Redspark Interview #7: On the fallacy of SYRIZA and perspectives from Greece

The following interview was conducted recently with our comrades from the Communist Party of Greece (marxist-leninist). They introduce the interview with their perspectives and some thoughts on their strategy.

The strategic direction of our organization is that the only way out for the working class and the people is independence and socialism, which requires revolution for the working class and the people to assume power. The revolution has the task to destroy the bourgeois state and build a State that will express the new power of the working class and its allies. The revolution will not only have to confront the bourgeoisie, but will also have to break the imperialist chains, overthrowing the foundations of the double (US-EU) imperialist dependency. We emphasize that US-NATO-EU imperialists will not remain idle when faced with a revolutionary movement; they will use all their power and capabilities within our country to suppress and stifle it. The revolution will have to confront them as well! This situation has been reinforced during the years of SYRIZA’s administration, by policies that reinforced the political and military presence of the US in the country, as well as those relating to the “debt management-annexation” grid, with which the bourgeoisie linked its own future more closely with the imperialists, who in turn upgraded their role in controlling the country.

On this basis, we continue to consider the breaking of the dependency shackles as of goals of the strategic character for the movement and refer to the country’s exit from the EU-NATO and the expulsion of the US and US-NATO military bases.

Without the establishment of the revolutionary Communist Party, the working class and the people cannot move towards revolution and conquer political power. But the configuration of conditions for the formation of the Party is dialectically linked to the development of the movement, with the course of the working class establishment. The Party is the expression at the political level of the vanguard section of the working class; it is the political expression of the hegemony of revolutionary direction within the class struggle. This hegemony must already be manifested by “strong indications” within the class struggle in order to make the formation of the Party more visible. Out of this logic, convenience schemes that simply proclaim that the Party exists not only do not respond to real demands but also add confusion, difficulties and obstacles.

Redspark: In recent years across Western Europe new left-wing figures or organizations have emerged that claimed to be more radical than the social-democrats, but at the same time more “modern” than parties, such as Podemos in Spain, Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain and Jean-Luc Melenchon in France or even Bernie Sanders in the United States. Many take inspiration in their discourse and tactics from those that SYRIZA used to win in Greece in 2004. Given the experience in Greece, what do you think these parties and people will be able to achieve?

All those mentioned either have their basic reference or directly originate from the so-called anti-neoliberal movement of the World and European Social Forum, which attempted to appear with a radical rationale against the extreme effects of capitalist-imperialist system. It was a reformist movement that had the illusion that it could push for the rationalization of the imperialist system and the smoothing of its more acute positions, especially on the issues of poverty and global economic inequality. It is no coincidence that this movement dissolved organizationally around 2003, when the US imperialist war in Iraq began and the illusions collapsed under the weight of imperialist barbarism.

The delusions that “another world is possible” without revolutionary overthrow and that the barbaric capitalist-imperialist system can acquire a “human face” without the working class, and the reformist nonsense that people in power repeated, collapse in front of the cruel reality. Nevertheless, they gain the confidence and support of the working and popular masses, as the reconstruction of the revolutionary communist movement is significantly delayed by the backwardness and defeat caused by the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and China. So the illusions of all kinds of reformists come back again and again, leading to disorientation and new deadlocks, as all they ultimately manage to do is to reinforce the capitalist-imperialist system in every country but also overall at the expense of the interests of the working class and of the people who have been repeatedly attacked by the monopoly capitalist and imperialist forces in their rights and in their lives.

SYRIZA was born out of these delusions. It is a petit-bourgeois reformist party, in which the revisionist stream of Eurocommunism (dominant) was united with Trotskyist groups, former members of Greek Social Democracy, even with a single organization with a Maoist reference. The creation of SYRIZA in the name of “unity of the left” and on the basis of a reformist political platform constituted an important back up for the bourgeoisie in our country. The anti-labor, anti-popular attack has intensified since May 2010, when the first memorandum was signed, resulting in a workers’ and popular uprising with strikes, demonstrations and the creation of the “movement of the squares.” The unprecedented workers-popular mobilizations have raised serious political issues of management in the bourgeois political system, as well as for the imperialist conquerors. However the low level of political and organizational formation of the movement, with the main responsibility falling on the revisionists and reformists of the Communist Party of Greece, as well as the low level of development of the revolutionary communist forces, gave SYRIZA the opportunity to present itself as the governmental solution that could “change things.”

With a social democratic type program and strong anti-memorandum speech, they had already asked the people to nominate it as their government since the dual elections of May-June 2012. [Memorandums are financial aid programs given to the Greek state by imperialist formations (IMF, European Central Bank, European Commission, all together known as the Troika) in exchange for tighter control of the imperialists over the economic and political situation in the country. Each memorandum that passed was accompanied by anti-popular, anti-labor, hard austerity measures.]
In essence it asked the working people to turn away from the streets, the struggle and claims and to adopt their governmental illusions. This way it functioned as the best “shock absorber” of the bourgeoisie that avoided even greater vibrations than it had already experienced. SYRIZA’s contribution to the system, to manipulate the working people and their fighting spirit, has also been a powerful “passport” to being accepted by US-EU capitalist and imperialist powers.

Thus, at a time when class conflicts are sharpening and imperialists are competing for local or world domination by bloodshed of people and by dismantling countries, the reformist forces prove to be particularly useful for the system to divert workers and people from their perspective of struggle and conflict.

Redspark: SYRIZA came to power with the promise that they would fight the neoliberal policies that were labeled as “austerity measures” and to push back the imperialist interests and control in Greece. Since their (SYRIZA’s) election what changes have occurred in Greece in terms of the economy and EU-US imperialism or NATO presence?

We should first clarify that SYRIZA formed a government following its victory in January 2015 elections with the far-right ANEL (Independent Greeks) Party that appeared to oppose the EU-IMF-ECB memorandums, but was actually a staunch supporter of the imperialist dependence of the country on both US and EU imperialists. It is a xenophobic Party and intolerant towards other peoples and especially the neighboring ones. This governmental cooperation also showed the limits that the SYRIZA government could have.

The policy implemented by the SYRIZA government was fully in line with the objectives of foreign and local capital, both in general and in our country in particular. The first governmental period (January-June 2015) on one hand continued the anti-labor and anti-populist policy of memorandums from the previous ND-PASOK government, while on the other it tried to negotiate with the EU-ECB-IMF (the so-called Troika) for relief for everything that had been imposed on the working people since May 2010. Negotiations with the imperialist conquerors were also an option for the former bourgeois governments of Papandreou (PASOK) and Samaras (ND-PASOK). They all failed as they encountered opposition, especially from German imperialism, with the mandate that austerity measures had to be implemented in their entirety in order for Greece to remain in the euro zone. As a result, in July 2015, the SYRIZA-ANEL government announced a fraudulent referendum calling on the people to choose between a fake dilemma between “NO” and “YES” to Troika and the memorandums. A large majority was the “NO” vote that was supposed to end the memorandums and which was also promoted by SYRIZA. Instead, the day after the referendum and in full agreement with the rest of the bourgeois political parties, new negotiations began with the EU-ECB-IMF that ended in the third memorandum, as anti-worker and anti-popular as the previous two. It should be noted here that both our organizations, CPG(m-l) and LA-AAS* (a front in which we participate), have been actively opposed to this fraudulent referendum with the line of the ABSTENTION in order to boost labor struggles and the anti-imperialist struggle.

The third memorandum further strengthened the economic bonds from the imperialists-lenders, with the need for large tax surpluses in the economy by 2060 and pledging all of country’s wealth for 99 years to a “super fund” controlled by the country’s lenders. Privatization further expanded to highways, ports, airports and railways, which were sold to foreign and local capital, while the same policy was followed in gas and oil companies.

During the same period, hard measures were imposed with direct and indirect taxation on the workers and the petit bourgeoisie, resulting in even greater poverty. Unemployment has started to decline, but with flexible jobs and very low salaries, while “black” work continues to be the scourge especially to young employees. So from the point where SYRIZA was declaring that it would “tear down the memorandums” and oppose the country’s unbearable debt, it became the best manager of memorandums and ensured the seamless payment of the debt to the imperialist lenders. Its only “pro-peoples policy” was some crumbs, out of the wealth that went to the imperialist lenders via the cruel and bloody tax surpluses, which were given as benefits to the poorest and not to all.

The SYRIZA administration, as much as it strengthened the economic bonds for the working people with foreign and local capital and the imperialists, it also further strengthened the military-political links with US imperialism and NATO. It proved to be the most pro-American government since 1974 (post-State) and afterwards in Greece, even in relation to previous right-wing and social-democratic governments. The reason for this policy was their deeply mistaken assumption that if they offered everything to the US imperialists, they would help them against the pressure of the German imperialists and the EU as a whole, but also in the competition of the Greek ruling class with the Turkish bourgeoisie in the Aegean and in Cyprus. This increased the military presence of the US imperialists and NATO in the country with new military bases and provided even more assistance and back up in their military outbursts against the peoples and countries of the region.

Under US guardianship, the SYRIZA-ANEL government strengthened its reactionary axis – alliances with reactionary regimes, such as those of Israel and Egypt – for the limitation of Turkey in the Southeast Mediterranean and Middle East, abandoning all support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people and of all the peoples of the Middle East. With the “Prespa Agreement” it also expanded the influence of NATO and US imperialists in the Balkans with North Macedonia’s accession to NATO and its EU candidacy. The SYRIZA-ANEL administration proved to be the best bagman of imperialist interests in the Balkans and the Southeast Mediterranean by transforming the country into a platform for imperialist warfare, surveillance and oppression of our people. At the same time, there is a serious risk of war with neighboring countries, and in particular with Turkey, and the transformation of people and youth into “meat for the cannons” of unjust wars in the interests of imperialists and local bourgeoisie.

Redspark: What has been the impact of the SYRIZA era on the Left in Greece?

In the case of SYRIZA’s rule, we think that Chairman Mao’s statement “revisionism in power, the bourgeoisie in power” has once again been confirmed.

A small petit reformist party with very few bonds to the working class and working people of our country has managed to “launch” into the mainstream political scene by exploiting the big gap of the revolutionary communist Left in our country at a critical juncture for labor and popular interests. Their delusional declarations, and especially the ease with which they thought they could clash with the imperialists and the local establishment, created the illusion that their promotion to government could halt the anti-labor and US-EU aggression of the US-EU imperialists. SYRIZA’s passage into the forces of attack on labor-populist interests and its complete submission to imperialist dictates has brought a wave of frustration, dispelled lethargy, and created favorable conditions for the development of reactionary views and an outburst of anticommunism. Broad popular layers also linked the Left with the bourgeois political game, complicit in the attack by the system forces. The expression of frustration and defeat in large sections of the people was also reason behind the major abstention in both the 2015 and 2019 elections.

Today in Greece the issue of rebuilding of the revolutionary communist movement is crucial and in this direction the CPG(m-l) wants to contribute with all its forces. An essential element of this struggle is the confrontation with the forces of revisionism, opportunism and anarchism, which sow disorientation to the working people and increasingly subordinate to the one-way capitalist-imperialist system. It is clear to us that this confrontation must be held inside the labor-popular movement and for the needs of its development and not outside of it in theoretical discussions.

The experience of the SYRIZA’s administration in Greece and its Right mutation is important not only for the revolutionary movement in our country but internationally. The collapse of the illusions that the problems of the people will be solved if the Left is stronger in the parliament or even in government does not automatically raise revolutionary consciousness, but also causes frustration and a sense of defeat in the broader layers of the people.

That is why our organization insists on the line of organizing workers and youth in the direction of resistance and claim this as a necessary condition for the workers-popular forces of struggle against the local bourgeoisie and imperialism to emerge.

Redspark: What do you see as the most pressing issues, the main contradictions that Greece and the working class face?

Greece is a country with average capitalist development, integrated into the EU, the euro zone and NATO with the highest unemployment rates across Europe, a huge public debt, and with the working class and people suffering a sweeping attack on both their income as well as their rights.

The local bourgeoisie aims to transform the country into an energy hub, a tourist destination and a transit trade center, furthering the country’s de-industrialization and strangulation of the agricultural sector. It sells all the country’s infrastructure and wealth resources to foreign capital in exchange for its participation in the plundering of the working people. It tightens the chains of imperialist dependence by handing over land, sea and air to the US-NATO imperialists for their military expeditions, turning the country into an excursion base and also a target of their imperialist adversaries. The competition of the Greek bourgeoisie with the Turkish bourgeoisie, both members of NATO, takes on dangerous dimensions for the people of the two countries and through this competition, nationalism and intolerance is promoted that poison our peoples. In these conditions, our country is one of the “passages” of refugees and immigrant caravans, wrecked by wars and misery seeking to save their lives.

Today, with the right-wing ND government, the attack on the working class, the working people and the youth is on the brink of new austerity measures being passed in the bourgeois parliament, measures that violate the right to strike and the operation of trade unions, violate the collective bargaining agreements and promote exclusive cheap work zones. The measures also strengthen state terrorism with the doctrine of “law and order” against the ability of the people to organize and fight while intensifying class barriers in education for youth and especially for the children of the working people. In early October, the ND government signed a new agreement with US Secretary of State Pompeo on the indefinite stay and expansion of US military bases in our country, while the supervision of EU and ECB lenders remains in full force.

Redspark: Sometimes your organization participates in elections on a national level, and other times it calls for abstention. What are the reasons behind the decisions you make about whether and when to participate? What other kinds of work does your organization do?

For our organization, participation in the bourgeois elections is a regular option that is always based on the specific political conditions in our country and the political goals we want to promote. We take part either autonomously or in collaboration with other left-wing organizations. In the last elections (July 7, 2019) we participated in all constituencies of the country with central political slogans “Organization – Resistance is the way of the people” and “With the working class and peoples for Independence and Socialism.”

The bourgeois elections are a central political battle we are engaging in to raise and make our positions known to the working people, to oppose the bourgeois system, but also the forces of the reformist Left. For us it has never been the “mother of battles,” the field in which everything would be judged, even our very existence. It is a process of the bourgeois political system, made in its own terms, which is hostile to the people and the Left.

The attitude we will take in each election process is judged each time by the particular circumstances of the period, the issues raised or those we consider should be raised, the needs we see for the popular movement and its struggle. Whether we will participate or promote for a position of White, Cancel or Abstain depends on what attitude serves best the political message we want to pass and favors, in our view, both the development of popular struggles and the dissolution of parliamentary delusions and disorientation.

In this sense, the consistent position of the abstention from the European elections is because we judge that in every Euro-election the Greek people must shout “Out of the EU.” Such a political objective cannot be served by participating in an electoral process set up to dress the EU imperialist lynchpin in a “democratic” garb.

The central direction of our organization is the place for the working class to be transformed to be “in a class for itself” both in general and in our country. At the same time we have the view that the working class, in our country, is classically constituted in its confrontation with capital and acquires political hegemony in its confrontation with imperialism. We believe that there can be no rebuilding of the revolutionary communist movement outside and away from the movement and the struggle of the working class and all the working people. On this basis, we are active with toilers in the private or public sector, seeking to strengthen the line of Organization, Resistance and Claiming against the foreign and local capital, in contradiction with reformist and opportunistic concepts and practices. Our organization is also active with the youth, especially in universities and schools, but also making efforts to connect to the working youth as well. As young people in our country are confronted with class barriers to education and high unemployment, thousands of young people have migrated, mainly to Western Europe, for study and work. Our organization is active in the neighborhoods of Athens and Thessaloniki but also in major cities of the province, for the organization and struggle of the people against the acute problems they face in the places where they live.

Particular emphasis in our political work is on both the Left frontal cooperation today expressed by the establishment of LA-AAS* and the promotion of joint action by Left organizations to foster the development of the movement on central political issues.

* People’s Resistance – Left Anti-imperialist Cooperation

C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.