Greece: The elusive “Return to Normality” against the background of the historic bankruptcy of its left

23 August 2019 by Yorgos Mitralias

Kyriákos Mitsotákis - nouveau premier ministre de Grèce (cc - kremlin)

Almost unanimously, the Greek and international media and the leaders of the main Greek parties are celebrating the result of the Greek election as “a return to normality” for the country whose crisis has hit the headlines over the last decade. This return to normality is because the combined votes for New Democracy 39.9% and Syriza 31.4% gives an overwhelming 71.3%, seemingly bringing a two party system back into play, following a chaotic interlude during which, in record time, the mass of the population abandoned the traditional parties in favour of one extreme or another. Furthermore, what better proof is there of the reality of this return to normality than the absence of far-right Golden Dawn deputies from the benches of the new Hellenic Parliament. Does it not mark the end of this period of unrest and agitation?

So is this “a return to normality”? Yes, for sure, but only superficially. And primarily because the historic crisis (economic, but also social and political) has given birth to a Greece the splitting image of the German Weimar Republic, which is not going to go away, indifferent to the daily commentaries, exorcisms and other pious incantations coming from those Greeks and foreigners who have cultivated and nourished it.

Because, for example and above all, Greek public debt, which everyone agrees with good reason is “the mother of all ills”, has not disappeared and continues to strangle, to corrupt and to blackmail the country to the point where those who run it (whether of the right or the left) don’t do anything to deal with the root of the problem. They obstinately refuse to audit this debt with a view to cancelling the bigger part of it which is clearly illegitimate.

Perhaps it could be said that most of the consequences of this crisis have disappeared or at least been rendered unproblematic, in particular Golden Dawn. Yes, effectively the menace of Golden Dawn appears to have disappeared for good along with the other racist and neo-fascist groups of the Greek Solution (already in crisis) who appear too stupid and clownish to be taken seriously. However, it would be extremely naive to draw the conclusion that the Greek far right has disappeared as if by the stroke of a wand. In reality, they are still present and dangerous, perhaps just less visible than recently because they are now hidden as a very important component within the New Democracy. This extreme right wing within ND is not limited to personalities like Adonis Georgiadis or Makis Voridis, already important ministers of the new Mitsotakis government, who have such a past record of fascist and racial violence that they would even be unwelcome in the home of characters such as Salivini, Le Pen or Orban. Unfortunately, the problem is much broader than that, encompassing thousands of the cadres and activists within this party. Many have already shown themselves to have attitudes and political outlooks that would sit comfortably even within Golden Dawn. The crucial question is if, when and how, this right-wing extremism will break out into the open and operate as an autonomous faction influencing the politics of the country. A starting point in answering this question is to look at the Spanish Popular Party which has been “host” to most of Spain’s extreme right since the end of Francoism. While “normality” continued in Spanish politics this “accommodation” could carry on almost indefinitely. But everything changed when the old PP was unable to cope with a major crisis, like the struggle of the Catalan people for independence. The neo-Franco and hard right current which had been almost dormant inside the PP suddenly came into its own and at the same time gave a boost to Vox, a tiny party which suddenly saw its electoral results go to about 10% compared to previous 0.4% or 0.5%.

So, is a Greek version of Vox possible? The depth of the on-going historical crisis, the demoralisation of the population caused by the new right-wing government, the virtually insoluble problems (so-called “national” problems such as relations with neighbouring countries and immigrants) – all this will certainly test the fragile unity of the party. Thus the presence of a strong far right movement within the ND is a ticking time-bomb.

Even leaving aside the European and global context of a surge in support for aggressive parties of the far right, all these developments tend to promote politics and parties to the right of the mainstream conservatism. Therefore a Greek Vox is not just possible but probable.

Clearly a lot depends on the main opposition party but Syriza (coalition of the radical left) which is no longer radical is preparing itself, according to the first post electoral speeches of its president Alexandre Tsipra, to fully reorganise itself from the base in response to two directions from its leadership, first bridge the gap that separates its voters, who number millions, from its members, who are not more than a few thousand. And then to make a real mark with his already declared intention of steering towards the social democracy. [1]

There is no doubt that Tsipras will undertake the transformation of Syriza, or rather the foundation of a new party but it is a major task; success will take time and is not guaranteed in advance. In the meantime Syriza remains an electoral party without any organised base and devoid of any means of controlling the mass of the Greek population who no longer trust any party or any person and who could force their resignation at any moment with a chaotic explosion of anger and violence (the outcome of successive historical defeats of the last eight to nine years). Nevertheless Syriza is in a much better position today than it was one, two or three years ago. It has accomplished a significant electoral feat, building, in a few weeks, from its score in the European elections to only 3% shy of its triumphal 2015 result.

So this election feat has enabled Syriza to share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. responsibility in bipartisanism. Is it the much desired “return to normality” that Tsipras was eager to celebrate the day after the elections? Considering that Syriza’s election campaign poorly disguised its terrible weaknesses, the answer can only be “no”. There is an incredible political hotchpotch within this parliamentary group: socialists, social-democrats, conservatives, liberals and even nationalists, chauvinists and racists of the extreme right. There is a dreadful lack of experienced activists resulting in a complete absence of any grass roots organisation or links between the party and its electoral supporters. Above all itS success is due in a large part to the barely concealed fact that there is no organised and credible political alternative to the left.

In fact we can safely conclude that the elections of 7th July have shown the complete bankruptcy of those political formations created four years ago to distance themselves from Tsipra’s turn to the right and offer an alternative to the left of Syriza. Their election results – in free fall – are more than eloquent: 0.28% for Popular Unity (UP) with its ministers from the first Syriza government (Lafazanis, Stratoulis and Issihos); 1.4% for grec Zoé Konstantopoulou, former leader of the Greek Parliament. And also only 0.41% for the Coalition of the anti-capitalist left “Antarsya”, which has been around since 2009 and has never had the slightest sympathy for Syriza. With the partial exception of Antarsya, all the other formations have probably paid dearly for making concessions to the mood of chauvinism and even xenophobia and racism which was sweeping the country. Mrs Zoe Konstantopoulou made a bid to be the leader of those who were threatening the scaffold to” the traitors who are selling our Macedonia to the bastards of Skopje, our Thrace and the Agean Sea to the Turks and even Northern Epirus to Albania”, taking this to its logical conclusion by dissociating herself from the left, declaring herself to be “neither right nor left”. Meanwhile, like the Greek CP, UP sought salvation in a privileged alliance “of our nation with Putin’s Russia”, which led it down the path of support for Assad and its characterisation of the climate catastrophy as “imperialism’s biggest fraud”. And while all this was going on, the anarchist movement, particularly strong in Greece, especially among young people, was living in a hermetically sealed flask, inventing popular insurrections which existed only in its imagination. [2]

The balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. of the Greek left, all its sensitivities and interacting currents, the day after the elections and, above all, ten years after the explosion of a crisis which lead to a mass revolt of the Greek people, abandoning their traditional parties before installing in power “the first left wing government in the history of the country” can be summed up in three words: WHAT A WASTE!

What a waste of this globally unique experience: the solidarity of a dozen far-left organisations and a small Eurocommunist party leading to the foundation of Syriza. And what a waste of this first government of the left, whose leaders betrayed the defiant yes vote of the July 5th 2015 referendum, handing over the powerless Greek people into the servitude of Greece’s Creditors. Above all, they shattered the confidence of millions of people in Europe and around the world who had invested hope in Greece’s Syriza for a better, more humane world, free of austerity, racism and fascism. Even though this tragedy has been played out a thousand times over the last century, in Greece and elsewhere- left leadership who hasten to capitulate to the class enemy- we cannot help feeling deeply indigent, wounded and outraged at the scale of this disaster.


[1See also the article we wrote at the time, only a few hours after Tsipras’s defection on 13th July 2015:

[2KINAL, The party constructed from the remains of PASOK, achieved an honorable vote of 8.1%, but the success of Syriza condemned it to a subordinate role, precipitating internal turmoil and the defection of some of its leaders.

As for the MeRA25 of Varoufakis, it rightly celebrated its entry into parliament, but it will take a lot more than triumphalism, its fudged programme and the inconsistencies of its leader for it to achieve its ambitions to be arbiter.

Yorgos Mitralias

Journalist, Giorgos Mitralias is one of the founders and leaders of the Greek Committee Against the Debt, a member of the international CADTM network.



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