After SYRIZA’s victory in the Greek elections: The question of a Workers Government and the revolutionary way forward

By Michael Pröbsting  

 

The Greek elections ended in a tremendous defeat for those bourgeois parties which ruled the country since more than three decades and which implemented in the last years the draconic austerity packages, which impoverishes the workers and peasants.

The vote for the bourgeois-populist party PASOK (which belongs to the social democratic Second International) collapsed from 44% in 2009 to 13,2%. The conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) also declined dramatically from 33.5% to 19% of the votes. The extreme right-wing LAOS party, which joined the PASOK-ND coalition last autumn, did not even manage to enter the parliament again.

At the same time the reformist and centrist parties to the left of PASOK won together more than 2,1 million votes or a 1/3 of the total. In particular the left-reformist alliance SYRIZA saw a dramatic rise from 4,5% to 16.6%. While the new reformist DIMAR party got 6.1%, the traditional bourgeois workers party in Greece – the Stalinist KKE – saw only a slight increase of their votes (from 7.5% to 8.5%). Antarsya – an alliance of several centrist organizations – was able to triple its vote from 25.000 to 75.000 which represents about 1.2%.

Finally right-wing forces which pretend to oppose the Euro-dictate for austerity were also successful at the elections. The “Independent Greeks” – a split from ND – received 10.6% of the votes and fascist Golden Dawn party got nearly 7% of the votes and entered the parliament for the first time.

 

Pre-revolutionary dynamic

 

The vote reflects first and foremost the deep pre-revolutionary dynamic of the political situation in Greece which we in the RCIT have analysed in our extended thesis on the Greek Revolution (Perspectives in the Greek Revolution. The Greek tragedy is the tragedy of the lack of a revolutionary leadership of the workers movement For Workers’ Councils, Workers’ Militias and a Workers’ Government!, 10.11.2011; in: Revolutionary Communism No. 2 (English-language journal of the RCIT), p. 8-15, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/greece-revolution-or-tragedy). The ruling class – under pressure of the imperialist Euro-governments – has imposed one austerity package after the other against the open opposition of the popular masses. As a result the two traditional main bourgeois parties who received 70-90% of the votes for decades couldn’t manage to get even 1/3 of the votes today.

Despite all distortions the elections have shown very clearly that bourgeois democracy is a dictatorship of the capitalist class. According to opinion polls 80% of the population oppose the Euro-zone loan agreements and the austerity packages. The working class has fought against these austerity packages with a number of general strikes, enterprise occupations, mass demonstrations etc. Nevertheless the government executed the will of the small elite of foreign and Greek monopoly capitalists.

The general dynamic of the pre-revolutionary dynamic in Greece is the following. The economic and political crisis of the capitalist system is advancing rapidly. The masses are moving to the left and look for radical solutions. They are desperate and they want a radical change now. Some backward sectors are looking to the fascists for a solution. The class contradictions are sharpening enormously and it is doubtful if bourgeois-democratic parliamentarism can contain them for much longer. Sooner or later the bourgeoisie might look for bonapartist solutions (a strong, authoritarian regime, possibly by a military coup) or even for strengthening the fascists. If the official leadership of the workers movement fails and no alternative revolutionary party is formed to remove the reformist obstacles, the working class might become demoralized, the fascists will grow and a sharp political strike against the working class will become very likely.

 

Why did SYRIZA win and the KKE stagnate?

 

The most important factor in the rise of the reformist parties on the left of PASOK is the massive increase of SYRIZA while at the same time the Stalinist KKE more or less stagnated. This is particularly clear when one looks at the votes in the traditional working class centres of the country Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. In all of the six electoral districts of these three areas the KKE even lost votes and in five of them even got a lower share of the votes than it did at the elections in 2009. (http://ekloges.ypes.gr/v2012a/public/index.html?lang=en#{%22cls%22:%22party%22,%22params%22:{%22id%22:3}})

SYRIZA on the other hand became the strongest party in five of these six districts. In Athens and Piraeus it got between 19% and nearly 24% of the votes.

How can this difference in working class support between SYRIZA and KKE be explained? The main reason can certainly not be found in the organizational strength of SYRIZA. It was a small party until now with less than 5% at elections before and which hardly control any significant trade unions. It even suffered a split in 2010 when DIMAR left it. KKE on the other hand possess a huge apparatus and a long tradition of leading popular struggles. It heads important and militant trade unions like the dockers or the building workers. Its trade union federation PAME had more than 1/5 of the delegates at the last congress of the union federation GSEE in March 2010.

However, exactly because it is a powerful reformist party, many workers had big hopes in it. But the KKE leadership completely failed in the mass struggles of the last years. When the youth rose up at the end of 2008 – after the murder of 15-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos by two police officers – the KKE leadership denounced them. While tens of thousands of youths were fighting in the streets against the police, the KKE General Secretary Papariga slandered the militants as "hooligans" and "hoodies" led by “foreign intelligence". (This is similar to the reaction of many British centrist organisations which denounced the August Uprising of the poor, youth and migrants in summer 2011.) When the workers occupied enterprises or took part in one or two day general strikes, it was incapable to offer a perspective. When the spontaneous mass movement Kinima Aganaktisménon Politón (KAP –Indignant Citizens' Movement) with hundreds of thousands people occupied central squares in Athens and Thessaloniki for weeks in summer 2011, it refused any support and denounced the movements as “apolitical”. When the parliament adopted a brutal austerity package and the masses marched to the parliament in protest on 20th October 2011, the KKE stewards acted as a police force, guarded the parliament against militant sectors who tried to interrupt the parliament session and beat up a number of the militants.

It is no surprise that a significant sector of the militant working class is looking for a political alternative to the KKE. It hopes to find them in SYRIZA.

Unfortunately these hopes are completely unfounded. Like the KKE and DIMAR, SYRIZA is a reformist, bourgeois workers party. This means that they are parties dominated by a petty-bourgeois labour bureaucracy which is tied via various posts and privileges with the capitalist state and hence is incapable to fight consistently for the working class interests. At the same time it has organic links with sectors of the working class which are their main social class base. In the case of SYRIZA the core of the party’s bureaucracy comes from Synaspismos – a split from the KKE in 1991. This reformist party supported for many years extremely chauvinistic propaganda towards Macedonia and mobilized together with the Conservatives, PASOK and the church for joint demonstrations under the slogan “Macedonia is Greek”.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wants to keep Greece in the Euro-Zone which reflects the party’s desire to keep relations with European imperialism. He does not call for the complete cancellation of the debts but rather demands the establishment of a committee to review how much of the debt should be paid and how much should be canceled. During the political crisis in autumn 2011 Tsipras called for the defense of the constitution and to “preserve social cohesion and national integrity”.

Tsipras raises now the idea of a “government of the left”. According to the English edition of the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, he laid out the five points that he will negotiate with other party leaders:

* The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.

* The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that undermine fundamental workers' rights, such as the abolition of collective labor agreements.

* The immediate abolition of a law granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of the electoral law and a general overhaul of the political system.

* An investigation into Greek banks, and the immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking sector by BlackRock.

* The setting up of an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece's public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit are published.“ (Tsipras lays out five points of coalition talks, http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_23909_08/05/2012_441181)

These proposals reflect the deep hatred amongst the working masses but they leave the decisive questions unanswered. Will the draconic social cuts and mass sackings of the last two years be reversed or not? What does the “general overhaul of the political system” mean concretely since every bourgeois populist demands the same? “Investigation into Greek banks” is fine but how is it possible to stop them to continue the transfer of their capital abroad if one does not immediately nationalize them under workers control? “Setting up of an international auditing committee” – who will set it up? The European governments?

Unfortunately this illusionary left-reformist program is also supported by left-wing intellectuals like the editor of the Greek journal Marxist Thought, Christos Kefalis: “This means that while the European left is still on the defensive, the attempt to implement the “compromising” program of SYRIZA and reach an agreement with the EU should be made.(Christos Kefalis: The Greek Elections and Political Prospects in Greece, 10.5.2012, http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/05/the-greek-elections-and-political-prospects-in-greece/)

SYRIZA has no intention and certainly doesn’t offer any proposal to break the control of the country by the foreign and Greek banks and corporations. Neither does it propose anything to break up the police and army which ranks are the home of many fascists and where a coup d’état is already discussed in bourgeois circles as an option.

Unfortunately, a number of centrist organisations share or semi-share the illusions in a “government of the left”, which the SYRIZA-leadership is spreading. The comrades from DEA (Internationalist Workers Left, a split from SEK/IST in 2001) who helped to found SYRIZA in 2004) praise the policy of the SYRIZA leadership instead of characterizing it as reformist: “SYRIZA was rewarded for its radical left-wing politics.” (Internationalist Workers Left (DEA): A political earthquake in Greece, May 9, 2012, http://socialistworker.org/2012/05/09/political-earthquake-in-greece)

But in reality the kind of “left government” which Tsipras is calling for would be either a popular front government (if it includes PASOK or any other open bourgeois forces) or a bourgeois workers government. Such a government would be a coalition of bourgeois workers parties (like SYRIZA, KKE or DIMAR) which are dependent and connected with the capitalist state. In any case it would be a government not serving the workers and peasants but betraying it in the interest of the bourgeoisie.

In that sense the KKE leadership is certainly correct if it denounces SYRIZA as “a new social democracy” (KKE: On the results of the elections of the 6th of May 2012, http://inter.kke.gr/News/news2012/2012-05-07-ekloges) However the KKE leadership “forgets” that it itself is a Stalinist version of the “old social democracy”. This is like two thieves denouncing each other as “criminal”

To the workers and youth militants of SYRIZA we from the RCIT say: The defense of the working class against the draconic attacks by the capitalists and the liberation of the country from the debt trap can not be achieved by negotiations with the EU-bosses. What is a necessary is a workers government which is under the control of the workers and popular masses and which overthrows the ruling class!

 

The question of a Workers Government

 

We in the RCIT have pointed out in our Thesis on Greece that the main question in the present phase is the question of power:

A revolutionary program for the crisis in Greece must first of all explain the character of the current crisis and draw the correct conclusions. This crisis cannot be overcome by reforms and governmental coalitions within the framework of capitalism. The working class and the popular masses will experience a social massacre, a social and historical defeat, if the ruling capitalist class – regardless of whether ND, PASOK, KKE or SYRIZA administer their businesses – is not overthrown in time. The most important element of the current situation is therefore the question of power. Which class rules - the working class or the capitalist class?

Building a socialist society cannot be achieved peacefully or by parliamentary majority vote. This is a daydream entertained by the SYRIZA, KKE or the centrist CWI and IMT leaderships. History has shown that building socialism requires a socialist revolution, the smashing of the power of the capitalist class and the creation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Since the ruling class will defend its power by any means, a revolution is impossible without a civil war. For this the working class must be prepared.

However the central problem at the moment is that the tempo of capitalist crisis and working class radicalization is much faster than the tempo of the formation of a revolutionary working class party which is fit for the tasks of the day.

Such a revolutionary workers party can not be build by propaganda and education alone nor by practical participation in the class struggle only. Both of this is indispensable. But what is necessary too – particularly in a situation like the present one – is the bold and patient propaganda and agitation for a revolutionary programme and its application in the form of concrete tactics.

One of the important tactics is the united front tactic. Revolutionaries must take into account that the progressive sectors of the masses have illusions in the bourgeois workers parties SYRIZA, KKE and DIMAR. Hence a strategy for class struggle with the formation of action councils, mass demonstrations, occupations, strikes and indefinite general strikes must be directed not only to the broad masses of the workers but also to the mass organizations of the class (including their leaderships). The reformist and centrist parties must be actively addressed for joint actions respectively given the extreme minority status of the revolutionary forces they must seek to participate in mass struggles led by reformists and intervene in these struggles with practical initiatives, a sharp and independent propaganda profile including explaining and warning of the treacherous role of the reformist leaderships and putting demands on these leaderships. In doing this the revolutionaries must not give the impression that they themselves believe in the good intentions of the reformist leaders but that they want to help the masses to make their own experience. The goal of such a united front tactic, as the Communist International under Lenin and Trotsky did develop, is to break the influence of reformism amongst the masses and to rally them under the leadership of a Bolshevik party.

This is also true for the governmental question. The masses have hopes that these parties can bring an important change. This is not surprising since they hardly have ever been in power before. Revolutionaries must not ignore the issue who is in government since it is of huge importance for the working class. They should propose tactics which relate to the existing illusion but at the same don’t create confusion amongst the workers.

As Bolshevik-Communists we emphasize the need of a workers government. A “genuine workers’ government” – as the Communist International called it in its thesis in 1922 – must be completely independent of the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus. This is only possible if it arms the proletariat in workers militias, puts the core industry under workers’ control, base itself on workers councils (Soviets as they were called in Russia) and aims for the complete overthrow and expropriation of the bourgeoisie. The “Thesis on the Tactics of the Comintern” of the Forth Congress in 1922 described the attitude of Bolsheviks as follows:

Instead of a bourgeois-Social-Democratic coalition, whether open or disguised, Communists propose the united front of all workers and a coalition of all workers’ parties, in both the economic and political arena, to struggle against the power of the bourgeoisie and ultimately to overthrow it. Through united struggle of all workers against the bourgeoisie, the entire state apparatus can pass over into the hands of the workers’ government, thus strengthening the power of the working class.

The most basic tasks of a workers’ government must consist of arming the proletariat, disarming the bourgeois counter-revolutionary organisations, introducing [workers’] control of production, shifting the main burden of taxation to the shoulders of the rich, and breaking the resistance of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

Such a workers’ government is possible only if it is born from the struggles of the masses themselves and is supported by militant workers’ organisations created by the most oppressed layers of the working masses. Even a workers’ government that arises from a purely parliamentary combination, that is, one that is purely parliamentary in origin, can provide the occasion for a revival of the revolutionary workers’ movement.

Obviously, the birth and continued existence of a genuine workers’ government, one that pursues revolutionary policies, must result in a bitter struggle with the bourgeoisie, and possibly a civil war. Even an attempt by the proletariat to form such a workers’ government will encounter from the outset most determined resistance from the bourgeoisie. The slogan of the workers’ government thus has the potential of uniting the proletariat and unleashing revolutionary struggle. (in German: Protokoll des IV. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale, Band II, Hamburg 1923 (Reprint Erlangen 1972, p. 1015f.; in English: John Riddell: The Comintern’s unknown decision on workers’ governments, August 14, 2011, http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/the-comintern%E2%80%99s-unknown-decision-on-workers%E2%80%99-governments/)

Based on this method of the Comintern, the RCIT believes that revolutionaries in Greece should advocate a workers government based on workers councils and militias. This call is also directed to all workers organisations, i.e. also to the bourgeois workers parties and the trade unions GSEE, ADEDY, PAME, KKE, SYRIZA, DIMAR and Antarsya.

 

Peaceful creation of a workers government?

 

Such a workers government would not be a step towards a gradual transformation. Albeit the exact tempo can't be determined in advance, such a workers government would be a mortal danger for the ruling class and hence it would be related with the most bitter struggle and civil war. We think that it is a mistake if organizations which understand themselves as Marxists present the creation of such a workers government as the outcome of a general strike. Kokkino/CWI or Marxistiki Foni/IMT are examples for this. Unfortunately the League for the Fifth International has also adopted this idea recently:

To implement such measures, however, would need a workers' government. This could only be brought about by a mass general strike to bring down the government and would need to be based on the councils and self-defence organs.” (Martin Suchanek: Greece: The General Election and the Greek Revolution: For a Government of the Workers' Parties!, LFI, 25.4.2012 http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/greece-general-election-and-greek-revolution-government-workers-parties)

We argued in our thesis on Greece about against such an idea:

They propose a prolonged or even indefinite general strike to overthrow the government and the formation of a workers' government. Their rejection of the reformist electoral orientation is correct but their concept of the struggle for a workers' government is wrong and naive. It is a characteristic of centrism that it presents the seizure of power in a (pre-) revolutionary situation as a relatively peaceful transition, without rupture, in other words, in an opportunistic, non-revolutionary way. The indefinite general strike is seen as a weeks-long strike which forces the government to resign and then a workers government based on trade unions, leftist parties, action committee etc. delegates, emerges. In a (pre-) revolutionary situation this is a completely unrealistic view of the proletarian seizure of power. Moreover, it is a dangerous opportunistic illusion which is spread by centrism in the ranks of workers vanguard.

Given the talk of a military coup and the rise of the fascists we think it is necessary for a vanguard organization to warn the proletariat of the unavoidable clashes with the class enemy and to propagate the necessary conclusions, i.e. to call the workers organizations to build armed militias. Suggesting that the working class can create its government by a general strike only is highly problematic.

 

On the Sectarianism of the KKE and its bourgeois-patriotic Popular-Frontism behind it

 

The KKE is well known amongst sectors of the working class for a sectarian attitude. They refuse to have joint demonstrations and often they refuse to organize joint strike actions with other trade unions. As mentioned above they also failed to solidarise with the youth mass uprising in December 2008 or the square occupation movement KPA in 2011.

Many progressive organizations correctly criticize the KKE for this. However there is a strong tendency amongst centrist forces to focus their criticism of the KKE on this sectarian attitude. This is related with a failure to see the reason for this sectarianism. The sectarian policy of the KKE leadership is not caused in their unwillingness to collaborate with others. Their history is full of episodes of collaboration even with openly bourgeois forces. In 1944 it formed a coalition government with the bourgeois and monarchist forces to disarm the partisans and install a capitalist regime during the revolutionary crisis of 1944-45. Also in 1990-91, the KKE participated in a coalition government with PASOK and ND. Neither is their sectarianism rooted in a failure to understand the need for a united front. Bureaucrats are not directed by ideas and understanding but by a pragmatic policy which serves its interests.

As we have said the KKE is a bourgeois workers party. It has repeatedly acted respectively offered to act as a savior of Greek capitalism. However to understand the specific variation of the KKE reformism it is necessary to put in mind the specific character of Greek capitalism. In opposite to most Western European countries Greece is not an imperialist but a semi-colonial capitalism. We will not go into more detail here since we have dealt with this question in the chapter “The class character of Greece” in our thesis on the Greek Revolution. We just want to remark here that this fact is not understood by a number of centrists who either ignore largely the question of Greece’s class character or – like the SWP/IST of Alex Callinicos – who wrongly consider Greece as a “sub-imperialist” country.

However from this semi-colonial character of Greece derives the fact which often can be observed in semi-colonial countries that a sector of the reformist labour bureaucracy attempts to form a strategic alliance with the petty-bourgeoisie and with sectors of the “national” bourgeoisie in order to create an “independent” national capitalism. This is the true meaning of the “anti-monopoly anti-imperialist orientation of struggle” which plays a central role in the KKE policy. True, the KKE leadership sometimes speaks in resolutions about the need to combine the “anti-monopolist, anti-imperialist struggle with the struggle for socialism”. But its focus on the patriotic slogans unmasks the true, bourgeois-nationalist character of their perspective. The KKE leadership hopes to win over the petty-bourgeoisie, middle classes and sectors of the “national” bourgeoisie for the project of an “independent” capitalist Greece (with a strong state-capitalist sector in finance and industry). This is why we charactersie the KKE programme of bourgeois-patriotic Popular-Frontism.

To justify this orientation they spread the illusion that Greece could be an independent nation because the country "has conditions to create a self-supporting developing national economy." (Aleka Papariga, 5.7.2010) As we wrote in our Thesis “such a nation existing in isolation is not possible”.

This is why the KKE leadership focuses its agitation on the withdrawal of Greece from the EU and the euro currency and the restoration of "independence" for Greece and the drachma currency: “Consequently, there is one solution: Disengagement from the EU and unilateral cancellation of the debt, This is the solution, anything else will constitute a tragedy for the workers.” (KKE: 1st Day of the 48hr Strike: Strike struggle with the occupation of the Ministry of Labour. Down with the government and the plutocracy, disengagement from the EU with people’s power, 10.2.2012, http://inter.kke.gr/News/news2012/2012-02-10-48ori2/view?searchterm=disengagement)

But in reality, the solution of the Greek crisis can only be international in character. A capitalist Greece outside the EU will face at least as tough austerity measures as those imposed by the present government. The only solution is the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, the smashing of the capitalist state and the creation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the spreading of such a socialist revolution in Europe and beyond.

Of course this patriotic orientation is added by specific historic and ideological reasons. The KKE central role in the antifascist national liberation struggle during the Second World War and the enormous patriotism with which it covered this struggle still has an enormous influence on the party and its public profile.

For these reasons the KKE’s bourgeois-patriotic Popular-Frontism is driven by their perspective not to build a reformist government in a Greece as part of the European Union and the Euro-Zone. Therefore they reject any participation in a bourgeois government under the present circumstances. They hope that a collapse of EU debt-regime might force the Greek bourgeoisie and/or the European monopolies to a withdrawal of Greece from the EU/Euro and a return to the Drachma. Under such circumstances the KKE will be very willing to collaborate with whomever – including various bourgeois nationalist forces. In this context one just should remember the collaboration of the KKE with the monarchists in World War II and the reactionary alliances of Stalinist and right-wing chauvinists in Russia and other Eastern European countries in the 1990s.

For these reasons the KKE leadership has an interest in the failure of any SYRIZA-led government which want to keep Greece in the Euro-Zone.

Workers and youth activists in the KKE: Break with the poisoning combination of sectarian refusal of joint struggle with other workers organisations! Break with the nationalism and orientation towards a popular front!

 

Some comments on ANTARSYA’s programme

 

Certainly one of the most interesting phenomena is ANTARSYA – the “Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow”. It is an alliance of a number of centrist organizations including OKDE Spartakos (affiliated to the Mandelite Fourth International), the New Left Current (NAR, split from the KKE youth organisation, SEK (affiliated to the SWP/IST) and the EKKE. In its pre-election statement it raised a number of important demands which undoubtedly are part of revolutionary transitional programme in Greece today:

Whatever the parrots of the troika may tell us, the “haircut” (debt cut), carried out by the “black front” means the rescue of the bankers and social disaster for the population. The measures of the Memorandum No. 2 amount to a war of extermination against the majority of the working class. The EU is imposing a devastating austerity program throughout Europe. The bankers are compensated with 50 billion while social security funds and other public bodies are being robbed!

Despite all the propaganda we say that there certainly is a different way!

- Immediate termination of the loan agreement, of any memoranda and the related measures.

- Non-recognition of the debt, debt cancellation and suspension of payments.

- Break with the system and decoupling from the euro and the EU.

- Nationalization of the banks and corporations without compensation under workers’ control.

- Immediate increase in wages and pensions! Cancellation of the poll tax and increased taxation of capital.

- Prohibition of dismissals and full protection of the unemployed. Shortening of working hours and reduction of the retirement age.

- Expropriation of hundreds of closed factories and re-commissioning by the employees themselves – Cheap and good quality food by the employees of agricultural cooperatives, the poor and middle farmers without middlemen and large producers.

Rise of the entire working population -Anti-capitalist revolution! Power and wealth belong in the hands of the workers! That is the only way we can avoid the bankruptcy of society. Our way leads to a break with capitalism – by the overthrow of the current authoritarian political system and its replacement by a democracy and the power of the workers, by the widest control to be exercised by the workers and the people. If the united front of workers, intellectuals and creative people take over leadership, we can live in dignity, use the social productive forces collectively and break with the logic of profit, the market, the “competitiveness” and environmental degradation.

We are strong enough to overthrow them! We have demonstrated our strength during the great general strikes, the occupation of the ministries, the unique lessons in democracy and struggles during the square occupancies. We can see it every day in the small and large conflicts, in the heroic struggles of Chalivourgia (steel industry), in the movements of civil disobedience “I do not pay.” This is shown by the many forms of organization and coordination of struggles at the rank and file, outside of and against the institutionalized trade unionism of GSEE and ADEDY, by developing new forms of solidarity, self-organization and self-determination. The popular uprising, the continued popular and labor war that is increasing its strength will lead to victory! (…) What is needed is the mobilization and organization of goals and demands, put today on the agenda by reality itself (cancellation of debt, leaving the euro zone and the EU, nationalization and workers’ control). This can be achieved by a united front of the break with the system and the revolution, the escalation of the workers’ and popular uprising with strikes, occupations, demonstrations and by the organization and coordination of struggles at the rank and file on the basis of an anti-capitalist program.” (ANTARSYA: Statement on the parliamentary elections to be held on May 6 in Greece, http://kasamaproject.org/2012/05/08/antarsya-another-radical-view-from-greece/)

As excellent as these demands and the call for revolution are, there are several major problems with it which makes it a centrist and not a revolutionary programme. First it lacks the centrality of the formation of workers and popular council. More concretely workers and popular councils as a united front of all who want to resists without any programmatic preconditions. The formulation “on the basis of an anti-capitalist programme” is highly misleading and opens the road to a sectarian mini-united front of the radical left with itself but not of the masses including those with a reformist consciousness. Let us not forget that the soviets in Russia were initially formed by workers and soldiers in 1917 who supported the defense of the imperialist fatherland in the World War I and in which the anti-revolutionary parties had a huge majority.

Secondly the uprising is presented as a rather spontaneous process. One struggle leads to a bigger struggle leads to a general strike leads to an uprising. But the revolution will never win in this way. It can only win as the organized armed insurrection led by a strong revolutionary working class party with an organized mass support in soviets or organs similar to soviets.

Thirdly and related to the first two points it lacks any call for a workers and popular militia. How should the rising fascists be beaten, how should the brutal police be fought against and how should a military coup opposed without such a workers militia? By this we do not mean the security groups which a number of left-wing groups have already. We rather mean a mass workers militia as a united front. Only such a mass militia is strong enough to smash the enemy.

And fourthly it lacks any serious orientation towards a united front. Calling for a “united front of the break with the system and the revolution, (…) the organization and coordination of struggles at the rank and file on the basis of an anti-capitalist program” is nothing but a united front with itself. In other words it is no united front. But the masses which rally today behind SYRIZA, KKE or DIMAR will not spontaneously break away and join ANTARSYA. But this is the decisive question since ANTARSYA – despite tripling its votes – is still a small formation. In other words the comrades should systematically call the reformist parties for joint actions or seek to participate in mass struggles led by them. They should direct demands on their leaderships and combine this with a sharp propaganda against the treacherous character of the reformist leaderships.

To the comrades from ANTARSYA we in the RCIT say: break with the inadequate, centrist programme and build a revolutionary party! Focus your energy and devotion to the formation of a working class liberation party whose programme and tactic are adequate for the present challenges!

 

Is it sectarian not to join a bourgeois workers government?

 

As we have explained before it is vital for revolutionaries in Greece to make propaganda for a workers government based on workers councils and armed militias. But what does this mean for today in May 2012? Today neither workers councils nor militias exist. What does this mean for the question of government? Should communists not care about this and wait for the masses to erect their organs? No, we in the RCIT are of the opinion that the class struggle today goes on, the illusions of the masses exist, and hence communists must apply their tactics to this situation. They must be applied in order to enhance the mass struggle and the self-organisation of the masses and by this to prepare the conditions for the creation of workers councils and armed militias.

Concerning the governmental question one has to say this: The bourgeois workers parties are prepared to become governmental parties in the capitalist system. SYRIZA has already expressed this many times. The KKE has already done this in the past. In fact its project – approved by its last congress – of the creation of a “people’s government” is a camouflage for this. (KKE: Political Resolution of the 18th Congress of KKE, February 2009, http://inter.kke.gr/News/2010news/2009-09-16-political-resolution)

However the KKE uses radical rhetoric to cover its bourgeois-patriotic popular frontism. In a recent press conference Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the KKE, emphasized that the real power is not in parliament and hence one should not have illusion about elections.

I am telling you that even the most pro-workers and pro-people government cannot do anything if it is not based on the uprising and the organization of the people. Because the enemy is not only within the Parliament, the enemy is mainly the business groups, the bourgeois class etc. And you know that the business groups do not ask for the vote of the people, they do not run in the elections no matter if some participate in the parties. Of course it is the parties, ND and PASOK in particular, which ask for the vote of the people on behalf of them. However voting against ND and PASOK does mean voting against the class they represent.” (Aleka Papariga: The “left” government is dangerous for the people, http://inter.kke.gr/News/news2012/2012-04-10-synentefxi)

Of course this did not stop them to campaign since a long time for the slogan “Election Now!” Rhetoric is good but parliamentary seats are better.

However today the KKE refuses any support for a SYRIZA-led government. By this make it makes it easy for Tsipras to put the responsibility for the failure of a “left government” on the shoulders of the KKE and reliefs the SYRIZA leadership from the burden to prove in practices if they could lead Greece out of the crisis. (i.e. to unmask themselves as left-reformist traitors)

Similarly ANTARSYA does not call the reformist parties to form any kind of workers government.

This has caused a number of left-wing people to criticize them. Indeed as we have explained above for different reasons both KKE and ANTARSYA lack a correct understanding of the Marxist united front tactic. However the understanding of this tactic by their critic is often not much better. Why? Because for them the united front tactic is basically fighting together for this or that demand or forming a joint government. The limitation of the united front for specific demands, the focus on the rank and file organizations, the need to denounce the reformist leaderships and the goal to break the workers away from them to win them for the revolutionary party – all this is a book of seven seals for most of the centrists.

Revolutionaries must apply the united front tactic on the governmental question under the present circumstances as they are. This means today a situation where the reformist left rallies masses of workers behind them, where workers councils and militias don’t exist at the moment and where the masses are looking desperately for a way out.

Last year when the reformists where all in opposition, criticized sharply the PASOK/ND coalition government, called for a “left” or “popular” government and the masses wanted to bring down the government – under these conditions it was important to call them to transform their words into deeds. In our Theses on Greece we therefor wrote:

No demand for new elections, but for the overthrow of the government by an indefinite general strike and an armed uprising! For the formation of a workers government based on Workers' Councils and militias! As a first step: demand that the dominant labour organizations today – GSEE, ADEDY, PAME, KKE, SYRIZA, DIMAR and Antarsya – form a workers' government based on the mobilization of the masses! Down with the PASOK/ND-conspiracy against the people! The power lies not in parliament, but on the street! A real workers' government is based on the organs of workers’ power (Councils, Militias, etc.), and must expropriate the bourgeoisie and smash the state apparatus.

Today, after the electoral victory of SYRIZA and the refusal of KKE to join a government one has to adapt the revolutionary united front tactic. Under the present conditions revolutionaries should demand from SYRIZA and DIMAR who are willing to form a government to do so. Revolutionaries should call the rank and file to organize to force such a government to implement the demands like cancellation of the debt, reversal of all past social cuts etc. To counter the pressure of the bourgeoisie revolutionaries should call the government to base itself on mass mobilization. Of course revolutionaries should warn the masses that the reformists can not and will not implement the demands of the masses and that they will be frightened to seriously confront the bourgeoisie. They should explain the need to break with these parties to create a revolutionary mass party.

Such a “left government” would be a bourgeois workers government or – as the Communist International called it in 1922 – an “illusory workers’ governments”. As the Comintern explained, “communists are also ready, under certain conditions and with certain guarantees, to support a workers’ government that is not purely Communist, indeed, even a merely illusory workers’ government – of course, only to the degree that it defends the workers’ interests.” (in German: Protokoll des IV. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale, Band II, Hamburg 1923 (Reprint Erlangen 1972, p. 1017.; in English: John Riddell: The Comintern’s unknown decision on workers’ governments, August 14, 2011, http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/the-comintern%E2%80%99s-unknown-decision-on-workers%E2%80%99-governments/) As the Bolshevik party showed in 1917 such a government can and should be defended against the open bourgeois forces. Why? Because it still has the support of the majority of the class-conscious workers. But at the same time revolutionaries must sharply criticise such a bourgeois workers government and they must not join it. They must rather prepare its future overthrow.

Revolutionaries should demand from the KKE who refuses to join a SYRIZA-led government not to join but to give critical support to it. This means that it deputies should vote in parliament for bills which are reforms in the interest of the masses and they should defend the SYRIZA-led government against attempts of the open bourgeois forces to overthrow it.

A number of centrists adapted to the illusions what a “government of the left” could achieve. DEA, which is part of SYRIZA since its beginning in 2004, for example paints a rosy picture what a government of the left could achieve:

Only through a government of the left can the Memorandum can be overthrown in a manner that is in the interests of workers. Such a government would cancel the Memorandum and the loan deals as the first step toward a program with completely different priorities. The central concerns of such a program must be wages, pensions, public education, public health and support for the unemployed. To find the financial means for such policies, this government would stop paying off the loan sharks, whether Greek or international; it would nationalize the banking system; and it would impose heavy taxation on corporate profits and the rich.” (Internationalist Workers Left (DEA): A political earthquake in Greece, May 9, 2012, http://socialistworker.org/2012/05/09/political-earthquake-in-greece)

The comrades don’t say a single word about the left-reformist character of SYRIZA, about the inevitable clash with the bourgeoisie in such a scenario, about the incapability of a SYRIZA-led government as a bourgeois workers government to break with the bourgeoisie, about the need for a genuine workers government based on workers councils and militias as an instrument to really break the control of the bourgeoisie over the society etc.

Unfortunately the chorus of the opportunists who apply the united front tactic in an opportunist way has been recently joined by the former revolutionary League for the Fifth International. (for a more detailed critique of this organisation look at our website www.thecommunists.net). In recent articles on Greece they added to a number of correct observations and programmatic demands a thoroughly opportunist position on the governmental question. They criticize the KKE and ANTARSYA for their unwillingness to join a SYRIZA-led government.

Before the election the LFI leadership wrote: “Being afraid of the danger of opportunism, not only the KKE, but also Antarsya (including the SWP-sister organisation and OKDE-Spartacos) have ruled out any participation in government and have not developed any tactics towards the left parties – even if they had a majority in government. It warns against illusions in a “left government”. (…) It is absolutely correct of Antarsya, despite its many other weaknesses and faults, to call on the workers' organisations to join in struggle, to campaign for a united front against the current and coming attacks. However, it is wrong and, indeed, self-defeating, not to address the very real possibility of the left gaining a majority in parliament or being able to form a minority government. If the united front with reformists, with opportunists, is permissible in the struggle against cuts and against the government, why should it be impermissible with regard to the governmental question?” (Martin Suchanek:Greece: The General Election and the Greek Revolution: For a Government of the Workers' Parties!, LFI, 25.4.2012 http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/greece-general-election-and-greek-revolution-government-workers-parties)

This idea was repeated also after the election: “In such conditions, the KKE’s policy, refusing to form a coalition with the other left parties on the grounds that it would be a bourgeois government, is a massive obstacle to keeping out the pro-austerity right and centre right parties. This is like a crude copy of the German Communist Party’s “third period” policy in Germany in 1929-33, obstructing a united front against the Nazis with the reformist SPD and its huge trade unions because they were reformist and pro-capitalist.” (Dave Stockton: Greek elections: A rout for the parties of austerity; an opportunity for the Left, LFI, 8.5.2012, http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/greek-elections-rout-parties-austerity-opportunity-theleft)

This is by all standards an opportunist application of the united front tactic. While Trotsky criticized the Stalinists in 1929-33 for not applying the united front tactic including critical support in an election for a parliamentary post, he did NOT criticize them for not forming a joint government with the social democrats! Discussing the question of a social democratic government he wrote in 1932:

The Communist Party must say to the working class: Schleicher is not to be overthrown by any parliamentary game. If the Social Democracy wants to set to work to overthrow the Bonapartist government with other means, the Communist Party is ready to aid the Social Democracy with all its strength. At the same time, the Communists obligate themselves in advance to use no violent methods against a Social Democratic government insofar as the latter bases itself upon the majority of the working class and insofar as it guarantees the Communist Party the freedom of agitation and organization. Such a way of putting the question will be comprehensible to every Social Democratic and nonparty worker. (Leo Trotzki: Der einzige Weg (1932), in: Leo Trotzki: Schriften über Deutschland, Frankfurt a.M. 1971, S. 403; in English: Leon Trotsky: Germany: The Only Road, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932/320914.htm)

Joining a bourgeois workers government is impermissible for revolutionaries. If a reformist workers party like the KKE or centrist forces like ANTARSYA criticize a SYRIZA-led government with left-wing arguments they also reflect a, albeit confused but to a certain degree correct, mistrust of the class-conscious workers in a capitalist government. Revolutionaries should not criticise these parties as “sectarian” for not joining a bourgeois workers government. They should criticise it for not giving it critical support against the open bourgeois forces.

 

Trotsky’s approach to the bourgeois workers government

 

Trotsky expressed the revolutionary approach on the question of a bourgeois workers government very well in the Transitional Program of the Fourth International:

From April to September 1917, the Bolsheviks demanded that the S.R.s and Mensheviks break with the liberal bourgeoisie and take power into their own hands. Under this provision the Bolshevik Party promised the Mensheviks an the S.R.s, as the petty bourgeois representatives of the worker and peasants, its revolutionary aid against the bourgeoisie categorically refusing, however, either to enter into the government of the Mensheviks and S.R.s or to carry political responsibility for it. (in German: Leo Trotzki: Der Todeskampf des Kapitalismus und die Aufgaben der IV. Internationale (1938), S. 26; in English: Leon Trotsky: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International: The Mobilization of the Masses around Transitional Demands to Prepare the Conquest of Power, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/index.htm)

The LFI’s leadership criticism of KKE and ANTARSYA is unfortunately a criticism from the right, not from the left. Its call for a “left government” is an opportunist application of the opportunist tactic of “left unity” which has become recently a major feature in the LFI’s policy. It sees “the inability of the revolutionary left organisations to transcend their fragmentation” as the major factor for the crisis of leadership. (Workers Power: Draft Proposal for Political Basis for the Anticapitalist Initiative, 21.4.2012, http://southlondonanticapitalists.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/building-a-new-left-a-great-start/) In the same spirit it sees the failure of “the left” to form a joint government as a major obstacle in the class struggle.

In fact the most important obstacle for the class struggle is the failure of the left to break with its method, programme and strategy. Hence it follows a non-revolutionary policy and can’t apply the necessary tactics.

Indeed the formation of an authentic revolutionary party and a Fifth Workers International based on a communist programme is the major task ahead of all true revolutionaries. In Greece and around the world. The RCIT will do its utmost to contribute to this task.