Greece: SYRIZA, the Communist Party and the desperate need for a united front

A united front of the left and sustained mass mobilisation are desperately needed in Greece.

By Michael Karadjis

May 16, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This article does not aim to give a full account of the current Greek political crisis. Rather, the crisis will be discussed with a focus on the failure of the Greek left to form a united front in the hour of need of the masses, with a historical look at the nature of the Greek left and the parties involved in it.

The sensational outcome of the May 6, 2012, Greek elections, in which SYRIZA, a coalition of left-reformist and radical left organisations, gained nearly 17% of the vote, second only to the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party, comes on the back of the catastrophe being imposed on the Greek working class as it is forced to pay for the crisis of Greek and European capital.

This catastrophe has resulted in Greek workers and pensioners, already on some of the lowest wages and social security entitlements in Europe, see their wages and payments directly cut by as much as 40% over the last few years. The “debt crisis” which this austerity is supposed to pay for is of course the debt accumulated by their capitalist class enemies and the endemically corrupt state under its twin dinosaur parties of austerity, New Democracy, the major party of the capitalist class, and the one-time vaguely social-democratic PASOK party. One important part of this debt was caused by the state’s purchase of a few billion dollars worth of military rubbish via NATO in recent years.

The key issue has been the “Memorandum”, the brutal austerity and wage- and job-cutting package, imposed on Greece by the ‘Troika’ (the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) to squeeze workers and poor to “pay back” German and French banks. Both of the twin ruling parties have supported and imposed this memorandum, and as a result their votes have crashed from 33% to 19% for ND and 43% to 13% for PASOK, effectively wiping out the entire post-WWII order of two-party trickery.

Combined, the vote for left-wing, anti-memorandum parties was some 27% -- 17% for SYRIZA, 8% for the sectarian-Stalinist Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and 1.9% for the Front of the Greek Anti-Capitalist Left (Antarsya), a smaller coalition of radical left organisations. Another 6% voted for the Democratic Left, a right-wing split from SYRIZA that wants to soften the austerity package but believes total rejection will get Greece kicked out of the EU (which they see as a fate worse than death). If these misguided but nevertheless left-leaning votes are also counted, one third of the electorate voted for parties associated with the traditional communist movement in one form or another, a considerably higher result even than the huge 25% vote for the United Democratic Left (EDA, the front group for the then illegal Communist Party) in 1958, which sent shock waves around Western capitals.

United front opposed

In other words, in this situation – a “Year Zero” situation for the literally hungry masses – these masses handed their votes to SYRIZA, and secondarily to the KKE, with the mandate for them to take power, reject the memorandum, reject austerity, restore their livelihoods and do so by turning the tables on the Greek plutocracy, those who actually still have their bucket loads of cash despite the “crisis”, while telling the German-French plutocracy to shove off.

Yet it is in such a context that the Greek left now seems unable to form a united front for the salvation of the people. The responsibility for this lies mostly, if not entirely, with the spectacular sectarianism of the KKE, which has point blank refused to join a united front with SYRIZA. More than that – criminally – the KKE has refused to even talk about it.

In a quasi-reenactment of Stalin’s Third Period disaster in Germany – when the German Communist Party was ordered to refuse any joint work with the German Social Democrats against Nazism, indeed the Social Democrats were declared “social fascists”, allowing the Nazis to walk into power unimpeded – the KKE claims it will not work with SYRIZA who it denounces as social democrats who will inevitably sell out.

But if history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce, then the tragedy being prepared by the KKE is based entirely on farce. For anyone aware of modern Greek history, the idea of the KKE having some principled left position opposed to collaborating with social democrats or even neoliberals and right-wing nationalists is a fantastic joke.

While there is much to validly criticise about the program of SYRIZA’s leadership group, as a whole the SYRIZA coalition is light years to the left of the German Social Democrats of the 1930s, let alone the neoliberal “social democrats” today, and the only actual revolutionary policy in such a dire situation is to “take the bull by its horns” and form a united front with SYRIZA around the most immediate needs of the working class, and work with the more radical left components of SYRIZA in a non-sectarian fashion to challenge its leadership to keep left and to move further left as the ensuing crisis will inevitably demand.

KKE sectarianism

But the idea of the KKE working in a non-sectarian way with anyone on the left is like the idea of a pro-Palestinian position emerging from the White House. In all the mass movements against the class war being imposed by the rulers over the last few years, the KKE has made sure to join no one else and only organise its own actions. Worse than that, the KKE has vigorously denounced militant actions by any left forces outside of its control; indeed, for all its “left” rhetoric now, it has deployed its cadres to effectively act as marshals defending the state against actions by enraged and militant protesters. In terms of sectarianism towards the left, militant and revolutionary forces in Greece, the KKE has been nothing but absolutely consistent.

“Consistent”, however, is a funny word. One thing important to understand about SYRIZA is that its left momentum today has been partly helped by the split of its most right-wing, social-democratic component into the “Democratic Left” as noted above. And it is important to know that the one and only section of the left that the KKE has ever actively collaborated with was precisely those who now make up this group, historically the “right-Eurocommunists”. And also with PASOK and New Democracy. In other words, the KKE has collaborated with everyone but the left. To explain all this, a little history is necessary.

Greek left’s history

The KKE has historically played a large part in Greek politics since its historic role of leading anti-Nazi resistance in WWII, always making up a solid bloc of support, measured in double figure votes, just after the traditional right and centre blocs of the two-party trickery. When the traditional Communist parties internationally began to split following the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the rise of the radical new left, the Greek party also split. The majority remained pro-Moscow and was called KKE (Exterior), while the more critical wing loosely aligned with the Eurocommunist current was called KKE (Interior). The dominant party eventually dropped the “Exterior” tag and is now just known as KKE.

However, the KKE (Interior) suffered its own right-left split in the 1980s, due to the contradiction between the reformist dynamic of Eurocommunism on the one hand and the left-radical dynamic of the new left and anti-Stalinist critique, especially in Greece’s strongly militant political environment, on the other. The left, who wanted to maintain and renovate a genuinely communist perspective, had the majority, and so kept the name KKE (Interior). The right minority split away and formed the Greek Left (EAR), dedicated to a “modern” left “discourse” and all that entailed (i.e., junking “old” ideas like class struggle etc.).

The KKE drew closer to EAR despite its opposite positions on the Soviet Union, and in 1989 formed the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos, the Greek word for “coalition”) to stand in the elections that year. It received a respectable 13% of the vote (most of it gained by the KKE’s historic working-class base). For future reference, the core of EAR is precisely what today forms the Democratic Left organisation.

In the context of no party emerging strong enough to form a government on its own, and of the withering assault by the right-wing media on the ruling PASOK government’s (only too real) hyper-corruption, Synaspismos (i.e., KKE and EAR) agreed to take part in a coalition government with the victorious reactionary, neoliberal New Democracy party, under Konstantine Mitsotakis. Under the banner of “cleansing”, the right-left coalition would cleanse Greek society of the stench of corruption, apparently associated entirely with PASOK social democracy, until new elections at the end of the year.

However, these new elections were inconclusive, so now Synaspismos – with a reduced vote as the working-class base punished it by swinging back to PASOK – agreed to form an “ecumenical” government with both New Democracy and (a presumably cleansed) PASOK. Under both the “cleansing” and the “ecumenical” governments, Synaspismos was essentially hostage to an emerging neoliberal program of restructuring the Greek economy. In the third election, New Democracy emerged victorious.

The KKE’s coalition with New Democracy led to a split by a minority of the party and by the leadership and the majority of its youth organisation, the KNE, which strongly opposed this class collaboration. These forces formed a new left-communist party named NAR (New Left Current), which is today one of the key components of the radical left coalition Antarsya, alongside Trotskyist, state capitalist [those who believe the Soviet Union was a capitalist country] and left environmentalist groups. They have never had anything to do with KKE since. At the time they were laughably slandered by the media as hardened Stalinists for rejecting such a “modern” sophisticated idea as class collaboration with ND, which was highly ironic given that in the very same year, during the coalition with ND, the KKE hailed the Chinese regime's massacre in Tiananmen Square, whereas the KNE and KKE dissidents vigorously condemned it from a left-communist perspective, pointing to the capitalist restorationist policies of the Chinese leadership.

Meanwhile, the KKE (Interior) also opposed this coalition with ND (and the ensuing one with ND and PASOK), leading to a semi-convergence with the KKE dissidents on class-struggle issues. It is today part of the constellation of radical left forces in the SYRIZA coalition.

As for Synaspismos, it split back into its component parts. EAR on one hand drifted closer to PASOK, which had sought to “cleanse” its image from the stench of corruption by via “modernising”, i.e., junking aspects of its social-democratic past and holding itself up as a more human face to drive through the neoliberal “restructuring” of the Greek economy in line with the wishes of global capital, especially after it returned to government in 1994. As it was the KKE that quit the coalition, the small minority party EAR maintained the name “Synaspismos” despite it no longer being a coalition.

KKE ‘rediscovers’ Stalin

Meanwhile, the KKE withdrew into a hidebound neo-Stalinist shell. In 1995, the KKE, which had faithfully followed Khrushchev, then Brezhnev, then Gorbachev, suddenly rediscovered that Stalin was allegedly one of the greatest Marxist thinkers and began doing absurd things in the 1990s like glorifying the 1930s purges. This seems to have little logic other than that of protecting its human “assets” from contamination by the rest of the radical Greek left, consisting of a dizzy constellation of Trotskyist, Maoist, anarchist and other far-left and revolutionary formations, and giving some justification to its abject refusal to work with anyone on the left.

A key difference that emerged on the left was that of attitude towards the European Union. On the right, despite criticisms of the neoliberal Maastricht treaty, Synaspismos (i.e., EAR) attached itself to the view that membership of the EU was essential and part of Greece’s process of “modernisation” that could only benefit the left in terms of progressive social policy (despite the regressive economic “side effects”). The KKE by contrast made withdrawal from the EU a shibboleth to use in its struggle to maintain its relevance. While formally correct from a left standpoint, the obsession with withdrawal tends to look in a nationalist direction; its coalesces with the KKE’s traditional view of Greece as a colony of Western imperialism rather than a mini-imperialist power in its own right, and with its populist-nationalist “anti-monopoly” alliance.

While the KKE in the early 1990s tended to take decent anti-nationalist stands on some issues, such as the Macedonian issue, for which it was vigorously condemned by the chorus of reactionary right-wing nationalism that dominated that decade, later in the decade the KKE adapted precisely to this same Greek nationalism.

For example, it tended to echo the support given to Serbian nationalist leader Milosevic by the Greek ultra-right, Greek Orthodox Church, PASOK, New Democracy, indeed everyone except the principled left, in his Crusader-style anti-Muslim propaganda for an “Orthodox” axis against “the Turks” (i.e., Balkan Muslim peoples). With Milosevic and his cronies personal friends of both ND leader Mitsotakis and PASOK leader Andreas Papandreau, both of whom escorted him around Greece in their boats and mansions, and with Greek fascists proudly taking part in Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaigns, including in Srebrenica, there was little radical about this. When gigantic Greek rallies – supported by all Greek parties, from the far right, through ND and PASOK, to the far left – opposed NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999, the KKE ingratiated itself into the most right-wing chauvinist section of the movement by blocking with the Greek Orthodox Church and fascists in demanding that only Orthodox Serb refugees, not Muslim Albanian refugees (i.e., most refugees), be allowed into Greece.

This fitted with the nationalist flavour of its anti-EU campaign. By contrast, the radical left preferred a perspective along the lines of opposing the European Union of capital but counterposing it to a Europe of workers, immigrants and the environment, a perspective of actually increasing connections across Europe of working-class struggles, of a united European working class to fight back against the united offensive of EU capital.

As SYRIZA central committee member Haris Golemis explains, as opposed to “the dilemma that Greece should either accept the present political and economic framework of the EU (as supported by the PASOK and ND) or voluntarily get out of the Union – a demand put forward by KKE, but also some groups of SYRIZA … we believe that struggles and disobedience at the national level should be combined by coordination at the European level for the refoundation of Europe”. Golemis says the Greek crisis shows that “developments even in a small country of the Southern periphery can create a ‘butterfly effect’ so strong that it can shake European decision-making in its core”.

While the KKE’s anti-EU position, despite its nationalist nature, was arguably to the left of the pro-EU position of Synaspismos, what the Synaspismos had going for it was its openness. This allowed a great many people well to the left of the Synaspismos leadership to find a home in a relatively large organisation that was still officially called a “coalition”, something they could not do within the KKE.

This produced a dynamic within Synaspismos in conflict with the right evolution of the leadership group. These leftist elements of Synaspismos further valued cooperation with the more radical left outside the organisation precisely in order to counterbalance the evolution of its right-wing leadership towards irrelevance (who needs PASOK-lite when you can have the real thing?). Throwing itself into the anti-globalisation movement further broadened the base of Synaspismos.

SYRIZA

In this context, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) was formed in 2004 between Synaspismos, its dominant and most reformist component, and a range of parties to its left. These included: the new incarnation of the KKE (Interior) known as Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA); the Internationalist Workers Left (DEA, a state-capitalist group associated with the US International Socialist Organization); the Movement for the United in Action Left (KEDA, an anti-sectarian split from the KKE); Active Citizens, a party formed by Greek anti-Nazi resistance hero Manolis Glezos. They were joined later by the Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE, a militant anti-sectarian development out of the Maoist tradition; the left-environmentalist Ecological Intervention; the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI, a populist left split from PASOK); another small PASOK offshoot called the Unity Movement; and for a time Xekinima, the Greek section of the Committee for a Workers International, along with a sprinkling of tiny left groups.

Thus to see the current SYRIZA coalition as simply an extension of the old Synaspismos and its left-liberal evolution misses the point entirely. From the start there was tension between the Synaspismos leadership and its radical left allies. These tensions led to the election of Alekos Alavanos, who strongly supported the alliance with the radical left, as president of Synaspismos to replace Nikos Konstantopoulos, the leader associated more than anyone with rightist direction of Synaspismos since its foundation. The rise of the current leader, Alexis Tsipras, who has a long tradition of non-sectarian militant activity, is a further step in this direction.

These tensions inside Synaspismos were resolved when Konstantopoulos led the “Renewers” (i.e., “modern” left liberals) out of Synaspismos and out of SYRIZA to form Democratic Left in 2010. As such, what remains of Synaspismos is rather different to the old EAR and the old Synaspismos, and is solidly wedded to the radical left currents within it that maintain a strong left pressure on the Synaspismos leadership.

KKE under pressure

While the KKE is under no such left pressure in an organised sense, it is undoubtedly under pressure from its ranks and supporters, and despite its hardened sectarianism, the KKE has often stood out as being quite militant in labour movement politics, as long as it doesn't escape its control. Many among this militant base of the party are unlikely to look kindly on the party playing this sectarian game when the objective need for the left to unite for power has never been greater.

This is already in evidence with an opinion poll conducted by Alpha TV less than a week after the May 6 elections, according to which SYRIZA’s vote would increase from 17% to 27%, making it far and away the biggest party, ahead of ND which would be expected to pick up only a couple of percentage points and hover around the 20% mark. By contrast, the KKE vote dipped from 8.5% to 7%, and the Democratic Left was down from 6.1% to 4.9%. It is not difficult to understand what this indicates.

However, what of the genuine weaknesses in SYRIZA’s program? Could it be argued that, however sectarian the KKE may have been in recent years, it is right to reject alliance with what it considers a softer-left program as this would compromise their basic political principles?

Positions on EU, euro

The key issue of difference here is that of attitude towards the EU and the eurozone – the KKE demands immediate withdrawal. As SYRIZA does not, it may be argued that there is simply not enough common ground between the two positions; as the KKE expects any program to fail as long as Greece remains within this framework, it is right to not take part in a SYRIZA-led government.

There are a number of problems with this argument.

First, unless new elections give SYRIZA the bigger majority as predicted, even now SYRIZA and the KKE could not form a government due to the undemocratic electoral law by which the party with the most votes (i.e., New Democracy in this case) gets 50 extra seats for free. At least they would need support from the Democratic Left, and this organisation is so right wing that it has been courted by PASOK and ND to form a soft austerity coalition to save the memorandum. To its credit it rejected this, given how breathtakingly humiliating it would have been, but the fact that it even took part in such talks indicates how far away it is from the kind of ally that SYRIZA would need.

Therefore, the issue is more one of attitude to collaboration. When SYRIZA approached the KKE after the election, the KKE’s response was simply to tell SYRIZA to shove off. If the KKE had a genuine left critique of aspects of SYRIZA's program, it should now be actively putting it to SYRIZA as a basis for discussion to unite the left forces to take power on the kind of program necessary today. The fact that the KKE is not even propagandistically trying to do this reveals the bankruptcy of its sectarianism.

The difference between a united left that is capable of taking power after new elections, and a divided left where the idea of actually winning appears hopeless, may well have a big impact on how the desperate masses vote in new elections.

Second, given the nature of SYRIZA as described above, many of its constituent organisations actually agree with the KKE rather than the SYRIZA leadership on the EU and eurozone questions, and on a host of other questions are far to the left of Synaspismos, even after the exit of its right faction. If the KKE was a revolutionary organisation, it would be approaching SYRIZA in united front fashion, trying to find minimum points of agreement to fight around, and in the process linking with the left organisations within SYRIZA to keep pressure on the leadership to carry its radical program through, and to push it further to the left.

Notably, Antarsya is in agreement with the KKE on the “harder” position towards the EU (but without the KKE’s nationalistic version of this policy), but Antarsya has a good working relationship with SYRIZA, particularly with its more radical components. It is also composed of some 10 groups, most notably NAR (the 1989 left split from the KKE), SEK (the Greek branch of the UK Socialist Workers Party), OKDE-Spartakos (the Greek section of the Fourth International) and EKKE (a group of Maoist heritage). Though Antarsya’s vote was small on May 6, its 75,000 votes are hardly insignificant in an election where, given the actual life and death situation the masses find themselves in, they tended to vote for whichever left party they thought had the best chance of actually defeating the parties of their brutal class enemy.

Third, the central points of SYRIZA’s program include outright rejection of the memorandum, a renegotiation of the debt, including abolition of “odious” debt, a three-year suspension of payments, abolition of all measures that have struck at the living standards of workers and the poor, heavier taxation of the rich and a partial bank renationalisation. As minimal as this program may appear, it is simply far too radical for the neoliberal EU establishment; if implemented in full, Greece will almost certainly get kicked out of the EU and eurozone anyway, thus fulfilling the KKE’s agenda.

In fact, there are good arguments for doing things in such a transitional way. The same polls showing greatly increased support for SYRIZA, total hostility to the memorandum and continued devastation for the establishment parties, also show an overwhelming majority of Greeks opposed to cutting ties with the EU and the euro. Aside from the question of illusions, there are also good reasons for them to fear the consequences of such a momentous step as withdrawing. The battle needs to be fought politically; clear alternatives need to be presented. While the KKE’s response that nothing will work except abstract “people’s power” may sound good to ideologues, in the absence of actual organs of “people’s power” this rhetoric is just left cover for abstentionism at precisely the time the left needs to offer an alternative program. 

The main danger is not that SYRIZA would not quit the EU immediately, but rather the temptation for SYRIZA leaders to not carry through their own minimum program under the enormous pressure they would be under. It is thus all the more vital that the other major bloc on the left, the KKE, as well as smaller forces like Antarsya, are actively involved to maintain the pressure on the side of SYRIZA’s ranks and smaller constituents to fulfill its program.

Sustained mass mobilisation

Above all, what is needed is sustained popular mobilisation to maintain that pressure, and to involve the masses directly in the process to bring about such an enormous transformation.

While the critique that SYRIZA simply wants to “occupy chairs” is being used as an excuse for abstention or sectarianism, it is nevertheless true that a part of the SYRIZA leadership does hold left-reformist illusions, and even more true that, whatever the nature of the leadership, the kind of full-scale anti-capitalist transformation ultimately necessary to deal with this crisis cannot be carried out only in the electoral arena.

All the smaller parties of SYRIZA and Antarsya need to take the lead in ensuring continual mobilisation, alongside the ranks of Synaspismos and the KKE, as well as the trade unions and even the traditional base of PASOK, in demanding a left united front to smash the austerity as a minimum program and sustain such mobilisation through the intensification of the crisis that will inevitably result from the collapse of the Memorandum, the exit from the Eurozone and the cut-off of EU cash.

The KKE’s idea that it will gain from a “second wind” when the masses see the failure of SYRIZA is almost beyond comprehension in its sectarian reasoning. In a situation that is revolutionary, that is life and death for the masses, the nettle needs to be grasped. More likely a failure of the left to unite at such a crucial moment for Greek society will open the door to fascism as a section of the masses swing right to find an “alternative” to the crisis. The massive 7% vote for the neo-Nazi, immigrant-bashing criminal gang Golden Dawn on May 6, alongside the 10% vote for a right-wing nationalist split from ND, may end up being a signal of the future direction if the left cannot offer an alternative. Those leftists who pave the way for this will be, and ought to be, judged harshly by history.

Comments

Syriza and the 50 bonus seats

Question regarding Syriza
As Syriza is Not a political party in its own right, but merely an aliance of parties, if Syriza gets the most votes will it still be entitled to the bonus 50 seats for being the largest party that the NDP currently hold?

I can only hope that the smaller left parties that got less than the 3% required to be represented in the Greek parliament chose to be part of Syriza's alliance or choose not to run. Otherwise there will be around 8% of the left's vote wasted.

re 50 bonus seats

Syriza is a coalition, and thus is a "political party" for all intents and purposes in an election, entitled to the same bonus seats.

Whether or not Antarsya runs remains to be seen; they have yet to issue a statement at all on the elections, which I imagine may be due to internal differences over what to say just now. Apart from Syriza's 2%, however, unclear who the rest of the 8% would be? Obviously both the KKE and the Democratic Left will stand due to their hostility, from opposite sides, to Syriza. Obviously I hope their voters desert them in droves and vote Syriza. I wouldn't have said that about the KKE if the KKE hadn't adopted this position which says our votes will not go towards a united front. I would however say that about the Democratic left in all circumstances, because he danger witht them is that next time they might well sell out and do the 'ecumenical government' with Pasok and ND that their leader proposed this time.

Syriza Transforming themselves

Luke:

It is my understanding that Syriza is now in the process of transforming themselves into a partyn able to claim those 50 seats. The leadership is holding 70 meetings with its supporters throughout Greece to ask for their support in transforming themselves, and at the same time to build electoral and extra-parlimentary support for their program of struggle. This is in addition to the election campaign itself. The plan is then to register as a political party so as to be able to claim the 50 extra seats.

Hope this answers your question.

Bob

Syriza *is* the United Front

Michael

Great article; thank you.

I am inclined to think that Syriza *is** *the United Front. The people will
make that clear by punishing the KKE. Syriza have played it well since the
election. They refused to sell out and the polls show they have gained
because of their stance.

comradely

Gary

International Day of Solidarity with Greece

Companero Karadjis:

Thank you for this insightful and educational article. It is much appreciated.

Now that the election date has been set, on behalf of Revolutionary Unity a network of activists belonging to different political formations who hold that working class, popular and left unity is the key to defeating the imperialist bourgeoisie, we would propose an international day of solidarity and action on 16 June. The theme of the day of struggle is against the Troika, against austerity and the attack on the workers and popular sectors, and solidarity with the Greek people.

We believe that it is imperative and urgent to show the Greek people that they are not alone in their struggle and to not be afraid to vote for a government of the left committed to confront those who attack them directly.

This is an opportunity to involve all the forces of the left and their various international formations, and in particular the forces mobilized in the global Occupy movements.

We understand that the Left Bloc of Portugal has endorsed 16 June as their National Day of Struggle against Austerity and the Cutbacks. Let us all join the revolutionary forces of the people of Portugal on this day to show the people of Greece that the world is with them in their struggle.

Sol

Elena

it's either we merge or we perish

either we merge or we perish. either we unite or we render ourselves irrelevant.

A fascinating article. Thank

A fascinating article. Thank you!

However, I think there is an unresolved tension here that is of great importance. You use the term "united front" in both its classical (early Comintern) sense as something that mobilizes workers into self-activity, but you also use it in terms of an electoral front for capturing government in a capitalist state, which is more correctly called a popular front. There is a deep tension between these two conceptions as they can pull in 2 quite opposite directions. Thus it is not clear what sort of unity is meant and what kinds of sacrifices need to be made by non-Syriza revolutionary forces in order to unite behind its radical reformist agenda.

United front

It is true that there is a difference between a united front for action and a united front for some kind of governmental or state power. We are posed with the second question today, though it is inextricably mixed with the first. It is far more complex to form a government, but if the left means anything, then surely it means it must try to carry out this role when the hour arises. Like in Greece right now.

However, this is entirely different from the question of the "popualar front." The popular front that the left traditionally is wary of is a government coalition between capitalist parties and workers' parties of some kind, ie class collaboration, where the workers' party inevitably cedes its politics to caitalist class rule. The governments I described that the KKE and EAR took part in in 1989-90 with New Democracy and Pasok were popular fronts. The government the Democratic Left nearly set up with Pasok and ND was also, although usually popular fronts are theoretically for something progressive (eg, in the 1930s to fight the fascists), so these examples are not very good, because they are so much more reactionary than even the traditonal popular fronts.

A government consisting of Syriza and the KKE based on a program of cancelling the Memorandum, oposing austerity, restoring living standards and beginning to attack the basis of capitalist rule would not be a popualr front at all, but a classic united front.

Classical united front clearly intended for parliament also

From Trotsky's report "On the United Front":

"The indicated method [i.e. the united front] could be similarly employed and not without success in relation to parliamentary and municipal activities. We say to the masses, “... But we are ready, inside and outside the parliament, to enter into certain practical agreements with them, provided they agree, in those cases where one must choose between the known interests of the bourgeoisie and the definite demands of the proletariat, to support the latter in action..."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/ffyci-2/08.htm

A popular front is characterised by sacrificing working class interests to bourgeois coalition partners, not by whether or not it relates to tactics inside parliament.

Alex B

In my opinion, Comrade

In my opinion, Comrade Karadjis analysis is very valuable and valid in many points. I will just note and comment a few.
1. The KKE policy is, to a very large extent, a repetition of Stalinist tactics in Germany, which gave victory to Hitler during the ‘30ies. This is all the more correct, since Greece is evidently now passing through a phase of destabilization of parliamentarism and rise of the ultra-right, in many respects similar to the one experienced by the Weimar Republic.
2. KKE policy is closely connected with the process of Stalinization which begun after the 1990 party break and the establishment of the present Papariga leadership at the same time. In fact, the present leadership has advanced this Stalinization process so far as to produce a coherent and all out neo-Stalinism. In this respect the KKE position in not a chance one but the logical product of its whole course during the two last decades.
It is clearly an adventurist policy, counting on the possibility that if SYRIZA fails, voters might turn towards the KKE. As Comrade Karadjis correctly notes, this is a self-deceit. Should SYRIZA and the attempt at a left government fail, especially if this happens as a result of mistakes on the part of SYRIZA and a false orientation of a part of the left (i.e., KKE), then a big part of the people would not turn towards KKE, but towards the ultra right.
3. A united front policy is absolutely necessary at this time. Even if one should accept the KKE assertion that SYRIZA’s leadership simply wants to “occupy chairs”, the only way to show this and help people go further to the left, would be through a united front policy.
In my opinion, the assertion about “chairs” is not of course correct for the whole of SYRIZA leadership, but it might prove correct for certain elements and persons within it, although one cannot guess this beforehand.
In this respect, I consider quite correct Comrade Karadjis' following remark:
“The main danger is not that SYRIZA would not quit the EU immediately, but rather the temptation for SYRIZA leaders to not carry through their own minimum program under the enormous pressure they would be under. It is thus all the more vital that the other major bloc on the left, the KKE, as well as smaller forces like Antarsya, are actively involved to maintain the pressure on the side of SYRIZA’s ranks and smaller constituents to fulfill its program”.
This remark really points to the danger of the situation which could lead a part of SYRIZA’s leadership to unacceptable compromises.
Whatever happens, in order to help genuine left elements, one should show a way by proposing a common basis, a guide as to what to do if the European Union leaders refuse to make any real concessions, etc. To argue, like the KKE, that a government of the left should be a priori condemned and the fight for it be avoided, means to betray the cause of the left at the present moment and help the ultra right.
4. One need only add perhaps that the Papariga leadership is completely incapable of following such a policy, which is in contrast to its bureaucratic outlook and its course during the last 20 years. The whole thing is that the KKE leadership, while posing as extremely revolutionary, is in fact conservative to its very core, playing the game of the system with left phrases (as was the case with Stalinism in general). Papariga had in fact many good things to say even for Mihaloliakos, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn leader, in her meeting with President Papoulias during Sunday (take a look at an article of mine with some details about that, http://socialistresistance.org/3528/latest-news-towards-new-elections-in...). It is only the prospect of a government of the left that scares her.
Therefore, an intense polemic should be waged in the coming days in order to expose to the people, especially to the KKE rank and file, the real meaning of its policy.
Christos Kefalis, from Greece.

KKE and fascism

Thanks Christo for your very thoughtful response, which I agree with completely. In partiucloar thanks for the link to your article revealing the KKE's bizarre semi-flirtation with the neo-Nazis. Bewildering as it may seem, there is something about the KKE's overall behaviour in recent years that makes this not as surprising as may seem. The neo-Stalinist drift can only lead exactly nowhere in this day and age, and if all you have is rage mixed with anti-EU nationalism, well you might end up with funny partners. Not that I expect the KKE would ever go that far, of course. But the logic of the all-out obsession with "out of EU" to the exclusion of other issues does have a logic of linking, at some point, with the far-right. Actually it is not the neo-Nazis, but rather Kammenos' Independent Greeks, the right nationalist split from ND, which the KKE somewhat reminds me of.

ON Antarsya, do you have any information? MY contacts have been quiet, even with me knocking on their (virtual) doors the last few days. I suspect they are locked in internal discussion.

Greece

Great article and interesting comments. I suspect that the problems of Western capitalism - so much on display in Greece - are going to become so severe in the coming years that the need to replace capitalism will become ever more apparent to the average voter. Which is why it is more important than ever that all progressive forces work together in a spirit of mutual respect to gain the support of the people - and provide real alternatives (as difficult as they may be) to the status quo. Anything less is grossly irresponsible and will only mean voters staying away from the polls.

How a United Front is Built?

Aye, thanks for a concise and informative article. I am about to have a conversation with some Greeks and with this information and the clear orientation towards the broadest possible united front I feel we are going somewhere. I was talking to a Greek member of the KKE who resigned her membership of the party due to its hostility to the Occupy movement that pitched up in the squares of her country- indeed all round the world. As a young person she could not accept that people who were expressing their rejection of bankrupt parliamentary politics and trying to develop a new politics could be so easily written off. My question is how does the united front make room for these forces. How does it convince those who reject parliament, who abstain, that this time the stakes are so high that all tactics need to be reviewed and judged. Traditionally here in Scotland, in Britain, the poor do not vote and this is a healthy reaction to corrupt politicians. Around 40% abstained in Greece- is voting compulsory and if so how are abstentions registered. That is a very significant number and the united front must fight to mobilise them, include them and get them motivated to really develop the new politics which has to emerge. The new movement cannot just be parliamentary and has to include all those outside of trade unions and parties: the poor, the unemployed, the youth, immigrants and asylum seekers. In other words the broad mass of the working class needs to be involved- and lead. By the way that suggestion about an International Day of Solidarity with the Greek People is excellent! See youse there on 16 June!
Venceremos!
We Shall Win!

Sorry fοr being a bit late

Sorry fοr being a bit late to answer the last but one comment :)
Indeed the KKE position has many things in common with the Stalinist adventurist tactics that lead to Hitler’s victory. Antarsya’s position is not very clear. They definitely consider the elections result an important step forward and do not equate SYRIZA with the bourgeois parties as KKE does. For the rest, parts of it (a minority consisting of two groups, ARAN and ARAS and individual members of other groups) favors cooperation with SYRIZA in the coming elections. The majority however (consisting of NAR, SEK and OKDE-Spartacus) prefers taking part independently. This in my opinion is a mistake under the present situation. A cooperation with SYRIZA would make it most likely possible to elect 4-5 or even more deputies together with the other trotskyite groups in it (who failed to elect one deputy alone for just a few votes). The problem is that developments are very quick at this stage, and if ANTARSYA fails to enter now the parliament (which is certain if it appears as an independent party), then it will fail to play an important role in the coming battles.
Christos

Greek SWP's view on Greek political situation

http://www.swp.ie/content/interview-panos-garganos-greek-swp

Interview with Panos Garganos Greek SWP

Question: Who are ANTARSYA and what is their relationship to SYRIZA?

Answer: ANTARSYA is the Alliance of the Anticapitalist Left and the acronym translates into “rebellion” in greek. It was created immediately after the December 2008 rebellion in Athens when mostly young people took to the streets after police shot a 16 year old student. It brought together organizations of the revolutionary left dating from the Polytechnic uprising against the military Junta in 1973, the New Left current that broke away from the Communist Party (KKE) when the party joined a coalition government with the greek tories in 1989 and many militants active in the student movement and the trade unions.

SYRIZA is the Coalition of the Radical Left and its main component is itself called Coalition, a party that has its roots in what used to be called the “eurocommunist” left. Militants of ANTARSYA and SYRIZA have worked alongside each other in many struggles, in the strikes, in the occupations of the squares and in student occupations.

Question: Who are SEK?

Answer: SEK is the Socialist Workers Party, the sister organization of the SWP in Greece . We started as a small group back in 1972 during the dictatorship and were able to grow by relating to student struggles and the workers fightback in the 1990’s as the movement started to recover from the downturn of 1989. We worked alongside the Coalition comrades in the European Social Forums in Florence , Paris , London and Athens , but always insisted on an anticapitalist orientation. We played an important role in the formation of ANTARSYA.

Question: What will happen in Greece if the country pulls out of the Euro?

Answer: The conservative New Democracy party and the Labour-type PASOK describe this as a catastrophe in order to scare people. These ruling parties that have presided over the worse deterioration of living standards in Greece since the days of the Nazi occupation during the Second World War claim that an exit from the euro will be worse. The truth is that it will be a break with the austerity imposed by the European Central Bank and the European Commission. Staying inside the eurozone means that any greek government is committed to producing a budget with a surplus so that it can pay the interest to the banks and repay the debt. Governments have been trying to do that since 1985, they have payed 622 billion euros to the banks and yet the debt only got worse. An exit from the euro can break this vicious circle if it is part of an anticapitalist programme that will cancel the debt and nationalize the banks under workers control. So the answer to this question depends on who takes the initiative. An exit from the eurozone imposed by the EU may be punitive action. An exit organized by the left can be part of a people’s default that will punish bankers rather than workers. It will mean workers across Europe have a chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with their greek brothers and sisters against the bankers.

Question: What is happening in the strike movement?

Answer: The scene is dominated by the new election called for the 17th of June. Despite that, there were strikes last week by workers defending their collective agreements. A new law imposed by the Troika is coming into effect and threatens to further cut wages. So workers in the food and leather industries along with printers and bookshop workers went on strike on Tuesday 15 May.

Question: Who are the caretaker government?

Answer: Their only mandate is supposed to be to organize fair elections. In reality our rulers are entrenching themselves in office in anticipation of a political crisis. A retired general, ex-Chief of Staff of the armed forces has been appointed Minister for Defense. The chief of police took over the greek Home Office. A veteran diplomat the Foreign Office. The chief economic adviser that carried out all the negotiations with the Troika under Papandreou and Papademos is now Finance Minister. A leading judge is Prime Minister. There are left leaning figures too (a professor of constitutional law, a former president of the lawyers association) but the overall picture is a bad omen for the struggles to come.

Question: What does the vote for Golden Dawn reflect?

Answer: The electoral success of this neonazi group was a shock for millions of people. In part this was orchestrated from above. Electoral analysis shows that almost half of police personel voted for the Nazis. Golden Dawn and police have been working together against immigrants. But around this hard core there were people who thought they were voting for a party that would punish mainstream politicians. Small shopkeepers that have been ruined by the crisis gave a frightening 19 percent to Golden Dawn. It is an urgent task for the left to isolate the hard core from these people.

Question: What shape does reformism take at the moment in Greece ?

Answer: The leadership of SYRIZA is promising that we can escape austerity by reforming the European Union. They say that a government of the left should not take any unilateral steps like canceling the debt and breaking with the euro but should rather seek a negotiated exit from austerity. As a step in that direction they seek a budget with a surplus because they claim that this would strengthen the negotiating position of Greece with its creditors. In effect this is a postponement of the promise to end austerity until the German government and the banks agree to it. That is why ANTARSYA is saying that we need a strong anticapitalist left and a continuation of the strike movement.

Fourth International Statement of Support for SYRIZA

Companeros:

Please post this statement of the Fourth International on the tasks of the revolutionary forces in respect of the struggle of the Greek people. Perhaps you could post this as a stand alone statement, for it needs a wide dissemination.

Sol
Elena
Costa Rica

The future of the workers of Europe is being decided in Greece

Statement of the Fourth International
Fourth International

For two years the Greek people have fought against the austerity imposed by the Troika (the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank). After seventeen one-day general strikes, after mass demonstrations and the occupations of squares by the aganaktismeni (the indignant), after occupations of workplaces, in the elections held on May 6 it rejected the parties which had accepted the memoranda imposed on Greece by more than 60 per cent of the votes cast, and gave 37 per cent to parties to the left of the antisocial liberalism of PASOK.

For two years, crushed by public debt, which has been used as a channel for the over-accumulation of financial capital, Greece has become the laboratory of policies aimed at making the population pay for the capitalist crisis. The rescue plans imposed on Greece have only one goal: to guarantee the payment of the debt by the Greek state to the banks, to preserve the speculative money of the financial bubble that they have created. The “memoranda” which accompany these plans are aimed at testing in Greece how far capital can monopolize the wealth produced by the workers by reducing them to poverty. The effects of this policy are the brutal reduction of wages and pensions; the deconstruction of labour laws and regulations; the brutal rise in unemployment (which already affects in Greece 21.2 per cent of the active population, nearly 30 per cent of women and 50 per cent of young people); a recession similar to that of 1929-1930 (a drop in GDP of 6.9 per cent in 2011, with an estimated further drop of 5.3 per cent in 2012; a reduction of industrial production of 4.3 per cent in March 2012 compared to March 2011 …); the destruction of the health system (closing of 137 hospitals and disappearance of a fifth of employment in health, a lack of drugs because of unpaid bills of 1.1 billion euros …) and of the housing market (200,000 residences are unsellable … while the number of homeless people has sharply increased), malnutrition …

Making arbitrariness, secrecy and fear a veritable form of government, such a policy of brutal control of people could not fail to provoke reactions of rage, distress and anger. Part of this anger was canalized by a sinister racist, anti-semite and xenophobe force, the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, which surfs on the government policy of repression of demonstrators and hunting down immigrants and has infiltrated the police. That must alert us and lead us to denounce the policy of governmental repression and racism imposed by the “Troika” in Greece.

Confronted by the policy imposed by the Troika, the Greek radical Left, and in particular Syriza, which today occupies a central place in the Greek political situation, defends a 5-point emergency plan:

1. Abolition of the memoranda, of all measures of austerity and of the counter-reforms of the labour laws which are destroying the country.

2. Nationalization of the banks which have been largely paid by government aid.

3. A moratorium on payment of the debt and an audit which will make it possible to denounce and abolish the illegitimate debt.

4. Abolition of immunity of ministers from prosecution.

5. Modification of the electoral law which allowed PASOK and New Democracy to govern to the detriment of the Greek population and to plunge the country into crisis.

The Fourth International calls on the whole of the international workers’ movement, on all the indignant, on all those who defend the ideals of the Left, to support such an emergency programme.

We want the Greek people to succeed in imposing, by its votes and its mobilizations, a government of all the social and political Left which refuses austerity, a government capable of imposing the cancellation of the debt. It is in this perspective that we call for the coming together of all the forces which are fighting against austerity in Greece — Syriza, Antarsya, the KKE, the trade unions and the other social movements — around an emergency plan.

The crisis is not Greece’s crisis, but the crisis of the European Union subjected to the will of capital and of the governments in its service. It is the crisis of the capitalist mode of production in the whole world. It is not up to the Troika, but to the Greek people to decide on the policy to be followed in that country. The attempts of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel to impose on the Greeks a referendum on the euro on the occasion of the elections on June 17 — a real electoral putsch — must be rejected. It is not the euro, but the diktats of the Troika that have to be combated today.

More than ever, the struggles against austerity policies make it necessary to fight for a break with the policies and the treaties which constitute the basis of the construction of the European Union. More than ever, fighting austerity does not mean retreating into nationalism, but the development of a movement for another Europe which defends the sovereign democratic and social rights of each people and the perspective of the Socialist United States of Europe.

Greece has become a laboratory for Europe. They are testing out on human guinea-pigs the methods which will then be applied to Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and so on. The Greek people have revolted, in the workplaces, in the streets and at the ballot boxes, against these cruel policies. The resistance of the Greeks is our resistance, their struggles are our struggles. This resistance shows that the defence of the vital interests of the popular classes implies a confrontation with the ruling classes, on the national and European levels. We must multiply unitary initiatives in support of the struggles of the Greek people and of its radical Left. But the best form of solidarity with the Greek people is to imitate their example in all countries by developing and coordinating resistance against the inhuman policies of austerity and destruction. This is exactly what capital, which is responsible for the crisis, fears: the contagion of struggles!

May 24, 2012

Executive Bureau of the Fourth International

The Fourth International - an international organisation struggling for the socialist revolution - is composed of sections, of militants who accept and apply its principles and programme. Organised in separate national sections, they are united in a single worldwide organisation acting together on the main political questions, and discussing freely while respecting the rules of democracy.

Statement and call to action-Socialist Resistance -UK

The following is the statement of the National Committee of Socialist Resistance, British section of the Fourth International.

Greece – for an anti-austerity government of the left

May 28, 2012 2:12 pm
Featured, Greece

Syriza’s stunning vote in the recent elections has shaken the Greek and European ruling classes to their foundations. It was a total rejection of the austerity package, on a progressive basis, by 60% of the electorate and has created not only the biggest crisis, but the most significant class confrontation in Europe since the Portuguese revolution of 1974.

The combined left vote was 27%, with Syriza gaining 17%, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) gaining 8% and the Front of the Greek Anti-Capitalist Left (Antarsya) 1.9%. If we add another 6% who voted for the Democratic Left – a right-wing split from Syriza which is against total rejection of austerity because it believes Greece would kicked out of the Euro and therefore only wants to soften the package – the vote to the left of PASOK was nearly one third of the electorate. The inability of any party to form a government has resulted in the President calling a new election next month on the 17 June, and a caretaker government has been sworn in, led by high court judge, Panagoiotis Pikramenos.

Before the election, Syriza was the only organisation to call for a united anti-austerity platform and for a united anti-austerity government if the left won. Syriza has decisively rejected austerity and the bailout conditions imposed in March by the Troika. Alexis Tsipras has called the 130bn Euro rescue plan “an agreement of poverty and wretchedness.”

After the result – with the Greek left being offered a unique opportunity to form a government – Syriza again sought the unity of the left and workers movement, approaching the other left formations and the trade unions to try to put together a government of the progressive anti-austerity forces. But this was rejected in a sectarian fashion.

Despite this, recent opinion polls suggest that the new elections could result in Syriza becoming the largest party and possibly forming a government. This is not guaranteed, but the momentum behind Syriza means that the ruling class and political establishment fear a new election. The EU elites have made it clear that they will make the new election into a referendum on the Euro, but that a second anti-austerity vote would mean the expulsion of Greece from the Euro. Massive international and internal pressure is being applied around this ultimatum – and between now and the election it will only increase. This campaign has already boosted the right wing New Democracy, which is now running neck and neck with Syriza in some polls.

It is important that this ultimatum is rejected and the austerity offensive opposed. The Greek workers should take no responsibility for the debt. The demands in Syriza’s programme are imperative at this juncture.

Meanwhile, many, mostly middle-class, Greeks have already begun withdrawing hundreds of millions of Euros from Greek banks – withdrawing 3bn Euros since the elections and investing in safer havens, especially in German bonds. This has raised fears of a run on the banks even before the results of a new election, with serious fears of the banks running out of money and the possibility of Greece falling out of the Euro in the short term. At the time of writing a crucial E18bn cash injection to stabilise Greek banks has been held up – all the Greek banks are on a life support system run by the ECB.

It is to the great credit of Syriza and its leadership that they have held the line against the massive pressure on all fronts, which has been thrown against them. Syriza’s election platform is a radical anti-capitalist action programme, which will be an essential baseline if they eventually form a government. It includes:

• A moratorium on debt payments.
• Taxing the rich and a radical redistribution of income and wealth.
• The nationalisation/socialization of the banks and their integration into a public banking system under
social and worker’s control. The nationalization of all public enterprises, of strategic importance.
o The administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control and democratic
planning.
o The ecological transformation of the developmental model including energy, manufacturing, tourism,
and agriculture.
• Well-paid, well-regulated and insured employment, the restoration of the minimum wage and
collective agreements, opposition to lay-offs, universal unemployment benefit and the introduction of
a guaranteed minimum income.
• A guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benefit, medical care, housing and access to all services of public utilities.
• Price controls and price reductions.
• The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of self-management under worker’s and social
control.
• Improved of the rights of women and young people in the family, the work place and in public
administration.
• The social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection.
• Restoration of the pensions and the universal system of social insurance.
• A free health service and universal, public and free education.
• End to tax avoidance and tax havens.
• Disengagement from NATO and shutdown of the foreign military bases.

The manifesto concluded with a declaration that the current economic and social system has failed and must be overthrown! It goes on: “We are calling for a new model of production and distribution of wealth, one that would include society in its totality. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.”
It is a programme that puts Syriza in good stead for the challenges that will come if they win the election. Cancellation of the debt will be of crucial importance if such a programme is to be carried out.

Syriza is accused of ambiguity over the Euro because they do not call for withdrawal. The fact is, however, that they are dealing with a contradictory situation amongst the population. Whilst a big majority are against austerity they are also in favour of staying within the Eurozone – which are mutually incompatible aspirations. Syriza has rightly confronted this situation with what is essentially a transitional approach. They do not call for exit from the Euro but say that they will make no sacrifice for the Euro. They then advance a series of demands, which are incompatible with membership of the Eurozone. This puts the ball in the court of the EU elites. If they want Greece outside of the Euro they have to expel it from the Euro.

Tsipras has also said the threat to accept more austerity or exit the Eurozone was a high stakes game of bluff, led by Berlin, which would not happen because the Eurozone had too much to lose. This is a clear reference to the threat of ‘contagion’ within the banking system, which would probably lead to Portugal and Spain crashing out of the Euro and the possible collapse of the Euro itself, with Bond yields going through the roof. This would lead to slump. Merkel has even called for a specific referendum on the Euro to be held alongside the election itself! Division is therefore opening up among economists and within the European political leaderships, with many arguing that the European Union can’t afford to allow Greece to leave. This would provide a Syriza-led government, according to Tsipras, with a powerful bargaining position. However, a new ‘Marshal Plan’ to shore up Greece and Southern Europe would represent a total and massively costly about-turn by Germany, which seems unlikely. It would be rash to assume that this will happen. The stakes are too high. What is far more likely is that Merkel will hold the line and every nerve will be strained to terrify the Greek population into voting for the establishment parties on June 17.

However there is ambiguity in Syriza’s position, for while presenting a radical anti-capitalist platform against the bail-out and austerity, Tsipras has also called for negotiations to reform the Euro and the EU. A position of not calling for a break with the Euro is not a political problem if Syriza and its supporters are fully prepared for such an eventuality. In order to advocate debt repudiation, effectively you have to be prepared for expulsion from the Eurozone as a probable consequence. This approach needs to be strongly up-front in the election campaign if the electorate is to be armed against the threats and ultimatums it will face.

In this situation, nationalising the banks, imposing capital controls, taxing and collecting taxes from the rich, canceling internally held public debt, freezing the assets of the wealthy to stop them being moved out of country, will be necessary and urgent moves.

These are demands in Syriza’s programme that must be implemented at the beginning of any term of office, so that the new government can pay state employees, pensions, and also importantly, to immediately control the flow of capital and protect Greece from the manoeuvres of international finance. The nationalisation of the banks will allow the government to stop a run on the banks, ring fence the financial system and cancel internally held public debt, which is the majority of the Greek public debt. These are the measures needed to begin the fight-back against the ravages of austerity.

Other measures are also important, such as opening the books to public scrutiny of private companies, the nationalisation under workers control of firms creating redundancies, factory occupations and the building of local support committees, which are already emerging, sharing of the work equally between all those who want to work – work sharing with no loss of pay. Action should be started to recover the billions of Euros that the ruling class has already taken out of the country.

If implemented these measures would ignite an international explosion, and would have a domino effect elsewhere. There is considerable fear of ‘contagion’ in the European banking system at a time when the firewall designed to bail out other banks, especially in Spain or Italy, is not yet fully funded – this could result in the collapse of the Euro. A maelstrom could threaten to bring down a new left government in Greece. Consequently a massive mobilisation of the Greek working class and international solidarity will be needed.

A Syriza government should prepare for a possible expulsion from the Euro and devaluation by drawing up a plan to take all necessary measures to protect the working class. A re-introduction of the Drachma in these circumstances i.e., on a capitalist basis, will not be easy for the Greek working class, but will allow Greece to have some control of exchange rates. Weaker economies like Greece and Portugal after entering the Euro became uncompetitive due to suddenly inheriting a stronger currency. An important part of their crisis stems from Euro membership. Under the fixed Euro for all, weaker economies could not compete with Germany, leading to industrial decline and unemployment, but at the same time credit was cheap, encouraging a massive growth of private and personal debt in these countries – enabling them to buy German goods. In effect the German economy is being subsidized by the single exchange rate, enabling it to unload its goods onto countries like Greece or Portugal.

Another important demand Syriza has made is to end tax avoidance. This is on a massive scale and would be difficult to achieve quickly because of entrenched systems of patronage. A restructured tax authority to collect taxes efficiently would be needed. This policy is essential, for clamping down on tax avoidance and corruption and canceling the debt repayments would alone eliminate the Greek deficit.

A Syriza led government that carried out its policy to restore pensions, would have to provide alternative retirement through nationalising the pension system and creating the free provision of all basic needs after a certain age. This would be made possible by offsetting losses from defaults to the country’s banks and pension funds, as most public debt is held domestically. This in turn would leave a smaller proportion of the debt owed to foreign banks, pension and insurance funds. The heavy taxation of the rich and wealthy and corporations are important here as well.

Defaulting on the debt repayments and leaving the Euro, which will result, will be essential to put an end to the austerity attacks, boost exports, lifting the burden of debt repayments, allowing the economy to recover, creating jobs and develop by orientating demand towards the internal production that meets peoples’ needs in a green sustainable way. A boost in exports would offset the inflationary pressure of devaluation.

If implemented by the Greek people this programme would inspire all of us across Europe who are fighting the same type of austerity attacks. It would be the start of the building of a different type of society – one determined by the people for the people, which will put an end to the greed of the bankers and politicians.

However, as the Greek working class faces another election, there is a serious problem that cannot be avoided – the issue of the unity of the Greek left. Before the election Syriza was the only organisation to call for a united anti-austerity platform and for a united anti-austerity government. If there are new elections both the KKE and Antarsya (though the KKE more stridently) have already said that they will not only stand their own candidates but will not give support to, or would ‘not prop up’ a Syriza-led government if it were elected! This, they say, is because Syriza’s platform is reformist, and not revolutionary. But a more extensive revolutionary programme is something that must be and will be discussed and developed as the struggle advances and should not to be counterposed by revolutionaries to the immediate needs of the struggle as it unfolds today.

The most appalling sectarianism comes from the KKE, which, in third-period Stalinist style, has declared not only that Syriza is reformist but that reformists are the main enemy! Antarsya rejected the appeal in favour of a call for mass action against the cuts and declared that they would not ‘prop-up’ a Syriza led government! With the Greek SWP section the main force in Antarsya, this approach is reflected by the SWP in Britain. An article by Alex Callinicos in SocialistWorker has nothing to say about the governmental situation in Greece, or of left unity, but accuses Syriza of ambiguity, of refusing to break with social liberalism, and of seeking to contain the situation within the framework of capitalism. This he says, “underlines the necessity of building a revolutionary left that is part of this great movement sweeping Europe but maintains its own political identity”. We can agree with the last sentence but that must be as an active part of the Syriza coalition and with a united front method.

This is a dangerous situation. A victory for the left is not guaranteed, but we could see an anti-austerity government with a radical anti-capitalist action programme either denied office – and the austerity continue with all its consequences – or be opposed once taking office by other sections of the left! We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to all sections of the Greek left to unite behind Syriza in the upcoming elections and to unite behind a Syriza-led anti-austerity government if it is elected. Of course the movement must be vigilant, but in the concrete situation that exists in Greece today, building a broad anti capitalist organisation like Syriza – that can unite the working class –is what is needed, and what revolutionary Marxist currents should be engaged in.

We call on the KKE and Antarsya to break from sectarianism to become part of such a movement and a possible left government. If Syriza carries out its programme, and there will be massive pressures against it doing this, it would be a true Workers Government, leading to the first major political battle in Europe against austerity and the capitalist crisis. The Marxist left should do everything in its power to ensure this succeeds, not stand aside in sectarian purity and isolation.

To conclude, the new elections, in which Syriza stands every chance of becoming the largest party, or winning, could lead to a coalition government of the anti-bailout, anti-austerity forces. The task of revolutionaries is to fully support the formation of such a government, but with vigilance against any compromise on Syriza’s action programme. This is particularly important if the reformist Democratic Left holds the balance of power and according to opinion polls two thirds of Syriza’s voter in the first round were in favour of a political compromise to form a government. However it is important to recognise that Tsipras has shown no signs of any political compromise on Syriza’s programme. He states time and again that the “memorandum of understanding must be revoked.”

If at the end of this remarkable opportunity the Greek left and workers movement fails through internal divisions to form a government when the opportunity had been there and the right-wing take control as a result the organisations which opted for sectarian isolation will have a great deal to answer for, and not just in Greece. In fact the strategy of building broad parties (either anti-capitalist parties like Syriza or radical left reformist formations in other situations) capable of uniting the left and radical trade unions across the political spectrum, from revolutionary socialists to those who have not reached such conclusions, is designed for exactly this kind of situation – when no single current or tradition can meet the challenge alone.

It is an urgent necessity for the social movements in Europe to show active, practical solidarity with the Greek people and to constitute a common European platform of resistance to austerity, which in Greece must include cancellation of the debt. In Britain, this means building support for the Greek solidarity campaign, set up by CoR and the Peoples Charter, and supported by SERTUC and the TSSA. Across Europe it means following up the eminently sensible proposal which appears to have emanated from the indignados movement in the Spanish State for a day of action against austerity on June 16, the day before the Greek elections, with a major focus on solidarity with Greece.

This statement was agreed at a meeting of the Socialist Resistance National Committee on Saturday 26 May 2012

The making of SYRIZA

Excellent account of formation and transformation of Syriza by one of its revolutionary components:

The making of SYRIZA

PANOS PETROU

June 11, 2012

http://socialistworker.org/2012/06/11/the-making-of-syriza

Latest article from Antarsya clarifying position

What is our discussion on Greece about?
KLOKE Andrea
11 May 2012
http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article25531

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