National Sections of the L5I:

Greece: Fight for a Workers' Government!

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

The election in Greece on 17 June could give Syriza, a coalition of left reformist and smaller far left organisations, a popular mandate to form a government pledged to reject the austerity programme laid out in the Memorandum imposed on Greece by the Troika - the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

This will throw the entire European Union into another spiral of its crisis. Already a combination of economic and political factors is threatening the future development of Europe. Globally, even the supposed engines of economic revival such as Brazil, India and China are seeing growth rates decline. In Europe itself, the banking crisis in Spain puts in question the viability of the single currency. On top of this comes the Greek election.

This combination of events would put unprecedented strains on the entire institutional structure of the European Union and bring to a head a crisis that has been developing ever since the global financial crash of 2008. Although no country in the EU will be unaffected, it is in Greece that it will immediately pose the most fundamental issues, summed up in the question, Who is to rule and in whose interests?

Syriza, it is reported, may achieve as high as 35 per cent of the vote and could be able to form a government. What would it do? It has spelt out the key measures that it would implement if elected and for which it would have a clear mandate:

• Cancellation of pending bailout measures that require further cuts to private sector wages and pensions.
• Cancellation of laws abolishing collective labour agreements.
• Abolition of MPs' special privileges and immunity from prosecution as well as reform of electoral law.
• Immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking system by BlackRock.
• An international auditing committee to account for public sector over-indebtedness, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the publication of the audit findings.

Even before a vote has been cast, the Troika has threatened to pull the plug on the whole €130bn (£100bn) Greek bailout, potentially forcing the country to exit the Euro, should such measures be introduced. Of course, such actions would be risky for our rulers, too. Economists have warned that a “disorderly exit” would spread the contagion to Spain, Portugal and Italy and put the survival of the euro itself into question. That, in turn, could trigger a new European banking crisis that would throw the continent into an even deeper depression and drag the global economy back into recession.

The election of a government really willing to defy the naked blackmail of the Troika and the arrogant threats of Merkel or Cameron, has electrified Europe. This is hardly surprising, given that Syriza openly blames capitalism for this crisis and talks of the need for the “nationalisation/socialisation of banks, and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers' control”; for “large capitalist property … to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria”; for the “restoration of a strong welfare state” and for “disengagement from Nato”.

If Syriza is elected and then sticks to its promise to reverse the austerity measures, tears up the Memorandum with the Troika, halts the sale of the country’s assets and public services and reverses the sacking of hundreds of thousands of state employees, thereby restoring their wage levels and pensions, this will create a revolutionary situation such as we have not seen in capitalist Europe since Portugal in 1974.

Of course there is a real danger of counterrevolution against such a government, orchestrated from Berlin, Brussels, Paris and London and carried out by the Greek elite and their judiciary, police and army.

The threats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are well known, but politicians from most states inside and outside the Eurozone have joined her. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was even blunter than Merkel, arrogantly declaring that the election on 17 June was actually a referendum on the euro: “We now have to send a very clear message to people in Greece: there is a choice: you can either vote to stay in the euro, with all the commitments you've made or, if you vote another way, you're effectively voting to leave." Tory Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, underlined the consequences would be "serious" if the Greek people elected "cranky extremists" and defaulted on their debts as a result. The Economist, the voice of the City of London, referred to Syriza’s young leader, Alexis Tsipras, as “an upstart.”

On the other hand, an example of defiance by Greece could inspire renewed mass resistance in the countries most affected by the crisis. It will place enormous responsibilities on the left right cross Europe to come to the aid of Greece and to break any blockade of the new government by our own exploiters and to force the withdrawal of any sanctions.

A Greek Tragedy? No, a courageous fightback!

Why has Greece taken the lead? Quite simply because its ordinary people have been subjected to five austerity packages between February 2010 and February 2012. The first three alone amounted to a total cut of €30 billion (12.5per cent of the 2009 Greek GDP). There was a further cut of five per cent of GDP in 2010, and then four per cent in 2011. Such destruction has not been seen in Western Europe since the 1930s and is similar in its severity to the collapse of the economies in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the decade after the restoration of capitalism.

Greece’s recession, which began in 2008, has continued through the so-called recovery years. Greek GDP fell by 6.9 per cent in 2011 and estimates for 2012 predict a fall of from 5 per cent (Greek Central Bank) and 7.15 per cent. (UK Economist Intelligence Unit). The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate soared from 7.5 per cent, in September 2008, to 21.7 per cent in January 2012. For young people (15-24 years old) unemployment has risen from 22.0 per cent to 51.1 per cent.
Public sector workers have seen their pay cut by an average of 40 per cent, and most pensions have been massively reduced. One year ago, retired public sector workers received a pension of around 1200 Euros per month. In the autumn, that was cut to 800 Euros and the Papademos government is planning to cut it to 600 Euros. In the private sector, too, pay rates have plummeted, in the building industry pay for casual labourers is half what it was two years ago.

There are soup kitchens on the streets of Athens, with an estimated one in 11 residents, some 400,000 people, visiting at least once daily. There has been a major increase in people sleeping rough: by February 2012, 20,000 Greeks had been made homeless over the previous year. Large numbers of unemployed are retuning to their family villages, where relatives can provide a roof and basic foodstuffs.

Yet the country’s workers, young people, and unemployed have not suffered in silence. Horrible as the last years have been, they are not just “a Greek tragedy” but rather an inspiration to all those in Europe already suffering austerity or imminently threatened by it.

In a sense, the Greek fight back started as long ago as December 2008 with the three weeks of the youth uprising over the murder by police of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. However, it became a continuous movement when the first wave of savage austerity was imposed by the PASOK government of George Papandreou, which had won election in October 2009 on the basis of avoiding cuts and privatisations. By the spring of the following year, he had had caved in to “the markets”, that is, the billionaire speculators in government bonds and the European Union, and introduced the first of the savage austerity packages.

A mass movement of resistance began with a general strike on 10 February 2010, and continued on 5 May when between 100,00 and 500,000 marched in Athens and laid siege to parliament, where the MPs were voting, chanting; “Thieves, thieves!”
The movement intensified hugely the following year when it became clear that austerity was never ending. In March 2011 alone, there were three general strikes.

On 25 May 2011 Syntagma Square, and the central squares of other cities, were occupied by thousands of peaceful protesters, inspired by the actions of the Spanish Indignados movement. On May15, there was another general strike and 300,000 demonstrators once more surrounded the Greek parliament. The square occupations with their daily assemblies carried on into August.

October-November witnessed a veritable tidal wave of protests, including a 48 hour general strike and strike of ferry workers which finally drove out the PASOK government. Angry demonstrators laid siege to parliament, though they were still unable to prevent the hated politicians voting for more austerity.

At the beginning of last November, the Papandreou government was replaced by a “national government” headed by an economist, Lucas Papademos, supported by New Democracy and PASOK but forced to pledge a general election in the spring. Meanwhile, Papademos, bolstered by the arrival of commissioners from the Troika, tried to force through another austerity package. On February 10-11 there was another general strike and 500,000 marched in Athens.

Although the seventeen 24 or 48 hour general strikes, the 2011 occupations and the assemblies did not overthrow the government and replace it with one that would carry out the manifest will of the people, they did create such political instability that the parties had no alternative but to face their enraged voters. This election, when it came, on 6 May, was catastrophic for the entire post 1974 clientilist system in which PASOK and New Democracy took turns at milking the Greek state.

After such a catastrophic fall in living standards, it was surely no wonder that the electorate explicitly rejected these parties. An added source of fury was the fact that northern European mega-corporations, like Siemens and Tesco, were asset stripping the country both from privatisation of the public sector and from the wave of bankruptcies in the private sector. Support for Syriza, the only serious party that unequivocally called for an end to austerity, and whose members had actively participated in all the protests, shot up to 16.8 per cent, pushing PASOK down to 13.8 per cent and third place.

A Crisis of Leadership

No wonder that the opinion polls, immediately after 6 May, gave SYRIZA between 23 and 28 per cent. People realised that Syriza was now a serious contender for power. They realised, after the experience of the last two years, that protest alone would never solve the problems they faced. The issue was quite simply one of power; who would form a government that would oppose and reverse the Troika’s diktats?

If Syriza wins a plurality of the popular vote in the June elections, then it would gain the extra 50 seats in parliament allowed for in the Greek constitution. While it is conceivable that this could allow it to form a majority government, it is far more likely that Syriza will fall short of an absolute majority, but be in a position to form a coalition government. Though there are still many uncertainties ahead, it is no wonder that workers and youth across Europe, as well as in Greece, are filled with hope. No wonder either that the ruling classes of Europe are filled with fear and rage.

However, a coalition government committed to rejecting austerity, and with a democratic mandate to do just that, would only be possible if Syriza were joined by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) which won 8.48 per cent on 6 May, and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 6.11 per cent.

As yet there is no sign that either party is willing to do this. Quite the opposite. The KKE General Secretary, Aleka Papariga, justifies refusal to consider entering a Syriza-led government on the grounds that "under a leftist disguise it attempts to convince the people that workers and capitalists can coexist and prosper". The KKE also denounces Syriza for its policy of trying to stay within the Eurozone and negotiate over the debt, whilst declaring a moratorium on payments.

While some might see this as revolutionary intransigence on the part of the KKE, in present circumstances, it is actually a sectarian and cowardly refusal to fight to defend the interests of the working class. Of course, Syriza's programme is reformist and its proposed policy utopian but that is not the key issue today.

Millions of workers and youth see in Syriza a means of defeating austerity, revolutionaries may realise this is an illusion, they may say that it is an illusion, but that, in itself, alters nothing. If the KKE's sectarianism means that Syriza cannot form a government and, instead, Nea Demokratia and PASOK are enabled to implement austerity, then those millions will continue to believe that, if only it had got more votes, Syriza would have saved them. In other words, the illusions would be strengthened and the ruling class would be given governmental power again.

The only effective way to dispel illusions in Syriza is for the millions who support it to see what it actually does in government – if the KKE were to join a coalition and then criticise any deviation from the commitment to tear up the austerity programme, then it would be exercising revolutionary intransigence, where it matters, on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, DIMAR also denounces SYRIZA, this time for “the obsession with the renunciation of the loan agreement that will mean bankruptcy and a rift with the eurozone”. DIMAR says this will “make a political agreement difficult”. Clearly, what they have in mind is agreement with all those forces, inside Greece and abroad, who will insist on enforcing the terms of the loan agreement, namely, the austerity programme!

International Solidarity

Alexis Tsipiras has set the Greek struggle in a Europe-wide context. The confrontation, he says, is "not between nations and peoples."
"On the one side, there are workers and a majority of people and on the other are global capitalists, bankers, stock exchange profiteers, the big funds. It's a war between peoples and capitalism … and as in each war what happens on the frontline defines the battle. It will be decisive for the war elsewhere."

Tsipras and SYRIZA’s appeals to the Greek people and to workers in other countries have enraged the rulers of Europe, including those who call themselves socialists and social democrats. When Tsipras visited Paris in May he was rudely refused a meeting with newly elected President François Hollande and in Berlin the SPD’s Sigmar Gabriel echoesd the poisonous propaganda of his ruling class by telling him: "Fulfill the commitments you have made so we can help you. You must understand that it is difficult for us to explain to the German voter why we should keep on funding you.”

Tsipras’ reception from his fellow leaders of the European Left Party - Jean-Luc Melénchon of the Parti de Gauche and Gregor Gysi of Die Linke, was warmer. Gysi went as far as to sign a joint statement backing Syriza's electoral programme. That, however, guarantees nothing. The question is whether they will come to his assistance if he wins the election and is immediately threatened by the French and German banks and governments. Today, the level of the struggle in their countries is lower and their parties are less open to mass pressure from below, there is nothing resembling the local assemblies that have developed around Syriza - but this could, and must, change.

It is vital that the entire labour movement, both reformist and anticapitalist, unites now to prepare to organise mass rallies and demonstrations across Europe, immediately after the elections in Greece, to defend the Greek people’s right to reject austerity and social misery. We must demand, with menaces, from Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and their likes – Hands Off Greece! No expulsion of Greece from the Euro! Cancel the Greek debt in toto!

We need to use these mobilisations to make it clear to our rulers that, if they take actions against Greece, we will take actions against them. The fight of the Greek workers, youth, and all ordinary people is our fight. If they win, then, across Europe, we can turn the tide against the capitalist solution to the crisis; social destruction and misery, and put on the agenda an anticapitalist and socialist solution.

Greece can add new impetus to a wave of resistance that is already building in Spain and Italy to demand that the billionaire bankers and bondholders in London, Frankfurt, Paris and elsewhere, this time pay the full price for the misery they have inflicted as international loan sharks. This is doubly important because experts are predicting yet another banking crisis in Europe and these parasites will doubtless be waving their begging bowls again, pleading that they are “too big to fail” whilst shamelessly insisting that no one is poor enough not to have to pay in another wave of austerity and privatisation.

SYRIZA is no revolutionary party but neither is it a normal reformist one either

Since 6 May, Syriza has become wildly popular across Europe and around the world. In Europe, at least, it is decades since a party that could seriously challenge for power has had such radical proposals in its programme or its leaders' speeches. The rage of the millionaire media against Alexis Tsipras seems to confirm this at every turn.

Yet, Syriza’s programme is still reformist. It does not envisage any revolutionary break with capitalism and its state. It does not see the working class, and democratic workers' organisations, as the prime agency for an overthrow of the system. Of course, it does talk about a radical democracy and workers' control but it is far from committed to a radical break from bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism.

Despite seeking to renounce not only the Memorandum but also the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, which it rightly sees as enshrining neoliberalism and the demolition of a social Europe, it is also reformist in its strategy. It holds out a perspective of negotiation to replace this neoliberal model of privatisation and austerity with one based on prioritising social spending and the welfare state. Tsipras has held talks with all the other parties, apart from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, about possible coalition terms and discussed what his future government policy would be with the leaders of the G20. Even on the key question of debts, the demand is for an audit, not a cancellation.

Revolutionaries must criticise the utopian character of Syriza's programme but also its failure to warn the working class that even these demands will clash with the needs of capitalism in crisis. Any determined attempt to implement them will be met by savage attacks not only from the rulers of the EU but from the Greek capitalist class and its state. While there is more than a grain of truth in Tsipras' observation that a Greek default, or expulsion from the Euro, would have literally incalculable consequences for the whole financial and commercial structure of Europe, to rely on this as the main defence of a government committed to “tearing up” the Troika's Memorandum would be a miscalculation on a historic scale.

It is not enough, however, for revolutionaries simply to contrast Syriza's reformism with an anticapitalist “programme maximum”. What is needed is an action programme of transitional demands that address many of the same objectives sought by Syriza activists and voters but do not rely on negotiations with the capitalists, or the capitalist state machine, to implement them. Rather, they need to develop the steps towards workers' control and democracy from below, which already occur episodically, into a class-wide movement to establish delegate-based factory committees, workers' councils and workers' militia and to coordinate them at local, regional and national levels.

A number of developments in Syriza’s history in the last decade and, indeed, the last years and months, indicate that it is not a typical left reformist party in relatively stable conditions. On the contrary, today's conditions are those in which reformist parties can take on many of the features of centrism, for example, adopting certain revolutionary demands and attracting a growing rank and file membership that becomes subjectively revolutionary in its hopes and aspiration. The formation of Syriza by the addition of several far left groups like KOE, the split with the old Eurocommunist leadership of Synaspismos in 2010, the revolutionary situation of 2011-2012, the influx of new working class and youthful members, the mass assemblies at the base of the party, all these account for its radical stance.

Trotsky noted a similar situation in the 1930s with regard to the French Socialist Party (SFIO). He criticised “those comrades who, in appraising the Socialist Party, themselves operate with the ready-made formulas of yesterday: "reformism," "Second International," "political support of the bourgeoisie." Are these definitions correct? Yes and no. More no than yes.” He went on to assert, “what we have here is a centrist party, which, by virtue of a long protracted evolution of the country, still unites extreme polar contradictions.”

And, of course, he advocated an appropriate tactic for the small groups of French Trotskyists; their entry into the SFIO as a faction with their own programme, The Action Programme for France. This approach would be by far the best for the Greek far left to take today. Marxists have often quoted Archimedes, “give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world”. Today, we can say not only that a party is the lever needed to move Greece but that the place to stand for the small subjective revolutionary vanguard is inside Syriza, a party that could, with intransigence and the right policy, move Greece and Europe.

Of course, it will not do so or, rather, it will not go all the way to doing so, with its present leadership and programme. They present the very real danger for the working class of bungling or betraying at the critical moment. Central to preventing this, and forewarning the rank and file of the party, is placing demands on the reformist leaders, demanding that they take the power and that they carry out the most radical and decisive demands of their own programme, as well as agitating for workers to adopt more consistent anti-capitalist, that is, transitional demands.

At the same time, although it is necessary for revolutionaries to be in SYRIZA and to use these tactics here and now, they also need to preserve their total programmatic independence, embodied in an action programme for power, and their independent organisation, as a faction, not holding back from recruiting to their ranks from fear of expulsion.

The Struggle in the Coming weeks and months

At the moment, it is vitally necessary for revolutionaries to pursue such a tactic within Syriza and to campaign for maximum electoral support while criticising every limitation of its programme and leadership. Any sectarian abstention would be suicidal for the left because it would pass the initiative to the fascists who could grow like wildfire amongst the lumpenproletariat, the ruined petty bourgeoisie, the unemployed and the youth.

The classic conditions for fascism to emerge as a serious challenger for power are those where the working class has had the opportunity resist a capitalist crisis but has failed to take it. An electoral victory for Syriza and other anti-austerity parties would represent such an opportunity, it would encourage the working class to fightback against austerity, to insist on its own interests, build its own organisations. However, defeat would have the opposite effect, tending to lower expectations and morale and demobilise resistance. Worse still would be a failure to form an anti-austerity government because of a refusal by working class parties to participate.

Any sectarian abstention in the electoral arena would be both criminal and suicidal for the Left. Yet, that is the position adopted by the KKE. Like the German KPD in the early Thirties, which refused to join forces with the Social Democracy because of its reformist politics and, thereby, allowed the Nazis to take power, the KKE, which has considerable influence within its affiliated unions, is prepared to see a pro-austerity government take office rather than fight alongside the reformists of Syriza.

While that would undoubtedly be a tragedy, the adoption of a similarly “intransigent” position by the far smaller Antarsya* is just as surely a farce. However, it is certainly no laughing matter. Any parties of the left that allow the right to continue with the austerity, despite a reaffirmed majority vote for rejection, will be unfailingly condemned by the masses, and rightly so. In such a situation, the Golden Dawn fascists would see a further huge increase in their vote and support.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the impact of the capitalist crisis and the austerity programmes will continue. Youth unemployment is already 53.8 per cent and overall unemployment is 21.7 per cent. Whether the austerity goes through or there is a default, it will get much worse. Unless there is a compromise, that is, a partial back down by Merkel and the EU, there will be a race between the forces of the left and fascism during the coming months. Greece will enter an acute revolutionary/counterrevolutionary situation.

Therefore, anticapitalist and socialist measures become not just a question of fighting for hegemonic ideas but also the only solution to the crisis. Once again, the Greek crisis shows how vital (both for good or ill) political parties are and the terrific crisis of leadership of the workers' movement.

Faced with this situation, revolutionaries in Greece should fight for the formation of a workers' government. The Fourth Congress of the Communist International, held in December 1922, outlined the key tasks of a workers' government;

“The most basic tasks of a workers’ government must consist of arming the proletariat, disarming the bourgeois counter-revolutionary organisations, introducing [workers’] control of production, shifting the main burden of taxation to the shoulders of the rich, and breaking the resistance of the counter- revolutionary bourgeoisie. Such a workers’ government is possible only if it is born from the struggles of the masses themselves and is supported by militant workers’ organisations created by the most oppressed layers of the working masses.”

It continued; “Even a workers’ government that arises from a purely parliamentary combination, that is, one that is purely parliamentary in origin, can provide the occasion for a revival of the revolutionary workers’ movement. Obviously, the birth and continued existence of a genuine workers’ government, one that pursues revolutionary policies, must result in a bitter struggle with the bourgeoisie, and possibly a civil war. Even an attempt by the proletariat to form such a workers’ government will encounter from the outset most determined resistance from the bourgeoisie. The slogan of the workers’ government thus has the potential of uniting the proletariat and unleashing revolutionary struggle.”**

Trotsky repeated these principles in the Transitional Programme of 1938; “Of all parties and organisations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name, we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers’ and farmers’ government. On this road we promise them full support against capitalist reaction. At the same time, we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands which should in our opinion form the program of the “workers’ and farmers’ government.”

What does this mean for revolutionaries in Greece today? It means calling on SYRIZA, the KKE and DIMAR, if they emerge with an absolute majority, or even a plurality, to form a government to reject the austerity pacts, to restore workers' wages, pension and union rights and to defy the Troika.

They should agitate for the unions and popular organisations to join in the creation of a workers militia; appeal to the soldiers to join and arm the people, crush the Golden Dawn fascist gangs and disband the most reactionary and repressive paramilitary police and regiments of armed forces. Events in Chile and Portugal in the mid-1970s show that to leave control of armed force in the hands of the generals will be catastrophic.

Such a government should in turn appeal to the workers and youth of Europe to come to its aid by mass demonstrations and direct action to force their own governments to abandon their threats against Greece and unconditionally cancel its debts in their entirety.

This does not mean political support to, or confidence in, a SYRIZA-led government, not even “critical support.” Revolutionaries may give critical support to workers' parties in an election, calling on them to take the power from the bourgeois parties, but we cannot give them any political endorsement whilst they are still de facto the executive of the capitalist state. Nor should revolutionaries join a non-revolutionary government of the workers' parties because it would undoubtedly attack the workers in various ways and we should be in the forefront of opposition to this. If a popular front government, that is one that includes bourgeois parties, were formed, we would call for getting rid of the capitalist ministers. At the same time, neither can we adopt a passive, abstentionist or sectarian attitude to such governments

Just as we call on the workers' parties and the unions to take the power, when they are in power, we call on them to base their government, not on the legislature, judiciary and armed forces of the capitalist state but on mobilising the working class to defend it against the inevitable counterattack of the permanent repressive, bureaucratic and juridical state machine and the onslaught of the “markets.” We would vigorously defend such a government against bourgeois counterattack, for example, by raising demands to create a workers' militia, arming it and taking measures to expropriate the capitalists.

Greece is in an acute revolutionary situation but held back from revolution by a profound crisis of working class leadership. This has a huge potential effect on Europe as a whole, especially if taken together with Hollande’s election, and his potential clash with Merkel and Germany. There is, of course, a danger that the western European working class will be lulled into inactivity by continued anti-Greek chauvinism but also by deceptive talk of adding growth packages to austerity programmes. These will turn out not to be the huge public sector-based infrastructure programmes the neo-Keynesians dream of, but further neoliberal reforms, the slashing of protective legislation, wage cuts, more precarité and more privatisations.

The centrist left, having recovered from its infatuation with horizontals in the Occupy Movement in 2011, will doubtless now go chasing after left reformist parties that could form governments – obviously SYRIZA, but also the Front de Gauche, or even the ailing Die Linke. They may well drop the NPA-Antarsya “anticapitalist” model. The crucial issue in this regard is not whether it is best to intervene into “broad”, “plural” or, indeed, centrist, organisations or to unite subjectively revolutionary forces. Political life creates both possibilities in different circumstances, what is essential in all circumstances is that revolutionaries stick to their principles, defend and fight for a Leninist party and a transitional programme.

Antarsya and the far left.

Antarsya has recognised the importance of the massive swing of voters behind SYRIZA as an act of rejection of the austerity programmes. They have elaborated a series of demands as the basis for a social movement from below and demand that Syriza should commit itself to implementing them. They are;

1. Cancellation of all Memoranda and Loan Agreements with the EU, the ECB and the IMF, cancellation of all impending measures
2. Protection of the unemployed, increases in salaries and pensions, decrease of work time, secure employment for everybody, taxation for big capital
3. Immediate cessation of payments to our creditors and unilateral cancellation of the entire usurious public debt
4. Nationalisation without indemnity and with workers' control of all banks and enterprises of strategic importance
5. Reinstatement of popular sovereignty and democracy by the people, for the people, doing away with special police forces, neutralisation of Golden Dawn (*the neo-nazi party), stopping the anti-immigrant pogroms, dismantling army mechanisms that turn against people, disengagement from NATO.
6. None of the previous vital demands can be materialised without the immediate exit from the Euro and Eurotreaties, the rupture with, and disengagement from, the European Union

Antarsya also calls for

“A rising of the entire working population - Anti-capitalist revolution! Power and wealth belong in the hands of the workers!”

The first four are in our view essential.

The fifth demand does not say what institutions would exercise popular sovereignty nor what their fundamental class character should be. Are we talking about a parliament or soviets? Nor does it say how Golden Dawn should be “neutralised”- by the state or by the armed workers? Equally, it does not say how the anti-immigrant pogroms can be stopped. On these two linked issues, two organisations should be clearly named - workers' councils and a workers' militia.

Point six, however, is wrong in presenting an exit from the Euro and the EU as a strategic necessity, indeed a principal goal, of the movement. Any suggestion that independence is a pre-condition of working class victory, is a dangerous concession to nationalism, as well as a utopian strategy. The strategic orientation of revolutionaries must be towards a pan-European overthrow of capitalism and our tactics must serve that strategy. That means fighting for a pan-European working class offensive against the EU authorities and the major powers, against austerity and cuts programmes everywhere, not isolating the Greek struggle, currently the most explosive and radical, from its natural allies across the continent.

Moreover, expulsion of Greece from the Eurozone, even from the EU, is one possible solution that could be imposed by the imperialist powers within the EU, to preserve their financial control of the remaining bloc. Why make the EU rulers’ job any easier for them? Trying to create a capitalist Greece in autarky from Europe would be virtually guaranteed to lead to hyperinflation as a “New Drachma” collapsed in value and would leave Greek workers with no greater control over their destiny than they have within the EU.

In the context of the anti-capitalist revolution called for by Antarsya, there is every reason to expect the EU authorities to impose a blockade on Greece, to isolate the revolution as a step to strangling it. In those conditions, revolutionaries everywhere would need to oppose such enforced “independence” and fight to bring down the counter-revolutionary authorities of the EU and replace them with a United Socialist States of Europe.

Last, but not least, the perspective of a revolutionary uprising is meaningless sloganeering if it does not address the question of the leadership of the working class, which at present is in the hands of reformists, whether of a left social democratic or Stalinist hue. That existing leadership may be able to form a government, within the coming month, which would immediately come under massive attack including the threat of economic or constitutional destabilisation. So, simply criticising Syriza or even passively hoping it will win, whilst waiting for the real revolution (with soviets and insurrection etc) to come along when the revolutionary sects are ready for it, may seem principled but is actually tactically inept to the highest degree.

This is exactly the kind of situation that the Communist International addressed with its development of the United Front tactic and, more specifically, the Workers' Government tactic. Today's revolutionaries should apply those tactics in the coming months. If Syriza wins enough votes and seats to form a left coalition and fulfils its promise of rejecting the Memorandum, the task of revolutionaries, however small their numbers, will be to defend it against the inevitable sabotage and revolt of all the key elements of the bourgeois state. Our task should be to work all out to create councils of delegates from the unions, workplaces and popular communities, to ensure this.

This means appealing to all the trade unions, especially at workplace level, to call mass meetings and elect delegates to councils of action as real alternative organs of power, located in every village town and city in Greece. The model for such assemblies has been set by those created by occupations but also by Syriza’s local assemblies. Such bodies would have to create a mass self defence force of workers, unemployed, students, capable of defending the new power. Only a government resting on the entire mobilised working people could defy the forces of reaction at home and abroad and carry though the essential measures.

Within such bodies, we would agitate for them to take control over the large scale firms and banks of the capitalist economy and demand that the government legitimise all such measures. We would demand that the government, faced with retaliation from the EU and the imperialist powers, should also appeal to the workers of Europe to come to the aid of the Greek workers by taking direct action against their own governments and the EU institutions – joining their Greek sisters and brothers in a fight for a Socialist United States of Europe, as the first step to a socialist world.

As for anticapitalists and revolutionaries outside Greece, it is our urgent duty to mobilise a Europe wide movement to demand/support the complete cancellation of the Greek state debt and the abandonment of the Fiscal (austerity) Pact. We should call on the French, German, Spanish, Italian and Greek unions, the left social democratic and Stalinist parties, and even the mainline Socialist and Labour parties, to mobilise on the streets and in the parliaments to demand an end to the torture of the Greek people, the complete cancellation of the Greek state debt and the total abandonment of the Fiscal (austerity) Pact. Across Europe, revolutionaries need to unite their forces around these key policies to halt the austerity programmes, make the rich pay and put socialism and revolution on the agenda for millions.

* At the time of writing it is not clear if this position is shared by all currents within Antarsya

**Toward the United Front; Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 Edited and translated by John Riddell

Navigation