Socialist programme crucial for party’s future successes
A special national conference of XEKINIMA (CWI in Greece) members took place on 7–8 June, in Athens, and completed a discussion that started over the last few months on our approach to SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left). The conference democratically decided to participate in SYRIZA — a new left formation in Greece initially launched in January 2004. XEKINIMA called for a vote for SYRIZA in last September’s general elections and a significantly strengthening relations between the two organisation by participating in the Pan-Hellenic Assembly of SYRIZA (in March 2008), as well as in town and neighbourhood activities/meetings. The relationship between XEKINIMA and most of the component organisations that make up SYRIZA has developed in common struggle and action in the anti-globalisation, anti-war and anti-racism movements etc.
Why XEKINIMA joined SYRIZA
XEKINIMA believes that SYRIZA can play a catalysing role in political developments in Greece. A great change has taken place concerning the status quo of the Left and in society, in general. The two-party system is in crisis and it has created a vacuum from which SYRIZA can make big gains. The Left is no longer a “humble” protest movement, winning between 3% — 5% in polls, and often behind real developments. The Left is now starting to ‘threaten’ the main parties, winning more than 20% in poll support (the SYRIZA and KKE (Communist Party)). Neo-liberalism is not without a serious opposing force in Greece. On the contrary, the ideas of the Left and of anti-capitalism have become relevant again and there are many more references to socialism. Such historic developments for the Left do not arrive everyday and neither do they last for ever.
Every political force that speaks in the name of workers, the Left and socialism, is obliged, not only to recognize new opportunities, but also to take a clear stance. Widespread discussion on the possibilities for the Left in today’s situation has started. It does not take place just inside SYRIZA but also amongst a wide part of society. The polls show that the prospects for a rejuvenated Left concerns at least 1,000,000 people (out of the 11.2 million Greek population)!
The decision by XEKINIMA supporters on participating in SYRIZA is, in reality, a decision to participate in this open and dynamic political process. We do this with a view to strengthening both radical and anti-capitalist mass consciousness in Greece, and also to enhancing revolutionary Marxist ideas — the only ideas, as far as we are concerned, that constitute the way out of the capitalist barbarity.
Why is XEKINIMA joining SYRIZA now?
Why has Xekinima (CWI Greece) decided to join SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) now? Why not during an earlier phase in the life of SYRIZA, during elections in 2004 or 2007?
Xekinima believes that a number of conditions to allow SYRIZA to successfully develop were not present previously. Today, these conditions do exist, not in their entirety, but to a large degree.
We previously argued unless co-operation between SYNASPISMOS (a left party with Eurocommunist tradition and a small presence in parliament, receiving around 3%) and the ‘extra-parliamentary Left’ (i.e. the pre-2004 SYRIZA) constituted something really new and ‘fresh’, it would be pointless and without substance. It needed to be embraced by a broad layer of workers and to win public appeal and not to be merely a discussion circle ‘behind closed doors’. We argued SYRIZA should have a programme with clear socialist references, which ruled out going into government collaboration with cuts-making, pro-capitalist PASOK, the social democratic party, which, when in power, carried out anti-working class policies. We argued that SYRIZA needs to send out a clear message to wider society that it is something drastically different and not just a ‘get-together’ of SYNASPISMOS and some of their ‘friends’ to keep a few MPs in parliament.
During the last period, we saw SYRIZA moving noticeably towards these positions.
SYRIZA’s more clearer positions, along with its references to socialism, its involvement in mass movements, especially the education movement, its clear refusal to collaborate with pro-capitalist PASOK, its more assertive criticism of the trade union leadership, and the emergence of SYRIZA as the ‘main’ opposition to government policies, in combination with the deep crisis in PASOK (following PASOK’s defeat in the general elections in September 20007), have all contributed towards rapidly strengthening SYRIZA. This dynamic got a further boost due to the renewal of the leadership of Synaspismos — with the election of Alexis Tsipras a 33-year old in the presidency of the party. Another factor in the growing support for SYRIZA is that it is quite an open and democratic formation, based on the independent functioning and action of its constituent parts.
A big part in the positive development of SYRIZA was due to significant changes that have taken place within its largest component organization, Synaspismos. This organisation has made a turn to the left, over the last couple of years, due to several factors, including due to pressure from the ‘extra-parliamentary Left’ (both within and outside SYRIZA), the big students’ movement and the ‘separatist stance’ of the communist party (KKE).
Outside or inside SYRIZA?
It is clear that the wider perception of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) today is an important change from the past, and that many things people wanted to see from SYRIZA — not only Xekinima supporters but also big parts of society — are now a reality. Xekinima proposed many of the changes implemented by SYRIZA, although they are not a complete version of our ideas. The question that arises for Xekinima is whether an organization stays outside SYRIZA, and sets terms from afar, or whether it enters the fray, given the important processes in SYRIZA that means it is moving towards what we have called for and towards a more favourable position for the working class and youth. Given these factors, Xekinima supporters decided to engage with SYRIZA.
It is true that nothing is definitely established with SYRIZA and its prospects are not at all clear. The enhancement and stabilization of SYRIZA will be decided in the following months and years. Big leaps forward are possible but there is always a danger of big ‘leaps’ backwards.
Xekinima (CWI Greece) believes that for SYRIZA to become firmly established, to significantly develop and to remain true to its left principles and declarations, it must have a clear socialist programme, undertake active involvement on class issues. It must also maintain its position of opposing entry into a coalition government with cuts-making social democracy (PASOK), consistently maintain an open and democratic profile and deepen its internal democracy, provide a real role for to SYRIZA rank and file, and make sure there is proper control of all leadership levels.
SYRIZA and PASOK
One of the issues that could greatly decide SYRIZA’s prospects is its position towards PASOK, the traditional social democratic party. Due to SYRIZA’s poll gains, and increased working class and youth support, it was inevitable PASOK leaders would attempt to approach SYRIZA, and that PASOK leaders would move towards the ‘left’, if only fractionally, and only in words. This PASOK tactic aims to hold or regain PASOK and former PASOK voters who are now attracted to SYRIZA.
SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) needs to withstand the opportunist approach from PASOK leaders. The real test of PASOK’s pressure will probably become evident during the next general elections. PASOK leaders will probably try to use the outcome of the next elections to pressurise SYRIZA into joining a new coalition government with them, to end years of right wing New Democracy government. PASOK will lean on the genuine feelings of PASOK and SYRIZA voters, who ask, ‘How can we get rid of the right wing New Democracy government?’
How should SYRIZA respond?
SYRIZA’s poll support has not trebled by ‘chance’. Many working people look to SYRIZA to give an answer to the question of what happens once we are rid of the New Democracy government and what follows the end of ‘two-party politics’ — a political system that has been dominated by two pro-market, pro-capitalist parties (PASOK and ND) for years. If SYRIZA does not respond positively and clearly to these issues, with socialist policies and by adopting an independent, pro-working class position, working people and youth that now support SYRIZA will start to become disillusioned and withdrawing their support for SYRIZA. Many working people believe that to get rid of the ND government and two-party political domination, the Left needs to take power. Given this, what is the attitude of SYRIZA and the Left towards entering government and when in power what do they intend to do?
Some on the Left warn that even discussion on SYRIZA considering going into a future government is dangerous and can drive SYRIZA towards accepting the policies of cuts-making social democracy (PASOK). But the dangers arising from this discussion cannot be avoided. A political response is needed to questions on many workers’ minds — should SYRIZA go into a possible future ‘Left coalition’ government? If not, many workers and youth may interpret this as a sign of a lack of ‘responsibility’ by SYRIZA leaders.
In our opinion, SYRIZA must put forward specific proposals for a ‘left government’, which directly addresses questions in the minds of many workers and youth. SYRIZA needs a bold socialist programme, if it is to genuinely follow its pro-socialist declarations. In addition, it should propose this programme to the entire Left and call for left unity and a left government on the basis of this programme. This would mainly mean addressing the KKE (communist party) and its supporters.
This would be the best way to call PASOK’s bluff. PASOK would openly reject a government led by SYRIZA and the CP, based on a working class, socialist programme, and show its real character — i.e. a party of big capital which would prefer to govern together with ND rather than attack the foundations of capitalism. This would be the way to face the pressure by PASOK and clear up the issues in the minds of many PASOK voters.
The significance of a socialist programme
The need for a socialist programme has nothing to do with abstract or academic principles but because such a programme is the only way for society to move forward, to stop social attacks against youth and the working class. A socialist programme is, above all, a necessity to find a way out of the chaos and barbarism of capitalist society!
The ability of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) to remain true to their present declarations depends on whether SYRIZA will proceed to adopt a socialist programme. In discussions concerning the programme of a new Left government, Xekinima (CWI Greece) argues that SYRIZA needs to campaign for:
- 35 working hours per week, 7 hours per day, 5 days per week
- abolition of “flexible” employment jobs and unemployment
- Fight poverty! End low pay and pensions! For a decent, living wage, linked to the cost of living
- Scrap legislation that attacks pension rights, workers’ rights and education
- End financial scandals, bureaucratic management and big business tax-evasion — For heavy taxation on capital
- Introduce workers’ control in big industry, with committees with a majority of workers’ representatives
- Return to the public sector all the public companies that were privatised
- Nationalization of all the main monopolies and big banks
- Stop corruption, rake-offs, commissions and privileges! For democratic workers’ control and management of big industry and finance
Such a programme meets people’s needs and who demand their living standards change radically.
A lot is at stake for SYRIZA. Xekinima (CWI Greece) will enthusiastically bring its ideas and programme for discussion into SYRIZA. Of course, building a new mass socialist party is not a straightforward or simple task, given past defeats suffered by workers, the ideological confusion caused by the collapse of Stalinism and the sell-outs of past workers’ parties. But every step forward SYRIZA takes towards becoming a mass party of socialism, solidarity and struggle will encourage thousands of young people and workers, bringing to the forefront a new generation of socialists. But SYRIZA will also come under increasing pressure from the Right (the openly capitalist right wing but also the right wing of Synaspismos and others inside SYRIZA) to “adjust”, to become “realistic” and to “compromise”. Every hesitation, ambiguity and mistake by SYRIZA on the question of socialist policies, and a holding to a clear independent, pro-working class course will confuse its supporters and voters and eventually bring about disappointment and loss of support. But the living debate and likely big struggles inside SYRIZA over the way forward, will also lead many of the most politically radial workers and youth to reach important conclusions.
Working people and youth, under fierce attack from the supporters of big business in the New Democracy government, and surrounded by various left parties that say they speak in their name but often let workers down or fail to develop the Left, will gain from the SYRIZA experience, and start to find their way towards socialism and therefore start making their own history.
Historic opportunity for the Greek left
Speech to a national meeting of SYRIZA (14–16 March) by ANDROS PAYIATSOS, general secretary of Xekinima (CWI Greece)
From June 2008 issue of Socialism Today, monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (England and Wales CWI)
Over the last year, Xekinima (CWI Greece) has been discussing its participation in SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), which was set up in 2004. SYRIZA’s growth has dealt a blow against the two-party dominance of New Democracy and PASOK and has been greeted enthusiastically by workers and young people, radicalised by the current mass strike waves. Below is an edited transcript of a speech to a national meeting of SYRIZA (14–16 March) by ANDROS PAYIATSOS, general secretary of Xekinima.
“DEAR COMRADES, I’D like to give sincere greetings from my organisation that has openly and clearly moved towards SYRIZA in recent months. As many of you know, Xekinima is in a period of internal discussion about participating in SYRIZA. This process started ten months ago when Xekinima began to draw the conclusion that the only serious political developments on the left, with the real potential and perspective of having an impact on society and the mass movement, are visible in SYRIZA.
As a result, Xekinima called in the last election for a vote for SYRIZA. This was an important change as, previously, we had called for ‘a vote for left parties’ in general. These new conclusions still need to be transformed into resolutions at the next conference of Xekinima, set for the beginning of June.
We are here today to share our enthusiasm with you about the big steps forward on the left, and the rapid rise in the echo SYRIZA finds in society. The strong blow, which the two-party system has had to accept, has panicked the two parties of capital, New Democracy and PASOK. For the first time in two decades the left has returned to the stage and is sending society a strong message: to offer resistance, that the battle has not been lost, and that policies can be overturned and circumstances can change.
The soaring support for the left and SYRIZA in recent polls strengthens, in an indirect but clear way, the morale of ordinary people. It gives workers a perspective of being able to fight against capitalist policies. They are beginning to recreate a vision of an alternative society, which was ‘lost’ in the last period. This vision is, in our opinion, totally necessary to give the workers’ movement a perspective, to raise its morale and aims, and to win objectives. All these developments change the conditions of class struggle in favour of the workers’ movement, youth and ordinary layers of the population.
At the same time, this enthusiasm is accompanied by the problems which many speakers have raised at this conference. These problems concern the feeling of responsibility and duty. The responsibility for winning 3% [in the 2004 elections] or even 5% [in 2007] is really small compared to the responsibility for the 17–18% seen in recent opinion polls.
THERE ARE questions about SYRIZA, not only among the people who are active in the movement, but also in the broad layers of the population. Firstly, will SYRIZA maintain its percentages in the polls or will it decline again? The second question is much more important: if SYRIZA can maintain its support, will we finally have something really new, or will it make the same mistakes again that the traditional parties of the left made in the past?
And when we talk about mistakes we need to know what we mean. The huge positive traditions of the left have been mentioned at this conference, and justifiably so. The example of the EAM [National Liberation Front — the KKE-controlled resistance movement during the second world war against fascist occupation] and others, the heroism of the left and so on. However, to be clear and draw the right conclusions, we need the full picture of the history of the left.
On one side we have EAM and ELAS [National Liberation Army, EAM’s armed wing] and, on the other, we have Varkiza [where in February 1945, EAM/ELAS agreed a ceasefire with British troops and the armed Greek rightwing, handing over its weapons]. On one side we have Aris Velouchiotis [leader of the partisans of ELAS who resisted the disarming] and, on the other side, those who drove Aris into desperation and suicide, ie the leadership of the KKE and Zachariadis [KKE leader] in particular. On one side we have the Polytechnic [scene of the 1973 student uprising against the then military dictatorship] and, on the other side, we have the governments of PASOK who built on the tradition of the Polytechnic only to betray everything they stood for and abandon the socialist ideas that inspired the working class in the 1970s.
These were not mistakes, they were betrayals! The fights, the victims and the heroism characterised the mass movement of the ordinary layers of the population. The betrayals characterised the leadership of these movements. In our opinion, this idea has to penetrate the consciousness, especially of the young generation, which is mistrustful, as has been said by other speakers. It is mistrustful with justification: fortunately, the youth is mistrustful of today’s leadership. At the same time, we all understand that mistrust alone is not enough. The lessons must be drawn! The past betrayals must not happen again. What do we do about that? How do we guard against new mistakes and new betrayals?
We have the opinion that SYRIZA should have high targets. The possibilities of strengthening the left and left ideas exist and are, from an objective view, unlimited. The question is: will the left in general and SYRIZA in particular use these possibilities? The answer is ‘yes’, but only under certain conditions. In particular, we have to focus the discussion on what are the conditions for success of the next steps.
Deepening the move to the left
FOR US, THE first condition is that the moves to the left that were shown in Synaspismos [Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology] in the last two to three years, and which were reflected in SYRIZA, not only have to go further, but also have to be deepened and consolidated. The reason SYRIZA was able to use the objective opportunities of the crisis in the system — an economic, social and political crisis — and the reason why the percentages for SYRIZA have soared are the moves to the left of Synaspismos and SYRIZA in the last period. Without that, the upswing in the left was impossible and unthinkable.
Most of you would agree to what I have just said. But this proposal to deepen the move to the left should not be seen as an easy process. The stronger SYRIZA becomes, the stronger will be the pressure pushing it to the right or into joining a centre-left government. There is not enough time to develop this issue but we want to emphasise, comrades, that this pressure should not be underestimated.
This pressure will come from the bourgeoisie. It will be suffocating. It will come from the mass media, from PASOK, and even from the ‘public opinion’ that is influenced by the mass media and the bourgeois institutions. The pressure will also come from inside Synaspismos and from other parties in SYRIZA. If SYRIZA underestimates the dimensions and the complexity of the pressure, it will fall into the trap and gamble away an historic opportunity.
WE WOULD STRENGTHEN this argument by pointing to examples from recent European and worldwide experience. Some people may say that the reference to past decades is a past far removed from today and has a doubtful meaning. But let’s see which way the parties of the left took in the last two decades. In yesterday’s discussion, I had the impression that some of the comrades who spoke adopted the attitude of avoiding a real and honest discussion on problems characterising the new left formations, in Europe and internationally, wanting to sweep them under the carpet.
In the last 15 years there have been a lot of examples of ‘new formations’ on the left, particularly in Europe, but also worldwide. One of them is Rifondazione Comunista. This party inspired great movements in the past period. It brought millions of people on to the streets and helped to strengthen the morale of the movement in the whole of Europe.
Where does Rifondazione stand today? It couldn’t resist the temptation of seeking ministerial seats in the Prodi government. It became jointly responsible for implementing neo-liberal policies. The results, 20 months later, are that the menace of Berlusconi threatens to come back and Rifondazione finds itself in a deep internal crisis.
This is not a mistake. The leadership of Rifondazione stabbed a knife into the body of the Italian left, the Italian movement, the European left and the European movement. Nothing less! We have a responsibility to make this clear to the Greek movement. We have to explain who is responsible for it. At the same time, we must understand why. When and/or what will it mean if the parties on the left repeat this sad history?
The Socialist Party in the Netherlands and Die Linke [The Left] in Germany were given yesterday as good examples to follow and as a counterweight to the ‘Italian problems’. We cannot agree with this. The leadership of the SP in the Netherlands says publicly ‘yes’ to participating in a coalition government with the Dutch Labour Party. How can this be seen as positive? Die Linke in Germany doesn’t only say yes [to participation in coalition governments], it also does it already on the level of some of the federal states, many of which are far bigger than Greece!
A characteristic example is the regional government in Berlin. There, Die Linke is together with the Social Democrats in a government coalition that implements neo-liberal policies. Today, Die Linke is getting 14% in opinion polls. If it were invited tomorrow to go into a government coalition on a national level, there is no doubt about which kind of policy it would support.
Which way did these formations go after the initial euphoria? They moved to the right, almost without exception. And this paved the way for a split in some formations, like Respect in Britain last year. Or some of them disappeared, after some internal degenerate conflicts, like the SSP [Scottish Socialist Party] in Scotland.
The experiences of these old and new formations raise the following questions: how can SYRIZA avoid this path? How can we avoid this way? The aims and intentions are good. This is without any doubt. But are good intentions enough?
Political proposals & programme
THE FIRST STEP to assure the future of this ‘new left’ building up in Greece — up to a certain point (an absolute guarantee is not achievable) — is its political proposals, its programme, if it is called on to take governmental responsibilities. This issue is not abstract. If a political formation achieves 17–18% support, the question will certainly be asked: ‘What will it do when it is called to govern?’ On this question, the left cannot answer: ‘This doesn’t bother me’, or ‘this question is not important at the moment’. The left has to put its proposals very clearly.
The left also can’t say that ‘the proposals we make today must reflect the movement and its intensity’ or things like this. That is not enough. The movements cannot develop without political demands that come from the left. Both the movement and the left are linked together. If one of them is missing, the other one is in danger of becoming undermined.
In principle and in general the political proposals of the left, and of SYRIZA in particular, have to be presented openly before society. In this way they arm the members and supporters of SYRIZA politically and become the property of the mass movement. If the ideas of the left are not abstract but become concrete proposals and a programme for the mass movement of the working class, then the way for big changes is opened up. As a second point, the proposals have to be posed to the others on the left, particularly the KKE, to call them to united action on the basis of such a working-class programme.
Such a programme is also the best way to answer the pseudo-left and false appeals for ‘unity’ by the PASOK leadership. If these ideas become concrete, if this programme is in the service of the interests of the working class, then PASOK will forget its unity appeals and go on the offensive. It will reveal its real character as a party of the bourgeoisie, and people still supporting PASOK will see through its bluff.
Basic programme points
THUS THE CENTRAL issue is the programme, a programme in the interests of the working class. The whole of SYRIZA and all its components more or less agree to the following points: a drastic increase of wages and pensions; a 35-hour week, seven-hour day, five-day week; stop the flexibilisation of work; for permanent working contracts; in defence of social insurance, removing all anti-insurance laws from previous years; for mass investment in the public health and education systems; and many more issues like racism, gender equality, environmental questions and so on.
But, immediately, a number of crucial issues come up. Does any one of you, comrades, believe that capital or the EU will accept such a policy without hard conflicts? This won’t be the case. This leads us to the next question. Is SYRIZA prepared for such conflicts? We go further. Will SYRIZA, if it is called to take power, go on and renationalise the privatised companies? Will it nationalise all strategic economic units that are controlled by the 50 families that dominate the economy, so that the economy works for people’s needs and not for the profit of big capital? Will SYRIZA introduce a totally different model of administration, with accountable and removable administrations in all public companies, without special high wages or privileges, and develop an administration of a majority which is made up of workers’ representatives who can be recalled at any time?
If the left wants to remain true to its principles and proclamations, then everything that I have mentioned is necessary. But all of this means a frontal conflict with domestic and foreign capital. I ask you again comrades: is SYRIZA prepared for this conflict?
No, it isn’t. Not today. But the discussion has just started. And this is really important, a discussion that concerns the programmatic make-up of SYRIZA. This allows SYRIZA to prepare itself. In this way it can prepare for its historical contribution. If this is not done it cannot develop, and we will see the repetition of the big losses and disappointments of the past.
The explosive growth of SYRIZA puts before it heavy responsibilities and puts it under strong pressure, from the bourgeoisie, PASOK, the mass media and so on. But also under the pressure of society and the workers’ movement.
The only way to deal with the pressure of the ruling class and the positive pressure of the movement is to answer two decisive questions.
First, to give the proposals for a ‘new left government’ of the country — already raised by Alekos Alavanos [leader of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group] — a content that is concrete, practical and understandable to ordinary layers of the population. This content has to transform the programme into a tool and a guide for how to act.
Second, in the same way, content has to be given to the words ‘socialism with freedom and democracy’ in a concrete and practical manner, understandable to the large masses of the population. We repeat that this slogan has to become a programme of how to act.
Only in this way can we prepare for the big struggles that will come. Only in this way can the left prepare for the future. Only in this way can SYRIZA enact social transformation and open up new ways. Only in this way can the cynicism caused by past defeats and disappointments be ended. Only in this way can the left internationally, from Europe to Latin America, be given an example to follow.”
SYRIZA: a glossary
SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) is led by Alekos Alavanos and was launched in January 2004 in time for legislative elections in which it won 3.1% of the vote. Alavanos was elected an MEP in 1981 for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), and later as a Synaspismos MEP (elected 1989, 1994 and 1999), an MP since 2004 and Synaspismos president 2004–08.
SYRIZA is made up of the following organisations:
Synaspismos (SYN — Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology): Founded in 1991 out of an electoral coalition in which sections of the KKE and the Greek Left (EAR — successor to the Euro-communist KKE-Interior) were the largest components. Alexis Tsipras was elected party president at the congress in February this year, replacing Alavanos who resigned in order to deal mainly with SYRIZA.
Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA): A left split from the KKE-Interior, with about 350 members and a well-known weekly newspaper selling up to 2,000 copies per week.
Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA): A split-off from the Socialist Workers Party of Greece (SEK) in 2001, with around 300 members, mainly in Athens.
Kokkino (Red): Split from DEA in 2004, with around 100 members.
Movement for the United in Action Left (KEDA): Formed from a split from the KKE in the early 2000s, including Yiannis Theonas (former KKE MEP) and Mitsos Koslopoulos (former secretary general of the General Confederation of Greek Workers and former president of the KKE parliamentary group, who subsequently left KEDA’s leadership and became inactive in May 2007). KEDA retains a presence in some trade unions.
Active Citizens: Led by Manolis Glezos, who brought down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis during the occupation of Athens and raised the Greek flag in its place.
Other independent left individuals.
Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE): One of the Maoist groups which broke from their traditions and entered the Greek social forum, with about 1,000 members. Worked with SYRIZA since 2004 and formally joined in June 2007.
Ecological Intervention: Joined SYRIZA in August 2007.
Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI): A split from the former social-democratic PASOK in the mid-1990s, whose members call themselves ‘patriotic socialists’. After a long and unfruitful collaboration with the KKE, DIKKI approached SYRIZA in August 2007, joining in March 2008.
Formed in 2004, SYRIZA made no inroads in the general elections in the beginning of that year, increasing support for Synaspismos by a negligible 0.1% (to 3.1%). This caused an immediate crisis.
Synaspismos broke away and SYRIZA was dissolved. Synaspismos went into an alliance with DIKKI, hoping to gain support from PASOK voters, but the result in the euro-elections of the same year was again one of stagnation.
This time the crisis broke inside Synaspismos: its president was forced to resign and was replaced by the more left-wing, Alekos Alavanos. The programme adopted at the congress was a move to the left, raising the need to rebuild SYRIZA.
SYRIZA was relaunched, officially, in June 2007, adopting an anti-neoliberal programme, which mentions socialism explicitly.
In the previous period, Alavanos had become a prominent personality on the left as the main opposition to government policies. Under his presidency Synaspismos/SYRIZA took part in the struggles that were developing to a much greater extent than ever before. SYRIZA’s support for the education struggles was of decisive importance — the KKE and PASOK were initially against the university students’ struggle. SYRIZA was advancing at a time when PASOK, under the leadership of George Papandreou, was in deep crisis.
The turning point for SYRIZA came in the summer of 2007. It won 5% in the elections of September 2007, the KKE 8%.
The failure of PASOK to win caused a massive crisis in its ranks, giving an additional push to SYRIZA — by January 2008 its support in opinion polls rose to over 10%.
In February, Alavanos stepped down as president of Synaspismos, proposing Alexis Tsipras, a 33-year-old member to take the post. Tsipras was elected with 70% of the vote of the congress, supported by the leftwing of the party. This renewal pushed up support in the polls to 17–18%. Alavanos took over the leadership of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group.
Papandreou reestablished his control of PASOK at its latest congress, and is attempting to move to the left. He has even been seen on picket lines and demos. PASOK is openly calling on SYRIZA to agree on a future coalition government programme. The rightwing of Synaspismos, which controls the majority of its MPs, wants to join PASOK in government.
The result of the September 2007 general election gave 152 parliamentary seats to New Democracy, 102 to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), 22 to the KKE, 14 to SYRIZA, and 10 to the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS — right-wing, nationalist populist). Since then, however, the New Democracy majority has been reduced to one seat as a result of sex and corruption scandals. Despite this it has been able to continue in government and apply its neo-liberal policies. The main reason for this is the unwillingness of the trade union leaders to fight battles to the end, which inevitably would mean bringing the government down, in line with the feelings of the majority of activists in the working-class movement.