Thursday, January 22, 2015

The annihilation of PASOK in Greece


The Greek legislative election on Sunday 25th January was extremely interesting for several reasons, most notably the rise of the radical left party Syriza from an extremely minor player in Greek politics just a few years ago to the outright winners of the election.

After four long years of ideological austerity imposed on Greece from abroad by the troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF), a sizable proportion of the Greek public have had enough of failing public services, widespread poverty and 50%+ youth unemployment, all imposed by a group of unelected foreign institutions in order to protect the financial interests of the private banks that recklessly lent Greece so much money in the first place.

For the last two and a half years this destructive, troika imposed ideological austerity agenda has been administered by a coalition of the two rival establishment parties who swapped power regularly between the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and the Greek debt crisis in 2011. This austerity coalition has been led by New Democracy (the Greek Tories) and propped up by PASOK (the Greek Labour party).

PASOK (The Panhellenic Socialist Movement) look paid an incredibly heavy price for openly siding with their right-wing arch enemies in order to enforce ideological austerity against the Greek people. PASOK were the party of government in Greece as recently as November 2011, but they won just 4.7% of the vote this time around, which is less than the Golden Dawn fascists, the Greek Communist Party or the newly formed centralist party called The River.

Between 1981 and 2011 PASOK never achieved less than 38% of the vote in legislative elections and held power for 22 of those years. Now the party is in ruins taking less than 5% of the vote and just thirteen seats in the parliament of 300. In a few short years they have gone from the party of government to a bunch of also rans, reduced to the 7th biggest party in Greece.

PASOK are very much like the UK Labour Party by virtue of the fact that they are both clearly socialists only in name these days, having bought into right-wing economic dogma many years ago. The willingness of PASOK to prop up the government of their traditional political enemies as they enforced the ideological austerity agenda of the troika was the final nail in the coffin for them. There was absolutely no way that their core left-wing demographic were going to accept that kind of betrayal, especially given the rise of several alternative left-wing parties, including eventual winners Syriza.

The lesson to the Labour Party in the UK couldn't be stronger, but they are almost certainly far too strategically inept to heed the warnings from Greece.

The electoral bloodbath for Labour in Scotland, where they lost all but one of their 41 Scottish seats to the the anti-austerity SNP is another clear demonstration that Labour are playing an extraordinarily dangerous game by cuddling up so closely to the Tories and parroting their right-wing economic austerity agenda.

Another crystal clear warning about the dangers of siding with the Tories can be seen in the catastrophic decline of the Liberal Democrats from 23% of the vote in 2010 to just 7.9% in 2015. Since jumping into bed with the Tories in 2010 the Lib-Dems have lost 49 of their 57 Westminsrer MPs, 10 of their 11 MEPs, slumped from the 3rd to the 6th largest political party in terms of party membership, lost hundreds of local councilors and lost their deposits in almost every by-election they've contested.

The Labour leadership don't seem willing to heed any of these warnings, and in early January 2015 they openly endorsed George Osborne's failed austerity agenda by voting in favour of his plan to send the UK economy back to the 1930s with even more ideologically driven austerity cuts.

By explicitly endorsing George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda in this way, Labour have sent out a clear message to all of their left-wing voters (who are still their core demographic despite the fact that Labour hasn't been a left-wing party for over two decades) that a vote for Labour will be a vote for more ideologically driven right-wing economic policy.

The big difference between Labour and PASOK is that in the UK there isn't a single unified left-wing party like Syriza for anti-austerity voters to unify behind. Instead the UK has the SNP in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales, the Green Party across the whole UK, and a number of other minor left-wing parties too, meaning that even though the Labour Party is riddled with right-wing politicians like Ed Balls, Liam Byrne, Yvette Cooper and Jim Murphy (who would all clearly be more at home in the Tory party), Labour are clearly the only political party that can prevent the Tories getting into power.

Labour may be the only party that can keep the Tories out of power, but a huge proportion of their core demographics (especially in Scotland) have come to realise that voting Labour to defeat the Tories is almost pointless if the Labour Party that replaces them adhere to exactly the same right-wing economic ideology as the Tories do.

It remains to be seen whether the annihilation of PASOK in Greece and the Scottish electoral bloodbath will be warning enough to convince the Labour Party to distance themselves from the Tories and abandon the right-wing economic ideology they've been pushing ever since Blair and Brown usurped the party in 1994, or whether Labour will carry on regardless and make it very much more likely that the people of England and Wales will do like the Scottish and consign the pointless red Tories to electoral oblivion too at some point in the near future.



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