In spite of a massive mobilisation of the workers and youth, a movement of revolutionary dimensions, the PASOK government managed to push through parliament its austerity measures. This comes at a price, however, for now the masses have had a taste of their own strength and have been deeply politicised. The Greek Marxists of Marxisti Foni and Revolution provide here a balance sheet of the situation.
The PASOK government finally managed to successfully pass through parliament its new austerity measures. However, theirs is only a “Pyrrhic” victory because it was achieved despite the overwhelming opposition of the working class, expressed through the mass movement that lasted a month and a half and saw three days of general strike.
We describe it as “pyrrhic” because the losses incurred by the government were numerous and significant. Firstly, because it was on the verge of collapse, revealing how socially isolated it is. Secondly, immediately after this near-collapse, it was forced to rely on the repressive forces of the state to terrorise the demonstrators. This brought into sharp focus the class hatred against exploitation and injustice that the government has come to personify. Something which is now common to all the people is widespread hatred against police repression.
The main elements that characterise the political, social and economic situation in the country are as follows. The first is the profound crisis of heavily-indebted Greek capitalism together with imperialism's attempts to prevent contagion of the global banking system and the world economy through their “rescue” plans and draconian austerity measures. The second is the existence of a government that has been weakened by the blows of the mass movement. The third is the strong reluctance – at this stage – on the part of New Democracy to take on government responsibility, because they see this as a way of preserving themselves as the political expression of the capitalist class in Greece. The fourth is the reluctance of the left leaderships – with the Communist Party (KKE) leadership bearing the greater responsibility in this – to form a left political coalition that would state clearly to the workers that they will take power in order to implement a programme that can eradicate once and for all the very system that is responsible for the debt, and for poverty and unemployment. And finally, the fifth and decisive factor is the state of the mass movement, the stage it is presently passing through and its prospects. We will look at each one of these factors.
How are all these elements shaping up?
The Troika by ensuring the austerity measures were pushed through the Greek parliament, has simply bought time for the banks and global capitalism. But as has been repeatedly stressed by the Marxists, the fate of Greece is not determined by the intentions and plans of the imperialists, nor by the domestic economic situation. Greek debt represents only one of the hazards facing global capitalism. Along with near-bankrupt Ireland, Portugal and terribly indebted Spain and Italy, the USA is becoming an increasing source of risk for the global economy, with the rating agencies constantly sounding the alarm about the USA’s excessive debt.
The potential proliferation of countries that are in the "red" on a par with Greece will create a widespread climate of protectionism, which can lead to abandoning Greece to its own fate and being forced to exit the euro. What this means is that although the austerity measures have been passed and a new loan is being arranged, there is no way of avoiding Greek bankruptcy. The financial turmoil will persist and intensify, providing a constant source of political instability.
The government although weakened will not surrender easily. Their isolation from the masses is made up for, for now, by the full backing they have from the ruling class and world imperialism. If the mass movement fails to bring the government down through an intensification of the class struggle, it will cling on to power and carry out as much it can of the dirty work that has been assigned to them by local and international capital.
The leadership of New Democracy is trying to reap from part of the social discontent by using demagoguery. So far, Mr Samaras has maintained a smart and flexible approach, appearing as “the politician who resists”, while Mr Papandreou is seen as the obedient dog who does not raise the slightest resistance to the Troika. But this tactic has its limits. Once Greek capitalism reaches closer to the brink of collapse or is in danger of being lost beneath the blows of the revolutionary masses, then Mr Samaras will leave aside his present fake populist stance and will participate willingly in a government of “national unity” whose would aim would be the disorientation and discouragement of the workers.
So far, the political leaderships of the Left have been a key factor in the, outcome of the movement. If they were to base themselves on their founding principles, the two mainstream parties of the Greek Left movement, the KKE and the Synaspismos, should be supporting with all their might any mass movement directed against the ruling class. Instead, the Synaspismos leadership’s passive stance, standing back from the movement while the KKE, with their cold attitude and their absence from the movement, practically worked to undermine the struggle, rather than strengthen it. In spite of all this, as the the bourgeois parties are going to be more and more be involved in the politics of “national consensus” and the PASOK will not see within it at this stage an organised opposition trend able to challenge the government from the left, the traditional Left parties will inevitably become the first political choice for a large part of the masses looking for a political expression for their anger and indignation against the government, the Troika and capitalism in general.
Pernicious role of the trade union bureaucracy
The movement in the squares consisted of a broad, disorganised and previously non-politicised mass. We had the over-exploited workers, the unemployed youth, with university qualifications and without, the pensioners and small tradesmen who are in a desperate situation, the housewives and other layers. This had the effect of awakening the organised working class and pushing the labour and trade union movement to the forefront of the struggle. Thus, the general strikes called by the GSEE and ADEDY [the two main trade union confederations], but also the struggle of the DEI [electricity workers] and other workers in the public sector became the “battering ram” of the struggle against the austerity measures, the government and the Troika.
However, it has to be said that once again the leaders of GSEE and ADEDY played a pernicious role. Again, the strikes were called with the aim of letting off steam, when what was required was precisely the opposite, a drawn out struggle of such a magnitude that the government would be brought down. Instead, two of the three days of general strike literally were called at the very last minute when it was already clear that the new austerity measures would be approved by a majority in parliament. In addition, the general strikes were simply launched but hardly organised at all.
In particular, there was no campaign to secure mass participation in those private sector companies where there is no union and where the bosses maintain a regime of terror. No defence was organised on the demonstrations and rallies, thus they were easily infiltrated by hooded provocateurs. More in general, the union bureaucracy kept aloof from the movement in the squares and took no concrete steps to organise joint action. This was in contrast to the People's Assembly in Syntagma Square that never ceased to call for an all-out general political strike and joint action with the trade unions against the austerity measures.
Typical of this wretched attitude was the refusal on the part of the GSEE leadership to organise a rally on the second day of the 48-hourt general strike. The ADEDY leaders, on the other hand, on the two occasions they called the public sector workers to Syntagma Square, refused even to set up a platform for people to speak from or provide a microphone to spread the slogans of the demonstrators. Disheartening was the attitude of the leadership of the GENOP-DEI [electricity workers’ union], which immediately after parliament passed the austerity measures, immediately called off their strike, thus breaking the strike front at the most advanced and crucial point. Finally, the leadership of PAME [the KKE’s faction inside the unions] practically undermined the movement, by yet again organising its own, essentially KKE, gatherings, both separate from the movement in the squares and the GSEE and ADEDY demonstrations.
In conclusion on this, we can say that while the mass movement in the squares showed its tendency towards organic unity and was striving to be represented by the organised labour movement, the bureaucratic trade union leaders blatantly undermined all this, playing a very negative role in the battle against the austerity measures.
We must prepare for the next round
The movement has been developing over the past one and a half months. It was not just the mobilisation of one section of society, but it set in motion, and won the support of, the masses. Millions of people have now been politicised. Within a short period of a few weeks many of the deeply rooted certainties and illusions in parties, symbols, institutions and leaders collapsed. Thousands of people took part in popular assemblies and experienced firsthand the brutal violence of the ruling class’s state apparatus. It is striking to see how many “peaceful and law-abiding” people now believe that society needs a radical change and have declared their support for violent methods of struggle as a response of the people against the methods of the ruling class.
Of course, once the austerity measures were passed in parliament, a decline in the mass movement was inevitable. Participation in the demonstrations in Syntagma Square began to dwindle, while in other cities, the decline has been even more evident. We have to understand that the masses cannot be constantly on the move. However, such is the scope in the decline in living standards due to the crisis of capitalism, that the movement has radically changed the consciousness of millions, and this has already created a new tradition of struggle. The masses have had a taste of their own power and are thirsting for revenge against the government and the ruling class. Therefore there is little likelihood of a drawn out decline of the movement, while at the same people will be drawing important political conclusions from the experience they have just had.
The main task now is to reorganise the mass movement, draw the correct conclusions and prepare, the next crucial round of the battle. Given the inevitable physiological signs of fatigue due to constant demonstrations and also because of the objective difficulties posed by the advanced summer season and the need for time to prepare, the opening up of the new round will inevitably be delayed to September. We also have to remember that strike action, which is of paramount importance for mass class struggle, cannot be taken in the middle of the summer, when most workers are on holiday.
The importance of the Popular Assemblies
The Popular Assemblies can be the most effective way of successfully preparing for the next round of struggle. Although, objectively speaking, they cannot continue on the same level, size and frequency over the next 6-7 weeks month, they should continue to operate and a campaign must be organised to spread them to every neighbourhood. In this, a key role can be played by the Popular Assembly of Syntagma Square. Using its specific weight, it should issue a call to the workers across the country.
We must explain that the balance of power inside parliament was in stark contrast to the mood within society. Hence the need to expand and strengthen those institutions that reflect the genuine will of the majority of workers, i.e. the Popular Assemblies, which are objectively cells of the class struggle, but also an emerging, future power. We must gradually introduce the concept of weekly meetings of the Popular Assemblies to discuss the methods and demands of the struggle in every neighbourhood in the country.
Organise a long term struggle
The 24-hour and 48-hour general strikes that were organisationally undermined by the union bureaucracy have proved not to be sufficient to lead the movement to victory. Therefore what is required is that in all workplaces, large and small, starting from the first days of September, workers’ meetings should elect strike committees, to conduct a campaign for an all-out general strike to be prepared in a serious manner. The Papandreou government has lost the base of support it had among the people and has in fact declared war on the workers on behalf of the loan sharks. Therefore the basic demand of such a strike can only be for the immediate bringing down of the government
The strike committees, in collaboration with the trade unions should ensure the establishment of strike funds and soup kitchens for the strikers and their families who will have difficulty in surviving. Also, given the low participation so far in a series of strikes in private sector companies where unions do not exist, it is necessary to carry out an organised campaign for mass participation in the strike. In those companies where workers may face the sack or are threatened with dismissal solidarity action and occupations should be promoted.
The extremely brutal methods of repression used against the movement during the 48-hour general strike have made everyone aware of the need for organised defence and self-defence against the violence of the police and the agents provocateurs. Therefore we must create defence squads on the picket lines, in collaboration with the People's Assembly of Syntagma Square and other assemblies, which will consist of suitably equipped, fighting elements of the movement and trade unions to combat police violence and the actions of the provocateurs.
One of the key conclusions that one can draw from the movement is that it must urgently give itself a unified and genuinely democratic expression. This can be achieved through a systematic campaign to set up a nationwide body of elected and recallable delegates from assemblies and strike committees throughout the country, which will be convened on a regular basis at the centre of the struggle, in Syntagma Square and will elect a Centralised National Action Committee, which will undertake the coordination and unified representation of the movement.
In addition, the Centralised National Action Committee should promote solidarity from the European and international labour movement and youth. Based on the legitimisation of the popular and working class movement, preparations should be made to replace the government of the “Troika” and place the banks and the concentrated wealth of the country under the control of the working masses.
On the basis of such demands and plan of action, the Left parties and trade unions should form a united front to fight until the final victory in each neighbourhood and workplace.
Pre-revolutionary period and the subjective factor
The mass movement and the successive general strikes we have seen in the recent period prove that what we are faced with in Greece is not a series of isolated struggles, or of sporadic outbursts of struggle, but a situation where there is widespread anger and a willingness on the part of the mass of working people to participate in a long drawn out battle. We have entered a pre-revolutionary situation. We have the increasing willingness of the masses to struggle and make sacrifices to take their destiny into their own hands. However, at the same time, there is the absence of the revolutionary subjective factor, i.e. a revolutionary party deeply-rooted among the masses, that would be capable of providing the correct slogans and methods of struggle and leading the mass struggle until the final victory is achieved.
This factor can only be built on the basis of two key elements. The first is to defend the most revolutionary ideas and methods, namely the ideas and methods of genuine revolutionary Marxism, which were tested successfully in the greatest victorious revolution in world history, the October Revolution of 1917. The second is the active participation of every revolutionary in the lively battle of ideas and currents that will start to develop within the mass workers' organisations and parties under the pressure of the movement.
The comrades in the Synaspismos and the Youth of Synaspismos who support the bimonthly magazine “Marxistiki Foni” and the weekly newspaper “Revolution”, believe that the task at hand is the Marxist reorientation of the Left and this today passes through the building of a mass Marxist tendency within the Synaspismos. Such a tendency would be able to play a guiding role in the victory of the revolutionary movement and of the ideas of genuine socialism in Greece.
Source: Μαρξιστική Φωνή (Greece)