World Politics

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.