Workers Hammer No. 230
Syriza tries to appease EU imperialists
European Union squeezes Greece
Why Greek Trotskyists said "No vote to Syriza!"
On 20 February, less than a month after being propelled to victory in the Greek elections on the basis of its anti-austerity rhetoric, the Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras caved in to the diktat of the imperialist European Union (EU) and agreed to a four-month extension of the EU’s extortionate “bailout”. Syriza agreed to come up with a new package of austerity measures. But as we go to press, a month has passed without any agreement being reached. Instead there is a tense stand-off and Greece’s relationship with Germany in particular has grown increasingly venomous. The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — the rapacious Troika (now called “the institutions” as a face-saving concession to Syriza) — is increasingly frustrated with Athens, leading to renewed speculation about a Greek exit from the single currency.
The “radical” Greek government’s attempt to conciliate the Troika fully vindicates the opposition of our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece (TGG) to even the most critical support to this capitalist party. In a 15 January statement for the 25 January elections, our Greek comrades explained that “the EU’s purpose is to enable the imperialist powers of Europe, led by Germany, to subordinate weaker capitalist countries like Greece and impose savage austerity on working people throughout Europe, including in Germany” (see “Greece: European Union Austerity Elections”, Workers Vanguard no 1060, 23 January).
Whether or not they openly called for a vote to Syriza, much of the reformist left in Britain joined with their Greek co-thinkers in enthusing over its victory as the beginning of a fightback against EU-mandated austerity. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) claimed: “It’s hard to overstate the historic significance of the election victory of the radical left party Syriza in Greece last month” (socialistworker.co.uk, 3 February) and argued: “Revolutionary socialists should celebrate the new government’s victory and support the progressive measures it takes.” Syriza’s dramatic climbdown left them scrambling. As the SWP itself acknowledged, Syriza “signed up to a four-month extension deal that keeps most of [the] austerity intact” (socialistworker.co.uk, 3 March). The Socialist Party, for its part, urged Syriza to “tell the truth to the Greek people. If the government has made concessions in order to gain time to implement a strategic plan to defeat austerity the people will understand and join the battle. But, failing to do so will sadly show that the path the Greek government is taking is one of class collaboration with the EU and the local elite, accepting their agenda” (Socialist, 25 February). One certainly can’t expect the truth from these reformists: Syriza is a capitalist party that pledged from the outset to keep Greece within the EU which is strangling the country.
These points were developed in a presentation by a TGG spokesman at a Spartacist League forum in London on 21 February, which is published below in an edited and abridged form.
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I will be speaking about the recent Greek elections and what the rise of Syriza means for the working class and oppressed in Greece and Europe. Despite what you might have heard, Syriza’s election does not represent any kind of step towards socialism. We in the TGG called for no vote to Syriza. As we explained in our statement for the Greek elections, our perspective is the fight for workers revolution in Greece and internationally. We opposed Syriza because it is committed to keeping Greece in the imperialist European Union (EU), which is a pledge for more hunger and joblessness; moreover Syriza is not a workers party and does not in any way represent the interests of the working class. Its programme is bourgeois and its base is among the petty-bourgeoisie — shopkeepers, farmers and professionals — a layer with no independent class interests that is generally drawn behind the bourgeoisie under capitalism. We called instead for a vote to the Communist party (KKE), a party which is based in the working class but which has a reformist programme. The KKE opposed the imperialist EU and any support to Syriza.
In the 25 January election, Syriza achieved an overwhelming victory, winning 36 per cent of the vote. The key factor was that Syriza promised to ease up on the grinding austerity faced by Greek working people since the world economic crisis began in 2007-2008. This austerity has been imposed by the imperialists who dominate the EU. They have demanded savage attacks on the workers and poor in exchange for loans to bail out the bloodsucking banks. The pro-EU Syriza seeks merely to renegotiate the terms of imperialist oppression of Greece, by getting a break on the terms of repayment of the massive government debt.
Nonetheless, there are real illusions in Syriza among layers of the workers and the oppressed who are desperate for any form of relief. Furthermore, the fact that an election was won by a party other than the two main capitalist parties, PASOK (the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement) and New Democracy, who have shared power for 40 years, is seen as a blow to the Greek oligarchs and their system of patronage and corruption. There is also a sense of national pride that a party the German government explicitly did not want in power won an election in Greece.
Since 2012, Syriza has been abandoning many of its more left-sounding demands and currying favour with industrialists and bankers. Before the election, Syriza jettisoned its opposition to NATO and dropped its call for a debt write-off. Since the election, it has promised not to renationalise any of the industries privatised by the previous government. Two years ago Syriza demanded the rejection of the austerity memorandum of the Troika. Now it is willing to accept 70 per cent of the austerity measures. While I was on my way to London to give this forum, the Syriza government capitulated to the EU’s demands. It has now agreed to extend the hated bailout in exchange for implementing even more austerity, the very thing it was elected to overturn.
In Greece the TGG is the only organisation outside of the Communist party that describes itself as revolutionary Marxist and opposes the new capitalist Syriza government. The Socialist Workers Party of Greece (SEK), co-thinkers of the party of the same name here in Britain, argues that this government is a “big step forward” for the working class (socialistworker.co.uk, 6 January). The fake-Trotskyist Greek Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK) called before the election for a “powerful United Front” from the KKE to Syriza and including everyone in-between, in order to “smash...imperialist domination” and open the way to “universal human emancipation” (eek.gr. 28 December 2014). In other words, for them a Syriza government represents a transition to socialism. The Xekinima group, which is affiliated with Britain’s Socialist Party, said that Syriza “can open a new epoch for the working people” and begin the “counterattack of the workers movement” against Greek and international capital (xekinima.org, 26 January). These leftists are now salivating at the prospect of parties similar to Syriza coming to power elsewhere in Europe, especially Podemos in Spain.
I read in the paper last week that Kenneth Clarke, British former Tory chancellor, called Syriza “latter-day Trotskyites”. He intended this to be a derisive statement about Syriza’s extreme radicalism. But as a supporter of a genuine Trotskyist organisation, I really was insulted to be compared with these pro-EU liberals. You don’t need to know very much about the new Greek government to know that Syriza is not about to form workers defence militias, suppress the fascist-infested police, expropriate the key sectors of the Greek economy, and begin to rule through soviets. Syriza is very open about what it seeks to do: it wants to work within the bounds of the EU and Greek parliament. It wants to make Greek capitalism profitable again and it wants to protect the interests of the shipowners and banks. Syriza thinks the best way to do this is to put a more humanitarian facade on the imperialist EU and system of capitalist exploitation.
Most of the Greek left has jumped onto the Syriza bandwagon. Some are inside Syriza, including the Greek comrades of Socialist Appeal, which is part of the International Marxist Tendency founded by the late Ted Grant. Others, like the SEK, belong to Antarsya, a coalition that ran its own candidates in the election but seeks to be the pressure on the streets that will push Syriza to the left. In addition to the SEK, Antarsya is also home to other ex-Trotskyists, ex-Stalinists and Maoists. In the January elections, Antarsya ran in a bloc with Plan B, a small split from Syriza. Plan B is no more socialist than Syriza. What passes for radicalism in Plan B’s programme is a request that the parliament consider adopting direct democracy — to make Greece more like Switzerland. Of course, we know that Switzerland is a paradise — for the super-wealthy! While Antarsya and Plan B ran their own candidates, they were very careful not to oppose a vote to Syriza. That is why we said “no vote to Antarsya!”
One particular anecdote stands out to me. During the election campaign we were distributing our “Vote KKE” leaflet at a busy street corner in central Athens. Antarsya and the Communist party also had leafleters. There was a Syriza office just a block away, and they were very hostile to our leaflet. I noticed, in contrast, that one of the Antarsya members was over with the Syriza guys chatting and laughing and being very comradely. So when she came back I made a snarky comment about their supposed “independence from Syriza” and she shoots back: “Well, just watch, we’ll be striking in the streets right after the election.”
Today Antarsya is indeed in the streets, but they aren’t striking against the government, they’re supporting it. They’ve mobilised for pro-government, national unity protests in the last couple of weeks, where thousands rallied under Greek flags. Under the guise of opposing the Troika, these protests line up Greek working people in “solidarity” with their class enemy at home — the Greek capitalists. When Syriza talks about seeking European solidarity it is talking about solidarity with the bourgeois regimes of Italy, France, and Spain — once Podemos is in power. It is not referring to international working class solidarity — which must be forged around Europe-wide opposition to the EU.
Down with the EU!
We of the International Communist League have opposed the EU since its formation. Dominated primarily by Germany, the EU exists centrally to advance the interests of these imperialist powers. Together with their junior partners, they use the EU to subordinate dependent states, such as Greece and many East European countries. Equally important to remember is that the EU is a means of increasing the rate of exploitation of the workers in imperialist European countries as well. Workers in Germany have seen their wages slashed and living conditions undercut in the name of profitability. Today the French working class is facing EU-mandated austerity carried out by the Socialist Party government of François Hollande. In Britain, which is in the EU but not the currency bloc, the government has launched massive cuts to healthcare, welfare and housing. In Greece the attacks have been extreme. The healthcare system is so inadequate that Doctors Without Borders is operating in major cities like Athens. In the capital, 25 per cent of school children go hungry, and the universities are so strapped that they lack the cash to pay even basic operating costs. Any Guardian or New York Times article will tell you: mass unemployment, mothers too poor to give birth in a hospital, children and pensioners rummaging through rubbish bins for food.
The unions have been a special target of the EU imperialists and of the Greek bourgeoisie. Collective bargaining was shredded under the EU/IMF memorandum, and key sectors of union power have been weakened, most famously the port of Piraeus, half of which was privatised and where there is no union. The years-long economic depression has decimated the already small Greek working class. When I first visited Greece in 2012, I visited a picket line of striking workers at a steel plant outside Athens. When we met with them they had already been on strike for over 200 days. We talked to the workers there about their strike and published solidarity statements in our international press (see Workers Hammer no 219, Summer 2012). The strike was launched after the plant’s owner, a major Greek industrialist, threatened mass layoffs and wage cuts that were permitted under the EU-IMF memorandum. PAME, the KKE’s trade-union front, helped organise the strike and the workers had led a long, militant and popular strike. However, they were isolated and threatened with state repression. About a month after our visit riot cops launched a massive attack on the picket lines and broke the strike. Crucial in the strike’s defeat was that there were no sympathy strikes in other steel plants, nor was there an attempt to broaden their struggle to other layers of the working class. As of 2014 the plant was closed, and the remaining workers had been laid off. The attacks on workers inGreece should serve as a warning. The workers of Europe must recognise that the EU is using Greece as a test case for what it has in store for all of them.
One of the reasons we offered critical support to the KKE is that it opposes the EU. But the Greek Stalinists’ opposition to the EU comes from their nationalist perspective. Indeed, much of the left in Greece has some rhetoric about Greece being better off outside the eurozone and EU, even as their comrades in other parts of Europe explicitly promote the idea of a reformed, democratic EU — a “social Europe”. In contrast our opposition to the EU is internationalist — we are for revolutionary struggle by workers across Europe against this imperialist consortium.
Recognising that the euro would be an instrument of the EU imperialists, we opposed its introduction. We noted that a common European currency was not viable in the long-term. Ordinarily, each country has its own currency, and a debtor country can get some relief and regain competitiveness by devaluing its currency. But this is not possible in a currency union like the eurozone. The imperialists, centrally the German bourgeoisie, demand that debtor countries slash wages, pensions and welfare in return for aid to the banks. There is no way out for debtor countries under this set-up. In the eurozone, Greece is akin to a patient on life support, and the machine keeping it breathing is the cash provided by the Troika. Mass unemployment and hunger were deliberate policies enacted by the Troika and local rulers to cow the working class and to attempt to make Greece “profitable” again, which means driving up the rate of exploitation. The EU imperialists, centrally Germany, have treated Greece like a colony, even getting rid of bourgeois politicians like former PM George Papandreou, who made the mistake of proposing to get a popular mandate for massive austerity. For years domestic political decisions have been vetoed by Berlin and Brussels.
The sharp cuts in public spending have had a predictable effect — the Greek economy has contracted by 25 per cent since the beginning of the crisis. A smaller economy means less tax revenue, thereby increasing the deficit and prompting demands for more austerity. As we pointed out in our election statement, a Greek exit from the EU as the result of workers struggles would be a step forward, but not a solution in itself. The economic crisis of the imperialist system cannot be resolved within the borders of one country, particularly in small, dependent Greece with its low level of industry and resources. International socialist revolution is the only solution to unemployment, wage cuts, imperialist war and the other depredations of decaying capitalism.
Nationalism: poison for workers struggle
Don’t be fooled by Syriza’s name, which stands for Coalition of the Radical Left. It is anything but that, both in its current incarnation and in its origins. It originated, in part, from a right-wing split from the Communist party by anti-Soviet elements. The forces that became Syriza spent the last decade immersed in the Social Forums, student struggles and populist “indignados” protests — the last of which were explicitly anti-working class. In 2004 Syriza was formed as a coalition including bourgeois and petty-bourgeois political forces like environmentalists and ex-PASOK members.
As for Syriza’s transformation into a party, its founding conference in 2013 adopted a resolution, which is a dead letter today, where one of the most radical demands was to nationalise the banks. It proclaims itself to be for the laos, the people, of which the working class is only one sector. It was not built by workers organisations, unions, but rather emerged as a voice for the petty bourgeoisie.
In our January statement we called Syriza a petty-bourgeois party because it had not yet gained ruling-class support. That is no longer the case. Before the elections the main bourgeois daily newspaper Kathimerini ran editorials about “dealing with the Syriza virus” (ekathimerini.com, 24 September 2014) and accused Syriza of gambling with the country’s economic development. But a few days after the elections, Kathimerini warned right-wing New Democracy, its former favourite, that it “must throw its support behind any government decisions that are for the overall good”. Syriza worked very hard to win the support of a wing of the bourgeoisie. In 2013 Tsipras promised to maintain the notorious tax scheme whereby the monumentally wealthy Greek shipowners pay little tax. He also met with leaders of Greek industry last year, promising them a better business climate with fewer obstacles to profit-making.
Much of the left in Greece and internationally expressed dismay at Syriza’s alliance with the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL). Such surprise has to be deeply cynical. Syriza and the Independent Greeks have been courting each other for some time. They had an ongoing parliamentary alliance stretching back to 2013. That year, Syriza sent a representative to the Independent Greeks congress, and they agreed to a common front to bail out little brother (Greek) Cyprus. This alliance is useful for Syriza and its boosters, as it allows them to blame their backtracking and lies on the coalition. But, actually, there is no conflict of class interest between the Independent Greeks and Syriza, because both parties share a desire to promote Greek nationalism and national interests. For the Independent Greeks this means expelling immigrants from the country, accusing the tiny Jewish population of Greece (descendants of survivors of the Holocaust) of not paying taxes, and otherwise promoting horrible nationalism and anti-gay bigotry.
Knowing that its promises are largely empty, Syriza uses nationalist populism as an ideological prop for its rule. For years, Greece has been swept by almost daily strikes and protests against the government and its policies. But today you have flag-waving, pro-government protests, a confirmation of Syriza’s usefulness to the Greek capitalists in deflecting anger away from them. One of our comrades noted that this is the first time in her life she has ever seen pro-government demonstrations.
Tsipras has denounced Turkey for infringing on Cyprus’ sovereignty, and the Greek military announced last week that it will be carrying out military exercises with Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. Fascist Golden Dawn announced that they will support Syriza measures against privatisations as well as anything Syriza does to oppose sanctions against Russia. While Greece’s subordination to the imperialists understandably whips up national sentiment against the Troika, the solution for working people is not nationalism, in which is expressed the lie that there is a common interest between Greek workers and their capitalist exploiters at home.
Rather than pointing out to the working class that the Syriza-Independent Greek nationalist alliance is simply an alliance of left and right bourgeois populists, the left has turned its fire against the Greek Communist party for refusing to ally with Syriza. We called for a vote to the KKE not least because it had refused in advance to rule with Syriza. The KKE correctly said: “Reject the blackmail and lies of ND-Syriza, the people have bled enough for the EU-plutocracy.” An electoral alliance between the KKE and Syriza would be a classic popular front, or alliance between a reformist workers party (the KKE) and a bourgeois party (Syriza). When the workers are tied to the capitalists by their misleaders, as in China in the 1920s, Spain and France in the 1930s and Chile in the early 1970s, the result is not socialism but the disillusionment and disarmament of socialist-minded workers, the defeat of revolutionary opportunities and, very often, the rise of extreme right-wing reaction.
The workers movement of Greece has its own bitter memories of such betrayals. In the Second World War the Communist party’s military forces led a successful resistance struggle against the German occupation and controlled nearly the whole country by 1944. However, the KKE, following Stalin’s diktat, handed power back to the British-backed capitalist forces. The Greek bourgeoisie murdered thousands of Communists after winning the years-long civil war, and the KKE remained more or less underground until after the fall in 1974 of the military dictatorship. I urge you to read the current issue of the ICL’s theoretical journal Spartacist, which has an in-depth article explaining the origins of the KKE’s popular-frontism and Stalin’s nationalist programme of “socialism in one country”.
There is a mass reformist workers party in Greece with tens of thousands of working-class members and deep trade union links. It is the Communist party, not Syriza, that maintains the allegiance of militant Greek workers. The KKE is one of the few remaining mass Stalinist parties that has refused to dissociate itself from the Soviet Union. Today, the KKE claims to have turned its back on “coalitions” with the bourgeoisie and to have studied and corrected what it calls “mistakes” made when it did participate in bourgeois governments at various junctures. We called for critical support to the KKE, meaning that although we urged people to vote for it, we didn’t shy away from or disappear our differences with its Stalinist programme. We sought to use the tactic of critical support as a way to expose the reformist programme of the KKE. Our critical support allowed us to argue with KKE workers and youth against the party’s nationalism and populism. And we had lots to argue about.
The KKE views as sacrosanct the Greek borders, which were extended a hundred years ago in a series of fratricidal wars. Back in 2013 the Communist party newspaper ran an article calling to strengthen the war industries in the name of national defence. In the last election the KKE ran NATO admiral Giannis Douniadakis as a candidate. This was an act of fealty to the capitalist state, and we said: “No Vote to Douniadakis!” The KKE denies that there is a Slav Macedonian minority in Greece, never mind that it should have the right to separate. But the democratic demand for the right of self-determination for national minorities is vital for a revolutionary party in Greece to uphold, and we raise it prominently. Because of the national conflicts in the Balkans and the imperialist subordination of the region, for the working class, a Socialist Federation of the Balkans is the only way forward.
The KKE and the capitalist state
The Communist party’s pronouncements can sound like Marxism. In the latest issue of its theoretical journal Communist Review the KKE wrote, “The new power must smash the bourgeois state. No organ and its mechanism can be reformed and transferred to the conditions of socialist construction.” There was also a very interesting letter by the KKE in a recent issue of the Morning Star, newspaper of the British Communist party. The letter was a rebuttal of the international fake left’s criticism of the KKE for not joining with Syriza in government. The KKE makes a number of correct arguments against Syriza and its left tails, including that Syriza “accepts the strategy of the EU and Capitalism” (morningstaronline.co.uk, 23 January).
The KKE’s current posture can only partially obscure what is at bottom a class-collaborationist Stalinist programme. In fact, despite its left rhetoric, in practice the KKE does administer the capitalist state on the local level. There is a KKE mayor of Patras, Greece’s third-largest city, for example. Our international views it as a communist principle not to run for or accept executive office — mayor, president, sheriff etc. These are offices where, if in power, a communist would be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the capitalist state, including the local police, of course.
We distributed thousands of copies of our critical support statement, including to rallies and marches of the KKE and its youth group. We had a range of reactions from KKEers, some thanked us while others found it almost unbelievable that a Trotskyist group would be voting for the KKE. The Douniadakis candidacy, which I mentioned earlier, was a hot topic of debate, as were the democratic rights of national minorities in Greece and the question of the police, who the KKE has argued can be won to the side of the working class. We discussed with KKE students who asked us to sit down with them and explain what we meant by our criticisms of the KKE’s populism and nationalism. These youth were impressed with our organisation’s principled defence of the USSR and East Germany during counterrevolution, and our call in 1979, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!”
You might think that every so-called socialist organisation in Greece has an orientation to the KKE, with its mass support in the working class, left-sounding Stalinist politics and mass demonstrations of tens of thousands. But they don’t. In fact, when our comrades distributed our critical support statement to an Antarsya election meeting, SEK leaders expressed disgust that we would call for a vote for Stalinists. That’s right, the Cliffites, who have voted for everyone from Greece’s bourgeois PASOK to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, were horrified by the idea of voting for the Communist party. The left complains constantly of the KKE’s sectarianism. In fact, it is anti-Communism that holds Antarsya together, with its hodgepodge membership of ex-Stalinist, fake-Trotskyist and Maoist organisations. None of these groups defended the Soviet Union against capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-1992. We did! We fought on the ground there, and earlier in East Germany, for unconditional military defence against imperialism and internal counterrevolution and for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and install regimes of workers democracy.
For workers struggle against fascism!
I would like to conclude with some comments on the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn, and the strategy needed to stop them. Golden Dawn now holds the third most seats in parliament, behind only Syriza and New Democracy. As you may know, one of its supporters stabbed and killed the leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013, and fascists are also responsible for other brutal killings and assaults on immigrants and leftists. Golden Dawn, with its Nazi symbolism and extreme nationalism, is seen by many lumpen and petty bourgeois as the only “radical” alternative to the system that brought on the economic crisis. In many working-class areas once dominated by the KKE, such as the port area of Athens, Golden Dawn has fed off years of hunger and unemployment.
This situation urgently cries out for mass, united-front mobilisations centred on the power of the organised proletariat to stop the fascists. The capitalist state keeps the fascists in reserve in order to use them to crush the workers when bourgeois class rule is threatened. It is therefore suicidal for leftists and workers to have any illusions that the institutions of the capitalist state can be used to stop the fascists. While the left hailed the arrest of more than a dozen Golden Dawn leaders in 2013, we warned that the very laws used by the state to go after the fascists would eventually be used to suppress the working class and oppressed.
The struggle for a workers united front against fascism does not mean that revolutionaries should ditch their programme to lash up with reformists and bourgeois forces. We advocate a united front premised on full freedom of criticism and political independence for the various organisations involved. In this way, revolutionaries seek to expose the reformist misleaders and win workers to the revolutionary programme. This is how Trotsky advocated the use of the united-front tactic in the early 1930s in Germany. The German Communist party’s refusal to demand that the reformist Social Democracy join them in a workers united front against the Nazis allowed Hitler to come to power without a shot being fired.
The KKE itself has been attacked by Golden Dawn, but its leaders have offered no sustained resistance to the fascist threat. Shortly after Fyssas’ murder there was a large demonstration organised by the KKE’s union front PAME that stopped Golden Dawn from rallying. But this was essentially a one-off event. The KKE’s programme against fascism is expressed in its newspaper Rizospastis, where it has appealed to “isolate” the fascists ideologically and to use the “weapon of the vote” against them. The demo after Fyssas’ murder hinted at the real strength of the working class, but this strength has been held in check by the KKE’s leadership. The KKE argues that only socialism can stop fascism. It is true that ultimately only the workers in power can end the conditions that give rise to fascism, but for the KKE this is just a cover for its refusal to mobilise against the fascists, and encourages passivity in the working class towards the deadly threat the fascists pose today.
In the fall of 2013, shortly before Fyssas’ murder, I witnessed the largest working-class demonstration I have ever seen. There were tens of thousands of workers, mobilised by the Communist party and its trade union front PAME. Many were waving red hammer and sickle flags, marching in close military formation through the streets of Athens to the US Embassy to protest what seemed like the imminent bombing of Syria. Two months after Fyssas was killed, more than a thousand Hiter-loving scum marched right up to the Greek parliament in central Athens and rallied there unopposed. Had tens of thousands of workers been mobilised in the streets by the unions and the left, this fascist provocation could have been stopped. So our propaganda for a united front is not abstract in the least. One must only remember that this year is the 70th anniversary of the end of the Nazi Holocaust to be aware of what is at stake.
The SEK in Greece is a prominent organiser of KEERFA, an anti-fascist front group. We attended a KEERFA meeting during last year’s November 17th commemoration. This event is held annually to commemorate the students killed by the ruling military junta during a pro-democracy protest at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973. The commemoration draws thousands of Greeks from all walks of life, from schoolchildren with their teachers to aged veterans of the Civil War. Every left organisation in the country sets up literature tables inside the campus. We attended the event held by KEERFA to discuss the progress of their anti-fascist campaign. The main speaker, a public leader of KEERFA, spoke at length about the nature of fascism, the struggle for immigrant rights, etc. All of this led to a final, resounding crescendo: we must march in the streets — to pressure the government to throw the fascists in jail!
There can be no greater expression of illusions in the capitalist state than this demand. It is suicidal in any capitalist country to rely on the state to deal with the fascists, but in Greece it should be even more apparent because it is widely known that half of the cops support Golden Dawn. The last government’s health minister was known for using a home-made axe to hunt down leftist students when he was a leader of a right-wing youth group. A supporter of the TGG intervened in the meeting from the floor. She really shook the room up. She explained why we call for the united front and then exposed the illusions in the cops and courts pushed by the SEK and KEERFA. She went after the SEK for being anti-Communist, and for being so repelled by our call for a workers united front with the Communist party. She got a fair bit of applause after her remarks.
Well, of course KEERFA and the SEK are absolutely thrilled that Syriza was elected, because now they really push illusions that the state will take care of the fascist threat. The SEK calls on Syriza to continue the trials of Golden Dawn, root out their supporters in the state apparatus, and “disarm the police”. A recent anti-Turkey provocation launched by the new government illustrates the depth of these reformist illusions. Days after the election Panos Kammenos, the new defence minister, staged a nationalist anti-Turkey provocation by lowering a wreath over the Imia islets, where three Greek soldiers died in a helicopter crash in 1996. These are pieces of rock whose ownership is disputed by Greece and Turkey, and every year the fascists hold an Imia rally on 31 January.
This year’s counter-demonstration in Athens against the fascist rally was a crystallisation of the toothless, liberal, anti-fascist “common front” against fascism hailed by Antarsya and KEERFA. This demo, the first since the election of Syriza, saw the left rally hours before and in a different location from the fascists, obviously with no intention of stopping Golden Dawn. Everyone from the Syriza youth to Antarsya to anarchists was represented. Much was made of the fact that there was a minimal police presence. Of course, had this been a serious mobilisation to stop the fascists, you can be sure that hundreds of riot cops would have been dispatched to protect Golden Dawn.
For a Leninist-Trotskyist party
No capitalist government, including one led by Syriza, will be able to satisfy the desperate demands of the Greek masses for jobs, healthcare and pensions. In these conditions, the fascists will continue to grow. It is necessary for the Greek working class to come to the fore in militant struggle of all those facing ruin by the capitalist crisis. A class-struggle response to the populist demagogy of the fascists is needed. In a country where the unionised working class has been decimated by the economic crisis, a massive campaign to organise the unorganised is needed. In Greece, immigrants are murdered in the street, detained in squalid camps, or pushed into the sea to drown before even reaching Europe’s shores. Against deportations and state repression against undocumented migrants, we call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. In response to massive, sustained unemployment in a society where a whole generation has never held a job, we demand jobs for all through a shorter workweek with no loss in pay! In a society where the pitiful minimum wage leaves the working poor to burn firewood to heat their apartments, have their electricity cut off, and send their children hungry to school, we demand a sliding scale of wages to keep up with the cost of living! In contrast to Syriza’s timid begging for scraps from the imperialists, we say: Repudiate the debt! Nationalise the banks!
This struggle would point to the need for the working class to completely expropriate the bourgeoisie and establish its own government through socialist revolution. It will be necessary to extend any revolution in a dependent European country like Greece to the imperialist centres of Berlin, Paris, and London. Our programme is for the Socialist United States of Europe. I would like to conclude by quoting from an article written by our German comrades. They wrote: “The Socialist United States of Europe, in conjunction with the conquest of proletarian power in the US, Japan and throughout the world, would lay the basis for a real international division of labour in a planned economy, thus enormously increasing the productivity of society. Establishing the genuine equality of the peoples of Europe, it would eradicate the source of the imperialist wars that have brought Europe so many times near extinction” (Workers Hammer no 217, Winter 2011-2012). Central to our perspective as Trotskyists is the reforging of the Fourth International as the world party of proletarian revolution, the task the International Communist League has set for itself.