The Greek Election and Syriza: An exchange of letters
By Chris Jones at Jun 20, 2012
Samos Diary 9
Friday June 15th
I have so many mixed feelings about Syriza doing well enough to form a government after the elections on Sunday. The vote will not be enough. It is what comes after. It will not be enough to vote for Syriza but also to become active on the streets. Without constant critical pressure the parliamentarians are likely to be swept away by their powerful, national and international enemies. Many, such as Anna, a school teacher in Karlovassi and a veteran of Greek left politics knew this very well and she was clear that Syriza including as it does both social democrats and socialist revolutionaries would need constant pushing from below to hold to its declared radical route. Let’s hope that many more also understand this necessity.
It has been difficult to gauge the mood about Sunday. There is a considerable sense of resignation rather than excitement. Most of those we know will vote Syriza, but again with seemingly little enthusiasm although they have many positive things to say about the party’s programme and promises. As usual there seem to be a host of factors at play, such as students at schools and universities being in the midst of exams, but I also pick up a tiredness with the formal political process. There are few expectations that things are going to get better as a result of the election. Whoever wins, people here feel that there will be more misery, more pressure and less hope. The weight of austerity is heavy.
But alongside this weariness there is a strong desire for change. It is now self evident that the Greek society is collapsing around them. Summer is here but the beaches on Samos are empty, as are the cafes and eating places. I have never seen it so quiet. We heard that Nell Lines that runs the ferry from Samos to Thessaloniki via Mytlini and Chios was immediately suspending services because it could not pay for fuel. It was owed over 8 million euros by the state. (But I saw a Nell ferry 2 days ago so perhaps there has been a reprieve.)
Syriza is now where most of our friends will cast their vote on Sunday. It is good that so many people also know at least some of the party’s programme which clearly speaks to their experience. A victory for Syriza would lift many from their gloom and could be a tremendous boost to confidence and resistance. But a victory for New Democracy will cast a deep shadow. It is almost beyond belief that ND should be edging the opinion polls at the moment after all they have done and not done.
Our friends laugh off the crude external pressure of so called international leaders and institutions who endlessly warn them disaster awaits if they should vote Syriza. Yet I have never seen before such a broad overt campaign by the elites to terrorise the Greek people whether on the TV, in the papers or at their meetings. It has been far reaching and incessant and it would be foolish to think that it has not had the desired effect at least with some voters. That the elites are so frightened of a Syriza victory makes me want this outcome if only to make their nightmare a reality! The desire to give the Troika a bloody nose runs deep.
The Golden Dawn, though not evident on the streets of Samos, continues to arouse any number of emotions. Stephania a maths student in the University here was disgusted by its rise in the May election. There is much dismay that such overt and violent fascism is now part of the Greek reality especially in the cities. There are others, such as Panos, another maths student who believes that some of their voters will change their vote now they realize what Golden Dawn represents. Again, I am not so sure that Panos will be proved right on Sunday. We will see.
It’s very hot here at the moment which does not help in terms of high energy levels. But there seems a cloud of exhaustion over the place. People are tired, as well being angry, confused and hurting. This does not help.
It would be good to hear from you.
Monday June 18th
Thanks for your message. It’s very important to write particularly during these days so keep on with the blog. There are many things in my mind about the elections. First:
Disappointment and Anger
Yes we are disappointed and angry. If Syriza had won it wouldn’t have just been exclusively a win on a purely political and ideological level. It would signal the raising of hope in Greece. We were perfectly aware that had Syriza won things wouldn't be easy but at least we could work with the hope that things can change. Moreover for the majority of people who voted for Syriza victory would have meant that we could finally take a deep breath. The brutality of austerity is an everyday experience. The threats to the people by the banks, the abolition of the workers' rights, reductions of salaries and pensions are just a few of things that have tremendous consequences for our lives. We do not talk theoretically anymore about poverty. People experience poverty day by day (the middle class as well).
We were so tired of left parties which although they were against the brutality of the state they preferred to keep themselves in the corner. I mean people are dying. Unlike some on the left we don’t have the privilege to stand back and watch. For the very first time a left party in Greece, Syriza, argued that they can govern and I think that the preference of people for Syriza was because they seemed ready to do so. If KKE had argued the same way people would vote for them too but...
Once again New Democracy and PASOK will be in the government. What a surprise! Germany and the EU worked intensively for this. We experience again the involvement of the foreign powers in the internal affairs of the country...What a surprise!
Naturally the global capitalist system wouldn't permit the Left to govern. However I feel angry with Greeks and not only for their votes for those that (did) and will destroy people. I also feel angry about the half million of people who voted fascist. OK we knew that the fascists were always here hidden in other parties. However today things are different. Fascists are in the parliament and they create more and more branches across Greece. They grow in confidence.
In the streets of Athens immigrants cannot walk without fear. Attacks against immigrants (and yesterday against Syriza in Peiraus) by the fascists will be used by the system. We do know the fascists that will do the stare’s "dirty" jobs whenever police cannot...
Why New Democracy Won?
During the previous weeks the national and international elites have threatened Greeks 24 hours per day through the media. The threats referred to the disaster that we will experience if Syriza should be the winner of the elections. I do believe more than ever that fear is an effective tool.
The Right also has a long tradition in Greece. Additionally after the elections of the 6th May New Democracy made coalitions with other parties for example with Dora Bakogianni who returned to New Democracy and abolished her party. All over Greece the Right was bringing together their efforts. On the other hand the Left didn't bring together their power and efforts. Syriza was practically alone (no other left party supported Syriza). On the contrary the attacks from some groups on the Left competed with those derived from the Right. I will never forget one poster where KKE wrote- “Do not trust Syriza “ . It’s pathetic.... I do believe (and always did) that the unity of the Left could be used not only for the elections but more importantly for building alliances and solidarity on a societal level.
Syriza was shocked by its high percentage of support on 6th May. I mean it was a coalition of left parties and organizations (and not a party). While their percentages were about 4.0% in the previous elections on 6th May it rose to 17.0%! To my mind they did more than their best, however the attacks by the media and the political system with regard to the multiple "voices" of Syriza’s representatives in one or two cases, confused some of the people. Moreover this variety of opinions within the Syriza coalition was used effectively by both Right and other Left parties and gave them a "weapon" to attack Syriza. In any case it is not so easy for a coalition of parties to provide rapidly convincing arguments through the media...Moreover it is not easy at all to apply radical policy in this system. To my mind Syriza needed more than ever the radical left (including KKE) to be together. Once again they refused...
The percentages of Syriza are impressive! Two or three months before no one could ever imagine such an increase! Of course not all of the votes derive from people that see themselves as clearly on the left. They vote Syriza because they are in need... They vote Syriza because they believed that something could change. They believed that the left are not corrupted and they might care for the good of the many.
I feel angry and disappointed but Chris I still have hope. I mean that now its the time more than ever that we have to work in the neighborhoods with solidarity, to create networks and be prepared...I do not know if in the next elections people will vote Syriza or not. These elections were an opportunity for all the Left to be united yet KKE and others denied it. However I do know that we now have two options. We either move out of Greece to other countries in order to survive or we stay and fight. I think that some of us will choose the second (at least for as long as we can). We won't give up now. We lost a battle but not the war.