Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jean-Philippe Dives (NPA, France): Syriza in Greece, the Left Front in France: the same strruggle?

The situation in Greece focuses the attention of anti-capitalist and revolutionaries of all countries. The events that take place there will indeed have profound international implications.  Implications that are economic and financial, implications for the sovereign debt crisis and for the euro area. As well as the social and political implications, on the ability of the labor movement and working classes to resist and engage against an offensive. It is right that the declaration of the EB of the Fourth International of May 24 was entitled "The Future of European workers plays in Greece."

 Syriza in Greece, the Left Front in France: the same strruggle?

Syriza, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, got 16.78% in the elections of May 6 2012 and could get more than this in the forthcoming June 17 elections.

In an annuncement, also dated May 24, the Anti-capitalist Left (unitary current for ecosocialism) - GA supported Syriza, thus:

"With their proposals centered on the redistribution of wealth, the repeal of laws against workers, nationalization of  banks, an audit of public debt and a moratorium on debt payments, Syriza  has convinced. By responding to popular aspirations, the coalition has waged a battle for unity, including by providing technical agreements with other leftwing anti-austerity forces.

But Syriza is not and will not be simply an electoral force. Rooted in the struggles, the coalition of the radical left immediately proposed (unions, social movement forces and political parties that are not elected to/ sitting in  parliament) a front between the "political" and "street" in order to  impose anti-austerity policies. "

Then, rejecting the policies of both the KKE (the ultra-Stalinist Communist Party of Greece ) more than those of Antarsya, the alliance of anti-capitalist left, the GA concludes by generalizing the example of Syriza: "Today, in Greece, as elesewhere,  we must be of such forces of the radical left that create hope. We must contribute to the construction of a power struggle with  power and influence in the central debates." The allusion to the Front Gauche/ Left Front and the entrance to the GA plans to make future is clear.

It is a fact that these two political formationshave a lot in common: in their make-up (a hegemonic alliance of reformist forces with other anti-liberal currents, but also anti-capitalist or revolutionary forces), and their political program, or their common membership in PGE, the European Left Party formed at the initiative of most Communist parties and ex-Communist parties. There are obvious similarities between the processes of electoral mobilization expressed around Syriza and the Left Front.

We note that this phenomenon seems more general, considering the recent electoral breakthrough of United Left in Spain (a well-established coalition, organized around the Spanish Communist Party), that of Enhedslisten, the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark, just as it is experiencing a marked shift towards reformism and system integration (see the document published in Viewpoint n ° 577-578 of October-November 2011 - the content of the title belies the optimism of a) or, in England, the surprising victory of George Galloway (Respect leader) in the Bradford by-election. Certainly, there are also opposite process (cyclical or not, we will know after): setbacks for the Left Bloc in Portugal at the most recent elections, and for the Left Party in several regional elections in Germany.

We should nevertheless ask ourselves whether we are not witnessing in Europe a phenomenon of a global character: the resurgence on a wide scale of a reformist Left (ie a non-social-liberal Left), different from the (mainly social democratic or Stalinist) Left that existed in the past, in that it is no longer a project or socialist rhetoric and is marked by anti-globalization and anti-liberal themes; that face the first crisis developments, a large sector of the working class is turning to this new anti-liberal reformist left, rather than to anti-capitalists, precisely because it offers institutional solutions ("Vote for us and we will arrange things"). This is obviously easier to hear the anticapitalist discourse ("put your trust in your own strength to change things, let us rally from below/ from the base").

However, there are also notable differences between Syriza and the Left Front. On some subjects, such as the debt, Syriza defended different positions from the Left Front, much more radical.  (We will see later that this radicalism is being challenged) than the coalition led by Melenchon and French Communist Party. Certainly, as the situation faced by the Greek people which is incomparably more dramatic, and perhaps the weight, inside Syriza, of revolutionary currents such as DEA (Left Internationalist Workers linked to the ISO in the USA ) reflects this.

But the main difference is at another level: SYRIZA, the the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left  is indeed in direct, full-frontal opposition to PASOK, the social-liberal counterpart of the Parti Socialiste in France of Hollande and Aubry. SYRIZA identifies PASOK with the right wing, which it is, and as part of the `party system’. SYRIZA is obviously not the same type of configuration as the Left Front, for which a first reuqirement should be that  a radical Left government government would break with Hollande and the PS.

Nevertheless, this positioning of Syriza, qualitatively more independent than the Left Front, is, however, not enough of a revolutionary and anti-capitalist perspective for us to decide whether to move from solidarity with Syriza to a position of political support, support for its policy. (The NPA must obviously  express solidarity with Syriza in the face of attacks it is suffering. For this, one must look a little closer its program and project.

SYRIZA’s Programme

Language is a barrier, but a series of translations, provided to verify and crosscheck the sources with some rigor, can be a good idea. Perhaps it is better indeed speak of "the programmes" rather than "the" program, as Syriza’s programme has turned out, in recent months and weeks, to be an evolving process/ programme.

Syriza has not changed in its rejection of the two Memoranda (the austerity and privatization imposed by the Troika), in a series of radical demands in defense of employees, pensioners and the unemployed, public services, or in its demands for tax reform and in respect of political corruption or in rejection/ opposition to anti-immigrant advocacy. Renationalisation, under workers’ control and popular/ people’s control  and the renationalisation  of "public enterprises of strategic importance" that have been privatized since 2010 (when the first Memorandum), also appears as  constant demands/ policies.

But Syriza’s  intentions are far more blurred in regard to two issues that are absolutely central and  decisive, since they are essential for, setting the essential preconditions for , carrying out most of the measures and policies just mentioned:  these two crucial policies are those relating to the  the debt and to the banks.


The 10-point program of Syriza for the election on May 6 was the subject of a summary in English, published on one of Syriza’s two official websites, Debt was treated as follows:

"We call immediately for:
- A moratorium on servicing the debt;
- Negotiations for cancellation of debt [and not" of the debt " , cf. after indent. Editor's note], with an allowance for social insurance funds and protection for small savers. This objective will be pursued by all available means, such as an audit control and a suspension of payments;
- Regulation of the remaining debt to include provisions economic development and employment (...)"

But this position has changed since the elections. On May 8, before engaging in consultations with other political formations, the "leader" of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, highlighted five points, which he  presented as a basis for the formation of a "left-wing government "[1]. In this program, there were only "the creation of an international audit commission to investigate the causes of the deficit in Greece, with a moratorium of debt service in anticipation of the publication of results of the audit."

For the new elections due on June 17, Syriza published yet another "government program". This text sees a further weakening on the issue of the debt:

"Syriza denounces loans (treaties with the troika) to replace their conditions abhorrent by others who will not call into question Greece’s national sovereignty and the economic survival of our country. Conditions such as priority in the  repayment of loans or seizure of the property of the State, granted to creditors by the Memorandum, will not be accepted unconditionally and (...)

"The purpose of a leftist government in Greece will be to succeed in establishing the necessary alliances, especially with the countries of southern Europe, in organizing an International Congress and European sovereign debt, to 'find a common and viable solution to a problem which is a European problem. The solution must be a common solution, shared, that is to say, the suppression of organized debt without recourse to any of Memorandum of Understanding. As we know, this is destructive of our societies.

"This global agreement could take the form of a moratorium on debt settlement which could  be related to growth and employment for what would remain, taking as a model, decisions concerning german debt in 1953 (...) "

Given these developments, the observation can be made that the more  Syriza progresses in terms of votes  and voting intentions, the more moderate its program becomes. It becomes more moderate, institutional (and is, furthermore, systematically presented as compatible with the capitalist system and with the European Union).

This relates  to the following question.


On 18 and 19 February 2012, the Panhellenic Committee of Syriza adopted on this subject an anti-capitalist program: "The financial system can and must become public and be fundamentally reformed in a new system of banks, with an administration and a democratic and transparent management with strong workers’  participation and control. This is what we mean by the slogan: Nationalization-socialization of the banks. Depending on their particular mission banks may belong to different public entities, governmental and non-state actors, such as cooperatives, under  the guarantee and protection of the state. Their only concern will be to protect deposits and developments with social and ecological criteria. Any speculative activity would be prohibited"[3].

However, in the English summary published before the election on May 6, there is a fairly marked shift, the first shift. Under the chapter heading "A reconstruction that is productive, social and environmental" no longer mentions  the "nationalization / socialization of banks [again, of banks” and not "of the "banks. Editor's note], and their integration into a public banking system under the control of the company and workers, to serve development goals. The scandalous bank recapitalization [ i.e. saving private banks with public funds. Editor's note] must stop immediately. "

According to the site, Syriza then offers the "formation of a group of state intervention in the banking system, with the National Bank, the Agricultural Bank and Post Bank, which will become publicly controlled and become public property. Through this division, the new credit policy, which encourages growth, supports SMEs, micro enterprises and the rural economy, sectoral policies, encourages and strengthens the poorer "and the" nationalization of each bank that is unable to meet its obligations and serve the depositors and needs the support of the state. "The same source added:" Note that some components of Syriza talk of nationalization of all [emphasis added] banks "...

Finally, the program of government (the "five points") on May 8 by Alexis Tsipras refers only to the very moderate and vague desire for a "public control of the banking system, which today, despite the fact that has received nearly 200 billion euros in cash and guarantees from public funds, remains in the hands of leaders who made the banks bankrupt in the first place. We demand that the Black Rock report be published immediately. Banks must be instruments for economic development and strengthening of small and medium enterprises. "

Listening to  Syriza’s leaders

Beyond the programmatic policy texts, particularly electoral programmes, but which may still vary, as is well known "are those who are willing to believe it." We must listen to what Syriza leaders say publicly, especially since they have acquired their new fame and find themselves under the spotlight. Let's see some examples.

On debt - audit, moratorium, cancellation, payment ...

When asked "Syriza evokes the idea of ​​debt cancellation: can we afford it? "Rena Dourou MP, spkesperson  for European affairs in Synaspismos (the majority component of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras is also a member), says," we exclude unilateral decisions: we want to negotiate with our partners to change everything. We will do nothing that would justify sanctions "[4].

When asked "You also want to stop the payment of the debt? "Sofia Sakorafa meets MP (consistent with the" five points "of 8 May 2012):" We ask for an international audit of the debt (...) Everything should be audited because it was the Greeks who pay, the people who are  accused of being lazy, corrupt, spending their days dancing… while statistics show that we are the second country in Europe in terms of hours worked "(La Vanguardia, Barcelona, ​​May 17, translated by A the Encontre May 19).

The moratorium, even on the payment of interest alone, would be rejected by Syriza  since a government of Syriza is willing togive up any "unilateral" decision. The people of Greece and workers find themselves deprived of even the freedom of inquiry into the sovereign debt of countries, as this task would be placed in the hands of an "international audit commission."

Also according Dourou Rena, this time by Mediapart, interviewed (in the May 25 article "In Greece, the momentum created by Syriza turns the world"), states that "to revive the Greek economy, demand Syriza first time European authorities: "Let us inject money into the economy for growth, and then we will pay the debt - at least the legitimate part of the debt, which will be determined by the audit. »»

That is now that the audit should be used to pay the debt ...?!

On the euro area and EU

"I do not think it would be good for Greece and for Europe if a country such as Greece, exits  the euro (...) What is needed is a different recipe for a common European solution (...) We want to first convince our European partners, to persuade European leaders that they are following the wrong recipe. A recipe that must be changed and this requires arduous political negotiations, political negotiations within the European institutions (...) To sit around a table and talk about another program is in everyone's interest. A program based on two pillars: growth and social cohesion (...) Because I believe that althugh we have heavy disagreements with Merkel,  on this point we agree: "If a country leaves the euro area, then markets will be hunting the next, "then it will be the dissolution of the euro area and it will not be good for the peoples of Europe" (Alexis Tsipras, interview with CNBC U.S. television channel specializing in issues financial, May 8, 2012).

"We are a responsible political force, which does not yield to the immediate slogans of the moment. To give you an example of how we, you conceives European politics over the crisis, currently, our MEP Nikos Chountis is currently contacting commissioners, important dignitaries of the union to better conduct our policy"(Rena Dourou, Rue 89 interview, May 18).

We must discuss how to ask the question, the transitional approach and tactics that may be necessary, especially since the Greeks are overwhelmingly for the maintenance of their country into the euro and the EU. The simple proclamation "out of the euro and the EU" does not meet this requirement. But what is significant here - and deplorable - is that there is no questioning, let alone a political break with the treaties and institutions of the European Union. How in these circumstances can  conducting any progressive politics be considered? [5]

The "nationalization" of banks

"We believe we can overcome this crisis if banks could act as a lever for development. There should be a public banking pole, a pole and the public financial system should be under public scrutiny. We are not talking about a nationalization plan, in which all banks would be held by one entity that decides" (Alexis Tsipras, CNBC, interview cited).

This is clear: no public banking monopoly but a "public center" (also dear to the Left Front) coexisting with private banks.

"Then, the nationalization of banks: from the moment a bank receives state aid, the State must have a voice in its board of directors, at least until it has paid his due" (Sofia Sakorafa, interview quoted in La Vanguardia).

If nationalization is limited to this, the bankers should be able to look ...

Financial markets

When asked "Do you think that financial markets will collapse as a result of your statements? "Alexis Tsipras said," I think the markets will stabilize when they realize that there is a lasting and viable solution possible in Europe. For example, if Europe stopped persevering with solutions that are not, and if it demonstrated that there is scope for radical change, taking advantage of all the powers of the ECB to support the European countries the brink of bankruptcy. I think that's what the market will stabilize soon. If we do that support mechanisms such as the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), it is as if we were using a small sailboat out for a gigantic cruise ship, then the markets will get nervous and sometimes will fall, sometimes start rising and this has nothing to do with the statements of some people, but it will have to do with the relevance of the solutions to solve the problem. So I think if you adopt our proposals, the markets will calm down and we will find a social cohesion in Europe, something particularly important "(CNBC, interview cited).

In sum, a moderate Keynesian position which ultimately would also welcome the "markets" - or at least looks forward to and welcomes this.

On the state and relations with employers

"The pitfalls of bureaucracy, created forty years by the two parties in power, PASOK (Socialists) and ND, often discourages young entrepreneurs. We propose concrete measures to assist the development of SMEs by facilitating, for example, access to EU funding programs or public and simplifying procedures. What is needed is to restore confidence among young entrepreneurs and the state, confidence that has been undermined by corruption. If the young entrepreneur knows he does not have to pay bribes to wine every turn, this will radically change the economic climate for healthy activities that create jobs " (Rena Dourou, interview quoted in The world).

"A leftist government and the industrial needs of investors needs a healthy economic environment. It needs meritocratic laws (...) Investments may be positive in a meritocracy, with laws that go in this direction, not in a way blighted by corruption and scheming" (Alexis Tsipras, on May 5 Greek television channel NET).

Melenchon, who also wrote (in his presidential campaign) that his program was in no way directed against "investors" (more bluntly:  capital) and that they had nothing to fear, can only appreciate such statements.

"We must therefore realize that the global crisis we are experiencing is systemic, and there are two paths we can follow. One is the path followed by the United States of America of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The other is that followed in Europe in the 1930s, the path of destruction, the rise of fascism and war. Europe must not repeat this adventure. You can follow the path taken by the United States in the 1930s, not the path followed by Merkel's predecessors, which led Europe into a major disaster. Merkel would be a great responsibility, if she does not  cease her stubbornness " (Alexis Tsipras, cited interview to CNBC).

There is no anti-capitalism here in what Syriza’s  "real life" leaders say, out of texts and discourse conventions. The only horizon of "change" being proposed is the capitalism of the New Deal (something that is found also in France, where this theme runs through the anti-liberal movement and has recently given rise to the formation of the association "collective Roosevelt 2012 "launched by Stιphane Hessel, Susan George, and ... Larrouturou Rocard).
What attitude to anti-capitalists?

When we are outside of a process, and this is the case, regardless of the passion we feel and the inspiration we take from Greek events, we must focus on more strategic issues. Let the Greek anti-capitalist and revolutionary, only able to judge, tactical issues (albeit very important) such as knowing whether to advocate today  from inside Syriza, as one its components organized and maintaining its political independence, or, on on the other hand, , in the case of organizations grouped in Antarsya, whether to accept, for the elections of 17 June, a proposal to accede to an agreement with Syriza  [6].

However, as internationalist activists, we must have an appreciation of Syriza and a policy towards Syriza.

We have seen, the majority and public policy of this coalition is neither revolutionary nor anti-capitalist, but, instead, it is anti-liberal and reformist. The NPA can not support this policy. This does not preclude solidarity nor practical collaborationif  possible (even though the "French correspondent" of Syriza is clearly and logically, the Left Front). This does not mean either that we would not recognize merits in  Syriza, such as its refusal  after May 6 to participate in a national unity government.

There would be no sense in asking  Syriza to become what it is not, that is to say an anti-capitalist and revolutionary training. However, Greek workers should  expect or even require, Syriza to be consistent  in its own commitments, not to retreat from the most progressive elements of its program and, if it does enter into  government, it has the means to implement them. From this perspective, the recent declaration of its main spokesman, as was reported earlier, represent setbacks including, probably, from the expectations of Syriza’s own militants.

But the litmus tests are still to come - and they will come immediately if Syriza finds itself  after June 17 in a position to form the government. In recent weeks, its leaders have consistently said that while rejecting the memoranda imposed by the European Union, they understand that  Greece is a member of the latter and of the euro area. In what is a step backwards from previous positions of Syriza, they said they would seek an international negotiation on the debt of Greece and would take no unilateral action.

So. Take note of these positions, even if they seem completely illusory. But if the only response to this request  by a Syriza government is a rejection  as seem likely from all the  responses from the institutions and EU governments, from Schδuble at Fabius via Barroso (not to mention Lagarde); then,  if Greece was then under the imminent threat of default and expulsion from the euro area ... What will the leaders of Syriza do? The only alternatives will be either to capitulate or to stage a  showdown - thus repudiating the debt, and exiting the euro.

"This is not the euro, it is the dictates of the" Troika "we must fight today," states the declaration of the Fourth International on May 24. From one point of view, it's true. But the euro is still an eminently practical problem which is posed today. The stories, complacently conveyed by the reformists, that the EU or the Euro could not expel a member state because it would not be "legal", are children's stories. If it wants to be substantial, even the limited perspective of his anti-liberal reformism, training as Syriza must necessarily prepare now for such a scenario, even if it is not one that it would prefer or seek. Get ready and say  - except to adapt to the political machinations of secret diplomacy. This, the revolutionaries and the Greek workers may require.

More generally, they can build on the recommendations of Leon Trotsky's Transitional Programme in 1938, about the attitude to develop in relation to the reformist forces "revolutionary pledge assistance" for Syriza "against the bourgeoisie", the Greek and European troika, its agents and financial markets. Without being "in its government" or "bearing political responsibility for its activity." Knowing that if a government led by Syriza "really broke" with the capitalist and imperialist interests, such a "government of workers and peasants" (or rather, in today’s conditions, better to say workers and people, ) "that could expedite and facilitate "the anti-capitalist struggle, towards socialism.

"The creation of such a government (...) is possible? Past experience shows us (...) it is somewhat unlikely. However, can not categorically deny in advance the theoretical possibility that, under the influence of a combination of quite exceptional circumstances (war, defeat, financial crash, mass revolutionary pressure, etc.)." Syriza leaders "can go further than they want for themselves in the direction of breaking with the bourgeoisie."

And the Greek situation is undoubtedly the one that comes closest in Europe to such exceptional circumstances.

Jean-Philippe Dives, 4 June 2012

[1] According to a report have been various translations (consistent with minor exceptions), especially in English and Spanish at the DSP Links Australian and French on the pro-Stalinist KKE (the Greek CP)-international-solidarity

These five points were especially subject to the two other leftist parties represented in parliament following the elections on May 6: Democratic Left, a social-liberal split Syriza, disagreed with them, the KKE refused to discuss and even to meet with leadership  of Syriza, choosing to reject its proposal as an attempt to save the Greek bourgeoisie and European and global imperialism  ...

Note that in contrast, there is no record anywhere, either on that date or another, the "emergency plan around the five points" that the declaration of May 24 the Executive Board of the Fourth International assigns " Greek radical left, including Syriza. " What is presented in the said declaration is in any case much further left than the positions of Syriza.

[2] According to a translation of Panagiotis Grigoriou, available in one of his posts (always interesting) published on his website dated May 29

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