Greece: Neither ‘honourable compromise’ nor ‘accidental rupture’ – the only way forward is a Socialist policy – part five

We here publish the fifth part of Stamatis Karagiannopoulos's article on the situation in Greece. The series was originally published in Greek on the website of the Communist Tendency of Syriza at the end of April this year.

The split and processes in the majority leadership

The tendency of the majority leadership, the "Left Unity" (AREN), is now officially split. The narrow core of cadres of the president’s group, such as comrades Bournous, Iliopoulos, Pappas and others, organised a meeting on the 5th of April, separately from the left wing of “AREN”, the "Motion of 53”. They called their initiative the "Unifying Motion" and released an official document.

This document constitutes a self-indulgent apology of the leadership’s policies. It proclaims that the leadership is and will always be right, in the past, present and future, by taking the "best" and "historical" decisions. This document, apart from conveying bureaucratic routine, does not offer any useful information about what these cadres, “justified” by life and History, are thinking during this critical political juncture.

What is their opinion of the coalition with ANEL now? What are the conclusions they draw concerning the “negotiations”? And what do they propose the government should do about the increased extortions by Schäuble and his group? What policy should be followed in the event of a rupture with Europe? All the above are rendered as “details”. The cadres of the “Unifying Motion” believe that the above questions are solely to the discretion of the president and his close cabinet. The leaders are the policy makers, and the rest of the members are only there to applaud.

The cadres of the “Unifying Motion” seem to be in prolonged discussion with the remaining cadres of the old “Renewing Wing” of Synaspismos (the Wing from which DIMAR was created), and “Platform 2010” led by Papadimoulis, Balafas and Dourou. They are reportedly preparing a national meeting on the 24th of May, and are expected to adopt a formal declaration. Maybe then we will learn more about the ideology of the “Unifying Motion”. Until then, however, what seems to exist is the model of a party free from the “pathogeny” of tendencies, in the form of hints in the attitudes of its cadres as well as in its name, while it seems to also attack the current balance of forces inside the party as “obsolete”. This suggests the resolution of the “problem” is to be found through the immediate call for a congress.

What do the processes surrounding the “Unifying Motion” suggest? It is clear that they reflect the concerns of the president's close cabinet over the growing criticisms and the increased political isolation that it receives within the remaining collective party procedures. The most worrying aspect for the cabinet is its inability to control even the Political Secretariat, in which only 4 of the 13 cadres that comprise the body come from the right-wing of the majority ,including the president himself. At the same time, the new Secretary does not adhere to the “Unifying Motion”. It adheres to the other tendency of the majority (“Motion of 53”). The more right wing elements of the leadership realise that under these circumstances it is impossible to rely on the party in their plans for retreat, in the name of an “honourable compromise”. The leadership realises the need to create a new group within the party which will create the necessary circumstances and correlations the cabinet needs. They will recruit people to this group by advocating for “trust in the leader”.

The unspoken but obvious objectives of the “Unifying Motion”, make it an initiate which will tend to rally the most careerist of elements, due to its political profile. These careerists will seek in the president the guarantor of seats and concomitant privileges, while fearing the pluralistic character of the party as a threat to be eliminated only through the complete abolition of the tendencies within the party. However ironic it may sound, the abolition of this defining feature of SYRIZA is prepared through the establishment of a new tendency...

The Greek ruling class, which is in a hurry to see the president “take over the situation” and sign the honourable compromise ignoring the left wing, surely appreciates the “unifying” motives of this new tendency. Hence, the “Unifying Movement” and the “Platform 2010” objectively constitute the immediate political echo of the pressures of the ruling class over the party and its leadership. It is only a matter of time before these tendencies join in a common struggle against the left wing

In response to the movements of the close presidential team, the “Motion of 53+”, which reflects the views of the tendencies and cadres of the old "ANASA”, held and open event on April 17. This initiative constitutes an attempt of a number of leading cadres at the core or the edge of governmental authority to distinguish their position from the most extreme phenomena of political concessions. They wish to put down their own "red line" of what concessions are not permissible.

The reliability of their anemic left criticism, however, is non-existent, since they themselves are not "poor relatives", but play a key in the party apparatus and in government. A characteristic instance is the recent interview by comrade Tsakalotos's (now leader of the negotiating team and a leading member of the "Motion of 53+") in “MEGA”, where he characterised the agreement of February 20th as "excellent". His only criticism was that the government had made a mistake in not requesting financial rewards prior to signing.

With or without left guilt, the entire leadership majority, right and left, has a major responsibility for the government's submissiveness to the creditors' blackmail as well as for the acceptance of the role of managing rotten Greek capitalism. It is not a coincidence that both the “Motions” in the leading majority jointly support the policy of "honorable compromise". This makes them jointly responsible for the suffering that will come if this treasonous compromise is made, for both the working class and the Left.

"Left Platform": historical tasks and "historical" diffidence

The fact that the left wing of the party has political control of one third of SYRIZA and its leadership is the safest indication that the communist traditions are still alive and, objectively, constitute the greatest obstacle in the attempt to transform it into a typical social-democratic party. That explains the aggressiveness of the bourgeoisie against the strongest component of the left wing, that is the "Left Platform" ("Left Current" and "Red Network") and the constant appeals to the Prime Minister to "clear" the party of its influence.

The strong position of the "Left Platform" makes its role key today. The positive and comradely criticism expressed by the Communist Tendency is known to the comrades of the Left Platform. Left Platform's ideas differ decisively from genuine Marxism, being a modern version of the traditional, Stalinist left reformism; patriotism in place of proletarian internationalism, defending programmatic positions unrelated to workers' power and socialism, supporting the perception of class cooperation with the (actually nonexistent) "democratic” and “progressive" sections of the ruling class. These ideas belong to the “Left Current”, but even the “Red Network” which talks in the name of revolutionary marxism, has not yet differentiated itself from them and neither has it criticised them publicly.

As a reflection of these ideas, the tactics of the “Left Platform” against the social-democratic majority at the meetings of the leading bodies was and still is timid. They are characterised by the regular tabling of amendments rather than alternative documents, but also the lack of any clear strategy for winning the majority and exploiting the decay which now takes place in the ranks of leading majority.

The coming to power of the new government brought to the fore all the weak elements of the policies and tactics of the “Left Platform”. Consistent with the defence of an alliance with the "progressive" section of the bourgeoisie, the leadership of the “Left Platform” did not express the slightest disagreement about the unacceptable coalition with ANEL. The leadership of the “Left Platform” even subordinated a top cadre under the direct political leadership of the reactionary right-wing president of ANEL and Minister of Defence Panos Kammenos. The largest component of the “Red Network”, DEA, treated it as a "necessary evil" and put forward no concrete alternative to it, although it disagreed with the coalition with ANEL

The consensus in the unacceptable nomination of the right wing bourgeois P. Pavlopoulos, as the president of the Republic, was another indication of the lack of a consistent left stance in the leadership of the “Left Platform”. Members of the “Left Platform” gave their positive vote in Parliament, thus putting once again in practice their ideas of the alliance with the bourgeois "patriots" and "democrats". The two MPs of the “Red Network” for their part, did not dare to vote against Pavlopoulos: one voted in favour (comrade Psarea) and the other stated her disagreement but limited herself to abstention (comrade Gaitani).

The humiliating agreement of February 20 was greeted with a contradictory and once again, timid attitude from the Left Platform. It took a few days, as well as the clear public opposition of the Communist Tendency and of comrades Manolis Glezos and Sofia Sakorafa, before the Left Platform released a relatively clear position. This method of the Left Platform, that of “testing the water”, is obviously out of touch with the political importance of the situation. Eventually the Left Platform disagreed with the content of the agreement, but without asking for its abolition nor taking a clear position on what the left parliamentarians should do if the agreement was to pass in Parliament.

Another recent example of this politically diffident attitude was the vote for the legislative act (PNP) for the financial reserves of municipalities and other state organisations. Despite their publicly expressed disagreement, all members of the Left platform voted in favor of the PNP, in part aligning with the governmental argument of the "honorable compromise ". The “Red Network” attempted to link the voting of the PNP with the defense of the prospect of a “rupture” in a recent announcement, falling into all sorts of contradictions.

The influence and power of the Left Platform justifiably worries the bourgeoisie, which trembles at the idea that self-proclaimed communists could gain control of SYRIZA. But this undeniable fact does not absolve the leadership of the Left Platform from their serious political mistakes and contradictions in policy. Now that confusion and anxiety over the “honourable compromise” dominates the working class, the main political task is to clarify the blurred political stance and give a comprehensive political alternative for the youth and militants of SYRIZA.

What is the central political proposal of the Left Platform today? In order to answer this, we need to start from the main leader of the Left Current, Panagiotis Lafazanis. In his latest interview, he suggests that ".. at this point, Greece does not only need some "red lines", which would preserve some critical achievements, if and to the extent that this is necessary. Our country urgently needs a positive and very consistent progressive programme-package, which gives priority to the impairment of the debt, provides strong liquidity in the economy and points to development with a productive orientation. The neoliberal deregulations, the fierce pressure on the lower classes and privatization of profitable strategic state companies, leave the enormous power of interrelated oligarchs untouched, and do not produce new wealth but profits for the few, decline in incomes, recession, unemployment, swamp and frustration. We ought to move to the opposite of this crappy and asymmetric dogmatism that seems to be the priority for the institutions ..."

But what is this "coherent plan", and when will it be presented to the people? Comrade Panagiotis (Lafazanis) does not inform us about this decisive issue. Let us not forget that we are in the most critical phase of the recent period. We are on the eve of an imminent default by "accident" or submission of the government with the signing of a new Memorandum. The working people must know now about this ‘coherent plan' of salvation and become convinced to implement it immediately - a few weeks time may be too late.

In our attempt to learn more from the last article on the website Iskra (iskra.gr), written by a leading member of the Left Platform, comrade Stathis Leoutsakos, entitled "IN FRONT OF THE GREAT CONFLICT" on the 24th of April, we read: “.. When faced with the blackmailing dilemma of the lenders; subordination or economic strangulation, SYRIZA must prepare the workers and people for the great class confrontation with the domestic and foreign politico-economic elites. The direct processing and showing alternatives in financing the EU-ECB-IMF can break the fear cultivated systematically for five years from the domestic and European establishment and propaganda whereby there’s no life for the country after a possible rupture with the ruling circles of the Eurozone, which could lead the country exiting from it. However such scenario -which they use as the “bogeyman" to maintain their domination- constitutes primarily a threat to themselves and their flimsy extreme neoliberal edifice, and not to the Greek people. Conversely, if SYRIZA's program cannot be implemented within the suffocating and hostile environment of the Eurozone and, if immediate and radical changes in the character of the eurozone are not implemented - such a development does not seem plausible - then all options should be open to examination. The coordinate monetary change - integrated into the overall progressive programme for recovery -comprises an option that does not mean the end of the world as the ruling classes would like to claim. This change must be a weapon in the hands of SYRIZA and ready to be implemented -if necessary- in order to respond to blackmailing and threatening dilemmas”.

Unfortunately comrade Leotsakos does not make us any wiser. The article is written using a typical method of left reformism: cues and hints without analysis are plentiful while all sorts of ambiguous "if, and, as long as” statements are also added in the recipe. This style of writing does not help develop a clear political position. It reflects either confusion or an attempt to camouflage a political position with a mantle of "loyalty" to the official government line. So inevitably, this leaves a series of critical questions unanswered. What are the “alternative solutions” for funding? What does "coordinate monetary change” mean? What does the "progressive programme for recovery" constitute of, and what is its difference from a anti-capitalist, socialist program?

We thought that another recent article by a member of the Left Platform, comrade Stathis Kouvelakis, with the title “The time for a honourable rupture” written on the 25th of April, could be more useful to us. It read: “.. The challenge for Greece is a radical change of its course and the opening of roads for the overturn of the system and the emancipation for its people, for the working classes, but also for the future of the people and workers of Europe ... And it is, above all, time to finally prepare ourselves, politically, technically and culturally, for the only "honorable" way out, to break with the chain of the fierce loan sharks and jihadists of neoliberalism. It's time to focus the content and explain the sustainability of a liberating path -for the majority of the society- that starts with the diptych of “default - nationalisation of banks”. This diptych is extended, if necessary, in choosing a national currency, with the necessary action in the popular verdict. "

Apart from vague findings, comrade Kouvelakis does not inform us about anything specific. What does "prepare ourselves politically, technically and culturally” mean? When and by whom will the "liberating path that starts from the default and nationalisation of banks" become concrete? What form of popular verdict is ultimately being proposed: the elections or the referendum, and why? Unfortunately, in the “last minute” of such a big test for the government and the working people, we find the leaders of the left wing of Syriza speaking and writing with left wing riddles...

Lastly, the necessary and basic political answers are not given to us by the forces of the ‘Red Network’. In the main article of the last issue of the newspaper “Workers’ Left” we read: "The way to escape from this trap is default for international and local moneylenders. The concentration of all available forces and resources should be used to meet social needs. This will constitute a major rupture selection; a break with international forces and "institutions" such as the EU, the ECB, the IMF. But also a rupture with internal forces: the forces defending the status quo here, which consented to the policies dictated by the Memoranda, applied them with zeal and became rich by them. Ruptures of this scale cannot be decided at the last minute. Preparation is necessary for them. Preparation in the government with the development of programmatic alternatives and tools that will support them. Preparing the party by rejecting passivity, refusing the role of a post - ‘legitimizing' factor. Preparing alliances, opening the debate to the entire Left, which would also have to lift itself to the occasion. Preparation within the working class and the people, which as a necessary condition includes the demand for the whole truth to become known. All of this (should) converge towards the urgent establishment of a broad socio-political force that will have to confront rivals and be faced with serious issues. Without these options and these conditions, regardless of the intentions of cadres that can be the purest, the danger of presenting the submission as an one-way road becomes greater every day ... "

In these lines, a specific and unambiguous language of revolutionary Marxism is far from expressed. We find the same general and vague political explanation of the issues with the one expressed by the cadres of the Left Current. They demand "preparation" for some sort of alternative programmatic solutions and for the building of a broad social and political power... Of course this is not a stylistic problem, but a problem of political content. Neither the Left Current nor the Red Network have a well-thought out political programme that could become a guide for action for the working class in its struggle with the lenders and the Greek ruling class. The comrades of the leadership of the Left Platform must unfortunately include first and foremost themselves in being not sufficiently politically prepared.

This decisive political weakness will play a key role in the critical events to come. Its continuation may stigmatize the Left Platform as being partly responsible for possible new and larger government retreats. This will create a problem of consistency within the same forces and components that constitute it.

The Left Platform currently has the necessary organisational strength and the material means to directly change the balance of forces within the party and win the masses of the working class - starting from the vanguard - over to the fight for a necessary programme of overturning the memoranda and capitalism itself. The Left Platform consists of ministers, MPs, newspapers, websites and "an army" of full-time professionals. They are only missing the most crucial element; the programme itself and the will power to apply it.

The Communist Tendency has both! But as the youngest - in terms of years of existence but also its members’ age - tendency in the left wing of the party, it does not have the necessary material and organisational strength. The best fighters of SYRIZA, the labor movement and the youth, are the only ones who can and must urgently give it that strength!