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Nicos Remoundos

Trying to Stem a Tide of Revolt

(May 1980)

From Militant, No. 504, 23 May 1980, p. 10.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The narrow electoral accession of Karamanlis to the Presidency reflects the growing polarisation of Greek society. Only 183 MPs voted for him in the final ballot. As his own party had 174 MPs, this means he only got 9 voted from the smaller opposition parties.

Since last autumn, Greek capitalists have been faced with a serious economic crisis, and a growing radicalisation of the working class, the peasants and the youth, resulting in further erosion of ND’s social support. This, combined with the threat that the left party PASOK could win the next election forced the ruling class to begin ‘preparing’ Karamanlis for the presidency.

The result of the Presidential election reflects, in a distorted way, the deep polarisation of society, the serious weakening of ‘New Democracy’ and the collapse of the ‘national image’ of Karamanlis himself. It is an expression of the radicalisation of the working class, the peasants and all oppressed layers of society, who, despite the lack of unity in their own ranks and despite temporary defeats, still represent today an enormous potential power.

Despite the demand of both PASOK and pro-Moscow Communist Party (KKE) for elections, so that the new President could be voted in by a representative parliament, the capitalists worked to elect Karamanlis to the presidency and to maintain ND in office. This was made possible because the leaders of the workers’ parties gave no lead to the working class militants, and for months refrained from even recognising the importance of this election for future developments.

No attempt was made to connect the struggle of workers and peasants against wage restraint and the cuts in social expenditure with the question of the Presidency and the semi-bonapartist constitution, or to prepare a national struggle to oust the right-wing government.

On the contrary, in the first three months of the year when the workers, peasant youth, and even shopkeepers and local councils were taking actions against the policies of ND, the leaders of the left split these mobilisations into unco-ordinated attacks which, despite the determination of the strikes, led them eventually into frustration and temporary defeat.

The Bank workers’ strike, the most important of these mobilisations, defied the courts and terrified the government and ended after 35 days of national struggle with a compromise, because the workers’ parties supported it only with “messages of solidarity”.

As a result, after making a few concessions on the side to the most powerful unions, the government has managed, albeit with difficulty, to impose its wages policy of 11–15% increases. This, when inflation is increasing at a rate of 24%. It also refused to give in to the demands of the peasants or the local councils.

The KKE leaders maintained that all the hue and cry in the capitalist press about the Presidential election was intended to distract the workers from their immediate problems and demands. So it was not until a few days before the vote that the KKE daily paper suddenly called for parliamentary elections on the grounds that the constitution gives the President autocratic powers.

Andreas Papandreou (leader of PASOK) did not make clear his party’s position, and even allowed leading members of its central committee to maintain publicly that Karamanlis in the Presidency would only be a tame figurehead. Not until March did PASOK’s leadership decide to oppose Karamanlis, stating that this parliament should not elect the new President because it was no longer representative, and demanded new elections. PASOK mentioned that in 1975 they did not vote for the constitution and had called for a constituent assembly.

These decisions created fury among the capitalists, who were counting on the support of the right-wing of PASOK. However, even then no action was taken in order to actually mobilise the workers and force the government to hold elections.

Both PASOK and the KKE once again limited their opposition to within parliament. Eventually they simply abstained, without even proposing any alternative candidate. This was at a time when a common candidate of the left could have been a symbol of unity in action, and a starting point for a co-ordinated campaign to oust the right-wing government and to prepare the way for a government of PASOK-KKE, and for a constituent assembly to vote in a socialist constitution.

The Greek economy is already in the middle of a new crisis. The GNP is expected to have zero growth this year (3.5% in ’79), industrial production is declining fast (6% increase in ’79), and agricultural production has remained stagnant for the last five years.

Investment in industry is at the same level as in 1973. The balance of payments problem has reached critical proportions as the deficit in 1980 is expected to be between $2.5–3 billion, whilst the real value of the drachma is falling lower and lower, with a 15% drop in the last four months alone.

The government, under pressure from the capitalists and the IMF and EEC, is trying hard to deflate the economy further, hoping to lower inflation and cut imports. The bankers are asking for higher interest rates, the industrialists for more grants and concessions, and both of them demand wage restraint and reductions in state expenditure. The capitalists are now facing a serious dilemma; how to impose harsher policies with an even weaker government.

The most probable course they will now follow is to reshuffle the government and try to stick it out, hoping for the best. They will try and take advantage of the wait-or-see policies of the workers leaders to manoeuvre, using the carrot and stick methods to cling to office for as long as possible.

However, every attack made by the “new” ND government on standards of living will create more resistance by the workers, who now sense its weakness, and will push their leaders to take action. In effect, the longer this government of crisis lasts the worse will be the outcome for the capitalists.

This is why the ruling class has now promoted Karamanlis to the Presidency and is also thinking of introducing proportional representation at the next elections, so to make sure that PASOK will not get a working majority. Their intention is that Karamanlis, will be able in a ‘constitutional’ way to block any attempt by a left government, under the pressure of the workers, to take socialist measures that could put in danger the control of the monopolies over the economy and the state.

The deep crisis of capitalism, which has shown the disparity between the high sounding promises and the actual centrist and reformist policies of the leaders of PASOK and KKE has already begun to cause concern among the rank-and-file of both parties.

This is particularly so in PASOK, where the issues of taking power, socialisation of the means of production, workers’ management and how to fight the reaction of the imperialists against a socialist government, are becoming more and more subjects of discussion in the local branches.

In the party, which at present claims a total of 65,000 members, the left s now composed of fresh and young elements, who, despite the fact that they are not as yet organised and conscious of their strength, represent the majority in the local branches and even the area committees of the party.

This development, which is of course a reflection of the processes taking place in society today, is also a vindication of the perspectives of the Marxists in PASOK, who, even during the dark days of mass expulsions and defeat of the left, predicted its rebirth and increased power. The fight for a Marxist programme has begun again in the ranks of PASOK because the battle for power tomorrow means Marxist policies today:

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