Published on Monday, 07 May 2012 16:47 Written by Sonia Gable
The people of France and Greece have voted against the crushing austerity measures imposed by the plutocrats of the European Union. President François Hollande told jubilant supporters yesterday that he would push ahead with his pledge to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to growth. He has called for renegotiation of the European treaty on budget discipline signed by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
While we will not hold our breath waiting for any great improvement, both his victory in Sunday’s second round and the more than 15% vote for left, green and anti-capitalist candidates indicate the rising opposition to European governments’ attempts to rescue capitalism from collapse by imposing cuts in public services, welfare and pensions. Those who jubilantly greeted Hollande’s victory will need to keep pushing for him to keep the promises on which he got elected.
In Greece the two main parties that agreed to the bailout package imposed by the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the EU attracted less than one third of the vote. A radical left coalition, Syriza, came second with 16.8%, the communist KKE took 8.5% and the Democratic Left 6.1%, in other words nearly one third of the vote went to anti-austerity parties on the left.
As yet it is unclear what kind of coalition will emerge. Although the conservative New Democracy party won only 18.9% of the votes, because it topped the poll it qualified for an extra 50 seats in the 300-strong parliament, putting it in a strong position with 108 seats. But if the new government is to reflect the will of the people expressed in these election results, it must reject the instruction from Berlin that “the agreed programmes must be adhered to”.
Both in France and in Greece, however, a worrying number of votes went to the far right. Marine Le Pen’s 6.4 million votes (17.9%) in the first round of the French presidential election was a clear demonstration of how fascist parties channel working class anger at falling living standards and economic hardship into blaming other sections of the community, stoking up ethnic and religious tensions.
In Greece 7% of the vote went to the violent nazi Golden Dawn party, which will enter parliament for the first time, with 21 seats. Its 2009 result of 0.29% was below the 3% threshold needed to gain seats. Golden Dawn campaigned hard against ‘illegal immigration’, promising to put mines and electric fences on the borders. Its supporters, who routinely wear black shirts and emblems resembling Nazi insignia, are often seen intimidating immigrants in run-down parts of Athens and other cities.
In the run-up to the election Golden Dawn tried to win votes by delivering food to poor people. One 76-year-old cancer sufferer told a BBC journalist, “They’re helping us, so I should give them something in return”.
Over the past few months Greek people have protested on the streets against the previous government’s attempts to make them pay for the financial crisis brought about by the bankers and the EU’s rulers. They now need to reject the attempts of the Nazis to divide them.
One of the protesters last month was Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on the morning of 4 April outside the metro station at Syntagma (Constitution) Square in Athens. He is one of many driven to suicide since 2010 as a result of the savage austerity measures.
His suicide note is a succinct call to action, of which the new government should take heed. Likening the previous government to the collaborationist regime during the German occupation in the Second World War led by Georgios Tsolakoglou, he wrote: “The Tsolakoglou Occupation government has literally crushed my prospects for survival, so far based on a decent pension, which I alone (without state help) financed over 35 years.
“Seeing that my age doesn’t allow me to react dynamically (while of course I wouldn’t rule out that if a Greek man grabbed a Kalashnikov, I would be the next to follow), I can’t see another solution but a dignified end to my life before I have to start scavenging rubbish bins for food.
“I believe that young people with no future will one day take up arms and hang the national traitors upside down in Syntagma Square, as the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945 (Piazzale Loreto in Milan).”
The June issue of Searchlight will include more detailed analysis of the Greek and French elections.