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GREECE: An alternative to capitulation

GREECE

An alternative to capitulation

 Éric Toussaint

On 5 July 2015, by a referendum initiated by the government of Alexis Tsipras and the Hellenic Parliament, the Greek people overwhelmingly rejected the austerity measures imposed by the institutions that were known as the Troika. It was a splendid victory for democracy.

However the agreement reached on Monday, 13 July will lead to fresh austerity measures over several years. This completely contradicts the will of the Greek people expressed in the referendum. During the night of 15th to 16th July, it was adopted thanks to the support of four right-wing parties (PASOK, Potami, New Democracy, Independent Greeks) that brought their votes to Tsipras while 32 Syriza MPs voted against and 7 abstained.

This agreement forces Syriza to abandon essential commitments made during the 25 January 2015 election campaign, which led to its historically significant victory. Syriza has binding responsibilities towards the Greek people and it is tragic that they were not respected, especially since the people very clearly showed their support both on 25 January and 5 July 2015. [1]

The Greek government’s concessions to the creditors include pension cuts (Syriza had promised to restore a 13th month to people who receive pensions of less than 700 euros per month) and an extension of the retirement age; wages will remain restrained; labor relations will become more precarious; there will be an increase in indirect taxes, including those paid by lower income earners; the continuation and acceleration of privatization; the accumulation of new illegitimate debts to repay previous debts; the transfer of valuable Greek assets to an independent fund; further relinquishing of key elements of sovereignty, giving an upper hand to the creditors in matters of legislative power, etc.

Contrary to claims that in return for these detrimental concessions Greece will get three years of respite and will significantly boost its economic activity, it will in fact be impossible to create the primary fiscal surplus announced in the plan considering the continued check on household purchasing power and public expenditure.

Harmful consequences are inevitable: in a few months or early next year at the latest, creditors will attack the Greek authorities for failing to comply with their commitments in terms of primary fiscal surplus and will introduce new demands. Neither the Greek people nor their government will have any respite. The creditors will threaten to bring the promised disbursements to a halt if new austerity measures are not implemented. The Greek authorities will be caught up in a spiral of concessions.

The Truth Committee on Public Debt established by the President of the Greek Parliament has documented in its preliminary report made public on 17 and 18 June 2015 that the debt claimed by the present creditors must be considered illegitimate, illegal and odious. [2] The Committee has also shown that its repayment is unsustainable. On the basis of arguments derived from international and domestic law, the Greek government should have taken a sovereign decision to suspend debt repayment for the time that the debt audit takes to run its full course. Such a suspension of debt payment is quite possible. Since February 2015, Greece has paid €7 billion to creditors without receiving the €7.2 billion previously agreed upon in the bailout program that ended 30 June 2015. Other amounts that should have been paid to Greece have not been transferred: the interest earned by the ECB on Greek securities, the projected balance for the recapitalization of banks, etc. If Greece suspends debt payment to its international creditors, it will save nearly €12 billion by the end of 2015 and the creditors would be compelled to make concessions. [3] A radical reduction in the amount of debt could lead the way either to negotiation or to repudiation.

Contrary to the widespread claim that suspending payment would result in exiting the euro, it would have been possible to stay in the Euro if a series of sovereign measures of self-defense and economic recovery such as a strict control on banks, currency, and taxation (see below) had been implemented. It would have been perfectly possible to eschew the ECB’s, the Eurogroup’s and the EC’s unacceptable and illegitimate injunctions. The Tsipras government decided otherwise, and this has led to a tragic subordination to EU supervision, to more austerity and to the selling off of the Greek national heritage.

It is now clear that negotiations cannot convince the European Commission, the IMF, the ECB and the neoliberal governments in other European countries to take measures that respect the rights of Greek citizens as well those of the people in general. The referendum of 5 July, to which those institutions were fiercely opposed, did not convince them. Instead, in contradiction with basic democratic rights, they have radicalized their demands. Without taking strong and sovereign measures of self-defense, the Greek authorities and the Greek people will not be able to put a stop to the human rights violations perpetrated by the creditors. A host of measures should be taken at EU level to restore social justice and true democracy. Technically, it is not difficult but it must be noted that with the balance of power prevailing in the European Union, the countries with progressive governments can hope neither to be heard nor supported by the European Commission, the ECB, or the European Stability Mechanism. On the contrary, these institutions as well as the IMF and the neoliberal governments are actively opposing the current Greek experiment to demonstrate to all the people of Europe that there is no alternative to the neoliberal model. However, if the Greek authorities adopt strong measures they can gain genuine concessions or simply force the institutions to recognize the decisions taken. It is also vital to find an alternative strategy by initiating massive popular mobilizations in Greece and other European countries. The Greek authorities could draw on that to thwart the attempts to isolate them — attempts that the forces opposed to change in favor of social justice will waste no time in making. In turn, such a stand from the Greek government would empower popular mobilizations and encourage the mobilized people to have confidence in their own strength.

On top of the suspension of the payment of illegitimate, illegal, odious and unsustainable debt, here are a number of alternatives to the conditions in the agreement between Tsipras and the creditors, to be urgently submitted to democratic debate, that are likely to help Greece recover:

1. The Greek state is by far the main shareholder of the major Greek banks (representing more than 80% of the Greek banking sector) and it should therefore take full control of the banks in order to protect citizens’ savings and boost domestic loans to support consumption. First, the State should have assumed its majority stake in the banks and turned them into public-sector companies. Then, the State would have organized the orderly liquidation of these banks whilst ensuring the protection of small shareholders and savers (guaranteeing deposits up to 100,000 €). The State would have recovered the cost of cleansing the banks from major private shareholders who have caused the crisis and then abused public support. To do this it would have had to seize part of their assets which reach far beyond the banking sector. A ’bad bank’ should have been created to isolate and hold toxic assets with a view to their liquidation. Those responsible for the banking crisis should have been sued to pay once and for all. The financial sector must be thoroughly cleaned up and made to serve the people and the real economy.

2. The Greek authorities should retrieve control over the central bank. Yannis Stournaras, the current CEO (appointed by the government of Antonis Samaras), invests all his energy in preventing the changes that the people call for. He is a Trojan Horse that serves the interests of large private banks and neoliberal European authorities. The central bank of Greece should be made to serve the interests of the Greek population.

3. The Greek authorities also had the opportunity to create an electronic currency (denominated in euros) for internal use in the country. The public authorities could raise pensions and salaries in the public services and grant humanitarian aid to people by opening credit accounts for them in electronic currency that could be used for several kinds of payment: electricity and water bills, payment for transport and taxes, purchases of food and basic goods, etc. Contrary to a baseless prejudice, even private businesses would do well to voluntarily accept the electronic method of payment as it will allow them to sell their goods and settle payments to the government (payment of taxes and for the various public services they use). The creation of this additional electronic currency would reduce the country’s needs in euros. Transactions in this electronic currency could be made by mobile phones as is the case today in Ecuador.

4. The restrictions on capital flows must be maintained while the price of consumer goods must be controlled.

5. The privatization agency must be dissolved and replaced by a national asset management agency (with an immediate halt to privatizations) which will be responsible for protecting the public assets while generating revenue.

6. New measures should be adopted to achieve more tax justice, reinforcing those already taken, notably by levying heavy taxes on the richest 10% of the population (particularly the richest 1%), both on their income and on their assets. Similarly, it would be beneficial to significantly increase the tax on big companies’ profits and to withdraw the tax exemptions for ship-owners. Heavier taxes should be imposed on the Orthodox Church, which only paid a few million euros in taxes in 2014.

7. Taxes on small incomes and wealth and on essential goods and services should be significantly reduced. This would benefit the majority of the population. A whole series of basic utility services should be free (public transport, electricity, and water to a certain limited level of consumption, etc.) These social-justice measures would revive consumption.

8. The fight against tax evasion should be intensified by establishing substantial deterrents. Considerable amounts can thus be recovered.

9. An extensive public plan for job creation should be implemented to rebuild the public services destroyed by years of austerity (for example, health and education) and to pave the way for the necessary ecological transition.

10. This support to the public sector should be accompanied by measures which provide active support to small private ventures that are key elements in the Greek economy.

11. Public domestic borrowing measures may be adopted by issuing public debt securities within national borders. In fact, the State must be able to borrow to improve the living conditions of the population, for example by carrying out public utility works. Some of this work can be financed by the current budget through assertive policy choices, but government borrowing could enable other projects, broader in scope — for example the massive development of public transport to replace private cars; developing the use of renewable energy; creating or reopening local railway services throughout the urban and semi-urban sectors of the country; renovating, rehabilitating or constructing public buildings and social housing while reducing energy consumption and providing quality amenities. Such measures can also finance the ambitious plan for job creation outlined above.

It is urgent that a transparent policy of public borrowing be defined. Our proposal is:

1 Public borrowing should aim at guaranteeing an improvement in living conditions, discarding the logic of environmental destruction.

2. Public borrowing must contribute to a redistribution of wealth and to reducing inequalities. That is why we propose that the financial institutions, large private corporations and wealthy households be legally bound to purchase – commensurate with their wealth and income – non-indexed government bonds at 0% interest. The remaining population can voluntarily acquire government bonds at an interest rate that will ensure a genuine and positive return (e.g. 3%), above inflation. So if the annual inflation is 2%, the interest rate actually paid by the State for the corresponding year will be 5%. Such a policy of positive discrimination (similar to those adopted against racial oppression in the US, the caste system in India, or gender inequalities) will result in tax justice and less inequality of wealth distribution.

Finally, the Greek authorities should ensure that the Audit Committee as well as other committees working on the memoranda and on war damages can continue their task.

Other additional measures that can be democratically debated and implemented on an urgent basis might complement these first emergency measures based on the following five pillars:

- Socializing banks and a part of currency creation. 
- Preventing tax evasion and establishing a fair tax reform to provide the State with the necessary resources for implementing its policies. 
- Protecting public property, including the national heritage, and placing it at the service of the entire community. 
- Rehabilitating and developing public services. 
- Supporting local private enterprises.

It is also important to launch Greece into a process of structural democratic change with active citizen participation. To achieve this constituent process, Greece must convene an election of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new democratically chosen Constitution. Once the Constituent Assembly – which should operate on the basis of grievances and proposals received from the people – adopts the draft, it will be submitted to popular vote.

Exiting the Euro Zone. After the Greek Parliament adopted the disastrous agreement of 13th July on the 16th, an alternative must include the possibility of voluntarily exiting the Euro Zone if the Greek people support this prospect. This option is comforted by the Greek Parliament’s capitulation on July 16th and by the very content of the agreement. Moreover the Greek people will soon understand that if they want a future that includes justice and emancipation, Greece must get out of the euro zone. In this case, the above propositions remain valid, especially the socialization of banks similar to the nationalization of France’s banking system after the Liberation. These measures should be combined with a significant monetary reform, inspired by the system implemented by the Belgian government after World War II. This reform will specifically aim at deflating the incomes of those who got rich at the expense of others. The principle is simple: during the changeover to another currency, there should be no automatic parity between the old and the new currency (the existing euro against a new drachma, for example) beyond a certain limit.

The amount exceeding the limit must be blocked in an escrow account and its origin must be justified and authenticated. In principle, any amount exceeding the specified ceiling will be exchanged at a less favourable rate (for example, two former euros against one new drachma). When a criminal origin can be proved, the sum may even be forfeited. Such monetary reform would distribute part of the wealth in a more socially just manner. Another objective of the reform is to reduce the money in circulation in order to fight inflationary trends. To be effective, strict control over capital movements and foreign exchange must be established.

Here’s an example (of course the rates are indicative and may be modified after analyzing the distribution of liquid household savings and the adoption of stringent criteria) :

€1 would be exchanged against 1 new drachma (n.D.) up to 200,000 euros €1 = 0.7 n. D. between 200,000 and 500,000 euros €1 = 0.4 n. D. between 500,000 and 1 million euros €1 = 0.2 n. D. above 1 million euros

If a household owns € 200,000 in cash, it gets 200,000 n.D in exchange. If it has € 400,000, it gets 200,000 + 140,000 = 340,000 n.D If it has € 800,000, it gets 200,000 + 210,000 + 120,000 = 530,000 n.D If it has € 2 million, it gets 200,000 + 210,000 + 200,000 + 200,000 = 810,000 n.D

A genuine alternative logic can be triggered and Greece can finally liberate itself from its creditors’ control. The peoples of Europe could again believe in a change that favors justice.

Translation by Suchandra de Sarkar in collaboration with Christine Pagnoulle, Mike Krolikowski and Snake Arbusto.

Footnotes

[1] The author thanks Stavros Tombazos, Daniel Munevar, Patrick Saurin, Michel Husson and Damien Millet for their advice when he was drafting this document. However, the author takes full responsibility for the content of this text.

[2See: http://cadtm.org/Executive-Sum...

[3] €6.64 billion and €5.25 billion respectively, will be paid to the ECB and the IMF by 31 December 2015. Source: Wall Street Journal,

In Honor of the Left Opposition

In Honor of the Left Opposition

— Paul Le Blanc

SIXTY YEARS AGO, in the same year that bloody purges orchestrated by Communist Party dictator Joseph Stalin were engulfing their country, small groups of dissident Communist heroes and heroines in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics waged their final struggle for the original ideals of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

"I have described these people because I am grateful to them for having existed, and because they incarnated an epoch," wrote Victor Serge of the revolutionary and working-class militants in his luminous novel Midnight in the Century. He was referring to the men and women of the Left Opposition, who struggled "for a renewal of the ideology, morals and institutions of Socialism" that had been degraded by the bureaucratic and murderous authoritarianism of the Stalin regime in the USSR.

They are often referred to as the Russian Trotskyists, although this is misleading. One of the few members of this current to have survived, Serge noted that "our Oppositional movement in Russia had not been Trotskyist," its activists rejecting leadership cults as much as they respected the ideas, integrity and example of Leon Trotsky. "We regarded the Old Man only as one of our greatest comrades, an elder member of the family over whose ideas we argued freely."

More often, they referred to themselves as Bolshevik-Leninists, fiercely embracing and defending the revolutionary internationalism, working-class democracy, and uncompromising integrity which they felt had animated the party of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and the revolution of 1917, in which many of them had been active participants.

Some were younger than that. Nadezhda Joffe, whose father's suicide-protest against Stalinism took place shortly before Trotsky's 1927 exile, was twenty-one years old when she plunged into the struggle:

"After my father's death and Trotsky's exile, we developed the Oppositional work with particular force. It must be noted that the most irreconcilable Oppositionists to Stalin's growing regime were precisely the young people, and especially the student youth. We were most of all impressed by the fact that the Opposition called for the free expression of opinions in the struggle against the spreading bureaucracy....

"I must say, that of all the innerparty groupings, it was only the Trotskyists who actively fought. We did approximately what revolutionaries did in the czarist underground. We organized groups of sympathizers at the factories and in the schools; we issued leaflets and distributed them.... We naturally established contact with young workers, and due to this I became acquainted with many of their representatives."

Of course, some of the older revolutionaries had been active in the anti-bureaucratic resistance since the early and mid-1920s. Those grouped around Trotsky joined in a bloc, for a short time in 1926-27, with less intransigent forces led by Gregory Zinoviev.

The United Opposition advanced a program for revolutionary internationalism, more rapid industrial development, defense of workers' rights, a return to democratic debate and decision-making within the Communist movement, and resistance to the bureaucratic degeneration of the USSR. Although forced to meet clandestinely, many of its organizers were optimistic, while others had the more somber view that "even if there were only one chance in a hundred for regeneracy of the Revolution and its workers' democracy, that chance had to be taken at all costs."

This was the view of Victor Serge, who later recounted: "To the comrades who, under the firs in the cemetery, or on a waste plot near a hospital, or in poverty-striken houses, demanded some promise of victory from me, I would answer that the struggle would be prolonged and harsh."

Working-Class Ferment, Bureaucratic Repression

While Oppositional perspectives found resonance among workers, and won adherents in factories and even state-controlled unions, the ferment, agitation and strikes of 1926-27 were not sufficient to counter the continued authority -- even among many disgruntled workers and dissatisfied Communists -- of the Communist Party leadership, not to mention the power of the bureaucratic state apparatus (especially the resource-rich secret police of the GPU).

Open demonstrations were savagely repressed, and the Opposition's secret print shop was raided. Most open members of the United Opposition were arrested and sent into internal exile to isolated villages in the vast northern regions. Soon Zinoviev and most of his followers recanted in order to obtain their freedom and be taken back into their old party and state positions.

Yet the Left Opposition remained a force to be reckoned with. According to the old Yugoslav dissident Ante Ciliga -- a critical-minded eyewitness -- "Trotskyism was the only Opposition grouping that carried any weight in Soviet society, the others [he specifically mentions the more radical "Democratic Centralists"] being practically negligible."

As Michal Reiman explains in his important study The Birth of Stalinism:

"Stalin could not ignore the fact that the left opposition still remained a potential nest of serious resistance. The overall deterioration of urban conditions had led to a growth in political activism [in 1928]. Once again, opposition leaflets were being distributed widely, and members of the opposition had penetrated the workers' ranks, helping to organize their social struggle. Trotsky's articles, letters, and notes, illegally obtained from Alma Ata, were circulating among party member".

"On the anniversary of the October revolution in 1928, the opposition once again tried to organize street demonstrations. Trotsky's popularity was growing. 'His firmness and courage are patently impressive,' noted a contemporary. For many, the name 'Trotsky' became a symbol of consistent and open struggle against Stalinist policies."

This was by no means a wave of proletarian revolution, however, and increased repression proved quite capable of containing it. This made Oppositionists still at liberty incredibly vulnerable.

"In one of his pre-revolutionary articles, Lenin wrote: 'We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand,'" noted Nadezhda Joffe. "That is what it was like for us. We were going in a tight group along the edge of a precipice, which was not only deep but fatal for many of those who went." Joffe herself was arrested in the spring of 1929.

Capitulators and Stalwarts

By 1928-29, as the Stalin regime seemed to be making a "left" turn, particularly in the direction of rapid industrialization, prominent Left Oppositionists such as Eugen Preobrazhensky and Karl Radek were beginning to break ranks. Others not prepared to recant circulated the harsh ditty: "If you miss your family and your teapot too, write a letter to the head of the GPU."

Victor Serge later explained that "the vocation of defeated revolutionists in a totalitarian state is a hard one. Many abandon you when they see the game is lost. Others, whose personal courage and devotion are above question, think it best to maneuver to adapt themselves to the circumstances."

Christian Rakovsky and two other prominent Oppositionists circulated a declaration meant to rally those among the arrested dissidents who were not inclined to capitulate, yet as Trotsky later commented, "the ideological life of the Opposition seethed like a cauldron at that time."

Historian Isabelle Longuet notes that some Oppositionists "attacked [the Rakovsky declaration] for not being critical enough of the capitulators and for overestimating the shift to the Left [by the Stalinists, referred to as "centrists" by Trotsky in this early period].... 'There is nothing to be expected from centrists,' they wrote. It was up to the masses themselves (party members and nonparty) to conquer party democracy and working-class democracy."

The pressures to give in were intense, when capitulation could mean freedom, and adherents of the Opposition in jail and exile melted down from about 10,000 in 1928 to 800 in 1930. By 1934, Rakovsky himself was ready to capitulate, his views later recounted by Nadezhda Joffe, in whom he confided and whom he won over:

"His basic thoughts were that we had to return to the party in any way possible. He felt that there was undoubtedly a layer in the party which shared our views at heart, but had not decided to voice their agreement. And we could become a kind of common sense core and be able to accomplish something. Left in isolation, he said, they would strangle us like chickens."

This was a logic which Trotsky, in exile outside of the USSR, absolutely rejected. So did his cothinkers who remained exiled in the small village "isolators." One survivor later recalled the toasts they made on New Year's Day: "The first toast was to our courageous and long-suffering wives and women comrades, who were sharing our fate. We drank our second toast to the world proletarian revolution. Our third was to our people's freedom and our own liberation from prison."

Instead, they would soon be transferred to the deadly Siberian labor camps into which hundreds of thousands of victims of the 1935-39 purges (including most of the capitulators plus many other Communist Party members) were sent as Stalinist repression tightened throughout the country.

Grandeur...and the Deep Black Night

Writing his classic analysis of the bureaucratic degeneration of working-class power in Soviet Russia, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky insisted in 1936 that "the bureaucracy can be removed only by revolutionary force -- "but he didn't expect that this could be accomplished spontaneously.

The accumulating grievances and pain and anger among the working-class and peasant majority would need to connect with a clear program around which experienced revolutionary activists had gathered. While the Left Opposition was "still weak and driven underground," he believed that its militants could ultimately "stand at the head of the masses" in a struggle in which "bureaucratic autocracy must give way to soviet democracy."

Some have expressed skepticism about the practicality of such a perspective for the Russian Left Oppositionists  or even about whether such people still existed in the USSR.

At least on this last point, Trotsky's perceptions were not unconnected with historical realities inside the USSR at that time. Arrested while in Moscow in 1936, Secretary of the Palestinian Communist Party Joseph Berger later remembered the Left Oppositionists he met during his own ordeal:

"While the great majority had 'capitulated,' there remained a hard core of uncompromising Trotskyists, most of them in prisons and camps. They and their families had all been rounded up in the preceding months and concentrated in three large camps -- Kolyma, Vorkuta, and Norilsk.... The majority were experienced revolutionaries who had fought in the Civil War but had joined the Opposition in the early twenties.... Purists, they feared contamination of their doctrine above all else in the world.... When I accused the Trotskyists of sectarianism, they said what mattered was 'to keep the banner unsullied.'"

Another survivor's account, published in the emigre publication of Russian Mensheviks, Socialist Messenger, recalls "the Orthodox Trotskyists" of the Vorkuta labor camp who "were determined to remain faithful to their platform and their leaders," and, "even though they were in prison, they continued to consider themselves Communists; as for Stalin and his supporters, 'the apparatus men,' they were characterized as renegades from communism."

Along with their supporters and sympathizers (some of whom had never even been members of the Communist Party), they numbered in the thousands in this area, according to the witness. As word spread of Stalin's show trials designed to frame and execute the Old Bolshevik leaders, and as conditions at the camp deteriorated, "the entire group of 'Orthodox' Trotskyists" came together. The eyewitness remembers the speech of Socrates Gevorkian:

"It is now evident that the group of Stalinist adventurers have completed their counterrevolutionary coup d'etat in our country. All the progressive conquests of our revolution are in mortal danger. Not twilight shadows but those of the deep black night envelop our country.... No compromise is possible with the Stalinist traitors and hangmen of the revolution. But before destroying us, Stalin will try to humiliate us as much as he can.... We are left with only one means of struggle in this unequal battle: the hunger strike...."

The great majority of prisoners, regardless of political orientation, followed this lead. Lasting from October 1936 to March 1937, the 132-day hunger strike was powerfully effective and forced the camp officials and their superiors to give in to the strikers' demands.

"True grandeur," is the term Victor Serge used in 1937: "They are not vanquished, they are resisters, and they often have victorious souls.... What is best and clearest in the conscience of the masses which, tomorrow, sooner or later, will awaken, lives in them."

In 1938 the Trotskyists of Vorkuta were marched out in batches  men, women, children over the age of twelve  into the surrounding arctic wasteland. "Their names were checked against a list and then, group by group, they were called out and machine gunned," writes Joseph Berger. "Some struggled, shouted slogans and fought the guards to the last."

According to the witness writing in Socialist Messenger, as one larger group of about a hundred was led out of the camp to be shot, "the condemned sang the 'Internationale' joined by the voices of hundreds of prisoners remaining in camp."

Their memory, their spirit, their commitments were embraced by small groups of men and women in countries throughout the world, many of whom formed the Fourth International, a worldwide organization for socialist revolution whose "Bolshevik-Leninist" program was articulated by Trotsky himself.

But the meaning of what they were radiates far beyond any organizational boundaries. It can be found wherever workers struggle for dignity, fight to win the battle for democracy, and reach for a world in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Sources:

Joseph Berger. Shipwreck of a Generation (London: Havrill Press, 1971).

Ante Ciliga. The Russian Enigma (London: Ink Links, 1979).

Tony Cliff. Trotsky: 19271940 (London: Bookmarks, 1993)<./p>

Nadezhda Joffe. Back in Time (Oak Ridge, MI: Labor Publications, 1996).

Paul Le Blanc. Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1993).

Michal Reiman. The Birth of Stalinism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).

George Saunders, ed. Samizdat (New York: Monad Press, 1974).

Victor Serge. From Lenin to Stalin (New York: Monad Press, 1974).

__________. Memoirs of a Revolutionary (London: Writers and Readers, 1984).

__________. Midnight of the Century (London: Writers and Readers, 1982).

__________. Russia Twenty Years After (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1996).

Leon Trotsky. The Revolution Betrayed (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1974).

From  Against The Current 67, March-April 1997

GREECE: CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE LIMITS OF LEFT REFORMISM

GREECE: CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE LIMITS OF LEFT REFORMISM

 

Kunal Chattopadhyay and Soma Marik

 

The European Union has been claiming for a long time that it is the heir of the Enlightenment. It has also sought to use quite a bit of the rhetoric of social democracy. As it extended past the Hellespont and east of the Elbe, it has presented itself as the civilised alternative to the gunboat diplomatic style of the US and the totalitarianism of the former Russian bureaucrats who had dominated East Europe. In reality, it has been an institution in the making that is as undemocratic as the USA. And German capitalism, one of the cornerstones of the EU has been increasingly showing its claws since the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the reunification of the two Germanys. Both these elements can be understood when we look at the use of referenda in the EU and the German response. European integration has not been a democratic process. At each step, proposals for making the institutions of Brussels even more remote from popular control have been sought to be rammed through. And whenever voters have rejected such proposals in referenda, they have been threatened with expulsion from the European Union. When the French people rejected one such proposal, even German intellectuals like Habermas warned France that it would isolate itself fatally. 

So, when the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, called for a referendum it was not surprising that the bosses of Europe and the media owned by them heaped abuse and went all out to arm twist the Greek people. 

During the General elections of January 2015, Syriza obtained 36.34 per cent votes, and the votes received by leftists of all shades amounted to 43 per cent. Six months later, the referendum of July 2015 showed over 61 per cent of the voters saying no to the proposed austerity measures of the ruling classes of Europe, with at least 55 per cent being a consolidated left vote. [The Nazis of Golden Dawn, who also campaigned for No, obtained 6.28 per cent in January]. Clearly, as far as electoral results can reflect the class struggle, the verdict of Greece is in. In the last six months, the toiling people have made up their minds. They want to resist any more money being handed over to the rich, whether of their own country or of Germany and the other major powers of Europe.

Roots of the Crises and the Attacks on the Masses:

 Propagandists for the European Central Banks, the IMF and the European Commission, the “troika”, have been arguing with furious and seemingly righteous anger, that the Greeks had borrowed and lived in a profligate manner, and by demanding debt reduction they are making illegitimate demands. There has been a furious debate. Whenever Tsipras and Varoufakis have brought up political issues, the apparently purely technocratic response has been to deny that. But the truth is clearly on the side of the Syriza leadership here. To understand that, we need to look at both the origins of the Greek crisis, and the nature of the pressures. 

Two roots of the current crisis need to be mentioned. The first is the Greek decision to join the Euro. The creation of the Euro meant the agreement of a number of states to give up their own currencies, and unite. But the dominant economy in this process was the German economy. 

The economic rationale for the creation of the Euro was that it would speed up the process of economic convergence between them and the wealthier European powers. In fact, the opposite has happened which exposes but well planned class politics. In Greek and Italian cases both show the per capita GDP being higher in 1999 than now. Spain has not done quite as badly, but has been diverging since 2008. It was argued that joining the Euro would simplify many problems. But it also meant that the Greek government lost control over its money. The Euro had to be maintained at a certain level. This meant all countries joining the Euro promising that they would maintain the same levels of government debt and government deficit. The prescriptions issued by the European Central Bank were more suitable for the German economy than for the Greek. But in 2001, nobody noticed it immediately. To join and maintain the position of the weaker Greek economy in the Euro meant to overvalue the real effective exchange rate. This did not benefit Greek working people at all. 

What did happen was, the power of the ECB meant, democratic public control became impossible. This became quite visible after World Financial crisis of 2008. Remember the 2008? It started with banks giving sub-prime mortgages to all and sundry. These were then packaged and sold as “mortgage backed securities” for huge profits. And meanwhile, the agencies who hand out ratings, like Standard and Poor, Moody’s, etc, gave sky-high ratings for these sure to collapse products. Then the crisis hit. Commercial banks started collapsing. Unlike ordinary toiling people, here there was strident demand for state action to save them. Vultures like Goldman Sachs had bet on these institutions collapsing, and made money on that. Secondly, they bought up falling concerns at immensely low rates. And of course, they demanded that citizens’ money be spent to save them. In Greece, a right wing government did just that (as in all other countries where the crisis was acute). 30 billion Euro was given to Greek banks in bailout by the government.

After the banks were bailed out by the Greek government, in other words, when the private debt of banks became the public debt of the Greek state, then the international agencies started downgrading the bonds of Greece. This means, the interest rate goes up, and it becomes more difficult to refinance the loan. By 2011, the banks were controlling Greece so much, that the Prime Minister Papandreou (not a radical at all), who refused to go along with the Troika demands, was forced to step down despite winning a vote of confidence. Lucas Papademos, a banker, was installed as Prime Minister with the brief to negotiate and settle with the Troika. His government did many things, of which one needs to be mentioned. It promised transparency. But a former Finance Minister in the Papandreou government, accused of removing three names from the Lagarde list, got away with being convicted of “doctoring a document” and a one-year suspended jail sentence. And what was this Lagarde list? It was a list given in 2010 by Christine Lagarde, of over 2000 alleged tax evaders with big accounts in Swiss bank HSBC. According to a statement by one Greek official made in 2011, there were a total of  at least 80,000 tax evaders, with each having more than 200,000 Euros in what we in India call black money (untaxed money), stashed away in foreign banks. Of course, the European powers did not fall on Greek governments for being casual in getting the money out of these high level crooks. By the way, days after Greece, bankers turned up as Prime Ministers in Italy and Spain as well. November 2011 was the month of the bankers. A few months down the line, the same bond market manipulation was used. Greek bond “yield” was hiked to 50%, and Greece was forced to accept another terrible bailout. It is a loan that comes with dictations on the internal economic policy of the country. Like privatization of the country’s assets. Profitable assets were to be sold to oligarchs. Budgets were to be dictated by the bankers, such as rejection of cuts in military spending, rejection of increased tax on the rich, and insistence on cuts on spending for the poor. Among other things, the media was totally privatised, so that Greek people got to see on television the image of bankers as their saviours and the unions as the destroyers. This is what Greece has been going through. And this was what the Greek people rejected in January 2015, by voting for Syriza in such big numbers.

 The right wing response has been a denial of this reality, and highlighting something else – the fact that wages and social security in Greece have gone up. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has been insisting that pensions must be cut, and higher taxes must be imposed on the impoverished working class. So it is not just a matter of Greeks repaying money. A Jubilee Debt Campaign study in January 2015 found that more than 90 per cent of the bail-out funds went off to pay off Greece’s creditors. Yet the Greek people have been saddled with more debt, government debt rising from 134 per cent of the GDP in 2010 to 174 per cent by January 2015.

That Greek debt rescheduling is not a really major problem has been acknowledged, for example, by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, former executive board member of the ECB and currently chair of the French bank Société Générale. Smaghi wrote that it should not be difficult to refinance the $355 billion debt of Greece. This was also known to Tsipras and Varoufakis, who had hoped to strike a deal with the European authorities. The simple way is to repackage it, write off part, and make repayment of the rest a longer term and lower interest affair. As a result money would not all have to be poured into immediate loan repayment. The freed up money could be used to reverse austerity policies. The current situation in Greece is sufficiently alarming. It is also utterly immoral to claim that the Greek people have been pampered. Half the young people cannot find work. Pensions have been cut by anything between 15 percent and 44 per cent, so that 45 per cent of the pensioners are living below the poverty line. Obviously, under such a circumstance, the proposed repackaging would have helped the majority of the people.

But that is exactly what the European elite do not want. As Smaghi explained, the Greek government wants to spend money to revive the Greek economy. This means increased public spending. The neoliberal mantra of course is that the state must not spend money (except on such things as pay or the police). So the pressure on Greece is not just about getting back the loans. It is not even about preventing a “Grexit” (Greek exit from the Euro zone). It is an ideological battle, a class battle, that not even reformist pro-poor policies should be permitted. Cut down social spending, severely attack trade unions and labour legislation, and impose pro-rich tax regimes – this is the message going out from Brussels, Germany and the IMF. They are aware that there are others waiting to see if Syriza gets what it wants. Spain, and other weaker economies, might find left reformist left parties coming to power and seeking to do the same things.

Another point being made nowadays is, in order to join the Euro, the Greek government cooked its books (tampered with figures). All of a sudden, we are asked to believe that this was done with the knowledge and consent of the Greek people, and without knowledge of the big financiers. How sickening a joke. It was Goldman Sachs that did the cooking of the books. It was the more powerful countries of Europe that have been encouraging the weaker countries to join the Euro, even though joining the Euro puts pressure on their economies.

 

What is Syriza and What does its Government Represent?

 Syriza is something that has distant past analogues, but is not like anything Europe has seen in recent times. It is not a traditional Social Democratic party of the late twentieth century, whose duty it is to step into the breach when there is working class unrest, and govern for the ruling class, while explaining to workers that it is doing the best it can. Nor, however, is Syriza a revolutionary party. One of the jokes is the way, in recent times, Syriza has been called far left, radical left, or ultra-left.  The reality is, Syriza is a leftwing party, which has emerged from mass movements. At its core was a small reformist party, but a left reformist party that was willing to travel a long way with more radical forces. Syriza has within it a considerable radical left, gathered mostly in the Left Platform. But the leadership is clearly dominated by left reformists, not revolutionaries. Many in the left have had too much of a linear conception, and have therefore argued that under neo-liberalism there is no space for reformism, especially left reformism. This wrong assessment leads them to take totally wrong positions when something like Syriza occurs. 

Left reformism is of course still reformism. So the argument is not the straw-person one, where one side is claiming that Tsipras is a revolutionary, while the others are simply crying sell-out. Left reformism can take militant action. One might remind people that the left reformists of the Austrian Social Democracy even fought the Austrian fascists, arms in hand, in 1934. So Tsipras showed, in the years before 2015, that he was willing to reject pressures to behave like a “statesman” and support a stable national coalition government that would implement the policies demanded by the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the EU. However, for some years, there has emerged a buzz within sections of the radical left, about how new parties can be built. This is supposed to be a new era, and using terms like reformist, centrist, and so on are signs that one has remained a dinosaur stuck in the 1950s and 1960s. This has meant that when mass parties like Syriza have been built, their internal contradictions, the fact that right from inception they have had considerable reformist forces, have been downplayed. But after winning a convincing victory in the January 25 elections this year, Tsipras proceeded on an assumption that was fundamentally flawed. The first assumption was that it was possible to keep two promises – one, that Greece would not leave the Eurozone, and two, that nonetheless, the Greek crisis could be tackled. This was, as many on the left have argued, a crucial error. To remain within the Eurozone is to remain under the dictation of the European Central Bank and the European Commission, without the state authorities having the power to make certain vital changes. The second assumption was that the democratic verdict of the people would convince the creditors and bankers, as well as the governments of the most powerful European countries, that they should now change gears.  In his effort to make a deal with the creditors, Tsipras set aside the radical economic platform of Syriza and pushed in its place the milder Thessaloniki Programme. Then, in late February, there came a further major concession, when the Syriza government agreed, in essence, to an extension of the previous austerity and privatisation programmes, which went against all that Syriza had said in the past. 

At this point, it is also necessary to look at how media manipulated news. Varoufakis, the relatively militant Finance Minister, was constantly projected in a bad light, as though his un-diplomatic behaviour, not the core demands of the exploiters, were preventing gentlemanly agreements. Meanwhile, nobody was reporting that the bulk of negotiations, apart from Varoufakis, were handled by people deep in the right wing of the party, like Deputy Prime Minister Giannis Dragasakis. The right wing were presented as reasonable leftists, rather than as people swiftly committing themselves to the troika terms.

But the lenders were not happy with this limited surrender. They pushed Syriza in negotiations over access to the huge (billions of Euros) bailout fund that was supposed to be made available under a 2012 agreement. Already, under the previous right wing government, “reforms” have meant massive cuts in public health and education systems, privatisation of state-owned enterprises, government services, and higher tax on working people. In consequence, there has been a huge contraction of the Greek economy, by about 25%, and also a huge unemployment level and dire poverty. Nevertheless, Tsipras tried to arrive at a compromise with the creditors. To do so, the Greek government paid $495 million to the IMF in April. In May it paid a further $826 million. It made offers going beyond Syriza’s policies, for example promising to increase the value-added tax. But the European powers started making ever more stringent demands. To these we will return below. What we want to stress is, it is not the anecdotal version, about how aggressive Varoufakis is, how far left Tsipras sounds, but the hard choices that made Tsipras act as he did. As we propose to argue, the ruling classes in Europe acted in an ideological manner, seeking to not merely recover loans but impose a definite class politics and break the current government. For a long time, Tsipras was opposing the left wing of his own party, as well as the radical left outside Syriza (mostly united in Antarsiya).  When, on 26 June, he shifted gears, it was because he was aware that to do anything else, to bow down to the current demands of the Troika, without any show of force, was to seriously risk breaking Syriza, and bringing down his government. But as his responses after the referendum showed, he was simply trying to show the Troika that he had more muscles, rather than launch a real struggle. The revelations by Stathis Kouvelakis show that the right wing was opposed to the referendum. 

“ [The Right wing] thought that the referendum was a high-risk proposal, and they understood, in a way that Tsipras did not, that this was going to be a very confrontational move that would trigger a harsh reaction from the European side — and they were proved right.

They were also afraid about the dynamic from below that would be released by this initiative. On the other hand, the Left Platform’s leader and minister of energy and productive reconstruction, Panagiotis Lafazanis said that the referendum was the right decision, albeit one that came too late, but he also warned that this amounted to a declaration of war, that the other side would cut off the liquidity and we should expect within days to have the banks closed.” This was exactly what happened. 

 

German Imperialism, OXI and the Capitulation:

 One aspect of the violent attack on Greece is the revival of German imperialism. Militarily, it is no match for the US, or even with the weakened Russia. But the collapse of the USSR and the transformation of the European Union from a Social Democratic to a neoliberal model have strengthened it. Between 1991 and 2013, Germany’s export rate has nearly doubled, from 22.2 per cent to 40 per cent. German direct investments abroad rose from 134 billion Euros in 1991 to 1.2 trillion Euros in 2012. In 2014, Germany had a 7.4 per cent current account surplus (the value of the flow of all goods, services and finance), which was greater than what China had. But given the military weakness, Germany is not willing to go it alone. Instead, it is hiding its imperial goals behind the language of the European institutions.

 This is where the Greek votes, the one of January 2015, and the one of July 2015, are crucial. Greeks voted for a change in a positive direction. And they have good reason to demands such change. As Thomas Piketty, author of the widely read book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, told the German newspaper Die Zeit, “Germany is really the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt. Neither after the First nor the Second World War. However, it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870….” Piketty went on to argue that it makes rational sense to write off debts…. rational from an abstract human point of view. From the point of view of the German ruling class, it is not. 

With 61 per cent of the Greeks voting No, the Greek voice is in. Throughout the period of campaign, a false image was drawn, that the vote was about whether Greece would remain in the Euro zone. Against all the cynicism (of the KKE, of diverse shades of rhetorical leftists who see merely manipulations) it is necessary to stress that the 61 per cent no vote is a massive working class and popular victory. This was a vote against a gun pointed at the temple. While bourgeois media, whether in the West, or in India, were often arguing that the people did not even know what they were voting for, the Greek people showed that they understood the question perfectly. At stake was the question whether they were to accept the extreme austerity programmes, including the ever increasing demands? Despite threats, the bank closures, the fear of layoffs, the warning that a No meant a break with the Euro and devastation for the economy (as if it was not devastated), lack of fuel, medicine, they went ahead to vote no. For the ‘yes’ were the ruling class and the upper middle class, who stand to gain from the programme of the Troika. Indeed, to remain in the Eurozone is a danger. But the vote was about rejecting the terms dictated by the “Troika”. The 61 per cent is higher than the votes received by Syriza plus Antarsiya. The sectarian and increasingly irrelevant Greek Communist party called for spoiling the ballot, but it seems about two thirds of its voters or more voted No. 

Tsipras made it clear, immediately after the results were in, that he thought the referendum simply meant going back to the negotiating table with a stronger position. In this, he showed both a rejection of the real aspirations of the workers, and a naive attitude to the European big capitalists and their political representatives. Tsipras’ first speech after the result was to tell the people that they have given the resounding No to go back to negotiation tables. But the Germans are putting pressure and refusing to budge. Within the next few days, it became clear that there was going to be no confrontation, but a serious capitulation. A deal has to be struck by Sunday. This is the position taken by the creditors. And in response, Tsipras has put forward a proposal that amounts to cuts of the type rejected by the referendum. 

Tsipras called a snap vote in parliament asking for support to negotiate a list of "prior actions" measures, his government would take to convince creditors of its intent ahead of negotiations and to secure the first disbursement. He is assured of a majority, since the right wing parties, New Democracy and To Potami, who campaigned for a Yes vote, will support him in Parliament. The proposals he has put forward as a basis for compromise show, he has given up the rights of the pensioners, the rights of the public servants who still have jobs, the rights of people to afford decent food as the VAT goes up to 23 percent, a deal compared to which the agreement that was rejected by the referendum was better.

But finally, the left wing inside Syriza appeared to be making up its mind to challenge Tsipras. Given the difficult situation, one can understand why the leftists, like the Left Platform, have been careful. Syriza did not have a clear majority in Parliament. With the KKE taking an utterly sectarian position, Syriza formed a government by collaborating with a small bourgeois nationalist party opposed to the European Union. Under the circumstances, to talk of splitting the party, denouncing Tsipras as a traitor, and doing the kind of extreme things that small sects have no problem in doing, did not sound right to them. However, members and leaders of the Left Platform have been arguing against many of the proposals and actions of the Syriza leadership for several months. 

At the meeting of the Syriza parliamentary fraction, leaders of the Left Platform put forward an alternative proposal. A summary, translated by Stathis Kouvelakis, shows some of the principal demands made by them include:

Tell the creditors and the people that the government is ready to pull out of the Eurozone unless there is a positive compromise reflected in a program that will end austerity, provide sufficient liquidity to economy, lead to economic recovery, and include major writing-off of the debt. 

If required by the circumstances, the government has to implement a transitional program to the national currency, and in particular to adopt the following measures:

1.The radical reorganization of the banking system, its nationalization under social control, and its reorientation towards growth.

2.The complete rejection of fiscal austerity (primary surpluses and balanced budgets) in order to effectively address the humanitarian crisis, cover social needs, reconstruct the social state, and take the economy out of the vicious circle of recession.

3.The implementation of the beginning procedures leading to exit from the euro and to the cancellation of the major part of the debt. There are absolutely manageable choices that can lead to a new economic model oriented towards production, growth, and the change in the social balance of forces to the benefit of the working class and the people.

In Parliament, Tsipras saw about 17 MPs of his party voting against, abstaining, or not taking part in the vote by being absent. While this represents a small part of his party, given its parliamentary status, the loss of even these members could mean Syriza becoming dependent on bourgeois parties to a far greater extent. 

With the Germans, led by the increasingly hard-line Schaeuble, rejecting even the proposal of Tsipras and rejecting any talk of debt reduction, the aim of the German capitalists appears to be clear. They do not merely want to get their money back. They want to humiliate the government of Tsipras so much that it loses all credibility. This is done, with an eye not just to Greece, but to Ireland, Spain, and any other country facing similar economic problems. The message is – elect a left wing government and expect even worse treatment than otherwise. Meanwhile, France under Hollande, and the United States, played “soft cop”. France, which is showing itself as “soft” to Tsipras, seems to be more worried about the possible fall-out of a Grexit, and is therefore pushing for a mild reduction of the pressures. The USA, likewise, is putting pressure, for it wants the Euro to remain stable, and though the Greek share in European economy is limited, it fears that a Grexit might destabilize the currency. But the price Tsipras is being asked is rather more than a pound of flesh. In response to a third bail out deal  (not a single Euro of debt write off), Greece is being asked to set aside 50 billion Euros of assets to the Institution for Growth in Greece (IFG), who will then auction them off to the highest private bidder. The IFG is a wholly owned subsidiary of the German KFW banking group. And the chairman of the IFG board of supervisory directors is none other than German Finance Minister and banker Wolfgang Schäuble. Under the terms set before Tsipras on Sunday night, the Greek parliament has to endorse the entire package on Monday and then pass several pieces of legislation by Wednesday, including on pensions reform and a new VAT regime, before the Eurozone will agree to negotiate a new three-year rescue package. Apparently, they also have to promise to allow the creditors to vet future legislative proposals before these can be put to Parliament. Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize winning economist, wrote in his blog; “This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief.” 

In Greece, the repercussion could be serious. One party that campaigned No, other than Syriza and Antarsiya, was the fascist Golden Dawn. In Greek Parliament, Golden Dawn seem to have voted against the proposal. With acute social crisis, a failure of the left is bound to strengthen, not the traditional Centre-Right, but the fascists, since they have been strident in their opposition, though from a purely ultra-nationalist stance. The old right is badly discredited. Their opposition to the No campaign also saw a huge defeat. As the English poet Shelley had told the English workers in 1819, after the St. Peter’s field massacre (Peterloo Massacre) – “Ye are many, they are few”. The elite, and traditional parties depending on the elite, are therefore in a bad shape. Leaders of both New Democracy and PASOK, the two major ruling class parties, have resigned. But not so the fascists.  

The vote of 5 July showed that it was the radical left, which was the force that campaigned most determinedly, that, carried the day. This includes the left wing in Syriza, as well as the forces in Antarsiya. This No was a demand, also, to Tsipras to stop making unacceptable concessions to the European bourgeoisie. With Tsipras determined to choose staying within the Eurozone, whatever the cost, the radical left has a long road ahead. The OKDE-Spartakos, Greek Section of the Fourth International, remarked in its preliminary response to the referendum result:

“The class front, which struggled in the favour of NO, should reject any new agreement and any new measures. It must demand wage increases and collective working contracts. It must impose the split with the IMF and the EU. It must claim for the banks and big corporations’ nationalization under the workers’ control, as the only solution against the banks’ extortions and the bosses’ sabotage. It must disarm the police, which even under the Syriza government, protected the YES and suppressed the NO demonstrations. It must completely crack the Nazis of Golden Dawn, which is going to exploit a part of the NO, a NO which they supported with false pretences, for political survival purposes. We do not have the slightest delusion that the Syriza-ANEL government will pursue such measures. We are confident that the power of the workers can achieve them.” However, while this is a correct long term project, it must be understood that in the short run, a new leadership cannot be created out of scratch. 

The rebellion within Syriza appears to be increasing. Tsipras has bowed to every demand made, even though the IMF has meanwhile declared that unless there is a debt cancellation, the bailout will not work. In other words, Greece will be drained, Greek property will be sold off, but the crisis will only increase. The Greek debt is set to rise to 200 per cent of the GDP. The medicine is a sure cure for further pauperisation of the toiling masses of Greece. But Merkel insisted that Greece has to declare its parliamentary approval for the deal by the midnight of 15 July. Media reports suggest that along with pushing for the package in alliance with the bourgeois parties, Tsipras will be moving to sack the leftwing leaders, like Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, or Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou, who however can only be removed through a vote of no confidence.

Meanwhile, leftists have started taking more concrete action. The executive of the ADEDY public sector union federation met on Monday. Represented on the executive are members of Antarsya and of Meta, the Syriza trade union front. It called for a 24 hour general strike across its public sector affiliates against the new memorandum. Whether this correct response to the capitulation of the reformists can be followed by further militant action needs to be seen, but clearly the battle is shifting outside the parliamentary terrain. 

 

Future Prospects:

 The identification of Stalinist bureaucratic rule with communism, and therefore its ideology with Marxist outlook, had been a huge retreat of the left from the 1980s. Class having been given up as a failed grand narrative, every country is supposed to be culturally specific. So internationalism is being sought to be reduced to a marginal thing. There are those who are arguing, that the left outside Greece should express solidarity against the Troika, but not take sides in the disputes within the Greek left, not support so called marginal sects. Tsipras being the leader of the left, the argument goes, we should accept what he has to say. 

Many people on the international Left are naturally sympathetic to Syriza and to Alexis Tsipras. They understand the immense pressure he was placed under, and respect the fact that he managed to initially take a tough negotiating position with the Troika. Yet, what they fail to understand is that Tsipras is not Greece, and Tsipras is not even the whole of Syriza. If a leftist leader succumbs to capitalist pressure, we need to focus on what it means to the working class, not just how much pressure the “poor man” was subjected to. What is unacceptable, for leftists outside Greece, is to ignore their internationalist responsibilities. The victory of working class force as against the power of capital, anywhere in the world, is important. Each defeat weakens us globally. In the same way, each victory strengthens us. There has been an argument that Greece is part of privileged Europe, and it is no concern of Indians. The objective of European capital is the same as the objective of capital everywhere – to smash the power of workers, to intensify exploitation. Whether capitalism is weakened in Greece or in Venezuela, each victory adds to our global strength. To not recognise this is to succumb to bourgeois campaigns to divide the toilers. It is not our task to work out the tactics for Greek revolutionaries. But it is our duty to recognise basic class interests and extend our support. It is necessary to understand, that a massive attack has been unleashed, and solidarity with Greek workers means opposing those attacks. That in turn means, openly voicing opposition to calls to accept the aggressive demands of the European capitalists, not remaining silent in the name of non interference. We do not have votes in the Greek parliament. But our voices can tell the Greek workers we are supporting them. Against the post-colonialist, and nationalist voices that will tell us, “Why should we bother if “whites” are under attack, the Greek workers are privileged” etc, we must say, neoliberal attacks are happening everywhere. To remain silent when the pensions of Greek workers are taken away sets up Modi as he reduces even the pathetic MNREGA even further, for example. So opposing imperialism, opposing capitalist exploitation, everywhere, and supporting important fight-backs, which is exactly what the Greeks have been doing, is vital. As we write, the Indian bourgeois media is back to its task, calling the working class protests in Athens on Wednesday a “riot”. We remember, that struggles of toilers have always been described by the paid writers and other ideologues of the ruling class as riots – the “grain riots” of the English revolution, the “grain riots” and “bread riots” of the French revolution, the “Deccan riots” of rural India under colonial rule, and many, many more. Capitalism everywhere is aware of the stakes in Greece, as it was aware of the stakes in Venezuela, as it was aware, decades back, of the stakes in Chile. While we criticise those who stumble, those who let down the working class, we cannot ever forget that our first enemy is the ruling class, and our first task is to express solidarity with struggles against the ruling class.

An ultra-left stance is to declare that a total defeat has already occurred. While there are still possibilities of workers resisting, we cannot take such a stance. Even if a General Strike takes place, Greece may suffer defeats. There may be a forced Grexit rather than a planned one. But a defeat in which the working class retains its power to fight, and one in which its power is smashed, are very different. What is necessary is to understand, that in either case, the current Syriza is finished as a radical working class party. There has to be a recomposition, either by the Syriza ranks fighting and removing the moderates, or by the Syriza left and the revolutionaries outside it uniting to forge a more militant, revolutionary alternative. Within Syriza, a recomposition is taking place. 38 of the Syriza MPs voted against the proposals on Wednesday. Kouvelakis correctly writes, as a Greek leftist himself, that 

“Today is a tragic day for Greece and for its Left. More than two thirds of Syriza MPs voted jointly with the pro-austerity parties (New Democracy, Pasok, Potami) and the junior coalition partner Anel the prerequisite bill for the toughest by far austerity package ever accepted by any kind of left (including social-democracy) government in Europe, the only possible comparison being the 1st Memorandum passed by Pasok in 2010.”

As Kouvelakis points out, however, the opposition within parliament is deepening. “38 Syriza MPs (out of a total of 149) saved the honour: 32 voted no, six voted "present" (there was also one absence). It appears that all Left Platform MPs, + KOE (Maoists) + Zoe Kostantopoulou + former ministers Varoufakis and Nandia Valavani and a couple of others voted No while six MPs of the "53" current (left wing of the former majority bloc) voted present.” [present is a form of abstention in the Greek parliamentary procedure]. Clearly, the Greek government has lost control, and there is likely to be a recomposition of government with the right wing parties, whose proposals the masses have repeatedly defeated (January, July) poised to enter in a coalition. The alternative will be Tsipras going to fresh polls. But with 107 out of the 201 Central Committee members of Syriza opposed to the deal, it is questionable how far he will be in a position to lead Syriza. 

Meanwhile, internationalist protests have started coming up. In Germany, protestors have gathered in 14 cities. Anti-austerity demonstrations by a vocal minority of Germans took place in cities including Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, with the left proclaiming its solidarity with those across the world who are furious with Berlin for its role in forming Monday’s agreement. The battle has been joined, and while major crises have occurred, it is wrong to argue that the battle is already lost. 

 

  

 

 

Alexis, what have you done with our victory?

Alexis, what have you done with our victory?

Tuesday 14 July 2015, by Andreas Sartzekis

OKDE-Spartakos

 

“61.3 % vote No to overthrow the system, 251 Yes for submission to the system” - that was Sunday’s headline on “Prin”, the newspaper of the NAR, a component of Antarsya and the main group of the Greek revolutionary left.

In itself, it clearly summarized the paradox of the situation, whereas on this Monday morning, the proposals of a 3rd memorandum approved a little while ago by the immense majority of Greek members of parliament (251 out of 300) have already been much exceeded by the demands of the vultures of the troika. While everything is being done on the part of the European institutions and the Greek institutional parties to have the No of July 5 forgotten, it is necessary to identify the requirements of this phase (“tragic” to use the term employed by Stathis Kouvelakis, even if the spectacle of the European debates brings to mind rather the Grand Guignol) to review the crucial importance of this vote.

A referendum for nothing?

In Greece but also elsewhere, the debates on the refusal of Tsipras to take into account the extraordinary No result tend to be translated into two directions: either a betrayal which would prove the counter-revolutionary character of Syriza, or a constrained but inevitable adaptation to circumstances too unfavourable to even the slightest initiatives of reform. If such discussions are normal, we have to go beyond them to make constructive, that is, credible and inspirational, proposals, based on the popular and class message of the referendum. This obliges us to repose the question: did the referendum reveal Tsipras’s great political savvy? In our view, no: it seems more to be an act of political discouragement by the Syriza leadership, seeing that all its proposals were successively rejected by a troika whose rules of operation Tsipras had accepted. Remember that the electoral program of Thessaloniki was a step backwards compared to that of Syriza. Once elected, Syriza abandoned this minimum program so as not to exceed the “red lines” (pensions, employment law).

However, each time, the pressure of the European bourgeoisie - the Nobel Prize winner Stiglitz has clearly shown that its motives were purely political - has pushed back the lines, and each time the government has said it would be ready to find an agreement with the troika. More than a total alignment on the capitalist program as was the case with social democracy, we must rather see here the extreme naivety of a reformist party with a radical minority that did not succeed in weighing on its orientation. Following a classic reformist tactic, rather than calling for the mobilization of European workers and youth to force back the troika, the Syriza leadership called an improvised referendum - if the Yes vote had prevailed, we can think that Tsipras would have handed over the government to the right to recover his health in opposition, and if the No won, this would help better negotiate the demands imposed by the troika (a draft 3rd memorandum having been communicated to Brussels before the vote).

However, what has surprised everyone, including the revolutionary left who had played a key role in the mobilization for the No vote, was the profound movement demanding a clear break with austerity: to remain in Europe, but not the Europe of the vultures and the oligarchy, rather the Europe of the workers, of young people, of solidarity. Even if it did not emerge with these slogans, this is certainly the first time in the history of Europe that a demand such as this has emerged at such a mass level, and of course, this mass movement totally eclipsed the small mobilization in favour of a Yes vote, benefiting from media support for the maintenance of the Europe of the privileged.

Hence the shameful nature of the position of the KKE (the Greek Communist Party) calling effectively for a spoiled ballot (and on the night of the referendum, its leader Koutsoumbas wanted to address both those who had voted No and those who had voted Yes). Hence also the attitude of the voters of the Nazi group Golden Dawn who called for a No vote without any presence in the campaign: the polls showed that 60% of its supporters voted Yes, a sign of the class polarization of this campaign!

On the evening of July 5, it was soon clear that the No vote had won, and after two hours there was a popular tide, with a huge spontaneous gathering on Syntagma Square. However, it had to wait over five hours for Tsipras’s statement: we can imagine not only the surprise, shared the whole country, but also the embarrassment of the Syriza leadership. However, while the right collapsed, with its leader Samaras resigning immediately, working class neighbourhoods were celebrating this demand to break with the “rules” of austerity, Tsipras’s statement immediately had the effect of a cold shower: rather than calling to prolong the mobilization, Tsipras broke this huge victory with a call for national unity and a meeting of the leaders of the party leaders the next day, to gain more support for the demands which remained those of a new memorandum.

Possible consequences of a vote betrayed

In this respect, it is difficult not to speak of treason, which reminds us of another betrayal: in 2013, when secondary level teachers voted for a strike in relation to the Greek matriculation exams (“panellinies”), this decision was rejected by the leadership of the Olme union, namely by the currents of Pasok, the right and Syriza, the KKE having rejected the strike from the beginning, only the current formed notably by Antarsya voting for the continuation of the strike and respect for the vote of the teachers. Already, at the time, Syriza’s fear of finding themselves in a situation outside the institutions was apparent. It is the same today, with consequences which are far more serious, if the current course is not reversed by the demonstrations. In effect, there are already, outside the vultures in Brussels, at least three winners: the KKE, whose leadership had been discredited during the vote, plays on the theme of “I told you so”. Already, on July 10, the cortege of the KKE trade union current in the demonstration against the yes vote before parliament was very big and highly mobilized, on a very sectarian basis.

Another winner as possible: the Nazis, who could take advantage of a possible nationalist upsurge based on disillusionment. It should be said that with the trials of the Golden Dawn leaders being postponed, they are at liberty, and racist attacks have resumed. Other winners: the parties of reaction which, on the evening of July 5, did not expect so much. Thus, when one hears the leader of a right group, Theodorakis (nothing to do with the composer who called for a No vote), one wonders if it is not him who is Prime Minister. Moreover, the European leaders welcome this, to show their very special concept of democratic sovereignty.

But of course, the big loser is the Greek people and especially workers and young people: the Tsipras memorandum means attacks on pensions, the suppression of the small increase in the minimum wage in the autumn, privatization with redundancies, the return of the evaluation sanction in the public sector -. that is, just the opposite of the meaning of the vote of July 5 and the great hope that emerged from the huge gatherings of July 3. With of course a huge risk if the anti-austerity mobilizations do not extend: disillusionment accompanied by a nationalist surge could help the Nazis bounce back, and smash the hopes of a radical left in Greece and Europe, without revolutionaries benefiting in any way. That is why what is being played out in Greece must give rise to enormous mobilizations in the country but also in the whole of Europe!

For an anti-austerity movement everywhere in Europe!

The vote on Friday in parliament has allowed us to see to what point this parliament is out of key with popular desires: the parties of the former government have voted yes, as well as their new accomplice Potami, and Syriza’s ally, Anel. The KKE voted no, as well as Golden Dawn, but it is interesting to see the details of the votes of Syriza deputies: the vast majority voted Yes (251 out of 300), two voted no (members of DEA), eight abstained (including the ministers who lead the Left Platform, Lafazanis and Stratoulis, and the president of the Parliament, Konstantopoulou, as well as the former ERT journalist, Kyritsis), while seven were absent. Among those who voted yes, 15 were members of the Left Platform, who said they did not want to bring the government down by voting no.

Thus, little dispute on the part of Syriza deputies faced with this negation of the popular vote. And once again, the official argument of Syriza to justify all its setbacks: let us get on with the negotiations, it will be a rotten agreement but once done, we will finally govern, which we have not been able to do for five months. Certainly, the polls continue to show an advance of Syriza in relation to the right, but the real question is elsewhere: even if Syriza can govern – and nothing is less sure - this would be with what politics? This morning, the new Franco-German demands relate to the now officially recognized loss of sovereignty!

So the stakes are enormous, and the European left has before it tremendous responsibilities, which involve obviously resolute and unitary action. In Greece itself, the mobilizations have been maintained – on Friday, thousands gathered in front of parliament at the call of Antarsya, anarchist trade unionists, PAME (the trade union current of the KKE), and the left of Syriza; on Sunday , a rally called by Antarsya and rank and file trade unions – and must intensify. It is the massive and resolved No which must serve as a compass, in an approach linking all the currents of the left but especially all the unorganized, without forgetting an approach calling on all the left parties, whether or not in government, to work together on a policy of breaking with austerity. The veteran Manolis Glezos has called for respect for the massive No, while the old Communist activist Bitsakis expressed the desire for gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people in the cities of Greece.

More than ever, it is clear that the break with austerity must be at the centre of demands, with a European dimension, which would be the best means of continuing to envisage a Euro zone, on the basis of economic policies based on solidarity and not the search for profits of the French and German banks or the tax havens at the heart of Europe.

Religious fundamentalism in Muslim countries

 


By: Farooq Tariq


Countries with Muslim majority are in grip of religious fundamentalism in various forms and shapes. Some countries are more hit than others but this menace is spreading slowly by steadily in all countries. It has emerged as a great danger to the democratic gains that has been achieved by the great uprising of the masses of these countries.

Religious fundamentalism is not just a phenomena spread by individuals, groups, mosques, madrassas or cluster of these groups but they were able to use the state powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, sometimes for a short period and in other cases, they have consolidated their grip on state structures. The aim is not to spread it to one continent or over the entire world, but they will continue the struggle for implementation of their political Islamic agenda till the “judgment day”.

Understanding roots of the growth of religious fundamentalism in the countries of Middle East, it is absolute a clear fact that American and British imperialism presented political Islam in a conscious manner as a counter offense to the rise of nationalist and socialist movements that spread thoughout the fifties and sixties.


On 5th January 1957, the US president Eisenhower asked Congress for a resolution authorizing him to pledge increased military and economic aid, even direct US protection, to any Gulf nation willing to acknowledge the communist threat. Two months later “Eisenhower doctrine” was passed by the Congress. To save Middle East from communism, Washington turned to political Islam, or known commonly as religious fundamentalism. The “religious approach was adopted side by side the “police and military approach”.


Eisenhower’s doctrine was put in test in Jordan first where nationalists were brutally crushed, with Muslim Brotherhood on monarchy’s side by Shah Hussein. Ever since, civil liberties are curtailed in Jordan.

Earlier in 1951, Mohammed Mosadeq, the Iranian prime minister who dared to nationalize Anglo Iranian Oil Company was overthrown in a coup staged by CIA and Ayotollah Kashani was siding with coup plotters.


These historical references are among several more that will help, at least partly; explain how imperialism fathered Hamas, Hezbollah, Mehdi Militi, Alqaida, Taliban and Iranian Ayatollahs.

Latest in the list is DAASH that was helped initially by imperialist forces to counter the uprising in the Middle East and for the overthrow the ones not in their darling lists anymore. DAASH has emerged now as most barbarian terrorist group that the world has ever known, all on the name of “Islamic State”.


You breed a beast and hope for the best is not what would happen. Breeding of religious fundamentalism in Muslim countries by the imperialist forces was their greatest political and organization blunder in forming strategies to safe capitalism from opposite ideologies.


Side by side, the Saudis have played an important role in strengthening and helping religious groups across Muslim countries in promoting their Wahabi ideology. Saudi financing goes much beyond Middle East. Saudis also gives huge cash subsidies to right wing groups in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Maldives. Iran supports the Shia groups like Hezbollah. Kuwait and Qatar supports various groups including Hamas and Taliban in several manners.


Religious fundamentalist groups in various Muslim countries are using all sort of medieval terrorist act to frighten the opponents. The barbarian acts of burning the prisoners alive by pouring oil; killing prisoners by shooting and releasing their videos have shaken the world tremendously.


The first religious fundamentalist government in a Muslim country was in Iran. Since 1979, it has stabilized its basis initially by physically killing all opposition groups and later by forced enforcement of so called “Islamic laws” mainly against women, democracy and working class. The Iranian regime has helped fanatic Shia groups around the globe against Sunni and Wahabi Muslims.


In Afghanistan, the nine years power period of religious fanatics from 1992 to 2001 played a decisive role in promoting religious fundamentalism not only in Muslim countries but also across the globe. It introduced “Jihad” as the main weapon of spreading fanaticism. It turned Islam into “political Islam”. Osama Bin Laden used Afghanistan as his base camp to plan and carry out all terrorist activities. Pakistan became a refuge for him in his later years of life.


In Pakistan, the 16 December 2014 was the most deadly attack on any school by religious fanatics. 146 were killed in a Peshawar Army Public School, including 136 children, ages ranging from 10 to 17 years. They asked the children to recite Kalma and then fired at them. It was an attack on Muslim children by Muslim fanatics. Almost 11 percent of the total children enrolled in the school were killed within 15 minutes of their occupation of the school.


Such was the devastating effect on children across Pakistan that my son aged 14 asked his mum what should he do in case they come to his school, “line up or run”.


The day shocked Pakistan and the world. The news of the killing of the innocent children was flashed all over the world as the main story of the day. There was a great anger and shock.


The Pakistani state failed miserably to curb the rise of religious fundamentalism. There is always a soft spot for them. For a long time, they were encouraged by the state as a second line of security. The security paradigm meant an anti-India enmity was the core purpose of state patronage.


Pakistan is situated in a region where fundamentalism has been posed, of late, as one of the most threatening questions. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan really began in the 1980s. On the one hand, the military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, was using religion to justify his rule and was „Islamizing‟ laws and society. On the other hand, Pakistan had become a base camp for the forces opposing the Afghan revolution. After the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Zia allies with US, uses Islam to consolidate his power passes pro-Islamic legislation, and create many madrasahs and his policies created a “culture of jihad” within Pakistan that continues until present day.


Recently Islamic fundamentalism has risen as an alternative political phenomenon not only in Pakistan but also in the entire Muslim world. Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan is partly a link of this international phenomenon and partly caused by specific local reasons. When analyzing Islamic fundamentalism, one must understand that the religion of Islam and Islamic fundamentalism are not one and the same thing.


Islamic fundamentalism is now a reactionary, nonscientific movement aimed at returning society to a centuries-old social set-up, defying all material and historical factors. It is an attempt to roll back the wheel of history. Fundamentalism finds its roots in the backwardness of society, social deprivation, a low level of consciousness, poverty, and ignorance.


Let us go back to the example of Pakistan. Apart from creating and supporting Jihadist groups, for decades, the state and military with the financial and political assistance of imperial powers, has indoctrinated millions with conservative Islamic ideology for the purpose of safeguarding its strategic interests.


The three decades since 1980 are seen as the years of madrassas, over 20,000 at present providing home ground for recruitment for suicidal attackers. Supported mainly by Saudi Arabia and many million Muslim immigrants, they have become the alternative to the regular school system. Most of the terrorist activities carried out in Pakistan and elsewhere are linked to the organizational and political support of these madrassas.


After 9/11, the state’s close relationship with the fundamentalists has changed to some extent but not broken in real terms. The banned terrorist groups change their name and carry out activities on a regular basis. They hold meetings and public rallies, collect funds and publish their literature without any state intervention.


Pakistan has become more conservative, more Islamic and more right wing resulting in the growth of the extreme Islamist’s ideas. Blasphemy laws are frequently used for settling personal and ideological scores. Religious minorities, women and children are the easy targets. These soft targets are paying the greatest price for this decisive right wing turn.


The rise of religious fundamentalism has emerged as the most serious challenge not only to progressive forces but also to the very foundation of a modern society. Education and health are the real targets of the fanatics.


Polio workers, mainly women, are killed by fanatics, on the assumption that a team working for the elimination of polio led to the discovery of Osama Bin Ladin, leading to his assassination.  The net result is that the World Health Organization has recommended a ban on all Pakistanis traveling abroad without a polio vaccination certificate.


Religious fanatics groups are the new version of fascism. They are fascists in the making. They have all the historic characteristics of fascism. They kill opponents en mass. They have found considerable space among the middle class, particularly educated ones. They are against trade unions and social movements. They are promoting women as inferior to men, and aim to keep them in the home. Attacking the religious minorities has become a norm.


The religious fanatic groups are internationalists. They want an Islamic world. They are against democracy and promote Khilafat (kingdom) as a way of governance. They are the most barbaric force recent history has seen in the shape of “Islamic State” and Taliban. There is nothing progressive in their ideology. They are not anti-imperialism but anti-America and anti-West. They have created and carried out the most barbaric terrorist activities in the shape of suicide attacks, bomb blasts, mass killings and indiscriminate shootings.


They must be countered. The American way of fighting back in shape of “war on terror” has failed miserably. Despite all the American initiatives of occupations, wars and creating democratic alternatives, the religious fundamentalists have grown with more force. 

Fundamentalists are stronger than they were at 9/11, despite the occupation of Afghanistan.

A whole package is needed. The state must break all links with fanatic’s groups. The mindset that religious fundamentalists are “our own brothers, our own people, our security line and guarantee against “Hindus”, some are bad and some are good” and so on must be changed. The conspiracy theories are most favorable arguments among the religious right wingers. They do not want to face the reality.  

There is no short cut to end religious fundamentalism. There is no military solution. It has to be a political fight with dramatic reforms in education, health and working realities in most Muslim countries. Starting from nationalization of madrassas, it must go on to provide free education, health and transport as one of most effective means to counter fundamentalism.


Right wing ideas are promoting extreme right wing ideology. A mass working class alternative in the shape of trade unions and political parties linked with social movements is the most effective manner to counter religious fundamentalism.

Avoiding a ‘clash of barbarisms’ between imperialist barbarism and that of organizations like the DAASH and Al-Qaeda, is a must. Imperialist barbarism and its dictatorial supporters oppress millions of people daily around the world. This is the fertile ground in which fundamentalist and terrorist organizations prosper. They feed off international interventions such as the ones led by the US and other western powers in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iraq, and those regional powers.


We must never forget one basic truth: the terrorist violence is directed first and foremost against people in Muslim countries. They attack all freedoms and all fundamental rights. They play a major counter-revolutionary role – against the progressive aspirations of the ‘Arab spring’, for example.


These forces must be fought, at a time when they are carrying out an increasing number of barbaric acts. We must fight them not only in our countries, but also through international solidarity – by fighting against imperialist wars; supporting progressive movements, resisting fundamentalism and defending victims of intolerance wherever they may be.


Fundamentalism (of all religions) and the new Far Right (xenophobic and racist) are laying claim to the ideological ground of radicalism. We need a broad international anti-fascist and anti-fundamentalist resistance front, and also an activist Left capable of providing a radical alternative. 

The rise of religious fundamentalist groups in countries with Muslim majority, owes to numbers of factors, few beyond the scope of this essay, but we can analyze this phenomenon only if looked at with historical context. Equally important is to understand the political economy of Political Islam. It is evident that Islamists were marginalized when viable left/nationalist alternative were available. The Islamists filled the vacuum left by Left/nationalists in Middle East. In their rise, overt and covert imperialist’s patronage or intervention has helped Islamists gain the present mass status.


Also, important to note, that imperialism is not in clash with fundamentalism. It is only a section of fundamentalism, gone out of control that Washington and its allies are fighting against.


Unfortunately, the rise of religious fundamentalism was not taken seriously by the progressive forces around the globe. They are a new reality that poses a direct threat to their existence. The religious fundamentalist groups and right wing have adopted many political terminologies of the Left in promotion of their ideas. They do so to find a base among masses. We should not be fooled by the use of these terminologies.


The religious fundamentalist groups are not revolutionaries, anti imperialist or radical. They are a force just in opposite direction. There should not be any political alliance or united front with these reactionaries. They must be opposed independently. The “war on terror” should not confuse us. While opposing religious fundamentalism we should not be part of the imperialist alliance of “war on terror”. Both must be opposed and an independent strategy to counter the both must be our main priority of building a viable alternative based on socialist ideas. World must be free from reaction and oppression of any kind.

Farooq Tariq

General Secretary

Awami Workers Party

Condemn Unlawful Detention, Solidarity with Striking FTII Students

Condemn Unlawful Detention, Solidarity with Striking FTII Students

 

11 July 2015

 

Radical Socialist condemns the unlawful detention of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students and those in solidarity, assembled outside Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi on 3 July. We extend solidarity to the struggle of FTII students against the Modi government’s attempt at interfering with the institute. The FTII student’s protest entered the 21st day against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan and four other members to the governing council of the FTII. Students of the institute are on a strike since 15 June against the BJP government’s interference in the institute of the country by nominating individuals that have no contribution to cinema or any art and are puppets of the Modi regime.

      

FTII stands among the many autonomous institutes and government bodies of the country that the Narendra Modi government has tampered with since coming to power. Since coming to power last year the Modi government has attempted to render the spheres of education and culture as puppets in the hand of the government. Some of the educational institutions and cultural bodies where the Modi government has appointed party loyalists are the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), IIT Delhi, Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The de-recognition of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle exposes the government’s no tolerance policy to any form of dissent. This is part of the larger design  of BJP led NDA government to coerce autonomous institutions and bodies into fiefs of the Sangh Parivar. In the throes of this onslaught on democracy by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, the continuing resistance of students of FTII is significant. Students of the institute have pointed out that they are against interference from any political party, let alone the communal right-wing BJP in the affairs of the institute. FTII represents a democratic space where various class, religion and political views find expression. An example of thriving democracy was on anvil when the FTII students inviting Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural troupe to perform at the institute in August 2013 at a time when there was widespread apprehension of hosting them anywhere in Maharashtra. The FTII students braved the ire of the BJP student wing- ABVP’s attack in the aftermath of the performance.

  

FTII is in the league of film schools world-wide like the Prague or Moscow and enjoy’s autonomy. In 1968 a FTII Society was formed with powers of appointing members to govern the institute. The right of appointment of members to the society was retained by the government. Though, successive governments have continued the practice of appointing members on the Film society, members have been chosen carefully so as not to tarnish the image of the institute worldwide. Several film personalities having contribution to cinema like Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Shyam Benegal and Saeed Mirza have been the obvious choice of governments to the committee. The Modi government’s appointment of Chauhan and 4 other members is a departure of the practice of forming a governing council. Chauhan’s only role to fame as Yudhisthir in the Hindu mythological T.V. saga Mahabharata, do not go in his favour as the choice for chairperson of the governing council. In a recent television conversation actor Anupam Kher showed up Chauhan for an ignoramus. Another name that has found itself to the governing council is Anagha Ghaisas, whose only film is a propaganda piece on Narendra Modi named ‘Shapath Modi’.  Also, among the members appointed is a Maharashtra president of BJP’s student’s outfit ABVP who has been nominated under the category of eminent persons with contribution to art.

 

We believe that art bodies and institutes be managed by artists themselves. Interference of the government and any political party, in the matters is unwarranted. We support the students’ call for a committee to look into the student’s demands and scrap the present council and form it afresh with credible persons having contribution to art and culture. On 3 July the students met with the I&B officials, but the latter were not ready to concede the demands. Students’ apprehensions that Chauhan name as the chairperson came from the Prime Minister’s Office found some weight with bureaucrats fearing to reverse the decision of the appointment to the institute with the fear of angering the Prime Minister. It is clear that the Modi government is bent on imposing a rightwing political agenda, and therefore urge all democratic forces to support the students and intensify the struggles. The striking students have already found immense support from artists and student activists across India and there is need for more people to participate in the intensifying theatre of protest.

 

GREECE This “No” was only the beginning!

GREECE
This “No” was only the beginning!


Wednesday 8 July 2015, by OKDE-Spartakos
 
This statement was made by OKDE-Spartakos, Greek section of the Fourth International and member of Antarsya, the Anti-capitalist Left Coalition, on 5 July 2015.

The "NO" answer in the 5th of July’s referendum was a painful slap against the traditional parties of the capital, the bourgeoisie, the systemic media. At the short period before the referendum, this disputatious alliance had extorted and terrorized the people, using all means available: Via television, through newspapers, into the work places. They only managed to make fool of themselves and to increase the class hate even more.

The referendum turned into a pure class fight, regardless of Syriza’s intentions. The working class voted NO and rejected the settlement massively, despite the historical betrayal of the General Working Union’s bureaucracy, which sided openly with the "YES" and with the capitalists. The bourgeoisie fought hard in favor of YES, even its parts which weren’t hostile to Syriza. The majority of the middle class, having almost nothing to loose anymore, formed into line with the working class and voted NO. In contrary to those who called for national unity and amity, it became clear to everyone that two, totally different "societies" exist in the country: The exploiters and the exploited. The escalation of the class consciousness of a large part of the working class creates a vast amount of fear to those who are afraid of a clear expression of the class and choose the national unity as their main slogan, in order to promote the complacency and the social peace.

Those who tried to avoid a clear state in this class fight, naturally found themselves in the fringe. Especially the Communist Party (KKE), promoting abstention in the referendum, served the working class poorly and, like its position in December 2008, once again conformed to middle class fears and to the bourgeoisie.

This class struggle wasn’t just limited to the vote. This fight actualized in the streets, in the working places, inside the universities, in the neighborhoods. Without the huge demonstrations and marches, the fear would have prevailed and the outcome of the election would have probably been different.

The anticapitalist Left and the revolutionary organizations played the lead role at the No movement and forced pressure to Syriza not to sign the agreement initially. In particular ANTARSYA, despite the partial mistakes, became the stronger feature of the most dynamic and decisive part of the movement. The anticapitalist Left is a social and political reality in the streets and in the working places. Syriza has no right to think that this movement and this NO is its property.

The confidence this NO victory gives us should not become complacency. The next day should be a day of even harder battles. Without any doubt, Syriza will return to the negotiation table in order to discuss austerity measures regarding the workers, with the hope that the institutions will be lenient. Also, without any doubt too, the bourgeoisies of Greece and Europe, along with the bureaucrats of E.U., will try to take revenge. We should not let the NO to be defeated, neither be “stolen”, nor to degenerate to a negotiation paper.

The class front, which struggled in the favor of NO, should reject any new agreement and any new measures. It must demand wage increases and collective working contracts. It must impose the split with the IMF and the EU. It must claim for the banks and big corporations’ nationalization under the workers’ control, as the only solution against the banks’ extortions and the bosses’ sabotage. It must disarm the police, which even under the Syriza government, protected the YES and suppressed the NO demonstrations. It must completely crack the Nazis of Golden Dawn, which is going to exploit a part of the NO, a NO which they supported with false pretences, for political survival purposes. We do not have the slightest delusion that the Syriza-ANEL government will pursue such measures. We are confident that the power of the workers can achieve them.

The working class showed indeed its power against the alliance of the main parties of the capital, against the bosses’ terrorism, the bureaucracy and the mechanisms of the "deep" state. With massive and tenacious struggles and long-term strikes, we must enlarge the gap which has opened inside the stability of the system and never let it close again. In this battle, the role of a strong anticapitalistic Left, independent of the reformism and the government, is crucial.

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