For workers’ unity across Europe: not an inch to “No to EU” populism!

May 26, 2014 at 8:39 am (capitalist crisis, class, elections, Europe, fascism, France, Greece, internationalism, Jim D, populism, Racism, Socialist Party, solidarity, stalinism, UKIP, workers)

French far-right leader of the National Front Party, Marine Le Pen

French far-right leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen Photo: AP

Ukip came top of the Europolls in Britain on 22 May. The Front National, which has a clear-cut fascist lineage, won in France. Populist and racist anti-European parties did well in other countries.

In Germany, the new, right-wing, and anti-euro AfD is at 7% scarcely a year after being launched, while in Denmark the far-right Danish Peoples’ Party gained three seats.

Greece, the country which has suffered most with cuts plans from the European Union and European Central Bank, is a partial exception to the rise of the anti-EU far-right.

There, the left-wing party Syriza for the first time ran clearly ahead of the main right-wing party, New Democracy. Syriza rejects the EU leaders’ cuts plans and proposes Europe-wide solidarity to break them rather than advocating “get Greece out” as an answer.

Alarmingly, the neo-Nazi (and anti-EU) Golden Dawn party came third with 9.4 of the vote, winning three seats. The other group gaining ground is a new party, To Potami, which is vague but leftish and not anti-Europe.

Greece shows that the left can provide answers to the social discontent, but only with an effort.

If the left goes halfway with the nationalists by endorsing “get out of the EU” as an attempt to jump on a populist badwagon, that will only help the right. Fanciful footnotes from idiots like the Morning Star and other supporters of the pathetic No2EU, which speculate that the re-raising of economic barriers between countries will somehow push towards socialism, are simply reactionary nonsense – and reactionary nonsense that achieved a derisory vote.

Voters persuaded that re-raising national barriers is the first step will inevitably drift to the serious, powerful barrier-raisers: the nationalist right.

“No to the EU” agitation, whether from right or idiot-“left”, threatens the position of millions of workers who have crossed EU borders to seek jobs.

We should instead seek to unite workers across the borders for a common cross-European fight against the cross-European plans of capital and of the EU leaders. Anti-EU populism, whatever “leftist” slogans may be tacked on, can make no useful contribution to that fight.

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Golden Dawn fascists murder rapper, threaten ‘civil war’

September 19, 2013 at 5:56 pm (anti-fascism, Europe, fascism, Greece, posted by JD, Racism, reblogged, Roger M, thuggery)

From When the Crisis hit the Fan
A new type of civil war
posted on 18 September 2013

I’m getting fed up of these numb mornings. I usually wake up in the morning, I prepare my coffee and sit on my computer to read the news and check the newspaper headlines. This morning my entire electronic universe was filled with the story 34-year old rapper Killah P (known as Pavlos Fyssas) who was killed by a fascist in Amfiali, Keratsini district, near Piraeus.

The victim, a singer known in the area for his anti-fascist lyrics and activism, was watching last night’s Champions League match with his friends at a coffee shop. During one of their discussions they said something (bad) about Golden Dawn. Someone from the crowd, obviously a Golden Dawn member (not just a voter), has called his fellow neonazi thugs and, after the match, the singer was ambushed, attacked and stabbed to death in front of his girlfriend and another couple.

Here’s one of his songs (you can activate English captions for the lyrics).

Can you be something less than immensely furious about this? I can’t.

Some days ago, another group of about 50 neonazi thugs have attacked a team of 30 communists who were wheatpasting on walls posters for the coming Communist Youth Festival. Eight communists were injured in the event that also took place near Piraeus, at Perama district. It was, once more, one of those mornings.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect a serious escalation of anti-leftist violence from Golden Dawn, despite the stated hatred from both sides. There was a very popular quote that was often appearing in my facebook timeline:

First they came for the immigrants, but I wasn’t an immigrant and I didn’t speak. Then they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist…

I was quickly scrolling down when I’d see this. But I am now afraid that the violence between Golden Dawn and anything Leftist is not an accidental confrontation in a battle to claim the streets but a rise in planned incidents.

One year ago, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros has given an interview to BBC’s Paul Mason. Sitting comfortably, he said that Greece is in a state of civil war. Paul Mason, a connoisseur of modern Greek History, insisted on the phrase “civil war” and Panayotaros explained:

Greek society is ready, even though no one likes it, to have a fight, a new type of civil war. One the one side there will be nationalists, like us and Greeks who want our country to be as it used to be and on the other side there will be illegal immigrants and anarchists…

Watch the video here (go to 01:55 for the Panayotaros segment)

Last week Golden Dawn was involved in tension during two events that commemorated some ugly moments of the Greek Civil War. One was at Meligalas and the other was at Giannitsa. There were no immigrants involved, just leftists and nationalists.

There have been hundreds of attacks against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals and others and the Golden Dawn party has always denied involvement. There was never a denouncing of the event itself because there were seldom enough proofs (for Justice) to incriminate them. This morning, the killer of Pavlos Fyssas has been arrested and, unofficial police sources say that, he was a supporter of Golden Dawn. Was he an official member? Does it make a difference? Of course not. He was definitely a member of a circle of thugs who have answered the phone call at the coffee shop before the end of the football match.

Not only the killer himself has now blood in his hands. The person who made the phone call also has blood in hands. Golden Dawn MPs, like Panayotaros, who have used hate speech against all non-nationalists, who have made anything they could to polarize the Greek society, they all have blood in their hands. And all those who have voted for Golden Dawn should now feel the thick red liquid in their hands too.

The Golden Dawn ballot is now wet and it’s not black anymore. It’s bloody red.

Update: I just found this great poster made back in 2012 by b-positive:

“You’ve armed their hands with your vote”

H/t: Roger McCarthy

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Petition for the release of Greek trade unionists

November 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm (capitalist crisis, democracy, Europe, Greece, Jim D, protest, solidarity, unions, workers, youth)

From comrades in Greece:

Please, sign the following petition:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/agwnas/

On November 16th 2012 the police arrested three unionists accusing them of
participating in the protests against the German deputy labor minister,
Fuchtel, in Thessaloniki the day before. Two of the arrestees are municipal workers and the
third one is a primary-school teacher – known figure of the Left and the
Labour movement as well as an elected member of the teacher’s Union Board.
The teacher was arrested within the premises of his school and in front of
his pupils. All three, were sent to court the day after. According to the
prosecutor’s decision the process was closed for the public. The solidarity
mobilization for the three arrestees was massive and the trial has been
postponed for December 19th. One day later, during the demonstrations for
the commemoration of the people’s revolt against the dictatorship in 1973,
sixteen young people were arrested when the police invaded the University
in a brutal way.

This is a petition in support of the three unionists and the sixteen young
people, who are prosecuted because of their participation in the
mobilizations in Thessaloniki against the visiting German deputy labor
minister, Fuchtel, and the demonstration for the commemoration of the
people’s revolt against the dictatorship in 1973. The following statement
was announced in the three unionists’ trial, on Monday 19 November.

*this petition has already been signed by thousands including:
Manolis Glezos, significant figure of the Left since the 2nd World War,
Bitsakis Eftichis, distinguished university professor,
the elected members of Parliament for SYRIZA Panagiotis Lafazanis and Nikos
Voutsis,
Alekos Alavanos, known figure of the Left in Greece
Dimitris Kaltsonis, left-wing academic, theorist and writer
and Aggelos Chagios and Dimitris Desylas, members of the Front of the Greek
Anti-Capitalist Left (ANTARSYA) *

PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FIGHT
On November 17th 2012, thirty-nine years after the Greek people revolted
against the military junta (dictatorship) demanding bread, education, and
freedom, the arrest and forced trial of three union activists in
Thessaloniki, with the hypocritical and unsubstantiated criminal charges of
“illegal violence” as well as the similar treatment of sixteen youth
arrested inside the University after the demonstrations for the
commemorations of the events in the Polytechnic School in Athens,
constitute an insult to our historical memory.

We want to stress the serious responsibility of the government which, in an
attempt to implement at all costs its anti-popular politics, assumes the
responsibility of an open anti-democratic political assault, targeting
those political liberties achieved through struggle and bloodshed. The
constant heightening of state repression, police abuse, torture of
protesters at the Central Police Headquarters in Athens, employers’ terror
in workplaces, racist pogroms, and state support of Nazi and fascist gangs
make up the “arsenal” they use against the popular workers movement in an
attempt to subjugate them.

People’s right to fight remains non-negotiable, particularly at a time when
civil rights, democracy and people’s rule are at gunpoint. The fact that
the arrests followed almost immediately after German Chancellor Merkel’s
statements about “violence in Greece” is revealing. Was such the eagerness
and subservience to please our partners-lenders-prosecutors?

We invite all political forces, unions, organizations and other
stakeholders to mobilize immediately towards a common coordinated struggle
to subvert the terrorization of workers’ struggles that is reminiscent of
the darkest times of this country’s history.

WE DEMAND THAT ALL ARRESTED UNION ACTIVISTS AND YOUTH ARE SET FREE AND THAT
THEIR UNACCEPTABLE PROSECUTION CEASES

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Syriza on Europe: to exit or not to exit?

July 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm (Europe, Greece, internationalism, Jim D, socialism, workers)

“Put simply, for those of us outside the eurozone, far from there being too little Europe, there is too much of it. Too much cost; too much bureaucracy; too much meddling in issues that belong to nation states or civic society or individuals.  Whole swathes of legislation covering social issues, working time and home affairs should, in my view, be scrapped” – David Cameron in The Sunday Telegraph.

As Cameron raises the possibility of a referendum on the social and employment protection aspects of EU membership, and Liam Fox says “life outside the EU holds no terror,” the anti-EU stance of the majority of the British far-left is looking increasingly untenable. Of course, it’s true that just because you find yourself taking apparently the same position as the right wing, doesn’t necessarily make your arguments wrong. But on the question of the EU it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the British left’s anti-EU obsession can only play into the hands of little-England reactionaries and the most vicious nationalist, anti-worker and often downright racist elements in the Tory Party and UKIP. This idiot-left needs to have a long, hard think about its anti-EU posturing and what it means in the real world. If the latest pronouncements of Cameron and Fox don’t wake their ideas up, perhaps the following extremely thoughtful and sophisticated article  from members of the Greek radical left party Syriza will force a re-think:

Authors: Christos Laskos, John Milios, Euclid Tsakalotos

This article by three Syriza members presents their argument that a “euro-exit” strategy for Greece is “a return to a form of popular frontism” and cuts against “a return to class politics”.


Click here to download as pdf.


Communist Dilemmas on the Greek Euro-Crisis: To Exit or Not to Exit?

One section of the Greek left converged on a strategy of default and exiting the euro, together with restructuring the economy through devaluation, nationalization of the banks and the renationalization of public utilities, industrial policies etc. At the intellectual level this approach gained powerful support from a number of Greek academics working abroad. At the political level the exit strategy was promoted as a central policy plank by the extra-parliamentary left, especially Antarsya, but also found a strong, albeit minority, support within some sections of Syriza (see Kouvelakis, 2011, p. 30)[1] . The forces coalescing around the exit strategy obviously had internal differences and we cannot hope to do justice to all the nuances here. Rather we shall focus on the arguments as presented by those providing the intellectual gravitas to the exit strategy.

The exit strategy has two main elements. The first relies on a deconstruction of any argument that the EU provides any privileged terrain for left wing strategies. The second relies on showing how debt default and withdrawing from the euro provide the indispensable starting point for such strategies. Thus the first report published in 2010 from the Research in Money and Finance Group, based in SOAS, argued that the “good euro” option (for instance introducing eurobonds, enlarging the EU budget to include larger fiscal transfers between states or transforming the ECB into a lender of last resort) was politically infeasible (Lapavitsas et. al., 2010). Europeanists, whether “reluctant” or “revolutionary”, Lapavitsas (2012) argues, are widely overoptimistic at what can be achieved on the supranational level. Why should “the main powers” accept major losses from a fundamental restructuring of debt at the EU level (p. 292)? Is it surprising that the “eurozone establishment” has given short shrift to proposals for direct ECB financing of public debt (p. 293)? Moreover is it likely that we could arrive at a coordinated European-level response to macroeconomic imbalances? After all “There is no capitalist class that would systematically aim at raising the wages of its own workers since it would then be ruined in competition. If wage restraint was broken in Germany, the monetary union would become a lot less attractive to the German ruling class, raising the issue of its own continued euro membership” (p. 294-5).

It is difficult to know what to make of this style of argumentation. “Revolutionary Europeanists”, to accept for the sake of the argument Lapavitsas’ widely misleading term for those he disagrees with, are hardly likely to believe that the “main powers” and the “eurozone establishment” will accept willingly either debt restructuring or monetary financing of public debt. Nor do they think that it is somehow in the interests of German, or any other for that matter, capital to increase the wages of their workers. Nor, to take a final example, are they likely to be unaware of the fact that German capital is committed to the euro as a hard currency whose credibility is crucial to providing the framework for capital accumulation[2] . A radical strategy for the Left that gives more weight to the European-wide level is just as likely to point to the need for a fundamental shift in the balance of class forces as is one that places more emphasis on the nation state.

Thus Syriza, which did not support the exit strategy, was fully aware of the scale of the task in changing the balance of class forces at the supra-national level. But it considered that building alliances with radical forces in both the PI(I)Gs and in the Northern economies was a critical component of any response; not just to respond to the rising debt crisis, but to seek common ground to challenge ruling ideas and practices concerning both production and redistribution. It was under no illusion about the scale of the resistance to be expected to any restructuring of debt, but its analysis maintained that the global nature of the capitalist crisis presented severe limitations for any merely national response. In any case Syriza’s internationalist interventions were supplemented with national-level initiatives, calling for a radical redistribution of income, socialization of the financial sector and many of the policies supported by those in the exit camp. Moreover Syriza was in some sense more radical in its skepticism with respect to leftist strategies that relied on the “reconstruction of the national economy” as a stepping stone towards socialism, thereby somewhat sidelining the issue of the relations of production.

In other words, the issue at stake is not the need to think about the balance of class forces, but, rather, where the more favourable terrain for the Left lies, or where should the emphasis be, given that “revolutionary Europeanists” do not ignore national struggles, and nor do supporters of the exit strategy neglect the need for supra-national interventions. Without such an analysis it is difficult to work out why TINA does not hold at the national level, as the entire Left has argued throughout the dark years of neo-liberalism, but somehow the mainstay of capitalist ideology, that there is no alternative, is perfectly correct once we move to the supra-national level. But it turns out that the analysis required opens up nearly the whole gamma of issues concerning Left strategy: from the nature of present day imperialism to that of the state, from the feasibility of national roads to socialism to the nature of leftist alternatives for the economy, from the sources of capitalist ideological hegemony to class strategies for changing the balance of forces. It is for this reason that we believe that the Greek debates are of interest the wider Left.

The Eurozone crisis facing the Ghosts of Dependency Theory: A False Dilemma?
Influenced by the anti-colonial struggles many neo-Marxist approaches to imperialism in the post-war period were premised on the idea that ex-colonies and developing economies were subordinated to imperialist countries through relations of dependency. This notion of dependency, together with the related concept of world capitalism, shaped the centre-periphery theories which conceived global economic relationships as relationships of exploitation and polarization between countries, with a developed imperialist “centre” and a dependent “periphery”, with a “semi-periphery” in between these two major poles. The approach was most influential in the 1970s, and it played some role in the thinking of PASOK in its earlier radical phase before its first administration in 1981[3] .

The marginalization of this approach is best explained by the failure of this approach to explain contemporary developments in capitalism: the rise of East-Asian capitalist social formations and later China and the other “BRIC” countries, despite the marginalisation of most sub-Saharan, Latin-American and Asian countries (Milios and Sotiropoulos, 2009, ch. 2). But there is a strong element of the centre-periphery schema in many of the supporters of the exit strategy:
The European Monetary Union (EMU) has created a split between core and periphery, and relations between the two are hierarchical and discriminatory. The periphery has lost competitiveness in the 2000s, therefore developing current account deficits with the core and accumulating large debts to the financial institutions of the core. The result has been that Germany has emerged as the economic master of the Eurozone. […] the Eurozone also has an external periphery in Eastern Europe which has presented similar tendencies to the internal periphery […] Italy […] occupies an intermediate place between periphery and core […] But what alternative is currently on offer to peripheral countries? Trapped within the Eurozone, they are threatened with continued austerity, low competitiveness, high unemployment, growing social tensions, and loss of national independence
Lapavitsas et. al. (2011, p. 5 ff.)

The general tenure of the argument suggests that that the competitive capitalist countries of the European “centre” – especially Germany – have experienced gains in competitiveness by achieving low labour costs, primarily through a squeeze on wages and a slowing down of inflation. In this manner they have improved their exports within the Eurozone, while at the same time destroying the “productive base” of the periphery which seems to be caught in an “underdevelopment” trap. The persistent current account imbalances are thought to be the immediate results. For those accepting this line of argumentation, monetary union seems to have been converted into an area for the exploitation of the countries of the periphery by the economic “steam-engine” of the centre.

Such an approach displaces a major element of Marx’s problematic, namely class-struggle as the motive force of historical evolution, in favour of a bourgeois theoretical schema, according to which contradictions and exploitative relations between capitalist social formations move history. It has no conception of the state as the political condensation of class relations of domination, the factor that underwrites the cohesion of capitalist society. It therefore fails to grasp that capital is a social relationship that is reproduced in a complex way (politically and ideologically over-determined) in the framework of a specific (national) social formation.

The economic development of capitalism, and its crises, does not depend on the “desire” or the “strategies” of powerful states, but on the class struggle as reproduced within the various national state links of the global economic and political order, which through their inter-articulation comprise what may be described as the global imperialist chain (Milios & Sotiropoulos 2009, ch. 10). This is a way of conceptualizing the complex economic, political and ideological links that develop between the different social formations which over-determine the class struggle in each country but never acquire priority over it. The imperialist chain provides, on the one hand, the field of constitution of different, often contradictory national strategies, patently unequal in strength. But at the same time the unequal links in the imperialist chain have a common strategic interest: reproduction of the capitalist system of power. Each state as it forges its own strategy in the international arena, on a terrain of shifting correlations of power, also contributes to the reproduction of capitalism at the global level. The EU comprises the integration of capitalistically developed European countries: a strategic coalition of their ruling classes, seeking to strengthen their position both against the USA and other developed capitalist formations and, primarily, against their “own” (the European) working classes. The key prerequisite for unimpeded capital accumulation is that there should be favourable conditions for the valorization of capital, and capitalist competition is to be included among such conditions. Exposure to international competition is the most appropriate strategy for organizing bourgeois power, as a model for continuing reorganization of labour and the elimination of non-competitive individual capitals to the benefit of overall social capital.

Exit strategy supporters rightly consider that the EU is a powerful and authoritarian construction furthering capitalist interests. However, what we challenge here is the claim that that the EU essentially a construction which serves the interests of the Northern economies – as if there are no class relations within northern economies. The exposure to international competition, effected through the single market programme and monetary union, imposed significant restructuring to the benefit of capital in all member states. Significantly, this integration secured higher rates of profit, satisfactory rates of growth, and a rise in average productivity, for the less competitive countries, before 2008 at least, went a long way towards closing the gap in per capita GDP that separated them from the more advanced countries of the European north. And all this in an environment of “free” movement of goods and capital is an index of competitiveness!

During the period 1995-2008 Greece experienced a real increase in GDP amounting to 61.0%, Spain 56.0% and Ireland 124.1%. Conversely, GDP growth over the same time period was 19.5% for Germany, 17.8% for Italy and 30.8% for France (see OECD, Economic Outlook, Volume 2009/2, IMF & See Milios and Sotiropoulos 2010, p. 228). We note that during the same period, and contrary to what happed in Spain, Italy and some other European economies, the growth of Greek GDP was more heavily based on investment and on a high growth of employment and productivity, rather than government consumption [4] . The higher growth rates in the “peripheral” European economies were accompanied by both a fast reduction in the cost of domestic borrowing and a significant inflow of foreign investment (of various forms). This caused lasting surpluses on the financial account. However, the imbalances in the financial accounts within the eurozone shaped an unstable and vulnerable context of symbiosis which quickly unraveled after the 2008 crisis.

One of the most noteworthy features of the first decade of the euro is the persistent current account imbalances: certain countries show chronic surpluses while others invariably suffer deficits. Nevertheless, the causality between these two “givens” may not be what it is often casually asserted to be in the relevant discussions. The current account deficit, in other words, may not be simply the immediate result of a corresponding “deficit” in competitiveness. On the contrary, it is quite possible that both could be the outcome of a different deeper cause, namely, the considerable differences in the levels of capitalist growth and of the specific mode of “symbiosis” within the euro.

Two other basic parameters seem pertinent in this respect. On the one hand, the higher rates of profit at the “periphery” boosted financial yields as a whole, with the result that international investors became ever keener to finance these high rates of growth, particularly in an environment where exchange-rate, and other, risks seemed, at the time, so much smaller. The countries of the “periphery” thus recorded strong surpluses on their financial accounts. Investments of various kinds in these countries rendered them attractive to capital from the centre. On the other hand, eurozone economies, with their different rates of growth and different rates of profit, were incorporated into the same regime of uniform nominal interest rates set by the ECB. These interest rates were considerably lower for the countries of the “periphery” than they had been prior to the introduction of the single currency. This fact, in conjunction with the higher rates of inflation prevailing in these countries, translated into even lower real interest rates for the local banking sector, laying the ground for the explosion of (private and public) borrowing.

These two factors strengthened borrowing and contributed to a further heating up of the “peripheral” economy, orienting production to the needs of a considerable domestic demand [5]. This had the effect of further reinforcing inflationary tendencies. The real level of interest rates fell even further, in this way providing further financial leverage. At the same time conditions of high internal demand caused increasing demand for imports. The flow of capital to the “periphery” on the one hand offset the cost of participation in the single market while at the same time generating the preconditions for a deterioration in competitiveness (as higher inflation boosted the price of domestically produced commodities). Thus the euro contributed to the perpetuation of asymmetries in the current account balances and divergences in unit costs of labour and inflation (competitiveness).

Clearly it is not that easy to sort out the line of causation between current account deficits and capital account surpluses, but a “centre-periphery” approach, we would argue, is misleading with respect to understanding the dynamics of the eurozone. Monetary union evidently generates strategic benefits for the collective capitalists of all the countries that participate in it. In other words, the strategy of exposing individual capital to international competition resulted in high growth rates and accumulation in the less-competitive countries of “periphery”. It is not possible to sustain the argument that EMU is exclusively the servant of the “insatiable” schemes of Germany, with its competitive economy. Moreover the experience in Greece, after the adoption of the first stabilization plan, suggests that what we have been witnessing is entirely understandable as a massive assault on the living standards of Greek workers for the benefit of Greek capital. It could further be argued that Greece provides a crucial test case, for European capital’s ability to enforce a “solution” to the crisis which strengthens its hand. The emphasis on Germany’s role severely misrepresents both of these aspects to the detriment of socialist strategy, to which we now turn.

A critique of the National Routes to Socialism: Class Politics revisited

Above we have argued that the financial and economic architecture of the eurozone, which does not simply rest on the single currency, acts as a mechanism for exerting pressure for reorganizing labour in all member countries. The squeezing of the German working class, which started well before the eruption of the crisis, is an important part of the story. The debt crisis has further served to tighten the screws on labour in all areas of the eurozone. The policies of austerity have been almost universally adopted even though they have been unable to halt the eurozone crisis.

Is the exit strategy as a response to the crisis in the eurozone?

In our view the basic problem is not the supposed radical nature of the strategy, but that it fails to challenge deeply enough prevailing views about the nature of the Greek predicament. In this way it is also unable to break with ruling ideas concerning the importance of the national economy and competitiveness. The serious economic and social consequences of breaking off from the euro are to be met with, presumably in rapid succession, capital controls, nationalization of the banking sector and leading industries, and industrial policies. That is to say, we have a national response in the face of a globalized world, with all the numerous interdependencies that this entails, and a capitalist class united and organized at the world level.

The alternative supported here does not ignore the importance of the nation state and local struggles. On the contrary, it is happy to concede that the primary locus of struggle is within the nation state and against the bourgeois class of that state. But it is also keenly aware of the importance of reaching out to secure alliances, and promoting initiatives, beyond the boundaries of the nation state. Labour in both the PI(I)Gs and the northern economies has a lot of common interests that need to be exploited. Some in the exit camp have been keen to place their approach within the tradition of leftist internationalism. Thus it has sometimes been argued that Greece represents the weakest link in the capitalist chain, and that a radical break with the eurozone in Greece will lead to radicalizing initiatives elsewhere. But it is not that convincing that a strategy that relies, in its initial stages at least, on a competitive devaluation to promote the competitiveness of the Greek capitalist economy can be sold as an exercise in internationalism. Moreover the emphasis on the national economy does not suggest that an integral aspect of the strategy is the process of bringing together the largest possible concentration of the forces of labour to take on the class enemy.

An additional problem is that such approaches fail to learn from history: national roads together with the demonisation of the foreign ‘other’ without a proper antidote of making the necessary class distinctions and integrating within a regional class struggle are easily manipulated by the forces of nationalism. This is particularly poignant in the Greek context, where the debt default and euro exit option has been taken up wholeheartedly by a wide range of nationalistic forces, whose anti-imperialist rhetoric is not always easily distinguishable from that of certain sections of the Left[6] . Debt default is supported in these currents because Greece does “not owe anything; they owe us”, and that the county is facing a new form of “occupation”, a term that still has a powerful resonance in a country that has not forgotten its wartime experience and all that followed from that. This line of reasoning, needless to say, does not allow any internal division between the “people” and the “nation”.

Syriza has taken a clear position on this. Also on a number of times, the general secretary of the KKE, Aleka Papariga, has suggested that in current circumstances a withdrawal from the euro could have catastrophic consequences. For the KKE the exit is postponed to the longer run, under conditions of “popular power”. Thus the stance of Syriza, and also to a certain extent the KKE, with respect to the exit strategy has nothing to do with their acceptance of a “role of passive repositories for popular rage” (Kouvelakis, 2011, p. 31) but more with a class analysis of the capitalist crisis and their historical understanding of the dynamics of nationalistic politics.

The long tradition within the Greek Left of placing great emphasis on the reconstruction of the economy has also influenced the dominant discourse, in particular modernizing currents that came to the fore with the first Kostas Simitis PASOK government in 1996. The dominant discourse has argued that it represents the outward-looking pro-European option. In actual fact what has been on offer is a national strategy within the EU. Modernizers, before and after the outbreak of the crisis, were willing to offer some criticism of existing EU policies and institutions, but a shift in these was never seen as an indispensable element of the solutions offered. In the post-1974 period, the Left was concerned with the restructuring of national economy. PASOK and the KKE thought that this could be done best outside the (then) EEC, while the KKE-interior, reflecting the eurocommunist tendency within Greece, argued that a national strategy inside the EEC was more viable. What was lacking from this conflict, which has subsequently re-emerged in different guises a number of times, was a strategy based in part on supra-national solutions.

But it is interesting to note that this national emphasis in socialist politics had, in the years before the outbreak of the crisis, had been subjected to very serious criticism. Much of this revolved around the issue of the economism and statism of the traditional Left, as well as its focus on winning elections and forming a government, or its governmentalism to use the Greek expression. It cannot be said that those supporting the exit have shown any great readiness to engage with such criticisms.

For instance the economistic bent of the approach can be fathomed from the importance given to acquiring a national currency. There is a case to be made whether devaluation can provide the same level of real wage decline but with lower unemployment, but it is not obvious that devaluation is always to be preferred to the type of internal deflation being pursued at present by the Troika. The statism of the approach seems to have learnt nothing from previous experiences of Left governments, such as the French experiment in the early 1980s. The idea that forming a government of the Left is a sufficient condition for a change in enforceable policies is one that dies hard it seems. And this is especially the case when the emphasis is so much on reconstructing the productive basis of the economy in order to be better able to compete, and so little on changing the relations of production and promoting new forms of social production. This line of argument is taken up more fully in the following section. The governmentalism of the approach is evidenced by the emphasis given to what a Left government would do in order to bring Greece out of the crisis. So the whole Left is entangled in a, often vitriolic, debate of what needs to be done once a government of the Left is formed. This can only sideline the central tasks of building a movement towards that end, with that level of active participation that experience shows is a vital prerequisite for making the best use of government.

Underlying this triptych seems a return to a form of popular frontism. It is as if the people have a common interest against large capital, thereby considerably simplifying the problems of popular and state power. This may be also a result of a “centre-periphery” mindset that suggests that Greek capitalism is weak and therefore the forces of reaction are also weak. This approach does, as we have seen, not stand up well in terms of theory, and perhaps more importantly, it has not been borne out by the events after the outbreak of the crisis. As Rylmon (2011) points out that:

[the] higher social groups as well as a large section of the middle strata accept the deterioration in inequality with respect to income and social services, as they do the increase in unemployment and the spread of poverty. In spite of the fact that the consequences of the crisis, and the policies that have managed that crisis, have some effect for nearly all the population, the deterioration that has been enforced by these policies has been met with enthusiasm by a large majority of the privileged … firms are sacking in large numbers those who are struggling to preserve the legal rights of workers … therefore calls for national unity in these conditions represent a failure to look at the real issue…

Austerity has seriously worsened the conditions of labour. The equality of insecurity, to use a telling phrase of John Gray, being imposed on both public and private sector workers, has unified the experience of large numbers of people, and has put severe limits on individualistic responses while leading to the proletarization of sections of the middle class. What we are witnessing is the return of the social question, and the prioritization of the issue of jobs and wages. This is the basis for a return to class politics and the need to start from basics. It is for this reason that one section of the Left has put a radical redistribution of income at the heart of its response. It is not “a simple rejection of austerity”, as suggested by Kouvelakis (2011, p. 29). Such a stance further requires rather more explicitness on possible friends and foes than the supporters of the exit strategy are willing to express.

The central issue, for us, at least revolves around whether the basic contradiction is between capital and labour or between capital and the people. What we need is a discourse, or rhetoric, that elevates class, and not the “popular”, and which has the potential to unite the blue-collar worker, the precariously employed and the supermarket employee.

This does not imply that there are no middle classes that can take sides with the forces labour. But thinking about this issue relies going beyond the anti-monopoly schemas that dominate some parts of the Greek Left. The category of the middle classes, including the petit bourgeoisie (Milios & Economakis 2011), covers a wide range of experiences and social practices. The Left needs to analyse these distinctions. It also needs a hegemonic politics that seeks to reach out to some these classes, not on the basis of their traditional mode of operation, which in the Greek case could simply imply tax evasion or worse, but on the basis of new practices and new consumption and production prototypes.

Alternatives to the Hegemony of Capitalism

We are criticizing here a position which has a curious conservative quality. It is as if the Left has always known the path to socialism, including the optimum economic interventions along that path, and all that is needed is the appropriate political climate to reactivate the given formula. Making a virtue out of necessity, exiting the euro and suspending debt repayment provides an ideal framework, it seems, for implementing the usual panoply of leftist economic responses: capital controls and the nationalization of the banks, price controls, renationalization of most of the public utilities privatized by the ND and PASOK administrations since 1996, industrial policy and so on. Those who recall the experience, or better the fate, of the Alternative Economic Strategy in Britain or the Common Programme of the Left in France, might be tempted to express some mild surprise that so little has changed in the rather extensive intervening period. Nor can it be said that the proponents of the exit strategy displayed any great interest in discussing the reasons behind past failures in alternative economic experiments or the extent to which economic developments since the 1970s, such as globalization and financialisation, necessitated certain new departures.

But thinking about alternatives is not only a matter of assessing past failures. In most Marxist conceptualizations, theory, and therefore practice, should in part be based on the generalization of the actual experience of working class. More recently, leftists would be keen to extend this formulation to the experience of the feminist, anti-racist and other movements, such as those that have been struggling against the commodification of social and public goods. The experience of the anti-globalization movement, given its prevalence in the lean years of neo-liberal hegemony, would seem to provide an excellent workshop for leftists seeking guidance about how to think about alternative economic and political strategies. Grass roots activism, self-organization, self-management, the social economy, social auditing, fair trading and ethical banking would seem to be just some of the experiences that have sprung up across the world which could realistically form the elements of a new approach. Not necessarily as alternatives to, say, democratic planning or industrial policy, but at least as useful additions. We would stress two themes, common to many of these innovations: that social needs provide the essential starting point for thinking about any alternative (see Lebowitz, 2003), and that an active response from the agents of change is indispensable for addressing those needs and therefore also for the political aspects of any transition strategy[7] .

It is not that either of these themes was entirely missing from previous experiments. To take just one example, British leftists who engaged with the Alternative Economic Strategy were keen to stress the role of industrial democracy and workers’ participation. It would go too far to claim that the strategy relied exclusively on the transfer into state ownership of large banks and enterprises. But it is no exaggeration to claim that there was an inflated expectation concerning the degree to which such a transfer would, by itself, open new opportunities for a socialist transition. In retrospect it seems that the dominant view was that a state controlled by the Left could be relied upon to know which needs of labour have to be prioritized, while the active involvement of those from below was, at best, an additional extra.

In our conception, on the other hand, what the two themes – needs and active participation from below – provide is a basis for uniting the experiences of a wide range of movements, some of which are anti-capitalist, but many of which have an anti-capitalist dynamic without any conscious commitment to that effect. The connecting threads seek to challenge both production and consumption prototypes of capitalism, and not just of the neo-liberal variety. They bring to the fore, in new and interesting ways, the historical Marxist problematic concerning who produces what for whom and how. They open up the question of new technologies and how these can serve communities rather than the control of capitalists over production and distribution processes. They relate directly to ecological concerns about sustainable development or feminist ones about the role of “care” in our societies.

At the same time after 2008, and in Greece especially after 2010, social resistance to austerity included diverse forms of solidarity and initiatives to set up a parallel social economy. It could be argued that these experiments were hesitant and sporadic, while they lacked the critical mass necessary to provide viable alternative modes of consumption and production, let alone to seriously challenge the system. But in the position we are criticizing here such experiments tended to be seen, if at all, as useful protests that expressed disaffection with the austerity policies of the government. They had little bearing on the big picture of setting up a viable socialist economy.

We would argue that this is too limited a conception. When Kouvelakis (2011) argues that Syriza limited its political strategy to opposing austerity and hoping that the Greek debt problem would be solved at some unspecified moment in the future he is doubly misleading. First, one section of the radical Left argues that we need to go beyond the issue of debt, important though it is, if the Left is to provide convincing answers to the crisis. To conceptualize the issue as a straight fight between those arguing for austerity within the euro and those arguing for exiting the euro to provide space for the restructuring of the economy and growth, is to remain on the terrain of the dominant ideology. For that ideology, most often experienced as a threat, maintains that the only alternative to austerity is being expelled of the eurozone and all the significant costs this entails. This dilemma can only be transcended when the problem of debt is given its proper weighting, along with the issues of the crisis in capitalist production and consumption prototypes discussed above.

Secondly, that part of the Left, criticized by Kouvelakis, was intensely engaged in all those movements discussed above. Not only as an expression of solidarity, but also through a belief that if the Left was to regain its hegemony it needed to prove that it was not only saying different things from the dominant elites, but also doing different things. Neo-liberalism has, as it is often argued, led to a devaluation of politics and its potential to actually change things. The issue, therefore, resolves around the agency of social change. For us these forms of solidarity and social economy are better seen as practices with radical potential. At one level they provide an immediate response to the needs of those at the butt end of the neo-liberal response to the crisis. But at another they provide transformative structures (Suchting, 1983), in which people come to see the value, of say solidarity, in practice and come to see that politics, widely defined, can actually change things. To be sure, people primarily shift position because of material circumstances and ideological reconsideration. But practices that are antithetical to capitalist values can also play a key role: in a context where trade unions, or working class associations of all types, are unable to fulfill such a role, at least to the extent they did in the past, the Left needs to think very seriously about the role of alternative practices.

Unless that is, one thinks that the most important element in transforming consciousness is the homing in on the “correct” political line with respect to present conjuncture. For many on the Greek Left, we fear, the response of exiting the euro and the suspension of debt repayments was/is just such a line, which, for reasons that have already been elucidated we question. But the point here is that there is only so much that the correct “line” can achieve. Given the above, it is not surprising that the position we are critiquing here failed to ask difficult questions about the level of support for its chosen strategy. Often it assumed exactly what needed to be shown.

In Greece, even amongst progressive sections of the population, there is widespread skepticism that the existing state can be a vehicle for change in anything resembling a desired direction. This reflects not only the effects of so many years of neo-liberal hegemony but the actual workings of the Greek state – a hierarchical, inefficient, clientelistic and authoritarian state which has served Greek capitalists and their allies well. How to challenge such a state, how to democratize it, how to make it sensitive to social needs, and how to link it to forms of direct democracy would seem to be some of the more pressing questions for the Greek Left. But not for the view we are critiquing here where it is assumed that: 1) the state is in a position to carry out the traditional panoply of leftist economic alternatives and 2) that enough people believe this to be the case. There seems little warrant for either assertion. It is not as if there any easy answers to such questions. But it is difficult to believe that progress can be made without at least setting them, and at various levels. Can, for instance, public sector unions transform themselves to be able to integrate their traditional demands to those consumer groups and social movements demanding better public services?

But are we seriously suggesting that progress towards socialism, or at least a leftist exit from the crisis that opens up new agendas, needs to wait for the resolution of such difficult questions? Of course not, but our objections do resolve around a long debated issue of the Left. In the context of the Greek conjuncture it can be stated simply in terms of whether the programme of the Left can be said to preexist independently of the movement. Notice that this question holds whether we conceive the movement towards a different society in terms of a long process of evolutionary changes within capitalism, in terms of a more condensed period of rupture with the capitalist system or something in between (of intermediate “ruptures” along the path to socialism as left eurocommunists used to argue).

Opponents of the line of exiting the euro and the suspension of debt repayment were/are keen to argue that, whatever we think of the issue, it need not become an obstacle to finding common ground in the here and present. After all nobody in their right minds actually announces a devaluation – just think what would happen to bank deposits on the eve of an election when a victory for the Left was on the cards. But the main issue is whether, in the period when the movement to support a radical break with the present system is emerging, we prioritize the essential unity of the movement and its interconnectedness on common concerns and aspirations, or, on the other hand, the “correct” political line? Is the movement to be divided now because of the very different answers to what a Left government needs to do once in power concerning the exchange rate and reducing the level of debt repayments? More than the actual answer to the question of the appropriate exchange rate regime, it is the priority given to the question that we have found immensely problematic, and especially when it has been used as an excuse to resist social pressures for the unity of the Left in response to the austerity programmes.

Notes
[1] Antarsya represents a political alliance of a number of extra-parliamentary leftist parties from various traditions (Trotskyist, orthodox Marxist, and others). Syriza represents a much larger grouping, in terms of numbers and electoral appeal (it currently has 9 Members of Parliament), based around Synaspismos, the largest Greek Left party after the KKE, with a number of smaller leftist parties also stemming from different traditions (Trotskyist, Maoist, left-eurocommunist etc). The main orthodox communist party, the KKE, remained rather aloof from the debate concerning the euro. While the KKE is a virulently anti-EU party, and is clear that progress to socialism requires Greece leaving not only the euro, but the EU itself, it was, on the whole, unwilling to commit itself to a short-term strategy of exiting the euro.

[2]We are less convinced, however, of the argument that Germany is so committed, as Lapavitsas (2012) seems to believe, to the importance of the euro as a form of world money. Germany, before the euro, was always sceptical about the deutschmark turning into a major reserve currency, and this scepticism has carried over with respect to the euro.

[3] It is an uncomfortable fact for present day supporters of the exit strategy that their approach has so much resonance with the failed “socialist” experience of the early 1980s in Greece. PASOK in that period was also committed to a national road in which industrial policy, planning agreements and socialization of the public sector were to play a major role, in an environment where capital controls, the exchange rate and monetary policy were freely available as policy tools.

[4]Alpha Bank, Greece and Southeastern Europe. Economic & Financial Outlook, n.74, May 2010 (internet: http://www.alpha.gr/files/infoanalyses/Greece_&_Southeastern_201005.pdf).

[5] This, be it noted, does not apply in the case of Ireland.

[6] Thus D. Kazakis, an independent economist, originally from the KKE, has set up his own party with identifiable nationalistic sentiments. Before that his support for the default and exit option ensured that he was given a platform by leftist organizations that should have known better. Another case is that of Spitha (spark), a group that has coalesced around the famous musician Mikis Theodorakis. Theodorakis is a historic figure of the Left, but his increasingly patriotic rhetoric, and some unsavoury company, has meant that it is the nationalistic aspects of the Spitha that dominate.

[7] These two themes are central to Laskos and Tsakalotos’ (2011) book, in Greek, which looks at the Left’s response to the crisis in a historical perspective. The ‘no turning back’ title of the book refers not only to the social democratic and neo-liberal experiments of the post-war period, but also to the Left’s response to the crisis of the 1970s in terms of national strategies, essentially of reconstruction of the domestic economy.

References

Kouvelakis S. (2011) ‘The Greek Cauldron’, New Left Review, 72, November-December, pp. 17-32.

Lapavitsas C., Kaltenbrunner A., Lindo D., Michell J., Painceira J. P., Pires E., Powell J., Stenfors A., Teles E. (2010) Eurozone Crisis: begger thyself and thy neighbour, Research on Money and Finance, Occasional Report.

Lapavitsas C., A. Kaltenbrunner, G. Lambrinidis, D. Lindo, J. Meadway, J. Michell, J.P. Painceira, E. Pires, J. Powell, A. Stenfors, N. Teles y L. Vatikiotis (2011) Breaking Up? A Route Out of the Eurozone Crisis, Research in Money and Finance, Special Report 3.

Lapavitsas K. ‘Default and Exit from the Eurozone: A Radical Left Strategy’, Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left, vol. 48.

Laskos Ch. and Tsakalotos E. (2011) No Turning Back: capitalist crises, social needs, socialism, KaPsiMi publications, Athens (in Greek).

Lebowitz D. (2003) Beyond Political Economy: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class, Palgrave Macmillan.

Milios J. and Sotiropoulos D. (2009) Rethinking Imperialism: A Study of Capitalist Rule, Palgrave Macmillan.

Milios J. and G. Economakis (2011), ‘The Middle Classes, Class Places, and Class Positions: A Critical Approach to Nicos Poulantzas’s Theory’, Rethinking Marxism Vol. 23 No. 2 (April), pp. 226-245.

Rylmon (2011) ‘There is no quick exit strategy’, Epoxi, 30/12/11.

Suchting W. A. (1983) Marx: An Introduction, Wheatsheaf Books

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Greek election results: New Democracy by a whisker

June 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm (capitalist crisis, elections, Europe, Greece, Jim D)

Official exit poll from interior ministry puts ND on 29.5% and Syriza on 27.1%. It also looks like the GD vote has held. It looks like the conservatives of New Democracy have won by a whisker, and will form a government, but (as Roger comments below), “only due to the ridiculous +50 seat bonus for coming first (and IIRC this was exactly the arrangement Mussolini imposed on Italy before he decided to just dispense with elections altogether)…”

Athens News is showing the results as they come in.

latest results: http://ekloges.ypes.gr/v2012b/public/index.html?lang=en#{%22cls%22:%22party%22,%22params%22:{%22id%22:2}}
New Democracy           29.9% (+ 11%) 130 seats;  Syriza                         26.7%  (+ 9.1%) 71 seats;  PASOK                       12.4%  (- 0.8%) 33 seats; Independent Greeks      7.5%   (- 3.1%) 20 seats;  Golden Dawn               6.9%    (- 0.1%)  18 seats;  Democratic Left            6.2%   (+ 0.1%) 17 seats;  KKE                            4.5%   (- 4%)    12 seats;  Recreate Greece          1.6%    no seats;     LAOS                          1.6%   (-1.3%)  no seats;     Eco Greens                  0.9%   (- 2%)     no seats; Kinema Den Piliroro       0.4%   no seats; ANTARSYA                  0.3%   ( – 0.9%)  no seats.

Dave K writes:

Syriza’s extra percentage seem to come from people who didnt vote or backed the KKE (whose vote has nearly halved), the Greens, ANTARSYA in May and rather then PASOK this time round.

I am suprised Democratic Left (Eurocommunists who vacillate over austerity) kept their vote. It makes them very important in the next few days or so.

Worryingly also the Neo Nazi Golden Dawn kept their vote about the same.

Voters who peviously voted for centerist, Liberal or nationalist parties that have collapsed seem to have switched to New Democracy.

Theodora Polenta writes:

Hello
.
PASOK (or what is left of it) has stated that they will not participate in a national (i.e Greek bond holders) coalition (with ND-Ultra neoliberals fascists and other affiliates that are within ND) GOVERNMENT if SYRIZA is not part of it
 
But pressure is on MerkOland and Obama and other Socialists will have to have a say in our democracy (globalised democracy)
 
So PASOK stance may change
 
DHMAR may just about put the icing on the cake….
 
SYRIZA clearly stated that if ND fails to form a government they will not participate in any attermpts to form a government
 
I am just hearing Venizelos say that PASOK has resisted and conserve its power (well not much to maintain)…
 
I have to go Tsipras is about to speak and contrary to ND manifestations people are out in the streets waving red flags and shouting in support of a left government that is in our doorstep..
 
A spectre is haunting Europe-the spectre of SYRIZA
All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcize this spectre
 
But we are winning
The INTERNATIONAL GREEK solidarity movement should not say
We are all Greeks
But
We are all SYRIZA
 
And for the first time after fighting for all my conscious political existence against Eurocommunism
I can confirm I am SYRIZA too…

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The Greek Communist Party: chemically pure sectarians

June 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm (elections, Europe, Greece, Jim D, stalinism, workers)

Even if we are not fully victorious, we will prevent the worst and make some gains- The KKE

Friday’s Morning Star (Thursday’s online edition) carried a statement from the official Greek Communist Party, the KKE. In its sectarianism towards Syriza (the radical left party presently running neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party for victory in tomorrow’s election), and its anti-EU posturing, the KKE is a classic example of irresponsible, self-serving ultra-leftist defeatism. The KKE offers no strategy, no transitional demands and no way forward for Greek workers. Just empty slogans and rhetoric.  The statement below  is a classic example of  ‘Third Period’ Stalinism or what Leon Trostsky described as “chemically pure” sectarianism:

The road to a people’s Greece

The Greek bourgeois Establishment sees this weekend’s electoral battle as an opportunity to give itself a facelift.

This is because the traditional governing parties are in decay. The right-wing New Democracy has absorbed a smaller right-wing party, the Democratic Alliance, and MPs from the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally and is seeking to promote itself as a “centre-right pole.”

But on the centre-left, the previously dominant Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) has been decimated and its position is being taken by the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza).

Syriza is made up of forces that left the Communist Party (KKE) in the splits of 1968 and 1991 and “divorced” themselves from the communist movement.

Many of these forces are characterised by their support for the imperialist European Union. There are also Maoist and Trotskyite groups and forces which have come to Syriza, chiefly from within Pasok.

Syriza says it is struggling for a “left government” which will relieve the very serious problems faced by the Greek people but without coming into conflict with the EU or Nato, and while keeping Greece in the eurozone.

It was no accident that the Greek federation of industrialists was in favour of a government with Syriza’s participation.

The Democratic Left is also in this “pole,” it being a split from Syriza which also contains ex-Pasok forces.

The bourgeois mass media is promoting this bipolar system as the only option for Greece in an attempt to render the potential dynamism of the people’s vote useless.

This is a trap which aims to block the path of popular forces to the KKE and to impede the development of a working-class movement which would not compromise with capitalist barbarity or engage in class collaboration.

The KKE will not be complicit in a government – even if it has a left label – which will operate within the framework of the interests of bankers, industrialists, ship-owners and the other capitalists. It will not be complicit in implementing the anti-people policies of the European Union or the crimes of Nato.

Journalists and politicians who have attacked the party for years now show a belated concern over this stance, asking whether it is because “the KKE does not want to govern.”

This is an attempt to herd the party of the working class into managing the system of exploitation, as has happened when parties of the left have joined capitalist governments in the past.

Communists understand the anxiety of Greek workers to find government solutions to the enormous problems they face. But if workers merely seek crumbs from the table – mercy or alms from the EU and capital – then the capitalists and their EU will hammer us for years to come.

The KKE holds that workers must struggle for their contemporary needs but in a comprehensive way aiming at a fundamentally different organisation of society.

Even if we are not fully victorious, we will prevent the worst and make some gains.

On this basis it asks workers to resist the bipolar system of “centre-right” or “centre-left” government.

“Solutions” which merely manage the existing system hamper the creation of the preconditions for real radical change, for a real solution that would satisfy the Greek people.

That real solution is determined by the struggle for working-class popular power, for disengagement from the EU, for the abolition of the “memoranda” from the troika (the EU, European Central Bank and IMF) and the attacks on workers’ wages, pensions and social security, and for the unilateral cancellation of the debt.

At the same time some left forces accuse the KKE of postponing socialism (or as some call it the “second coming”) by rejecting participation in a government to “relieve” the working people.

The idea that the KKE postpones everything to the future is laid bare by the role of communists in the front line of the popular struggle, in workplaces, in neighbourhoods, in trade unions such as the All Workers’ Militant Front (Pame) – the class-oriented “pole” of Greek trade unions – as well as in other unions, mass organisations of the poor farmers and in women’s and youth organisations.

The KKE fights inside parliament to advance these struggles.

There are no common solutions for working people and capitalism, solutions which benefit both. You are either with the plutocracy or with the people – that is the real dilemma confused by false distinctions between “European” and “anti-European” and between “left” and “right.”

Will the impoverishment of the Greek people continue – as it is likely to with either a New Democracy or a Syriza government – or will we move into a counterattack?

The KKE presents a clear way out of the capitalist crisis, with its proposals to withdraw from the EU and Nato and cement people’s power, but emphasises that there are no easy solutions.

Its path – the path of rupture and of confrontation – will of course require sacrifices, but only by throwing off the capitalists and their alliances will Greece find a road to people’s prosperity. The path of compromise and submission preached by the centre-left and “governmental left” will require constant sacrifices without a positive prospect in sight.

The elite is certainly disturbed by the KKE’s proposed solution. It would prefer a KKE assimilated into the system – a communist “spice” in a left government which could be manipulated. A KKE in a capitalist government could be told not to complain, not to protest, not to go on strike or make demands but to “take part in the management of the system.” The Establishment would have brought the KKE to heel.

But the KKE decisively rejects this approach and continues to fight for workers’ and people’s power. That is why the Establishment’s main goal in these elections is to reduce the KKE’s power, because they cannot subjugate it.

The KKE is swimming against the current of false hopes which is being fostered by Syriza, and the party is aware that this may affect its electoral results.

But the KKE is a party with principles, a consistent party “for all seasons” which will fight persistently for the people in the front line of the struggle. It will continue to fight this fight whatever the result on June 17.

PS: Mind you the Greek section of the (orthodox Trotskyist) Fourth International is nearly as bad -JD

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Greek neo-Nazi “spokesman” in action

June 9, 2012 at 8:26 am (elections, Europe, fascism, Greece, Jim D, reblogged, thuggery)

Published on Youtube on 7 Jun 2012 by  (text below slightly edited by JD):

Ilias Kasidiaris, who was elected to Greece’s parliament in last month’s elections, was debating with two female politicians on a chat show.

Video footage shows him throwing a glass of water at one of the women.

When the other intervened, he slapped her in the face three times.

Mr Kasidiaris appeared to have been ‘provoked’ when Rena Dourou of the radical left-wing Syriza party mentioned his alleged involvement in an armed robbery in 2007.

He jumped up and threw a glass of water across the table at her, a You Tube clip of the Antenna television channel showed.

When Liana Kanelli of the Greek Communist party, the KKE, apparently threw a newspaper at him, he responded by slapping her around the face with three right-left blows.

A journalist at Antenna told the AFP news agency that colleagues were unable to stop Mr Kasidiaris from leaving the building.

Golden Dawn has risen in profile after it won just under 7% of votes, or 21 seats, in parliamentary elections on 6 May.

The party’s anti-immigration policy has led to accusations of racism and instigating violent attacks against immigrants.

Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, has also denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and questioned the Holocaust, but he rejects the label neo-Nazi.

In most of the video Kasidiaris and Kaneli talk simultaneously so I tried my best with the translation

PS: Is anyone able to translate what it is that  Kasidiaris says about Israel?  -JD  

PPS: On the run, he continues to elude the police.

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Greece: fight the blackmail!

June 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, Cross-post, economics, elections, Europe, Greece, socialism, workers)

By Theodora Polenta (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)

In the run-up to Greece’s election on 17 June, the left-wing coalition Syriza and the conservative New Democracy are still neck-and-neck in the polls. But the EU leaders are trying to blackmail the Greek people into voting for the pro-cuts parties.

A barrage of blackmailing has been directed against Greece from representatives of the capitalist class, both national and international, both elected and unelected.

From the social democrats comes soft blackmailing — “comply, and we can sort out some concessions; but defy, and that means disaster”.

That is the soft-cop accompaniment to the hard blackmailing and threats of immediate expulsion of Greece from the eurozone by the mujahedeen of neoliberalism.

Recently Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who was “Danny the Red” in France’s May 1968 movement and is now a sort of pink-Green, added himself to the list of those blackmailing the Greek people.

Cohn-Bendit had previously been “pro-Greek”, and he switched when a left political alternative in Greece became a possibility. Now he says, as brutally as German finance minister Schäuble or more so, that the eurozone and EU will stop cooperating with Greece — i.e. stop bailing out Greece and push Greece into bankruptcy — if Syriza sticks with its promises to cancel the memorandum and reinstating people’s wages to the 2009 level.

French president Francois Hollande refused to meet Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras when Tsipras visited France, stating as an excuse that Tsipras is not an elected prime minister. However, Hollande did meet Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos — who came third in the 6 May elections — in a desperate attempt to give life to the dead body of Pasok.

From the social democrats, the magic words are Eurobonds for development projects. But even if these come, the major developments proposed are in areas of “low employment intensity”:

1. Energy (which will involved further privatisation of the Greek energy sector, more redundancies, and a looting of our collective wealth and infrastructure)

2. Transportation and “big projects” in motorways. Many such projects remain unfinished; now they will be financed by European bonds and presumably handed to German and French companies

3. Oil pipelines (subject to the resolution of the conflicts and decisions on which pipelines will pass via Greece).

The projects will have a nil impact on improving the majority of the Greek population’s living standards and working conditions, as they are not in areas such as industry, agriculture, clothing, food, etc.

“GREEK EXIT” AND AUSTERITY

With the social-democratic carrot comes the stick from the mujahedeen of austerity: Schäuble, Merkel, Barroso, Draghi, Provopoulos, Lagarde.

They equate Syriza getting elected with inevitable Greek exit from the eurozone, with Greek bankruptcy, and with further deterioration of the Greek people living standards and working conditions.

They terrorise the Greek people by pretending that they are fully prepared, with a plethora of plan Bs, Cs and Zs in the event of a Greek euro exit.

Reuters has “revealed” that the eurozone finance ministers are preparing plans for a Greek exit. Lagarde and other IMF representatives have stated that IMF is prepared for a Greek exit from the eurozone. Schäuble has stated that both ECB and Bundesbank are drawing up a contingency plan, and claimed that Greece exit would not have a major impact on Germany and the losses will be manageable.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed a five-point shock therapy, similar to the one applied to East Germany, as her version of growth and development for Greece. It includes:

1. More privatisation and selling-off of Greek assets

2. Elimination of remaining business regulations, abolition of remaining trade-union rights, and “labour market reforms” to make it easier to fire workers

3. Lower corporate taxes (than the rates already reduced to 22%)

4. Setting up of special economic zones, where employers are exempted from those taxes and social laws that remain

5. Creation of privatisation agencies and abolition of labour-protection laws

George Provopoulos, Governor of the Bank of Greece, has offered a string of suspiciously precise statistics on the effects of Greek’s exit from the eurozone: 65% devaluation of any additional currency issued by the Greek government (restored Greek drachma or “Greek Euro”); 55% further reduction in wages; 22% negative growth; 32% inflation; 37% interest rates; 12% deficit; 373% increase in the Greek debt.

What is on offer from the pro-memorandum parties, Pasok and ND, despite their promises to renegotiate the memorandum, is more of the same: austerity measures and attacks on people’s living standards and working conditions.

The economic programme of ND leader Antonis Samaras could be summarised as “memorandum, memorandum and more memorandum”. He is very fuzzy and vague about the “social measures” and “social relief that ND is intended to implement and very precise on the anti-working class measures that “need to be implemented”.

Pasok and ND can promise the following:

1. Cuts have already been agreed and planned, worth 11.5 billion, from pensions, welfare benefits, closings of schools and hospitals.

2. Salary reductions and the dismantling of labour relations.

3. Increases in electricity bills.

4. Dismissal of 150,000 public sector workers and privatisation of 50 billion euros’ worth of public assets (infrastructure, water, energy, natural resources).

5. Creation of a special fund abroad where the country’s revenues will be directed to cover obligations to bondholders. Only if anything is left over will our diminishing wages, pensions and social services be paid.

They offer ideological terrorism and a bludgeon of fear to get people to accept the memorandum Greece of:

• over one million unemployed

• over 50% unemployment for under 25s

• one third of the people living below the poverty line

• being (according to Unicef) 21st out of 29 old-industrialised countries for child poverty

• shut-down hospitals and shortages of vital medications

• over 25,000 people homeless in Athens

• an alarming increase in suicide rates

• 350,000 of small shops shut

• almost a third shrinkage of Greece’s GDP since 2008.

Despite the deficiencies, the hesitancies, and the reformist character of the programme which Syriza has presented for 17 June, it should be applauded when it says clearly that Syriza will scrap the memorandum, restore trade union rights, etc.

Syriza’s commitment that not even a single penny should be given to the creditors if the people’s needs of decent wages, pensions, welfare state provisions have not been met should be applauded.

Despite the pressure put on Syriza to water down their defiance against the memorandum and come to terms with a renegotiation, it has not surrendered. It has maintained its links with the people and movements that have been actively supporting it.

IMMEDIATELY

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has pledged to immediately remove the Cabinet Act which reduced the minimum wage by 22% (32% for under-25s).

He has also pledged to to restore unemployment benefits to previous levels and extend their duration, to restore and extend sickness and maternity, to restore the power of collective bargaining agreements, to cancel the debt of heavily indebted households, to repeal the regressive property tax for the poor working classes.

These policies need the support of each worker, each trade union and neighbouring community movement activist, each unemployed person, each worker in precarious or part-time flexible employment.

Syriza’s program can be summarized into three main points:

• people before Greek bond holders and market forces — cancellation of the memorandum;

• write off of most of the debt and freeze interest rates and debt payments for the remaining renegotiated debt

• expansion of democracy and safeguarding of Greece’s threatened sovereignty – Troika out of Greece.

The programme has triggered a wave of criticism from different sections of the left.

The criticism varies. Xekinima presents comradely criticism. It advocates a vote for Syriza and support for the formation of a Syriza-led left government, but criticises Syriza for not adopting a full socialist program.

KKE and Antarsya reject Syriza’s program as a limited reformist effort far behind the needs of the Greek working class. They declare that Syriza’s promise to cancel the memorandum is a hoax and allege that really Syriza is proposing a soft renegotiation of the memorandum.

They say that Syriza’s political role is to be a new Pasok to replace the centre-left vacuum and provide a left face for the memorandum politics. They denounce Syriza for its pro-EU stance.

They claim that the left should advocate the cancellation of the debt tied up with an exit from the eurozone, and EU, which should be “anti-capitalist” (for Antarsya) or “under popular power and control” (for KKE).

The problem with these attitudes is not that we can trust Syriza’s leaders and be sure they won’t buckle under increased pressure (they may), or that we can be sure that Syriza’s tactic of calling the bluff of the EU leaders will work (it probably won’t).

The trouble is that, under cover of left rhetoric, KKE and Antarsya are declaring defeat in advance. They are giving up on the battle to hold Syriza to its promises, and they are helping the EU and ECB leaders by sparing them the political firestorm they will have to ride through in order to expel Greece from the eurozone.

REVOLUTIONARIES AND SYRIZA

Syriza has a serious reformist programme which, if implemented, would bring gains for the Greek and European working class.

The “Euro-Keynesian” programme for Greece is limited, and naive about the realities of class struggle, but it is not utopian in the sense of being unworkable even in principle. The resources of the eurozone are large enough that the eurozone governments could concede important relief to Greece if pushed to do so by strong enough mobilisations.

The cost to the eurozone governments of a Greek exit, let alone of a eurozone break-up, would be much greater than the costs of a real “bail-out” for Greece.

The “Euro-Keynesian” programme is reformist not because it proposes something impossible but because it is limited and naive about the ferocities of class struggle.

Revolutionary Marxists should point that out. But there is no sense in demanding that Syriza adopt a socialist programme. Syriza is what it is. Demanding it adopt a socialist programme cannot transform it into a revolutionary party. All it can do is, to some degree or another, encourage illusions among workers that a “socialist programme” is no more than the Syriza policy pushed a bit more to the left by pressure.

On the other hand, Antarsya and KKE are abstaining from the class struggle, which at this point has been transferred from the industrial sphere to the political stage. They do this by distancing themselves from Syriza and the prospect of a government of the left — in fact, a version of what the Communist International in its revolutionary period termed an illusory workers’ government which could nevertheless become a starting point for a battle to create a real workers’ government.

Tsipras says he doesn’t want to scrap the bail-out fund. All Syriza’s spokesmen claim that they will renegotiate the payment of the debt (writing off most of it). but they will carry on receiving the instalments of the second bailout fund.

Syriza’s claim is fragile as the bailout funds from the Troika have as precondition the implementation of the second memorandum.

92% of the memorandum money only passes via Greece on its way to the pockets of the Greek bond holders. Europe is “bailing out” Greece, but the money is coming straight back to the Troika and its friends in the form of interest and repayments on bonds. But Troika says it will cut off the funds.

CALLING EU LEADERS’ BLUFF

Syriza’s programme is based on calling the bluff of the eurozone.

They say the memorandum not only attacks workers, etc., but doesn’t even work for the eurozone. Syriza’s line of defence to the national and international blackmail is that the memorandum policies have been leading Greece to negative growth and stagnation and are accelerating the probability of the Greece’s exit from the eurozone.

A lot of respectable economists are implicitly backing Syriza’s stance. Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it succinctly the other day when he told Radio Four that “it is deeply destructive to pursue austerity in a depression”. Another economist has stated that the worst choice that Greece could follow is the continuation of the memorandum policies, even with an addition of some anaemic growth measures.

A further ten years of austerity would lead the Greek economy into deep stagnation and negative growth and thus inevitably to a Greek bankruptcy, exit from the euro, and possibly the destruction of democracy by a military coup.

Syriza claims that the cost of a potential eurozone breakdown outweighs the cost to EU governments of bailing out Greece and scrapping the memorandum. There is a real basis for this attempt to call the EU leaders’ bluff.

The eurozone is ill-placed to resist further disintegration if Greece falls out, and the cost of a euro break-up would be huge (between 10% and 13% of GDP according to the Financial Times, 17/05/12).

Estimates of the effect of a Greek exit on the eurozone differ, but, with Spain and Portugal in a bad way already the effect would be large. The contagion of the debt crisis and the potential of a euro-disintegration is gaining momentum with talk of Portugal and Ireland having to go for a second bailout funds.

Cyprus is on the brink of joining the “memorandum” club. Spain, the fourth-biggest eurozone economy, has to pay sky-high 7% rates to borrow and is experiencing a massive bank run and outflow of capital.

The third-biggest eurozone economy, Italy, is also in trouble.

In principle the ECB has the resources to offset the disruptive effect. The chance of it moving fast enough to do that seems small.

A Greek euro-exit and bankruptcy would compromise the whole concept of the eurozone and would further devalue Spanish and Italian bonds. A domino effect, leading to the end of the eurozone, would become likely.

There is also a real basis for the EU leaders’ attempts to blackmail Greek voters. A Greece expelled from the eurozone would suffer economic chaos even if led by a workers’ government.

The eurozone political leaders cannot be trusted to act in an objective or rational way. They could decide to force Greece out of the eurozone, driven that way by the desire to set and example and punish Greece for misbehaving and not sticking to the memorandum. Or they could stumble into it.

It is the political responsibility of Syriza and the revolutionary left to alert and politically prepare the Greek working class for the effects of Greece being forced out of the eurozone.

The key issues then will be the development of European working-class solidarity; comprehensive workers’ control in Greece, including over the distribution of food and other essentials; and the development of workers’ self-defence groups to deal with the threat of the Golden Dawn fascists and of a possible future military coup.

Model motion on Greek solidarity here.

Open letter: Do you really want the EU to break up? here

Theodora Polenta will speak on ‘Greece: Is workers’ revolution on the agenda?’ on Thursday 21 June, 7pm, The Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ; further details: 07796 690874

P.S: Comrade Dave’s in Greece and  talking to lefties, including Antarsya,  here.

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Open letter to the UK left: Do you want the EU to break up?

May 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm (AWL, capitalism, capitalist crisis, democracy, economics, Europe, Greece, internationalism, left, reblogged, socialism, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, unions, workers)

Open letter to the UK hard-left, from the Alliance for Workers Liberty:

parisprotest.jpg RMT anti-EU protesters (Photo: Andrew Wiard )

Dear comrades,

Do you really want the European Union to break up? The majority of Greek workers do not. In the 6 May election, 70% voted for parties opposed to the cuts, but polls show that 80% want Greece to stay within the EU and within the euro.

The party that did best in the election, the left coalition Syriza, says that a left government in Greece should refuse the cuts, call the bluff of the EU leaders — who may want cuts, but also want to stop the eurozone breaking up — and enforce a renegotiation.

They want a united Europe without cuts. So do we. If the Greek left wins a majority, and the EU refuses to concede, then we want a workers’ government in Greece which will break with EU leaders but not “leave Europe” — which will instead fight to spread workers’ rule across Europe.

Yet for decades now most of the British left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — has agitated “against the EU”. The agitation has suggested, though rarely said openly, we should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

Now it’s not certain that the EU/ ECB/ IMF troika will dare cut off funds to the Greek government, and force it into “defaulting” on its debt (failing to make payments on the debt when they’re due). If Greece defaults, it is not certain that it will quit or be forced out of the euro.

If Greece quits the euro, it’s not certain that the exit will set off an unravelling of the whole eurozone. And even if the whole eurozone unravels, the underlying EU structure could remain solid.

An argument can be made — debatable, but not absurd, and not necessarily “anti-EU” — that realistically a Greek government would do better now to negotiate an orderly exit from the euro, rather than to plunge on towards a high probability of forced and chaotic exit.

The economist who has argued most strongly for Greece to negotiate an exit from the euro, Costas Lapavitsas, also insists that he is not calling for Greece to quit the EU.

Yet the possibility of a serious unravelling of the patchwork, bureaucratic semi-unification of Europe, slowly developed over the last sixty years, is more real today than ever before. The decisive push for unravelling, if it comes, will probably be from the nationalist and populist right.

And that calls the bluff of a whole swathe of the British left.

For decades, most of the British left has been “anti-EU” as a matter of faith. In Britain’s 1975 referendum on withdrawing from the EU, almost the whole left, outside AWL’s forerunner Workers’ Fight, campaigned for withdrawal. Since then the left has hesitated explicitly to demand withdrawal. It has limited itself to “no to bosses’ Europe” agitation, implying but not spelling out a demand for the EU to be broken up.

The agitation has allowed the left to eat its cake and have it. The left can chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country. It can also cover itself by suggesting that it is not really anti-European, but only dislikes the “bosses’” character of the EU.

As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist. As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neo-liberal governments could be anything other than neo-liberal.

As if the material force behind neo-liberal cuts were the relatively flimsy Brussels bureaucracy, rather than the mighty bureaucratic-military-industrial complexes of member states. As if the answer is to oppose confederation and cross-Europeanism as such, rather than the capitalist, neo-liberal, bureaucratic character of both member states and the EU.

As if the EU is somehow more sharply capitalist, anti-worker, and neo-liberal than the member states. In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

As if the answer is to pit nations against Europe, rather than workers against bosses and bankers.

When Socialist Worker, in a recent Q&A piece, posed itself the question, “wouldn’t things be better for workers if Britain pulled out of the EU?”, it answered itself with a mumbling “yes, but” rather than a ringing “yes”.

Socialist Worker is against Britain being part of a bosses’ Europe”. Oh? And against Britain being part of a capitalist world, too?

Britain would be better off in outer space? Or walled off from the world North-Korea-style? “But withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t guarantee workers’ rights — the Tories remain committed to attacking us”. Indeed. And just as much so as the EU leaders, no?

As recently as 2009, the Socialist Party threw itself into a electoral coalition called No2EU. Every week in its “Where We Stand” it declaims: “No to the bosses’ neo-liberal European Union!”, though that theme rarely appears in its big headlines.

The RMT rail union, in some ways the most left-wing union in Britain, backed No2EU and today backs the “People’s Pledge”. This “Pledge” is a campaign to call for parliamentary candidates to demand a referendum on British withdrawal from the EU, and support them only if they agree.

It was initiated by, and is mostly run by, right-wing Tories, but fronted by a Labour leftist, Mark Seddon. It is backed by many Tory MPs — and by some Labour left MPs such as Kelvin Hopkins, John Cryer, and Ronnie Campbell, and by Green MP Caroline Lucas.

The referendum call is a soft-soap demand for British withdrawal, based on the hope that a majority would vote to quit. (In a recent poll, 55% of people agreed with the statement “Britain should remain a full member of the European Union”, but 55% also agreed with the statement “Britain should leave the European Union”, so…)

Even the demand for withdrawal is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (i.e. all the neo-liberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

That is not what the no-to-EU-ers want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too. A speech by RMT president Alex Gordon featured on the No2EU website spells it out: “Imperialist, supranational bodies such as the EU seek to roll back democratic advances achieved in previous centuries… Progressive forces must respond to this threat by defending and restoring national democracy. Ultimately, national independence is required for democracy to flourish…”

For decades “anti-EU” agitation has been like background music in the left’s marketplace — designed to soothe the listeners and make them more receptive to the goods on offer, but not for attentive listening. If the music should be played at all, then it should be turned up now.

But do you really want the EU broken up? What would happen?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face disapproval at best.

There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.

Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.

Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.

The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

Alliance for Workers’ Liberty

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Greece: trying to understand Syriza

May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am (capitalist crisis, democracy, elections, Europe, Greece, reblogged)

As the anti-austerity left party Syriza seems to have a real chance of winning the second Greek election, the BBC’s Paul Mason gives the best analysis I’ve yet come across, of the history and ideology of this hybrid outfit:

This is less of a blog more of a series of notes to try and enhance understanding of who SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras actually are, and how they might behave if, as polls suggest, they become the winning party in a second Greek general election. I’ve been troubled by the lack of historical depth in most of the profiles published in newspapers; and of course my own knowledge is limited to English sources. I’ve checked this with two authoritative Greek sources. It should go up on my BBC blog soon. Get ready to hear about parties and political currents that most commentators believed were insignificant just a few years ago:

SYRIZA is an acronym signifying “Coalition of the Radical Left”. It’s key component is a party called Synaspismos, itself an umbrella group of the far left in Greece.

Alexis Tsipras is the 38 year old leader of the Synaspismos party, and rose to prominence as its candidate for the mayor of Athens in 2006. Tsipras originated from the youth wing of the Communist Party, the KKE.

Greek communism, like most of western communism after the 1970s, was split into two hostile parties: the KKE of the “interior” and that of the “exterior” – the latter denoting a Moscow-oriented party, the former denoting a Euro-communist, more parliamentary and socially liberal agenda.

Initially Synaspismos was the electoral alliance between the two KKEs. But in the early 1990s the main Moscow-oriented KKE quit the alliance, purging about 45% of its members, who then stayed inside Synaspismos with the Eurocommunists. These included Tsipras.

Synaspismos then evolved in an interesting direction. Reacting to the rise of the anti-globalisation movement, first of all the party itself became a highly diverse left umbrella group: of Eurocommunists, left-social Democrats, far leftists, and ecologists. It played a significant role in mobilizations against summits, beginning in Genoa 2001 and beyond. Meanwhile the main KKE remained a traditional Communist party, rooted in public sector and manual trade unions.

Then, in the 2004 election, Synaspismos came together with other small parties to form SYRIZA. These included a split-off from the British SWP, a split off from the main Communist Party and another group of eco-leftists…

Read the rest here

H-t: Roger

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