In the Greek election centre right New Democracy and former coalition partner Pasok (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) were decisively rejected along with their EU-dictated bail out. Their votes collapsed from 33.5 per cent to about 19 per cent and from 43 per cent to about 13 per cent, respectively. Syriza (Greek for “from the roots”, itself a coalition of groups opposed to the deal) came a close second with about 17 per cent. Their leader Alexis Tsipras, while not yet explicitly advocating a Greek exit from the euro, rejected the deal, describing it as “barbaric” and in particular called for the repeal of laws cutting wages and pensions and abolishing collective bargaining rights. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) with about 8.5 per cent of the vote had unequivocally called for leaving the European Union and the Euro and for the writing off of all Greece’s debt.
The extreme right wing Golden Dawn, mainly campaigning on an anti immigration ticket, got about 7 per cent. Even before the current crisis many Greek workers, especially in the construction sector, had lost their jobs to low-paid immigrant labour.
The elections followed months of strikes and demonstrations against an unprecedented assault on living conditions, workers’ rights, pensions and public services in line with principles set out in the Lisbon Treaty. Following the election results German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the austerity measures were “not negotiable”.
Anti-bail out demonstration in Heraklion, Crete.
German capitalists have profited from a similar savage attack on German workers in 2005 under the banner “Agenda 2010”. In 2005 the SPD/Greens coalition imposed the largest cut in the German social security system since the war with drastic reductions in pensions and unemployment benefits. There were mass demonstrations and strikes against “political” issues being banned by the German constitution. Chancellor Merkel seems to think Greek workers need a dose of the same medicine, though the Greek economy is completely different and hampered by its association with Germany through the euro.
According to government statistics the number of Germans living below the poverty line has increased to 18 per cent and one out of every six children is officially classified as “poor”, one third of children being poor in big cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. But the country’s capitalists have built the industrial powerhouse of Europe, sweeping aside nascent and smaller industries in such countries as Greece and Spain.
New elections in Greece are being planned for June after none of the three leading parties was able to put together a coalition. Latest opinion polls show increasing support for Syriza with a good chance it will be able to form the next government. Yet clarity about the euro still seems to elude the Greeks, with about 75 per cent of them wanting to keep the currency that has ruined their economy. ■