Greek elections and tasks for the anticapitalist Left

The following article is based on the contribution made by comrade Andreas Payiatsos, on behalf of Xekinima, at the public event of R-project, on May 4. R-project (Resist, Reclaim, Revolt) is a website connected to “Internationalist Workers Left” (DEA) and “Anticapitalist Political Group” (APO) in Greece. In the event, 6 anticapitalist groups had speakers from the platform and some others intervened from the floor. 

For background, read the pre-election analysis by Xekinima here and more on Xekinima’s positions here

The discussion we are having today is very interesting and important. It is noteworthy that a significant number of organisations, that are represented here today, agree on a basic position on the elections: voting for left-wing parties without choosing a particular one. This convergence of positions is emerging for the first time ever. 

We are very positive to the proposal of the organisers to organise more discussions following the present one. We say from the beginning that as Xekinima we are in favour of moving in the direction of a new anti-capitalist pole, through the coming together of different organisations of the anticapitalist Left. The forces to achieve this, do exist; the question is one of political will. 

The Left, Reformism and capitalist crisis

Xekinima is calling for a vote for the Left parties, without choosing anyone of the left parties: KKE (Communist Party of Greece), MERA25 (Varoufakis’ DiEM25) or the anticapitalist alliance ANTARSYA. 

It goes without saying that we should actively campaign for voting out New Democracy and for blocking the vote to the far right. At the same time, we need to understand why many people, some of whom are very critical of SYRIZA, will vote for it. And we need to try to patiently convince them that they are wrong. 

Very briefly, there is no chance of seeing any serious pro-worker reforms from a potential SYRIZA-PASOK government, as propagated by SYRIZA’s leadership. This is not just the result of SYRIZA’s completely “inadequate” programme. Even if they want to implement some pro-working class measures, they can’t. They are parties organically tied to the capitalist system and the limits to their policies are set by the crisis of the system. 

This crisis is not just Greek, it is international. It is deep and multileveled, with no prospect of a way out – to such an extent that international analysts have coined a special term for it: “Polycrisis”. It is a global, economic, social, political, geopolitical and environmental crisis. 

There is no optimism in international bourgeois commentators, not only for the current decade, but also for the next ones, where, ever lower rates of growth are expected and the intensification of geopolitical rivalries will lead to greater instability and clashes. 

In times of crisis, reformists lack the ability to reform, even if they want to. 

The Labour movement and the Left

The only hope for improvements in workers’ lives lies with the struggles of the mass movements. That is why it is important to strengthen the Left. Strengthening the Left helps the mass movement to regain its confidence and fight its battles from better positions.

On the other hand, the picture of the main parties of the Left today, KKE, MERA25, ANTARSYA, is so problematic that we cannot favour a vote to any one of them. None of them offers a convincing way out to fill the vacuum that exists in the Left. This vacuum is huge and it is an international and not just a Greek phenomenon. 

The responsibility and hope for breaking this deadlock lies with the anti-capitalist Left. So far, it has been unable to carry out this task. This primarily applies to the main force of the anti-capitalist Left, ANTARSYA, but secondarily to all of us here today. 

The “party” and the “front”

Let’s start with something elementary: what is our role as anti-capitalist left forces? It certainly is not just to help build a vague “radical left” formation. It is to build forces that are ready to confront the system, to overthrow it and to lay the foundations for an alternative society – a socialist/communist society with workers’ democracy. Only Marxists can accomplish this task. 

This task, of course, goes hand in hand with building not only the political forces/groups that we represent, but also broader left initiatives and formations, which are not necessarily revolutionary but which can contribute to the development of movements and the class struggle. 

The first task is called “Building the revolutionary party” or the “Revolutionary Left”. 

The second is called “United Front” – which means broad cooperation of combative forces regardless of their political and ideological differences. 

A United Front can, of course, take many different forms. But at its root it means the cooperation between Marxists and non-Marxist forces. 

The above are two distinct tasks, but at the same time they are inextricably linked together in a dialectical unity. 

The “revolutionary Left” and other forces 

Marxists can, or even ought to, under certain circumstances contribute to the building of broader left formations – but this is not their basic, historical role. Their role is to build a mass revolutionary left force. 

The non-revolutionary Left, i.e. the reformist Left of various shades, will be created by other forces, which will emerge objectively, through different processes in the context of the capitalist crisis. 

In every major social crisis, the vacuum in the Left tends to be filled by new formations. When the Memoranda were imposed in Greece, SYRIZA emerged as a mass phenomenon. When SYRIZA was integrated into the system, MERA25 emerged. We have seen this pattern repeated in many countries internationally and the examples are well known: Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal, P-SOL in Brazil, the DSA in the US, etc… 

It needs to be stressed that a new left formation, no matter how radical it appears when it’s nascent, it’s impossible to develop as a single entity into a revolutionary force. 

There haven’t been any examples in history in which a mass reformist formation evolved as a whole into a revolutionary one. So, in the end, a left formation will either be reformist (and evolve like SYRIZA) or will be revolutionary. Intermediate formations can only exist for limited periods of time and under specific conditions – they will be transitional formations that as such can survive only for specific periods of time.

Building a mass revolutionary Left is the only way possible to get rid of capitalist barbarism, which is spreading. The system must be overthrown, but this will not happen on its own, through some kind of internal logic, nor spontaneously (as anarchists hope). We need a strategy and a plan, which means a political entity to elaborate and coordinate actions towards this goal. That is why the revolutionary Left –either as a single party or as a federation of forces– is a necessary factor. 

Decades of failed attempts 

If these sound familiar, which they are, we must then ask the question why they have not been achieved to date. The reality is that for so many years, so many decades, the revolutionary Left has not been successful in this task, neither in Greece nor internationally. 

Let us note that we have been through the decade of the Memoranda; the heroic struggles of the 2010-13; before that, the student movement explosion of 2006-7 and the youth uprising of 2008; we lived through the sell-out and the integration of SYRIZA into the system and its subsequent crisis – the biggest crisis of reformism after the fall of the junta in 1974; we saw the shrinking of KKE as a result of its own misguided policies. Why has the anti-capitalist Left, and especially its strongest force, ANTARSYA, failed to grow? 

Unless we give credible answers to this question, the revolutionary Left will not be able to move forward. 

ANTARSYA: dead-end policies

Some months ago, an initiative was taken by a number of organisations of the anticapitalist left (Anametrisi, Popular Unity, ARAN/K-Plan, SWP) with the aim of a broader cooperation of the extra-parliamentary left. It was a correct initiative. 

But this effort was blown apart by the majority in the ranks of ANTARSYA, around NAR (“New Left Current – a split from KKE in the ‘90’s) which refused to endorse the proposal because there was not full agreement with its approach from all the other forces.

This is one aspect of a wider problem that characterises the majority of ANTARSYA. It is the refusal to accept not just the formation of joint initiatives but even simple cooperation, even joint demos, with other left forces. 

The prevailing perception is that revolutionaries must be alone in order to be pure. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but it is the dominant feature. And this is tragic. 

Working with parts of the movement with which there is no ideological and political agreement – i.e., which are not revolutionary– is the definition of the United Front. Without the tactics (or rather the methodology) of the United Front, the 1917 October Revolution would not have won. The first 4 congresses of the Communist International are so clear on this point that it is really striking how so many comrades in the anticapitalist Left miss this point. The same goes in relation to Trotsky’s writings, especially in the 1930s.

Without the United Front tactics, ANTARSYA will not be able to play the role it aspires to. And it is obvious that this will not change unless the balance of forces inside the extra-parliamentary Left are radically altered. 

For a new pole in the extra-parliamentary left 

As already mentioned, in our opinion a new pole is needed in the anti-capitalist Left. If formed it can have a significant impact on the rest of the Left (especially in ANTARSYA and MERA25). 

Some of the basic characteristics of this new pole should, in our opinion, be the following: 

  • It should be clear that its aim is to create a mass revolutionary Left. 
  • There needs to be agreement on the basic principles; but there cannot be agreement on all issues. Therefore, its structure must be federal, with independence of its component parts and broad consensus on decisions.
  • It needs a clear anti-capitalist programme of struggle linking ‘small’ and ‘big’ issues to the struggle to overthrow the system – what we call a “transitional programme”. 
  • It needs to be open to cooperation, joint actions and initiatives, with all forces of the movement and of the Left – adopting a United Front approach. 
  • There should be no attempts to politically patronise the common project by any force; cooperation should work democratically and on the basis of parity.  

The organisations that are represented here today agree on a number of important political issues. If there is a willingness to explore the possibility of a more systematic cooperation, Xekinima will immediately respond positively.

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