Greece: The Political Conclusions of the Syriza CC Meeting

Below we publish a report and analysis, written by the Communist Tendency of Syriza , about the Central Committee of Syriza which was held on Saturday 8 August. Elsewhere today we also publish a speech made at the meeting by Stamatis Karagiannopoulos, member of the Communist Tendency as well as the Syriza CC.

communist-tendency-syrizaIn yesterday’s Central Committee meeting of SYRIZA, the representatives of the Communist Tendency outlined the necessity of unity among the left wing of the party against the pro-memorandum leadership team.

Prior to the meeting, the Communist Tendency held a two-week campaign collecting signatures to press for an Extraordinary Congress of SYRIZA before the signing of the new Memorandum with a view to a radical change in policy and leadership. The campaign of the Communist Tendency received a positive response with support from 170 party members from 90 local organisations and 35 different cities.

The proposal of the Communist Tendency stands in stark contrast to the proposal of the leadership who are arguing for an Extraordinary Congress after the signing of the new Memorandum in order to legalise their pro-memorandum choices.  This decision was finally approved by the CC in yesterday's meeting.

At the meeting, representatives of the Communist Tendency presented the proposal for the Extraordinary Congress to be held before the signing of the new Memorandum for a policy and leadership change, explaining that this is the real alternative position to that of the leadership. The Left Platform proposed a Permanent Congress but this position was not correct; the body cannot elect a new leadership. In addition, the monothematic character of a Permanent Congress would prevent it from imposing the necessary radical change of political direction for the party and would lack democratic legitimacy since it reflects the correlations in the party as it was formed two years ago.

However, given the intention of the Left Platform to submit their proposal for a Permanent Congress, if the Communist Tendency were to push its own proposal to the vote as an alternative, there would have been the risk of splitting the left wing votes between the two different proposals.  Practically, this would have strengthened the proposal from the leadership team. Consequently, representatives of the Communist Tendency did not put the proposal to a vote.  Instead they voted critically for the proposal of the Left Platform which, despite its weaknesses, would give an opportunity for the party to condemn the new Memorandum and prevent its signature if it was voted for by the majority of the CC.

Political conclusions from the CC meeting

The leading faction of SYRIZA, with a small but safe majority (the votes were not counted), was able to pass its proposal for the calling of an Extraordinary Congress in September, after the memorandum is signed.

As the Deputy Prime Minister, G. Dragasakis, put it in his speech; for the leadership of the party, this congress is meant to become a “congress of refoundation.”  In other words, a congress which will create a new SYRIZA that will turn it into a pro-memorandum, centre-left party. With this congress, the leadership will attempt to drive through its efforts to legitimise its turn towards austerity and to carry out the demand of the ruling class to “settle scores” with the “inconvenient” left-wing of SYRIZA.

The success of the leadership yesterday is due to the unacceptable conciliatory line shown towards the pro-austerity turn of the government from most of the “tendency of the 53.” It is also, in a different way, due to the mistaken tactics taken by the representatives of KOE and the Left Platform.

Capitulation of the majority of the “53” and the desertion of KOE

While most members of the group of the “53” spoke against the line of the government, in the end they voted in favour of the proposal of the leading faction. This position confirms the assessment made by the Communist Tendency that the oppositional stance of this group, which participates in the core of the party apparatus and has taken up numerous government positions, has specific, objective limitations.   That is why, even now, after the openly pro-austerity turn of the leading faction of the party, this group has shown cowardice and proved to be unwilling to put up a fight.

However, a minority fraction of this group showed through its speeches and positions before the vote that they could have been rallied behind the left-wing of the party if the latter had waged a real, systematic struggle to gain control of the party.

The leading cadres of KOE announced their resignation from the CC and their withdrawal from the party, switching suddenly from uncritically supporting the leadership in all key matters, as evidenced in past meetings, to the “other extreme” seen now through their hasty abandonment of the party without putting up a fight of any sort.

Had the leadership of KOE collaborated with the other forces of the party left in yesterday’s discussions and votes, the result would have been much tighter and the leading faction would have lost significant reserves of prestige and authority, if not the battle itself. The stance of leaving without a fight objectively does not obstruct in the slightest the attempt by the leading faction to take the party hostage and to place it in the camp of the memoranda and of the ruling class. On the contrary, it favours it, weakening the left wing.

The mistaken tactic of the Left Platform

The leading members of the Left Platform (composed of the Left Current and the Red Network) correctly raised the need to convene a congress before the final approval of the memorandum in order to denounce and delegitimise the attempt to pass these measures in parliament. However, their proposal of a Permanent Congress was not appropriate, because by including the representatives of the founding congress, which took place more than two years ago, the present mood of the rank-and-file would not have been reflected. Moreover, such a congress would not have the right, according to the party’s charter, to change the leadership or the overall political line, since such gatherings can only deal with single issues.

The decision to call a Permanent Congress shows the timidity of the leadership of the Left Platform to decidedly challenge the leading faction and the government. Even now, after the flagrant violation of the fundamental political, programmatic, and statutory principles of SYRIZA by the leading faction, the Left Platform refuses to call for a change in the leadership of the party, and also to clearly refuse any support to the pro-austerity government. This attitude creates confusion among the best militants and exacerbates the mood of demoralisation that is appearing among their ranks.

What the leadership of the Left Platform should have done immediately after the memorandum was signed by the government in the EU summit was to clearly demand a change in the leadership of the party and to call for an Extraordinary Congress. In reality, the Left Platform has more than enough members than the number required by the statutes to convene an Extraordinary Congress (15% of the party membership needs to endorse the call for the congress). The leaders of the Left Platform should have stated openly and clearly that SYRIZA should pass into the hands of the left wing and should mobilise the rank-and-file to this end, taking the initiative for the broad unity of all the left forces inside the party. It should come out in favour of new national elections to elect a truly left-wing government with the aim of abolishing the memorandum and austerity.

The claim, defended by the leaders of the Left Platform, that there is no longer any time to hold an Extraordinary Congress before the signing of the new memorandum, thus turning down the proposal of the Communist Tendency at yesterday’s meeting, is unfounded. The left wing of the party could have proposed yesterday that the CC explicitly invalidates the government to sign the new memorandum before an Extraordinary Congress is organised. Then, if the leading faction dared to breach the decisions of the CC once again, the Extraordinary Congress would have had yet another powerful reason to call for a change in the leadership of the party. Instead, with the insistence in calling a Permanent rather than an Extraordinary Congress, the leadership of the Left Platform facilitated the usurpation of the Extraordinary Congress by the government faction, which appeared as the upholder of party democracy, while it has breached all the collective party decisions.

Instead of taking all these necessary political steps we have described, the leadership of the Left Platform let time pass without waging a decisive battle with clear tactics. They thus gave the necessary time to the government faction to regroup and fight back. Until a few days ago the position of the left wing was extremely favourable, when one party body after another as well as local and regional branches were issuing statements against the new memorandum and the majority of the CC seemed to stand against the government faction.  However, in the end, holding out before the passivity of the Left Platform, the leadership was able to prevail in yesterday’s critical vote in the highest party organ, changing the whole situation.

And now?

The manifest prevalence of the government faction in yesterday’s CC represents an important development. It has sowed frustration among the rank-and-file, who were expecting that the vote would be at least decided by a narrow margin, and it has exacerbated the mood for a break with the party. Many party members, with their attitude of disengagement or with their support for the creation of a new left-wing party, are not only expressing their tiredness or their loss of hope in the possibility that SYRIZA might change, but also a loss of faith in the tactics and politics of the leadership of the left wing.    

Even now, if the leadership of the Left Platform put forward a clear battle plan to turn the party over into the hands of the left wing, it would be able to redress the situation and put up a final, decisive fight in the upcoming Extraordinary Congress in September. The government faction is strong only in the upper echelons of the party. In the grassroots, its political authority has undergone a heavy blow. Each day that passes and with each step to implement the clauses of the memorandum, the government faction will lose more and more support from the rank-and-file. However, the leadership of the Left Platform does not possess such a battle plan.

Moreover, with its mistaken insistence to defend the transition to a national currency as the kernel of their alternative to the austerity policies of the government, which marked the interventions of its representatives in yesterday’s CC meeting, leaving out the left-wing, radical measures that are necessary, it undermines the influence of the left wing of the party. The line of the “dictatorship of the euro” which was defended in the CC by the leader of the Left Platform, comrade Panagiotis Lafazanis, does not help to raise the consciousness of the rank-and-file as to the anti-capitalist political tasks of the moment, which Marxists consider necessary. At a time when the vile propaganda of the ruling class portrays the Left Platform as part of the “conspiracy” to return to the drachma, the primacy given to the national currency to the detriment of the radical, anti-capitalist positions that are necessary, is completely out of place to combat and to drive away this propaganda.

The statement issued by the Left Platform after yesterday’s CC does not explain clearly what is to be done now. It brands the Extraordinary Congress as “pointless”, suggesting that it might not participate in it. The balance of forces within the left wing of the party is giving rise today to concrete, objective political conditions. With its small forces, the Communist Tendency of SYRIZA cannot drive forward the necessary decisive battle that could turn over the party into the hands of the left wing. We were, and remain, in opposition to leaving the party before all the possible efforts are made to wrest control of the party away from the government faction and into the hands of the left wing. However, this does not depend on us: it depends almost exclusively on the Left Platform.

It is therefore natural that the tactics and immediate orientation of the Communist Tendency will be decided by its members, taking into account the position of the Left Platform for the coming period once it becomes defined. In any case, the main criterion for these decisions will be the need to strengthen the link between the left militants of the rank-and-file of SYRIZA and the ideas and programme of Marxism that has consistently been defended by the Communist Tendency.