Greece and Egypt: important elections but the struggle goes on.
Greece and Egypt both saw very important elections over the weekend.
The narrow victory of the right wing New Democracy party in the Greek elections meant that all across Europe, including Ireland, bankers, capitalists, establishment politicians and ruling classes generally, slept easier in their beds on Sunday night. The ‘threat’ of a radical left Syriza government, vehemently opposed to the austerity imposed on the Greek people and brutal terms of the bail-out, had been averted, at least for the moment. This was reflected in the fact that the infamous ‘markets’ surged forward first thing Monday morning.
However, the fact that after a couple of hours those same markets immediately fell back again showed that nothing fundamental had been resolved. As Reuters put it:
Relief over the Greek election result gave way rapidly to concerns about problems in Spain and the wider eurozone on Monday, with European shares and the single currency reversing early gains…Spain's key 10-year government bond yields shot up 22 basis points to 7.14 percent, the highest level in the euro era and above the rate at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to seek international bailouts. Equivalent Italian bond yields rose 15 basis points to 6.08 percent.
The crisis, which Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission admitted was a ‘systemic crisis’ not a crisis of Greece, Spain or Ireland etc, continues unabated.
New Democracy’s win was marginal indeed – 29.7% versus 26.9% for Syriza – and in no way can be claimed as a mandate for the vicious cuts and austerity which it will now attempt to impose. Moreover it was obtained only by the kind of intense scaremongering familiar to us in Ireland from the Treaty Referendum. Far more significant is the fact that Syriza’s vote rose ten points from 17% in the first previous election, which in turn was a spectacular rise on its 4-5% a few years ago.
New Democracy have yet to form a government and to do so need a coalition with PASOK (Labour) and the (not very) Democratic Left . PASOK have initially said they will only join a coalition if Syriza is included but this is probably only a manoeuvre and Syriza have rightly refused to enter a pro-austerity coalition. In any event the struggle to defend the working people of Greece, who are being put to the sword, now continues on the streets and in the workplaces.
Even if Syriza had won it would have been the mass mobilization of the working class from below that would have been decisive in repelling the onslaught that would have been launched by the European and Greek ruling classes. Now that mobilization is more necessary than ever and in this the revolutionaries of ANTARSYA and the SWP’s sister party SEK have a huge role to play. Particularly important is the struggle against the neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn, who held their dangerously high 7%, and have the support of large sections of the police. Golden Dawn are not only a deadly threat to the immigrants they scapegoat, but to the left and workers’ movement as a whole and to any future government of the left.
Socialists, and indeed democrats, everywhere can be relieved that in the Egyptian Presidential elections Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last PM and the candidate of the military, would seem to have been defeated by Muhammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is clear that a victory for Shafiq would have significantly strengthened the counterrevolution.
But it is equally clear that Mursi’s win solves nothing because the counterrevolution, led by SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) is moving forward regardless. Last week the Egyptian Supreme Court, under the influence of the military) ruled that the Parliamentary Elections (Egypt’s first free elections in more than 30 years) were ‘unconstitutional’ and that parliament was dissolved. Then on Sunday night, just hours after the close of polling –by which time they would have known that Shafiq had lost – the military issued a Constitutional Declaration.
This declaration a)drastically limited the powers of the incoming president denying him any say over the armed forces, b) asserted the right of the armed forces to deal with ‘civil unrest’, c) asserted the right of the military to oversee the drafting of the new constitution, d) asserted the right of SCAF to rule until a new parliament is elected, e) postponed any new parliamentary elections till one month after the approval, by referendum, of the new constitution, (so if the people don’t vote for the constitution they don’t get a parliament and are stuck with the military anyway). It is in effect a ‘soft’ coup by the military.
Every step it takes makes it clear that the military is unwilling to cede power to the people or to any representatives of the people not under its control. So as in Greece the struggle will have to continue on the streets and in the workplaces. Here it is necessary to stress that the active participation of the working class and not just the heroism of the young revolutionaries in Tahrir Square will be necessary to bring the Egyptian Revolution to a successful conclusion.
What both the Greek and Egyptian elections show is that while elections matter and should not be ignored by socialists, they are only one aspect of the class struggle and not the decisive one. In the weeks and months ahead both the Greek and Egyptian working people may need our solidarity and, of course, we must remember that the best form of solidarity is to stoke the fires at home.