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Athens shows the way

The Greek people have delivered an unmistakable verdict: out go the ruling incumbents. Greeks have opted instead for radical parties that best express their class interests and social values.

The predictable has happened. Having persevered through unprecedented austerity measures and national humiliation over the last two years, and despite the anti-democratic and anti-constitutional electoral law bundled together by the two ruling parties of PASOK and New Democracy to serve their re-election prospects, the Greek people have delivered an unmistakable verdict: they voted them out, opting instead for radical parties that best express their class interests and social values.

SYRIZA attracted most votes in the entire Athens and Piraeus districts and triumphed in the most populous working class electoral district of the country, the so-called ‘Athens B’, whereas PASOK only ended up in fifth place. In Salonica, the second largest city of the country, SYRIZA just missed first place but won in other traditionally pro-PASOK areas, such as Patras in Peloponese and Chania in Crete. All this has both symbolic and real relevance: it elevates the Radical Democratic Left into the position of a socialist alternative, a leadership of the productive class society desperately needs in order to draft and implement a practical, anti-austerity social programme.

This extremely positive result for SYRIZA (16,77% and 52 seats) materialized despite a protracted campaign of blackmail and fear conducted by PASOK and ND, together with EU, ECB and IMF officials. The campaign also helped the extreme racist right (Golden Dawn) to enter parliament. Now PASOK and ND together cannot muster the 151 seats majority required in the 300-member Greek chambers of parliament. Will the political representatives of the bankers manage despite this to form a coalition government? Even if they do, it will not last, and new elections will have to take place shortly. This is just the surface of things: the underlying trends of the Greek elections are of a different kind.

The main feature of the elections of 6 May 2012, especially if viewed in the context of the victory of Hollande in France, is the extraordinarily positive response of the people to anti-austerity agendas and programmes, a response that is now reverberating across Europe and the world. Especially in Greece, this electoral result appears to radicalise the entire political and social geography of the country, initiating the end of post-1974 corrupt party rule. As things stand in Europe, Greece now has the largest radical democratic Left across the continent (SYRIZA, the Greek Communist Party and the Democratic Left count for over 30% of the electorate). This trend will probably lead to a further disintegration of PASOK and ND and an increasing polarization of civil society into the forces of the Left and the Right, as has always been the case under conditions of severe social, economic and political crisis. This is what some old-fashioned Communists, following Lenin, still call ‘conditions of dual power’ –and who could argue that this is completely wrong, given current circumstances in Greece and in Europe? In this respect, the Greek vote has the potential to challenge and change not only the political and social map of Greece, but also that of Europe.

Facing these results, representatives of the Troika were quick to state on the day after the elections that ‘no money will be coming to Greece if austerity measures are discontinued’. The Greek answer is a clear ‘When the people speak up, the troika shuts up’.

 

About the author

Vassilis K. Fouskas is Professor of International Politics & Economics at the Royal Docks School of Business & Law, University of East London and Director of STAMP (Centre for the study of States, Markets & People). Vassilis K. Fouskas and Bülent Gökay are marking over 20 years of collaborative research with the publication of Power Shift. The Disintegration of Euro-Atlanticism and New Authoritarianism, forthcoming by Palgrave-Macmillan in November 2018. 


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