After coming to power with a platform promising to end austerity policies, the Syriza government in Greece has tamely settled down to executing them. Led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, it has agreed to continue austerity policies that have already proven to be highly oppressive. On the issue of minimum wages, it climbed down from the promise to raise the level immediately. What is now touted is collective bargaining with a view to raising minimum wages over time. The promised public sector wage system too is put on hold. Most importantly, it has accepted that any changes would be agreed with ‘partners’, the hated IMF, EU, ECB combine, till recently branded as the ‘troika’.
In a letter sent to Greece’s creditors the Syriza has clarified that ongoing or completed privatisations will not be reversed, and that its ‘humanitarian’ initiatives meant to ease austeritycaused hardships won’t upset fiscal targets imposed on Greece. The Syriza may still be able to implement some of its relief agenda, like free electricity and food for the poor, provided it collects sufficient funds through tax mop ups. That’s about all it can manage from government, other than some new terminology. However, as admitted by one of its leading members, “Renaming the troika as ‘institutions’, the bailout as an ‘agreement’ and creditors as ‘partners’ … does not change the previous situation.” Greece is one of the worst affected countries in Europe, hit hard by the global crisis. In addition, its people have been forced to undergo inhuman austerity measures imposed by the European Union’s Central Bank and the IMF as a condition for financial support.
Termed as a ‘bailout’, this is more like squeezing the people dry to pay up the country’s creditors, while its ruling class continues to live in style. Moreover, these conditions give great advantage to major European powers like Germany and force Greece into a subservient position. Over the past few years, the masses had repeatedly taken to the streets all over the country in protests against devastations caused by the crisis and austerity measures.
This set the context for the growth of Syriza, initially a coalition of leftwing reformist organisations, working within the parliamentary frame. From 3.3 per cent in 2004, its vote share has risen to 36.3 in the 2015 election; an indication of growing mass anger against the powers and their desperate quest for an alternative. Syriza rode to power on this wave. And in its victory it confirmed that the resolution sought by the Greek masses to their misery can never come from within the existing system. The people cannot negotiate their liberation with their exploiters. They must overthrow them. That is the minimum condition.
It is reported that Athens was rocked by violent protests as soon as the Tsipras government’s surrender to the ‘troika’ became known. The coming days will show more of this. Hopefully, the bitter lessons of Syriza’s betrayal may lead to a rethinking, a consistent exposure and rejection, of positions that abandoned Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and its vanguard party concept in a misguided venture of ‘getting immersed in the struggling masses’. Either a polarisation in this direction, or widespread demoralisation opening the way for a strengthening of extreme rightwing chauvinism — the choice is stark.