Lessons of 5th July Referendum and implications for the 20th Sept elections in Greece


The January elections this year in Greece were historic in that a new party, that based itself on a scrapping of austerity, displaced all the traditional parties that imperialism capitalism used to depend upon for its rule.


A sizeable section of the workers’ vanguard broke from the Communist Party and from the iron grip of the trade union bureaucracy. We should remember that the world headquarters of the stalinist-controlled WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) is in Greece. Thus the break was a blow against the concentrated forces of stalinism.


Within the short space of 2 years Syriza had gone from 3% support, to being the ruling party.

This was not so much a reflection of support for Syriza as a break from capitalist austerity by the masses- this marked the further advancement in the consciousness of the masses in their total rejection of austerity. It marked a stage in shifting from mass action to the first steps in the masses towards taking political power into its own hands. Unfortunately, the masses supported a party whose leadership had no intention of fundamentally challenging capitalism. Nevertheless, the intention of the masses marked a shift in maturing class consciousness.


Since being elected in government, Syriza started moving away from its election promises. The consciousness of the masses put it on a collision course with the Syriza leaders. Imperialism had a problem in that the mood of the masses was reflected in parliament through resistance from many Syriza MPś who opposed making a deal with it.


In order to break the resistance of the masses, imperialism gambled on their control over the instruments of power by calling a referendum on the 5th July. Imperialism was so confident that they would win, they scheduled a meeting with Tsipras to discuss terms of austerity on the 5th of July when the final results were not even out.


Imperialism lined up the following:


EU, ECB, IMF leaders all threatened the Greek masses with expulsion from the Euro if they voted NO, against the austerity;


The ECB closed the banks to blackmail the masses into voting YES;


Many bosses threatened workers with dismissal and withholding of wages if they did not vote YES.


The Communist Party and the trade union leaders called on workers to abstain, thereby assisting the imperialist forces that wanted a YES vote;


Even though Tsipras was forced to publicly promote a NO vote, privately the leadership of Syriza hoped for a YES vote so that they could justify their total capitulation to imperialism;

The Greek television falsified images of the NO vote rallies which were more than 10 times bigger than the YES vote camp. They claimed the mass rallies for NO were rallies of the YES vote.


Church leaders called on the masses to vote YES.


All the traditional parties of capitalism like Pasok, New Democracy and others called on the masses to vote YES.


Lessons of the 5th July referendum

Despite all the forces stacked against them, 61% of the Greek masses voted NO. This was an overwhelming defeat for imperialism. This marked a defeat for the capitulationist wing of Syriza by the masses. The vote was a sign of the willingness of the Greek masses to fight imperialism to the end.


Most of the Communist Party members voted NO, against the dictates of their committee, thus signalling a break by the vanguard workers from stalinism and turning towards independent class action;


The results reflected a shattering of the hold of the church, mass media television and other organs of class control over the masses;


The masses have begun to realize they can take on imperialism and they can defeat them.


The same time that the referendum took place there were mass demonstrations across Europe. In other words, the Greek masses are not alone in their opposition to austerity. If we look at the trends in the UK, Spain, France, Portugal, even in Germany, there are huge masses that are taking to the streets to oppose the imperialist austerity plans. Across Europe, the volunteering of thousands of the masses of their own houses to refugees and their own vehicles to transport them, in direct opposition to what their state dictates, is also a sign of the European masses breaking from their regimes and of growing working class internationalism. In other words, to promote that Greece leave the Eurozone and the EU is the path of self-isolation, it is the path of breaking the growing unity of the working class across Europe.


In other words, the masses are far ahead of the most left of groups in Greece, the EEK and Antarsya.


The implications for the 20th Sept election

Despite being defeated on the 5th July, imperialism has pressed ahead with attacks greater than what was rejected by the masses in this referendum. This precipitated a deepening in the crisis of regime. A growing section of the Syriza MPś revolted and voted against the measures. Although on paper a minority in parliament, these Syriza MPś represented the will of the masses. If such continued conflict in government persisted there was every likelihood that the masses would move beyond electoral bounds, take to the streets and dispersing the bourgeois regime.  


This is the background to why imperialism instructed Tsipras to step down, dissolve the government and call the 20th Sept elections.


The date is close by in order to prevent the revolutionary left from mobilising an alternative political centre for the masses to rally around. The aim of imperialism is to consolidate the capitulationist wing of Syriza in a coalition with Pasok and New Democracy, all 3 being pro-austerity parties. This charade is what imperialism will hold up as if the Greek masses support the austerity attacks.


A section of the dissident Syriza MPś resigned before being kicked out of the party. The aim of some of them in forming the Popular Unity party is to regain their parliamentary privileges. Some of these MPś were part of negotiating the betrayal with imperialism. Other ex-Syriza MPś had been consistent oppositionists to the betrayal. The youth wing of Syriza has decided not to support it in the 20th Sept elections. There is no movement yet among the masses for a boycott although some may stay away out of disgust at the betrayal.


An important section of the vanguard is supporting the Popular Unity party which has been forced to adopt a programme for the nationalization of the 4 major banks and the major reduction in debt, in order to a win electoral support. Popular Unity is seeking a capitalist ‘solution’. They will surely turn their backs on the masses as soon as they settle into the seats in parliament.   But how do we convince the masses who say to us: ‘These 25 MPś  that were part of Syriza were the core of the resistance to the austerity cuts; they will not let us down.’ By denouncing them from the outside?


Capitalism requires a split in the masses in order to control us. The masses want their own government. What is the path? There still are electoral illusions, how do we accelerate the dispersal of this?


For a Workers government, of workers, the pensioners, unemployed and the youth

Popular Unity claims they are standing on the original platform of Syriza to nationalise the banks and scrap the debt. The leaders are already moving away from this. They are not demanding the total scrapping of the debt, only its massive reduction.


We propose that the left, under their own banners, mobilise critical support for Popular Unity; clearly stating that we will march with you, calling for a vote for your party. However we believe they will betray you just like Tsipras did. You do not believe us yet but we will walk this path with you.


What measures can you put in place in case this leadership betrays? Yes, you can put in measures such as instant recall of leaders who deviate from the mandate but this will not be enough. Tsipras refused to call a Central Committee meeting before he resigned and disbanded the govt. So what is the only guarantee of a workers’ government?


It lies in building a workers’ government from the ground up: We need the workers in every workplace, every factory, every bank, every mine, every port, every ship, to elect committees of delegates irrespective of which party or union they belong to, irrespective if the worker is local or immigrant; There should be similar councils of reps from every working class area; from among the unemployed youth, from among the pensioners, from among the rank and file of the army; There should be set up councils of delegates who send reps to Syntagma square- they should set up a central council. Indeed this should be the basis of the workers government that we need. There should be complete freedom of agitation of all the working class parties- let them put forward their progammes to the masses and these be tested in practice. Let us challenge the parties of the left: the EEK, Antarsya, Marxisti Foni, DEA, KKE, etc all to be part of the Workers’ government.


If the capitalist parliament refuses to implement the demands of the masses, let us disperse it; the councils of workers, youth, unemployed, pensioners, rank and file soldiers, will be 100 times more democratic than it.


Let us march on the 19th Sept to present our demands and to constitute our own direct democracy, workers government. We should expect imperialism to hit back with blackmail and threats and even fascist gangs- let us take measures for self defence. If they attempt an economic blockade, let us appeal to our class brothers and sisters across Europe to come to our rescue. Let us kick out the Nato bases from Greek soil. Let us spark a revolt that leads to the establishment of a United Socialist Workers states of Europe. Let us expropriate the expropriators, without compensation, let us establish workers control; The fate of Europe is intertwined with the freedom of the masses in the neo-colonies in North Africa, the Middle East and indeed around the globe.

A common programme is the path to a new revolutionary International




WorkersInternational Vanguard Party
(formerly Workers International Vanguard League)

1st Floor, Community House
41 Salt River rd
Salt River
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web www.workersinternational.org.za