Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Greek Government Prepares For Intensified Class War

Antonis Samaras has promised "hope", but will bring despair to all but the rich
Antonis Samaras of the 'centre-right' New Democracy party has been sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece, after he formalised an austerity coalition with 'centre-left' PASOK and the smaller Democratic Left. He vowed to "give hope" to struggling Greeks, but on the contrary, his agenda will deepen the chasmic divides in Greek society, and set the stage for an intense new phase in the class struggle.

In last Sunday's election, held under heavy blackmail from German leader Angela Merkel, France's Francois Hollande and other top representatives of the financial aristocracy, New Democracy won 29.66% of the vote (up 10% on May's vote) as voters fearful of a Euro exit rallied to his banner. The economic and political blackmail was deployed due to the popularity of 'extreme left' party SYRIZA, who had officially rejected the troika memorandum in the election campaign. Alexis Tsipras' grouping increased their percentage from 16 to 27, but fall far behind New Democracy in the new parliament due to the anti-democratic fifty seat bonus the top party automatically receives. It is this which has allowed New Democracy to form a majority coalition, with their inflated 129 seats being added to the 33 of PASOK and the 17 of Democratic Left, to give a total of 179 out of 300 in the assembly.

Technically, Democratic Left were not needed for a pure majority, but the right-wing SYRIZA breakaway will provide some 'left' cover for the horrors to come. Samaras was keen for SYRIZA to also join the attack on the working class, but Tsipras was quick to embrace the role of loyal opposition, and accepted bourgeois formalities as he congratulated Samaras on his 'victory', declaring that "a government should be formed from the core of ND, as it was the will of the people."

As Tsipras is well aware, a New Democracy-led government was not "the will of the people". The party could not even win one third of the vote, on a turnout of 62%. New Democracy therefore won the support of less than one in five of the electorate. Their austerity programme is widely detested, as it promises to drive even more Greeks into poverty and destitution, in a country that already had an official unemployment rate of nearly one in four, and where the value of wages has often been cut by something approaching a half over the last few years. Tsipras knows there is more working class resistance to come, and is settling into his new role as arch confuser of that street and workplace opposition.

An additional 11.7 billion in cuts is next on the austerity agenda, with troika representatives en route to Athens to work out the particulars with their new political puppets. New Democracy have signalled that they intend to lay off 150,000 public sector workers over the next few years. There are also plans to slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy - exploding any suggestion that Greeks are 'all in it together', and proving that the economic crisis is being exploited to restructure economic relations for a generation.

No doubt yet another tranche of cuts will prove 'necessary' when bankers start betting against the country's economy once again. No doubt trade union bureaucrats will call one day strikes here and there, and no doubt Alexis Tsipras will call for the government to 'reconsider' their strategy. But in Greece as around the world - the only way that working class people can overturn the will of the bankers is to directly lay their hands on the levers of economic power, and wield them in their own interests.
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