As the elections approach in Greece we are publishing the first part of a contribution by the Marxists of Syriza to the discussion on what programme the party needs to adopt in order to put an end to the draconian austerity measures being imposed on the Greek workers and youth.
A) Crisis of Capitalism
The significant share of the vote that SYRIZA won during the elections of the 6th May and its increasing popularity coming up to the elections of the 17th June are not phenomena isolated from the global situation. Following the wave of support in Latin America for the Left during the second half of the last decade, and the recent uprising across the Arab world, what we are witnessing now is the radicalisation of society even in the heart of the capitalist West, starting with Greece.
Since the Nazi withdrawal in 1944, it is the first time that any party connected to the heroic Greek communist movement has ever come so close to taking office. This development marks the beginning of the shift of the working masses of Europe towards the Left following the deep systemic and international crisis of capitalism.
We Marxists of SYNASPISMOS and of SYRIZA repeatedly emphasise that the present global economic crisis is not a consequence of ‘neoliberalism’, ‘corruption’, ‘mal-administration’, or of the reckless actions of some ‘rogues in finance’; it is the product of the systemic contradictions of capitalism. The fundamental capitalist contradiction is precisely this: the social character of production is stifled by the fact that under capitalism production operates on the basis of profit-seeking and that the means of production are subject to private ownership. The term ‘social character of production’ means that capitalism, in comparison to previous socio-economic systems, transformed the means of production to such a degree that required them being worked by a large number of people, and, this in turn led to the development of the international division of labour. However, this process of the socialisation of production contains its own contradiction in that it operates within the strict parameters of private ownership in pursuit of private profit.
As Marx indicated, profits essentially are the accumulations of unpaid labour. This means that in order to make greater profits, the capitalists keep pushing down the cost of labour – that is to say, the wages and salaries of the workers – thus restricting the purchasing power and levels of consumption of society as a whole. Consequently, through this fundamental contradiction between the social character of production, on the one hand, and private ownership of the means of production, on the other, mass consumption is restricted. This, in turn, is a decisive factor in the surfacing of economic crises that within a capitalist context assume the character of crises of overproduction.
What also arises from this fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the anarchy of production. Under a capitalist system, there is no rational planning of the production and distribution of goods. Each capitalist produces independently from other capitalists. This anarchy frustrates the equivalence between production and consumption, and, furthermore, contributes towards the development of crises of overproduction. The tendency for consumption to be restricted and the anarchy of capitalist production operate together to cause the outbreak of crises of overproduction. A consequence of such crises is the destruction of parts of production, the scaling-back of production, the rendering of millions of workers jobless, and the deterioration of the working conditions of those still employed. All these sacrifices are imposed to guarantee the survival of the capitalist system.
As Marx and Engels explained 165 years ago in their renowned ‘Communist Manifesto’, the bourgeoisie, in their attempts to deal with such crises, merely create the basis for more profound and extensive crises. That is what we have witnessed in our times. In order to avoid a deep recession in 2008, the bourgeoisie threw astronomical sums into system, around US$14 trillion, from their global reserves of wealth, to finance the banks and large corporations. And in passing on the bill for all this to the workers and the petty-bourgeois, the bourgeoisie have nationalised their losses. In doing so, however, they have created large levels of national debt globally that, in light of the looming recession in the world economy, are about as containable as an exploding bomb.
In this way, it is evident that they have no effective solution to the crisis. Their attempts to deal with the symptoms of the crisis – that is to say, the enormous debt of the banks and of the state – by further burdening workers with permanent austerity, poverty, and mass unemployment, further exacerbate the crisis and threaten human civilisation with this regression towards barbarism.
A fundamental historical dilemma is, once more, placed before the whole of humanity in increasingly clearer terms: either the conscious working people take control of their own lives, rationally planning the economy, or the blind anarchic forces of capitalism continue to pull human civilisation towards barbarism!
B) Keynes or Marx? It is not possible nowadays to have capitalism without austerity!
In order for capitalism to survive – that is to say, in order for the profits of the capitalists to remain intact – there is no solution other than severe and extensive austerity. Anything else from a capitalist perspective would be totally illogical. For instance, if bourgeois governments were to increase public spending, they would be stimulating inflation and ever greater gaping deficits and debts. This is the reason why, as a rule, what we are witnessing nowadays across the globe are nothing more than different versions of these very same severe austerity policies.
The old remedy of mainstream Keynesianism, which involved huge state expenditure in order “to stimulate demand”, was long ago assigned to the waste-bin by the bourgeoisie. Anyone attributing a modern version of Keynesianism to Barack Obama’s policies is making a grave mistake, as they seem to forget that the US government is currently applying the largest programme of cuts in modern history to the tune of US$5 trillion. Furthermore, the support for policies that stimulate ‘growth’ and for ‘euro-bonds’ by the bourgeois governments of France and other northern European countries is far from reflecting a new model of Keynesianism; rather, it is an attempt to transfer the burden of the recession, which is gripping the EU, and of the Eurozone debts onto the shoulders of German capitalism, that is the one that has come out the most robust and intact amongst European capitalisms following the global crisis.
Historically, Keynesianism has been attempted by the bourgeoisie and has failed. The reason why the United States were able to drag themselves out of the deep crisis of 1929-33 was not due to the Keynesian policies that Roosevelt adopted, as some have incorrectly claimed; rather, it was the weakening of the US’s competitors due to the catastrophic effect of World War II. Nor was the US’s ability to recover from the great crisis attributable to the US’s non-participation for the most part of the WWII; on the contrary, the US capitalists – through their arms sector – profited from WWII through arms sales.
In the post-war period, Keynesianism was certainly not the principal factor that stimulated the development of Western capitalism; rather, it was the galloping development of international trade. When development began to contract during the 1970s, it was clear that the continuation of the Keynesian policies that were being practiced was leading towards greater deficits and levels of debt. Consequently, this failure of Keynesianism led the bourgeoisie to turn to draconian “neoliberal” policies in order to stabilise capitalism rather than holding true to some ideological fixation.
Nowadays, reformists, within the labour movement and the Left, by supporting Keynesian methods in relation to providing ‘liquidity’ to the market, are concerned with the symptoms of a systemic illness rather than with its treatment. The crisis is not due to the lack of ‘liquidity’; the lack of ‘liquidity’ is a result of the capitalist crisis.
The mass channelling of public funds into the economy would be the shortest route towards state bankruptcies. What is more, within a capitalist economy in recession, any interference by the state such as the pumping of large sums of money into the economy is actually a channelling of funds whose value is distorted as this do not reflect the actual value of production. Thus, a huge channelling of state funds into a capitalist system leads to the kind of inflation that depresses incomes and increases debt.
Fast and easy escape routes out of this profound crisis of capitalism that reformists are in search of do not exist. Due to the profound historical crisis of capitalism that we are experiencing, a realistic and permanent solution to the basic needs of the urban and rural population cannot be found unless it is done in a radical manner that revolutionises the very foundations of society. Such a radical change of society would have to be all-encompassing if one is to guarantee meaningful employment for all, the provision of healthcare, education, and housing, the proper protection of democratic rights, rights to dignity, culture, and the environment. The only historical path towards progress for humanity is that of socialist revolution.
C) The historical impasse of Greek capitalism
Because Greek capitalism is the ‘weakest link’ within the Eurozone, it came the nearest to the precipice of bankruptcy. From the mid 1990s up until 2008, there had been unprecedented development of Greek capitalism, chiefly due to the availability of immense, and historically cheaper, credit that artificially fed consumption, particularly the construction industry through the thousands of mortgage loans that were made available. By 2008, towards the end of this period of ‘development’, Greek capitalism had secured for itself membership within the ‘club’ of developed Western capitalism, albeit, as one of its ‘weakest’ links.
The low competitiveness of this Greek ‘weak’ link is historically due to the failure of the Greek bourgeoisie to seriously invest in new technologies, and in research and development of industrial production. The recession in Greece broke out in 2008 as an expression of a global tendency in times of global crisis for the means of production to shrink.
The unprecedented depth of the recession that has struck Greece confirms the artificial and hollow character of Greek capitalism’s development in the recent period. However, it has also been aggravated by the attempts of the bourgeoisie from 2009 onwards to brutally extract further income from the masses in order to pay off the thieving state loans.
At present in Greece, we are witnessing the most severe programme of cuts ever seen in the capitalist world since the Second World War. The April 2012 IMF report on Greece states that a programme of austerity measures will be applied between 2014 and 2020 with the aim of creating “a primary surplus”; the level of cuts is analogous to those of the programmes applied in Romania between 1982 and 1989 during the reign of the Stalinist bonapartist Ceausescu and in Egypt between 1993 to 2000 during the reign of the bourgeois dictator Mubarak.
According to official figures of the Bank of Greece, the cumulative GDP reduction between the 4th quarter of 2007 and the 1st quarter of 2012 is close to 20 percent, creating large numbers of unemployed and poor. It is patently obvious that the extreme reactionary policies of the “Troika” (IMF-ECB-EU) and the government are exacerbating the recession, and that the terrifying cuts are provoking an equivalent drop in GDP.
The programme of severe austerity that has been applied to Greece over recent years is not a “mistaken prescription” on the part of the bourgeoisie. It is a concerted effort on the part of Western imperialists – both the lenders and the Greek ruling class – who know very well what they are doing. By labelling this attack on the living conditions of the masses a “depreciation”, they consciously admit that they are crushing the incomes of workers and the petty-bourgeoisie in order to service the public debt due to the thieving loans and also to secure future profits for the more powerful sections of the capitalist class.
Nonetheless, the fact that one country after another in the Eurozone is facing the spectre of being overburdened with debt proves that the impasse of Greek capitalism is simply organically part of a global capitalist impasse. The prospects of Greek capitalism are totally tied to the gloomy prospects of the European and global capitalist economy.
If European and global capitalism were capable of entering a period of strong recovery, there would be greater scope for a solution of the Greek debt in a manner that would not threaten the future of the euro and that would permit the re-stimulation of the development of Greek capitalism. However, in the current situation where the world economy is entering another global recession straight after the previous one, what is on the horizon for Greek capitalism is further bankruptcy and decline.
D) Exit from the euro and the shockwaves across the Eurozone
There is a strong possibility of a Greek exit from the euro. However, this should not be viewed in isolation; rather, it should be looked at within the broader context of the crisis of European and global capitalism. The euro was established during a period of upswing of Western capitalism. In such a period, the feverish rise of capitalist profit-making provided the grounds for the most powerful sections of European capitalism – particularly German capitalism – to pursue the further economic integration of the EU around a single currency. German capitalism, facilitated by the euro, established its domination across the sizeable EU common/internal market, and further strengthened its position within the global economy.
Now, however, there has been a fundamental change in the situation with the profound recession that is spreading across the Eurozone that in turn is worsening national debt. Under such circumstances, Germany and, generally, the wealthier capitalist European North, would have to finance the debts of the South for years to come in order to retain the benefits of the euro. However, by doing so, North European capitalism would also be dragged down into recession. Consequently, the deeper the crisis becomes, the more unsustainable the current make up of the Eurozone becomes for the stronger sections of European capitalism and thus the more the euro is undermined.
Within the context of that process, Greece, being the ‘weakest link’ in the Eurozone, is objectively the most likely to be the first to abandon the euro. But it is not the only one. The dramatic worsening of the crisis in Spain indicates that the list of candidates is growing all the time, and this in turn leads to the prospect of a Eurozone with fewer members, a dramatic change in its current format or even of its complete break up.
To sum it up, the force that is pushing Greece out of the euro is the actual unfolding of the crisis of capitalism globally and particularly in the Eurozone. The deep recession in Greece – fed by the European-wide recession, and by the draconian measures of the ‘Memorandum’ – is an expression of the very same force that is pushing Greece in the direction of returning to a national currency.
It is short-sighted and incorrect to think that Greece’s exit from the Eurozone is unlikely simply because this is against the interests of the economically powerful in the EU. At the same time, it is absolutely true that it would be highly damaging to European capitalism for Greece and/ or other members to leave the eurozone. Apart from such an exit burdening states and banks with new debts, such a development would also cause the cost of borrowing to soar for all the “partners”, and would also push down the value of the euro on the global currency markets, thus destabilising the entire global economy.
That is why up till now the strongest capitalist countries of the eurozone, particularly Germany, have attempted to keep Greece within the euro at the least possible cost to them. This, however, has meant that the cost has been borne by the lower layers of Greek society, the workers and the poor. Undoubtedly, they are loath to see Greece or any other country abandon the euro. However, it is political short-sightedness to make assumptions about the economic prospects of capitalism based on what the bourgeoisie have on their wish list. Ideally, the bourgeoisie would not have wanted any recession at all. However, due to the contradictions of their own system, recession is inescapable. Similarly, the real tendency for a shrinking and undermining of the eurozone is not something they desire. However, as we have explained, it is very likely that the reality of the situation would force this upon them.
German capitalism, and that of other powerful North European states, is fully aware that the situation Greek capitalism finds itself in wall continue to worsen, with the internal conditions pushing towards uncontainable default and with the need for further loans in order to keep Greek capitalism artificially propped up. Therefore, at some point they would be forced to push Greece out of the euro, which, in turn, would set in motion the total undermining of the euro.
The return to a national currency under the conditions of capitalism would undoubtedly precipitate the devastation of the living conditions of the Greek working class. However, the dilemma of choosing between either the euro or the drachma is a false one. The return to a national currency would signal a new, acute stage of the crisis. There is no rational or practical reason why the working class and the poorer layers of society should be asked “to choose” between the current stage of capitalist crisis or the next stage. The only true political choice for workers is the following: either a programme to manage barbaric capitalism or a programme to overthrow capitalism with the prospect of building socialism.
E) A government of the Left has to be a revolutionary government!
The deadlock of Greek capitalism has assumed nightmarish proportions for the toiling masses. The recession is getting deeper, tax revenues are collapsing, the armies of the poor and the unemployed are growing in numbers, and pension funds at some point will no longer be able to provide pensions. In these dramatic circumstances, the working class and the poor, having fought tough battles in the past two years which radicalised their political consciousness, now place their hopes in SYRIZA and a government of the Left for their survival.
The government of the Left is not going to have a calm and peaceful reformist road in front of them – as is imagined by reformists. From their first day in office they will be faced with the immediate prospect of a merciless war from the local and foreign capitalists.
The troika will not tolerate substantial changes in the Memoranda. Perhaps they will offer a very short deadline to the government of the Left, along with some changes in the terms of the Memoranda, but only to lure the government into backing down and betraying their campaign slogans.
There is not the slightest room for substantial "renegotiation" of the Memoranda. The reason for this is that if the troika agreed to suspend the implementation of the Memoranda, then they would be sending a message everywhere that the election of a left government can put the brakes on wild austerity being applied across Europe and the world in the name of the large state debts. This would lead directly to a tumultuous turn to the left on the part of the masses in one country after another.
From their point of view, the Greek ruling class will not accept giving back everything they have gained through the Memoranda in the last two years, namely the abolition of collective bargaining agreements, wage reductions, full immunity in industrial relations, tax exemptions, etc.
Any initial attempt on the part of the Government of the Left to be faithful to their election commitment to repeal the measures of the Memoranda would provoke an offensive on the part of the troika and the Greek capitalists, through stifling economic, political and diplomatic pressure.
This offensive would inevitably lead to the suspension of any further loan payments of the Troika to Greece and, of course, to "freeze" any flow of money from the EU to Greece (such as the National Strategic Reference Framework, NSRF, the promises of funding of "major development projects", etc.), since the European capitalists will not finance a government that legislates against their interests.
Such a reaction would give an impetus for a Left government to default on "debt" repayments and would raise the issue, sooner or later, of a new national currency. Therefore, the deepening recession and the international and European capitalist crisis will drive Greece out of the Euro and this will be accelerated by political considerations. This will be dictated by the need to attack the Left in Greece and internationally and blame it as being responsible for a return to a local currency and for the approaching economic catastrophe.
The Greek ruling class and foreign big businesses operating in Greece will engage in an escalating economic sabotage if the leadership of SYRIZA insists on its key election commitments. Large foreign and Greek companies will suspend their operations. They will attempt to smuggle large amounts of capital out of the country. Any attempt by the government of the Left – as announced – to control the banking system will be fought, probably with a big and sudden withdrawal of large deposits. The recession will deepen sharply and government revenues would collapse. A layer of corrupt senior civil servants will sabotage the attempts to apply the "public administration reform", demonstrating that the bourgeois state apparatus, such as police, army, courts, the bureaucracy cannot be converted into its opposite.
However, the Greek ruling class would not stop here. As long as the media are left by the government of the Left in the hands of the private sector, these will create a climate of hysteria and terror against the Left and SYRIZA. Meanwhile, the "hardcore" of the state, the army and police, will start to stage anti-government conspiracies and provocations of all kinds. In these conditions the role of the "Golden Dawn" and other paramilitary fascist groups in these circumstances, is particularly useful for the ruling class. These parastatal gangs will unleash a powerful wave of violence against immigrants in order to create an atmosphere of racial hatred and engage in individual acts of terror against activists of the Left and the Labour Movement.
All this in fact reveals that the coming into office of a left-wing government will be perceived by the ruling class as a high risk revolutionary development, even if the publicly stated intentions of the leadership of SYRIZA are not really revolutionary. How should a government of the Left deal with this expected furious counterattack of bourgeois reaction?
Political passivity and submissiveness, and any illusions in the ability of the capitalist predators to respect democratic legitimacy and in its armed defenders, would be disastrous for the government of the Left. It could only lead to tiring out and frustrating the masses gathered around SYRIZA and this would pave the way for a political offensive of the ruling class to crush the Labour Movement and the Left.
The Greek ruling class historically has shown that when their power is threatened they can become extremely violent. If the government of the Left fails to take power out of their hands by putting control in the hands of the organised working class, then in the following period the country would inevitably be pushed in an authoritarian direction and towards openly Bonapartist regimes. Instead of going down this dangerous and doomed-to-fail path of "gradual reform" of this rotten capitalism and the state which serves it, a government of the Left would have the duty to become a revolutionary government!
In the current circumstances, this means that the first government of the Left would have to call on the people to mobilise and organise in every neighbourhood and workplace, to fight against the inevitable, multifaceted sabotage of the ruling class. They would have to issue an appeal to call meetings in every neighbourhood and workplace, to elect committees of coordinated struggle in the cities and on a national scale, and also create groups of self-defence against the violence of the uncontrolled hardcore of the state apparatus and the fascist parastatal gangs, also connected at city level and nationwide.
At the same time, SYRIZA should immediately be organised as a mass, unified party of the most advanced and most militant sections of the working class and youth. Through a system of internal democracy and the right of different tendencies to express themselves, the new party should discuss and decide on the appropriate political programme of the government and the right course of action to take, involving the broad working masses, to encourage them to actively participate in the exercise of power and the permanent control of a democratic government.
The government of the Left, and SYRIZA, will be under tremendous pressure to capitulate to the will of the troika. The best ally against these pressures is the solidarity of the European and international working class. With concerted and persistent appeals by the Left government, SYRIZA should seek the active mobilisation of workers and youth across Europe, aiming to defeat the multifaceted war of international capital against the working people of Greece.
Above all, the government of the Left should be equipped with an appropriate political and financial plan. We do not require any secret "plan B", to be applied, supposedly, if the – already doomed – attempt at renegotiation of the loan conditions fails. This would be a disastrous strategy that would lead the movement unprepared into the arena of bourgeois reaction. We need now an open, public plan that will convince the working people that it is worth fighting actively for its application.
The old minimum programme of reforms is dead. In today's deep historical crisis of capitalism, especially in the conditions of Greek capitalism, the weakest "link" of European capital, any attempt to implement even the most modest of reforms, such as a moratorium of the Memoranda, will cause, as already explained, a relentless war on the part of local and foreign capital.
The answer to this war can clearly be only one: the implementation of a plan for the earliest possible establishment of a centralised democratically planned economy with the nationalisations of the commanding heights of the economy, to replace rotten Greek capitalism. This is the only way to win back decent living conditions for workers and for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed to find work and dignity!
F) A one-way road to a democratically planned, nationalised economy
The purpose of a democratically planned, nationalised economy is to ensure decent jobs and living conditions for all workers. The "sacred free market", i.e. the unaccountability of big business at the expense of the broad masses of the working class and poor urban petty-bourgeois layers, has to be challenged in order to defend the millions of working people who are being pushed daily by capitalism to the limits of extreme poverty.
The Greek economy would thus operate on the basis of a coherent economic plan, with the active participation and the ongoing democratic control of the working masses, both in local economic questions and at national level. The private banks would be nationalised and integrated into one single central state bank – a source of funding of economic development. The large industrial enterprises in all sectors would be expropriated and transformed into social property. The large agricultural and livestock farms would also be expropriated, in order to plan agricultural and livestock production on the basis of meeting the food requirements of Greek society.
Centralised transport, infrastructure, telecommunications, energy, water and mineral wealth, would become social property. Foreign trade would become a monopoly of the state and would be used in harmony with social needs. By introducing a state monopoly of foreign trade, imports and exports would be based on the real social needs of society and would serve to develop the productive capacity of the economy.
Large retailers would be expropriated and replaced by a socialised distribution network, democratically controlled by the workers' consumer organisations. Education, Healthcare, Social Security, and Social Welfare would be socialised and any profiteering activity in these areas would be banned. Small businesses and self-employed workers would receive incentives for them to join together in bigger economic entities, based on a plan for the gradual assimilation of their units into the constantly developing socialised sector of the economy.
A planned, nationalised economy would put into practice what it is now socially necessary and vital but which has so far not been carried out because it is entirely unprofitable for the speculating capitalists who control the economy. It would include all the unemployed workers, reducing the working week for everyone as required to generate the necessary number of new jobs. The creative, productive potential of hundreds of thousands of workers condemned to standing idle by capitalism will be used and would lead to unprecedented growth of the economy within a few years.
Only the establishment of a planned, nationalised economy can eliminate the factors that lead to capitalist crises, namely the anarchy of production and production for private gain. With centralised planning it would be possible to undertake the necessary investment in social production. For the first time it would be possible not only to set up a coordinated plan to address the serious environmental problems created by the anarchic and ruthless profit motive of capitalism, but also to establish an economic development that respects the natural environment.
With the central planning of the economy, we would be able to create conditions for a better utilisation and faster development of technology, thus massively boosting labour productivity. The rise in productivity would enable us to further reduce working hours, which would result in more time for the workers to engage actively in the planning and running of the economy, to educate themselves, and also to have more time to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
A planned economy is not a utopian Marxist invention. The actual historical experience of the twentieth century has demonstrated its superiority compared with capitalism. It was a centrally planned economy that pulled the USSR, China, Eastern Europe and Cuba out of colonial and semi-colonial backwardness ensuring strong economic growth and a standard of living for their people that were not possible under capitalism. The most typical case is that of the USSR itself, where during the long period from the October Revolution until the mid 1960's, industrial production increased 52-fold, while in the same period in the US the increase was only 6 times and in Britain just two (Source: Ted Grant - Russia: from revolution to counter revolution, Well red Books).
However, at the same time we must also take into account the negative side of the historical experience of what were bureaucratically deformed workers' states. That experience demonstrated that a planned economy cannot function efficiently without the "oxygen" of workers' democracy. In order to build an economy based on the type and quantity of goods and services that society needs, and can absorb, the only way is for the working class, who have direct contact with production but also with consumption, to be in control.
A rapidly growing economy with large numbers of productive units, renders its running an increasingly complicated and complex task, and therefore this cannot be carried out by a small uncontrolled managerial elite. The inevitable result of such an attempt, as was the case in the bureaucratically deformed USSR and other Stalinist regimes of this type in the 20th century is mismanagement, corruption and low quality of the goods.
The truly unsurpassed revolutionary political tradition of the first years of the October revolution gave us a very clear view of how to operate a democratically planned economy, long before the development of the Soviet bureaucracy and Stalinism. The decision of the Conference of Russian Factory Committees in 1917, taking up the recommendation of the delegation of the Bolshevik Party, stated on this subject:
"...The economic life of the country – in agriculture and industry, trade and transport – must be subordinated to a plan that will be determined in order to meet the personal and financial needs of the masses of the people, which will be ratified by the elected representatives and will be under the guidance of these agents through their representatives through respective state and local government institutions implementing the plan.
"Part of the plan to place the agricultural economy under the control of the organisations of the peasantry and agricultural workers and the part related to businesses which use wage labour – in industry, commerce and transport – is drawn up under the workers' control, real members of which are within the company, the factory and the professional labour unions.
"The unification of factory committees of several companies should be established by sector to facilitate control of every branch of industry as a whole and for the coordination of the work with the general economic plan and the logical distribution of orders of materials, fuel, techniques and manpower as well as to facilitate joint action with the professional unions that are organised in production areas. The general councils of professional unions and factory committees, representing the proletariat in the state and local institutions in formulating and implementing the economic plan and the organisation of exchanges between the cities and the villages, have the higher leadership in the factory committees and the professional unions for workers' control in any given place and issue binding regulations of labour discipline in the process of production, approved by the General Assembly of the workers...". [From the collection of essays "Key Issues of the Labour Movement", Xekinima 1983]
A socialised planned economy is the basis for building a developed socialist society, which according to Marxism will lead to a society of overabundance, where most of the class antagonisms will have disappeared and with them the State will leave the historical stage as well. But historical experience has shown that it is unrealistic to believe that such a society can be built without the combination of the productive forces of many economically developed countries. A socialised planned economy cannot ensure sustained high growth and prosperity if confined within the borders of a single country.
Especially in a small and weak productive capitalist country like Greece, the best that a socialised, planned economy could achieve if confined within its national borders, would be to ensure a comfortable and dignified life for the toiling masses, without the exploitation and levels of inequality of capitalism. However, such social progress, particularly in the early stages of establishing the new economic model, would inevitably be combined with the emergence of shortages, not only of technological goods, machinery and accessories, but also of raw materials, fuels, and even some basics goods, such as medicines and medical material, including specific food items. This would be the case because of the large distortions the Greek economy would inherit from capitalism, and also because of the furious war local and foreign capital would unleash against the country.
Therefore, a revolutionary Greece would need the financial and technical assistance of more developed countries from day one. This means that the Greek workers must be committed to fighting with an internationalist perspective. The socialist revolution would have to expand as soon as possible to the international arena and lead to the establishment of socialised, planned economies across Europe. This is the only way in which Europe's workers would be able to offer sincere and multifaceted international assistance in order to Greece to cover the major productive failures of the economy.
This is a perfectly possible historical development rather than the utopia of "exporting" some revolutionary paradigm. The struggle for the overthrow of capitalism in an era of profound historical crisis cannot be confined to the borders of one country. Since the draconian austerity and the smashing of labour rights is the norm nowadays, international solidarity towards the revolutionary power of Greece would tend to ignite a struggle against capitalism in one country after another.
Across Europe the working class represents the vast majority of the population and has powerful organisations. Revolutionary Greece would not stay for long on its own. The United Socialist States of Europe, through the revolutionary struggle of the European working class can and should become the new reality that will replace the current barbaric, capitalist EU.
G) What will happen with the EU and the euro?
The bourgeois clique that runs the EU in accordance with the interests of the large banks and European multinational enterprises cannot afford to see a government of the Left cancelling the memoranda. Moreover, it cannot tolerate even the hint of a project of establishing a socialised, planned economy in Greece. The nature of such a programme conflicts with the structure of the EU, which is built according to the interests of European big business. It is in stark contrast with the spirit and letter of the founding acts, treaties, rules and formal agreements of the EU which defend capitalism and "free market". The expulsion of Greece from the euro and the EU should be considered as inevitable as part of the attempt of international capital to punish the Greek people and government of the Left.
To win this war with the reactionary coalition of European capital, the struggling working class of Greece must have an internationalist perspective. They should inscribe on the banner of their struggle the slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe. From the first moment in office, the government of the Left must shout this motto to the whole of Europe, mounting an active international campaign with all the means at its disposal.
Inevitably, the adoption of a new currency by the government of the Left, which would flow from the overthrow of Greek capitalism after expulsion from the Eurozone and the EU, would be accompanied by a tendency to discredit it in the international markets and place high inflationary pressures upon the country. However, a centralised and democratically planned economy – especially if we defeat the counterrevolutionary manoeuvres and at the same time the European and Balkan proletariat express practical solidarity towards revolutionary Greece, as they embark on their own revolutionary struggles – as already mentioned, is the guarantee that would provide a minimum of tolerable and humane living conditions for all workers. In adopting a new currency, however, it would be necessary to dispel any illusion of pursuing a road of "national isolationism". It would have to be accompanied by a clear call for the creation of a new and truly inclusive and equitable, socialist economic integration around a new euro, which would represent the power of a European-wide planned, socialised economy.
The road to prosperity and social justice, the socialist road, inevitably involves sacrifices. There was never in the history of humanity any progressive, revolutionary, social and political change that has taken place without sacrifices. But what is the other "choice" facing the workers? It is the path of passively accepting the growing capitalist barbarism, the endless sacrifice of millions of unemployed and poor, for the sake of the profits of a handful of capitalist parasites.
Today all the objective conditions exist such that the sacrifices for the victory of the socialist revolution can be rendered the least possible. The working class is the social majority in most countries of the world. It has powerful mass organisations and is much more educated than ever before. Modern communications are so highly developed that revolutionary currents – as seen mainly from the recent outbreak of the Arab revolution and the spread of the movement of the "indignant" – can be transferred from one corner of the globe to another, within a few hours. It would be sufficient to break one link in the international capitalist "chain" with the victory of the revolution in a country for the revolutionary spark to turn into a fire, which would spread rapidly around the globe.
Workers and youth of Greece, of every race and nationality, whether native or immigrant, let us unite in a common revolutionary struggle! Starting with the victory of SYRIZA and the election of a government of the Left, in this land where human civilization made some of its first big leaps, let us have the honour of lighting the first spark of revolution in Europe and turn it into a flame of progress which will eliminate the darkness of barbaric capitalism, the unquenchable flame of socialism!
H) Is the overthrow of capitalism possible today?
Is the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a democratically planned, socialized economy in Greece possible today? The political and professional representatives of the troika and the Greek ruling class disregard as "impractical" any programme that is directed against the interests of the bankers and other predatory capitalists. Any demand to break the shackles of wage slavery and of the huge army of unemployed, who are being forced to eat the leftovers of society, is dubbed as "populism" and "adventurism" by these good Christian gentlemen.
Under the pressure of bourgeois public opinion, the reformist leaders over time, particularly when they get closer to power, rush around trying to be “reasonable” in their programme. On the one hand they try to reassure the bourgeoisie that their fundamental interests, namely their control over the economy and the state, will not be affected and on the other, they tell the workers that a fundamental change in society is not yet feasible.
But what really is politically and socially feasible and what is not? A look at the developments taking place around us in the last two years, is enough to radically revise what one considers to be "feasible" and what not. Who would have considered a few years ago a possible bankruptcy of a country of the Eurozone and its call for help to the IMF? Who would have thought it possible that the minimum wage and collective bargaining agreements would have been repealed by a democratically elected government? Who would have believed it would be possible to carry out 18 general strikes in two short years? Who could have imagined PASOK and ND losing three million votes within two and a half years? Who could have imagined the current surge to power of SYRIZA, when just two and a half years ago it was on the verge of political marginalisation due to conflicts within the leadership without clear political principles? Who could have imagined a few years ago that it was possible in a country of the capitalist West to see the rise to government of a party of the communist movement?
What is possible in society and politics is not an abstract concept. It is linked to the objective, material factors that determine the social life and the outcome of the struggle carried on between the two basic classes of society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and their allies.
The establishment of a democratically planned, socialised economy which would pave the way for socialism throughout Europe is perfectly possible today, because the productive forces in Greece (labour, technical know-how, science, technology, etc.) are sufficiently developed to ensure a decent living for all working people. For example, the GDP of Greece, from 38.6 billion euro in 1990 rocketed to 244 billion euro in 2008. But the current deep crisis of capitalism which has already cut it back close to 200 billion euro, screams out that the developed productive forces are condemned to stagnation within the suffocating shackles of bourgeois property.
It would be impossible to overthrow capitalism if the force which has an interest in and can save the productive forces from capitalist decline did not exist in the Greek society. But this is not only real, it is powerful and objective. It is the working class of Greece, which based on official data from the ESYE (National Statistical Service) is the large majority in the society with 2.6 million employed workers and more than one million unemployed who in the last two years have joined together in common mass struggles. Beside them, we should add as objective, potential allies, about one million self-employed and about 200,000 employed in small family businesses.
Additionally, the working class in Greece now has an incomparably higher educational level than in the past and has strong mass organizations, which can impose their collective will on society. More favourable conditions than this economic and social reality for the beginning of the socialist transformation in Greece could not be imagined.
But is this vital question politically feasible? The political consciousness of the working masses through the experience of mass struggles against the measures of the Memoranda has been radicalised and has moved with unprecedented speed towards the left. In the 6th May elections, all three parties that emanate from the Greek communist movement [KKE, SYRIZA, Democratic Left] gathered a total percentage less than what the polls are now giving to SYRIZA alone. In particular, the huge popularity of SYRIZA amongst the working class, that is revealed by the very high rates of support gathered in the large cities, is an excellent indicator of the revolutionary political possibilities and prospects of this period.
Some decades ago, just the mere prospect of the rise of a party originating from the communist party movement getting into government would have already provoked a coup. Now the bourgeois reactionaries simply note the announcements of SYRIZA about the disbanding of the riot police without being able to do anything about in the short term, postponing the moment of their counter-revolutionary revenge for another more appropriate future moment. Finally, the bourgeois politicians, because of the deep crisis of their system, cannot give to their traditional political social base, the petty bourgeois, even the smallest of promise of a tolerable existence with minimum sacrifices.
All this demonstrates that with the rapid development of the political influence of SYRIZA and the increasing weakness of the bourgeois parties and leaders, compared to their old unchallenged political dominance, the necessary political preconditions for the overthrow of capitalism and the beginning of the socialist transformation in Greece are already present. SYRIZA has become a subjective factor that can make a great political, revolutionary, social change possible. The only thing that this leadership lacks – even as with the tremendous momentum of the masses it is already being pushed into the halls of power – is an adequate revolutionary programme. This, however, is anything but a minor issue. Instead, it is currently the most crucial question!
I) Ten points for a socialised, planned economy and workers’ power
The programme of a government of the Left is not a matter of mere literary interest. It is a matter of life or death for millions of current or prospective impoverished and unemployed workers – the future and present “customers” of the soup kitchens. As such, it should be democratically discussed and developed with the active participation of the most advanced sections of the working class and youth within the ranks of SYRIZA and in addition, it should be moulded and tested within the widest masses of workers to gain active support in implementing it once in power.
Unfortunately, the leadership of SYRIZA is moving erratically under the maelstrom of tremendous pressure from the Troika and the ruling class, and has pushed back this perspective and changed the programme of the Left government to a political plan imposed from above, prepared by "qualified personnel" within the four walls of the party offices. Without the creative input of thousands of SYRIZA activists in a democratic debate, without it being presented in the workplaces and neighbourhoods, the programme announced by the political leadership is inadequate to express the needs of this period.
It is obviously influenced by the pressures of bourgeois "public opinion" that is demanding greater "moderation" and less radicalism. It is abstract and pale in its main points. In political terms, it is not the required revolutionary programme, but a reformist programme, that is built on the dangerous illusion of the "gradual reform" of a sick capitalist economy and of the corrupt and authoritarian state which serves it.
The task of each left-wing person is to fight for this programme to be changed and revised to meet the truly revolutionary tasks of the period. The Marxists of Synaspismos and SYRIZA that produce the newspaper "Epanastasi" and the magazine "Marxistiki Foni” (www.marxismos.com), are contributing to this vital question. We propose a programme consisting of ten points which are able to open the way for the overthrow of capitalism in Greece and the establishment of a democratically planned, socialised economy and a new democratic power of the working people.
1) On the Debt and Memoranda
The impact of the global crisis of overproduction in Greek capitalism led to skyrocketing state debt. This rising debt appeared in all capitalist countries, as a common symptom of the capitalist crisis. The national debt soared worldwide, largely due to the concerted attempt of the bourgeois governments to rescue the banks with huge amounts of state funding. The position of Greek capitalism as the "weakest link" in the Eurozone, meant it was the first to move towards bankruptcy.
The paid ideological apologists of Greek capitalism attribute the massive government debt to the "civil servants" and the so-called "voter-customer" of a “party-political-led" state. But this is a distorted and false picture of reality. In a class society the state is not neutral. It is under the rule of the ruling class. All distortions of the modern Greek state reflect the historically shaped nature and culture of the Greek ruling class.
Even the enlargement of the civil service during the last forty years, ultimately served the need to ensure the stability of capitalism, given the historical reluctance of the Greek bourgeoisie to carry out serious investments that could create new productive jobs.
In fact, the spending on wages for the vast majority of civil servants, was the only part of the Greek taxpayers’ money that had some contributory effect on society. What created the monster of debt is to be found elsewhere.
It can be found in the parasitic economic role of the Greek ruling class. The Greek bourgeoisie became dependent over time on state money far more than the ruling classes in the rest of the developed capitalist world. They always saw the state as the main source of quick and easy enrichment through overpriced large contracts, direct government "investment" subsidies, tax exemptions and a tolerance towards tax evasion.
Also, a number of other parasitic costs reveal the class and vicious character of the bourgeois state, adding over time a large volume of government debt: the overblown wages and "bribery" of a whole army of senior state and government officials, consultants and directors; military expenditure and excessive overpricing and kickbacks to buy expensive equipment; the overall cost of maintaining an army built to deal with the "enemy within" and subordinate to the extravagant imperialist plans of NATO.; increased spending on security forces for the sake of maintaining a numerous and well equipped mechanism of repression of the struggles of working people; the salary costs of the clergy, the various forms of funding, and also a provocative series of tax breaks for the Church; all this created a trend towards increased government borrowing, which in most cases had an opaque and predatory character to the benefit of domestic and foreign banks. All this served to multiply the debt.
But let us give some more specific examples of the operation of the parasitic capitalists and the corrupt and wasteful bourgeois character of the Greek state. To rescue the so-called "problem" industries abandoned in the 1980s by the Greek industrialists offloading their losses onto the state, total government expenditure amounted to 1.3 trillion drachmas in 1990 when the total debt amounted to 11 trillion drachmas.
From early 1980 until today, taxation of the big companies gradually fell from 49% to 20%, a period of enormous profiteering for the Greek capitalists. The hugely overpriced public works for the 2004 Olympics cost the Greek government 20 billion euro. During the twenty years 1990-2010, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Greek government spent 21.4 billion dollars on arms imports. The "kickbacks" of the jailed former Defence Minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, were estimated at 300 million euro (source “Real”, 3/6/2012). The special parliamentary committee inquiry found that the loss of the Greek state from the illegal activities of the Siemens company in Greece exceeded two billion and the "kickbacks" provided were estimated at over 180 million.
The accumulation of all this, under the impact of the international recession, led the Greek state to the edge of bankruptcy and to the draconian Memoranda. However, to describe this giant monstrosity of debt as “public” is completely false. It was not created by the working class and the poor, but only by big business and the parasitic and corrupt state apparatus that was built to serve it.
With Greece in 2010 having to accept the famous "rescue" mechanism and by borrowing from the EU-ECB-IMF troika, what was rescued was not the people but the banks, who if Greece were to default would simply have gone under. With the introduction of the Memoranda they attempted to offload the heavy cost of debt repayment onto the backs of the poor working masses of Greece with an unprecedented savagery, and all this simply to slow down the movement of Greece towards bankruptcy, so as to avoid a chaotic default which would destabilise European and global capitalism.
The troika loans are now directed almost exclusively at banks and very few go to the day-to-day needs of the Greek state. Based on official data of the Ministry of Finance, the country's total funding from the troika is scheduled to reach almost 245 billion euro by the end of 2014. The amount disbursed until the 21/5/2012 totalled 147.6 billion euro. According to the revealing memo of the economist T. Papadopoulos on the website iskra.gr, of this money only 13 billion euro are covering primary needs of the state, while 75 billion euro cover interest and amortization and the remaining 59.5 billion are allocated to bondholders and to banks for their famous "recapitalization".
From now on, the scheduled loans of the troika will be directed solely to debt servicing, while at the same time charging the Greek state with extra interest. This is evidenced by the memorandum itself, which provides for a primary surplus in 2013, which means that state revenues and pension funds will be able to cover all expenses except debt repayments falling due and the annual interest.
The debt problem is enormous. The tiny haircut of debt carried out through the bond exchange programme is being cancelled out by the rapidly deepening recession. According to the April 2012 IMF report, the debt of the Greek state in 2014 will climb to 171% of GDP. Greece must pay over the next four years for the service of this debt a total of 95 billion euro. In other words, to serve the debt in the next four years, the Greeks must hand over the the tax revenues of approximately two years!
As long as this huge weight on the backs of the Greek people is maintained there is no chance of any real steps towards social progress. The basic task of the government of the Left is to free the working class and the poor from this ghastly burden of parasitic and predatory "obligations" that the bourgeois governments placed on their shoulders.
The Government of the Left should immediately take the following measures:
a) Cancel the debt of the Greek state, while:
Compensating the small bondholders according to their financial situation;
Ensuring adequate funding to Greek pension funds which hold bonds of the Greek state to avoid jeopardising their sustainability;
Promptly paying all debts of the state to the workers, the unemployed, pensioners, professionals and small business people and those associated with the basic operation of the services of Education, Health, Welfare and Social Security.
b) Immediate cancellation through a single Act of the loan agreements with the troika, the Memoranda and any measures imposed by them (tax hikes, wage cuts, pensions, benefits, privatisations, etc.).
These measures would relieve the country of about 13 billion euro that have been budgeted for this year in interest payments, but also from huge parasitic spending over the next several years. This would provide a huge relief for the next generations of working people.
However, as already explained, these measures would provoke the automatic termination of the troika loans, a generalised economic war against the government of the Left from local and foreign capital and the exit from the euro. This war, if not faced up to properly, would inevitably jeopardise the ability to pay for so-called "primary costs", i.e. the expenditure required for salaries, pensions and to run schools and hospitals, which come to a total of 47.7 billion euro in 2012.
Those various reformist analysts, who argue that these costs will be secured for the government of the Left, supposedly from taxation under the state budget, which is 52.2 billion euro, are very wrong. These estimates take into account the tax revenue calculated according to the Memoranda and do not take into account the collapse of revenue and an even deeper recession that will be caused by the war of the local and foreign capital against the new government. More than half of state revenues (28.6 billion euro in indirect taxation) are dependent on the highly volatile levels of consumption in conditions of recession
State revenues to cover essential social costs (wages, benefits, pensions, schools, hospitals), are far from assured. The only way to guarantee them is through the simultaneous implementation of these and other measures that we propose in this programme.
Taxation of profits and the wealth of the capitalists, the big rentiers and holders of large fortunes, is an important and direct means for the government of the Left to find quickly the funds required to meet the "primary costs", but also to begin to improve from the very first months in office the standard of living of the masses.
But even these measures in and of themselves are not sufficient. The bourgeoisie will proceed in a multifaceted economic sabotage (closures, flight of capital and deposits, etc.) to avoid fair and heavy taxation. The reduction of the terrible social inequalities and the financing of social needs can be achieved in a stable, safe and long lasting manner, only through the taking over of the wealth concentrated in the hands of the rich through the establishment of a socialised, democratically planned economy.
Greece has the lowest tax revenues of all the developed EU countries and can be compared only with the most underdeveloped countries in Eastern Europe. Tax immunity for big business and the rich are the cause of this situation. At the same time, this is one of the most decisive factors that have led to the indebtedness of the Greek state. This can be demonstrated by taking a quick look at the official statistics of "Eurostat" and the Finance Ministry.
The tax rate on corporate profits from 49% in 1989 fell to an insignificant 20% in 2010. Now New Democracy shamelessly proposes a further reduction in this tax rate to 15%. For example, between 2000 and 2007 there was a fall in revenue from taxing businesses from 4.1% to 2.6% of GDP at a time when corporate profits had taken off in Greece, becoming the highest in Europe.
Tax evasion by the rich is more than provocative. According to official data of the Ministry of Finance tax returns for those with incomes over 95,000 euro barely reached 35,000 or 0.6% of all tax returns, while those with incomes over 300,000 euro were only 1395 in all.
According to the "Global Tax Justice Network", Greek-owned “off-shore” companies surpass the 10,000 mark and hold about 500 billion euro. The powerful Greek ship owning industry in March 2012 had a stock of 3,760 ships, i.e. 15% of world tonnage, but for reasons of tax avoidance, only 862 of them carried the Greek flag (Kathimerini, 15/04/2012). And during this whole period there have been introduced 58 different tax cuts for the Greek ship owners.
On the other hand, Greece has one of the highest levels of indirect taxation – weighing mainly on the workers and the poor. Indirect taxes represent over 60% of overall tax revenue, while the average of the Eurozone is only 36.2%. In contrast, revenues from direct taxation in Greece as a percentage of GDP are about half of the respective figure in the EU.
While thousands of workers, in the name of the crisis, pay one "tax-hike" after another, the Greek capitalists and high-income earners react very "patriotically". They have smuggled large deposits abroad and have started investing in real estate in cities like London. According to reports by the German magazine Der Spiegel, the amount of deposits by Greeks in Switzerland reached the astronomical level of 600 billion euro. This is more than three times the amount of private deposits in Greek banks, and almost three times the GDP of the country. Finally, according to the British authorities, the number of Greeks seeking homes in the British capital has tripled in the last two years. The properties acquired by Greeks in London are worth more than one billion euro.
The question of all this huge wealth must be addressed by the government of the Left as it is wealth that comes from the brutal exploitation of and blatant thievery against the working people of Greece. The government of the Left should take all necessary steps to return the largest possible amount of this wealth to Greece and its people.
The most urgent tax measures that should be taken by the government of the Left are the following:
a) In order to reclaim what has been stolen from the Greek people through tax immunity and tax evasion of big business and big property owners, a necessary method of retroactive taxation needs to be put in place. According to Article 78 of the Constitution, retroactive imposition of tax is prohibited. However, one also has to quote fundamental articles of the Constitution, such as Article 4, which states that "Greek citizens contribute to public costs according to their wealth".
So, specifically in order to find an amount equal to the primary deficit resulting from the abolition of the tax burden according to the Memorandum (tax increases, reductions in tax-free income, etc.) the following should be imposed:
- A single extraordinary retroactive tax on the total volume of profits of the 200 major active companies in the country, from the date of entry in the Eurozone to the beginning of the recession (2001-2008).
- Extraordinary, retroactive taxation on those who in the same period acquired a large property.
b) Restore the tax rate of big business to 45% and abolish any tax relief for large enterprises.
c) Imposition of a progressive income tax rate from 40% to 75% on incomes of 40,000 euro or more per year.
d) Imposition of a tiered rate of property tax on homeowners with a value of Â €400,000 and above, as well as properties that appear to belong to “off-shore” companies on a level which will be decided annually on the basis of the needs of the state housing construction programme.
e) Abolition of indirect taxes (VAT, excise tax, etc.) on basic foodstuffs, household energy bills, water and telecommunications, and heating fuels.
f) Increase the tax-free threshold to 40,000 euro for each couple, plus an additional 5,000 euro for each child.
g) When tax evasion is disclosed:
-Large companies should be expropriated without compensation.
- Those with high incomes and large property owners should be charged with full confiscation of their assets.
- For other categories of taxpayers penalties must be imposed ranging from heavy fines to confiscation of assets, depending on their financial situation.
h) It is unrealistic to believe that widespread tax evasion, fraud and other manoeuvres of capital can be dealt with purely through the "political will" of the Left Government. Also, no practical step will be achieved by trying to persuade the corrupt tax officials to "work properly".
The government of the Left needs immediately to introduce workers' control. In every large company a thorough management audit by elected committees of workers should be carried out, with the help of dedicated specialists in the labour movement. These committees should have access to a single central computerised system for recording and cross checking elements, which requires the immediate creation of a “wealth” database.
3) Workers’ control
Tax evasion, social security payments evasion, fraud and other big business scandals, which are allowed to take place in perfect harmony with the bourgeois technocratic experts in deception, the high-ranking bourgeois politicians and senior officials of the state apparatus, must be immediately exposed and targeted by the government of the Left.
The existing "audit" mechanisms of the bourgeois state are operating in a bureaucratic, opaque and unaccountable manner in order to protect the "secrets" of the large industrial and commercial enterprises. The financial accounts of the capitalists are kept legally secret. The owners of the social means of production are allowed undisturbed to hide from the consumers the machinations of exploitation, robbery and fraud.
The government of the Left should give the workers directly the right to reach this "inner sanctum" of the companies they work for in order to reveal any "secrets" of these firms, groups, industries and ultimately the national economy as a whole. The means by which this vital task can be carried is workers' control.
The government should take the following measures on this crucial question:
a) Elimination of "trade secrets" and "banking secrecy" through which the capitalists conceal their fraud and greed, not from their competitors, but from society itself.
b) Workers’ control should be introduced in all major businesses. Workers' control committees should be the elected with the right of recall, and these should be backed up by dedicated specialists within the labour movement and by scientists, but as advisers, not as "technocrats".
c) Workers' control must extend to all the decisive levels of operation of the company, such as the procurement of materials and raw materials, the managing money (Loans, Investments, Profit), processing products (Design and Production), to prevent overcharging and under-pricing.
d) Workers' control can give significant results in eliminating the scourge of capitalist levels of pricing. While the standard of living of the working class is falling sharply, prices remain unchanged as a result of the strict control of key sectors of the economy in the hands of the monopolies and oligopolies.
The corrupt, bureaucratic and unaccountable bodies of the bourgeois state cannot set an effective control on prices. It is crucial for the workers to have access to the source of this price fixing, i.e. the large industrial monopolies, to be able to expose capitalist speculation. Thus, workers' control should be the basic method of price control.
Substantial price controls over the cartels can only be guaranteed by elected committees of workers in the factories, coupled with special price control committees made up of all those who suffer the effects of this price fixing as consumers, i.e. the workers, peasants, artisans and small shopkeepers. In this way, the workers would be able to demonstrate to the other poor layers that the real reason for high prices is to be found in the excessive profits of the capitalists and the wastefulness of capitalist anarchy (such as advertising, and so on).
e) To be effective, workers' control panels must extend from the individual firm across the industry and to national level. The committees of individual companies should elect delegates to a group committee during the course of a conference and finally to form a nationwide workers' control committee. The nationwide committee must inform the people of its findings, outlining the income and expenses of society, and the share of national income appropriated by the capitalists as individuals and as a class. Such a committee must expose the fraud of the banks and large capitalist groups and present its findings in public, which should be binding for the government of the Left.
The implementation of genuine and democratic workers' control would inevitably reveal the role of parasitic capitalists, helping thus the broad masses to understand the need for another economic model, based on conscious planning and control of the economy. Also, genuine workers' control is the most valuable means of training workers in how to manage a democratically planned, socialised economy.
4) Workers’ and other people’s wages – Industrial relations – Living standards
At a time that bankers’ interests are provocatively being safeguarded, the working class is struggling to survive in unprecedented and insufferable conditions. According to a report prepared by the Greek Work Inspectors’ Board, during the first two months of 2012 there were salary reductions of 55%. In addition, only 1 in 10 employers were paying their workers properly, with 400,000 workers having not received any pay for up to five months. According to the same source, 1 in 3 workers are not covered by social and medical insurance, whilst many full-time contracts are rapidly being converted to part-time contracts or to reduced hours contracts. The proportion of part-time contracts rose to 30.65% in 2011, compared to 16.7% back in 2009. The proportion of reduced hours contracts rose from 4.3% in 2009 to 8.95% in 2011.
Official data from the Greek Statistics’ Service indicate that more than 2 million people live below the poverty line on fewer than 6,800 Euros annually. Other studies, such as that from 2011 by ‘Focus Bari’, indicate that 46% of the population of Greece are cutting down on food purchases, 69% have stopped buying clothing, 41% cannot afford to go on holidays, and more than 1 million forego heating their homes as they cannot afford it. In total, 3.5 million people are unable to deal with any sudden urgent spending that may arise such as medical costs and so on.
In such inhuman conditions, the mental and physical health of the population of Greece is being severely undermined. Suicides are becoming endemic. Murders have increased two-fold, and HIV infections and the use of heroin have increased by 20%. For the first time, schools have handed out photocopies rather than school books to students, whilst most hospitals have run out of essentials.
A cancelling of the measures that have been taken according to the Memorandum would surely be a significant step in the right direction. However, it wouldn’t definitively improve the situation. Although such a cancelling of the measures contained in the Memorandum would allow for an improvement in industrial relations and halt the decline in living standards, the majority of the people would still fall far short by a long way from securing a decent livelihood.
Even before the dramatic reductions brought about by the second Memorandum, the purchasing power of the lowest salaries had returned to 1984 levels (!) according to the Institute of Employment of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (INE–GSEE).
Between 1998 and 2007, the Greek State made available 3,530 Euros per capita for social security purposes whilst the Eurozone average was 6,251.78 Euros. However, during this period the profits of the capitalists skyrocketed. Based on the statistical data of ‘ICAP’ and of ‘Rizospastis’ ["The Radical", the newspaper of the Greek Communist Party] (10/10/2004 to 24/02/2010) between 1990 and 2007, profits increased 28-fold given that profits stood at 575 million Euros in 1990 and at 16 billion Euros in 2007.
On the decisive issue of rectifying the devastating fall in living standards of the working class and of the poorer layers of society, a Left government ought immediately to apply the following measures:
a. Abolition of all types of ‘flexible’ working relations. Employment with full rights and with a consistent number of hours to be set by a national committee under workers’ control;
b. The total legalisation of immigrant workers, and the provision of rights to them equal to those of nationals;
c. The criminalisation of the evasion of social security contributions on the part of employers. Expropriation without compensation of sizeable enterprises that fail to observe the proposed employment legislation, or that do not pay their social security contributions. Heavy penalties and the taking over of property for corresponding offences by small and medium-sized enterprises;
d. The setting-up of a Unitary/Common Employee Insurance Fund that would guarantee the provision of a decent pension and total medical cover for all workers. It should be bilaterally funded from the State and from employers. The fund’s management should be elected from workers’ representatives;
e. Abolition of private education, private health and private insurance. The appalling conditions of public hospitals, which threaten the lives of thousands of poor people, call for the taking of drastic measures to combat this. This means that we should expropriate all the large enterprises that offer health services whilst compensating only small share-holders and the like;
f. Public and private sector salaries, pensions, and allowances, should, initially, be increased to a level necessary so that all workers, retired people, and all other people who rely on state allowances, are guaranteed a decent standard of living, and this standard is to be established by a national committee under workers’ control;
g. Automatic adjustment of new salaries, pensions, and allowances so that their value reflects fluctuations in the prices of essential consumer goods for a working family and that prices are to be set by a national committee under workers’ control;
h. The immediate funding for urgent gaps in health, education, and social security expenditure in accordance with a specific, evidence-based and cost-assessed study on the part of workers’ representatives from those sectors elected by their peers in those sectors;
i. It is of the utmost importance to search for and secure the funds to finance the application of a programme of measures that would radically transform the increasing inequality and devastation of the standard of living of the masses. A heavy taxation of wealth and capital is necessary, but that will not be sufficient. What is necessary is a total and immediately applicable programme that sets up a socialised planned economy with measures that are to be developed in the interim whilst the programme is being rolled out. However, it will take a certain amount of time for these socialisation measures to be translated into revenue and into rises in the living standards of the masses. It is therefore necessary simultaneously to apply a whole raft of measures that will have immediate results in order to finance the programme of rectifying the devastated living standards of the working class and of the poorer layers of society. These immediate measures should be:
- The reduction of the salary of all high-level public sector officials – including those in the army, security services, and judiciary, public office holders, members of the government, the President of the Republic, members of parliament, and of mayoral office holders – to the level of that of a skilled worker. The savings that accrue from this measure should be transferred towards increases in the salaries of ordinary public sector workers. All privileges enjoyed by high-level public sector officials and public office holders should be abolished.
- Until the economy begins to grow, there should be the suspension of all military expenditure (notwithstanding the payment of personnel according to the point made above) other than expenditure that is considered absolutely necessary according to an elected committee including representatives of the government, the rank-and-file military personnel, and of the national committee under workers’ control.
- Total nationalisation of the property of those who are responsible for scandals involving corruption and the squandering of public wealth. Property held by the Church should be expropriated and put to good use. Revenues flowing from this measure should be immediately channelled into health, education and social security. The Church has within it 10,000 organisations which between them hold 1,300,000,000m2 of land, 900 buildings which it lets out and for which it receives rent. The Church also receives funds from EU programmes and from the Greek National Lottery Fund. It also has significant deposits in funds and shares in Greek banks. In a report published in the ‘Kathimerini’ newspaper on 18/10/2009, it was estimated that the value of Church property was around 15 billion Euros. This figure, however, neither includes the 2,500 churches and monasteries nor the property that belongs to these!
- There should be total separation of State and Church. The current status of clerics as part of the public sector should be abolished. They should be supported via various social programmes on condition that they provide socially-useful work up to and until they find other employment or are maintained by the private contributions of believers.
- Expropriation of all profitable enterprises in which the State has a stake, however small (NB mainly those that were formerly State-owned). Compensation to be offered only to those who may suffer from such an expropriation such as those on low earnings or with a small number of shares. The total deficit of the hospitals is around 1.58 billion Euros; this deficit could easily be wiped out when we consider that the net profit of the Greek National Lottery Fund in 2011 was 537.5 million Euros, and the net profit during the first quarter of 2012 alone of the formerly State-owned telecommunications company (OTE) was 306.6 million Euros.
Unemployment is the greatest scourge for millions of workers. Social breakdown caused by the profound crisis of Greek capitalism is reflected in the rapidly increasing rise in unemployment. According to the most recent data of the Institute of Employment of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (hereinafter IoE), the total number of unemployed people is around 1,200,000 or about 23-24% of the workforce. Based on projections, the December 2012 figure is likely to be 28%!
According to the IoE estimates, an additional 5% ought to be included in this figure, given that there are unregistered unemployed people. The situation is far worse for those between the ages of 18 to 24 where unemployment stands at 50%. This is far from ‘temporary’ given that IoE estimates refer to the existence of 1,100,000 unemployed even during the time of the projected recovery of the Greek economy which the Memoranda consider to be around 2015.
Clearly, unemployment is far from temporary. It is permanent. What this means is that hundreds of thousands of people are facing the prospect of dying through starvation, shortages and illnesses in a country with a modern economy and with formal democratic institutions that are supposed to guarantee constitutionally the right to work.
The overwhelming majority of those devastated by unemployment are turning electorally to supporting SYRIZA and have one fundamental expectation from a Left government: a job, a position in life itself! A Left government will have to meet the expectations placed in it from the support and endorsement it gets from thousands of people, people that are dismissed by the Troika and by the Greek bourgeoisie as “losers” to be sacrificed in the name of profit.
It is not acceptable therefore for a Left government programme to omit the basic guarantee of a human and decent position of employment for every unemployed person!In relation to the issue of unemployment, there can be no ‘gradual’ reform. The only truly progressive class in society is in risk of annihilation! The time has come to bring into effect the historical demand of the workers’ movement for a sliding scale of working hours; that is to say, the reduction of working hours in order that all shall be employed.
Naturally, the cheerleaders and apologists of the ruling class will be decrying this as ‘unfeasible’. Those not affected by the crisis, the Greek capitalists, will undoubtedly be complaining that they cannot afford to hire more people. A Left government, to the extent that it is truly revolutionary and an authentic defender of the interests of the working class, will have face up to the inability of capitalism to secure the existence of its very own salaried vassals. It should also take this as living proof as to why such a government – supported by the organised working class – should take measures that would crush capitalism.
A Left government, therefore, should take the following measures to eradicate the scourge of unemployment:
a. In collaboration with the unions and the national committee under workers’ control, to link those in employment with the unemployed in an unbreakable relationship of solidarity. The government, unions, and national committee should jointly map and develop an inventory of all existing jobs, of all available workers according to industry/sector, and of enterprises that have closed since the outbreak of the crisis, and all resources in order to immediately develop a programme of socially useful public works.
b. The purpose of such a national ‘census’ of the workforce, number of jobs, levels of unemployment, and available resources, is to redistribute the available workforce to all active positions of employment, to all those jobs which will be created from a programme of socially useful public works, and to all those jobs which will appear once the enterprises that had shut are re-opened. The working hours will have to be reduced across the board to the extent necessary in order for all to be in employment. Salaries will not be affected by the fluctuating amount of working hours (given that salaries are to be based on what is to be considered a sufficient amount to secure a decent and human livelihood, and given that they are to fluctuate to meet the price increases of essential goods). Large-sized private enterprises that resort to laying off staff or that seek to defy the national plan of hiring and the sliding scale of working hours will have to be expropriated without compensation;
c. The government should encourage workers, on the basis of an appropriate new legal framework, to take over large enterprises that close down, and to operate these themselves, taking over the management and administration of these enterprises aided by specialist and scientific advisers. The government would have to immediately put together a time-line according to which these enterprises are to be socialised and linked to other socialised organisations as per each sector of production/economy;
d. Workers who lose their jobs due to the closure of a small enterprise should be added to a priority list for work that becomes available in relation to the programme of socially useful public works;
e. Workers who lose their jobs due to the closure of a medium sized enterprise should receive support (such as cheap credit, placement of orders and so on) in order that they can collectively operate those businesses whilst they are also encouraged through publicly funded incentives for these to join up with other similar businesses and come under State direction and control;
f. Until the successful conclusion of the national plan of getting all the unemployed into jobs, an unemployment allowance set at around 80% of the basic salary should be made available to all unemployed people irrespective of the amount of years of active employment and for the entire duration of their term of unemployment. This benefit would be on condition that the recipients make themselves available for any socially useful work, should the need arise, on fewer hours than those for which the sliding scale of working hours would provide.
The above measures are the only ones capable of guaranteeing a decisive response to the scourge of unemployment. By their very nature they amount to practical steps in the direction of establishing a centrally planned, socialised economy. The only stable and definitive solution to the scourge of unemployment, however, lies in the total establishment of such an economy, which, in turn, would lead to the socialist transformation of society.
6. Socialisation of the banking system
Banks are at the epicentre of the crisis of capitalism globally. Firstly, this reflects the pivotal role of the banks in contemporary capitalist economies. With the development of monopolies during the imperialist era, at the dawn of the last century, the great banks did not restrict themselves to lending; they penetrated into industry and fused with industrial capital, thus forming a new financial oligarchy. In this manner, they progressively accumulated effective control over the economy.
During the previous period of development, bankers handled that power over the economy in an extremely irresponsible manner. Taking advantage of low interest rates in relation to borrowing, interest rates that had been set to artificially extend the period of development, they engaged in an orgy of issuing and trading profitable derivatives, thus gambling on fictitious values. Having embarked on vast profiteering ventures, with the outbreak of the recession banks were threatened by the domino-effect of bankruptcies. However, the cost of their decisions wasn’t passed on to the omnipotent bankers. They presented the bill to taxpaying workers, thus creating a ballooning of the national debt whilst they continued profiteering, which, as the recent example of the collapse of Spanish banks demonstrates, continues to threaten the global economy.
Greek private banks took that general, provocative, and parasitic journey, albeit in a different manner. Although they did not entangle themselves in what were generally risk-exposed profitable derivatives, they extensively profiteered from the national debt and from their domestic clients. Since 2001, when Greece entered the Eurozone, banks provocatively profited to the detriment of their clients and of the Greek state. They borrowed at rates near to the Eurozone average of close to 1%, but lent to the Greek state at exorbitant rates and to their clients at rates in excess of 3%. During that period, the average taxation levied on these banks was just about 17%. All this made their profits sky rocket, so that between 2000 and 2009 they amounted to a total of 41 billion Euros.
Their greed led to almost 30% of Greek national debt being owed to them so that they continued to take advantage of the high lending rates they charged the State. When the crisis deepened, leading to the drastic reduction in the value of state-issued bonds, minor bond-holders were forced to bear losses and accept the cost of the investment risk that materialised. Bankers, however, bore no loss. What’s more, in order for them to consent to the ‘haircut” of the nominal value of the bonds by 53%, they received as compensation 48 billion Euros, which once again the Greek State had to borrow from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), thus increasing its national debt and becoming further burdened by interest. And all that happened so that bankers did not have to dip their hands into their own coffers to support their own businesses neither from the exorbitant profits they accumulated between 2001 and 2009, nor from their enormous capital deposits of 430 billion Euros that they continue to hold during the crisis. And whilst the massively indebted Greek state has supported large banks to a level of about 1000% of their value, and has been recapitalising them, it has had no say or vote in how they are managed!
In order for a Left government to survive the relentless economic war that the Troika and the Greek bourgeoisie would inevitably declare against it, it would have to definitively sever the ‘Gordian knot’ of parasitism and fraud caused by domestic banks. Given the strategic importance of the banking sector to the economic welfare of the state, a Left government would have to prise it away from the plundering hands of capital which already handles 165 billion Euros of savings deposits. This can only become a reality by:
a. Socialisation of the banking sector. This means that all banks must entirely become State property, without compensation save for small share-holders/small depositors, and be merged into a Central State Bank. By founding this bank, what is founded is a central body from which to rationally plan investment and the availability of credit in the interests of working people. It’s an indispensible tool in the planning of the entire economy;
b. Bourgeois propaganda would attempt to equate any future socialisation of the banks to a situation in which the parties ‘continue’ to run the economy in their own selfish interests and to present any future bank governors appointed by a Left government to be the continuation of the non-transparent “crony” state that is “getting in the way of supplying credit to the public”. Clearly, this is a smokescreen on the part of the bourgeoisie which made use of the most negative aspects of the corrupt and bureaucratic management of the Greek banks during the 1980s in order to slander the notion of socialisation. However, that model had nothing to do with socialisation. True socialisation requires that it be instituted in a government system where there is proper democratic control and in which the workers participate. The composition of the management of the banking system should be: 1/3rd elected representatives of bank workers; 1/3rd representatives from trade unions and from the national committee of workers’ control; and 1/3rd representatives from the elected government;
c. Socialisation is the only way for a Left government to guarantee the deposits and savings of the working class and of the poorer layers of society, and to salvage them from being held hostage by the unscrupulous vultures of capital. That is the only solution to secure the provision of urgently needed affordable credit to workers, small entrepreneurs, small landholders, and households that are in need of credit. A Central State Bank would be able to provide more favourable terms for smaller depositors than private banks. Eliminating the scope for huge profits to accrue to capitalists and for the unreasonable bonuses to bankers would make it possible to reduce the interest rates to a level to cover the necessary overheads of running the banking system;
d. A Central national bank would have to immediately apply a “haircut” to the debt of the working class and of the poorer layers of society to a level that is equal to their losses since the outbreak of the crisis. The socialisation of the banking system, which at present governs the entire economy, is objectively the first step towards the establishment of a socialised, planned economy, and is inseparable from the socialisation of other key commanding heights of the economy.
7) The socialisation of the commanding heights of the economy, and the central and democratic planning of the economy
The formation of a Left government would be an historical event. For the first time, modern generations of the working class would be witnessing the formation of a government that would be publicly announcing that it seeks to transform society in their interests. However, in practical terms, this would only be an initial step towards the effective taking over of power.
The government would occupy the ministerial positions, but the real power would continue to lie in the hands of the bourgeoisie and of foreign imperialist patrons so long as they retain control of the economic sphere. If a government does not confront those interests head on by applying a programme of measures that overhaul the private ownership of the means of producing wealth, there can be no truly socially progressive step forward.
At present, the leadership of SYRIZA, undoubtedly, has no such programme in mind. Its publicly presented intention is to move ‘cautiously’, ‘gradually’, and ‘within the parameters of what is feasible’, in the belief that this would make it more useful to the working class, and to avoid any ‘premature aggravation’ of the ruling class were it to adopt ‘extreme’ revolutionary economic policies. We are duty-bound to point out that this is a grave error on the part of the leadership! If its economic policies are not to be revolutionary, then what it, along with the majority of society, would surely come to experience is the backlash of the counterrevolution, through a relentless economic war that would multiply the number of the poor and unemployed.
This is why every militant in the workers’ movement and supporter of a Left government must fight for the adoption and application of a programme that establishes social control over the fundamental levers of the economy. The most fitting term that captures the essence of that economic process is the term ‘socialisation’.
In light of the crisis, bourgeois governments globally have nationalised, and will continue to nationalise, large loss-making enterprises, mainly, in the banking sector. Such nationalisations have nothing in common with the socialisation called for by Marxists. The intention of bourgeois governments is to transfer the losses of capitalists to working taxpayers until such a point is reached where they can then privatise profit-making enterprises back into capitalist hands – to the hands themselves that had led these enterprises to financial ruin.
Such nationalisations, although they can serve temporarily to save jobs, in the long term they are essentially of no benefit to the working class. In the final analysis, they are nationalisations in the interests of the ruling class and of their system. In spite of all this, nationalisations undertaken by bourgeois governments are further proof of how redundant the bourgeoisie has become to the production process, given that all managerial functions in these nationalised companies are carried out by salaried public sector employees.
Socialisation, as we understand it, stands diagonally opposed to such misleading bourgeois nationalisations. Socialisation brings about a radical, not cosmetic, change to the property status and function of a large enterprise. It is part of the application of a wider programme of measures that aims at the socialist transformation of the economy, placing the working class itself at the helm of these enterprises and of the entire state, thus attempting to ensure that they function for the benefit of society as a whole. Socialised enterprises, freed from the fetters of private ownership, could contribute to rapid economic progress and to a great increase in the productivity of labour.
In times of economic boom, the reformist leaders have traditionally argued against Marxists that a general programme of socialisation is not feasible given that ‘the capitalist impasse is not of sufficient magnitude’. Now that this, however, is clearly the case, the reformists will inevitably say that the so-called ‘immaturity’ of the working class is a barrier to possible socialisation. The most militant and revolutionary workers understand that such words are not based on prudence but reveal the cowardice and the ineptitude of the leadership in assuming their political responsibility of taking on the bourgeoisie.
In order to debunk the sensationalist bourgeois propaganda that it is the intention of communists to abolish ‘all private ownership’ and to stifle all ‘private initiative’, we make very clear that when we refer to socialisation we do not propose that the totality of enterprises be socialised. We do not propose that every corner shop and workshop comes into public hands. That would essentially amount to purposeless adventurism.
We fight for the socialisation of big business – of the commanding heights of the national economy, that is to say of those who play a monopolistic or dominant role in the various sectors of the economy; of those in the field of trade, services provision and manufacturing, who, given the high levels of concentration, lend themselves more easily to the process of socialisation. In reality, such enterprises are numerically very few when compared to the totality of private enterprises.
Their socialisation would also mean the survival of hundreds of thousands of small enterprises that are at present struggling to survive on the unequal playing field that the monopolies have created. We must emphasise again that there is no need to expropriate small-holders and small enterprises. That class would progressively gravitate towards the new socialised model after witnessing the superiority of the living example of a socialised planned economy.
Socialisation means the proper democratic management of enterprises by the workers themselves. Workers are much more interested in these enterprises than are their owners. Capitalists subject the viability of an enterprise to the insatiable urge for private profit. The democratic control by workers over how an enterprise is to be managed would limit the scope for bureaucracy, wastefulness, mismanagement, and corruption that is endemic in how private and public enterprises function under capitalism.
However, the issue of socialisation cannot be addressed simply by making changes to the legal title in relation to the ownership of these enterprises; there is a more profound content to socialisation. What must be emphatically stressed is that there can be no genuine socialisation without workers’ control and management; workers’ control is the fundamental condition to prepare and realise a programme of socialisation, whilst workers’ management is the necessary foundation upon which socialised enterprises can function.
The experiences of the PASOK governments during the 1980s, and of the post-war social-democratic governments across Western Europe, indicate that the managing boards of state enterprises and organisations should not be made up of permanent, appointed, high-salaried technocrats who are unaccountable to the workers. Such management arrangements are incapable of responsibly serving social needs, given that they tend to subvert the organisations in their charge to capitalist methods of production for their own ends. This dynamic does not change even when worker representatives have been marginally included in the configuration of such management boards.
The contention that workers lack the knowledge to manage enterprises is incorrect. Capitalists possess entire teams of employees and specialists that manage these on their behalf. Equally, workers, through their own democratic channels, would collaborate with experts loyal to the socialist cause, who they could control democratically, thus ensuring a quality of life free from the stresses of unemployment, and from the inhuman industrial relations under capitalism. Within such a framework, workers would be taking decisions whilst taking into account the opinions of ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’. Those who would be running these enterprises, however, would be workers and not ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’.
The example of the bureaucratically deformed workers’ states of the 20th century has shown that it is impossible for a team of ‘specialists’ to run top-down every sector of an economy. It is only workers themselves – producers and consumers involved at every stage of economic activity and of production – that are able to plan, run, and develop the economy for the benefit of society.
Upon taking power, a Left government would have to immediately apply a comprehensive programme of socialisation that includes:
a. The creation of a national committee for socialisation and for the planning of the economy, the composition of which should be 1/3rd elected and revocable representatives from the national committee of workers’ control, 1/3rd from the trade unions and other mass organisations of the working population (small-holders, small enterprise owners, and farmers), and 1/3rd from government representatives. At the disposal of this committee there would be a team of experts and scientific advisers committed to socialism and whose role it would be to effect the democratic planning of the economy.
b. The immediate socialisation and inclusion into integrated socialised clusters according to sector, of all: existing state enterprises; large-scale enterprises that would be expropriated due to their refusal to apply the new national plan to draw the unemployed into production, the new employment legislation, and the new remuneration policies; and of all large-scale private enterprises that had shut after the outbreak of the crisis or that are about to shut due to bourgeois sabotage through an economic war against the government.
c. The development by the national committee for socialisation and planning of a specific timeframe – for instance, over a six-month or, at most, over a twelve-month period – for socialising all large-scale enterprises per sector according to their objective importance in relation to the national economy and to their sector, their share of total credit, profit, export share, their influence on price-setting, their share of employment, and, generally, in relation to their impact on the social and economic national landscape. There should be particular focus on the 500 largest enterprises across the various sectors of industry, service-provision, and of trade. All socialised enterprises would have to be integrated according to sector in order to effectively plan the economy in the interests of society.
The high degree of concentration and of consolidation of capital in Greek industry makes socialisation technically easier. During the 1980s, the industrial monopolies that controlled 70-80% of production – in other words, the industrial enterprises of ‘strategic importance’ – were made up of about 200 enterprises. These days, their number has decreased to about 100, and, according to the opinion of various statistical organisations, there is a higher degree of cross-sector permeability with links to the banking, services, and trade sectors, thus, facilitating the work of central planning.
d. Socialisation by setting up integrated national non-profit organisations of the entire goods and human transportation sector, utilities, telecommunications, natural resources, infrastructure, and of the construction sectors. Such socialisation is indispensible to securing the resources to socially focus policy-making, to reduce production costs, to deal with the problem of the lack of housing for the working population, to carry out cheaper and useful public works, and to create a solid foundation upon which to further develop the entire economy for the benefit of society.
e. Similarly, the composition of management in such socialised enterprises and organisations must include 1/3rd of workers from the relevant field; 1/3rd of workers and consumers (e.g., trade unions, agricultural associations, and local authorities), and 1/3rd of representatives from the elected government. The representatives on these management boards must be elected annually, be revocable by the general assembly of the enterprise in question, and be remunerated with a salary that is equal to that of a skilled worker.
f. Socialisation of the media and their resources being made available to every type of association of working people. The despicable propaganda of the bourgeois media against SYRIZA and the Left is proof of how vital it is to prise the provision of information and the media from the control of the bourgeoisie.
g. Socialisation of the large-holdings of land, and the setting up of national, state-owned modern agricultural projects. There should be incentives for the voluntary accession of small-holders into cooperatives, under state and government control, to take into their charge the supply of primary goods, their processing, packaging, and making available for consumption without the interference of any intermediates.
h. In relation to small to medium sized enterprises, a Left government, considering their size, should socialise these progressively. Small-scale property should not be expropriated, and owners of small enterprises that do not exploit additional labour, should not suffer any interference. Progressively, their enterprises would be attracted by the gravitational pull of the wider socialised economy through its living example that would illustrate its superiority. The government should incentivise them to join up with larger units of production, and to modernise under the control of the state and the government.
8. State monopoly of foreign trade
The crisis and the productive weakness of Greek capitalism are reflected in its large trade deficit. The gap between exports and imports is substantial and widening, given the increased reduction of exports due to the recession. Based on data of the Bank of Greece, during 2011 exports amounted to 25.7 billion Euros whilst imports amounted to 54.3 billion Euros.
The exacerbation of the situation for Greek capitalism is reflected in the fact that whilst in 1980 the trade deficit was just 5.2 billion Euros, it is now closer to 30 billion Euros. The economy nowadays imports every type of good despite their abundant availability domestically, e.g., citrus fruit and olive oil. What is more, in 1980, Greece had a 10 million Euros surplus in the agricultural sector, and in 2008, at the end of a number of years of capitalist development, it reached a deficit of 3 billion Euros in that sector.
The irrationality of the anarchy of the capitalist market and the parasitism of the Greek bourgeoisie is reflected in a number of revealing instances that highlight the urgent need for the establishment of a socialised and planned national economy.
According to a recent study by ‘PASEGES’ (Nationwide Confederation of Agricultural Cooperative Unions), the level of self-sufficiency of Greece in relation to a wide range of basic agricultural plant- and animal-derived food stuffs during 2010 was around 94%. However, due to the anarchy of the capitalist market, 40% of national nutritional demand is covered by imports. Greece has reached the point where it is importing onions from India, oranges from South Africa, beans from China, and potatoes from Egypt. At the same time production of sugar-beet has gone down, and the sugar producing sector has vanished, while 200,000 tonnes of sugar imports annually flood the Greek market.
Despite the above, Greece possesses significant levels of natural resources, including mineral resources, and has a highly educated and skilled workforce in almost every sector of the economy. Within the context of a socialised, planned economy, it would be possible to develop relatively rapidly agriculture and industry, thus accessing the sort of funds that could finance the investments in production and further development of jobs, and, at the same time, to fund the various social policies.
In order to be able to adopt the necessary measures in this direction, a Left government would have to socialise the large-scale exporting enterprises and to monopolise all exports. The state monopoly of foreign trade is a matter of vital importance in securing the planning of the economy against the threat of foreign capital penetration and domination.
The abolition of capitalist super profits and the progressive increase in productivity, as a consequence of the superiority of a planned economy, would render Greek products cheaper and also more competitive on a global scale.
9. New constitution – new power
A Left government must not consider the State as if it were a neutral social force, a ‘public sector’, a ‘public administration’. It must deal with it according to the historically proven views and principles of scientific socialism. The State is a bourgeoisie instrument for oppressing the working class and the people. The present form of government, modern-day ‘democracy’, is bourgeois democracy which has been the optimum for the bourgeoisie to control and manage society. Whoever talks about democracy generally without placing it within a class context is misleading workers.
The essence of bourgeois democracy lies in a formal recognition of personal rights and freedoms which, nonetheless, are inaccessible to the wide masses due to the lack of the material means to realise these, whilst the ruling class utilises all means at its disposal to lie to and trick the masses. With its parliamentary system, bourgeois democracy pays lip service to the notion that the people have the power. Popular movements and mass organisations are totally marginalised and kept away from accessing power and influence over the management of the economy. Bourgeois democracy and parliamentarianism, with its separation of powers, and the lack of a right to revoke MPs, end up entirely separating the State from the masses.
Today’s bourgeois democracy is incapable of reform without unsettling its class content. The working population cannot achieve a democracy that champions its interests without replacing today’s capitalist democracy with a socialist workers’ democracy.
The advent of the Left to power cannot be limited to a simple exchange of personalities in the various departments of the state, but must abolish the bourgeois state mechanism to re-establish the new power of the working class.
In order for such a government to establish workers’ power it must take the following measures:
a. Immediately to open up discussions for the earliest possible voting in of a new Constitution that entrenches:
- the socialised, democratically planned economy as the economic regime upon which the economy is based;
- a workers’ socialist democracy as the political system;
- the duty of people’s representatives to be accountable on a regular basis to their constituencies, and the right to revoke such representatives by the electorate at any moment;
- the consolidation of legislative and executive powers to an electable and revocable upper committee of the working people that would vote on laws and would work on their application;
- election of such a committee for a two-year term, on the basis of universal suffrage and a multiparty system, with an electoral regime that would provide for additional representation for regions where the working population is more numerous, and that would include electable and revocable representatives of workers from every important industrial sector; and
- meaningful local authority arrangements by delegating the power of mayoral authorities to electable and revocable local popular councils that would also operate on two-year terms on the basis of universal suffrage that would include representatives from each ward and from workers according to the local units of the production and of the local economy;
b. the total reformation of the Army by taking the following measures:
- full civic and trade union rights for all soldiers and junior officers;
- all officers to be elected with the right of recall by the soldiers. Also, living standards must be improved (including hygiene, nutrition, and sufficient annual leave), and there should be an increase of the present salary of a soldier to the level of unemployment benefit;
- sufficient arms training throughout the term of a soldier’s service;
- no professional army;
- a period of arms training for the entire working population as its own guarantee over its rights, interests, and achievements;
- the remuneration of all officers with a salary no higher than that of a skilled worker; and
- the addition to the Army of military units from workers’ organisations that are to be trained at military camps at the expense of the State;
c. The radical reform of the security services that shall involve:
- the abolition of all current forms of special units of State repression and policing of popular struggles;
- the prohibition of security forces in locations where political or trade union activity is taking place, and the extension of the current prohibition on the violation of academic asylum to all educational institutions and to all workplaces;
- the abolition of the self-governing nature of security forces and their subjugation to control by the mass organisations of the working population and of the youth, and their transformation into civil guard units that would include representatives from the mass organisations of the workers and youth. The training of such security forces to be defined by an elected committee of representatives from the mass organisations.
d. Fundamental changes to judicial power must include:
- the abolition of privileges of the judiciary and their wages to be kept at levels equal to that of a skilled worker;
- the election of members of the judiciary directly by the people;
- the application of a programme of mass education on the reformed and modernised system of laws that champions the interests of the working population.
e. Structural changes in the functioning of state/public services and organisations so that:
- in all public services and organisations, the management is made up of elected and revocable representatives of mass trade union organisations of the working class, of the elected government, and of the workers in those services/organisations;
- the salary of civil servants would reflect that of an industrial worker;
10. For ‘Internationalist’, not ‘foreign’ external relations – For the United Socialist States of Europe!
A Left government must interact on the international stage in a radically different manner from the hitherto conservative bourgeois Greek governments. The starting point of a new national ‘foreign’ policy should be based on the assumption that the most loyal ally of a revolutionary Greece would be the working classes globally, irrespective of State or national/ethnic origins. It would be necessary that such a policy reflects the active ambition that the revolutionary socialist example of Greece be spread and gain ground through the struggle of the workers across the Balkans, Europe, and the globe. A Left government must take specific initiatives that send a revolutionary message of the internationalist struggle against capitalism and of resistance to imperialism on a global level.
The immediate measures and initiatives of a Left government for such an internationalist policy must include:
a. Withdrawal from NATO and the shutting down of US bases on Greek territory. NATO is not an innocuous military mechanism; it is the military expression of capitalism at the time of the rise of monopolies, that is to say, of imperialism. It is a complex of military and government institutions inseparably tied to the domestic mechanisms of the bourgeoisie, set up to crush the workers’ movement and the Left and to defend capitalism. Withdrawal from NATO is not simply a matter of principle; it has to do with the defence of the rights, interests, and gains of the working class and its revolutionary course. Remaining in NATO would amount to a Left government giving the counter-revolution to plan its undermining;
b. An open appeal to European workers to unite their struggles with those of the Greek working class against European capitalism. The application of a programme of overthrowing capitalism logically equates with a collision with the capitalist EU and its institutions, and with an inevitable exit from it.
At every step, a Left government must shout out loudly to the peoples of Europe and the world that its aim is not to turn to reactionary national isolationism. The ‘building of socialism solely within the borders of Greece’ is a thoroughly reactionary utopia. Socialism is a system of social and economic harmony and wellbeing. Within conditions of total development and of dominance of the global market, where there is an objectively highly developed division of labour, socialism cannot be built on the productive forces of one country alone. In order to s build socialism firmly, it is necessary to bring together the productive forces of many developed countries.
What this current profound crisis in the Eurozone also proves is that capitalism, due to its inherent contradictions and antagonisms, is systemically and organically incapable of bringing to a conclusion the historically progressive process of unification of the European continent. The only force capable of doing so is the European working class under the banner of socialism.
A Left government would have to patiently and actively defend and champion the case of a Europe of its working peoples; a fraternal and friendly Europe that would institutionalise this relationship through new treaties capable of guaranteeing not simply a common market and a common currency, but a common planning of the productive forces for the mutual benefit of all European peoples. A Left government would have to work hard at the global level to campaign for and bring to fruition the United Socialist States of Europe!
Within the context of this struggle, a Left government would have to organise international conferences for the coordination of these common struggles and endeavours against capitalism in the Balkans and Europe, and to take the necessary initiatives towards the establishment by the mass movements and parties of the working class globally of a new workers’ international of the masses!
Original Greek version published on 31 May 2012 and available here.