Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Syriza and the British Left.

with 19 comments

Back Syriza!

Syriza’s victory was inspiring.

Their electoral triumph has sent a message about the extension of what is politically possible on the left.

The anti-austerity campaign of the People’s Assembly should, rightly, get a powerful boost.

It is no longer possible to say that a political force rejecting austerity can never win.

Is there such a movement in Britain?

The People’s Assembly has brought together the left and trade unions on a programme against government cuts and privatisations which in many respects resembles Syriza’s.

Paul MacNay, from Athens,  writes on the People’s Assembly Facebook Page that,

We need a radical programme for a new Europe which will benefit the whole world – (in which currently where 85 families hold half of the wealth).

…..

If the Greek election result is a catalyst, Syriza (with its a formative alliance of more than a dozen groups) provides a model for the non-social democratic left. We need to give ourselves a good talking to. It’s time to sink the differences based on minor shibboleths of distinction. We need to abandon redundant organisational models, Bolshevik pretensions based on distorted perceptions of how people organised in a very different world one hundred years ago. We may even grow to like each other if we renounce those traditions … even if, initially it merely involves the suppression of mutual-loathing in pursuit of a better world!

If we take the painful and awkward steps necessary to shake off the bad habits of the past; if we can outgrow the trivia of quibbling over who has precisely the correct line; if we embrace the experience of the Greek people; we should be able to build a People’s Coalition that shakes the financial citadels and brings back joy and purpose to the people of Britain too.

Bad habits do, however, persist.

Despite having backed Syriza’s miniscule left opponents in the ANTARSYA bloc (a gaggle of groupuscules who arguably helped to deprive them of an outright majority) Socialist Worker states,

THE VICTORY of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, in parliamentary elections is a long-awaited breakthrough against the ruling class agenda of austerity and repression that has inflicted suffering across Europe and plunged Greece into an economic and social crisis unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

We can expect that having tried to snaffle as much of Syriza’s reflected glory as they can the SWP will soon be hurling accusations against Syriza as it enters in a coalition with the hard-right Independent Greeks, ANEL,  (a choice dictated by Greek Parliamentary structures, not by politics). There is a need for some real – balanced – analysis. In this respect there is an excellent article by comrade Harry Blackwell on the Socialist Resistance site, from which we publish extracts.

New period for the left in Europe.

The central focus facing the government will be the economic crisis and the negotiations on debt with the Troika. However it is to be hoped that the new government will also raise the centrality of the ecological crisis and give official backing to the protests around the climate summit in Paris in December 2015 by for example providing state trains and paid time off for public employees to travel there. But for Europe’s only left government at present, it should also be able to put forward governmental level solutions to the climate crisis and stimulate the need for global action on the crisis facing ours and all the other species of the world.

And so we enter a new period in Europe. We must redouble our efforts to build anti-austerity action and new left parties across Europe. Social Democracy must be confronted for its complicity in the impoverishment of working people. There will be some who will sit on the sidelines and watch for any ‘backtracking’ by the Tsipras government and rush to say ‘I told you so …’. But the real task is to build the movement of solidarity, anti austerity and new left parties. In Britain that means redoubling efforts to build Left Unity and making 2015 the year that we can begin to turn the corner.

Harry notes,

The vast majority of the left and working class in Greece endorsed Syriza, whose central message put forward a programme for government rather than mere vocal opposition to austerity. The highly sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE) is still an important part of the anti-austerity movement and its vote increased slightly on its vote in 2012 as it gained one percent to win 5.5% of the vote and increase its seats from 12 to 15. However this is still a long way from its electoral high point in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s when it regularly won around 10% of the vote.

The KKE embraces what used to be called ‘Third Period Stalinism’ (after the period in the late 1920 when communist parties described social democratic parties as worse than fascists) and refuses to countenance deals with Syriza. It puts forward a programme of nationalism, calling for immediate exit from the Euro and EU and reinstatement of the Drachma as Greece’s currency. So sectarian is the KKE that their MEPs refuse to sit in the United European Left group in the European Parliament, alongside Syriza (and their ‘sister’ Communist Parties of France, Portugal and Cyprus), and instead sit with the far right French National Front in the so-called ‘Non-Attached’ group.

The left wing grouping within Syriza, the ‘Left Platform’, have repeatedly called upon the KKE to support Syriza in Government to no avail. The KKE has a short memory of course, as it has previously served in a Greek government led by New Democracy with four ministers. This is creating turbulence within CPs across the world, not least within Britain’s Morning Star daily newspaper where old-time Stalinists continually invoke support for the KKE alongside the more obvious enthusiasm of its readership for Syriza.

Sadly Harry is right about the Morning Star.

They stated yesterday  (Editorial),

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) had already made clear its position not to enter into any coalition which does not seek to put the country on the path to socialism from the outset, based on a programme of transformational policies that would entail withdrawal from the EU and Nato.

Syriza once claimed to share a similar perspective, but the prospect of electoral success has seen it jettisoned over the past three months.

The article concludes with sectarian sourness,

But even before negotiations with the troika begin, Syriza economists are making it clear they intend to govern within the constraints of a balanced budget, membership of the eurozone and the commitments implied by continuing Nato membership.

Insofar as they can still propose measures which benefit Greek workers and their families while doing so, they should receive support from the left across Europe.

In the unlikely event of Syriza ending up on a collision course with the troika, they will need all the solidarity that socialists, communists, democrats and the trade unions everywhere can muster.

However, should a Syriza-led government dash the hopes raised by its own rhetoric, the main beneficiaries in Greece could well be the New Democracy conservatives and the Golden Dawn fascists.

The Tendance agrees with the most important point in comrade Harry Blackwell’s argument: we will not sit “on the sidelines”.

If there is not a political organisation in Britain that can play the same role, there are forces in the labour movement, inside the Labour Party and outside of it,  that can push for politics that reject austerity and stand for hope and a better Europe.

Back Syriza!

*****

Liam is also worth reading,

SYRIZA and the bleedin’ obvious

“If SYRIZA has come to power on a programme of public beheadings, banning women from driving and torturing its critics, it may have received a slightly warmer welcome from the governments of Europe writes Liam Mac Uaid. Instead, its proposals to roll back austerity and drag the people of Greece from poverty and misery have been explained away as harbingers of potential economic catastrophe across Europe. Ed Miliband was no more enthusiastic about the result than Cameron or Merkel, restricting himself to a begrudging “just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so who the Greek people elect is a decision for them.”

And this is important (first hand reportage) by Matthew: Greece shakes Europe. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

“Syriza is not an establishment social-democratic party but a party with roots in Greece’s left tradition, with no previous ties to the deeply corrupt state and its political elite. Its presence in the corridors of power will shake the centres of capital across Europe and beyond.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

19 Responses

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  1. “But even before negotiations with the troika begin, Syriza economists are making it clear they intend to govern within the constraints of a balanced budget, membership of the eurozone and the commitments implied by continuing Nato membership.o”

    Where to begin… in the first place, Greece’s contribution to NATO has always been very-minor-to-neligible, in the second the Eurozone is going to be a headache for Greece whether it stays or leaves, but most idiotic is the outright dismissal of the idea that the Greek government (whoever it is) ought – at least in principle – to be aiming to balance its budget. It will simply have to at some point, whatever political system predominates.

    Where does the KKE think all the extra free money is going to come from? It appears to be dreaming of some communist society where the state can keep spending more than it takes in revenue, supported by the generosity of periodic free top-ups by those evil capitalists. It’s fantasy politics, as is the idea that it can simply default on its debts and then expect the people it’s just defaulted to to loan it a load more bad risk money. It won’t happen.

    I hope Syriza can help Greece get out of the hole it’s in. That might very well entail getting out of the Euro. If getting out of NATO helps it too – though I can’t see it will really make any difference – then good stuff. But clinging to the idea that you can vote for other countries and institutions to keep giving you free money and they’ll just fall into line is silly stuff. Even a socialist or communist Greece will have to work out what is manageable and balanceable in terms of spending and raising revenue.

    Lamia

    January 28, 2015 at 1:11 pm

  2. Thanks for that, I hadn’t thought through the NATO stuff.

    The rest is anti-political, doctrinaire and with a strong chauvinist anti-European bent.

    Just like No2EU!

    Andrew Coates

    January 28, 2015 at 1:16 pm

  3. Greek Communist Party on Syriza’s victory,

    “The change in government and specifically the new SYRIZA government does not constitute a political change in favour of the people. ”

    “SYRIZA’s programme is not pro-worker, pro-people. It is a programme that, both regarding its strategic directions and its specific proposals for its four-year term, will operate in the framework of serving the interests of the monopoly groups, the strategy of the EU.”

    ” The KKE, consistent with what it said before the elections, is not going to support or tolerate the new government.”

    http://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/greek-communists-analyse-the-election-results/

    Andrew Coates

    January 28, 2015 at 6:11 pm

  4. I am amazed that what a political party’s attitude to the EU and NATO is can be considered of no importance. If you think that progress and a pro-worker government can exist in thsi framework, fair enough. I disagree but we have to agree that these are the basic issues that determine everything. A government is not some strike committee where you can agree on 2-3 uissues and get on with it. A government has to deal with everything!
    It is clear that there is no programmatic convergence for a KKE-SYRIZA government(which harry blackwell basically admits, and also Tsipras himself who in a recent interview described an exit from the EU and NATO as being crazy). SYRIZA knows this but used calls for KKE support for a SYRIZA government before the elections to confuse left voters. Calls it dropped on Sunday evening of course.

    I will leave you to cheer on a government that will continue to allow the Suda Base be used to massacre the Middle East and mainatin a Greek presence in NATO missions in the India Ocean and elsewhere.So much for internationalism.As for the brief coalition governments of 1989, i think you will find that the KKE participated via Synaspimos (the precursor of SYRIZA). Many current leaders of SYRIZA (Dragasakis, Lafazanis) were instrumental in leading the KKE into this mistaken electoral alliance and coalition government. We could also mention the current SYRIZA cadre who were members of the old eurocommunist formation (first KKE eswterikwn then EAR), also part of the synaspimos alliance in this period, who agitated for participation in these coalition governments. The KKE has criticized the choices of this period that expressed the deep crisis in the international communist movement in 1989-1991 and has concluded not repeat these types of mistakes and support capitalist governments, whatever name they go under. Disagree but that is a clear position.

    And in a delicious irony of history two KNE cadres, Valavani and Kotzias, who left in protest over the 1989 governments are now participating in coalition with Kammenos and his nationalist and antisemite buddies (an alliance that did not just arise on the morning after the elections). Kammenos a key figure in ND youth’s attack squads (rangers and centaurs)that terrorised the universities in the 1980s, a figure directly connected to Greek shipowning capital. We could also mention another ANEL MP Nikolopoulos the spiritual father of the murderers of Temponeras (google that name) who played a key role in the coverup.

    Kotzias perhaps should not surprise us as he is a former advisor to G. Papandreou up until 2010.Man of principle.

    In fact SYRIZA is full of former PASOK cadres, who have a very dirty past. There are not so new.

    I will leave you to cheer on a government that will continue to allow the Suda Base (minor details) to be used to massacre the Middle East and maintain a Greek presence in NATO missions in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.So much for internationalism.

    I understand that progressive people after so many years of defeats are desperate to hang on to anything that seems to be a victory. It is not to be sneered at. But we should not blind ourselves to certain realities and refuse to deal with substantive points made because they are “cynical” or “sectarian”.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 9:37 am

  5. I am amazed that what a political party’s attitude to the EU and NATO is can be considered a minor detail. Some people think that there can be a progressive pro-worker government in the framework of these organizations. I disagree but we should all be able to agree that these are the basic issues that determine everything. We are not talking about a strike committee where all you have to do is agree on is 2-3 issues. A government has to deal with everything. There is no programmatic convergence for such a KKE-SYRIZA government (something harry blackwell basically admits and Tsipras in a recent interview described demands to leave the EU and NATO as crazy). SYRIZA knows this but used calls for KKE support for a SYRIZA government before the elections to confuse left voters. Calls it dropped on Sunday evening of course.

    As for the brief coalition governments of 1989, i think you will find that the KKE participated via Synaspimos (the precursor of SYRIZA). Many current leaders of SYRIZA (Dragasakis, Lafazanis) were instrumental in leading the KKE into this mistaken electoral alliance and coalition government. We could also mention the current SYRIZA cadre who were members of the old eurocommunist formation (first KKE eswterikwn then EAR), also part of the synaspimos alliance in this period, who agitated for participation in these coalition governments. The KKE has criticized the choices of this period that expressed the deep crisis in the international communist movement in 1989-1991 and has concluded not repeat these types of mistakes and support capitalist governments, whatever name they go under. Agree, disagree this is a clear position.

    And in a delicious irony of history two KNE cadres, Valavani and Kotzias, who left in protest over the 1989 governments are now participating in coalition with Kammenos and his nationalist and antisemite buddies (an alliance that did not just arise on the morning after the elections). Kammenos a key figure in ND youth’s attack squads (rangers and centaurs)that terrorised the universities in the 1980s and with direct links to shipping capital. Another ANEl MP, Nikolopoulos, was the spiritual father of the murderers of Temponeras (google him) and participated as the local ND MP in the cover up.

    Kotzias perhaps should not surprise us as he is a former advisor to G. Papandreou up until 2010.Man of principle. In fact there are a lot of former PASOk officials knocking around SYRIZA (Tzakri etc) with less than glorious pasts.

    As for NATO. I was gobsmacked to read such indifference on a socialist website. I attached a link regarding NATO spending in the previous post. Not insignificant. I will leave you to cheer on a government that will continue to allow the Suda Base (which ahs enormous strategic significance for the USA) be used to massacre the Middle East and maintain a Greek presence in NATO mssions in the India Ocean and elsewhere.So much for internationalism.

    I understand that progressive people after so many defeats are hungry for a victory. It is not to be sneered at. But lets not blind ourselves to certain incomvenient realities and hide behind accusations of “sectarianism” without addressing the pertinent points.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:29 am

  6. I am amazed that what a political party’s attitude to the EU and NATO is can be considered a minor detail. Some people think that there can be a progressive pro-worker government in the framework of these organizations. I disagree but we should all be able to agree that these are the basic issues that determine everything. We are not talking about a strike committee where all you have to do is agree on is 2-3 issues. A government has to deal with everything. There is no programmatic convergence for such a KKE-SYRIZA government (something harry blackwell basically admits and Tsipras in a recent interview described demands to leave the EU and NATO as crazy). SYRIZA knows this but used calls for KKE support for a SYRIZA government before the elections to confuse left voters. Calls it dropped on Sunday evening of course.

    As for the brief coalition governments of 1989, i think you will find that the KKE participated via Synaspimos (the precursor of SYRIZA). Many current leaders of SYRIZA (Dragasakis, Lafazanis) were instrumental in leading the KKE into this mistaken electoral alliance and coalition government. We could also mention the current SYRIZA cadre who were members of the old eurocommunist formation (first KKE eswterikwn then EAR), also part of the synaspimos alliance in this period, who agitated for participation in these coalition governments. The KKE has criticized the choices of this period that expressed the deep crisis in the international communist movement in 1989-1991 and has concluded not repeat these types of mistakes and support capitalist governments, whatever name they go under. Agree, disagree this is a clear position.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:29 am

  7. I am amazed that what a political party’s attitude to the EU and NATO is can be considered a minor detail. Some people think that there can be a progressive pro-worker government in the framework of these organizations. I disagree but we should all be able to agree that these are the basic issues that determine everything. We are not talking about a strike committee where all you have to do is agree on is 2-3 issues. A government has to deal with everything. There is no programmatic convergence for such a KKE-SYRIZA government (something harry blackwell basically admits and Tsipras in a recent interview described demands to leave the EU and NATO as crazy). SYRIZA knows this but used calls for KKE support for a SYRIZA government before the elections to confuse left voters. Calls it dropped on Sunday evening of course.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

  8. As for the brief coalition governments of 1989, i think you will find that the KKE participated via Synaspimos (the precursor of SYRIZA). Many current leaders of SYRIZA (Dragasakis, Lafazanis) were instrumental in leading the KKE into this mistaken electoral alliance and coalition government. We could also mention the current SYRIZA cadre who were members of the old eurocommunist formation (first KKE eswterikwn then EAR), also part of the synaspimos alliance in this period, who agitated for participation in these coalition governments. The KKE has criticized the choices of this period that expressed the deep crisis in the international communist movement in 1989-1991 and has concluded not repeat these types of mistakes and support capitalist governments, whatever name they go under. Agree, disagree this is a clear position

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

  9. And in a delicious irony of history two KNE cadres, Valavani and Kotzias, who left in protest over the 1989 governments are now participating in coalition with Kammenos and his nationalist and antisemite buddies (an alliance that did not just arise on the morning after the elections). Kammenos a key figure in ND youth’s attack squads (rangers and centaurs)that terrorised the universities in the 1980s and with direct links to shipping capital. Another ANEl MP, Nikolopoulos, was the spiritual father of the murderers of Temponeras (google him) and participated as the local ND MP in the cover up.

    Kotzias perhaps should not surprise us as he is a former advisor to G. Papandreou up until 2010.Man of principle. In fact there are a lot of former PASOk officials knocking around SYRIZA (Tzakri etc) with less than glorious pasts.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:31 am

  10. As for NATO. I was gobsmacked to read such indifference on a socialist website. I attached a link regarding NATO spending in the previous post. Not insignificant. I will leave you to cheer on a government that will continue to allow the Suda Base (which ahs enormous strategic significance for the USA) be used to massacre the Middle East and maintain a Greek presence in NATO mssions in the India Ocean and elsewhere.So much for internationalism.

    I understand that progressive people after so many defeats are hungry for a victory. It is not to be sneered at. But lets not blind ourselves to certain inconvenient realities and hide behind accusations of “sectarianism” without addressing the pertinent points.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 10:32 am

  11. There is a strong socialist case for leaving NATO (though even that may not be an immediate priority); there is no socialist case for voluntarily leaving the EU (as opposed to being kicked out).

    Jim Denham

    January 29, 2015 at 1:31 pm

  12. sorry for the double post. i assumed my first post was too long to be accepted and posted in parts thereafter.

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

  13. Let’s see what they do now.

    Andrew Coates

    January 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

  14. “I will leave you to cheer on a government that will continue to allow the Suda Base be used to massacre the Middle East and mainatin a Greek presence in NATO missions in the India Ocean and elsewhere.So much for internationalism.”

    Silly stuff and dishonest. The massacres being carried out in the Middle East currently are by the genocidal ISIS and also Assad’s government.

    The Kurds – including anarchaists in Rojava, meanwhile, have asked for and are benefiting from NATO air support. Evidently you are saddened to see your beloved far right theocrats ISIS taking a pounding.

    Solidarity, let alone practical help, for those Kurds from the left has been practically non-existent. ‘So much for internationalism’ indeed.

    “I am amazed that what a political party’s attitude to the EU and NATO is can be considered a minor detail. Some people think that there can be a progressive pro-worker government in the framework of these organizations. I disagree but we should all be able to agree that these are the basic issues that determine everything”

    Why should we all agree? NATO membership has next to zero influence on the ability of Greece to run its economy properly.. If it’s of any relevance to that, it’s very minor.

    Lamia

    January 29, 2015 at 4:38 pm

  15. We will have to agree to disagree on the “progressive” role of NATO and its significance in the functioning of the Greek state. The invasion and bombing of Iraq is not such a distant memory. Obviously we have very different political approaches and probably will not find common ground. That is OK

    I presented some details which can be thought about integrated or rejected!
    That SYRIZA did not emerge from the head of Zeus, or via a virgin birth! It has history, its cadre have history.That we should be careful about lazy talk about ND-KKE governments in the past etc

    .Although this is my first post, I enjoy following the blog’s discussion of the issue of secularism. And will continue to do so

    zach

    January 29, 2015 at 5:16 pm

  16. Surely, the Star meant to write: “However, should a Syriza-led government dash the hopes raised by its own rhetoric, the main beneficiaries in Greece could well be the KKE.”😛

    Seriously, the Junge Welt is a bit confused on what line to take, but, on balance, it seems to be supporting Syriza while printing the odd (in every respect) KKE press release. Reflecting the balance of forces within the Berlin DKP which provides most of its staff, probably.

    dagmar

    January 29, 2015 at 6:16 pm

  17. Beneath the surface one feels that the British Communist Party remains deeply wedded to this kind of thinking – particularly with its virulent anti-Eu position.

    Unlike Die Linke it is immune to electoral pressures and mass politics.

    It’s a shame because they have some good people – notably on trade union issues that is.

    Andrew Coates

    January 29, 2015 at 6:47 pm

  18. Die Linke (or as the JW always calls it, the PDL or “Partei Die Linke”; just as they used to write of “William Clinton” and “Anthony Charles Linton (??) Blair”) isn’t that relevant to the editorial decisions of the Junge Welt. The DKP has factions and the more “realistic” have got the upper hand, hence the general backing of Syriza in the JW’s pages. They also have to think about their readership, to some extent.

    Interesting was a speech by (Fidel) Castro which JW published yesterday – bascially he takes his younger brother – described merely and unpersonally as “the President of Cuba and the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba” – to task re. policies with regard to the USA. It seems to have been published in the Cuban press. Are there ex-Sovietologists who can interpret goings on in Cuba? It was a speech delivered, I presume, on paper and read/distributed by someone else, at the term opening ceremony at Havana’s university and most of it was random waffle, but the last paragraph made it clear what its purpose was. An old man complaining while being impotent when it comes to doing anything about it…

    dagmar

    January 29, 2015 at 8:24 pm


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