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The Internationalist
   March 2015

Centrists Waffle in Greece

In the kaleidoscopic Greek left, two smaller groups, the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Trotskyist Group of Greece, merit attention. Unlike the out-and-out reformists, whose program is clearly to pressure the capitalist state, now under new management with the bourgeois populists of SYRIZA, these centrists at least purport to be fighting for workers revolution. In practice, however, in both cases their concrete programs and calls amount to a slightly more leftist version of the reformists’ platforms … or not even.

It should be mentioned at the outset that in 2013, Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK) leader Savas Michael-Matsas was prosecuted as a result of a lawsuit by the Golden Dawn (XA) Nazis accusing him of defamation and incitement to violence for sponsoring a 2009 demonstration calling to “smash fascism” after a murderous XA attack on immigrants. Among the several co-sponsors of the protest, Savas was singled out by the Nazi-fascists in a vile anti-Semitic diatribe as “an instrument of the World Jewish Conspiracy to foment civil war among Greeks to impose a Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Greece.” XA’s connections with the ruling New Democracy were powerful enough to trigger the prosecution, although Savas was eventually acquitted.

The EEK, Greek affiliate of the Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International led by Jorge Altamira’s Partido Obrero in Argentina, ran candidates in the January elections on a program calling for “mass struggle for workers’ power,” for a social revolution and “socialist unification of our region and Europe over the ruins of the imperialist E.U.” But while expressively dismissing SYRIZA’s Thessaloniki Program as trying to “empty the ocean of the people’s sufferings with a teaspoon” and warning that its allegiance to the continuity of the state “opens the way to a 1973 Chile-type tragedy,” the EEK called on workers and youth to urge the leaders of SYRIZA, a bourgeois party, to “break with the bourgeoisie.” Thus like ANTARSYA, with which it tried to form a bloc, in reality the EEK acted as a pressure group on SYRIZA.

Following the election, Savas declared bombastically in a February 3 article that “The Greek people has shaken the world” and claimed that in the Greek context a “government of the left” meant a government of revolutionaries. While he saw in the SYRIZA-ANEL government “some features of a Kerensky type of government,” a subsequent statement on the agreement with the Eurogroup declared that if the election of SYRIZA was “a leap forward of the popular movement,” the February 20 agreement and election of the rightist Pavlopoulos to the presidency constituted “a step back,” and called to “oust the nationalist and pro-capitalist ministers.” Yet the ministers are “pro-capitalist” as members of the bourgeois SYRIZA-ANEL government.

The Trotskyist Group of Greece, section of the International Communist League (ICL) called for critical support to the Communist Party (KKE) in the January 25 elections, a valid tactic in this case where the KKE was sharply counterposed to SYRIZA and its satellites in ANTARSYA. The TGG accurately characterized SYRIZA as not a “radical left” party or even part of the workers movement, but a bourgeois party based on the petty-bourgeoisie (not unlike PASOK, whose position in the Greek political spectrum it has taken over). And it also correctly called for no vote to the ANTARSYA front, which in effect acts as a pressure group on SYRIZA.

The TGG put forward a series of demands including to organize the unorganized, for a sliding scale of wages and hours and for union defense of immigrants, although in line with the ICL’s repudiation of the key thesis of Trotsky’s Transitional Program1 – that the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary proletarian leadership – it does not refer to transitional demands. And indeed its “class-struggle program” is not all that different from the usual laundry list of demands raised by the reformists. There is no mention of workers militias, for example, and it includes the call to “nationalize the banks.” In fact, the TGG’s call is strikingly similar to the Cliffite SEK’s program (see main article) and even to the right of the OKDE-Spartakos’ call (in its election manifesto) for expropriation of the banks without compensation.

Calls to nationalize the banks are a staple of reformists and populists in periods of economic crisis, and are hardly anti-capitalist. Greek banks are today technically (and actually) bankrupt, and nationalization by the bourgeois SYRIZA-ANEL government could be the only way to stave off economic disaster for the bourgeoisie, especially should Greece abandon the euro. To call for nationalization of Greek banks today is no more revolutionary than when Mexican president José López Portillo seized Mexican banks in 1982 to prevent their collapse. Or when the popular-front bourgeois government of France under François Mitterrand nationalized most of the French banks in 1982. (In both cases, after being recapitalized by the state, the banks were reprivatized.)

While SYRIZA’s call for “public ownership” of banks and utility companies is openly bourgeois, even to call for “nationalization under workers control” (as the SEK does) is just a fig leaf to have some kind of class-collaborationist “works council” with union representatives occasionally looking over some sanitized figures. A genuinely revolutionary transitional program in Greece today would be for workers to occupy and seize Alpha Bank, Eurobank Ergasias, Piraeus Bank, the National Bank of Greece and the rest; for a workers commission to open the books to investigate the rampant financial corruption, speculation, etc.; to implement genuine workers control – dual power in the plants, ports and other industries; and to fight for a revolutionary workers government to expropriate the banks and all of capitalist commerce, transport and industry in the fight for a Socialist United States of Europe.

  1. 1.See “In Defense of the Transitional Program,” The Internationalist No. 5, April-May 1998.