Saturday, May 08, 2010

Greeks? We are all Greeks!

We are all Greek!

So Greece hits the top of the news. Greece is the badboy of Europe. Overspender. Lazy. Mediterrean. Ancient. Needs modernising. Needs bondage and discipline by fat German bourgeois or IMF agents. What racist imperialist garbage!

Greece is a client state of the US and the EU powers - a former classical world empire crunched between the rise of imperialist powers in the last two centuries, invaded and occupied by the British and US to stop a revolution in WW2, and today a favoured tourist destination for the sleek Euro bourgeois, petty bourgeois and labour aristocracy. All of this colorful media spinning to turn Greece into a cot-case is just to disguise what is really going on - Greece is being made a scapegoat for the world capitalist crisis. Unless Greece is 'fixed' the contagion of loose living could infect the whole of the PIIGS and the EU. It would not stop at the Atlantic. Greek workers must die for the bosses to live.

Globally the bosses are panicked and desperate to make an example of the Greek working class to workers everywhere. To survive the global crisis finance capitalists have to make the workers especially in the weakest semi-colonies and client states pay for their crisis with austerity, a bullshit word for job cuts, wage cuts, pension, education and health cuts. Phase one of the crisis that began in 2007 was to force workers to pay for the public debts blown out by rescuing the banks. Of course this merely shifted the bankruptcy from the banks onto the state public debt.

So phase two that begun in 2009 is to force the workers to pay for bailing out the bankrupt states by the rescued banks, or by central banks that can print money and erode workers living standards by inflation. The bankers have shifted the blame from the private sector onto the national debts of the weakest states and are imposing massive attacks on workers living standards to 'balance the budgets'. That's why this is a revolutionary crisis, because for the working class to live, capitalism and imperialism must die. It is us or them. We are all Greece!

Whose Crisis ?

First, who should pay for this crisis?  Not the workers and poor farmers of the weak oppressed countries! It should be the bosses and their parasitic banks and their state functionaries who pay for the endemic crisis of capitalism. So let's destroy the myth that this crisis is an accident of badly managed capitalism that can be corrected by scapegoating some or other sections of society. It is not bad regulation, greedy casino capitalists, or banksters that are the cause of this crisis. Nor is it their greedy mates who run the state regimes in their client states. Nor is it workers resistance to austerity. They are but symptoms, effects of crisis.  The cause is the endemic crisis-ridden nature of capitalism.

The biggest mistake by the so-called anti-capitalist left is to separate out capitalist production from the financial system and blame the crisis on the mismanagement of the banks. Thus phase one of the crisis begun in 2007 is seen as the result of money used for speculation on bad assets (subprime housing mortgages) instead of invested in production of value. What they overlook is that the surplus capital was gambled on speculation on 'toxic assets' because of the decline in the rate of profit in production.

Globalisation was more about buying and selling of privatised assets than investment in new production. The overaccumulation of capital that could not be invested in production to produce new value therefore had no alternative but to go into speculation on existing risky assets or lose all of its value. This is what Marx called 'fictitious' capital, because there was no new value being produced by workers that could be exchanged for the mass of capital invested in 'fictitious' values. Such 'capital' was no more than bits of valueless paper. This desperate attempt to postpone the destruction of capital value by speculation in non-values went up in a puff of smoke in 2007 with the collapse of the banking system.

Sovereign debt crisis

The crisis was temporary halted by massive state bailouts of the biggest banks, and a huge devaluation and bankruptcy of the weakest banks. But the price was the loading of debt onto the balance sheets of the state central banks who underwrote bad debts and in the case of Britain actually nationalised some banks like Northern Rock. The Greek banking system was similarly bailed out, and the Greek state borrowed up its deficit to the point that it had to go to the biggest rescued bank, Goldman Sachs, for an 'off balance sheet' loan to hide its bankruptcy. So phase two of the crisis is now dramatically exposed (so much for the bosses cynical 'transparency') by Goldman Sachs which, rescued by US taxpayers money could buy up failed banks, and then buy up weak client states like Greece as if they were banks to be gobbled up.

So far from Greece being responsible for its bankruptcy, we can prove that the Greek state was a mere pawn of EU and US imperialism. Its job was to exploit Greek workers for imperialism. Imperialism loaned money to the Greek state to manage this semi-colonial exploitation. The EU and US (Goldman Sachs) banks make the Greek workers pay for this debt. For decades Greek workers resisted this exploitation by fighting for decent jobs (half are employed in the public sector) wages and pensions, education and health. They have been able to limit the loss of these gains to pay for the mounting state debt.

But now that the bosses' endemic crisis has gripped the world economy and exposed how weak the Greek economy is, the EU and US banks make an example of it for the rest of the world. Greek workers must be forced to lose jobs, cut wages, pensions and education and health spending to pay back the imperialist banks and their ruling classes. This is how the imperialists want the workers all over the world to pay for their crisis! So in Greece we have a revolutionary situation that represents the potential for a revolutionary situation in the whole world. The sparks flying in the insurrrectionary struggle in Greece can light fires in every major city in the world.

The union bureaucracy

The Greek working class majority is still under the illusion that PASOK (the main social democratic party) can solve the crisis because PASOK has since the war brought many gains to workers. The elected PASOK to power last year to defend their living standards. PASOK however is being made to solve the crisis at the expense of its working class base. Its leadership has agreed to the terms of the EU and IMF to cut pay, jobs and pensions by huge amounts. We have seen that in its year in office PASOK is incapable of solving the crisis except at the expense of the workers. This means that workers already fed up and angry will rapidly break from PASOK to the left. Standing between them and indepenent working class politics is the powerful Greek labour bureaucracy of the GSEE-ADEDY that backs majority PASOK and the minority of the PAME of the KKE.

The union bureaucracy is the main force inside the working class that acts as the agents of the bosses to trap workers on the reformist dead end road. It is the main union bloc backing PASOK that is holding back the revolutionary development of the radicalising masses. They have called for several 'general strikes' over the last two years, the most recent on May 5/6. However, they are designed not to allow workers to develop into a fighting movement. Rather they are designed to let off steam for 48 hours and to pressure PASOK in the hope of minimising the attacks on the working class.

For two years militants have been moving left towards the KKE (Greek Communist Party) and the other 'left' parties but this is not a break from reformism or social democracy. The KKE is a reformist party with a rotten history of betrayal of workers revolution. The majority of Greek workers want a new left social democratic party to replace the sellout PASOK and the KKE may move into this vacuum. But it was the KKE that split the working class and allowed the imperialists so smash the revolution in Greece during WW2. They will talk left but neutralise the working class fight to make the bosses pay for their crisis. To give any support, critical or otherwise, to the KKE in this revolutionary situation is to betray the working class.

Syriza, Maoists and Anarchists

To the left of the KKE and the smaller left reformist groups are a number of small new left, Maoist, Trotskyist and anarchist formations that are taking advantage of the growing militancy. The May 5/6 48 hour general strike that followed two others in March and April got half a million on the streets. None of the left parties are capable of offering much leadership. For example the broad left Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) is an anticapitalist formation linked to the World Social Forum. It is limited to mobilising workers to pressure parliament to the left.

Some have reactionary programs like the Maoists who see this crisis as one that can be solved by the Greek 'people' breaking with the EU and fighting for their national independence.
In our view, Greek nationalism has a progressive element since Greece is a semi-colonial client state of the EU and US and is being nationally oppressed by the 'conditions' imposed by the EU and IMF to resolve 'its' crisis. However, to limit the struggle of the Greek masses to national independence would hamstring the revolutionary independence of the proletariat behind some or other 'progressive' national bourgeois or petty bourgeois leadership. The betrayal of the mass struggle in Nepal by the Maoists is a sad object lesson.

The anarchist formations have emerged as tlhe most radical forces in the strikes and street actions. They have a history of rejection of the Stalinist KKE traitors, and the Maoist stagist national revolution, for street action and spontaneous anti-capitalist insurrection. It is therefore, the youth activist rebellion against the older generation of Stalinist/Maoist bureaucrats. For that reason is it a powerful, progressive force that needs to be guided by a revolutionary program that overcomes the weaknesses of the anarchism. Anarchism fails to see that the revolutionary proletariat must be organised both democratically and centrally. Without any centralised command the working class is prey to disorganised individual terrorist actions and the covert action of state forces as '5th columnists'. The geniune hatred of anarchist youth for the Stalinist/Maoist bureaucractic dictatorships of the past and and betrayals of the Greek working class can only by turned into a consistent revolutionary direction by the revolutionary Trotskyist program.

Greek 'Trotskyism'

We can look at what Greek 'Trotskyism' offers, as well as several international currents who are outspoken on the Greek crisis. There are several international currents such as the Woodite IMT, Cliffite SWP and CRFI who have small groups in Greece. These groups have no real Trotskyist program to win over the vanguard and make the revolution. The IMT is busy sucking up to Chavez in Venezuela and his call for a 'Fifth International' that includes Hu Jintao! The Cliffites are semi-anarchist anti-capitalists who refuse to call for a vanguard party and armed workers militias.

The SWP talk about Greece rising up against IMF cuts and gives support to the anti-capitalist Antarsya program which are demands on PASOK.
Disobedience against IMF and EU directives; Exit from the eurozone and the European Monetary Union; Struggle for an anti‑capitalist exit from the EU; The immediate stoppage of foreign debt payments; Give money to workers not bankers; Nationalisation of banks under workers’ control; Demand the taxation of capital and immediate cuts to military expenditures; Ban lay-offs; Secure and decent jobs for all; Immediate increase to wages; Protect collective agreements; Legalise immigrants; Political asylum and shelter for refugees; Public social security, health system, and education for all.  
Just militant pressure on the PASOK regime to defend workers rights and living standards. Nothing about workers self-organisation! Nothing about turning a general strike into a seizure of power.

The IMT said  that the May 5/6 general strike was an 'earth shattering' success and then calls for it to be extended to an "all out general strike until the government backs off". Again, militant language, spontaneous anti-capitalism, but no decisive break from reformist pressure on the government. The article takes a defensive line against those who blame the workers movement for the killing of three bank workers. There is no call to build workers councils with workers militias to coordinate and discipline the struggle and to defeat provacateurs. No call to bring down the government and for a workers government! Are they looking for a Greek Chavez?

The other longstanding 'Trotskyist' party is the Workers' Revolutionary Party or EEK which was until 1989 part of the ICFI better know as Socialist Equality Party and World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). Since 2008 the EEK has been the Greek section of the Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International (CRFI). The EEK is ultraleft on the unions failing to make a distinction between the union bureaucracy and the rank and file members so cannot intervene inside the unions to put united front demands on the leadership for an indefinite general strike. While Trotsky condemned the unions in the epoch of imperialism as incorporated in the state, he always called for the rank and file to break with the bureaucracy and to build fighting democratic unions. Since unions were the main organisations of the labour movement they had to be 'revolutionised' to form workers' councils and workers' militias. A genuine Trotskyist transitional program fights to transform the unions into organs of workers power.While the EEK calls for nationalisations and expropriations it does not have a program to transform the unions and build workers councils, workers and soldiers militias as organs of dual power. For example there is no call for an indefinite general strike.

Action Program

The transitional program starts with defensive demands against all attacks on worker and counters with immediate demands based on what workers need now, not what the bosses can afford. It is legitimate to put these immediate demands on the regime, but they must be backed by demands for workers to organise and fight independently of the regime warning that the regime (and its reformist agents in the working class) must defend capitalism and imperialism against the workers. Fighting for these immediate demands forces workers to organise to take control of production, to form form workers militias to defend themselves from state forces, to split the army ranks to the side of workers, and to build dual power organs such as workers councils or soviets. It becomes clear as the struggle develops that their is no solution to the crisis for workers other than the seizure of power and the formation of a workers government that can socialise capitalist property and create a planned economy. 

  • Fight all austerity cuts to jobs, wages, pensions, and state spending on health and education! For a sliding scale of hours and wages to create decent work for all!
  • Form workplace councils of action everywhere! For a national congress of all unions and worker, students and selfemployed councils of action to prepare for an indefinite general strike to bring down the PASOK governmnent!
  • For the occupation under workers and students control of all workplaces during the indefinite general strike!
  • Form workers, students and selfemployed defence militias to defend the general strike! For soldiers committees of the rank and file to provide arms to the defence militias!
  • For a Workers Government to socialise the banks, imperialist and national capitalist property, under workers control, and for a socialist planned economy!
  • For a Socialist Republic of Greece as part of a Socialist United States of Europe!
An action program for Greece cannot be advanced in isolation of the rest of the EU and the world. An insurrection in Greece will not survive unless it is supported by European workers who stop NATO from invading and occupying Greece as happened in WW2. Workers in Europe must defend Greece in their own action programs that cancel the debt to semi-colonies, and expropriate the imperialist banks. It is necessary to build a revolutionary international workers party that can unite the vanguard workers in every country behind an international program for world revolution.

For a World Party of Socialist Revolution based on the 1938 Program of the Fourth International!

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