The historical texts and current analysis of the Tendency for a Revolutionary International
Monday, July 9, 2012
Nikos Tamvaklis: "June 17: A temporary and unstable solution for the Greek political system"
The elections of May 6th created an upheaval of the Greek
political system, opening a period of deep crisis. The shrinkage of PASOK, the
disintegration of New Democracy (ND), the unexpected emergence of SYRIZA as the
second-place finisher, and the opening of a prospect for the formation of a
government of left parties set off alarm bells not only for the Greek ruling
class but also for their European counterparts.
The fear of a Greek exit from the euro-zone was the theme
sounded over and over again, and with increasing intenxity, by Greek and
European political leaders, by the bankers, and by the bourgeois media as the
election day of June 17 approached--in order to terrorize the population and
stop the electoral drift to the left. On June 17 SYRIZA benefited primarily
from a continued decline of other left parties and of PASOK. But it failed to
decisively win over those sections of the working and middle classes which
remained trapped by the dominant bourgeois ideology.
The results of June 17 confirm the fact that the Greek
political system is balancing on a tightrope. The fear of what would hyappen
if the country left the euro-zone was the only effective
argument--leading the majority of the middle class to again rally around ND,
the main traditional right party. At the same time an important part of this
social layer, having been hit hard by the economic crisis, voted again the new
far right party “Independent Greeks,” while the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” kept its
support intact. This demonstrates the emergence of a neo-Nazi movement within
the petty bourgeois strata of Greek society for the first time. Even the most
skeptical left “analysts” have to admit the reality of this development.
The international scene
In the interval between the two successive electoral
campaigns, the possibility of a left government coming to power in a small
European country caused tremendous economic and political turbulence on an
international level: Stock markets declined; the euro fell against the dollar;
a wave of panic swept through the ruling classes, and hysteria through the
international bourgeois media. The prospect of a left government in Greece and
of a challenge to the terms of the memorandum were directly connected to
Greece’s exit from the euro-zone by the bankers and the “lenders”--an exit
which, as they themselves acknowledge, might have uncontrollable effects on the
global economic balance. The potential domino effect of successive failures in
other countries (Spain, Portugal, etc.) is a possibility that strikes panic
among political leaders throughout the world, including Obama, Putin and the
Chinese leadership. So if the results of the Greek election of May 6th
demonstrated the frightening instability of the global capitalist economy
despite desperate attempts by governments to extract themselves from the cycle
of crisis, then the results of June 17 brought a huge sigh of relief
despite the widely admitted fact that the situation remains extremely fluid and
the “victory” of the main right party is only temporary.
The political leaders of Europe, having secured for
themselves the ability to maintain their luxurious life-style, nevertheless
have a major public relations problem in the context of how hopeless the
situation is of so many Greek people who already lack basic necessities or
are drowning in bank debts and taxes. However, the continuous crude
interventions of foreign leaders and bankers in order to terrorize the Greek
people revealed how vulnerable and unstable the institutions of bourgeois
democracy become whenever the real interests of the ruling classes are at
stake. And we leaves aside how completely powerless institutions such as the
European Commission and the European Parliament proved to be--confronted with
the decisions of bankers and industrialists of the strongest European country,
who do not hesitate to drain resources and gain profits from the weaker
economies during the crisis.
In this way the ruling classes of Europe, with Germany
playing first fiddle, do not just want to wall off the rest of Europe from the
Greek economic crisis--which seems to be very difficult in itself despite the
debt “haircuts” and the successive memorandum contracts. What they fear most of
all is a development of popular movements of resistance to their policy at a
pan-European level, which would upset their strategic plan for resolving
the economic crisis by totally destroying all previous gains of the working
Taken together this reflects the absolute commitment of
European political leaders to a policy of brutal attacks on workers' incomes
and their living standards. This policy is imposed by the desperate need of
capital to achieve a massive increase in the rate of exploitation, which will
allow profits to recover at the level of the “real” economy. This need is unambiguously
expressed in the unrelenting austerity imposed by the memoranda and also in the
financial policy of a “hard” euro.
The development of the resistance movement
In fact, the elections took place under the increasing
pressure of popular indignation and a fear on the part of the ruling class that
a continuous expansion of the popular resistance movement could begin to take
the shape of self-organization. The upsurge broke out last year as “the
movement of the public squares” and continued with the creation of
hundreds of popular assemblies and initiatives of social solidarity, even
with the creation and evolution of the “coordination of the rank and file
unions.” The massive and militant presence of this coordination in the major
strike mobilizations was a serious challenge to the bureaucratic leaderships of
the two “official” trade unions confederations, GSEE (private sector) and ADEDY
The movement of popular assemblies, however, remained
largely dispersed and has not, to this moment, managed to create anything
at the level of central coordination. The movement failed to establish a
consistent and intense presence throughout this period. It culminated in the
major strikes during the middle of October last year and in the largely
spontaneous October 28th parades--which eventually led to the fall of the
Papandreou government and the creation of the “black front” government composed
by the three “parties of memorandum”: PASOK, New Democracy and LAOS. It also
culminated in the massive demonstration on February 12 that launched the
decomposition of the same three parties and initiated the pre-election period.
The imposition of a new package of austerity measures planned for June seemed
impossible without a new parliamentary authorization.
With the election on May 6 the ruling class hoped to achieve
at least a temporary respite from popular anger and gain an opportunity to form
a coalition government put together by the remaining two or three “memorandum
parties,” a government which could impose the new measures and continue
the work of demolishing any temporary gains by workers. But the results of the
May elections prevented, at least temporarily, the actual implementation of
this plan. The results of June 17, on the other hand, offer them a new
opportunity to go ahead, but under less favorable conditions. The narrow
majority of the two “memorandum” parties (ND and PASOK) and the involvement of
the supposedly left DIMAR (“Democratic Left”) mean that the new government will
have a highly unstable character.
The political forces
SYRIZA, faced with a fierce attack against it by all of the
bourgeois forces, desperately tried to articulate a political program of
neo-Keynesianism: government intervention in support of the welfare state and
a redistribution of income through the adjustment of fiscal policy.
The room for maneuver in order to pursue such a policy under the
conditions of the present economic crisis, however, is nonexistent.
Tsipras tried again to raise the prospect of “reforms” (i.e. the same ideas
that have been repeated so often in pre-election promises during previous
decades by socialists and social democrats) in his speeches, and presented his
own version of this program before the election of June 17: the
“restructuring of production,” the modernization of the state structures and of
the tax system. This is a proposal for a modernization of the
bourgeois system in the middle of its present crisis and for working within the
dominant mechanisms of that system, i.e. the EU and the financial policy of the
“hard euro”. This is completely impossible.
SYRIZA not only fails to reject these mechanisms, it even
hopes to reform them at a European level in the interests of all European
workers. SYRIZA claims that all this can be carried through by a team of
capable and enlightened political leaders of the Left-economists and experts
ready to transform the state mechanisms. They will audit the “onerous” debt
identify what “fair” share of it will be paid! They will denounce the loan
contracts "in the area of politics and will renegotiate the loan contracts
according to the law"! This is a project that, as we have seen many times
before, leads either to the integration of ambitious individual leaders into
the dominant bourgeois political system or else their forced expulsion from it.
The difference in the present case is that the pace of
economic developments is much faster and the social processes much stronger and
more contradictory. The utopian character of such a program is perceived by
large layers of the working classes, who either reluctantly support SYRIZA or
remain trapped by the dominant bourgeois ideology.
The popular movement, the development of mass initiative and
self-organization, the development of social solidarity--i.e. the items which
are essential for the policy of a worker’s government--cannot be found anywhere
either in Tsipras’s programmatic speeches or in his post-election statements.
To transform SYRIZA into a force that is, one hand, based
upon the social movement and, on the other, actually promoting the
development of the movement, including popular assemblies and workers'
committees in the workplaces, would require a policy that includes the pursuit
of real power by the workers, not only governmental power. That means the
immediate cessation of payment of the debt, the nationalization of the banking
system and large enterprises under workers’ control, along with a break from
the mechanisms of the capitalist EU and the euro. Such an orientation surpasses
by far the logic and political limits of a purely reformist formation such as
the SYN (Synaspismos) party, which is the dominant force in SYRIZA.
On the contrary we heard many promises that largely remind
us of the usual pre-election rhetoric presented by bourgeois politicians.
Cultivating mass expectations for welfare benefits and illusions about a
painless parliamentary exit from the crisis essentially disarms and deactivates
the mass movement. Even worse, as routinely emphasized by the leadership of the
Communist Party, the frustration due to a failure of a future left government
to realize its pre-election promises can have dramatic and irreversible effects
on mass consciousness. The current electoral rise of the far right would then
be the prelude to a massive shift to these parties.
The audacity of the “Golden Dawn” (GD) gangs in the streets
of Patras and Athens a few days before June 17 offered a foretaste of what
it would mean to have a nightmarish totalitarian future and a regime of
absolute terror. Today fascist terrorism turns against defenseless immigrants,
but tomorrow it will be used against the workers' movement, trade unionists,
left organizations and their rank and in order to crush any trace of collective
social resistance. The gangs of GD have already been accepted by a significant
proportion of the middle class which has been impoverished or threatened with
destitution. The bullying and the supposedly anti-systemic rhetoric of the
fascists charms an important part of youth who are looking for a dynamic direct
outlet from the decaying bourgeois system. They cannot understand that GD is
the poisoned fruit of that decadent bourgeois system,
the irrational logic of capitalism pushed to its most extreme.
Boundless individualism, the dissolution of all forms of collective social
solidarity, hatred of foreigners, and a grudge against anyone who opposes them,
lead to the invocation and active emergence of the darkest prejudices surviving
in today's society.
The CP leadership entered a period of sectarian frenzy
following the election on May 6. It constantly describes the terrible suffering
that will inevitably occur from a rise of SYRIZA to government power and, at
best, washes its hands like Pontius Pilate. According to CP general secretary
Papariga, the responsibility for any further development belongs exclusively to
the people who have not yet acquired the necessary maturity for social change.
The CP bureaucracy is unable to accept its responsibilities, faced
with the seriousness of the situation, let alone recognize any genuine
expression of popular spontaneous self-organization and self-motivation. It
cannot understand that the rapid developments directly affect the consciousness
of the popular masses and also require immediate positive political proposals.
The CP leadership simply repeats alleged Marxist prophecies about the
"immaturity of the people," to emphasize how the depth of the crisis
of capitalism determines the outcome, although with a considerable delay, and
constantly denounces SYRIZA for tomorrow's betrayals. It is almost certain that
the election results of June 17 will plunge the Communist Party into an
internal crisis which may have some positive results for the working class
The development of a radical left force that will be able to
intervene decisively and effectively in politics, which has a perspective of
doing more than just pushing a future leftist government to be steadfast, but
rather works to keep alive the energy of protest and focus on the organization
of the mass movement is an issue of life and death for the popular resistance. That
is why ANTARSYA participated independently in the elections of June 17. What
ANTARSYA needs to do through the electoral process is develop its structures
and consolidate its ties with the masses. The election result of May 6 showed
that is possible for ANTARSYA to appeal to broad sections of the population.
The election results of June 17, however, demonstrate that its consolidation of
mass support is still in its infancy. ANTARSYA failed to keep the
allegiance of those who voted for it on May 6 based on its program. On June 17
these voters turned en masse to the "realistic" perspective of a
ANTARSYA had been excluded from the formal bourgeois
scene--of politics and media debate--which would have allowed an appeal to
wider layers of workers. At the same time the neo-Nazis were permitted to
participate. But hundreds of ANTARSYA fighters are constantly present in the
daily class struggle on all fronts. Without doubt they are the most honest and
militant elements of the left and of the Greek labor movement, a layer
that has been working for years against the dominant ideology of neoliberalism,
also to resist the reformist misery of the SYN party and the CP's sectarianism.
They actively participate in the rank and file unions, in popular assemblies
and movements of social solidarity.
The very existence of ANTARSYA as a coalition of
fighters from different political traditions and with different historical
references gives a vivid example of how it is actually possible to create
a broad front of workers’ resistance. ANTARSYA currently is the only political
force that not only can avert, through its development, a future dramatic
decline of the labor movement. But also and most importantly, it is currently
the only force that can equip the workers movement with a political
strategy that will lead to victory.