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Capitalismís experiment in Greece and the socialist response

John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy)

15 June 2012

All the signs are that that we are entering a new phase in the European crisis. The savage austerity offensive has not brought stability. The policy of bailing out the banks has led the crisis to advance into the heart of Europe with threats to Spain and Italy, while the British government throw even more billions in public money at the Banks.  At the same time workers are increasingly seeking desperately for a way in which they can register their opposition to an unending offensive. In many countries the governments are increasingly unstable. Even in Ireland, where the austerity pact was voted through, there were sharp signs of class polarisation. In France Sarkozy has fallen to Hollande, with a large vote for the Left front. A left coalition in Greece, SYRIZA, may be able to form an anti-austerity government. The stakes of the struggle to develop a working-class alternative are sharply increased by the explosive rise of the Fascists - Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in Greece.

The pressures of these new developments have led to sharp divisions in the socialist movement, expressed especially sharply within the international current that Socialist Democracy belongs to, the Fourth International.  Alongside this article we publish two others: the Pendulum by Manos Skoufoglou of the Greek group OKDE and the coalition Antarsya and a reply by Dave Packer of Britainís Socialist Resistance.  Further details of the differences can be found at:

At the heart of the debate are arguments about a left government, about the independent organization of the working class and about the programme that workers should advance as their solution to the crisis.

A potential SYRIZA government in Greece is sometimes described as a left government or as a workers government. There is really no excuse for confusion here. SYRIZA is a reformist (left) party and would be forming a government with other groups to its right, thus the government would be reformist - that is, seeking a solution to the austerity within the confines of capitalism.

Although campaign speeches claim that the debt will be history, essentially SYRIZA are calling for a renegotiation of the debt. They are asking capitalism to reconsider. There is a long history of such left governments. Historically they either carry out a sharp U-turn and attack the workers themselves (the Mitterand government in France) or they restrict the struggle to the parliamentary arena and depress workers opposition until the capitalists resolve the situation with a coup (the Allende government in Chile).

Currently the leadership of the Fourth International are arguing that we should support SYRIZA and the programme of reform that they advance on the grounds that this will ignite a political crisis across Europe and mobilize workers across the continent. 

While no one can say that this will not happen, it clearly gets less and less likely as independent action and organization by the working class decline. If the workers support a reformist programme without any qualification then the need to have their own programme and to organise themselves rather than rely on parliament is not clearly presented.

Our comrades in OKDE and in the anti-capitalist ANTARSYA movement argue that the workers must repudiate the debt and not accept renegotiation. Immediately following from this there is a requirement for workers mobilisation, a need to socialise the banking system under workers control and the expropriation of elements of Greek capital. Our comrades argue for a united front approach towards SYRIZA - calling for unity in action while rejecting a policy of reform.

(There is a secondary, and more confusing, issue about the role of the euro. European capital insists that default would force withdrawal. SYRIZA's rejection of this is strongly supported by workers but ANTARSYA support withdrawal. In my view that presents the danger of workers believing that there is a Greek solution separate from a wider European mobilisation.  Greece should not volunteer to leave nor cave in to threats of expulsion, but the issue of currency comes far behind the need to mobilize the workers.)

What gives the debate great energy is the reality that the majority of workers are not embracing a revolutionary strategy but are desperately seeking a solution within existing society. The crisis they face is a dual crisis of capitalist offensive and of the decay of traditional political parties. In Greece the social democratic PASOK party led the austerity and the communist KKE lost support by constantly attempting to limit the protests. This is a common pattern across Europe.  In Ireland in the past few days trade union  leaders have boasted of the savings they have extracted from workers under the Croke Park agreement. A spokesperson for ICTU claimed that public sector workers Ďunderstandí that pay will never return to previous levels.  Even now many workers cling to traditional organisations for protection. The workers next port of call is to the left of the existing movement.

At the same time revolutionary movements across Europe have for two decades been seeking unity with reformist currents on ambiguous policies of anti-capitalism. 
(see The Greek crisis no longer allows ambiguity about this issue. 

Either the revolutionary socialist movement advances an updated programme of revolutionary change towards a socialist society or it decays into reformism, with tragic consequences for the working class. The hesitation on this issue is across all socialist currents and within them. The current debate is absolutely necessary and must be resolved in favour of revolution.


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