Greek public opinion is reflecting a deep crisis of legitimacy. 76 % feel that the measures taken in the last three years are unjust; 65 % think that the policies of the Memorandums serve ‘special interests’ and will not ‘save the country’ as official political discourse would have it; 60 % see the economic crisis in Greece as the result of policies developed inside the country by its governments.
At the opposite extreme, 10 % think that it is the consequence of the general capitalist crisis or of its particular manifestations, such as speculation, while 30 % believe that it results from both factors. From qualitative studies we see that the financial crisis is generally imputed to policies of Greek governments. A criticism, which we could say is a class one, emerges, above all due to attacks on social rights, on those of workers and of work in general. The structural reforms are considered an ‘instrument’ to benefit the capitalist powers and not the whole of society. The distrust is massive (as an average of the last three years) as regards the IMF (80 %), the European Union and the ECB (75 %), the banks (79 %). Capitalist economic institutions are equally discredited: 82 % would not buy stocks at the Greek stock exchange; 75 %would not buy bonds issued by foreign countries, 85 % would not buy Greek bonds. Political institutions also lack legitimacy: 75 % do not trust the judiciary branch, 90 % have no confidence in the National Assembly, and 85 % have no confidence in the administration.
The ideological x-ray of the present moment shows that Greek public opinion is evolving in these last years towards an ‘anti-capitalist logic’.
As for the ‘state’, the criticism is massive. It is held responsible for public deficits and consequently for the debt of broad social strata, including private sector workers or the unemployed who regard the ‘salaried workers of the public sector’ with suspicion if not hostility. Lay-offs in the public sector are thus greeted by 35 %, while 30 % are neutral. In essence, the disdain for the public sector constitutes the most powerful ideological weapon of neoliberal discourse.
As for European integration, Greek opinion is in transition. Since the explosion of the crisis in 2010, there has been an intense scepticism vis-à-vis the economic and monetary architecture, strong opposition to the policies that have been developed, a feeling of closeness to the countries of the South, and, at the same time, a strong ‘anti-German’ tendency.
In this situation, there are increased possibilities of seeing the radical left come to power. The first demand is the redistribution of wealth and taxes, to not make the crisis weigh on the shoulders of workers and the popular strata but to tax the rich and the church. The second demand is to change the model of government: 70 % favour a New Deal and a reduction of debt; 65 % a reduction of the arms programme, which is very linked to the system of corruption; 70 % the public control of the banking system, the protection of public goods, and 70 % are against privatisation of water, healthcare …; 65 % wish for economic cooperation with the countries of southern Europe to create a counterweight to ‘German’ Europe.
However, at the same time, much of what is seen as desirable is not seen as feasible, essentially for two reasons: the lack of prospects for change in the other European countries and the economic and productive situation, which has become quite poor. All of the traditional democratic and representative structures of the old system arouse suspicion. 85 % also lack trust in the official trade unions. At the same time, there is fear of change. It is this fear that was decisive in the 2012 elections and caused the defeat of SYRIZA. The new forms of local organising and SYRIZA’s closeness to the base have had success.
In sum, the tendency of Greek opinion is anti-systemic, against the established system, but it is also realistic and in favour of a reversal that is not maximalist but possible.
Text taken from his presentation at the February 16 forum. The article En Grèce, les possibilités grandissent de voir la gauche anticapitaliste accéder au pouvoir was originally published in French by L'Humanité on 14 February 2014.
Translation into English: Eric Canepa