question themarkets and to initiate a change of poli- the alliance had to abandon anything, an Fiscal Pact and to mobilise against it intics. approach which is constitutive of our France and all over Europe.Challenges of a Historic MomentBy Elisabeth Gauthier, Haris Golemis and Walter Baier 6 May 2012 is marked by two election landscape of Europe, a small but impor- nancial market-capitalism and Neoliber-results with historical consequences: tant member-state of the EU in the alism seem to have been approved underWith the election of socialist candidate, South of the continent which is suffering varied circumstances in this past electionFrancois Hollande, to become France’s most deeply from the brutal austerity- process. Attempts by the mainstreamnew president to which the Front de politics. Hitherto incumbent parties such media to denounce SYRIZA and theGauche has quantitatively and qualita- as the conservative New Democracy and Front de Gauche alike as “extremist”,tively contributed through its campaign the Social-Democratic PASOK which “populist” or “nationalist” were not onlyin the first round of the presidential have both turned themselves over to shown as weak, they are also indicativeelection, a period of long years of con- become executors of the banks and bar- of the ruthlessness come upon politicalservative rule will find an end in France. baric savings politics decided by the EU and ideological confrontations on theBut this is not all there is: For all of following the dictates of Merkel and future of European integration.Europe the fatal axis Merkel-Sarkozy Sarkozy can rally no more than a bit In this context the expanding growthhas also become history. If this will be more than a third of the vote. At the of right-wing electorates throughouttrue as well for the politics forced upon same time, with 17% of the vote for the Europe must be especially registered.Europe only the future will show. This is left party-alliance SYRIZA, an anti- Experiences of Greek and French elec-particularly essential for questions to be capitalist and simultaneously pro- tion campaigns demonstrate that onlyimmediately asked in terms of European European party became second strongest the Left has openly taken a clear stancepolitics towards Greece, as well as the force in parliament. of opposition and that the right-wingfiscal pact whose goal is centralist con- Similarly to the French Front de growth can only be impeded under thetrol of national budgets and a highly Gauche, whose candidate of could rally condition that in these confrontations theauthoritarian course of austerity for its the “Left of the Left” and attained 11% system-immanent character of the Rightimplementation by the European Com- of the vote in the first round of the can be made visible.mission, by means of which the final presidential elections, SYRIZA is andestruction of the social welfare state, of The successes of the Left in France alliance of diverse forces of the Left.labour laws, of public services, of par- and in Greece which combat the domi- Two of its components, Synaspismos-liamentary sovereignty, as well as a nant logic of financial market-capitalism the strongest party of the alliance- anddramatic lowering of living standards of and Neoliberalism on a national as well AKOA are members of the Europeanthe people of Europe will become real- as a European level seems to affirm a Left Party.ity. change in the political dynamic in The strategies of these alliances which Europe which had already been alluded The parliamentary elections in Greece to in several elections throughout the are fiercely opposed to the rules of fi-amount to an earthquake in the political transform! newsletter 04a2012 page 4 www.transform-network.net
year. Europe seems to enter into a politi- mands for cancellation of the Memo- this past weekend at once demonstratecal period in which the dominant and randa and the “loan agreement” are an the necessities and the possibilities ofunilateral strengthening of xenophobic, absolute necessity. acting on a political plane.nationalist, and authoritarian right-wing Yet, something else has changed in The Joint Social Conference and theforces, evident since the beginning of Europe. With large union and social Alternative Summit which took place atthe crisis in 2007 and 2008, is being struggles in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ro- the end of March 2012 have shown thatreplaced by a new polarization between mania, Belgium and Greece during the a multiplicity of forces are now ready toRight and Left for which the strengthen- last 12 months many new activists have open up for a process hitherto unhearding of a radical Left is a condition been mobilized and raised their voices. of – a process in which unions, socialprecedent. Simultaneously, new appeals by critical movements, intellectuals, and political Indeed, the election results of 6 May intellectuals, representatives of unions, forces are able to cooperate with thehave shifted the balance of power in part of social movements, and of politics explicit goal to change the balance ofto the Left. But at the same time the have been made. The necessary re- powers in Europe. The elections of thissituation is complex and not without sponds of the Left to the existential past weekend have pointed out the ne-dangers. In her first comments, Angela crisis in Europe and the accelerated cessity and the options to enact a newMerkel and senior officials of the Euro- destruction of the social welfare model political agenda. In contrasts to the oli-pean Central Bank have signalled with- and of democracy as such lie in an en- garchy ruling over singular countriesout ambiguity that they are unimpressed forced struggle for a new social and and in Europe we are dealing with theby losses of representatives of anti- democratic foundation of Europe. question of a radical change of powerdemocratic and anti-social political structures. With it there arises the chal- There are new possibilities for such aforces in these past elections, and that lenge to create new alliances which social and political dynamic. Today wethey intend to uphold the current course would enable social and political players can detect significant new debates takingin spite of the fact that it threatens to alike to mobilize in order to act up on a place all over Europe. In many Euro-destroy European integration and de- united and equitable way in immediate pean countries people are taking to themocracy. Obviously the elites believe confrontations, as well as to work on an streets, they go on strike and embark onthat they are able to intimidate the popu- equal footing on the crystallization of a new and varied activist forms in order tolation with menaces to exclude Greece new hegemony in Europe. defend their social and political rights.from the Euro-zone. By contrast, the In front of this development the need to In this feat lie the challenges of thissolidarity of the European Left as well build a political alternative, a European historical moment.as of all forces opting for a new founda- alliance, or a European movement is antion of Europe, and especially their de- urgent necessity. Thus, the elections ofAn Important Political CallFounding Europe Anew! Recently a group of renowned person- academia launched an appeal which European public opinion. Therefore wealities of German trade unions and of aims at impacting on the German and call for supporting and signing it!Founding Europe Anew!Stop the March into Ruin! Overcome the Crisis with Solidarity!www.europa-neu-begruenden.de/gb/index.html Subscribe to the transform! newsletter The transform! newsletter is published monthly and is a free e-mail service of our network, delivered directly to your inbox. To sign up just send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or refer to our website. In case you want to unsubscribe also send an e-mail to: email@example.com transform! newsletter 04a2012 page 5 www.transform-network.net