Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andreas Kloke: "The third memorandum: Greece before the ordeal"

The Greek tripartite government, consisting of the rightwing New Democracy (ND), the "socialist" PASOK, and the right-wing "left party" DIMAR voted the third memorandum in parliament on November 7. Since the last such vote was in February, this becomes the second time in the present calendar year. This catastrophic decision was accompanied by an angry protest of 100,000 demonstrators around Syntagma square, accompanied by the usual brutal police attack using an unlimited supply of chemicals. On the following Sunday, the new parliamentary coup - in fact a blind confirmation of the dictates of the troika with the agreement of the Greek government and capital—was completed with the approval of a state budget for 2013, which represents nothing less than an outright plundering of the overwhelming majority of the population.

The new catalogue of measures is aimed at collecting public revenues of nearly 14.3 billion euros during the years 2013 to 2016, including 9.4 billion in 2013 and 4.2 billion in 2014. Pension cuts of almost 5.5 billion euros, wage cuts of 1.5 billion, and cuts in the public health system of more than 1.1 billion are projected as the main sources. Drastic austerity measures will be applied in education, in the schools and universities. Thousands of teachers’ jobs will be basically eliminated. Working hours will be increased and salaries will be reduced. Several universities will be “merged" so that fewer young people will have access to a university education. Moreover, massive redundancies are planned in the public services. And a strict limitation of new hiring is being introduced, based on the so-called "1 to 5 – principle," or else it is already in use (and in practice often means that only one new person is hired when 20 or 100 previous employees quit).

Further deterioration of working conditions, including the abolition of tenure of employment in the public sector, easing requirements for dismissals and a lowering of severance pay complete the reactionary steamroller, opening the door to pure arbitrariness on the part of employers. The privatization of state property is projected to reach approximately 9.5 billion euros by the end of 2016. Since the medium-term program estimates a total debt of 340.6 billion euros at the end of 2012, the benefit from the planned privatizations is quite insignificant. It should be clear, therefore, that these are simply gifts for the benefit of big business. Equally drastic tax increases on wages and pensions are imposed, of course, while further tax relief for capital is granted.

The poll taxes, which remain in force even on small real-estate holdings, the reduction or cancellation of unemployment benefits and the high debt of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to the banks complete the impoverishment program. Unemployment has officially reached 25.4% in August—after having climbed from 18.4% in August of 2011 to 24.8% in July 2012. The number of employed workers decreased from August 2011 to August 2012 by almost 328,000, i.e. by 8.1%. (1) The official poverty rate rose to 21.4% and thus affects 2.3 million people. (2) Millions will have to get by in the coming winter virtually without oil, since its price has risen dramatically.

The official aim of the whole catalogue of merciless measures is to bring Greece back to a debt level that corresponds to 120% of GDP by 2020, the same as it was in 2009. But this is the “best case"! It is claimed that the troika—i.e. mainly the economically stronger EU states—would expand credit to cover the Greek debts. Hardly a lie could be more impudent: Since 2010, Greece (which means primarily the Greek banks), has received 156 billion euros in loans including the outstanding rate of 44 billion euro. However, the Greek population has already paid off 202 billion euros to the usurers and to international finance capital. (3) This is the manner in which the alleged aid program for Greece works!

"Saving the euro" and the shift to the right by the SYRIZA leadership

The two and a half years during which Greece has been under the thumb of the memoranda demonstrate how a country can be ruined without war and occupation and fall into a (seemingly unstoppable) decomposition process. It should be emphasized that all this goes on with the full consent of the Greek ruling class, its governments, and the parties that represent it in parliament. They consider that remaining in the euro zone still promises greater benefits than a forced or voluntarily exit from the euro. The extreme right-wing oppositional party "Independent Greeks," (a split from ND in February 2012) and the Nazi horde "Golden Dawn" (GM), reject the memoranda policies in words, but share in principle the pro-euro perspective.

The same is true for the SYRIZA leadership under Tsipras, which is not at all heading towards a confrontation with its own bourgeoisie, but on the contrary promises - and sincerely wants to carry through - a rescue of the national capitalist system through renegotiations and increased pressure on the troika, particularly on Brussels, Paris, and Berlin. The SYRIZA leadership even believes that its recepe for a Keynesian rescue will save not only Greek, but also European capitalism from imminent catastrophe. According to this thinking it's just the neoliberal blindness of Merkel & Co. which has plunged the euro, and the EU as a whole, into crisis. The SYRIZA leadership fails to recognize that the global capitalist system itself has been in serious trouble since 2007-8. Methods like the Marshall Plan and "economic growth while reducing the debt" supposedly succeeded in West Germany in the 1950s, but today it is impossible for anything to be achieved in this way.

In particular, the electoral successes of May and June provoked a clear rightward shift of the SYRIZA leadership, which now hopes that government responsibility will almost automatically fall into its lap in the wake of the expected decay of the tripartite government. Its ambitions are limited to rolling back only the most brutal memoranda measures, saving the banking system through a vague government control, and re-starting economic growth through concessions from the most powerful EU member states. The SYRIZA leadership will attempt to stabilize bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This represents quite a dangerous illusion given the steep decline of democracy with the subordination of the "people's representatives" under the dictates of the creditors, the rise of the Nazi horde, and the increasing repression by the police, army, etc. Thus the SYRIZA leadership confirms its role as a guarantor of the existing system.

At the same time, the ruling class would prefer to prevent the installation of a left-wing government. It would be a big risk to make any concessions to the hopes of broader social layers, since this could in turn manifest itself in the further mobilizations. Both on the national and international level a chain reactions could be initiated, potentially directed against the existence of the exploitive system itself. In this way, a certain balance between the hopes and fears on the part of the rulers and the ruled has emerged. Ultimately this will be resolved one way or the other, reflecting the class interests of the opposing camps.

Undoubtedly, the creditors and the troika, in particular German big business and its government, have major problems with the quantity of the Greek debt, which as such appears not so significant given the relatively small of the Greek economy. The IMF and the US government standing behind it are urging the EU, and especially Berlin, to make the Greek deficit a little more bearable through another and deeper “haircut.” The German government fears, however, that this could also lead to similar procedures for the entire periphery of the euro-zone, including Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy. According to estimates, the losses for German capital could reach a painful 700 billion euros. The result would be a clear and significant deterioration of the German/European position in global competition, especially with the United States.

The German government delayed the disbursement of the next troika installment to Greece, putting additional pressure on the Greek government and banks to rob working people still more. The case of Greece proves that the aim of German polices is to gain control of the economic policy and the banking system of the euro-zone periphery, with the help of the EU institutions. The Greek banking system could virtually be taken over by German/European banks in the not too distant future, and the balance of power in the euro-zone thereby continues shifting in favor of the "center."

New start of the resistance movement

With the 48-hour general strike on Nov 6 and 7, the work stoppage on Nov 14, the day of the European mobilizations, and a powerful demonstration on Nov 17, the anniversary of the Polytechnio uprising of 1973 against the junta, the central actions of resistance have again gained momentum, after a downturn since February 12, when the second memorandum was voted in Parliament as about 800,000 demonstrated outside. The approximately 100,000 demonstrators of Nov 7 represent a relatively low number by comparison, and it is clear that the resistance movement needs a longer period to reach previous levels, especially of the months from June to October 2011. Nevertheless, no one should be fooled about the explosive situation seething just below the surface. When in the winter months the impact of the third memorandum begins to be felt, the social and political conflicts will inevitably increase.

Not only is the large majority of the population facing a precarious situation, but the government is as well. The nervousness of the rulers is reflected, for example, in the fact that state repression is increasingly assuming unrestrained proportions. The reasons are both the fascist infiltration of the police forces and the need felt by government forces to stifle any mass protest in the bud. Meanwhile the police have gone over to torturing arrested demonstrators, a fact also reported by the English newspaper, The Guardian, on Oct 9.

Regarding the political composition of the mass mobilizations, strikes, and demonstrations, the CPG (KKE), SYRIZA, and ANTARSYA, alongside other anti-capitalist or anarcho-autonomous organizations, continue playing the leading role. While it is undeniable that SYRIZA is by far the strongest left force in voter support, and thus dominates the electoral arena due to its favorable results of this year, this factor is so far not decisive concerning the actions and protests in the streets, businesses, schools, universities, and hospitals. Without exaggeration one can say that ANTARSYA and other anti-capitalist organizations belong to the most radical and active wing of the movement, thus constituting the backbone of the strikes and protest actions. KKE is still strongly present in the protests and demonstrations, and seems even to have taken a slight tactical turn towards more united actions with others. Nevertheless, the dominant line of the KKE leadership remains to denounce all other left-wing forces as "pro-capitalist."

Currently the employees of the municipalities—of Athens and elsewhere—as well as of the universities and technical colleges have taken the lead in the protests. A directive of the troika’s "second economic adjustment program" issued on Nov 10 states that 2000 employees of the municipalities should be "made available" (meaning that they should be fired) by the end of 2012, and a total of 25,000 by the end of 2013. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. The vast majority of the mayors refuse to submit lists of employees, for the purpose of "reducing” them, to the responsible "left" DIMAR minister, A. Manitakis. And the employees have seriously taken matters into their hands, transforming their union, POE-OTA, into a fighting organ. Repeated 48-hour strikes, occupations of city halls, and many daily meetings with discussions and decisions on the continuation of the mobilization, have so far stopped the implementation of the redundancy plans. Virtually all are aware that this is a matter of survival.

In the fight against the rise of the Nazi horde, GM, some successes have also been achieved. In all major cities and almost all districts of Athens antifascist action committees have emerged that oppose the spread of the fascist plague on the streets. They demonstrate and organize local or central protests. Wherever this is done with some consistency, the Nazis hardly dare to appear. A particular focus of this work should be given to the schools, as the battle for the hearts and minds of the students begins at a very early age. Nevertheless, the recent opinion polls show that the influence of GM increases. The leftist parties are not strongly present and active (SYRIZA) or else completely absent (KKE) in the antifascist committees. It is expected that with an increasingly discredited government and ND, social and political polarization will increase and a decisive clash will occur between the "extreme right" and the "left." Especially the anti-capitalist and revolutionary left must prepare for these upcoming trials of strength and organize adequately.


1) In August 2012, the total number of employed workers was estimated at almost 3.727 million, the unemployed at nearly 1.268 miliion, and the non-working population at more than 3.375 million people. The data were published by the Greek statistics office.

2) The "poverty line," as defined by the authorities, amounts to an annual income of 6,591 euros or, for a family of four persons, to an annual salary of 13,842 euros. This official definition reveals straight away that the actual poverty is at least twice as high as the estimated minimum! It is also estimated that the 20% best-paid Greeks receive an average income which is six times higher than the poorest 20%.

3) N. Boyiopoulos, We "live" in order to pay interest, Rizospastis (newspaper of the CPG / KKE), Nov 11, 2012

                                                                                     (Andreas Kloke, Athens, 30/11/12)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nikos Tamvaklis: Could SYRIZA become a "new PASOK"?


The unexpected rise of SYRIZA  to be the second largest party in the last two elections in Greece, and the projection of Alexis Tsipras as the next prime minister has caused many people to think that SYRIZA already occupies the position once held by PASOK  for nearly forty years. Many see Tsipras in the leadership role once occupied by Andreas Papandreou, a role decisive for the period after the fall of the 1967-74 military dictatorship. According to the prevailing terminology of the majority of the Greek Left (including SYRIZA), we are now facing the consolidation of a new "two-party system" , i.e. a duopoly of parties claiming government power above class distinctions and apart from the relationship of class forces. But if the term "two-party system" in the past obscured a correct reading of the political situation, today the same term not only obscures the current political reality, it masks the gravity of the tragic social situation and the current political stalemate. Certainly the external similarities between the current SYRIZA party after the elections, and the PASOK of 1974-81, are evident. The crucial question is whether these apparent similarities represent a substantial commonality between the two political parties, and further whether they predetermine social and political developments in the near future.

The rise and integration of PASOK

The PASOK party of 1974-81 rallied around the popular strata and especially those who were still under the strong influence of the tradition and memories of the great national liberation movement (EAM  1940-44) with strong references to socialism. "Really existing socialism" had lost the attractive glow of revolution and social regeneration, but its very existence still confirmed the possibility of running a post-capitalist economy with centralized state planning. The alliance of popular strata around PASOK of the period 1974-81 developed gradually with steady steps and the parallel building of party structures. The party members were active in the social movements' rank and file, not only in the petty bourgeois strata of smallholders and small tradesmen, who undeniably formed the party’s backbone. They were also in the labor movement that had emerged in factories, rural cooperatives and in the municipalities after the fall of the dictatorship. The term "self-organization" was first used by Andreas Papandreou to denote the impetuous and largely spontaneous development of party local units nationwide.
PASOK introduced a radical program which included the creation of the "welfare state" (public and free education, a national health care system) and promised the exit of Greece from NATO and the EEC. It cultivated and presented a crass nationalist kind of anti-imperialism before its rise to government. PASOK marched to the elections of October 18, 1981 with the demagogic slogan that reflected popular expectations: "On Oct. 18 Socialism." Without doubt, the day of its ascension to government, the PASOK leadership instantly forgot about socialism and any exit from NATO and the EEC. The radical program of the "third way" to socialism gave way to managing and modernizing the bourgeois state. The eventual reforms were broadly in line with the needs of capitalism in Greece. Party structures followed a path of rapid integration into the state bureaucracy, while simultaneously waging a long internal party struggle to neutralize, marginalize and isolate its labor rank and file. The radical minorities that had joined the party since its foundation were either expelled by administrative means, or were fully integrated into the bureaucratic apparatus.
At critical moments, Andreas Papandreou, a powerful and charismatic figure, showed he could directly relate to the feelings and desires of broad layers, and cultivate or reinvigorate their illusions for a painless, parliamentary "third way" to socialism. Certainly global capitalism since the early 80's, having descended into the long wave of recession, launched its major offensive against the gains of the labor movement. The neo-liberalism of Reagan and Thatcher led the way. Greek capitalism, however, seemed to have capacity for some concessions to the "welfare state." These policies were at least partially at odds with mainstream world capitalist politics.

The electoral rise and mutation of SYRIZA

SYRIZA, after the 2012 elections, also rallied the majority of the working classes who still refer, in a rather general and abstract way, to the ideological tradition of the left. Certainly, after the collapse of "actually existing socialism", more than two decades of ideological dominance of neo-liberalism have dispersed confusion and disorientation in the working class and popular strata. But SYRIZA (and previously SYNASPISMOS) have never attempted to come to terms with this situation with a clear and honest self-criticism on the restrictions and the attitude of the historical leadership of KKE-interior  and then SYN towards the bureaucracies of "really existing socialism". Even more, the general ideological weakness and organizational decline of the Left opened the way for the growing stronger trends of xenophobia and racism within Greek society, and finally allowed, under the conditions of sharp economic crisis, the emergence of right-wing and neo-Nazi parties.
The rallying of workers to SYRIZA took place mainly in the parliamentary arena. It was not a product of the development of party structures and the activity of party members in the labor movement, nor did it come from the new resistance movement of popular assemblies and popular local self-organization. The presence of SYRIZA in mass mobilizations remains half-hearted, limited and linked to its rise in parliamentary elections. The election campaigns of SYRIZA rely much more on "contact" with the popular strata through the media and advertising slogans, and much less on the direct contact and activation of the potential of its social base. The public speeches of Tsipras move increasingly towards promises of a better management of the bourgeois state and the capitalist economy. Moreover Tsipras (like the young A. Papandreou) tries to rise above the party apparatus and to address directly popular feelings and hopes for a painless, parliamentary way out of the crisis nightmare -- within the institutions of the EU. The popular strata rally reluctantly and without enthusiasm around SYRIZA, because they sense both the gravity of the situation and the utopian character of the easy promises.
An important section of the SYN party cadres is already integrated in the state bureaucracy. The election program of SYRIZA remains strictly within the framework of management of the bourgeois state. The legendary declarations for "debt rescheduling" through the institutions of the EU are of dubious credibility and are restricted to the rescue of the remnants of the welfare state and the rather vague “productive reconstruction” of the capitalist economy. The prospect of socialism, with planned economy, nationalization of banks and large companies, as the only real alternative to the crisis of capitalism was not really mentioned in pre-election period, and much less in post-election proclamations. The word “socialism” has been expunged, seemingly forever, from Tsipras’ vocabulary.
Even worse, with the rapid rise of the fascist Golden Dawn (GD), SYRIZA restricts itself to defending the institutions of a bankrupt bourgeois democracy. It is a democracy that sinks into general disrepute, immersed in scandals that reflect the mutual recriminations of panicked capitalist politicians. At the very moment when the socialist perspective should be advanced against the corrupt regime, SYRIZA provides space for the screaming and the demagogy of the GD gang. At the very moment when SYRIZA should decisively confront the fascist terror in the streets and neighborhoods with mass mobilizations, it resorts to invoking bourgeois legitimacy and relying on the cops – who are heavily infiltrated and corroded by fascism. Also, the first attempt to integrate or eliminate the radical "components" of SYRIZA began much earlier with the proposal of the SYN leadership for a single party apparatus last September. This mutation is supposed to make it more reliable in the eyes of the ruling class.
Certainly, the chance of obtaining governmental power in a European country like Greece, by one of the traditional left parties like SYRIZA for the first time after decades, alarmed the European rulers. Not due to the risks posed by SYRIZA, but because of the general instability and uncontrolled developments likely to unfold as broad layers will perceive such a left government as their own victory, and because of the chain reactions likely to occur in other European countries. They know very well that the conditions of the economic crisis have created a social powder keg that could explode at any time, regardless of the desires, plans and estimations of a left reformist leadership.
On the other hand, the majority of the European radical left seems to be hypnotized by the prospect of an electoral victory of SYRIZA. Most of the European left parties rushed to give unconditional support to the SYN party leadership, without much understanding of the relationship of class forces within Greek society, its reflection on the political scene, and the true nature and history of the SYN party. Certainly the desire for a victory of the left in Europe, after nearly three decades of continuous decline, is fully justified and understandable. But substituting one's desires for the reality under current conditions is extremely dangerous. Even worse are the unjust characterizations and attacks on those forces trying to establish a consistent anti-capitalist and communist left under these difficult conditions.

* This is a translation of an article published in SPARTAKOS, the review of OKDE-Spartakos, Greek section of the 4th International.


SYRIZA: Coalition of the Radical Left - United Social Front is a left-wing political party, originally founded before the general election of 2004, as a coalition of the party SYNASPIMOS with a broad array of small left-wing and radical political groups and independent politicians. In the general election of 2004, the coalition gathered 3.3% of the total. In the general elections of 17 June 2012 SYRIZA gathered 27% of the total became the second largest party in the Greek parliament after New Democracy and is now the main opposition party.

PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement, is the main centre left party and historically one of the two major political parties in Greece (the other is the right party of New Democracy). It was founded by Andreas Papandreou after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. In 1981 PASOK became Greece’s first social democratic party to win a majority in the Parliament.

EAM: National Liberation Front was the main movement of the Greek resistance during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. Its main driving force was the Greek Communist Party (KKE). EAM became a mass social movement and established its own government in the areas it had liberated until spring 1944. The movement reached its peak after the Liberation in late 1944, when it controlled most parts of the country before suffering a catastrophic military and political defeat after a series of tragic mistakes committed by the Stalinist leadership.

Greek Communist Party - Interior was formed after a major split of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) in 1968. KKE- Interior essentially broke its ties with KKE's ideological subordination to the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It later established bonds with parties such as the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the Romanian Communist Party of Nicolae Ceauşescu, adopting a Euro-communist perspective. The party also opted for a "renewal of the left" and embraced the concept of “socialism with a human face”. KKE - Interior was dissolved some months after its 4th Congress in 1986, splitting into two new parties: the left “Communist Party of Greece (Interior) - Renewing Left” and the right “Greek Left”, the ancestor of today’s SYN.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Andreas Kloke: The Euro, the Greek Crisis, and the Left

As this is written, in early September, the Greek government is expected to soon announce its new “austerity program”—aligned with the troika, of course—which will initiate another round to plunge working and young people, pensioners, migrants into yet deeper despair. (1) However, it is quite possible “that the Greeks could spare themselves the trouble of the economy package. Governments in Europe are preparing long before, expecting that and the next report of the creditors, the troika (EU Commission, ECB and IMF), will detect new holes in the budget. In that case, the real emergency, the breakup of the monetary union, will be on the agenda.” (2) Along the same line, a report in the conservative German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, was given a revealing title: “The secret plans for the euro crash - Banks and corporations are preparing for the possibility the euro could fall apart. They hoard cash, change contracts, and rehearse how to introduce the new drachma.” (August 25).
Whether Greece will soon be thrown out of the euro-zone or not, the Greek workers’ movement must strive to overthrow the policies of their rulers through strikes, occupations, and other acts of resistance. At the same time, the question of an alternative policy is posed, one that might open up some way out of the crisis with its catastrophic decline in living standards, the collapse of the last vestiges of bourgeois democracy and the increasing emergence of fascist tendencies. One of the key problems that appeared with the introduction of the memoranda policies in the Greek left - and to some extent in the European left more widely - and which has led to controversial and different concepts of economic policies to combat the crisis, is whether Greece should try to remain in the euro-zone or reintroduce its own national currency (return to the drachma).
This question played a significant role in this year’s election campaigns. The fear of expulsion from the euro and the threat that payment of wages and pensions could be totally stopped, i.e. “total destruction” (as the German newspaper Bild wrote to the “dear Greeks” on June 15), apparently persuaded many to again cast their vote for the memoranda parties, New Democracy (ND) and PASOK, on June 17. The leadership of the left alliance SYRIZA had also committed itself to keep the country in the euro-zone and, although engaging in an offensive against the memoranda policies, to strive for an agreement with the creditors and the troika, thus hoping to bring about a partial easing of their demands.
Can Greece be kept in the euro?

The orientation of SYRIZA only makes sense if there are realistic prospects for such a compromise. But it was clear that neither the troika in general, nor the governments in Berlin and Paris in particular, showed any interest in negotiating with a possible “left government” formed by SYRIZA to discuss amendments to existing credit agreements. These agreements condemn Greece - or, more precisely, its working people and all the oppressed - to a wasting away without prospect. It is another question entirely, of course, whether the troika and the German government were bluffing. Recent developments and estimates show, nonetheless, that a withdrawal of Greece from the euro-zone would indeed be very difficult and raise many questions for the other euro-zone countries, also for the entire international capitalist economy. Still, it is being more and more seriously considered since business as usual cannot easily continue. The SYRIZA leadership had nothing up its sleeve before the June elections to counter the massive campaign of intimidation by those in power, both in Greece and in Europe. In other words, for everybody who wanted to avoid the catastrophe (!?) of Greece being kicked out of the euro, what made sense was a vote, for example, for ND but not for SYRIZA.
It should be noted that the position taken, during the June elections, by those in the Greek left who advocate maintaining the euro - namely the Tsipras leadership in the SYN party (3) and some of the organizations that belong to SYRIZA (4) - is becoming obviously weaker and less and less convincing. If the “center” of the euro zone, i.e. particularly Germany, is openly thinking through whether “Grexit” (Greece’s expulsion of the euro), may ultimately be the cheaper and more reasonable option, then the Greek left - and probably also others - should be planning how to continue without the euro. The “argument” that only with the euro Greece can avoid further impoverishment is clearly null and void since the memoranda policies and the unconditional maintenance of the euro-zone are the main causes for the ongoing social process of degradation.
Undoubtedly, Greece is ULTIMATELY to be saved only by worker-friendly policies on the European level, through a radical restructuring of production and distribution in favor of the working people and all that goes with it. This would require a fundamental reorientation of European politics, meaning that the “center” ACTUALLY came to support and help rescue the “periphery” (the so-called PIIGS countries)—and not just with loans designed to earn profits for the banks by accruing exorbitant rates of interest. It is important to note, however, that the chances of the EU institutions making an imminent change in this direction are not very favorable. In the major countries of the center, France and Germany, only the left parties, the German “Left,” the French Front de Gauche, the NPA, etc. would advocate such a change - in the words of the left German politician Gysi, a new "Marshall Plan" for Greece and the periphery. But these parties currently represent less than 20% of the electorate in France and probably less than 10% in Germany.
The EU institutions are also totally undemocratic and hierarchically organized. They comply 100 percent with the imperial project of the ruling classes of Western Europe -including Greece - to secure and improve the best positions on the world market in competition with other imperialist blocs. The treaties (from Maastricht to Lisbon), the last reactionary “European Fiscal Pact” along with the introduction of the euro, all served the interests of finance capital and of the multinational corporations of the “center.” They continue to do so, essentially under German leadership. Incidentally, it is not correct, therefore, to believe that a “pro-euro” attitude is basically more “progressive” or “internationalist” in a socialist sense. The institutions of the EU and the euro-zone are clearly defined in favor of the capitalist classes and therefore cannot be “reformed” to serve the workers. They must ultimately be dissolved and replaced by European institutions of workers’ democracy and self-rule.

European periphery and center

The division of European nations into “center” and “periphery” has intensified with the outbreak of the world economic crisis of 2008. This has revealed that there is no “European solidarity” operating today, but only the merciless self-interest of each national ruling class. The wage earners of the weaker countries have to take up all of the cost and consequences of the crisis. Because of the balance of power that exists in the EU and in the euro-zone, it is extremely unlikely that “euro bonds” - i.e. loans with extremely low interest rates such as the European Central Bank (ECB) grants to private banks - can rescue the countries of the periphery from the debt crisis in the foreseeable future. The announcement of M. Draghi that the ECB will buy government bonds issued by the countries of the euro-zone in the future does not alter this situation to any significant degree.
This does not affect the necessity for international solidarity by the center with the periphery. That is a requirement for the workers’ movement and the left. Obviously there are great opportunities for development, but also a need to catch up, since the networking and organization of the exploited and oppressed in the trade unions, movements, and the left on a European level still remain far behind the well-organized international collaboration of the ruling classes and their political institutions.
The memoranda policies have already led to an almost complete social decay, to a decline in GDP of about 20% within 4 years, dramatically increasing unemployment - especially in the young generation - and to an abrupt rise of the suicide rate. These trends will intensify after the second memorandum of February, the PSI agreement, the fiscal compact, and the recent “austerity measures” of nominally 11.5 billion euros. They will lead to a further deterioration in working conditions, a possible collapse of the remaining social security funds, the auction of national property and of the workforce itself. At best, the public debt in 2020 will be 120% of GDP, the same ratio as in 2009. Even assuming a very favorable economic development in the context of the agreements, the debt will amount to 174% of the GDP in 2020 - assuming an annual income rate in the primary sector (raw materials, agriculture, etc.) of 1%, an inflation rate of 1- 1.5%, and an annual growth rate of 1 %. The growth rates would have to reach totally unlikely 4.5% to limit the debt to 120%. (5) No need to mention that this situation is completely untenable for Greece.
Likewise, there is no doubt that the trouble cannot be attributed to internal factors such as the excessive cost of public services, corruption, lack of willingness to work, etc., as has been rumored in the media at home and abroad. It is caused by the impact of the global capitalist crisis of 2008-09, which has driven the private and public debt to new heights worldwide. But there is also a structural problem. Decisive for the special plight of the European periphery is the faulty design of the euro itself, which means that the euro zone has now become the Achilles heel of the entire world economy. For the periphery this birth defect of the euro caused a sharp decline in its competitiveness, and it is now no longer possible for these countries to compensate for this tendency, that has always existed, by a devaluation of their own national currency in relationship to the currencies of the center.
The result is constantly increasing deficits for the periphery, as is clearly apparent in the development of the balances of trade between the center and the periphery from 1999, before the euro was introduced, until 2007, before the outbreak of the great crisis—during a time when the periphery seemed to be doing well. The German account balances increased from -1.3% (1999) to 7.7% (2007). This was due to the totally one-sided export-oriented German economy. Its advantage required virtually stagnant real wages and placed the heaviest burden on the periphery, where the balances developed negatively: They declined in Ireland from 0.3% (1999) to -5.4% (2007), in Portugal, from -8.5% to -9.8%, in Spain from -2.9 % to -10.1%, in Italy from 0.7% to -2.5% and in Greece from -5.6% to -14.1%. (6) The periphery got deeper and deeper into debt, while the euro was the main cause of the catastrophic crisis management which brought an unlimited procession of cheap lending to the banks, while only expensive loans were made available to the various countries. Finally, the absurd strategy of “growth through radical austerity” and systematically induced recession, as in the case of Greece, became the general recipe for crisis management.
The euro: badly designed

In the years following the introduction of the euro the Greek banks succeeded in increasing their profits, primarily by a strong expansion of activities in the countries of the Balkans and in Turkey. This expansion, however, was not replicated in the profits of small and medium-sized Greek companies. Yet it is clear that the euro was the main option of the Greek bourgeoisie and remains so to this day, because the euro provided them a decisive advantage in their competition with neighboring countries. It seemed to secure their role as an imperialist junior partner of the European center in the Balkans and in the wider region. According to Lapavitsas, the Greek “banks are now in a very precarious situation because they hold a high proportion of government bonds, are exposed to the growing risks of medium and small firms, and depend on a supply of credit by the ECB for which they need the guarantees of the Greek state. In essence, they survive by artificial respiration.” (7)
The present (memoranda) policies of crisis management must be deemed to have failed, and their continuation can only lead to the aggravation of the already imminent disaster. Lapavitsas, who has advocated the withdrawal of Greece from the euro-zone since 2010, says that Portugal and Spain also have no future with the euro and will soon have to return to their own currency. When asked about the alternative, however, he also replies that “the periphery, without a Marshall Plan, has no chance of survival.” (8) However, this would, according to him, presuppose that Germany makes a decisive change in its policy, as the German banks and large corporations benefit from the current export orientation, although they do so at the expense of the German population as well as the entire monetary union.
M. Husson also paints a bleak picture of the situation, pointing out that the debacle was predictable even before the introduction of the euro: “The worm was in the fruit, for a basic reason which was possible to anticipate: nothing in theory or practice supports the postulate that monetary constraints would guarantee a real convergence of the European countries (Husson, 1996). The single currency postulates the realisation of a homogeneous entity, to which it is then supposed to contribute (Husson, 2001). With the passing of time, the introduction of the euro-system will probably appear as a terrible error stemming from a dogmatic, indeed neurotic, blindness, and in any case from a total incomprehension of the challenges to a genuine European unity. Today, the Euro zone has become the weak link of the world economy, and we can even say that Europe is in the process of devouring its own children. The policies pursued at the European level amount to a blind headlong rush which plunges the whole zone into an infernal spiral of austerity and recession. Unemployment settles in at unprecedented levels and the only way out is a shock therapy targeted on the deconstruction of the social model.” (9)
The necessity for a withdrawal
Lapavitsas responds to the question of what possible alternatives might exist: “The exit from the euro will be very painful for Greece, Portugal, and Spain. If the euro collapses completely, this will be a disaster for Europe. If the European leaders still have common sense, they must therefore examine seriously how a withdrawal from the euro can be accomplished in as normal a fashion as possible.” (10) To say it once more: IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS it is impossible that Greece and the other peripheral countries will pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. They will continue to be dependent on cooperation with the center and on its assistance.
But this doesn’t mean that Greece cannot or must not take steps by itself to throw the dictates of the troika and the pernicious memoranda policies overboard. In short, initiatives that could show a way out of the present mess must be taken by the workers’ and resistance movement and by the left in Greece itself. The balance of power and the political orientation must be radically changed if the country is to regain any prospect for a development of the productive forces and of economic growth, appropriate to the social needs, to social cohesion and to justice. (We leave aside the question of whether this is achievable under the present conditions of Greek capitalism.)
The orientation of the SYRIZA leadership that marked the election campaigns was an insistence that Greece should stay in the euro-zone. This was controversial within SYN and SYRIZA. P. Lafazanis, Member of Parliament of SYN/SYRIZA and one of the protagonists of the minority but not insignificant “Left Current”, has long advocated the exit of Greece from the euro-zone. The same applies to Lapavitsas who also supports SYRIZA. It is very unlikely that the SYRIZA leadership can still credibly maintain the same propaganda. The goal of ending the memoranda policies (although the SYRIZA leadership promised after the May elections only to limit them!) is not compatible with remaining in the euro-zone. Real developments have already left that propaganda promise behind.
Consequently, a solution to the crisis would require a plan B, sketched with minimal requirements for a promising alternative economic and social program. In any case, Greece must reject the claims of its creditors. It needs to stop paying the sovereign debt in order to use available funds for the reconstruction of its social and industrial infrastructure. There are two alternative approaches to a rejection of the debt payments: First is the radical one of ANTARSYA which insists that the legitimacy of all claims of all creditors - and thus also those of the troika -  must be denied. This demand corresponds to the slogan of the site occupation movement during the spring of 2011 which declared, “We owe nothing, we do not pay, we do not sell.” The second, milder version is the call for establishment of an “audit” commission, to review the legitimacy of the sovereign debt. This is supported by the SYRIZA leadership. For simplicity, we will assume for further discussion that this second option would lead to serious differences with the claims of the creditors, since otherwise it would be pointless.
Stopping of all debt payments will immediately reveal the true state of Greek banks and make their nationalization inevitable. Thus the domination of capital can be called into question, especially if the expropriation is carried though without compensation and under workers’ control, as demanded by ANTARSYA. The proposal by Lapavitsas is a bit less radical: Instead of the usual government bonds the banks could get new loans of “long term tangible assets with governmental guarantees at a low interest rate. Something similar could be done to protect the insurance funds.” Finally, the banks, after having become public property, should “serve as a lever for the transformation of the Greek economy.” (11)
Lapavitsas’ and Husson’s proposals for solutions
The ideas of Lapavitsas appear here in a kind of intermediate zone, between radical reform within the existing economic and political system, on the one hand, and an actual transition that is aimed at transcending these limitations and at breaking with the established order (i.e. at a socialist transformation) on the other. In any case, it is clear to him that his approach is not compatible with the euro-zone, certainly not with the form in which this has existed for so many years. He replies to the objection that SYRIZA wants to keep the country in the euro-zone as follows: “But SYRIZA also accepts that there is a limit beyond which the Greeks cannot bear the situation within the euro-zone. If the euro-zone still calls for tougher measures, SYRIZA will deny it. In the final analysis this will mean the withdrawal of Greece.” (12)
It should be stated, in any case, that stopping the debt payments (that is, a bankruptcy declaration, which cannot seem unthinkable to anyone at this point), the socialization and nationalization of the banks (including their profits and not only their losses), and the disassociation of Greece (possibly its expulsion) from the euro-zone represent essential and interconnected elements of an alternative approach as a the solution to the current misery. Nothing less is possible anymore, as the reasoning of Lapavitsas demonstrates. The weakness of his approach appears to be that it is conceived as a program for a possible “left government” led by SYRIZA, and remains within that framework. He fails to recognize the role of the bourgeois state and the need for the development of dual power structures through the self-organization of the exploited and oppressed. The ruling class and its repressive state organs will not stand idly by if some future government attempts to gradually take into its own hands control over the banks, the means of production, and the social wealth. Moreover, it has been shown that the strategy of SYRIZA simply does not conceive of this as its objective.
Husson's proposal for a solution remains less convincing than the one of Lapavitsas. It denies that stopping the payment of the debt and the nationalization of the banks are connected to a withdrawal of Greece from the euro-zone. Husson writes: “To get out of this impasse, there is a path which would involve a unilateral break with the currently existing Europe in the name of another European project. We can speak here of a transitional programme combining rejection of the rules of the Euro-system with a will for generalisation of the alternative experience to the zone as a whole. We do not await the miraculous appearance of a ‘good’ Europe and instead adopt a ’protectionism of extension’ which consists in protecting the experience of social transformation while proposing its extension. It is such an approach which underlies the emergency plan advanced by SYRIZA for the Greek elections of June 17, 2012. It was centred on these three points: 1. Cancellation of the memorandum, all austerity measures and employment counter reforms; 2. Nationalisation of the banks; 3. A debt moratorium to identify and cancel illegitimate debt.” (13)
This is a misunderstanding: The SYRIZA leadership proposed neither the cancellation of “all” austerity measures nor the nationalization of banks, but only their “control” before June 17. Moreover, when Husson speaks of “illegitimate” debt of Greece, he should explain what debt claims made by banks and other creditors might be considered “legitimate.” If Husson considers an exit of Greece from the euro-zone as a nationalist aberration, he needs to explain what else Greece might possibly do under the present conditions imposed by the troika. He also leaves open the question whether a solution of the crisis is possible in the capitalist framework when he writes at the end of his article: “The principles of a solidarity-based Europe are indeed incompatible with a pure (!) capitalist logic.”
The “call” of the KKE

In early September, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a “call” which rejects, in a peculiar way, both the “euro one-way street” of the new Greek government (ND, PASOK, DIMAR), though also of SYRIZA, and a sovereign default combined with an exit from the euro-zone. The KKE leadership proposes a “workers’ and people’s power” through the establishment of a “people's government” and the transformation of the current ownership of big business (big companies, all means of transportation, the land) into “public property.” This would be, so to speak, the program of the socialist revolution from the viewpoint of the KKE leadership, at least as a propaganda formula. The KKE leadership refers back to the countries of former “real socialism” and writes: “The workers’ and people's power gave a lot to the peoples of socialist countries. It solved problems in a way workers of the capitalist nations can only dream of. We (apparently the KKE leadership itself is meant here) are learning from the omissions (!) which led to the counter-revolution and the overthrow of socialism.” (14)
The KKE leadership does not explain what intermediary steps or strategy might lead to the implementation of this “workers’ and people’s power.” The target floats in space, which is probably the reason why the KKE leadership does not consider it necessary to answer the question of whether their “workers’ and people’s power” could be established while preserving the euro. If the answer is “no,” does this not mean that Greece has to return to the drachma?
Nevertheless, the call of KKE points out that this alternative would also be harmful: “The sovereign default and exit from the euro would cause a sharp rise in prices for the huge quantity of imported products, along with a dramatic loss of purchasing power by the workers. In both cases (meaning: even if the country remains in the euro-zone) tax increases and a deep pruning of existing opportunities for growth in the country are inevitable. Certain factions of the capitalist class want to benefit from an exit of Greece from the euro-zone, because they will then invest less capital in a country with a depreciated currency and with Bulgarian wages.” Indeed, this perspective cannot be ruled out if Greece reintroduces the drachma without capitalist rule being called into question. The inconsistency of the KKE’s position remains evident.
ANTARSYA and the exit

ANTARSYA, an alliance of about 10 organizations and the most important formation of the anticapitalist-revolutionary left, brings the main elements of a real transitional program into the class confrontations. Its approach aims at overcoming capitalism through extra-parliamentary struggles, the development of self-organization of the exploited and oppressed, workers’ power and democracy. The ultimate goal is to replace capitalism with a socialist system. This orientation is also reflected by statements of ANTARSYA during the election campaigns, e.g. in a central call before the elections of May 6.
The key passages are quoted here again: “There is another way! Without debt, euro, EU and memoranda! For the anti-capitalist overthrow of the coalition government and the troika!—Power and wealth must pass into the hands of working people.” The list of demands is as follows:
* Immediate cancellation of the credit agreements, memoranda, and all of their accompanying measures!
* Against recognition of the debt and for its cancellation.
* Break with and exit from the euro-zone and the EU.
* Expropriation without nationalization of the banks and large enterprises under workers’ control.
* Immediate wage and pension increases. Abolition of the poll tax and all tax increases.
* Prohibition of layoffs, full social protection for the unemployed. For the reduction of working hours and the lowering of the retirement age. Expropriation of hundreds of closed firms. Resume their operation under the control of the employees themselves.
* Good quality and cheap food provided by cooperatives, cutting out the middlemen and large companies.
* A general workers and popular uprising and anti-capitalist revolution.
SYRIZA and KKE are criticized as follows: “The parties of the parliamentary left do not meet their historical responsibility. SYRIZA speaks of a ‘left-wing government,’ but does not dare say a word against the euro and the EU. It is looking for more and more solutions for the debt through agreements with the creditors! KKE is now against the debt and EU but postpones this to ... the Judgment Day of ‘people’s power’ achieved through the parliamentary path by winning a majority in the elections. ... It avoids any open political conflict and still refuses to contribute to a unified workers’ and popular uprising. Such an attitude hinders the struggle. Unity of action for the overthrow is now more necessary than ever before!” (15)
In the election campaigns ANTARSYA placed a strong emphasis on the need to exit from the euro-zone and the EU. One can criticize this, but not so much because it is wrong to speak of such a course. It should, however, not be presented as a central demand. Instead, the stress should simply be on the fact that this represents a necessary consequence of refusing to pay the debt and of nationalizing the banks, etc., things which point to a way out of the crisis. The withdrawal from the euro-zone is undoubtedly practicable within capitalist conditions and has no transitional character in the socialist sense, as a specific objective. Moreover, strong objections to this course of action existed and still exist among the Greek people, since the reintroduction of a national currency is a very complicated issue; it would lead to devaluation and inflation. Nevertheless it is inevitable.
In Greece, actually, the future of Europe is at stake. Solidarity from the rest of Europe, particularly Germany and France, for the resistance movement of the Greek population must be accompanied by a critical understanding of what is actually happening in Greece. This solidarity can help to bring about a change, and therefore a constructive solution to the crisis for the exploited and oppressed of Greece, i.e. the vast majority of the population, against neo-liberalism and capitalism. This would open up new prospects for the socialist alternative in Europe as a whole.


1) “Exploitation without end,” German left newspaper junge Welt, 05/09/2012
2) “Waiting for the Greek meltdown,” Frankfurter Rundschau, 21/08/2012
3) The SYN (Synaspismos) is a left reformist party with origins in euro-communism that dominates SYRIZA.
4) These organizations include AKOA, to some extent DEA (“Internationalist Workers' Left”), a semi-Trotskyist organization, which created the slogan “No sacrifice for the euro, do not trust the drachma,” as well as the “Kokkino” group («Red»). KOE («Communist Organization of Greece»), an organization with origins in Maoism and after the SYN the largest grouping in SYRIZA, considers, however, that Greece is once again an occupied country and must regain its national independence from the troika in order to restart a national development policy.
5) The figures are taken from the article by Jannis Tolios, “ ‘Euro - drachma,’ realistic growth and progressive solution to the crisis,” Feb. 2012, Greek website ISKRA. (Here and below, my translations, AK)
6) Source OECD
7) Kostas Lapavitsas, “The crisis requires radical solutions,” website Aristero Vima, 26.10.2011. Lapavitsas is a professor of economics in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Many of his articles and papers, for example in the Guardian, are accessible on the Internet in English.
8) Lapavitsas, “Only a Marshall Plan can save the euro,” website Aristero Vima, 02/07/2012.
9) Michel Husson, “The political economy of the ‘Euro-system,’ “ International Viewpoint, August 2012
10) see (8)
11) see (7)
12) see (8)
13) see (9)
14) Call by the PB of the CC of the CPG (KKE), Rizospastis, 09/02/2012
15) From an ANTARSYA call for the elections of May 6, published on 14/04/2012

                                                             (Andreas Kloke, 14/09/2012)

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 class.
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 (public services).
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 movement.
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 SYRIZA Government.
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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Andreas Kloke: New Memorandum-Government in Greece

The elections to the Greek Parliament of June 17 were needed because after the elections of May 6 no parties were able to form a coalition government. The result, not unexpectedly, was a “victory” for the rightwing New Democracy (ND) with 29.7% (compared to 18.9% from May 6). The left alliance SYRIZA rose from 16.8% (May 6) to 26.9%, but was again only the second strongest party. Thus, the 50 “extra” seats in parliament, decisive for the formation of a government, were captured by the now leading memoranda-party ND. ND is forced, however, to form a coalition government with the badly shrunk and discredited ex-social democratic PASOK, the third strongest party with 12.3% (a decrease of 0. 9%). DIMAR, the right wing split from the SYN-party (the leading force in SYRIZA), will also be involved in the new government. DIMAR polled 6.3% (+0.2%) and is thus the sixth strongest party. For the first time DIMAR openly takes over responsibility for the memoranda policies. The “Independent Greeks,” a spin-off of ND, who refuse to support the memoranda policies, achieved a fourth place finish once again, with 7.5% (- 3.1).
The neo-Nazi gang of Chrysi Avgi ("Golden Dawn" - GM) is now in fifth place with 6.9% (- 0.1). The stabilization of the neo-Nazis is even more remarkable since their terrorist character was openly revealed in the weeks after the May 6 vote, with open attacks on immigrants and leftist politicians using knives and clubs - in full public view. Nobody can say any longer that the voters do not know what they were voting for. The permanent installation of the Nazis in the Greek Parliament - but with almost daily terrorist attacks on the streets of Athens and elsewhere - as well as in social life is the most striking result of the elections. The CPG (KKE) received just 4.5% and lost 4% compared to May. All parties below the 3% - threshold on May 6 had high losses and became almost insignificant for the outcome of these elections, including LAOS with 1.6% (- 1.3), “Dimourgia Xana” with 1.6% (- 0.6), the “Green Ecologists” with 0.9% (- 2.0) and ANTARSYA with 0.33% (- 0.9). The valid votes cast represented 61.5% of the electorate (- 1.2), again significantly lower than ever before.
A closer look at the election result shows that the shift between “right” and “left” compared to May 6 is not very big. The right-wing parties (from ND to GM) together polled 47.3%. The percentage of PASOK as a “new” right-wing party should be added to this. The left received altogether 39% taking into account also DIMAR and the Greens. The memoranda-parties, so far ND and PASOK, but now DIMAR too, scored together 48.3%, and of course have a clear majority in Parliament. In accordance with the rules of bourgeois parliamentarism this might be interpreted as providing a “democratic mandate” for the continuation of the memoranda policies. Nevertheless, this “mandate” is, even in a formal sense, quite weak.
ND's ”success” must be partially attributed to the unprecedented propaganda campaign of the memoranda parties and the mass media in Greece and other European countries, according to which an electoral victory of the left would have meant Greece’s immediate exit from the euro, the absolute economic ruin of the country, the termination of all payments etc. In addition, ND was able to attract most of the traditional right electorate that was very fragmented on May 6. Nonetheless, the election results of ND are generally weak, reflecting a historic downward trend that will continue now with ND’s role as the leading government party. On the left, the SYRIZA party or alliance could establish itself as the clear leading force primarily because had it come in first this would have held out the prospect of a “left government”.

Situation and prospects of the Left

As for the left-wing parties or alliances and their prospects, it should be noted that the slogan “Elections now!” issued by the two leading reformist parties, i.e. KKE and SYRIZA, especially since the great general strike of October 2011, represents a strategic failure. It was not possible to stop the memoranda policies through parliamentary elections. The relative strengthening of the Left as a whole in the two elections was the result of the large mobilizations of social resistance from May 2010, with its high points of June and October 2011 as well as February 12. It must be understood that the resistance was not strong enough to bring down the memoranda policies. Thus it is not accidental that the strength or weakness of the entire left in the elections reflects the real balance of power between the main classes in Greek society. In this respect the election results are the political expression of the temporary defeat of the resistance movement.
The weakening of KKE in the elections can be partly explained by its resolute “isolation tactics” along with its strict refusal to cooperate with other left forces at any level. This is connected to a necessarily complete lack of any prospect designed to end the prevailing policy, whether it be by strengthening the resistance movement or by the (ultimately illusory) parliamentary path.
The SYRIZA leadership has taken clear steps to carve out space as a “left” alliance for the management of the existing political and social system—i.e. Greek capitalism—at the government level, particularly after May 6. Still, it is obvious that the ruling classes of Greece and the EU prefer to get along without the services of SYRIZA in this regard. The SYRIZA leadership has fully accepted the logic of the Troika credits and their principal legitimacy and thus the debt repayments, at the same time also the wage and pension cuts and the general lowering of living standards imposed by the first memorandum, as well as the prospect of remaining in the euro-zone. These things were seen as the primary objective of government policy, thus accepting the “legitimacy” of the extortionate dilemma posed by the ruling classes. In this way, the main demand of last year’s movement “We owe nothing, we do not pay, we do not sell!” was completely diluted, or turned into its opposite. On the central issue of migration the SYRIZA leadership succumbed in large part to the prevailing policies and declared immigrants to be a “problem.” The SYRIZA leadership has not said a single word about how the social resistance can be put back on its feet or how the deadly threat posed by the neo-Nazi hordes can be stopped.
For ANTARSYA the election results of June 17 are almost tantamount to a collapse. All of the weaknesses of this formation after May 6 have become blatantly clear—for example its lack of coherence at the central level as a result of an inability to overcome the egoism of various organizations, the weakness of the basic units of the local committees, an inability to confront the political situation after May 6, to take a stand and respond clearly and convincingly to the central issues. ANTARSYA must make the necessary self-criticism in the face of this defeat and draw the appropriate conclusions. It can hardly continue if it fails to do so. Only in this way will it be possible for ANTARSYA to develop as one of the main engines of the resistance movement and as the anti-capitalist and revolutionary pole of the left. There is no shortage of starting points for joint actions by the entire left in the spirit of a united front policy. The programmatic perspective for the battles ahead has, to a large degree, been correctly outlined by ANTARSYA. The class struggles will undoubtedly sharpen in the coming months. This is what the social resistance must prepare for.
                                                                   (Andreas Kloke, 06/21/2012)