What the Greek left is saying

Submitted by martin on 13 December, 2011 - 5:46

By Theodora Polenta

As Greece struggles through huge cuts under the instructions of the European Union/ European Central Bank/ IMF "Troika", a lot of emotive language has been used, drawing parallels with the Greeks' national liberation struggle against the German-fascist invasion in the 1940s.

Greek flags, and alliances with nationalist and chauvinist forces, have been widely accepted, even by parts of the left, as symbolising the struggle for national liberation, the struggle of the dependent Greek nation against the German and EU imperialism.

A post-modernist analysis, offered by Greek intellectuals and groups such as the Spitha movement founded by the famous composer Mikis Theodorakis in 2010, talks about the transition to a new meta-left era in which the Greek people will build from below a new "national-popular-class" unity against the memorandum, the Troika, and the foreign creditors.

But is Greece really "under occupation"? Can we draw a valid historical analogy with the 1940s? Is it really the duty of the Greek workers and the Greek left to propagate and build up an "anti-imperialist struggle for national liberation" together with supposedly progressive forces of the capitalist class, defined as progressive by their anti-German and anti-EU stance?

Such analysis has very short legs.

The majority of the eurozone countries that are described in this analysis as German protectorates are capitalist developed countries. Italy is a major economy, the third biggest in the eurozone, the eighth biggest in the world.

In today's Greece the ruling class has not been defeated militarily and escaped to Egypt, as in 1940s. The Greek capitalists have control of their companies, their banks, and their state.

The Troika instructions are a product of negotiations with the Greek capitalist class. They are imposed on the Greek people after the prior agreement and consent of the Greek capitalists and the Greek government.

Contrary to prevailing myths, Greece is one of the most developed countries in the world. In 2010, it was the 31st richest country in the world, and the average GDP per person was €28,500.

Both the European Union and the eurozone played a key part in the above achievement. After 1989-1991, Greek capitalism became the driving force in the exploitation and imperialist domination of the Balkan states. The Greek banks became the parent companies of banks in Tirana, Bucharest, and Ankara.

That led to the neglect of previous areas of capitalist investment such as the agriculture production; the metal industry; and the food industry. The shift of capitalist interests to financial operations was a strategic decision by the Greek capitalist class, not imposed by Brussels or other foreign powers.

The Greek capitalist class reoriented, became the centre of financial transactions for all the Balkans, and discarded Greece's previous self-sufficiency in sugar, wheat, and other products.

The rapid expansion along that path was only achieved due to Greece's entry into the eurozone and the "hardness" of the euro as a currency.

The reorientation of Greek capitalism in the 1990s was, on a smaller scale, comparable to the shift in British capitalism during the Thatcher years. Thatcher abandoned the miners and the car industry in "return" for the City of London becoming the world centre for financial transactions.

That is why the majority of the Greek capitalist class want to stay in the eurozone, and negotiate the necessary cuts at the expense of the Greek workers. By supporting Greece's position within the eurozone the Greek capitalist class are supporting their position within the world capitalist hierarchy. For the Greek people and the Greek working class, no struggle against the austerity measures can be victorious if it does not first of all prioritise the class struggle against "our" Greek capitalist class.

In Greece, alongside the fascist groups, a sizeable minority of the "respectable" right in New Democracy (equivalent to the Tory party) advocates the "national" reorientation of Greek capitalism, a return to the drachma (i.e. exit from the eurozone and the EU), and a shift of Greece to a tough export policy. (That means a further devaluation and degradation of the people's wages and working conditions, the better to compete in world markets, but they gloss over that). They want a "multidimensional" foreign policy which would include accepting loans from and making alliances with Chinese and Russian capital.

The most dynamic sections of the Greek capitalist class vehemently oppose Greek exit from the eurozone, or the prospect of Greece going bankrupt or refusing to paying its debts. They do that for class reasons.

The ultra-right populist party LAOS, a party that acts as an umbrella for a lot of openly fascist and anti-Semitic politicians and is part of the recently formed National Unity government, advocates safeguarding Greece's position in the eurozone, whatever the cost to the Greek people, and the implementation of all the Troika's austerity measures.

The pleas from LAOS to the Troika that they should not further polarise further the political climate, or else the "disorderly forces of the left will come to power, establishing chaos and transforming Greece into a Cuba of the Balkans", show the blurring of the borders between the "cosmopolitan" and pro-European sections of the capitalist class and the ultra-right, racist, anti-Semitic, chauvinistic and fascist parties.

Both strands of right-wing agitation cuts against what the left must do.

After the 9 December European agreement, the possibility of Greece being expelled from the eurozone in the short term has decreased. There are no legal grounds, under existing EU legislation, to expel Greece; and the majority of the eurozone states now have "excessive" debt and deficit problems on the 9 December criteria. It is difficult or impossible to set Maastricht-type criteria which are violated only by Greece violates and not by bigger eurozone countries such as France or Italy.

But the left still needs to work out how to respond to the dilemma "euro or drachma"? How should the left respond to the possibility, immediate or remote, of Greece's expulsion from the eurozone under Merkel's and Sarkozy's instructions?

The Greek left's motto should be: "We are not taking sides in favour of the euro speculators against the drachma speculators, or vice versa". The slogan "No sacrifice for the euro" provides the right political direction for left-wing movements to lead the struggle against austerity policies.

Despite the good intentions of those parts of the left and progressive academics who advocate it, return to the drachma within a capitalist framework would lead to an even more extreme degradation of the Greek working class's living standards and conditions. If such a move succeeded in its own terms, by boosting productive development and exports (and it might well not), then that would happen only on the backs of the working class and the majority of the Greek people.

True, the euro is not a neutral symbol. It is linked with aggressive neoliberal policies and the austerity measures. A socialist revolution and a workers' government in Greece, if they emerged in that country alone, in advance of the rest of Europe, would have to break the eurozone framework as well as other frameworks (such as free movement of the capital etc.)

But that is different from claiming that exit from the eurozone and the EU will open the road to socialism.

If George Papandreou had proceeded with the referendum he promised at the end of October, then he was going to pose to the Greek people the blackmailing dilemma: either vote for the Troika's bailout fund and all the austerity measures that come with it, or accept that Greece is out of the eurozone and possibly the EU. In that sort of case, the left should vote against the cuts and the blackmail, and against the euro in that sense. However, that is a case of practical political duty. and should not be theorised into a general rule.

What is the Greek left saying?

The most extreme version of the pro-EU stance is expressed by DHMAR, a centre-left split from Syriza. DHMAR supports the safeguarding of Greece's position in the EU and in the eurozone at all costs. Its zeal and loyalty was manifested when it came close to giving a vote of confidence to the National Unity government which has an unelected banker as a prime minister and four fascist politicians as part of the cabinet.

DHMAR acts as a naïve left wing adviser to Merkel and Sarkozy. But the 9 December decisions teir predecessors are not a German mistake. Merkel and the German capitalist know very well that the proposed policies will lead the eurozone countries to stagnation and not to growth. That is a conscious political choice. The aim of the left cannot be to persuade Merkel and her allies of the wrongness of their choices so they can rectify their mistakes, but to contribute in the development of a pan European workers' movement to force Merkel to abandon the politics of neoliberalism and German capitalist domination.

Syriza pushes a "European-Keynesian" response to the crisis, with eurobonds and productive investment of EU funds in poorer areas as part of a progressive democratisation of the European Union. It is confined to legalistic forms of struggles and protests and dreams of broader green and centre left coalitions which will miraculously lead Greece and the eurozone out of crisis.

Like DHMAR, though inadvertently, Syriza confines itself to being an adviser of the government and the European Union. Its leadership hesitates to adopt well-matured slogans within the anti austerity movement such as the cancellation of the debt and the nationalisation of the banks.

Left wing sections of Synaspismos, and other parties that participate in Syriza, have more radical and left wing political positions, but they do not have the political weight to shift the main line. Synaspismos exposes and denounces the ultra-right's anti-EU sentiments; but its "internationalism" is empty, abstract, and stripped of class-based politics.

KKE has stuck to its opportunistic and reformist policy of an "anti-monopoly popular people's government" and the theory of stages. It has put forward a nationalistic version of Keynesian policies, advocating exit from the European Union without a direct connection with the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the strategic aim of socialism.

KKE refuses to raise aggressive transitional demands and reduces itself to raising defensive slogans (for the working class to secure its current wages and working conditions). KKE uses revolutionary lingo, but refuses to form a united front with the workers who are leaving the PASOK party and losing their faith in the trade union leaders.

In an odd twist, KKE advocates the exit of Greece from the EU, but refuses to call for the exit of Greece from the eurozone. It says that "euro or drachma" is a false dilemma.

KKE insists on Greece's national road to development at a time where every Greek worker instinctively is starting to understand the commonality of the attacks across all the eurozone countries. The commonality of the attacks places as a duty the commonality of the workers' struggle. And,certainly, a socialist revolution in Greece depends on the solidarity and level of struggle of the European workers.

The current crisis is not primarily a Greek crisis, as the shift of the crisis to Italy and France is clearly showing and the threat of Moody's and Standard and Poor's to downgrade the credit status of 15 of the eurozone countries (despite the 9 of December commitments) demonstrates clearly. It is a structural crisis of the capitalist system.

Even the strongest capitalist nations have exceedingly big debts (Japan 190% of GDP, Italy 120%, Belgium 102%, Canada 83%, U.K 81%, Germany 77%, USA 70%...)

The current crisis is not a by-product of the nations' deficits; on the contrary, the deficits are a by-product of the current capitalist crisis. The crisis is not due to the idiocy or incompetence of the European leaders. It is associated with the very core and inner workings of the capitalist system.

The challenge of the left is to persuade the working class that the only way to defend their standards of livings and working conditions is though the route of uncompromising struggle and confrontation - against the EU and the IMF, but primarily against a part of the Greek nation: the Greek capitalist class.

The left has a duty to fight against the degradation of parliamentary democracy and against violations of national sovereignty and against the continuous blackmails by the eurozone leaders, but from a class perspective

The revolutionary left should take bold initiatives and contribute to the restructuring and resynthesizing of the workers movement for the build-up of a new revolutionary party.

That must attract into its ranks the vanguard and rank and file of both KKE and Syriza members as well as the most advanced of the PASOK workers, but most importantly the most vanguard and militant sections of workers and youth that are emerging from the struggle.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.