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Moving Forward After the Elections in Greece Part II – Building a Working Class Alternative

Kokkino

This is Part II of Kokkino's statement after the June elections in Greece, revised and slightly abridged from the version published in International Viewpoint. Kokkino is a revolutionary socialist organization in Greece, which has been in the throes of a major debt crisis since 2009.

Kokkino is part of the broader Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is the main force against the austerity measures being imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a condition of a proposed bailout. SYRIZA's anti-bailout stance resulted in a dramatic growth in its popular support in the run-up to the recent elections - from just under 5% of electoral votes in May to 27% in June.

Part I of this statement offers an analysis of the election's political outcome. The final sections, reprinted here, focus on strategic questions for the radical left in Greece. Although the context is quite different, there is much to be learned from the experience of major social mobilization in Greece since the eruption of the debt crisis. - New Socialist 

Building a working class political camp is a responsibility that is flowing mainly through SYRIZA. SYRIZA constituted the political vehicle for the labour and popular movements for fighting this battle. This choice was not accidental and can be explained by many factors: the consistent presence of SYRIZA in the movement, its unitarian political line not only in the movement, but also in demanding a united political front of the Left (unity both from above and below), the proposal for a Left government (thus, putting on the agenda the issue of power), its radical programme (abolition of the austerity agreement and its laws, position regarding debt repayment and struggle for erasing its biggest proportion, nationalization of banks, etc). 

Although SYRIZA failed in taking the first place and forming a Left government, it became a government within the Left. This renders SYRIZA more responsible for the continuation and the outcome of the class confrontation. The developments inside SYRIZA will determine to a large extent the requirements for a counterattack and victory of the working class. SYRIZA will certainly be transformed into "an area of class struggle": on the one hand, the pressure of the system and, on the other, the pressure of the workers and popular strata. This struggle will form three main currents inside SYRIZA, a right, a centre, and a left. The prevalence of the one or the other current will determine SYRIZA's consistency in breaking with the austerity plan and the system, its programmatic and political consistency, and its strategic orientation.

At the same time, SYRIZA has new responsibilities and potential to create the conditions for a political front of the Left. Therefore, the following steps should be followed:

1. Immediate implementation of a process of transformation of SYRIZA into a party-federation of multiple currents, with members, constituent groups, representatives and decisive collective bodies and elected leading bodies. This is a requirement for the political engagement and politicization of the avant-garde of the working class/popular currents. It is a requirement for the creation of a massive radical left wing inside SYRIZA which is the only guarantee against the tendencies of compromise and retreat inside SYRIZA.

2. Common initiatives with other forces of the Left (ANTARSYA, KKE), for unity in action, but also for forming a political front aimed at the removal of the Samaras government and the formation of a left government.

3. The forces of anti-capitalist and revolutionary left must be involved in the creation of a massive radical left wing in SYRIZA, to battle for SYRIZA's radical orientation, to defend and expand the radical features of SYRIZA programme, to defend a line of rupture (abolition of the bailout agreement, nationalization of banks, etc) and defend the working class, as well as internationalist and socialist orientation of SYRIZA.

4. The forces of the revolutionary left inside and outside SYRIZA should converge, cooperate and form an alliance in order to represent the most class consistent, internationalist and strategically capable political force in a plan of rupture and transformation.

Fighting the Fascist Menace

Another very crucial precondition for the victory of our camp is to organize against fascism and the party of the counter-revolution, the Golden Dawn. There is a debate in Greece, going on since the last elections, where the majority of the Left seemed to under-estimate the rise of the fascists. A typical example of this is that the general secretary of the Communist Party (KKE) falsely predicted, before the May 6th elections, that when the Golden Dawn enter the parliament "they will wear suits" and will become a common neoliberal party. But this is not the case.

The common conception in the Left about Golden Dawn is that we can fight them by simply exposing them to the light. This has already proved to be very wrong. The idea that Golden dawn's voters are misled, and that, when they reveal their real face they will be marginalized, has proved wrong as well. In the two consecutive electoral rounds more than 600,000 voted for the neo-nazis. In the meantime, Golden Dawn's spokesman slapped a female MP of KKE on TV and the attacks on immigrants have become an ordinary, everyday phenomenon.

The neo-nazi current is structured mainly through the establishment of a regime of fascist terror on the streets, and not mainly through the battle in the field of ideas. It is time for a re-orientation of the anti-fascist struggle: anti-fascist campaigns, concerts and demonstrations are necessary weapons in this fight, but they are not enough anymore. It is compulsory from now on to confront fascists with a wide network of people's self-defence groups, to stop them in the streets before they impose their rule of terror. The forces of the Left must lead in this effort because any procrastination will be dangerous.

Toward a Socialist Strategy

The third basic condition for building our class camp is the development of clear ideological perspectives, especially in four key areas:

Socialism: The fact that SYRIZA declined to directly integrate their political project in a process of social transformation and socialism is a real weakness, with significant negative consequences.

The class opponent is structured around the ideas of the end of history (the idea that globalized market capitalism and bourgeois democracy represent the highest degree of development - that anything other is not only futile, but also an anachronism or despotism); the eternity of capitalism (implying that the only conceivable idea is the overcoming of the capitalist crisis, thus limiting the policy options of the Left to suggestions for the overcoming of the crisis of capitalism - proposals for surpassing capitalism are unthinkable); the "internal devaluation" (the blame for the crisis and the "deviation from normality" is placed on workers and middle classes, who "lived beyond their means," so the only solution is austerity measures); and the ideas of the "state of emergency" and anti-communism (those on the Left who do not accept all the above can only be proponents of "corruption" and of the "privileges of the trade-unionists," thus undermining the "national effort" to overcome the crisis and, as such, are the real enemies of democracy).

This coherent and comprehensive ideological "system" is exemplary for its lucidity, for its organic relationship between its parts, between ideology, policy and specific practice. It greatly enhances the power of dominant forces to advance their economic and political plan for managing the crisis, and it gives them a clear advantage against the Left.

Especially for SYRIZA, the plan of rupture with the austerity agreement will seem contradictory, unfounded and adventurist, unless it is clarified that it is a plan of social transformation, a plan beyond capitalism in crisis and not a utopian left plan for return to the capitalist "regularity" before crisis. The only convincing statement of SYRIZA's programmatic proposals that can make it realistic is the dynamic that can be created by the process of social transformation: the subversion of the paradigm, the sidelining of the profit motive, the social ownership of the means of production, and the adoption of a social plan for distribution of social resources in place of individual property for profit of individual capitalists.

Without these conditions, the break with the austerity plan and the loan agreements will be tottering, will look adventurist (from the view of "realism" that is imposed by the forces of globalized capitalism), and will be tactically weakened. So, serious work must be done in order to restore the coherence of our political plan and prove its realism in the only way possible: its organic integration on a plan of social/socialist transformation.

An Internationalist Orientation

Internationalist line of rupture: A plan of rupture with austerity and troika cannot be implemented victoriously on a national level alone. The contemporary capitalist internationalization and the terms of the European capitalist integration don't leave any room for break with the system on a national level, unless there is a quick transformation of it into a European and international revolutionary current. We must not only imagine, but also orient and plan the transformation of Greece into a European outburst against the austerity policies, aimed at a contemporary European "rise of people" which will knock down the absolutism of the markets and profits. In order to prepare this kind of perspective, we must create the conditions for a European movement against austerity and solidarity with Greece and people of the European South.

Prerequisite for this is to make the "Greek issue" a European issue, to internationalize the struggle and the dynamic of the rupture, to regenerate the internationalism in Greece and in Europe, to work on an internationalist line of rupture. This kind of orientation is opposed to "the adjustments" coercively imposed by the European Union and the Euro as well as the nationalist plan of recovery of competitiveness through a Greek national currency.

In Defense of Immigrant Rights

Defending immigrants: Not having any room for "Keynesian" policies for managing the crisis, as the political crisis deepens and the battle for state power intensifies, the system resorts to reconstituting its own class camp, using as basic ingredients the imposition of the state of emergency ("law and order"), the state of exception (the rights are not for everyone for every situation - on emergency conditions they can and must be aborted), the society of exception (those who "do not fit" will be ostracized socially), and anti-communism. All the above elements are becoming legalized through racism and the hunting of immigrants, on which "law and order" is imposed in the most ruthless way. So, the defense of immigrants is a vital issue in the confrontation of the two class camps and not an issue that "disorientates the class battle."

This, however, cannot be achieved if we assign the leadership to the opponent, that is, by "admitting" that "immigrants are a problem," "admitting" that "they are more than the Greek society can fit," etc. That is why the "unconditional" defense of immigrants is necessary, as only this can establish a solid foundation for our class camp.

Defense of the right of people to move freely, not capital: Because everybody has the right to free movement from country to country, and especially those whose live are in danger from hunger and war. Because "closed borders" means fences and mines, which increase the lost human lives and the "rates" for the circuits that exploit immigrants. And finally, because "closed borders" means setting up a second army next to the one that already exists - with all the harmful consequences of that fact.

Legalization for all immigrants: Provision of documents (not prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry, provision of legal status with simple conditions and citizenship to children of immigrants born in Greece): Because the term "illegal immigrant" means that no one is entitled to escape from famine and death; because there are no clandestine people; because racism wants them "illegal," so the trafficking networks (carriers, Greek and foreign mafia) become rich, so that various political scum can have a political career, and so that the Right and the Far Right can speculate politically; because fascists need the "illegals" to sustain the idea of "Keadas" and assume the role of prison guard in a prison-society.

Solidarity: This is not only a value-statement, but a practical defense of immigrants from the persecution of the police and the fascists, an active effort to help them join our unions, social organizations and movements.

Defining Violence; Defending Ourselves

Disengagement from the NATO, closure of military bases, no participation in imperialist wars: The caravans of immigrants and refugees do not come to Europe as tourists. They have been violently uprooted from their countries because of poverty and war. The war "against terrorism," which was opened by US President Bush, in which the European Union and Greece through NATO participated, meant the extermination of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are now seeking a better life in Western countries. It is plain hypocrisy for those who bombed and deployed occupation troops and uprooted these people to erect walls when they try to escape certain death. The Greek government has been fully complicit, since Greece not only became a base for imperialist interventions but also contributed to the military occupation of Afghanistan.

Opposing the notion "we are against violence from wherever it comes from": In our austerity-driven society there is widespread violence against the unemployed, the homeless, the destitute, the poor and the immigrants. This violence underpins the state of emergency, the society of exclusion, the repression, the fascist terrorism; as well as the reinforcement and the expansion of mafia. The system, while having the prerogative and the monopoly of exerting violence, demands from everyone to obey, to behave "lawfully"!

In contrast, the protests of those who haven't got any shelter or food, the rocks and yogurt thrown by students against the police, the heckling of the politicians who are in favour of the austerity plan, the defense against the attacks of the police - all these are "unacceptable violence." Moreover, the state has threatened those who don't take a strong stance against "violence" (or worse, orchestrate it), that they will be pushed outside the framework of legality - and it is understood that the guest of honor in this insinuation is SYRIZA.

The response to this must be strong and unashamed: the slogan can never be "we will agitate for legitimacy." We have to focus on the social violence of the austerity plan (unemployed, homeless, property stricken people, etc.) and on the violence of the state of emergency (attacks on the demonstrations, suppression of dissent).

In the battle of ideas around the concept of "legitimacy," we have to expose as illegal their policies and raise the issue of the right to "legal defense" against these policies. The determination of the content and the limits of "legitimacy" is a critical ideological battle front. We must fight to de-legitimize the austerity plan, the practices of the state emergency and exclusion, and to broaden the limits of legitimacy for the practices of resistance and solidarity.

Rebuilding the Working Class

The "turn to the movement" after the elections must be done on political and ideological terms, aimed at reconstruction of the working-class camp:

Battle for the leadership within the unions: The effectiveness of a new round of struggles against the austerity, as well as political change and a Left government depend a great deal on the balance of power inside the labour movement. The forces of SYRIZA, and generally of the Left, must unite and draw a plan which will change the balance of power inside the labour movement, claim the leadership in the unions, and create new unions.

Generalization and national networking of the popular assemblies: The Popular Assemblies were the most advanced expression of the movement against the austerity plan. The popular assembly is the form in which all currents can converge (initiatives against the taxation, for defending hospitals, for solidarity etc.) and where every form of the avant-garde of the movement can come together.

The forces of the Left must agree on a common agenda for extension and coordination of the popular assemblies, with radical and open spirit. The objective must be a big national assembly of the movement, with elected and recallable representatives from all the popular assemblies, as well as from labour initiatives, left factions and radical unions.

Movement of resistance against fascism: The urgency of organizing the resistance against fascist terrorism (attacks against immigrants as well as the Left party) requires the creation of a wide anti-fascist front and a network of groups for popular self-defence on every neighborhood and social spaces (first of all schools, but also work places). These self-defence groups must be the militant arms of the various parts of the movement, and the forces of the Left must be protagonists in creating them.

Solidarity networks: On a context like the one we live in, solidarity needs to become a central issue. Although we must not address it like a Non-Governmental Organization, nor as a strategy of creating "liberated zones" inside capitalism, but from the perspective of radical Left: we need to establish solidarity networks in order to organize the unemployed and poor people as a part of resistance, to support and at the same time to integrate poor people in the battle, to organize the "social reserves" in the struggle for power.

*Keadas is the name of a gulch in ancient Sparta, where, it is said that the Spartans threw the disabled and sickly infants in order to preserve the purity of their race.

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