VOTING takes place this Sunday in Greece for the snap general election the current right-wing government of the New Democracy party called to avoid the consequences of its reactionary policies.
But this scheme backfired dramatically when nearly the whole of southern Greece was engulfed in huge destructive forest fires that resulted in 74 people dead and billions worth of damages, exposing the inability of the government, due to public cuts and lack of firemen and resources, to tackle a most usual summer phenomenon for countries such as Greece.
The anger felt has galvanised and transformed the electoral campaign.
On top of this came the report of the special investigator into the Pension Funds huge financial losses, leaked last week.
The report states that the losses occurred through the ‘advice of government ministries’ and that bribe cash was channelled to a ‘certain political party’.
The general election takes place as economic figures released by the Bank of Greece show a tremendous worsening of the trade deficit and public debt.
But in a significant development, not seen in Greece since the 1960s, top US financial institutions have made a dramatic interference in the election period on behalf of the current right-wing government.
These institutions were involved in the Pension Funds scandal and gained billions by acting as go-betweens in selling Greek government bonds to the world capitalist markets.
The government’s snap election ploy is not paying off. Workers, farmers and youth are in an angry mood against a government which, since 2004, has employed an extreme neo-liberal programme of reactionary ‘reforms’:
• huge cuts in public spending,
• wide privatisations,
• the imposition of ‘flexible’ working conditions,
• high prices for basic goods and
• low wages.
Last weekend, on the occasion of the opening of the Salonica International Trade Fair, both the Prime Minister and Leader of the New Democracy Party Kostas Karamanlis and the Opposition Leader Yiorghos Papandreou, the president of the PASOK party social-democrats, were forced to almost openly state the truth regarding their intentions if they win.
Their programmes are, in essence, almost identical as both leaders have repeatedly expressed their servitude to the European Union and to the foreign policy of US imperialism.
Both Karamanlis and Papandreou fully accept the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy which will mean the annihilation of tobacco, cotton and sugar growers in Greece and the closing down of a number of sugar plants and garment factories.
They also stated that they will, ‘by dialogue or by decree’ as Karamanlis put it bluntly, ‘reform’ pensions by raising the pension age and slashing pension levels and rights.
Both will push on with more privatisations targeting the public electricity corporation and Olympic Airways, both see as ‘priority for reforms’ education and health and they mean privatisation.
Both will raise VAT by one or even two points.
This counter-revolutionary programme requires open and widespread violence by the state against workers, farmers and youth.
During his three and a half years in office, the Karamanlis government repeatedly outlawed strikes through the courts, placed seamen under dictatorial ‘emergency conditions’ and unleashed state attacks against demonstrating and militant students.
In these critical conditions the Stalinist leaders of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) are calling on workers to ‘abandon’ the two main bourgeois parties and vote for the KKE so as ‘to open the gate to popular power’.
For the KKE no economic crisis exists since banks make huge profits; for the Stalinists the point is to ‘redistribute’ these profits to workers.
The leaders of the KKE also categorically reject even the notion that we live through a revolutionary situation.
For them the working class is ‘tied’ to the capitalist parties and so talk of socialism and revolution today is just sectarianism.
This position has led to constant betrayals of critical struggles such as the seamen, teachers and students.
The KKE refused to call for the overthrow of the Karamanlis government, restricting itself to demands for ‘justice’ and compromise.
But the logic of the world economic crisis has for decades now destroyed any room for compromises.
Instead of warning the working class of the coming storm of a vicious counter-revolution, the Stalinist leaders call for a step by step disengagement from capitalism, while blaming the working class for ‘backwardness’.
The reformist leaders of the big trade unions have declared their support for the PASOK social-democrats thus making it clear that the working class will have to get rid of them in the coming immediate period in order to defend pensions, wages and services.
Last weekend at a huge trade union rally in Salonica, the GSEE (Greek TUC) leaders called off the subsequent demonstration, stating ‘fears of disturbances’.
They also put pressure on the sugar plant workers, who have been on strike for over a week, to call off all their mobilisations
A number of small left-wing centrist electoral coalitions are contesting the elections, calling for the formation of a ‘third pole’ (as against the bourgeois parties and the Stalinists), which will mobilise workers against neo-liberalism.
All these blocks, calling themselves Marxist, recognise the ferocity of the economic crisis and the need for workers to unite against capitalism; but they too refuse to recognise the nature of the period as revolutionary, seeing the breaking of workers from bourgeois parties and Stalinism as a long process.
Likewise, they refuse to call things by their real name: silence about the counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinists and silence about the treachery of the trade union bureaucrats.
This is a crisis election imposed, so to speak, by the avalanche state of the economic recession, which forces capitalism to launch its attack on the fundamental rights of workers and to seek their destruction.
In the forthcoming Greek elections, the possibility of a crisis result, with both main bourgeois parties failing to achieve a majority in the Vouli (parliament), is a clear possibility.
Already certain New Democracy and PASOK ex-ministers speak out for the need of a ‘German type’ grand coalition.
But both Karamanlis and Papandreou have rejected the advice, instead calling for a ‘strong’ government, presumably to deal with the working class.
Historic upheavals are in store for Greece and that means that the urgency of a revolutionary party is paramount.
It is the period to call out loud and clear for a United Front against the capitalist counter-revolution, and for the building of a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in Greece to lead the struggle for the destruction of the capitalist state through the socialist revolution and the formation of a workers’ and farmers’ government.