[Marxism] DEA, Left Platform, Syriza leader: What does Greece look like at the grassroots?

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 15:15:06 MDT 2015

[I have excerpted the beginning and the conclusion of this long
article.  These excerpts do not convey all its reporting on The State
of the Movement Today, The Union Movement, Public Health Care,
Education, The Anti-Fascist Movement and Youth.]

What does Greece look like at the grassroots?
by Sotiris Martalis
Socialist Worker, U.S., April 23

Greece's government, led by the radical left party SYRIZA, is
resorting to more and more desperate measures to avoid a looming
default--while the blackmailers of the European ruling elite continue
to turn up the pressure.

One month after SYRIZA won parliamentary elections and formed a new
government, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis
Varoufakis agreed to a four-month renewal of the Greek financial
bailout engineered by the Troika of the European Union (EU), European
Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The February
agreement was a wholesale retreat from SYRIZA's commitment since its
founding congress to reverse the drastic austerity measures imposed on
Greece in return for the bailout.

But even this wasn't enough for Europe's rulers. They have rejected
the Tsipras-Varoufakis proposals for continuing the so-called
Memorandums that imposed austerity and kept Greek government
scrambling on the edge of bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro
currency, with unknown dire consequences for Greece and the world.
Even the initial measures promised by SYRIZA as first steps to help
the people hit hardest by the crisis have been blocked in important

In an article written for the left-wing magazine Viento Sur, Sotiris
Martalis stepped back from the day-to-day debates to underline the
historic significance of the January 25 election that put SYRIZA in
power, evaluate the state of the labor and social movements in Greece,
and look at the terrain of the struggle ahead. Martalis is a member of
the Internationalist Workers Left (DEA), one of the co-founding
organizations of SYRIZA a decade ago. He is a supporter of the Left
Platform within SYRIZA and a member of the party's Central Committee.

The Importance of SYRIZA's Victory

IT IS important to recognize the electoral success of SYRIZA on
January 25 as a victory of the left. This took place in a country
where, in the last 100 years, there have been two dictatorships and a
civil war, from which the left suffered terrible defeats. This is the
first major political victory for the radical left in that time, and
it has naturally increased self-confidence and created hopes and
expectations among the working class and society at large.

It should be noted that the victory was the result of the determined
struggles of the movement against austerity policies. Between 2010 and
2012, there were more than 30 general strikes, three of them 48 hours
long; occupations of public buildings, including the Finance and
Interior Ministries; the movement of Greek indignados to occupy public
squares; the "won't pay" movement that refused to pay tolls and fees
for government services; and other fights.

These struggles succeeded in overthrowing two governments, led by
George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos, but they failed to overturn the
ruling class's austerity agenda, and so the movement shifted its hopes
to achieving this by means of elections.

These struggles of workers and popular movements declined after 2012,
but they didn't disappear. Sectoral strikes and locally based social
struggles were a part of daily life for the next years. Workers for
the closed-down state television and radio station ERT, cleaners for
the Ministry of Finance, laid-off school guards and dockworkers were
some of the groups engaged in long struggles, involving occupations of
buildings and public spaces, violent clashes with police, arrests and
legal battles.

The cleaners for the Ministry of Finance, laid off when their jobs
were privatized, were a symbol of the continuing battles against
austerity. Their fight to win their jobs back has lasted more than a

If we want to answer why SYRIZA was the alternative chosen by workers
and popular masses, and not the Communist Party (KKE), which started
out with twice as much electoral support as SYRIZA, there are three
reasons: SYRIZA participated in and supported the mass movements and
struggles, unlike the KKE, which operated in a completely sectarian
manner; SYRIZA continued throughout to call for unity in action and
unity on the left, in particular with the forces of the Communist
Party and the anti-capitalist coalition ANTARSYA; and SYRIZA put
forward as a political alternative the formation of a government of
the left.

During the most recent period, dating back to September 2014, the
commitments made by Alexis Tsipras at the Thessaloniki International
Trade Fair gave a huge boost in SYRIZA's support. This program of
initial measures to be implemented immediately by a new government
included restoring the minimum wage to 751 euros a month;
re-establishing the exemption on income taxes on the first 12.000
euros earned; restoring collective bargaining agreements; abolition of
the unjust ENFIA real estate tax; and other means of addressing the
immediate humanitarian crisis.
. . .

The shift to the left expressed in the January parliamentary elections
was the result of the struggles of the working class and social
movements. The electoral victory of SYRIZA was the political
expression of these struggles.

It is understandable that many people would have a wait-and-see
attitude toward the new government, along with high hopes and
expectations for measures that will stop the austerity and reverse its
effects. But the ongoing issues facing working people and the lack of
action under a new government faced with the blackmail of the lenders
is leading to growing discontent that could soon reach the point of
bursting out--as the simmering discontent about the health system

The re-emergence of labor movement struggles will not only organize
the force that can pose an alternative for workers and the popular
masses, but it will point a direction for the SYRIZA-led government to
survive in the face of the blackmail and extortion.

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