Friday, May 18, 2012

SYRIZA: Hopes and limits of a government of the left

From the website of the Greek SWP

Written by Giorgos Pittas of the Greek SWP (SEK) for their paper Workers' Solidarity.

The front page of ‘Youth Monday’ (a Greek paper) on the 14th of May exceeded even the anti-communist propaganda posters of the Civil War: A suicide by firing a gun in his mouth, drawing on the wall a map of Greece in crimson blood. The title warns us: "very close to the cliff ..."

The ruling class and their parties are in such panic that they can’t keep up appearances even. The idea that there can be in Greece, a leftist government seems repulsive.

But not only the Greek ruling class are in panic after the elections in Greece and France. The "markets" and the ruling classes in the EU and around the world "worry" as SYRIZA "has the opportunity to form the first leftist government in modern Greek history," said Reuters.

And this is true. It is not something common, neither in Greek nor of course in world history, the emergence and establishment of leftist governments. The industrialists, bankers, shipowners prefer to govern with the same parties that fund, support and may control policies to serve their interests.

The leftist governments make their appearance in history in times of great crisis - economic, social, political - in conditions of intense class polarization, when the ruling classes can no longer govern in the old way at the same moment the people are suffocated. Latin America is a prime example. In Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador and a number of other countries, in place of bloody dictatorships that ruled for decades came democratically elected, and in some cases, leftist governments.

These reversals have not been predetermined as a result of the economic crisis, neither emerged from "normal" channels, such as elections. Most emerged from strong labour movements and uprisings. The uprising, the Karakasi in 1989 in Venezuela, for example, initiated a hard class war that brought a few years later the government of Chavez to power. Even when Chavez was elected president, are the masses of poor workers and farmers who blocked streets prevented at least two dozen coups and other provocations of a ruling class that does not give up.

Similarly, in Greece, the prospect of a leftist government that terrorizes the ruling class would not exist without  December 2008, the culmination of events that destroyed the Karamanlis government without the 17 general strikes, small strikes, occupations of ministries and workplaces, indignant  at the squares, the blood of the batons and the chemicals with which they have watered the streets of Athens. Without this labour resistance this tsunami  of the last two years, without this tremendous power, we would not be discussing the issue of a leftist government.

This force is not going to lose the next election that will bring to power a government of the Left. France 1936 is from this perspective, a typical example: In elections in May 3, 1936, in a time of economic crisis similar to today, after hard struggles against the rise of fascists and strikes for an entire two years the Left - the coalition Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Radicals, the "progressive" party of the bourgeoisie - triumphantly won a majority in parliament.

The "Popular Front" in the election came down to a very modest reform program. But the workers did not wait for even a properly formed government. The entire month of May they went on strikes, demonstrations and a huge wave of factory occupations. When Leon Blum, the socialist prime minister of the new government hastily took office, both he and the leaders of leftist parties called for restraint after "the Government would review the requests." But these appeals fell on deaf ears. The workers understand that their action-strike, the occupation, the demonstration-was the guarantee of victory and in many ways organized their own committees.

Collective Agreements

On June 7, French employers' organizations terrified by the explosion strike,agreed the list of requests was tabled by the union leadership. For the first time in history, enshrined in collective agreements, the 40 hr week and paid summer leave.

In France of '36, the prospect of leftist government further exacerbated the crisis and gave even more confidence in the working class to build on its strengths, sharpening the class polarization and creating conditions of dual power. Next to the leftist governments that were trying to find compromises with pieces of the ruling class (the same time that many of them were appealing to the fascists), the working class began to show the possibility of its own self-organization, the prospect of democratic workers' councils. The same happened in the same period in revolutionary Spain.

The prospect of a left government can reopen such a period today. But this does not mean to have any illusions about the limits of a leftist government. The solution will not come from above. Those who, in today's crisis and class polarization, promise that they can impose even elementary steps, with an "institutional way", who promised "stability" that would bring a parliamentary majority delude themselves and sow illusions in others.

First, because of another government, another power. The economic power that governs the country will fight in every way for its privileges: Is there a possibility that domestic bankers and locals to accept cancellation of the debt or nationalize the banks because they will decide this in parliament? Industries to accept taxation, prohibition of dismissal an increase in wages? The media barons to open their media to reflect the views of the people? Others will threaten to draw out the funds transfer to other plants, some will lockout, others will hide fuels and products.

And then what will stop them? The state some say, but the state is not neutral, it's a class state. Does it stop the judges who earn a lifetime of wealth from oil bosses? Who will stop them maybe the police, where one in two voters are supporters  of the fascist Golden Dawn?  Let's be clear. The state is on the other side.

The image of the radical reformist president Allende of Chile defending with a weapon in his hands the parliament against the Pinochet coup in 1973 shows a dramatic change of the limits they may impose on even the most honest of leftist governments. On the other side of the reformist coin we will always remember the "socialist"  promises and "realistic compromise" of Mitterrand, of Gonzales, A. Papandreou and the descendants (and offspring) of them.

The problem with the reformists, either right or left, whether honest or opportunist is the common way they treat the working class. They do not believe that the working class is the subject that can overthrow capitalism, but rather that they may impose change from above.In this sense the use struggles of the working class as to act as pressure to achieve the necessary compromises. Returning to France in June 1936, Maurice Thorez, then secretary of the Communist Party said characteristically: "Well, we must know how to close a strike if its demands are met. But even more, we must know how to accept a compromise even if they have satisfied all the demands. "


Then, the compromises of Thorez led to a number of governments with the participation of the Left that adapted more and more to the right. "Do not play the game of reaction, do not undermine our government" was the message sent to the base of the left every time you go to get back in the game - in the name of military preparations for the Second World War. So passed a law abolishing the five-day week and overtime pay, a huge wave of layoffs and persecution spread to all workplaces and the end of leftist governments in France came a little later, having sown the frustration of the working class themselves.

The only way is for the working class to have its own response to the terror and misery  sown by the capitalists and is to impose its own solution that there is strength, where we produce the wealth, in the workplace. With the expropriation of the means of production and alternative organization of production, economy, society above the needs of the majority of society and not profit.

It is the path of the revolution in October 1917 in Russia, they not only occupied the factories, but claimed the right of the revolutionary workers, peasants, men and women to discuss, decide and govern themselves by representatives elected directly and recallable the real workers 'democracy of the soviets, the workers' councils’. Replacing and not hesitating to overthrow the provisional parliamentary government a few months before they had defended it against the coup of Kornilov.

With the same intensity that we defend the left government against any attack from the Right but do not hesitate to show the only real solution to the crisis, the revolutionary overthrow.

Over the last twelve months, hundreds of thousands of activists and militants claimed the squares for direct democracy. They occupied the ministries and paralyzed the center of power. Put in their hand the most "sacred", the property of their factory bosses their newspaper. Committees at the base built to overcome the bureaucratic leaderships of selling out in the unions, workers' control at the point of production. It is in these steps is the hope to win.

SYRIZA compromises

 If SYRIZA found strength to take the command from the President of the Republic, the other side took advantage of the situation to increase pressure on the left. The problem is not that SYRIZA failed to form the government of the Left. This did not come with any way of parliamentary combinations or relations. The problem is that this effort by the ruling class tried to see how much water can be put in the wine of the Left, and SYRIZA they constantly retreat.
The very participation in the meeting with the leaders of the New Democracy and PASOK was a first retreat. SYRIZA accepted the pressure that makes it harder to form a government and tried to look "responsible for power". The letter of Alexis Tsipras to the EU was another such step backwards.

The appeals to the leadership of the EU to "rethink the whole framework of the existing strategy, since not only a threat to social cohesion and stability in Greece, but also a source of instability for the same European Union and the Eurozone" is typical. As is clear: "It's deep belief that our problem is a European crisis, and thus at European level must find the solution." If one considers that European leaders do not know how well their interests and how the Left would be convinced that we must stop the simplicity or else it will collapse the European Union and the Eurozone, As a culmination of this logic in a statement of Alexis Tsipras, they told CNBC that he will do everything not to go take Greece from the Eurozone. 


SYRIZA seems to accept that not even a direct break with the memorandum is required.
The meeting of three leaders with the President of the Republic, Papoulias asked Alexis Tsipras: "reconsideration or reversal of the current European policy?" To get the answer: "We are not talking about unilateral actions. There should be a radical change in this policy.And if you ask will tell you that we mean that we have and the Financial Stability Pact to be reconsidered. Not only we call for it, say the forces that play an important role in European affairs as the new President of France Mr. Hollande.”

The denial of "unilateral action" means that the supposed Left government  SYRIZA will not stop the Memorandum, will not stop paying the debt, but will enter into a process of discussion, hoping that Hollande, the leader of his brother's party PASOK in France, will be able to change the balance of the European Union. This is a logical center-left coalition government.

Regarding the debt, even at the elementary issue raised in the meeting of heads on whether to pay a bond that remained outside PSI and ending within days, Alexis Tsipras asked in terms of ... Papademos: "The problem with this bond has not disclosed on May 7.It was a problem long before we knew. So the Government should have a strategic plan to deal with it. Once we have a specific recommendation on the part of Mr. Papademos will be placed to deal with in substance. We have thoughts on how we can manage this. But I think useful and crucial to have the view of Prime Minister." If the Left is reluctant even to propose a default in bond Samaras even discussing whether they should be paid, then what would you do if a government was faced with the beasts of the international financial markets?

The fifth point of further proposals for SYRIZA leftist government does not even reason for partial deletion. "To establish an international commission to monitor the onerous debt and put a moratorium on repayment." . So did the issue of return of privatized public companies, something that exists in the program of SYRIZA. They began to behave like a finance minister who ignores the commitments of his party before even given a chance to sit in the ministerial chair.

The three days that the Left was investigating whether it can form a government are very instructive on how many concessions will be pressed and if so will cope. The battle with the Memorandum and frugality- no minister and prime minister will do it for us. Especially if you are so confused and scared in front of the big dilemmas opened by the crisis.

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