Greece: the Broken Link

Greece is the emblematic country of the current global capitalist crisis.

by Savas Michael-Matsas

From the moment that the country  declared its impossibility to serve its gigantic debt, and the first  “bail-out” in 2010 by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank(ECB) and the International Monetary Fund(IMF) tied to the conditions of the first infamous “Memorandum of Understanding”  introducing draconian austerity, Greece   came  to the  focus of world attention.

It became  a constant cause of fear and anxiety to the ruling classes and  imperialist institutions, particularly in the EU, and a source of inspiration for all the victims of the same crisis  all over the world thanks to the unprecedented, often insurrectionist, mobilizations of the Greek popular masses resisting the barbaric measures of austerity imposed by the troika of the EU/ECB/IMF and its willing  servants in successive Greek governments.

What especially had  produced  fear and hopes  both in the country and internationally,  was a powerful turning to the left by the impoverished masses seeking  to find a political solution to the exploding social problems by bringing a former small  left reformist party, Syriza, to governmental power.

Now, this entire  historical sequence of events from the first  mass mobilization in 2010 to the election of a Syriza led “ anti-austerity left government ” in January 2015 – and its  inglorious capitulation to the  troika, seven months  later, by signing   in July 2015 a  third  “memorandum” of further, even worst austerity, has been definitely closed and a new one starts.

For the workers movement, especially for its militant vanguard in the revolutionary left, it is vital to grasp this sequence not as a linear succession of various social struggles and parliamentary elections but as aninvaluable strategic experience  to be seriously and deeply analyzed  and dialectically superseded.

No analysis and no elaboration of  a revolutionary strategy as a guide for program, tactics, policies and practical political organization in the struggle  for a way out from the political, social economic crisis is possible without grasping firmly and constantly deepening  a Marxist  understanding of the on-going dialectic between world historical developments and national peculiarities, without dissolving the universal crisis into an abstract generality and without  turning the national particularity into a self-contained entity.

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World capitalist crisis and Greece revisited

In December 2008, three months after the collapse of Lehman  Brothers and the global financial meltdown, a mass, protracted, revolutionary revolt, led by youth,  erupted in Greece shaking the entire country and the right wing Karamanlis government, following the killing of a 15 years old schoolboy, Alexis  Grigoropoulos.  The head of the  IMF, at that time, Dominique Strauss-Kahn,  rightly  made the insightful remark that this revolt represents “the first political explosion of the current  world economic crisis” [1]. It was the thunder before a world storm, and the prelude for an unfolding  and never ending Greek tragedy, where ,“ all the world  ‘s a stage”.[2]

The global capitalist crisis that erupted with the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market in 2007 moved rapidly  its epicenter  in the European Union and the Euro-zone, where the legendary “ weakest link”[3] of the European chain, Greece, has been irremediably broken in 2010, under the weight of an unsustainable debt over the specific contradictions of the Greek social formation.  The “bail-outs” by the troika of the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF tied with draconian austerity measures devastated Greek society with a humanitarian catastrophe, without solving but rather exacerbating the crisis, crashing the middle classes, sharpening social polarization and fueling popular unrest.

Resistance to austerity led to the collapse of the bourgeois political bipartisan system of New Democracy/PASOK of the last four decades after the  fall of the military dictatorship in 1974; it brought down their successive  governments, and catapulted a  small until then left reformist  party, Syriza, into the position of official opposition in  the elections of 2012, and finally in government in 2015.

Seven months of fruitless “negotiations” of the Tsipras government with the troika of the EU, ECB, and IMF, were  a real torture of “turning of the screw” on Greece, a nonstop coercion, threats for a Grexit, blackmail by imposing liquidity asphyxia on a bankrupt banking system , while the so-called “first government of the  Left” paid back faithfully, fully and timely  all the international usurers , depleting   the deposits  of all public institutions and pension funds. Finally, against the will of the majority of the people expressed in the Referendum of July 5 with a tremendous victory of the NO to austerity and to the troika’s blackmail, the “radical left” government turned this victory into a shameful, humiliating defeat: the Tsipras leading group capitulated, in July 13, 2015. It signed a new bail-out, linked with a third “Memorandum of understanding” of new measures of austerity, even worse than the previous ones, described, quite rightly,  by the German  journal Der Spiegel as  a list of horrors”. The immediate result was a huge political crisis leading to a split in Syriza, to the fall of the government, and to snap elections on September 20.

Despite the disappointment and bitterness of the people for Syriza’s capitulation, the logic of the “lesser evil” prevailed. Disillusion was expressed in a unprecedented abstention and a loss of hundreds of thousands of votes for all parties( with the exception of the  lists of the small anti-capitalist left).  It is clear that the popular majority does not want a return to the past discredited bourgeois party system, thus the Right was defeated and plunged in a new internal crisis, and the same happened to all other neoliberal bourgeois parties. But while the people does not want to go back, they still not see any  alternative  road to go  forward. So, Syriza won again the elections, against its opponents, both right and left.

It  revived its coalition government with the right wing nationalists of “Independent Greeks”-ANEL, with a clear shift further  to the right, as it  included  more liberal  ex PASOK ministers). A government committed this time no to put an end  to austerity but to implement a much harder version of it, adding only some promises for “measures of relief” and a vague prospect for a  future “restructuring” of the unsustainable debt.

Burning questions of a strategic nature arise and  they are strongly debated  now, within the Greek and international Left, in all its  sectors. Why the first Syriza experience has failed? And, why those in Syriza who rejected capitulation and split failed to present a convincing left alternative and met with a crashing defeat in the September elections ? Why other forces on the left of Syriza, either are stagnating- it is the case of the Stalinist KKE- or, as in the case of the lists of the anti-capitalist left, although increasing relatively their vote and influence,  do not still overcome their limitations?

All these questions  refer  to strategy, not solely tactics, and as such have to be treated properly, starting from the failure of Syriza itself that led to its irreversible capitulation.

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Why Syriza has failed?

The U-turn of  the Tsipras leadership of Syriza from a defying, fearless, radical left, anti-austerity  rhetoric  to a shameful capitulation to the troika of global capital ( now a “quartet” as the ESM has joined the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF in the new loan agreement) was a shock for many people, particularly all those who invested their hopes to Syriza from 2012 onwards.  Nevertheless it had behind it a long Chronicle for  an announced  disaster, particularly after its initial rise in 2012, as it is now well documented ( for example, by Professor  John Milios, former member of the Central Committee of Syriza and a former chief economic advisor of  the ruling left party [4]).

Capitulation was inscribed in the main strategic line officially declared and followed consistently by Syriza: “Neither break nor surrender [to the EU, ECB, and the IMF] but a honest compromise”.

Behind, there is, as Milios pointed out, the illusion that a return to the pre-2008 capitalist crisis is possible by a mixture of mild Keynesian measures with  the neo-liberal “ structural reforms” demanded by the EU and the IMF. This social democratic illusion is combined with a strategic attachment to the EU integration project, a stubborn rejection of any idea to break from the EU, and   a paralyzing fear for  the  possibility of a forced “Grexit “ from the euro-zone.

The desperate search for an impossible  “honest compromise” by means a search for a class compromise with uncompromising ruling classes in crisis, both  at home and abroad.

Long ago before the July 12, 2015 capitulation or even the  initial Euro-group Agreement on February 20, 2015 with the  troika(or the “institutions” as they were now politely renamed  the troika of the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF), from the moment that Syriza has  arrived  at the gates of  government rule in June 2012, it multiplied all kind of re-assurances, first of all, to the Greek bourgeoisie, to  the Union of  Greek Industrialists (SEV) or the ship owners and bankers that its policies and program of governance  do not  threaten  the  capitalist status quo.

Apart from  appearances and statements by leading cadres of Syriza in  public events organized by think tanks and associations of the ruling circles of Greek capital, now there are denunciations coming from the former Syriza milieu revealing that there were behind the scenes  constantly secret meetings and direct discussions between  Tsipras and his closest  circle of advisers (like Alekos Flambouraris and Nikos Pappas) with well known big capitalists involved in construction and public works  projects as well as with mass media.[5]

The  so-called Thessaloniki  2014 Program, abandoned quite early in 2015, was an even more diluted version of the initial reformist program voted in the last Party Congress.

As evidence of its sincere intentions for class collaboration “to defend the national interests”, Syriza , even before the elections of January 25, 2015, had an agreement to form a coalition with the right wing ANEL of Panos Kammenos, a friend of the ship owners and of the orthodox Church. The decision was taken in a closed Central Committee meeting of Syriza, with only two votes against and the members of the internal opposition, the Left Platform led by Panagiotis Lafazanis abstaining.

Later, in the same spirit of class collaboration, and as a maneuver of political re-conciliation with the liberal wing of the Right that ruled the country for decades, it proposed for the position of the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a  well known leading cadre and former minister of  New Democracy.

The same assurances were given repeatedly to the EU and the IMF by Tsipras himself( for example, when he was in Texas in 2013) that the commitments taken by the previous governments towards the official  international lenders will be respected. The mantra often addressed both to the Greek ruling class as well as to the troika was that “the continuity of the State” will not be disturbed.

Faithful to the continuity of the bourgeois State doctrine, not only international  commitments were respected but also the repressive apparatuses of the  army, police and intelligence services – the “deep State” connected with the Nazi “Golden Dawn” and other  far right  paramilitary groups- remained intact.

Neither inexperience nor political naivety, neither “unpreparedness for a Plan B” nor tactical errors could be an excuse. Syriza’s strategic line itself was a recipe for disaster. Its strategic orientation for a class “historical compromise” at home, and above all, abroad was condemned to fail ingloriously: it asked for a class peace in conditions of open class war. Tsipras and his team went to Brussels and Berlin, marching in a minefield under a declared warfare, to confront ferocious, unyielding enemies, by raising the flag of class peace, which is the white flag of surrender.

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Austerity and debt as methods of control

If something is proven beyond any doubt during the seven months of  fake negotiations  with the imperialist “institutions” leading to the unconditional capitulation of the Greek side, it is  that “austerity”, particularly in the post 2007 period is not just  an economic doctrine of neo-liberalism, either in the German  variety of “ordo-liberalismus” or in the Anglo-Saxon or  French or Italian versions; and it is not  only a means to save the banks and the financial system : it is a political method of social control of impoverished populations  in conditions  produced by the failure of neoliberalism as capitalist strategy and the implosion of finance capital globalization.

The vicious circle of austerity generating more debt generating more austerity, without solving but exacerbating the social economic crisis, produces only  what Maurizio Lazzarato has called “ a traversal mechanism of control and capture”[6] under the  implacable supervision of all aspects of  social economic life of a country by a new  supra-national Panoptikon, named  “troika” or, after August 2015, a “quartet”.

The hostility, imperialist brutality and arrogance towards the Greek government   that dominated the behavior not only of Schäuble but of all the leaders of the EU manifested exactly that: not solely Tsipras but the entire Greek people who dared to challenge  troika’ s diktats , who  mobilize and  has chosen in elections a government promising  to put an end to austerity have to be crashed, humiliated, “disciplined” It must be  reduced into a repelling example to the other European peoples  that any resistance to austerity, to  a program of social  cannibalism  is condemned to be defeated,  leading to even worst austerity. No electoral mandate by any people    could be respected anymore, no bourgeois democratic rules but the rulings in Brussels, in Frankfort or in Washington.

A similar attitude has been taken in Portugal, after the September  2015 elections, when the pro-EU, right wing President of the Portuguese Republic declared that the formation of a government of  the ( pro-austerity, pro-EU) Socialist Party sustained by the PCP and the Left Bloc, despite its parliamentary majority, political moderation  and acceptance of the EU orders on servicing the debt, is “incompatible with the EU principles”. A kind of presidential coup was attempted. Although it failed because of the weakness of an over-ambitious effort to establish Presidential Bonapartism in the land  of the 1974  “Revolution of Carnations”, nevertheless the warning is clear: in conditions of capitalist bankruptcy and of death agony of the EU project itself, the political democratic legacy of the fall of the dictatorships in Southern Europe in 1974-1976 is an obstacle to the austerity  strategy of the EU- a barrier to be abolished.

In such conditions to speak like Syriza about “continuity of the State” to dissipate the fear of  the EU, the IMF and, of the ruling classes globally and in Greece is political blindness, self-delusion, a historical irony or, rather, a combination of all of them.

The sinister  story of the three Memoranda imposed in Greece the last five years  abolish, in form and in essence, every economic and legislative  sovereignty from the Greek State. It takes into its extremes a long history of debts, defaults, foreign political interference and economic dependence of the country, even from the times that preceded its Independence in 1829. An evidence-based summary of this tragic  history was presented recently, in September 2015,  by Carmen M. Reinhardt and Christoph Trebesh [7](quite possibly in support of the line of the IMF on the Greek debt counter-posed to the EU institutions). The authors quote  among others,  the Greek historian T. Lignadis’ comment that “independence” of Greece meant from the beginning enslavement to its foreign lenders…

In our days, the Greek State has been reduced into an oppressive apparatus of extraction of surplus from a pauperized people in a humanitarian crisis, struggling to survive under draconian conditions of permanent austerity and mass unemployment imposed by foreign banks to save themselves from their crisis- and to solve the crisis of their bankrupt social system. Who wants to ignore the well documented fact that 90 per cent of the loans given by the troika to Greece  returned back to the German and French banks? [8]

During the summer 2015 euro-zone crisis, Larry Summers has called Greece “Europe’s failed state in waiting”[9] . But the pauperized people in this European “failed state in waiting” does not accept to wait quite and passive in this “state of emergency”  that became a rule. Its resistance defies for half a decade now, the barbaric rules of the rulers of Europe and of their willing allies in Greece. This resistance is a political time-bomb that the  capital’s institutions could not defuse.

 

Politics of despair

The exemplary class ferocity exercised against Greece to impose a monstrous “Third Memorandum ”, which everybody can see that it is  socially, economically, and politically unsustainable[10], reflects in a contradictory way, the desperation of the ruling bourgeois elites in Europe. To see this despair, let us return to Lenin’ s metaphor of the “weakest link” mentioned before.

Usually this metaphor is used by prioritizing the importance of the national peculiarities that make a “link” in an international chain more vulnerable. But it is the strength of the chain as a whole that is measured by its weakest link. Lenin himself, by introducing the metaphor  in the case of Russia in 1917, insisted that the chain itself , not just a link, had been broken.

Every analogy has its own limits.  In Greece, of course, the breakup of the chain, under the impact of a world crisis of historical dimensions, did not yet produced a social revolution as in 1917. But definitely it fueled unprecedented popular mobilizations and a protracted regime crisis. Globalization, the international interconnectedness of social economic life is far more advanced and deepened than in Lenin’s time. In the current world crisis of global capitalism it is not solely the Greek link  that has been broken in 2009-10 but the European chain itself, without meaning by this its automatic collapse.

Nothing can be the same in the euro-zone, in the EU ,and globally after the Greek bankruptcy.

Despite the minimal importance of Greek economy as a magnitude in relation to the EU GDP,   precisely because, of the advanced international interconnectedness in capitalist globalization, and the crucial geopolitical position of Greece, the consequences  are  devastating. Even the Obama Administration had to admit it during the climax of the euro-zone crisis in June-July 2015, as it did also previously in the heat of the euro-zone crisis in June 2012.

No return of the euro-zone and of the  EU as a whole in  the pre-crisis situation, before Greece’s  default, is possible.  Why?

First, the Greek “link” is no more just the weakest link; it is the broken   link. And it remains irremediably broken as the unsustainability of its debt proves. The gravity of the implications for the crisis-ridden European and global economy is continuously stressed by the IMF and the US,  demanding from  the EU and Germany a necessary “ Greek debt relief”. The Tsipras leadership by hailing the IMF/US position, wants to ignore or cover up the fact that the IMF/US policy combines this pressure on the EU with a similar ferocity by insisting for continuation  of  austerity, without any relaxation of the imposed program of  disastrous and ineffective “structural reforms” in  a ruined Greek economy.

Second, the Greek bankruptcy has unequivocally revealed and immensely sharpened all the faults, vulnerabilities, and unbalances of the architecture of the euro, and furthermore  all the contradictions of  European  capitalist integration. Consequently, all the divisions and   antagonisms, particularly among the protagonists of this integration, Germany and France, in another level Italy, and with a  Britain on the threshold of a possible “Brexit” are exacerbated.

Third, a new deepening of the global crisis, anticipated by the financial troubles in August 2015 linked to the  slowing of the Chinese economy,  the expected rise of the US interest rates by the Fed, and the  disappointing results of the “Quantitative Easing” program introduced, belatedly by the ECB, early 2015, make a fragilized EU more vulnerable to  the coming storms.  

Last but not least, the gigantic migrants crisis, the nonstop tide waves of migrants from  Syria and the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa to Europe through  Greece in ruins exacerbate  enormously the social economic and political crisis in the EU, destabilizing it from the Balkans to Central/Eastern Europe, hitting above all its hard core, Germany.

It is the tragic coming back of a Nemesis   after the imperialist Hubris of  wars of intervention first  in Afghanistan and Iraq, then, after the “Arab Spring”, in Libya and Syria leading to a total collapse of the  imperialist order as  it was established by the Sykes/Picot 1916 Agreement. A new “Eastern Question” is emerging, in dramatically changed historical conditions of capitalist imperialist decline and crisis.

Greece as “Europe’s failed state in waiting” (Larry Summers dixit) is situated in the crossroads of all international contradiction : in the Balkans in a process of destabilization, in the underbelly of Russia,  at the gates of the Middle East, at the center of  three on-going  wars -Ukraine, Syria/Iraq, Libya. A geopolitical “black hole” is in waiting in the the most strategic borders of a EU facing the real danger, as Wolfgang Münchau, warned in a recent article, “ to wither away and turn into a ghost”[11]

 

A “new old Syriza” – or an alternative revolutionary strategy?

The dialectic of the global and the local, of the international and the national, of the European chain and the broken Greek link, was ignored not only by the Syriza leadership but also by those former Syriza leaders that rejected the third Memorandum, they had split, and formed the LAE( Popular Unity).

They failed as well. Not only in the September 2015 elections remained out of parliament, but first and  above all, they were unable and unwilling to present an alternative socialist strategy.

The LAE has presented itself as a new “old Syriza true to its origins”, consistent, this time,  with its initial anti-austerity promises, more resisting to the pressures of the EU,  ready to use as an negotiating tool the prospect of a break from the euro-zone, and possibly from the EU. No critical assessment of the entire Syriza experience was done, nor any self-criticism for the role particularly of those who were members of the government Syriza/ANEL and of the central leadership of the party of Syriza  to the end- until the moment of the call of  snap elections by Tsipras.

The non-class approach  of the Syriza for  a “honest compromise”and in defense of supra-class “national interests”  is continued by the LAE  calling to form , by joining it, an “anti-austerity, patriotic, democratic front” – without  class references or a transitional program to Socialism.

The emphasis given by LAE on a return to the national currency, the drachma, without breaking the capitalist framework, not only played to the hands of those in the EU and in Greece using as a trap and a tool of blackmail the fake dilemma “ euro or drachma?” but also it counter-posed as the only alternative to the pro-EU capitulation  economic nationalism. The later is now  a  rather common , dangerous trend in Europe in crisis, with reactionary implications, as the  case of the “left souvérainiste” Jacques Sapir flirting with Marine Le Pen demonstrates.

There is a fetishism of monetary relations and of the national currency, ignoring the value form as a universal regulative principle in capitalism, and the historical limitations  reached by  the value form. The fetishist illusions to the benefits by a return to the national currency are tied to the fetishism of the Nation/State,mistakenly taken as a barrier to the disastrous effects of  globalization of  fictitious capital,  the ultimate fetish.

The  “ continuity of the [bourgeois] State” advanced by the Tsipras leadership as a re-assurance to the Greek bourgeoisie and the EU institutions takes here another form: to give back to the same State  its lost form of national sovereignty, without changing its social-class content, without breaking the  old State apparatus and without expropriating  the capitalists.

But in the case of Greece, historically and structurally, dependence is consolidated by the bourgeois State itself. The accumulation of Greek capital, from the times of its primitive accumulation up to now  does not enter into  a relative conflict with accumulation in the metropolitan centers, as in the case of former colonies, but it is organically linked to the fate of the capital accumulation process in the center.

Liberation from imperialist dependency is possible only by social liberation from the Greek capitalist class, by a social revolution expanding  in Europe itself and internationally.

The Greek people rightly recognize the EU institutions as responsible for its misery and of the reduction of Greece into a sui generis EU protectorate. But it doubts very much that its life will change only by changing currency while its pockets will remain empty. It  fears that its  misery will not be ended but become worst in conditions  of  hyperinflation of the new drachma , facing the dangers of national isolation in an already ruined country, while all other ( capitalist) social relations at home and internationally  remain unchanged. If it is so, why to choose a weaker replica of Syriza with a more pronounced nationalist profile and not the original one as a lesser evil in the absence of a credible alternative?

Obviously economic nationalism or “left patriotism” cannot give the answer. “Capitalism in a single country” is not more promising or feasible than “socialism in a single country”, the  dogma of Stalinism.  The primacy given to a break from the euro and the EU without  proposing at the same time a concrete internationalist socialist alternative, the weight that “left” nationalism  still has in the Greek Left( including in sectors of the anti-capitalist Left, such as the organizations in the anti-capitalist  front of Antarsya that have broken from it to join LAE  on the eve of the September  2015 elections) has  a lot  to do with the legacy of Stalinism in Greece,  and its leading  role in the  revolutionary liberation struggle during the Nazi occupation – ending into a disaster  and capitulation  to imperialism in the Varkiza agreement in 1945.

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The Communist Party of Greece

The Stalinist Communist Party of Greece-KKE itself  was   and is unable and unwilling to  draw  the lessons of this lost revolution. Today, amidst a new historic crisis, its sclerotic bureaucracy has no real strategy to face the challenge of the situation.

It tries to revive a fossilized Stalinism, manifesting a “third period” sectarian hostility against the Syriza supporters as well as against all other forces of the Left, of the workers’ and social movements. It uses a rhetoric  about  “workers-popular power”  and Socialism ( of  a similar, improved  kind of “ the real socialism in a single country” that we have already known and  which has ingloriously collapsed in 1989-91);  but even these goals of workers-popular power and Socialism  are not  on the agenda, they are projected and delayed until an indefinite future.

The promises for Socialism and communism are combined with an everyday conservative reformist practice of isolated trade union work, political activism, and electoral campaigns. Its electoral stagnation manifests its political impasse and sterility, not the “conservativism of the masses” as it claims blaming the people for its own failures.

Even those forces remaining faithful or temporarily they have been attracted to the KKE ( or rather to  the revolutionary tradition of the 1940s, the idea of Communism and the October 1917 Socialist Revolution) are soon disappointed.

The KKE cannot capitalize from the capitulation of Syriza and plunges again in crisis. It is because in all crucial moments of popular upheaval, from the December 2008 youth revolt to the anti-austerity mass mobilizations in 2010-2012 up to 2015, I and the unexpected popular triumph of the NO in the July 5, 2015 Referendum ( that the KKE boycotted), finds always  itself in direct confrontation  with the actual movement of the masses to the left, “to abolish  the existing order of things”.

 

The revolutionary Left

The task to open  consciously a road forward, a revolutionary way out from the political impasse and from the insoluble capitalist crisis, falls, first of all, to the dispersed and still vacillating  forces of the revolutionary Left, attracting particularly   the  younger generation of the proletarianized masses,  main victim of the crisis but also the most combative and most hostile to bureaucracies and dead dogmas force of social emancipation.

The potential of the Greek revolutionary Left, despite its weaknesses, vacillations  and errors, cannot be underestimated as some sectors in the international Left mesmerized by the “radical” Syriza and its “anti-austerity left government”. The same forces ( and some  celebrities in the  international left intelligentsia), now, either  they cover up with very weak arguments the capitulation of the Tsipras leadership  to continue business as usual or they moved their support from the old to the new old Syriza, LAE.

The underestimation of the Greek revolutionary left by those internationally claiming also to be part of an international radical or anti-capitalist left (one but not the only example is the majority of the former United Secretariat of the Fourth International) goes together with an underestimation of the actual fighting capacity of  the European  working class itself and of the impoverished popular strata. Actually these  subaltern classes  are  moving  much more to the left than the so-called far left, although their political behavior is still dominated by the political bankruptcy of the official  parliamentary Left of  social democracy or of the remnants of the CPs. The problem is that many times  in their consciousness  the  so-called far left, which is not going  very “far” and is not very” “left”, is identified more or less with the  official, bureaucratized,  parliamentary , (not so) reformist Left.

In Greece, even  after the 2012 meteoric rise of Syriza the refusal by the anti-capitalist  majority in Antarsya, by the EEK and other forces of the extra-parliamentary left to capitulate or to adapt to Syriza’s domination and  class collaborationist  line did not isolated them at all from the masses. The role and influence of the revolutionary left  in social struggles, in the unions, even in the local government elections of 2014  were  strengthened as never before.

In the parliamentary elections, of course, the results were modest or very modest. But a strict mechanical parallelism between changes in social political consciousness and electoral results is the false vantage point of reformist electoralism or even of what Lenin had called, “parliamentary cretinism”.

It does not mean that a balance sheet and a broad, deep debate within the revolutionary Left and in the workers’ movement fro strategic re-orientation is not necessary. As a matter of fact ,it is absolutely vital, it is urgent, and it has already started.

 

What next?

The entire last period of crisis and  struggles has not yet been closed by a  conclusive defeat for the popular masses.

The potential of social resistance that has shaken Greece and the world in the years 2010-15is not yet crashed or exhausted. Numerous manifestations of social solidarity and nuclei of popular self-organization to face  social catastrophe, including now a growing movement of solidarity to the  migrants against the EU hostility, racism, xenophobia and  fascist demagogy by the “Golden Dawn” , show that  atomization and paralysis do not prevail.

On the contrary, the first battles against the Third Memorandum   have started, as the first powerful  24 hours General Strike of  November 12, 2015 against  austerity and the Syriza/ANEl government has shown, and the  tens of thousands marching in mass demonstrations, a few days later, on November 17, in commemoration of the  Polytechnic University 1973 uprising against the military dictatorship, has confirmed.

The “capacity” of the Tsirpas government to balance between the pressures from below and the demands of the imperialist institutions of the “quartet” EU/ECB. IMF/ESM from above is diminishing every day. When the government introduced in Parliament on November 19, 2015 the first slate of priority measures demanded by the international lenders, including eviction of indebted people from their first and unique house, the Syriza/Anel government lost three  members of parliament who               refused to  vote for them. One Syriza former close adviser of Tsipras himself and spokesman of the previous  government, Gavriil Sakelaridis, resigned,  while two other deputies voted against and they were excluded from the parliamentary group of the government, diminishing its slim majority from 155 to 153( in a total of 300  members of the Greek Parliament).

It will be equally mistaken to expect a linear  continuity of the previous period, which also was full of zigzags, regressions and unexpected leaps forward . Definitely a break of continuity took place in July 2015, in the “brief hot summer”. Thus, the entire experience until then has to be taken and treated as a strategic experience   to be superseded in the dialectical sense of aufheben=to supersede=terminate=maintain( simultaneously to preserve)[12]

The period of regime crisis, where  the number 1 political question of state power itself  is  disputed is not behind  but in front of us.  It cannot be left  within the limitations of a spontaneous movement as  the tragic experience of Egypt and of the “Arab Spring” has already  again showed.

Trotsky’ s remarks, in the Preface of his History of the Russian Revolution on the changes in mass consciousness during a period of revolutionary upheavals  are now  more actual than ever:

The swift changes of mass views and moods in an epoch of revolution thus derive, not from the flexibility and mobility of man’s mind, but just the opposite, from its deep conservatism. The chronic lag of ideas and relations behind new objective conditions, right up to the moment when the latter crash over people in the form of a catastrophe, is what creates in a period of revolution that leaping movement of ideas and passions which seems to the police mind a mere result of the activities of “demagogues.”

 The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old régime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program, and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the masses. The fundamental political process of the revolution thus consists in the gradual comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis – the active orientation of the masses by a method of successive approximations. The different stages of a revolutionary process, certified by a change of parties in which the more extreme always supersedes the less, express the growing pressure to the left of the masses – so long as the swing of the movement does not run into objective obstacles. When it does, there begins a reaction:

disappointments of the different layers of the revolutionary class, growth of indifferentism, and therewith a strengthening of the position of the counter-revolutionary forces.[13]

The road forward in Greece definitely pass now through the unavoidable struggle against the Third Memorandum and against the legacy of the previous ones, without any time of grace or concession to the new Syriza/ANEL government. The surviving illusions of the past should be fought but without sectarianism or ultimatism.  Unity of action and a broad United Front of all workers and oppressed  and their organizations and movements  are urgently needed.

This struggle makes necessary the conflict  with the political and trade union bureaucracies that  sabotaged the workers mobilizations in the post 2010 period or   tried to diffuse its militancy through ineffective 24 or 48 hours General Strikes.

Grass roots social movements, and forms of popular self-organization inherited from the past struggles ( neighborhoods Popular Assemblies, occupied factories unde workers management like VIOME, free medical  services, social collective kitchens, antifascist initiatives, occupied social spaces etc) have to be maintained and develop as forms of a counter-power of the workers and poor people, independent from the State and the government, from any subordination to the bureaucracies or manipulation by NGOs etc.

A re-groupme of the forces of the revolutionary Left is urgent as well, beyond the limitations of past experiences, either in the form of fronts or of autonomous organizations. Centrist vacillations towards left reformism, this time in relation to LAE or to economic nationalism oi to groups that have split from the KKE, from right, as we had seen previously by Antarsya, would be  this time disastrous. The re-groupement of a left really communist, revolutionary and internationalist demands not a mechanical, quantitative addition of fragments of Syriza and KKE to form supposedly a “ third force” but a quantitative growth in the masses by a  bold qualitative  leap in revolutionary theory and practice. To achieve this leap we need common action and a non dogmatic, non sectarian, comradely open debate on all issues of strategy, tactics and program.

We need a transitional program, which supersedes the  reformist division of minimum and maximum program, Syriza’s reformism or  sclerotic Stalinism. Transition is contradiction, development and overcoming of contradictions on the road of revolution. It is not a step by step progress of a series of breaks “in the direction of Socialism” as an old formula, inherited by the Stalinists and Eurocommunism, is repeated by centrists.

The Transitional Program, as Trotsky said already in 1934, in Wither France? is “Not a Program of Passivity but a Program of Revolution.

 The struggle for power must begin with the fundamental idea that if opposition to further aggravation of the situation of the masses under capitalism is still possible, no real improvement of their situation is conceivable without a revolutionary invasion of the right of capitalist property. The political campaign of the united front must base itself upon a well-elaborated transition program, i.e., on a system of measures which with a workers’ and peasants’ government can assure the transition from capitalism to socialism.

[...]

 Now a program is needed not to ease the conscience but to guide revolutionary action.

 The social crisis in its political expression is the crisis of power. The old master of society is bankrupt. A new master is needed.

 If the revolutionary proletariat does not take power, Fascism will inevitably take it!

A program of transitional demands for “the middle classes” can naturally assume great importance if this program corresponds, on the one hand, to the real needs of the middle classes, and on the other, to the demands of the development towards socialism. But once more the centre of gravity does not exist now in a special program. The middle classes have seen many programs. What they need is confidence that the program will be realized. The moment the peasant says: “This time it seems that the working-class parties will not retreat” – the cause of socialism is won.

But for that it is necessary to show in action that we are firmly prepared to smash every obstacle in our path.

   […]

 It is not the spirit of combination among parliamentarians and journalists, but the legitimate and creative hatred of the oppressed for the oppressors, which is today the single most progressive factor in history. It is necessary to turn to the masses, toward their deepest layers. It is necessary to appeal to their passions and to their reason. It is necessary to reject the false “prudence” which is a synonym for cowardice and which, at great historical turning points, amounts to treason. The united front must take for its motto the formula of Danton: “De l’audace, toujours de l’audace, et encore de l’audace.” To understand the situation fully and to draw from it all the practical conclusions, boldly and without fear and to the end, is to assure the victory of socialism. [14]

The transitional program endorses the burning immediate demands of the masses and at the same time  advances demands that mobilize them on the road for workers power and social self-emancipation; it combines the struggle for a break from all imperialist  agencies, the  EU, the IMF, and NATO with an internationalist call to all oppressed in the region, in the Balkans, and in Europe for a common struggle leading to the  socialist unification of the Continent.

A general outline of such a program was advanced during the  September 2015  elections by  the electoral bloc  formed by Antarsya, the EEK and independent  militants of the Left: for the abolition of the debt, nationalization of the banks and strategic sectors of the economy under workers control and workers management,  break from the EU and all imperialist agencies, for an international and internationalist common struggle of all the workers and oppressed of Europe for Socialism and communism.

This program has not to be abandoned but to be developed further, as we are confronted by new challenges in Greece, in the region, in Europe, and internationally.

Last but not least: the questions of the revolutionary Party and of the International, their interconnection and interrelation.

They are not relics from an antediluvian age. They remain unanswered challenges of our historical epoch demanding to be addressed again through a critical  examination of the past and present as History, with the will and determination to imagine, experiment and discover the necessary anti-bureaucratic, internationalist, revolutionary communist organization in the front-lines of the struggle of all the  exploited, the oppressed, and the excluded necessary to change the world.

.

November 4-20, 2015

 

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[1]Le Monde ,13 December 2008 See Savas Michael-Matsas The Greek revolt, the world crisis and freedom of expression, Critique, 38:1 (2010) pp. 54-55

[2]William Shakespeare, As you like it,Act 2, Scene 7

[3]According to Lenin’s often quoted metaphor. See V.I. Lenin , Pravda No 67, June 9(May 27) 1917, in Collected Works vol 24, (1964) Progress Publishers pp.519-520

[4]See John Milios, A balance sheet of Syriza’s transmutation with some autobiographical elements (in Greek, Ένας απολογισμός της μετεξέλιξης του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ με αυτοβιογραφικά στοιχεία), article posted on  John Milios’s official site, July 14, 2015

[5]See for example the article in Greek by P. Charalambopoulos and P. Theodoropoulos “Κυβερνοσυμμορίτες με βούλα Βρυξελλών” [= “Government bandits made in Brussels ”] in  the former pro-Syriza political journal, Unfollow, No 46, pp. 34-43, October 2015

[6]Maurizio Lazzarato, The Indebted Human, Greek edition  2014.

[7] Carmen M. Reinhardt and Christoph Trebesh, The pitfalls of external dependence : Greece , 1829-2015, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, BPEA Conference , September 10-11,2015

[8]Martin Wolf’ ” Greek debt and a default of statesmanship” Financial Times, January  27, 2015. Just a quote: ” True the loans supplied by the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund amount to the huge sum of 226.7 billion euros [...] But this went overwhelming not to benefit  Greeks  but to avoiding the write down of bad loans to the Greek government and Greek banks. Just 11 per cent of the loans   directly financed government activities. [ my emphasis] Another 16 per cent went on interest payments. The rest went  on capital operations of various kjnds: the money came in and then flowed out again.A more honest  policy would have been to bail lenders out directly. But this would been too embarrassing

[9]Lawrence Summers,  Greece is Europe’s  failed state in waiting, Financial Times, June 20, 2105

[10]See The Third Memorandum is Unsustainable just like the previous two,1 october 2015 , by Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt ,www.cadtm.org

[11]Wolfgang Münchau, Enlargement and the euro are two big mistakes that ruined Europe, Financial Times  November 1, 2015.

[12]See Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, Collected Works vol 37, Progress-Moscow 1980 p. 108

[13]L.D.Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/ch00.htm

[14] Leon Trotsky,Où va la France? numérospécial “Quatrième Internationale’”février  1969 pp. 28-30 See English translation  in https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch00.htm