Greece: What does Tsipras’s endorsement of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President signify?

Economic and social crisis requires independent pro-worker, socialist policies!

The announcement, two days ago, by Alex Tsipras, the Greek Prime Mininister, that he was endorsing New Democracy politician, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, for candidacy for the position of the President of Greece did not fall from the sky. It was a commonly known ‘secret’ that the leader of Syriza would propose as president a politician from the ranks of the right wing New Democracy party (the traditional right-wing party of the ruling class in Greece).

In his speech to a meeting of the Syriza Parliamentary Group, Tsipras argued that even though the proposal to support a candidate from the Left for President of Greece is “reasonable”, his proposal to support Pavlopoulos was to show that Left “has never been arrogant” and was put forward to promote “our people’s unity” which today is “as necessary as ever”.

But since when has this so-called “people’s unity” been identified with such a well-known right wing politician from New Democracy? Pavlopoulos is a representative of the interests of the class enemy, of big capital. When in government, New Democracy (along with the social democratic Pasok) was responsible for the social catastrophe of the memoranda (austerity measures the last governments agreed with the Troika). Pavlopoulos was a notorious New Democracy government minister in charge of policing.

Since when is so-called people’s unity identified with collaborating with the people’s enemies? How much “national pride” do the millions of workers in Greece really feel when they see Alexis Tsipras and the “butcher” of their rights, Antonis Samaras (the recently deposed New Democracy prime minister), support the same candidate for President of the country?

Social and political consensus

Tsipras, elaborating on his proposal, argued that a necessary precondition to overcome Greece’s huge difficulties is to forge the “broadest possible social and political consensus”. But consensus with whom? There is no doubt that facing blackmail from Greece’s capitalist creditors and the EU, the greatest possible unity of workers, the unemployed, the middle classes and small businesses people, the youth and the poor and so on, is absolutely necessary. Such unity amongst working people, on the basis of their common interests, is not only necessary but is actually being achieved, to a great extent at the moment. A glance at the recent polls shows that the Syriza-led government has managed to gain (at least, for the moment) the support of the vast majority of Greek people, even from those that voted for other parties in the recent elections.

This has been achieved because Syriza has, so far, appeared to the masses to hold a strong line against the big creditors and to be clashing (i.e. not in harmony with!) right-wing opposition leaders in Greece, like Samaras, Venizelos and their political parties. But any overtures to the pro-memoranda (pro-austerity) parties will not increase the unity of the masses. In fact, it will only bring confusion and disappointment to those parts of society that enthusiastically turned to Syriza immediately after the elections on the basis of Syriza’s popular (albeit limited) announced reforms for working people.

This sort of “unity” of workers and wider layers in society bears no relation to the effort to find common ground with New Democracy or with the boss’s interests that ND expresses. The truth is that not “all Greeks” have the same class interests and neither do the vicious memoranda cuts hit all “the Greeks”. The big ship-owners, big business people and, generally, big capital were not only were not hit by the memoranda policies but, on the contrary, as a general rule they welcomed new anti-worker laws with satisfaction and saw their profits increase.

The “understanding” and the embracing of political representatives of the big bankers and the shipping magnets does not build the militant unity of the rank and file of society against the memoranda but weakens this unity. Pavlopoulos represents nothing else but this class – the class of the big capital and the class of the memoranda.

Party democracy

There is also another important aspect to the decision of Tsiperas to back Pavlopoulos. Which elected, leading body of Syriza decided through democratic discussion and debate that Pavlopoulos should be the candidate? None is the answer.

The President of the party, Tsipras brought, at the last minute, to the Syriza Parliamentary Group, a proposal which the latter had no real possibility to change, or even to discuss, as there was no possibility of a counter proposal! The elected bodies of Syriza, like the Central Committee and the Political Secretariat, simply “did not exist” in the procedure to decide which candidate to propose for President of Greece.

These are extremely dangerous tendencies which (in our opinion) will continue and grow. Tsipras will use the power that his general popularity gives him, inside and outside of Greece, to function as the sole real power within the party. Syriza is developing into a party where the power of the “leader” will not be questioned. This is quite a normal situation inside pro-capitalist political parties but which the Left has always denounced as undemocratic and unacceptable. The root of this problem in Syriza, as Xekinima (CWI Greece) has written about before, lies in the founding conference of Syriza. The leadership of the party, basing itself on the “armies” of the bureaucratic apparatus and the mass entry of ex-Pasok cadres into Syriza, got through the founding congress the decision to directly elect the president from the Congress, when in all the history of the Left the leader of the party was elected by the Central Committee precisely so that he/she can be under control and checked.

Syriza’s backing of Pavlopoulos is a choice that sends a completely wrong message to the working class and Greek masses and puts Syriza on a very slippery road. It is a decision that has to do with the Syriza leadership’s attempt to “ride two horses” at once – that of the expectations of the Greek working class and masses but also trying to satisfy the bosses and Troika. But this effort by the Syriza leadership is doomed to failure. In these times of deep economic crisis and desperate social needs in Greece, it is not possible to be on the side of the ship-owners and the workers, with the businessmen and with unemployed.

The gravity of the economic and social crisis and needs of the working masses demands independent class policies – bold socialist policies – that would reject the debt and the memoranda and vastly improve the lives of workers, the unemployed and poor and small businesses, including by taking the major parts of industry and the big banks into democratic public ownership and control to ensure the needs of the masses are met.

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