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The Internationalist
  July 2015

The SYRIZA Debacle: “Leftists” Enforce the Bosses’ Austerity

Greece: The Naked Rule
of Finance Capital

Workers: Sink the Bankers’ Memorandum, Occupy the Banks and Ports!
Build a Trotskyist Party to Fight for International Socialist Revolution!

This time it is the SYRIZA government that is sending riot cops against anti-austerity demonstrators. Syntagma Square, Athens, July 15 while the Greek parliament was voting for Eurobankers’ austerity deal.  Free all the arrested protesters! (Photo: Getty Images)

Late in the night of July 15-16, after going through the motions of a debate, the Greek parliament cast the fateful vote to accept the draconian austerity measures ordered by Europe’s central bankers two days earlier. The “Agreement” was put forward by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his governing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). It represented the groveling surrender by these purported radicals who won office in January on a program to reverse the cutbacks and layoffs that have devastated the Greek economy and drastically impoverished working people over the last five years. Worse yet, the populist left rammed through and is enforcing a raft of anti-working-class measures that is even more brutal than what its conservative predecessors tried and failed to carry out. While claiming to have fought the good fight, and pretending to have won some concessions, Tsipras & Co. acted as flunkeys for the Eurobankers, who used SYRIZA to get what the right couldn’t deliver.

The showdown was not without drama. While riot police attacked anti-austerity protesters in Syntagma (Constitution) Square outside, inside the chamber a number of SYRIZA members of parliament criticized their own government’s motion. SYRIZA has 149 members of parliament, just shy of a majority, but a quarter of them voted no (32) or abstained (6) in the crucial vote. Earlier in the day, a majority of the party’s Central Committee issued a statement calling the “agreement” a “disaster for our country and our people,” and requesting an immediate meeting of the CC. This “statement of the 109” cited the “proud OXI (NO) in the referendum” held only ten days earlier in which 61% of those voting rejected the prior ultimatum by the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund (the hated ECB-EC-IMF “Troika,” now euphemistically known as “the institutions”). But it was all to no avail.

Neither the emphatic “NO” from the Greek population nor the dissent in his own ranks deterred Tsipras. Relying on the votes of the conservative right, he got parliament to say “YES” to a program that will sink Greece even further into the abyss. There will now be more poverty, more mass firings, more cuts of the pensions of the poorest retirees, a sharp rise of taxes on the country’s only functioning industry (tourism), and privatization of the country’s most valuable assets. The shameful vote signifies the utter bankruptcy of SYRIZA, and of all those leftists who supported it, both in Greece and internationally. Even those in SYRIZA who dissented, like the Left Platform, are guilty of building a party that won office running on a lie, that one could end austerity in the framework of the imperialist European Union. The bitter experience of the last five months has exposed this illusion, and shown how imperialist “democracy” only masks the dictatorship of finance capital.

The mask is off, and it is the working class, the poor and the oppressed who are paying the price of SYRIZA’s deception, which was eagerly promoted by its cheerleaders and apologists around the world, including those who now scramble to dissociate themselves from their erstwhile heroes. As the conservative London Telegraph (16 July) wrote: “By a twist of fate, the Left has become the enforcer of an economic structure that has led to levels of unemployment once unthinkable for a post-war social democratic government with its own sovereign currency. It has found ways to justify a youth jobless rate still running at 42% in Italy, 49% in Spain and 50% in Greece. It has acquiesced in the Long Slump of the past six years.” Agreeing, as Tsipras did, to have budget surpluses (before debt service) of 3.5% of the gross domestic product, said the Tory mouthpiece, “is a formula for permanent depression…. It is a doomsday construct.”

There was opposition in the streets to this attack on the vital interests of workers, pensioners and large sectors of the middle classes. The ADEDY federation of public workers unions, led by a member of SYRIZA’s central committee, called a 24-hour strike and a rally outside parliament during the debate. ANTARSYA (Front of the Anti-Capitalist Left) joined ADEDY with more militant slogans, but basically pressuring the SYRIZA legislators and government to vote “no.”. The PAME (All-Workers Militant Front) labor federation led by the Communist Party (KKE) held a march of thousands of workers from Omonia Square to Syntagma, as well as marches in Thessaloniki and other cities denouncing the alliance of the Tsipras government which called for a “NO” in the referendum with the bourgeois “opposition” which called for a “YES” now joining in support of a Third Memorandum to increase the profits of capital by squeezing ever more sweat and blood from the workers.

But these were basically ritual protests, “symbolic” blockades and limited strikes of the sort Greece had experienced by the dozens in 2010-12, with no effect at all on government actions. Likewise with the firebombs and clashes with the police by a few anarchists. These tactics were just as impotent against SYRIZA, since they in no way challenge the capitalist order. Thus there was no attempt to prevent the bourgeois parliament from voting the fateful law. But although the Greek parliament passed the measure with an ample majority, there is no guarantee that the Eurobankers will in fact agree to a new loan of another €82 billion (or more, according to the IMF analysis kept secret during the Brussels “negotiations”) needed to service the €240 billion already lent, 90% of which went to “bail out” the commercial banks and almost none ever went to Greece, on top of another €100 billion in emergency assistance to keep Greek banks afloat.1

Workers in Athens say "OXI" (NO) to the new Memorandum, marching during July 15 strike to protest the agreement to austerity measures dictated by the Eurobankers.  (Photo:  Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP)

Various leftists in and around SYRIZA, including the Left Platform and ANTARSYA, are now pushing for Greece to default on the extortionate loans, take over the collapsed banking system and issue some form of scrip, adopt a parallel currency or leave the euro zone altogether (“Grexit”) and issue a new currency, whether a revived drachma or some other denomination. Leaving aside the complicated mechanics of such an operation which require considerable preparation, the way this would eventually work to revive the economy is by a drastic devaluation, making imports more expensive and exports cheaper. Yet Greece exports very little that would become more competitive by devaluation, its manufacturing industry having been largely destroyed since adopting the euro in 2001, and is heavily dependent on vital imports including food. In any case, while it may become inevitable, a “Grexit” under capitalism will inevitably mean a further massive attack on workers’ livelihoods – austerity with a vengeance.

While the government of SYRIZA and ANEL (Greek Democrats), bourgeois populists of left and right, knuckled under to the diktat of the Eurobankers, joining their flunkeys of the domestic mini-Troika of New Democracy (ND), the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) and Potami, the battle is by no means over. With the exception of the Nazi-fascists of Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi, or XA), who will now seek to profit from the abject failure of SYRIZA, the entire panoply of Greek bourgeois parties has agreed to pay off the phony “Greek debt” and to enforce austerity policies of a ferocity never before experienced in a developed capitalist country. But facing this doomsday scenario which would spell its destruction, the organized working class has not yet responded in force. Revolutionary Marxists would seek to mobilize the proletariat to lead the fight to resist, undermine and defeat the capitalist offensive which spells ruin for the large majority of the Greek population. As we wrote on the eve of the July 5 referendum:

“The League for the Fourth International says that the only way to defeat the bankers’ diktat and put an end to the devastating austerity program of the Eurobosses is by mobilizing the workers’ power on the road to a socialist revolution in Greece and throughout Europe. To stop the financial extortion, workers should occupy the banks and place them under control of elected workers commissions against the Eurobankers and the Greek capitalist government. Against the threat of privatization, workers in the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and the Greek islands should occupy the ports (and airports)and place them under workers control. Make public health and public transportation permanently free, under workers control. As for the unpayable foreign debt, the workers should repudiate (cancel) it entirely, as the Russian workers did in October 1917. But that will take a revolution.”
–“Greek Workers: Defeat the Bankers’ Diktat, Occupy the Banks and Ports!The Internationalist, July 2015

This program to mobilize workers power in sharp class struggle is all the more urgent today, after the ignominious passage of the Third (SYRIZA) Memorandum. The imperialist bankers have made excruciatingly clear that there is no measure that any government of a capitalist state can take to stop the ruling-class war on the workers known as “austerity.” But the working class can take action independent of and against the government to defend its vital interests and fend off the assault. There should be an immediate drive to form workers councils in industrial areas and proletarian districts to undertake steps to ensure the survival of the population – not just soup kitchens but seizing the networks of distribution of vital necessities (food, fuel, medications) – to impose workers control of production and initiate workers defense guards against official repression and fascist attacks, notably against immigrants.

SYRIZA, as we have explained elsewhere,2 is not a workers party at all but a bourgeois nationalist populist formation like PASOK, whose trajectory it has followed and whose position on the Greek political chessboard it has now occupied. Like its forerunner, it ran on a left-populist platform to get elected (although not as radical as PASOK’s original program), then abandoned it upon taking office. Virtually none of the planks in SYRIZA’s September 2014 Thessaloniki Program were implemented, not even raising the minimum wage, and now what few minor steps were taken are being rolled back. Alexis Tsipras performed his required kolotoumba (somersault, or U-turn), as the bourgeois pundits predicted. Voters reportedly still give him high marks, for trying hard and upholding Greek dignity, and still want him as prime minister because he is “clean” unlike his corrupt predecessors. But poor and working people will still be ground into even deeper misery.

Leftists in Greece and internationally who deposited high hopes in SYRIZA, on the other hand, are despondent. For the first time in decades, a party not belonging to the “neoliberal” mainstream had been elected and could show what it could do. But now SYRIZA has suffered a humiliating defeat, forced to renounce everything it said it stood for. Already the cabinet has been reshuffled, with the dissenting ministers starting with Left Platform leader Panagiotis Lafazanis shown the door. The whip hand is reportedly now held by the deputy prime minister and leader of the SYRIZA right wing, Giannis Dragasakis. The Coalition of the (not-so) Radical Left will almost certainly split, and the reformist leftists in it (Left Platform, Left Current, Red Network, KOE, DEA, etc.) may join with others in and around ANTARSYA. But at most this would only be a new edition of SYRIZA on a slightly more leftist program, incapable for leading a struggle to overturn capitalism. For that requires forging a revolutionary workers party on the Bolshevik program of Lenin and Trotsky.

OXI (NO) = NAI (YES): The Saga of the Greek Referendum

By forcing the closure of Greek banks, the European Central Bank set off panic buying, soon leading to shortages. Above: empty grocery shelves in an Athens supermarket in early July.  (Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP)

In the view of the central bankers and conservative politicians who run the show in the European Union, things were going along fine in the drawn-out “negotiations” with the upstart Greek government. The Eurogroup of finance ministers had worn down their interlocutors by demanding detailed statistics, then rejecting every plan out of hand as soon as it was submitted while disparaging supposedly juvenile behavior in Athens. The snooty social-democratic Dutch fin min who heads the cabal, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a would-be Tony Blair of the second coming, would sneeringly put down his Greek counterpart whenever Yanis Varoufakis tried to talk about the economic disaster that EU austerity policies had caused. Economist Varoufakis later remaked that he “might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem” for all the bankers cared. As an end of June deadline approached, the financiers issued a “take-it-or-leave-it” ultimatum.

But just after midnight on June 27, Tsipras threw a spanner (monkey wrench) into the works by suddenly calling a referendum on whether to accept the Eurobankers’ “final offer.” How dare this “demagogue” ask the people to decide such a “complicated” issue, the imperialist media and politicians howled. The “Troika” declared that the offer was no longer on the table, then accused the Greek prime minister of calling a vote on something that didn’t exist. Meanwhile, in a bald attempt to terrorize voters into submission, as Varoufakis accurately put it, to the great annoyance of EU leaders, the ECB cut off its liquidity assistance to Greece, forcing the closure of Greek banks. The cynical arguments from Brussels were trumpeted in propaganda for a “NAI” (YES) vote that blanketed the airwaves and almost all the papers. They were then repeated by correspondents interviewing people having their morning latte in trendy cafes in the leafy northern suburbs of Athens. In working-class areas that had borne the brunt of the austerity over the last five years, however, opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of “OXI,” to give the “big NO” to the arrogant masters of Europe.

At the same time, there was plenty of unease among OXI supporters, some fearing that a “no” vote would mean exiting the euro as the right wing argued, and many with questions about what Tsipras would do with a favorable vote, and why he was continuing the charade of negotiations. Eleni, a fast food worker in Thessaloniki, commented in an interview:

“There are lots of small-time bosses in Syriza, running a business with five to ten workers, and probably not paying them according to the law. Syriza, like any governing party, wants to have the majority of the people on its side – bosses, workers, soldiers, police, retirees, everyone…. [T]hey have to balance the interests of all these different constituencies. This would make it hard for Syriza to do something very radical.
“It’s funny for me and my boss to discuss Syriza, and agree. But that’s the point the battle is at right now. There is not a class struggle against our bosses – the situation this week is Syriza and all of us against the measures of the European Union. Of course, there are differences between workers and bosses, but for now we are united on the referendum.”
–“Life Under Austerity,” Jacobin, 12 July

Asked what voting “no” means to most people, Eleni said she is “not sure that the majority of people like me – workers in my sector – understand what it means.” Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of the Left Platform reported on his experience campaigning for a “no” vote, saying that it was “tough within the railways” since “the workers knew that the Syriza government had already accepted the privatization of the railways.” He added:

“But despite the varying contexts, in all these places, the discussion was around two different issues: why has the government done so little so far, why has it been so timid? And also what are you going to do after the No victory? …
“So the questions were: what are your plans? What are you going to do? Why do you still talk about negotiations when for five and a half months we have seen this approach clearly fail?
“I was in a very embarrassing situation, because, in my role as a Syriza spokesperson and central committee member, I couldn’t give convincing answers to all this.”
–Sebastian Budgen and Stathis Kouvelakis, “Greece: The Struggle Continues,” Jacobin, 14 July

In fact, Tsipras had no intention of using a “no” vote to stand up to the EU bosses.

In our article on the eve of the July 5 referendum, noting that most of the left had called for OXI, we said that while a “yes” vote meant abject surrender to the dictates of capital, a “no” vote could not “strike a blow against the austerity mongers” because “the whole purpose of ‘voting NO,’ as Tsipras himself says repeatedly, ‘means continuing the negotiation with better conditions for the Greek people’.” Moreover, the Greek leader had already agreed to “drastic tax increases, lower wages for public sector workers, continued elimination of collective bargaining, rampant privatizations and all the rest. SYRIZA is using the referendum not only to bolster its maneuvering, but as a vote of confidence in its government.” What happened in the wake of the referendum fully confirms our warnings and validates our refusal to call for a “no” vote. We told the unvarnished truth about Tsipras’ ploy rather than ceding to the pressure of mass sentiment.

The almost universal expectation in the capitalist media was of a close vote, based on public opinion surveys which systematically understate support for the left (in good part because they are based on telephone surveys which leave out the large percentage of workers and the poor who don’t have a land line phone). Instead there was an unprecedented landslide 61% “OXI” vote, with a majority for “no” in every single one of the 74 prefectures of Greece. In working-class districts such as Piraeus B and historically leftist areas like Crete it was well over 70%. Crowds poured into the streets to celebrate. Tsipras emerged to hail the voters’ “brave choice” and to declare that this proved that “even under the most difficult circumstances, democracy cannot be blackmailed.” But behind the scenes it was a completely different story. The Greek leader’s reaction was consternation and he decided to cave in to the creditors’ demands.

There are now several accounts, all consistent on the essentials. Whether Tsipras “never expected to win Sunday's referendum on EMU [European Monetary Union] bail-out terms, let alone to preside over a blazing national revolt against foreign control,” and instead planned to “put up a good fight, accept honourable defeat” and let his successor do the dirty work, as Ambrose Evans Pritchard reported in the London Telegraph (6 July), he was certainly not prepared to wage the all-out battle that was posed. In an interview with the Australian ABC (13 July), Varoufakis said that coming from the celebration in Syntagma Square, “The moment I entered the prime ministerial office, I sensed immediately a certain sense of resignation…. an air of defeat, which was completely at odds with what was happening outside.” Since Tsipras was not willing to use the “no” vote to fight the forces of austerity, and the latter wanted Varoufakis’ head, the Greek finance minister resigned.

In the following hours, Tsipras formed a de facto coalition with the defeated parties of the “yes” vote on the basis of their program. He called a meeting of leaders of the parliamentary parties except the fascist XA, presided over by the right-wing president Pavlopoulos (installed by SYRIZA) who had openly called for a “yes” vote. Except for the KKE, the leaders agreed to back the government in negotiating on the basis of the EU demands. The government cobbled together yet another proposal agreeing to just about everything. This was then rammed through parliament, with most of SYRIZA’s Left Platform voting yes but a few abstaining as a fig leaf. But even that capitulation was not enough for the Eurobosses, who demanded total surrender, or “Grexit.” So after a marathon Euro-summit lasting 27 hours and involving what one EU official called extensive mental waterboarding” of the Greek premier, Tsipras groveled.

Greek prime minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras having a laugh as parliament voted to impose savage austerity plan dictated by the EU imperialist finaciers, July 15. (Photo: Reuters)

The Sorry Fate of SYRIZA’s Camp Followers

It was not so long ago that the left internationally was enraptured with SYRIZA. Alexis Tsipras at 40 (he was born four days after the fall of the military dictatorship) and his hip finance minister were seen as harbingers of a promising new era. At the yearly “Left Forum” gab fest in New York City at the end of May, representatives of almost the entire fake left groaned or laughed derisively when the Internationalist Group made the simple Marxist observation that SYRIZA and the government it leads are bourgeois. In several workshops, the IG’s insistence that Europe’s capitalist rulers would never agree to end or even cut back on austerity was simply dismissed. Even so, many had a hard time stomaching the sneering rejection of “ideology” by spokesmen for SYRIZA and its aggressively anti-Marxist Spanish counterpart, Podemos.

Now many leftists are accusing Tsipras of betrayal. He certainly trampled on the OXI vote, agreeing to bailout terms worse than that which Greek voters rejected in the July referendum. He trampled underfoot SYRIZA’s anti-austerity election campaign promises. One can’t say that he betrayed his own principles or that SYRIZA betrayed the working class, however, since he was committed to staying in the euro zone at all costs, and the “Coalition of the Radical Left” is not a workers party but a bourgeois populist formation. In fact the double-talk Tsipras engaged in during the referendum campaign was nothing new. In an article for Le Monde (31 May) he accused the Eurocrats of in effect calling for “the complete abolition of democracy in Europe.” But even as he talked of “a Europe of solidarity, equality and democracy,” he submitted a plan agreeing to raising the retirement age, proceed with privatizations, etc.

As we noted in our previous article, virtually the entire left, in Greece and internationally, jumped on the OXI bandwagon, thereby helping Tsipras peddle the illusion that he was valiantly resisting the EU tops. The one significant exception was the KKE which called to oppose the austerity plans of both the EU and the Greek government. The cheerleaders for a “NO” vote included not only the left wing of SYRIZA, which is now being unceremoniously booted out, but also its camp followers on the outside, notably ANTARSYA. It even extended to small centrist outfits like the Trotskyist Group of Greece (TGG), affiliated with the International Communist League (ICL). The TGG had called on workers not to vote for SYRIZA in January, instead advocating critical support to the KKE. But now it shamefully placed itself to the right of the Stalinists, who although dyed in the wool reformists (and Greek nationalists) stated the fact that Tsipras was using the referendum as a maneuver to push through an attack on the workers.

So how is the TGG/ICL call for a “no” vote in the July referendum working out for them? Not so good, it seems. Their statement claimed to give “no support to the Syriza government,” even as it was doing just that. But according to Workers Vanguard (10 July), “TGG comrades distributing at the final ‘no’ rally were physically driven out by pro-Syriza Greek nationalists who understood clearly enough that our ‘no’ vote in the referendum was certainly not a ‘yes’ vote for Syriza.” We, of course, oppose such thuggery on the left, but this incident confirms that for many the “no” vote in the referendum was emphatically a “yes” vote for SYRIZA. The other notable aspect of the Workers Vanguard article is its support for a “Grexit,” which like its call for a “no” vote in the referendum echoes the position of the SYRIZA left and its hangers-on. WV writes:

“The example of Argentina (or Iceland) graphically shows that Greece might be much better off if it defaulted on its debts and left the eurozone, reinstating its own currency. After Argentina pegged its peso to the U.S. dollar in 1991, its economy went into a deep recession and the country defaulted in 2001. In response, Argentina stopped pegging its currency to the dollar and the economy recovered. Average wages initially dropped 30 percent, but within a year unemployment fell and wages rose.”

So now the ICL is in the business of offering advice on how to handle the capitalist crisis within the framework of capitalism, arguing on the terrain of reformism. It conflates the relatively simple operation of delinking an existing currency to another foreign currency with the extremely complex task of creating a new currency from scratch. Even worse, WV echoes bourgeois liberal economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman in prettifying what actually took place in Argentina. The currency peg had generated a severe economic crisis and the desperate rulers in Argentina (which had five presidents in the space of a week in 2001) had no choice in ending it. But the immediate aftermath was massive poverty and millions of unemployed, who didn’t find work for years. The piqueteros blocking highways were not striking workers but jobless. The supposed fall in unemployment was largely the result of lying official statistics, as in the U.S. today when the Obama government puts it below 6% by simply eliminating long-term unemployed from the workforce (it’s actually around 23%).

Now the various leftists in and around SYRIZA, having been used and discarded “like a squeezed lemon,” are talking about forming a new party. Those still inside – such as the DEA (International Workers Left, allied with the International Socialist Organization in the U.S.) and the Communist Tendency (part of Alan Woods’ International Marxist Tendency) – are calling on the leadership to call an immediate national conference to discuss the bailout deal, which Tsipras will surely not do unless he is certain of crushing the opposition. Those on the outside like ANTARSYA are angling to hook up with the Left Platform. But all this would be is another “broad left” formation with a program for a “left government” of the capitalist state, that at most could be condemned to repeat the disastrous SYRIZA experience, when what’s urgently needed is to build as a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard to break out of the capitalist straitjacket.

Imperialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of Finance Capital

The imperialist bankers’ diktat: IMF chief Christine Lagarde after “mental waterboarding”  of new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalokos at EU summit, July 12. (Photo: Reuters)

In the wake of the Greek parliament vote accepting the Eurobankers’ diktat, we hear a lot about the “democratic deficit” of the European Union, where unelected bureaucrats override the will of millions of voters in elections. But liberal/social-democratic rhetoric about “democracy” ignores the fact that from the start, the EU has been an imperialist alliance based on subjugation of the working class. Born out of the Cold War, following the destruction of the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet Union and deformed workers states of East Europe, the hard-nosed capitalist ideologues and financiers took aim at the “welfare state.” These programs aimed at warding off off the post-WWII “communist threat” in Europe were now seen as a drag on profits. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble is today going after state-owned firms in Greece with the same scorched-earth tactics he used to dismantle the collectivized economy of East Germany.

But more generally, the underlying issue is not a negation of some mythical classless “democracy” but the fact that the democratic trappings of the bourgeois state mask the rule of capital, and under imperialism, the dictatorship of finance capital. As Friedrich Engels wrote in the concluding chapter of his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1885), under the parliamentary regime:

“the democratic republic no longer officially recognizes differences of property. Wealth here employs its power indirectly, but all the more surely. It does this in two ways: by plain corruption of officials, of which America is the classic example, and by an alliance between the government and the stock exchange, which is effected all the more easily the higher the state debt mounts and the more the joint-stock companies concentrate in their hands not only transport but also production itself, and themselves have their own center in the stock exchange.”

V.I. Lenin elaborated on this in The State and Revolution (1917), where he noted:

“At present, imperialism and the domination of the banks have ‘developed’ into an exceptional art both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all descriptions….
“Another reason why the omnipotence of ‘wealth’ is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell …, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.”

What we have seen unfolding in Greece in the last five months is the clearest possible proof that imperialist “democracy” in reality is the rule of finance capital, which “no change of persons, institution or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake.” A dramatic victory by SYRIZA in the January elections, an unprecedented landslide for “NO” to the EU ultimatum in the July 5 referendum, and only a week later, the bankers emerge triumphant, ordering the Greek parliament to rubber-stamp the dictated “Agreement” in 48 hours, which it dutifully does. And in this epoch of imperialist decay, the radical-left “democrats” who serve as the instruments of the bankers are systematically ripping up past gains of the working class, privatizing nationalized industries such as railroads, postal services and electrical power, and pulverizing social programs such as health insurance that date back to the time of Count Otto von Bismarck.

The bourgeoisie often brings in populist parties or popular-front coalitions like Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular in Chile in times of crisis. PASOK was brought in after the fall of the military dictatorship in the mid-1970s, as the traditional bourgeois parties couldn’t keep the masses energized by the struggle against the colonels’ regime, in check. SYRIZA became a mass party following the more than 30 general strikes, explosive mass demonstrations and occupation of city squares during 2010-12. It won office in January after the ND-PASOK duopoly which had ruled Greece for 40 years failed to implement the bankers’ vicious austerity regime due to popular resistance. The Eurobankers forced the election knowing SYRIZA might win, figuring that they could oblige it to accomplish what ND-PASOK could not, or else force it into a Grexit so painful that it would scare off populist leftist oppositions elsewhere in Europe.

Unlike Euroleftists like SYRIZA, authentic Trotskyists have opposed the imperialist European Union from the beginning. The vicious anti-worker austerity offensive of the EU may yet force Greece out of the euro zone, but the League for the Fourth International fights to bring down the imperialist EU through Europe-wide socialist revolution. For this, the actions of workers outside Greece are key in bringing down the imperialist masters of Europe. This includes not only the rulers of the Fourth Reich of German imperialism, who have been the hardliners in “disciplining” Greek workers, but also the “progressive” bourgeois democrats and social democrats in Italy and France who have played “soft cop” in the Greek bailout drama. But while there have been large “solidarity with Greece” demos from London and Dublin to Paris and Berlin, they seek to pressure their bourgeois rulers rather than fighting to overthrow them.

What we have seen these past months is a disaster that was foreseeable from the beginning. According to the rules of Greek tragedy laid out by Aristotle, the ultimate demise is not the result of unforeseen events or outside forces, but due to inherent features of the protagonists. For any Marxist it was clear, already in the first act, that SYRIZA’s vow to fight austerity was incompatible with its loyalty to the imperialist EU and capitalism. What happened since was the inevitable result of those fatal flaws, that could only be overcome by the action of the working class, independent of and against the “left” capitalist rulers. But Greek workers are not constrained to choose between two disastrous courses, between the Scylla of crashing on the shoals of the Eurobankers’ Memoranda and the Charybdis of drowning in the whirlpool of a capitalist Grexit. Instead workers and revolutionaries in Greece and throughout Europe must undertake the fight to sweep away all the exploiters in a socialist united states of Europe. ■

  1. 1. The euro (€) is currently valued at about US$1.10.
  2. 2. See “Greece: The SYRIZA Illusion Exploded” and “What Is SYRIZA?” in The Internationalist No. 39, April-May 2015.