Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Banning the Veil: Rights of Women, Security or Anti-Islamic Racism and Communalism?

In country after country in Europe, political forces ranging from liberals (Belgium) to the openly right wing (Sarkozy in France, the Northern League in Italy) have been initiating actions to ban Muslim women from wearing the veil, or seeking punishment for those wearing it. The Netherlands and Italy already have regional or local restrictions, as do twenty municipalities in Belgium. Now the Belgium Lower House has voted to ban the burkha in the name of protecting Muslim women as well as security. This has had immediate impact in a string of countries with Christian and white majorities – from France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands inside the European Union to Australia, with various prominent politicians calling for similar measures. Two basic arguments have been put forward in defence of such actions. The first is that the veil, in any form, is degrading to women, and Islam is contemptuous to women. The second is that the veil hides the face and obscures the public interpersonal exchange -- which is supposed to be a gain specifically of western civilization, as well as the fact that by so hiding the face it creates a security problem.

Our response to this is very clear. We are absolutely certain that Islamic fundamentalism/ communalism is repressive towards Muslim women, and not merely by seeking to impose various forms of control, by imposing social inequality, and so on. We have seen some of its horrible forms in the well publicized case of the Taliban and its rule in Afghanistan. But several very important considerations compel us to warn that the picture, if we stop at this point, is utterly false and misleading. In the first place, there are diverse views within Islam Second, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, imperialist ruling classes of North America and Europe have been busy creating a new “other”, this being Islam, which is supposed to stand against all the values of the Enlightenment, modernity, and so on, and is seeking to erase progress. It is quite true that Islamic fundamentalism is a reactionary force. But what is forgotten or suppressed is the role of the imperialist west in fostering this Islamic fundamentalism –Saudi Wahabism as a bulwark of the imperialists and a sure supplier of oil, a precious commodity ever since the early 20th century, controlled by Britain and France in West Asia till the USA managed to support Saudi Arabia and got in. Islamic fundamentalism was also supported against Arab progressive bourgeois nationalism – e.g., the Islamic Brotherhood against Nasser. Islamic fundamentalism was the chosen instrument of the USA in its proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when opposition to the ill-judged and politically illegitimate Soviet invasion was used by the imperialists to shore up fundamentalist forces, out of which grew the Taliban. Finally, it should be remembered that even in Afghanistan after its spurious liberation the anti-women laws are much in force.

This leads us to the next issue. Attacking colonial subjects for their attitude to women is not a new strategy for imperialism. British colonialism and its allies pursued this strategy throughout British rule in India, from James Mill depicting Hindus as degenerates because they ill-treated women and by implication suggesting that colonial rule was therefore necessary, in the interests of women. Attacking Muslims because of the veil is a similar strategy. It is worth noting that in Belgium, only a minority of Muslim women wear the burkha. In 2009, only 29 women were apprehended by the police in the municipalities that have already banned the burkha, while the total number of Muslims in Belgium is about 400,000.

Among those who wear the veil, there are those who do so out of choice, as well as those who are compelled by family and community pressure. Those who wear the veil out of choice do so either because they have internalized all the patriarchal, anti-women assumptions behind it, or because, as minorities, they are choosing to express their identities in that particular fashion. We disagree with their choice. We believe that ultimately, the dress code, targeting women, reflects reactionary views. In a very difficult situation, the New Anti-Capitalist Party of France, when one of its candidates, Ilham Moussaid, was targeted for wearing the headscarf, argued in a statement:

•    Ilham herself saw no contradiction between wearing a headscarf and abiding by the secular and feminist principles of the NPA
•    The NPA leadership felt that notwithstanding Ilham’s own feelings, they considered the headscarf to be an instrument of subjection of women
•    They made a distinction between the debates within the social movements over Ilham’s headscarf, and the hysteria promoted by the rightwing parties. They would engage in serious debates within the social movement. But the Right was hypocritical, considering that Sarkozy was willing to embrace the Pope, and that bourgeois parties spent millions on financing private high schools, in particular Catholic ones.
•    They also criticized the Communist Party for its opportunism, since on other occasions it too had counted women like Ilham in its list of candidates.

Like the NPA, we consider that the demand that women must cover their heads is a part of instrument of subjection of women. But, like the NPA again, we agree that if women have adopted this through choice, we need to politically discuss the issue and struggle to change the situation. In India, as in the West, the Muslim minority can be and are often targeted. We don’t hear anything when Hindu religious symbolisms are used, or when Hindu women are subjected to all manners of religious commands that make them inferiors. What seems “normal”, “civilised” for the majority community, appears different for the minorities.
In other words, we argue that every religion is historically an ideology of, among other things, gender oppression. It does not follow that calling for bans on all religions or religious customs is the correct way to fight such oppression. Classical Marxism did not require the inscription of atheism in the programme of social movements. On the contrary, in his 1874 critique of the Blanquist émigrés from the Paris Commune, Engels rejected their call to abolish religion by decree. His view has been completely confirmed by 20th Century experiences, as when he wrote that: "persecutions are the best means of promoting disliked convictions". The more minorities are persecuted for belonging to minority religions, the more they turn to so-called community heads for material and spiritual help. As a result, ghettoisation leads to the growth of minority communalism. However, classical Marxism, with essentially European and a little North American experience, had not dealt with the further complexities introduced by colonialism. Colonialism and its attendant racism means we must additionally reject persecutions of minority religions because they constitute a dimension of ethnic or racial oppression, no less than political or economic persecution and discrimination.

In most countries where Islam is the religion of the majority, religion is still the dominant form of ideology. Retrograde, more or less literal, interpretations of Islam are used to retain entire populations in submission and cultural backwardness. The first victims are the women. In such countries, struggles for socialism must involve, from the start, an ideological struggle against religion as an instrument of oppression. But while women’s liberation must in all such cases involve liberation from the headscarf or its grosser forms, to impose “freedom” by law on women would be a travesty of emancipation. Neither women wearing the hijab or the burkha, nor men wearing the beard, should have the police set upon them for that reason.

Like the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other fundamentalisms aiming to impose a puritan interpretation of religion as a code of life, if not as a mode of government, Islamic fundamentalism is a real danger to social progress and emancipatory struggles. By taking care to establish a clear distinction between religion as such and its fundamentalist interpretation, the most reactionary of all, it is necessary to fight Islamic fundamentalism ideologically and politically, as much in the Islamic countries as in the midst of the Muslim minorities in the West or elsewhere. But that cannot however constitute an argument in favour of a public prohibition of the Islamic scarf. This amounts to singling out Islamic fundamentalism while remaining silent about other religious fundamentalists. Has there been a call to ban campaigns against abortion by Christian extremists?

Turning to the argument about security, we reject this outright. This is nothing but the profiling of particular groups of people as dangerous. There is no evidence that wearing the veil in public threatens public safety, public order, health, morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. And rather than help women who are coerced into wearing the veil, a ban would limit, if not eliminate, their ability to seek advice and support. Indeed, the primary impact of legislation of this kind would be to confine these women to their homes, rather than to liberate them. Nor will the act of treating Muslim women who believe that it is pious to wear the veil as criminals help in integrating Muslims in those countries.

Our stand can therefore be summed up by saying:

•    Oppose the ban on religion or custom specific dress as a form of racism and anti-minorityism.

•    No legal sanctions for following particular religions.

•    Politically combat the oppression of women using religion as an ideology.

Statement on Suicide of Dr. Siras in AMU

Dr. Srinivas Siras, a Marathi professor at Aligarh Muslim University, was sacked after being accused of being gay. Allegedly, several AMU officials, including the proctor Jubair Khan and deputy proctor Farid Ahmed Khan, got two local television journalists to break into Siras’ home to videotape him having sex with another male person. This was submitted to the University administration, resulting in his suspension in February 2010. At the beginning of April, the Allahabad High Court ordered the University to rescind the suspension and to provide him with quarters till he retired later this year. But on April 7, less than a week after the High Court ruling, he was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his residence.

We believe that there is an urgent need to immediately dismantle India’s reactionary antigay laws, which, despite the Supreme Court judgement, are still in the statute books, and which provide legitimacy to the “morality crusaders” who take such actions as the AMU officials. There must be an immediate end to discrimination, punitive measures, and aggressive behavior on grounds of sexual orientation. The sexual relationships between two consenting adults cannot be the matter for police or any other external intervention. We are aware that social conservatism cannot be abolished by fiat, and know that a long political battle is still before us in order to ensure social legitimation of freedom of sexual orientation. But we do demand and fight for the legal protection of those who have different sexual orientations. The AMU administration gave its support to a break and entry operation into the house of Professor Siras and decided to punish him for an act that had no bearing on his performance in the University, and that did not involve any pressure against a student (the other man was an outsider). It was only after his tragic death that a local court ordered action against the six individuals implicated.

In the light of this and other instances of anti-gay attitudes and action, we demand:
•    Protection against unfair dismissal, discriminatory recruitment or failure to promote.
•    Protection against harassment on grounds of sexual orientation.

We also argue that the campaign against gays has wider implications, including holding them responsible for AIDS, and rejecting the right of the oppressed, including the sexually oppressed, to openly organize. In this context we demand:

•    Decriminalization and legalization of same sex relationships.
•    Against stigma, discrimination and isolation
•    For the right of oppressed groups to organize autonomously
•    For free and effective health care, particularly in cases of AIDS.
•    Against the super-profits of international pharmaceutical companies.

Oppose Green Hunt, condemn Maoist Politics of Glorifying Violence

Within a span of 45 days, three major operations by the CPI-Maoists have killed more than 115 police personnel and some civilians in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Landmines were blasted followed by ambushes and firing. On 6th April, in one of the attacks, 76 CRPF personnel died. In some other states of India, viz. West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand, incidents of killings are continuous and almost a regular affair.

The recent incident of killing of more than 40 people travelling in a bus blown by a blast in Dantewada is merely a new chapter in the volumes of brutalities, being scripted in Chhattisgarh and other parts of the country in the name of ‘The Peoples’ War’ carried out by the ‘purest revolutionaries’ of the planet. On this occasion, their victims include a few civilians as well, who couldn’t even be branded of being police informers.

While we unequivocally declare that the harshest possible words of condemnation from our vocabulary are meant for the Indian state for their oppressive actions against the people of India through their capitalist and undemocratic economic, social, political, administrative, military and diplomatic practices; words of condemnation and criticism are also there for the Maoists.

We do not intend to say that revolutionary violence doesn't apply in any circumstance, nor do we deny the importance of the role of force for revolutionary changes. Nevertheless, we deny equating the violent Maoists practices, entirely by a self-proclaimed vanguard, carried on for decades, with revolutionary violence by the people in moments of mass upsurge. Maoist violence is not based on any mass politics. Even in the few cases where so-called mass involvement is claimed, especially by urban intellectual supporters of the Maoists, the reality is that gun wielding Maoist cadres dictated the violence. We strongly feel that this sordid violence would fail to bring any radical change even in remote future. All such Maoist violence across the globe, for e.g. in Peru, Philippines and in other places has been an abject failure. Any attempt to equate the experience of Chinese revolution with the experience of Indian Maoists shall be a gross distortion of history.

The Maoist analysis of the Indian state as semi-feudal is highly erroneous. They claim that the advasis/forest dwellers suffer the highest form of feudal exploitation by linking the kind of poverty prevailing there. It is pertinent to note that poverty is not limited to feudalism only. Moreover, this claim is contradicted when they also say that the locals are being displaced for the purpose of free passage to the corporate. Such displacements of people from land and livelihood are typical capitalist phenomenon, contrary to feudal characteristics. As a matter of fact, the Maoists themselves penetrated in those areas by supporting and participating in struggle for wages.

We are very clear that big corporates want free access to the forests and mineral rich areas to exploit resources for capitalist expansion. This ruthless capitalist abuse is the root cause for the present crisis that India and its people are facing. We strongly believe that the only force that can lead the struggle against capitalism in India and globally is the organized working class. However, with their current strategy, the Maoists are failing to make any impact on the class. Firstly, because they are unable to reach them (they don’t have a policy to reach them either) and secondly, the working class doesn’t approve the politics of annihilation, particularly when this class is far from identifying a need for a revolutionary social change for which they are a major force.

An illusion disseminated by the Indian state and media, in order to justify the Operation Green Hunt and to label all political dissent against neoliberalism and globalisation as terrorism and Maoism, is that the Maoists are controlling around 200 districts of the country where civil administration cannot operate. This is not true. The number is much less than that and in most cases only a part of the mentioned districts are under the control of the Maoists. These areas are thinly populated. Even, if we consider those areas as Maoist ‘liberated zones’; they are far-off from capturing the state power, its machineries, its military bases, its power centres. They have neither been able to extend nor, move beyond the inaccessible forest region, and it seems unlikely in the future as well. No matter what they say about “encirclement of the cities from the countryside” the bulk of rural India has remained totally out of their reach; forget about the cities where the bulk of the principal revolutionary force - the working class - is concentrated. Hence, the question of encircling the cities with liberated villages shall not apply with the current strategy of the Maoists. They over simplify the strength of the state.

While making such statement we do not project impossibility of proletarian revolution, but the opposite. Proletarian revolution is possible when the working class is ready to lead the movements for revolutionary social change and other exploited classes accept their leadership and when the larger section of people deny the legitimacy of this capitalist state through action, participation and support mechanism. The role of force and violence arises only then and not currently when working class is yet to identify itself as a revolutionary class.

Under these circumstances, we do not limit ourselves to a criticism of the Maoists’ strategy but also reject their practice of indiscriminate annihilation as they cross basic human values. They are as well in a process of detracting people from revolutionary classes and from socialist ideology; we condemn their call for ‘war against the state’ as their path spoil an unarmed revolutionary force simply for the sake of their adventurist and opportunist politics. Instead of linking the struggle of adivasis with the broad class movements against the state, with movements of all exploited classes, Maoists recruit young teenagers from poor adivasis and indoctrinate them to burn schools and dig roads, which further alienate them from the other forces of movement. As a result of this strategy, the capitalist state is getting legitimacy and capitalists are getting benefits. The cause of so proclaimed revolution is actually losing its justification.

Statement Condemning Repression at Jagatsinghpur

We strongly condemn the indiscriminate use of State police force by the Orissa Government on peaceful Anti-POSCO project demonstrators of Jagatsingpur District of Orrisa on 15th of May, 2010. The 15th May state offensive had inflicted injures on more than a hundred vulnerable villagers mainly comprising of farmers and fisher-folk. The Orissa State government’s repression spree comes in the wake of the local people’s struggle against the proposed POSCO Steel Plant in the Ersama Block of Jagatsinghpur District. To us it seems to be an attempt at dissipating the demonstrators who are hell bent on resisting plunder of their land by corporate interests. We consider this act to be a direct assault on the people’s right to life and livelihood and an act posing a serious threat to democracy.

In the recent past the projects introduced by the Orissa state government in the guise of fostering development have been subject to fierce opposition from the people living in the areas under the proposed project sites. The sufferers include peasants, adivasis and toiling poor who live on the margins of the society. Massive displacement of such marginalized communities from their land and livelihood is a testimony to the state’s vision of development which serves the rich by displacing the poor. The fierce opposition of the Adivasis at Kalinganagar is a burning example of mass ire directed against the Orissa state projects. Approximately three weeks back, a similar assault by the state police force on the adivasis of Kalinganagar had taken place to dissipate the Adivasis strong anti-project stand. The proposed Tata project at Kalinganagar is another Orissa Government promoted project which is bound to evict thousands of adivasis from their land and livelihood.  Orissa Government’s coercive development projects are bound to displace lakhs of people from their land and subsequently their livelihood leading to a threat to their very existence. This might stimulate anarchy fuelling further violence in the region. Also, we feel that the environmental damage which projects like POSCO Steel Project and Tata Steel Project would inflict would be huge adversely affecting the environmental balance of the region.

•    We demand an immediate enquiry into the May 15th police repression and a stern action to be taken against those found guilty.
•    We stand with the people of Jagatsinghpur and Kalingnagar and other project-affected toiling masses in the country who are victims of land grab who face an uncertain future.
•    We demand the immediate halt to work at the proposed POSCO Steel Plant a fresh enquiry in strict conformity with local people’s interests and keeping in view the environmental sustainability of such projects.

RTI shows up reality of Gujarat's governmental environment protection

From the Indian Express as communicated by Rohit Prajapati AND Trupti Shah  in Vadodara
Activist asked if CM knew that Ankleshwar FETP was non-compliant with GPCB norms before its inauguration, Indian Express - 22nd May 2010

AN RTI query by a city activist has left the Chief Minister's Office in a tizzy as the officials could not ascertain if the CMO was aware that the Ankleshwar effluent treatment plant was not compliant with GPCB norms. The Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) was inaugurated on 24 January, 2007, by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In a reply, the CMO said no such information is available, as the records for 2007 have been destroyed.

Rohit Prajapati had filed an RTI query on April 23 seeking information on grounds under which Modi inaugurated a 52.97-km long pipeline for Bharuch Eco Aqua Infrastructure Limited (BEAIL)’s FETP. Prajapati cited a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report, which showed that GPCB (Gujarat Pollution
Control Board) norms were violated since 2004.

In September last year, Prajapati had written to the CMO on this, and the latter had responded by directing the matter to the Forests and Environment Department. Later, on April 19, GPCB Member Secretary R G Shah replied to Prajapati, admitting that there were problems with the FETP.

He also said that no new expansion would happen.

But Prajapati says it is still  not clear if Modi knew about this non-compliance factor.  “On April 23, after sending an open letter to the CMO, I filed an RTI with the same. It was important because it creates a bad impression about the Chief Minister’s awareness ­ that he inaugurated the pipeline despite its non-compliance,” Prajapati added .

The CMO said in its reply that the records dated before January 24, 2007, but since the state government was
dissolved in December that year due to the Assembly elections, working records were disposed off.

When The Indian Express contacted the CMO, Officer on Special Duty J P Modha did not comment on the issue, saying that RTI details were not available.

Fourth International on Thailand

Repression against the Redshirts must cease immediately

Stop the assassinations! Abhisit Resign!
Fourth International


For 5 days the soldiers have been organizing a new “black May” in Thailand. The Abhisit Vejjajiva government has sent the troops to shoot with live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators and authorized snipers in ambush to assassinate its opponents, as in the case of general Sae Deng.

In order to justify what is unjustifiable, the government has accused some of the demonstrators of “terrorism” and organized a disgraceful blockade of the Rachaprasong district; water and electricity have been cut. Supplies cannot get through to the demonstrators. Radio and TV transmissions in the district have been stopped. These “terrorists” are thousands of men, women and children, ordinary people who are fighting against rulng class justice in Thailand and for the re-establishment of democracy. Their watchword: resignation of Abhisit who has no legitimacy because his government was put in place by the army when parliamentary alliances changed in December 2008.

If Abhisit were legitimate, he would have agreed to the request of the Redshirts to respect the verdict of the ballot boxes. Instead of that he is showing his political weakness. He is trying to silence dissident voices by censorship and repression. His only chance of staying in power lies in the ability of the army to break the Redshirts movement by violence and repression. More than 65 people have been killed since the beginning of April and the violence continues.

Abhisit must resign immediately and account to the courts for the deaths for which he is the primary person responsible. Negotiations must open with the Redshirts representatives to organize the dissolution of the Parliament and hold elections as soon as possible.

The Fourth International salutes the courage of the Redshirts who have been waging an exemplary fight for several weeks and are now suffering the attacks of the army. It stands resolutely at their side.

Bureau of the Fourth International 17th May 2010

Interview with Stavros S., OKDE militant

R.S. – Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation?

Stavros – I am a member of the leading body of the OKDE, and a trade union activist. OKDE stands for Organisation of Communist Internationalists of Greece. We are a Trotskyist organisation loyal to the principles of the United secretariat as they were during and after the unification (as opposed to some of the post-1991 lines advocated by the USFI). We are trying to apply a policy of unity of the struggles on the basis of class independence. We are trying to push forward the self organisation of the working class and also on this basis the coordination of common actions of the far left and every militant, but also in doing so, we always have in mind that in this difficult situation in which a very hard struggle is going on we will need a strong revolutionary organisations and parties to confront the state and the bosses’ attacks. So, we always have in mind the need to build such organisation.
We produce a monthly paper and its name can be translated as “Workers Struggle”. Our website is www.okde.gr. We are mainly based in Athens, in Thessalonica and some other major cities and our organisation consists mainly of workers.

R.S: What has been the reaction to the latest measures announced? Which sectors are hit the most by the new plan?

OKDE: There have been some strikes and even some calling for a general strike by the trade unions; most notably in the public sector, which in the first announcement was the most heavily attacked. Of course, this is also a problem because the policy of the trade union leadership/buerocracy has been to try to split the strikes and the mobilisation between the public and the private sector. This was the situation at the beginning of the discussion about the IMF measures; but now the measures are being directed against the whole of the working class. Today’s general strike is very huge. Some estimate that today [i.e. 5/5/10] there were about 300,000, and even 500,000 people on the streets. I think this is the most massive working class mobilisation in the last 35 years. I think that there is a social climate of resistance or even revolt - and that there is much more to come, because I think that now many more people are trying to see how to keep the struggle going, in their work places, … because they are already facing many attacks by the bosses.

R.S: What is the situation among young people?

OKDE: I believe that the situation among the youth can turn out to be very explosive, one similar to the one that we witness in December 2008 and even more explosive. There are many problems now, like the fact that they are in their exam period and this makes the mobilisation more difficult. I also think that there are some problems of how the students’ movement would react in this situation, but I think that the situation overall is one that can turn out to be very explosive, not only among the students. But also in many young people, those with precarious jobs, who are part of a new layer of the working class, who have no social gains from the welfare state, are much more ready to confront the attack of the bosses and the police apparatus.

R.S: And isd it correct that some of them are in very short-term contracts on very low salaries, between 650 or 450 euros…

OKDE: Yes, or even less money.

R.S: Who are the leaders of the student’s movement? What are the organisations? Do they have students’ unions?

OKDE: Actually, the students’ organisations in Greece are not united by a national form of organisation, like a Confederation or something like this (typically there is one, but it is virtually dead). In each faculty there is a kind of 'first level' students’ union, but all the forces – left, right, centre – intervene in it. You have to know that in the Greek students’ movement, which sometimes creates its own rank and file organisations and assembles, sometimes finds it difficult to coordinate at a national level. But the main political factor in the students’ movement is the left. There is the reformist left – which is not huge – but the far left is much more important. This sometimes pushes the movement forward but sometimes creates problems on how to deal with the current situation in the political forums, how to coordinate and how to fight, how to link the struggle with the working class, how to lead the struggle so as to ensure victory in the crisis. But I think that in the days to come the situation can prove to be very explosive with many faculty occupations, which was an important a factor in pushing the struggle forward.

R.S:  What is the role and policy of the Trade unions? i.e. ADEDY and GSEE. You have just said that the leadership is dividing the workers; separating the public sector workers from the private sector. Could you explain this to our readership and tell us what is their policy?

OKDE: Before answering that we have to make some clarification. The Greek trade unions  are not very important; in the sense that they do not usually play a central role in the way in which the class struggle is expressed in Greece, at least in its most historically important moments. There is much more of a politicised tradition. This is one thing to note. Many times the Greek movement has expressed itself through political forms of organisation rather than through the trade unions. This has to do with the history of the country and the workers’ movement. The second point is that the Greek trade union bureaucracy is not that rooted and strong, like for example in Germany or France.  In Greece it is much weaker, much less connected to the struggles which produced the workers' social gains - and also there is a very important opposition from far left currents within the trade unions. It is also one of the reasons why a certain level of democracy has been preserved in the Greek trade unions. The central leadership of the unions, most notably in the big trade unions – the transport, telecommunication industries and state sectors, etc. – are controlled by the PASOK fraction (PASKE). At the beginning of the crisis, in the private sector the president of the National Confederation (GSEE, General Confederation of Greek Trade Unions) was actually acting more like a representative of the government rather than a trade unionist. For example when the first measures against the public sector were announced, the GSEE was not calling for a common general strike. It said that it was an attack on the public sector and that the private sector would not be much affected.  Also, ADEDY, the Trade Union Confederation in the public sector, did not have any real plan to confront these measures… they are incapable of making a plan and not willing to make a plan and confronting the measures. There is some influence of the left currents in the trade unions, like the Greek Communist Party and Synaspismos . They say that they are more militant and more willing to fight, and some times they say they for want to call for more general strikes, etc, but I think…. We think that their limits are being defined by their overall reformist nature and policy, for example, the KKE is always calling for a different strikes’ assemblies and was also openly hostile to the youth revolt in December 2009. Synaspismos is also cooperating quite closely with PASKE in the trade unions.

R.S: What is the composition of the left in Greece?

OKDE: In the Greek reformist left there are two main formations. The KKE, the Greek Communist Party, they try to look like having a very "ultra" class policy but actually they are very reformist because they are trying to separate their mobilisation from the rest, and they try to translate this mobilisation into votes in the forthcoming elections.

The other main reformist formation is the party Synapsimos around which there is a more broad formation called SYRIZA, in which some far left groups participate; actually they have been satellites themselves around Synapsimos. In words, they are also calling for more struggles but actually they are quite close to the PASOK trade unionists in many cases. In many trade unions they manage the union together with PASOK. Neither do they call for a generalisation of the struggle, with a call, for example for a 48 hours general strike. They also do not want to pose any issue against the EU because they are very pro European Union and they also direct their work towards the elections.

R.S: What can you tell us about ANTARSYA?  

OKDE: We could call them a centrist formation. ANTARSYA was proclaiming for itself that this far left unity would be a decisive factor to spread and organise the struggles in an anti-capitalist direction. But the reality is very far away from this. The first thing is that in practice they do not seem able to play such a role. The second point is that it looks like this formation is also mostly electoral. The third point (issue), which is important for all the rest, is that there is quite an [important] internal division within the group, and they do not seem able to introduce the level of unity that they proclaim.
Last but not least, we estimate that there will be a period opening up for them in which their reaction towards reformist policies (usually applied under pretextes for "broad unity") will be tested . There are some signs, which look a little bit dangerous, of them taking a more reformist stand, but this is an open estimation. At an organisational level it looks like they have as a model the French NPA – which makes it difficult to have any real common intervention, even less an anticapitalist or revolutionary intervention, in the class struggle.

R.S: Going back to the General Strike. The media has been reporting that it has been massive. Could you give us an idea of the level of the general strike?

OKDE: I cannot give a very detailed picture. I think that the whole of the central sectors, ministries, state sectors, were really paralysed. In some big industries it was the same too. In the newer industries or less organised working places I think that there was an increase in the mood of resistance. This is the only way to explain this massive number [of people on the streets], but usually there has been little organised form of participating with the trade unions contigents and banners.

R.S: What about the transport, airports? We have read that all airports are closed, there are no flights and no trains.

OKDE: I think that wherever there is some level of centralised working class, yes, everything was paralysed. We have noticed quite new but less organised parts of the working class in the private sectors.

R.S: If we compare today’s general strike with the previous ones – on 24/2 and 11/3, this is one is much bigger, isn’t it?

OKDE: Yes, of course, I would say that this strike is may be 10 times bigger (the demonstration)… this was a real social explosion of the working class.  

R.S: There have been a series of struggles and strike by different sectors over the last weeks. How has been the level of struggle? Which sectors have been involved? What is the level of mobilisation of the masses and workers in Greece?

OKDE: Actually we are expecting that some struggles in various sectors and workplaces or even in some neighbourhoods, universities, etc, will strengthen or explode.  The people are confronting a massive attack by the bosses.

R.S: Who is controlling this social explosion and these partial strikes? Are they spontaneous? Who is leading them?

OKDE: This is a quite central issue for what is happening now in Greece. The first thing is that the social bloc of bourgeois power is being virtually shattered because of all these attacks on people’s rights, on petit bourgeoisie layers, and even on the working class aristocracy. This is a very central issue, and there is much agonising over what is to be done, over how are we going to control the forthcoming situation. There is no reformist apparatus (party or trade union bureaucracy) that has enough membership and influence to control or even to manage this social explosion. This is an interesting situation which provides great space for revolutionaries to work in the struggles and try to give some elements of leadership to some of them, so they can also both win and also become a centre of focus on the need to build a strong revolutionary Marxist organisation – a revolutionary party. There is a big social current exploding and saying “We don’t want these measures”, and starting to struggle even with forums and confronting the police, etc. But actually, you cannot say that there is anybody who leads or controls them. There are some efforts from the far left to play some role, but I think it is just the beginning of it. We will see what is going to be done in the next period.

R.S: Are there forums springing up in neighbourhoods?

OKDE: Not in a very clear and organised manner. There are also some forums organised at that level. Also there are many people are tempted by the anarchist current, which is understandable because of the social dissolution and chaos that is going on. They provide something that looks like a way out, but of course it is not a way out. This explains some of their influence.

R.S: What is your programme given the current situation? What policies do you think ought to be introduced in order to resolve the crisis?

OKDE: Our programme starts what with we call emergency demands or an Emergency Programme. So we are saying that we have to abolish these measures. We have to push the struggle to the point of throwing out the IMF and the EU, which have come as dictators to the Greek people. We are trying to push forward the notion of the generalised struggle, the strike to overthrow the government, but also to make people understand that we will have to strengthen the struggle in every workplace and in every sector, so that there is a real confrontation with the bosses.

We are also trying to put forward some demands like making the banks public without paying back the capitalist owners. Our central slogan is of course the abolition of the debt, so the Greek society and the working class can breathe. We also pose demands like banning the layoffs, and we are trying to promote these slogans also in everyday struggles in trade unions. And we ourselves are also trying to organise some of these struggles in the workplaces and trade unions in which we are active. And, of course, we are trying to explain that the final resolution to this crisis cannot be anything else other than a socialist way out. And that this also requires the accumulation of political and organisational force in a Marxist revolutionary organisation or even a revolutionary party. We are trying to combine all these things.

R.S: What do you think about the idea of abandoning the euro or leaving the eurozone?

OKDE: In our view, there is a need that the Greek working class movement and the Greek people break with the imperialist rule of the IMF and the EU. This is an actual need and we think that now this is becoming part of the emergency rescue programme because otherwise you cannot continue. But of course we are trying to explain that such a break, such a way out also requires very concrete anticapitalist measures like making the banks property of the state -as I explained before- and abolishing the debt. So we are trying to give a perspective not confined to the limits of the "national economy, as some stalinist and/or maoist currents do.

R.S: What would be your message to workers in other parts of the world?

OKDE: Every worker and every young person should understand that we are faced with a bankrupt system and this will cause many disasters for society, the working class and youth, even for the planet itself (ecology crisis). So, in this sense we have to fight to defend every inch of our gains and rights. This is a part of what we call the emergency programme against the crisis. But also we must reopen the discussion in the workers’ movement because capitalism is in crisis and this crisis is spreading around Europe for example, or even in the US. There can not be at the end any other solution than a socialist way out, and of course, this socialism must have nothing to do with what we have experienced in the ex Stalinist countries or Stalinist regimes.