Monday, January 14, 2013

Andreas Kloke: The Greek Crisis, SYRIZA and the Left

Due to the ongoing, unrestrained attacks on working people by the European Union and IMF elites, and also by the Greek bourgeoisie, international attention rightly remains focused on Greece. For the worldwide left the question is whether Greece can find a way out of the crisis in an anti-capitalist direction. Because of its electoral success in May and June 2012 and its resultant leading role within the Greek Left, SYRIZA understandably is the party in which the progressive public is particularly interested. From November 30 to December 2, 2012, SYRIZA held a convention where the contours of its current line became more clear.
 DEA ("Internationalist Workers' Left") is an organization that emerged from a split in SEK, the Greek affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency, and which has been a member of SYRIZA since its founding in 2004. Kokkino ("Red") is a split from DEA and APO, a smaller split from Kokkino. KEDA is a group led by comrades excluded from the Communist Party of Greece in recent years. Those three organizations are part of SYRIZA. In the past, they rationalized all the maneuvers of the leadership (of which there were many), from the “left”, that is, with “left” arguments and vocabulary. Together with the not insignificant “Left Current” of the Synaspismos (SYN) party, they now form the “Left Platform” of SYRIZA. The Left Current supports the exit from the euro and from the EU, but has major illusions in the “parliamentary road to socialism”, failing to challenge the institutions of the bourgeois state. The new Left Platform can be seen as an “achievement” for the small semi-Trotskyist organizations. But it also amounts to an adjustment to clearly left-reformist ideas and concepts.
An author of DEA has recently published a report on the SYRIZA congress. (1)
The four essential points of the Left Platform mentioned in this report are quoted here:
“a) SYRIZA must remain committed to winning a ‘government of the left,’ appealing at the same time to the Communist Party and ANTARSYA for collaboration.
b) It should only accept a ‘government of the left’ and should rule out support for any coalition government that includes bourgeois parties.
c) The coalition must continue to stand for an immediate end to payments on the debt; not a single sacrifice should be made for the Euro.
d) SYRIZA must stand for reversing austerity by any means necessary - and putting workers' needs above the ‘realistic’ proposals to meet the needs of capitalism.”

Weaknesses of the Left Platform

The “four points” of the Left Platform are programmatically very weak. The prospect of a “government of the left” implies a parliamentary orientation within the framework of the existing system. It is well known that the CPG (KKE) is absolutely against a coalition with SYRIZA. It is also very unlikely that ANTARSYA, in or out of parliament, will support the Alexis Tsipras leadership that follows an essentially “left capitalist”, softly Keynesian orientation and has just discovered the “fantastic” economic, social and political “achievements" of the “center-left” governments of da Silva (“Lula”) in Brazil and of Kirchner in Argentina.
Tsipras continues to promise to pay off the debt. “We are no batahtsides” (people who do not pay their debts), he solemnly declared in September. Thus, it is not difficult to imagine what kind of policy will prevail in the case of a SYRIZA-led government. It will mean nothing less than an attempt to save Greek capitalism, in the context of world capitalism – however promoted as such “from the left”.  Predictably, this will lead to a complete disaster, not only for such a “left government” itself, but especially for the affected workers and the majority of the population. It is completely irresponsible to fail to criticize this right-wing line of the Tsipras leadership in the strongest terms.
Instead, the Left Platform argues evasively. It urges that SYRIZA should not “move to the right” and that “any turn toward moderation or a shifting of SYRIZA's politics would face serious internal resistance (!).” Strong words, but what do they mean in a situation where the political line of the SYRIZA leadership has already moved sharply to the right? It is nothing more than window dressing. It should be characterized as a transparent attempt to cover up the rightward shift of the leadership. And of course, that attitude threatens to betray the hopes and expectations of millions of people who yearn for a real social defense and for stopping the terrible and incessant attacks by government and the troika. It should be clear that this necessary criticism is not merely a "tactical question".
Note that the first two of the “four points” of the Left Platform, concerning the “government of the left” and the refusal to include “bourgeois parties” in such a government, are almost identical. These two points, however, are silent on the simple truth that a SYRIZA-led government itself would be a “left bourgeois” government. The third point states that “the coalition must continue to stand for an immediate end to payments on the debt and not a single sacrifice should be made for the sake of the euro.” But anyone paying attention knows that the Tsipras majority has no intention of canceling debt payments.

A trip to Latin America, and the march to the right

Tsipras explicitly stated his policy, and confirmed it when he travelled to Latin America in December. He praised the economic policies of da Silva (“Lula”) and his successor in the presidency, D. Rousseff, in Brazil, and those of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that the Left Platform - at least the organizations involved in it - will not break with the SYRIZA majority leadership, not even if such policies are implemented by a “left” government under Tsipras. Something similar happened in the years 2002-2003 when “Democracia Socialista” (DS), the former Brazilian section of the Fourth International, supported da Silva who had been elected Prime Minister and continued the application of neo-liberal concepts. DS even stooped to take ministerial posts and to collaborate in employing patently pro-capitalist policies.
The fourth point, that “SYRIZA must stand for reversing austerity by any means necessary - and putting workers' needs above the ‘realistic’ proposals to meet the needs of capitalism”, is wishful thinking on the part of the authors. It means covering up the political line of the SYRIZA majority that consists basically in a mixture of neo-liberal and Keynesian ideas, from the “left”. In fact, the political substance and the programmatic content of the four points are very thin.
It should be added that the organizations and groups that allegedly are to the left of the SYN party, mainly the Maoist KOE (“Communist Organization of Greece”), the largest organization  in SYRIZA next to SYN, and the left-Euro-communist AKOA, the “Group Rosa” and others support the Tsipras leadership and refused to join the Left Platform. At least their behavior, as a capitulation to the SYN majority, was more honest than that of the Left Platform. At the same time it is an attempt to stabilize SYRIZA after the right turn that took place during the spring elections. The nearly 26% of the vote received by the Left Platform may look like a satisfactory result for a minority. In fact it means that all attempts to “revolutionize” SYRIZA or even to shift it a bit to the left, have failed.
The more the SYRIZA leadership believes that it is heading towards government responsibility - or the more that this is actually the case - the more determined it is to move to the right and to leave no doubt that it will be a reliable partner of the elites in the EU and the world - and above all, be a “guarantor of the euro”, whatever the cost. In domestic affairs this means that increased cooperation with the CPG or ANTARSYA is not on the agenda. On the other hand, a coalition government with the current ruling parties, or possible spin-offs from DIMAR or even PASOK, is not ruled out and apparently is even welcome. SYRIZA thus increasingly has a profile that would be defined in earlier times as “classic social-democratic.”
The conclusion is that the Left Platform is more like a “left” fig leaf of the openly pro-capitalist policies of the SYRIZA majority leadership, rather than a “centrist” unification attempt against the reformist Tsipras leadership. One distinction could be made: The Left Current in the SYN party, whose origins are mostly the CPG, was from the beginning that is since 1991, the left wing of a former Euro-communist party and now a basically “left” social democratic party. In this sense it remains “honest” and loyal to its understanding of politics. The case of the organizations that claim to be revolutionary is different: Those groups are more and more integrated into the factional disputes of a reformist party (or alliance), without being able to criticize the bureaucratic leadership and offer a politically and programmatically sound alternative. In any case, they do not criticize very much.

The real alternative

It is therefore impossible to join SYRIZA “on a revolutionary basis” and to do revolutionary political work in it. Devotion to SYRIZA essentially means giving up on the necessary struggle for a truly anti-capitalist - revolutionary alternative to (left) reformism in Greece. That is one of the reasons why OKDE - Spartakos maintains its commitment to struggle for a revolutionary - Marxist perspective within the anti-capitalist alliance ANTARSYA and to advance the methodology of the transitional program, which is geared to the needs of our time.
Four core demands of this approach are:
a) Stop and cancel all debt payments.
b) Nationalize the banks and large enterprises under workers’ control.
c) This necessarily means, under the present conditions, exit the euro-zone and the EU, and
d) Implement a program of public works, which will confront and solve the problem of unemployment and growing impoverishment. Of course, all this requires a radical internationalist perspective, part of the beginning of the socialist transformation that will be a European - and finally worldwide - question.
Clearly, millions of people put their hopes in SYRIZA and believe that a “left government” could actually change the situation in their favor. They do this primarily as “voters”, and not so much as supporters of the anti-austerity resistance movement. On the streets, in the strikes and demonstrations, in the active anti-fascist committees, the influence of SYRIZA is very limited. One can say that the militant presence and influence of the CPG, of ANTARSYA, and of other anti-capitalist organizations in the anti-fascist activities, and also even that of the anarchists and autonomists, is stronger than that of SYRIZA.

Instability of the situation

2011 was the year of the rising resistance movement against the memoranda (austerity) policies. In 2012 hopes for a “peaceful transition” through elections prevailed. But 2012 was also the year that witnessed the rise of the pro-Nazi “Golden Dawn” (GD). Opinion polls suggest that it currently has about 10% support. Therefore, the situation remains very unstable. The policies of the new tripartite government are bound to fail, but the ruling class has no political parties in reserve. It relies more and more on the authoritarian, repressive methods of a police state. The police, to a large extent, cover up the activities of GD. More and more people are forced into unemployment and despair. An exit from the crisis, a real solution is not in sight.
An upturn of the resistance movement, and eventually a revolt similar to the “argentinazo” in 2001, are the only hope to pave the way for a truly anti-capitalist solution that poses the question of power by the appearance of self-organized committees in the factories, hospitals, schools and universities, and also in the municipal councils. Such a movement can challenge the rotten bourgeois democracy and the repressive state organs. The occupation of public buildings, factories and offices, hospitals, schools and universities, and an indefinite general strike belong in the repertoire of appropriate actions. Only in this way it will be possible to implement a genuine socialist solution to the crisis. At the same time there is a danger that the counterrevolution prevails, in whatever form. The unstable social and political balance that has existed since the imposition of the memoranda, cannot last forever.
The tactical instrument of the anti-capitalist - revolutionary left to convince broad popular layers of this struggle perspective is the united front. It will be necessary to fight back against the capitalist, racist and profoundly anti-democratic memoranda policies alongside SYRIZA and the CPG and their supporters, wherever possible. Equally crucial is that new layers of workers, immigrants and youth wake up and take an active part in the fight. There is no other way, no other salvation. At the moment, one cannot accurately predict when and under what circumstances this break will occur. The anti-capitalist and revolutionary left has no choice but to orient their efforts to this prospect.

The anti-capitalist left in Europe and around the world should take a truly critical approach to SYRIZA. The promotion of illusions hinders not only the necessary class struggles in Greece, but also the construction of the international anti-capitalist - revolutionary left.

Note: (1) read -

(Andreas Kloke, Athens 2013-01-03)

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