The Historical Need for Communism
at Casa Bar, 29 Hope Street, Liverpool
2pm - Saturday 23rd June 2012
The Crisis in Greece and False Parliamentary Alternatives
Over the last three years, in order to safeguard the profits it derives from industry and finance, the Greek bourgeoisie in alliance with international capital has declared war, by cutting the wages of the proletariat and stealthily purloining the wealth of the middle classes. Over the last few months the regime has managed to obliterate the results of decades of workers’ struggle: it has abolished national labour contracts and reintroduced individual ones; it has cut salaries, by around 30%; and it has reduced pensions, which are amongst the lowest in Europe.
All sectors are in crisis, and although particularly bad in the building industry agriculture and services have also been badly affected. The official unemployment figures are 20%, rising to 50% among the young, and the unemployed now outnumber those in work. The government has also made a commitment to sack a further 150 thousand public sector workers by 2015.
After placing these items on the debit side of the State balance sheet, the Greek government has tried to reduce social tension by channelling it into yet another ridiculous parliamentary election.
The so-called electoral ‘trial’, which was held this 6th May, merely confirms that the majority of the population are against the so-called ‘austerity measures’ of the last few years: in fact, almost 35% of the electors didn’t bother to vote, a high percentage in a country where, following a period of military dictatorship, democratic rituals have generally been perceived as a ‘conquest’, above all by ‘left-wing’ electors.
Over recent decades two parties, Pasok (centre-left) and New Democracy (centre-right), have alternated in government, sharing the power and the kickbacks. Both are supporters of the ‘technical’ Papidimos government, and both did very badly in the election. Compared to the 2009 elections, Pasok’s share of the vote dropped from 44 to 13%, and New Democracy’s from 33 to 19%.
‘Left’ voters have switched their allegiance from Pasok to the so-called ‘radical’ coalition, Syriza, which became the second biggest party in parliament. But voting for Syriza was in fact a ‘sensible’ compromise vote, as it wants to remain in the European Union, although it is opposed to the diktat of the Troika (European Union, European central bank and International Monetary Fund). Indeed most Greeks still have something to lose, and fear the collapse of the State and exiting from the European Union.
The Communist Organisation of Greece (Koe), which is on the radical fringe of Syriza, announced that: «Today the Greek people have passed a vote of no confidence in the pro-troika parties (Fmi-UE-BCE) and triggered a veritable earthquake, shaking the entire political system. Our people have sent a thundering message to the troika (…) The road to another type of representation, another political system, the road to real democracy and a radical transition now opens before us». These lightweight communists, with their, ”thundering messages”, want to divert the movement of strikes and demonstrations, which has been spreading throughout the country for over two years, and channel its energy into the ballot boxes, with them stepping forward as the movement’s ‘mature’ political representatives. If the working class falls for this ruse it will be game, set and match to the bourgeoisie.
Syriza’s demagogic and deceitful programme responds to this requirement. Today, no government, even a ‘left-wing’ one, can implement a defence of the working class, not in Greece or in any other country. All parliaments and governments, whatever their political complexion, are organs of the bourgeois State and defend the interests of the bourgeois class. Only through struggle can the working class defend itself, and it is a struggle that needs to take place outside the confines of the irrelevant, mercenary and corrupt institution that is parliament.
The KKE, the Communist Party of Greece, is meanwhile completely integrated into the bourgeois State. Even very recently it has provided abundant proof of this through its control of the important trade union, PAME, and through its evident wish to keep the social movement tightly controlled and within the bounds of bourgeois order. Although opposed to the reconstruction of genuine class unions open to all workers, it is currently trying to appear ‘extremist’ by calling for Greece to leave the European Union. But the KKE as well is just playing a part in the parliamentary melodrama. In Italy we exposed the Italian Communist Party, the ‘party of struggle and government’ decades ago; a party which hinted to militants it was ‘playing a double game’, one involving both the electoral path and another, more subterranean one, which involved revolution. But the two ‘paths’, with the party supposedly choosing between them according to the circumstances, never actually existed. As has always been the case, it’s a matter of either preparing for the revolution, or preparing for elections. Today, looking back at the various disasters into which the international proletariat has been led by democracy and Stalinism, we have no hesitation in reaffirming that position.
On the right, the votes have passed from New Democracy to some minor parties and to the national-socialist Golden Dawn. The latter attributes the crisis to ‘Jewish usurers’, to immigrants stealing jobs off the Greeks and gypsies snatching handbags from little old ladies. They shout about the dictatorship of Europe and ‘Greece for the Greeks’; and with 7% of the votes their shaved heads will be entitled to rant and rave in the democratic menagerie of the Hellenic parliament.
As we can see, the electoral ritual is far from being the waste of money it might appear: it is still being used as an instrument to distract workers, by deluding them that ‘something good’ will come out of it; that ‘new people’, new political forces, a new government will take some kind of initiative that will protect their standard of living. The fact is, if the workers aren’t able to get organised and resist on a class basis with their own powerful organisation, fighting not with voting slips but in the streets, they will inevitably be forced to put up with increasingly bad conditions.
Moving beyond the results of the elections, the convulsions of the Greek political system and the ridiculous antics of its politicians, the central questions are still that of the economic crisis, and what the real prospects are for the proletariat.
Whether or not Greece stays in the European Community, whether it leaves because forced out by Germany or abandons it of its own volition, whether it disengages from the Euro and returns to the Drachma, whether its nationalises the property of the banks, it is these alternatives that will determine the future prospects for the proletariat and the economy rather than any particular policy of any particular government. But the bourgeois States now have very little room for manoeuvre, and the bigger and more powerful states even less. The ‘dominant’ bourgeois German State is the most constrained of all, and the big capital which has based its centre of accumulation in Germany will have the most to lose.
At a certain moment the only possible choice they can ‘freely’ make is that of war between the imperial powers. Faced with this menacing prospect the salvation of the working class lies not in nationalism, already on the increase, nor in the illusion that it can escape from the grip of German imperialism, as preached in Greece by both right and left, but rather in the international union of the workers’ movement; in the alliance between proletarians of different countries, united in a common perspective that has learned from the lethal mistake of trusting in parliamentary, national, pacifist or inter-classist solutions, and is committed instead to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.