Greece: Syriza congress unites its forces for a left government

Syriza congress delegates vote.

By Pedro Filipe Soares (Left Bloc, Portugal), translated by Dick Nichols

July 19, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Over the July 10-14 weekend, at the first congress of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), it was obvious that history was being written in indelible ink. This was a congress that changed the Greek left.

Faced with the challenge of rising growth opening the door to future government, the left coalition took the step of becoming a party. Hence this first congress, where everything was spelled out — from founding principles to political orientation and statutes. And, of course, where everything was discussed and different positions clarified, always with typical Greek passion.

Attendance: 3430 delegates. This statistic reveals the enormous commitment that the party invested into building this congress. Its deliberations lasted from July 10 to July 14, when 3412 delegates participated in the election of the president. It was an extraordinary sensation to enter that hall and feel the energy of the delegates, the intensity of the discussion and the attention given to all points of detail.

Political discussion: The draft declaration of principles and political document were developed over the days of the congress by a representative group of delegates chosen for that purpose. Plenary sessions were devoted to discussion and vote on the general line and to voting on amendments and counter-positions. Beginning with the goal of rescuing Greece from the clutches of austerity, the new party adopted socialism as its strategic objective.

Worth registering was the discussion around questions that are also close to us [in Portugal]: the position of the party with regard to the euro and public debt, and the composition of a future government committed to overthrowing the Troika [of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund]. The final goal is the renegotiation of the debt, with a sharp reduction in amounts owed, but without any surrender of Greek rights in the euro zone.

And also without surrendering to blackmail over the common currency, a government led by Syriza will not take Greece out of the euro zone, but it will not accept any more sacrifices in the name of the common currency. The party strengthened its commitment to governing by rejecting austerity.

The high point of the congress was the embrace of Manolis Glezos with Alexis Tsipras. The 90-year-old Greek resistance fighter in the Second World War is famous for having pulled down the Nazi flag flying over the Acropolis and replacing it with the Greek flag — an act that inspired Greeks to resist the occupation.

At the congress Glezos made an inopportune first speech, rejecting the proposed approach of transforming existing parties in the coalition into internal tendencies. News of divisions within SYRIZA were not slow in coming to light and everything appeared to be going badly in the development of the congress.

The next day came Tsipras’s reply, in which he appealed to the need for unity and for Syriza to project itself as a party in order to win the next elections. Manolis Glezos stood up and gave Tsipras an enormous hug, then asked for the floor in order to demonstrate the unity between the various generations of the left. The party left the congress united, with a short period granted for existing affiliates that had not yet dissolved to do so.

The discussion of the statutes and of elections attracted great participation. The method of election of the president and central committee took up most of the interventions, with the model of election of the president being by vote of all delegates. Alexis Tsipras was elected president of the new Syriza with 74% of the vote, a result exceeding initial expectations.

The method of election of the central committee was also debated in depth. Among the methods presented, the winning proposal was that of a united, open list, which competed against alternative lists.

The results were as follows: the united list obtained 67.61% of the votes, the Left Platform 30.15%, members not aligned to any tendencies 1.03%, the Communist Tendency 0.74% and Citizen Intervention 0.27%. The Intervention for Unity Tendency did not elect any member, achieving only 0.21% of the vote.

A personal note should record the meeting that Alexis Tsipras had with the Left Bloc delegation. Marisa Matias and Alda Sousa [Left Bloc members of the European Parliament] and I brought fraternal greetings to this new page that has opened in the history of the Greek left, expressing the hope that it will lead to the rapid defeat of the Troika.

From Greece came a word of hope for the Portuguese people in the struggle against the polities of austerity, in the certainty that while a sea may separate us, the values that unite us are stronger.

[Mathematician Pedro Filipe Soares is a Left Bloc MP in Portugal's parliament.]

Report on the 1st Congress of SYRIZA

By Yiannis Bournous

Transform -- The 1st Congress of SYRIZA took place in Athens, 10-14 July 2013. Approximately 3500 delegates dealt with the major tasks of formulating the Political Declaration, the Political Resolution and the Statutes of the new party, while evaluating the current situation in a national, European and global level and discussed on the ideological and programmatic features of the transformed SYRIZA and the project of the government of the Left.

The political discussion mostly focused on issues like the Euro and the Eurozone, as well as the possible alliances and political priorities for the formation of the government of the Left.

It is worth mentioning that the proposed Political Resolution text that was submitted to the delegates by the Resolution Committee of the Congress was commonly accepted as the basis of discussion.

The major minority of the party (“Left Platform”) submitted four amendments on the aforementioned key issues. According to the process that was followed, every proposed amendment was supported by two speakers and also confronted by two representatives of the Resolution Committee of the Congress. After vivid disucssions, the Political Resolution was approved by the vast majority of the delegates, while the four proposed amendments submitted by the “Left Platform” were rejected.

Moreover, the 1st Congress of SYRIZA voted on the first Statutes text of the party and, during this discussion, the delegates dealt – among others – with the question of the transformation of SYRIZA into a unified, multi-tendency party, through the transformation of its former components into tendencies, the electoral methodology for the Central Committee and the President.

Concerning the fate of the components, the decision was that those components which have not yet been dissolved, will get an extra period of time, in order to decide through a consultation process. In any case, the new Statute of SYRIZA is binding for all the members of the new party. 

As far as electoral methodologies are concerned, the Congress decided that the new Central Committee will consist of 201 members and that the President will be directly elected by the Congress delegates. An important part of the discussion focused on the electoral system for the Central Committee. Despite the willingness of the majority of delegates for an election of the C.C. through a single list, in the end six different lists were presented.

As far as electoral methodologies are concerned, the Congress decided that the new Central Committee will consist of 201 members and  that the President will be directly elected by the Congress delegates. An important part of the discussion focused on the electoral system for the Central Committee. Despite the willingness of the majority of delegates for an election of the C.C. through a single list, in the end six different lists were presented.

The official results of the voting process for the President: 

Registered delegates: 3430
Casted votes: 3412
Valid votes: 3344
Invalid votes: 68
Blank votes: 688 (20,57%)
Alexis Tsipras: 2477 (74,04%)
Sissy Vovou: 157 (4,69%)
Panos Iliopoulos: 22 (0,6%)

The official results for the Central Committee (201 members):

Registered delegates: 3430
Casted votes: 3413
Valid votes: 3393
Invalid votes: 17
Blank votes: 3  

1) United List: 2294 votes / 67,61% / 135 members (45 women)
2) Left Platform: 1023 votes / 30,15% / 60 members (20 women)
3) Non aligned members inside SYRIZA: 35 votes / 1,03% / 2 members (1 woman)
4) Communist Tendency/Platform: 25 votes / 0,74% / 2 members (1 woman)
5) Members Intervention: 9 votes / 0,27% / 1 member
6) Intervention for Unity: 7 votes / 0,21% / 0 members

In a press release after the end of the Congress, Alexis Tsipras stated:“The founding Congress of SYRIZA constitutes a big step, a historical landmark for the Greek Left and for democracy. Approximately 3500 delegates from all over Greece sealed the birth of the new political subject. With an open and lively democratic debate. With clear decisions. We made the historical step. From tomorrow, with our new Party, all together, more united and stronger than ever, we begin the big and victorious journey. To stop social destruction and rebuild Greece”.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 07/24/2013 - 14:52


SYRIZA has become a party but with a strong internal opposition

15 July 2013 / 23:07:53  GRReporter

The main opposition party in Greece is no longer a coalition of smaller left-wing and extreme left-wing structures but a single party, which will include individual citizens. The decision had been taken at the congress which lasted for four days and which ended with the election of Alexis Tsipras leader of the already united party. He received the votes of 74% of the delegates.

SYRIZA’s maturity from a coalition to a party was not easy. The debates during the congress were violent and there were moments of great tension as well. The final result of the vote for party leader in favour of Alexis Tsipras showed not only the support of the majority for him but also the presence of a dynamic minority. It is Panagiotis Lafazanis’ "Left Platform" whose members had preferred the white ballot and won 20.57% of the vote.

Alexis Tsipras defined the founding congress of SYRIZA as historic for the left wing and for democracy in general, adding that the 3,500 delegates "signed the birth of the new through an open democratic dialogue and clear decisions."

The bickering between the majority and its opponents on important political issues such as the sovereign debt of Greece, the party's position regarding the European currency, the euro area and the cooperation with other political parties had become an informal forum. For the first time in the history of the left wing, the delegates could openly oppose or support different views.

Despite the proposal of the party leadership, some of the constituent smaller parties had refused to dissolve. One of them was the party of veteran of Greek resistance Manolis Gletsos, who said out loud, "the others cannot decide for us." On the following day, however, he changed his statements by saying the he supported Alexis Tsipras’ proposals.

According to commentators on social media, the anger of Manolis Gletsos and Panagiotis Lafazanis may not be connected only to the process of decision-making within the party but also to the allocation of the state funding to the political parties. Sources say that in the period when SYRIZA did not win more than 3% of the vote, the group led by him received the sum of 150,000 euro per year. Others received 200,000 euro. "Maybe it is better to be acquainted with the contents of the contract on the allocation of state funding to the different groups in order for us to find out what has provoked the anger of Manolis Gletsos," reads one of the comments.

After the angry reaction, the leadership suggested that the groups be dissolved within three months. This had triggered a new round of tension as a result of which the limitation was corrected to the undefined "reasonable period of time."

According to the final decision, SYRIZA will operate on the principle of "one member - one vote" and no trend, movement or organization will have more privileges than members.

The amendments proposed by Panagiotis Lafazanis’ "Left Platform" were rejected during the debate. One of them was for the complete write-off of the Greek sovereign debt. The speech of Efklidis Tsakalotos, a lecturer in economics, proved crucial for the final decision on the issue. He said that the writing-off of the debt would not solve Greece's problems but a change in the pattern of the organization in the country would.

The other amendments were related to the return to the drachma, Greece’s exit from the euro zone, the nationalization of banks and to strategic industries. The banking sector strategy approved by the majority is that the sector should operate under the direct control of the state authorities.

At the same time, the latest poll shows that the difference between the major political opponents is below 1% in favour of New Democracy. Democratic Left records the greatest losses in terms of its influence over the voters.

The results for the parties are as follows: New Democracy - 29.1%, SYRIZA - 28.7%, Golden Dawn - 13.1%, PASOK - 7.3%, the Greek Communist Party - 5.5%, Independent Greeks - 5.4%, Democratic Left - 3.2% and Green environmentalists - 2.2%. 6.5% of respondents state that they are not sure for which party they would vote in the event of elections.