In this paper I argue that Antarsya should not join Syriza in an electoral coalition or joint list, but that Antarsya should fight the elections and continue to stick with and advance its Transitional Programme.
Antarsya should announce, in advance of the June 17 parliamentary elections that it will support a Left government and hold it to its programme, while pushing for a more socialist programme such as repudiation (rather than negotiation) of the debt, nationalisations of privatised industries and the banks.
For Antarsya to continue with its Transitional Programme.
1. Programme and Strategy
The type of Programme demand by revolutionary Marxists and by Parties (such as Socialist Resistance in Britain, and OKDE in Greece) within the Fourth International is related to Strategy, i.e., whether to support the
(1) Broad Party concept strategy or
(2) the Revolutionary Unity strategy or (I guess)
(3) a revolutionary sectarian/ us alone policy
The implications can be seen in, for example
France (whether in the first round of the 2012 Presidential elections to support the (left social democrat) Front de la Gauche of Jean-Luc Melenchon, or whether to support the NPA)
The UK (what to do about the Manchester Central and other parliamentary by-elections) and more widely, to work in broad parties such as Respect, to work in broader coalitions such as the Coalition of Resistance (with, for example, the Green Left, other Greens?, Left Labour MPs and supporters), or whether to work with avowedly Marxist parties and individuals in organisations such as TUSC
In Greece, whether to support Syriza or Antarsya in the upcoming elections of 17 June and what advice we should give to OKDE, the Greek section of the FI, regarding whether Antarsya should (i) fight the elections alone, or (ii) as part of Syriza, or (iii) alone but saying we will support (and join? or support and not join) a Syriza led government (which, if it happens, will likely be in government coalition with the Democratic Left (of Fotis Kouvelis).
2. Minimum, Maximum and Transitional Demands (how to get from minimum to maximum)
The Death Agony of Capitalism: and the Tasks of the Fourth International
The strategic task of the next period – prerevolutionary period of agitation, propaganda and organization – consists in overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard (the confusion and disappointment of the older generation, the inexperience of the younger generation. It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.
Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying. The Comintern has set out to follow the path of Social Democracy in an epoch of decaying capitalism: when, in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of he masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state.
The strategic task of the Fourth International lies not in reforming capitalism but in its overthrow. Its political aim is the conquest of power by the proletariat for the purpose of expropriating the bourgeoisie. However, the achievement of this strategic task is unthinkable without the most considered attention to all, even small and partial, questions of tactics. All sections of the proletariat, all its layers, occupations and groups should be drawn into the revolutionary movement. The present epoch is distinguished not for the fact that it frees the revolutionary party from day-to-day work but because it permits this work to be carried on indissolubly with the actual tasks of the revolution.
The Fourth International does not discard the program of the old “minimal” demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness. Indefatigably, it defends the democratic rights and social conquests of the workers. But it carries on this day-to-day work within the framework of the correct actual, that is, revolutionary perspective. Insofar as the old, partial, “minimal” demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the Fourth International advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old “minimal program” is superseded by the transitional program, the task of which lies in systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.
Alistair Mitchell (1985) has a good enough summary of the three different types of programme
Marx and Engels didn’t just call for the introduction of a socialist society (the maximum programme) without charting the way of getting there. Neither did they merely advocate reforms which fell way short of breaking from capitalism (the minimum programme). The key to their method lies in the extract quoted above with its steps which are by themselves inadequate, but through the workers’ struggle for them lead to other attacks on capitalism. These further measures become possible and necessary as the workers gain in confidence and rally others to their side, learn the next steps required and challenge a weakened and retreating ruling class. The method of Marx and Engels is to connect the present situation and immediate aspirations of the proletariat with the task of the socialist revolution. The minimum and maximum programmes are linked in a transitional programme’.
As Wikipedia summarises,
It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.
Trotsky urges that transitional demands should include the call for the expropriation of various groups of capitalists – sometimes translated in modern terms into the nationalisation of various sectors – under the control and management of the workers. Transitional demands should include opposition to imperialist war. Such demands intend to challenge the capitalist class’s right to rule.
By fighting for these “transitional” demands, in the opinion of the Trotskyists, the workers will come to realize that capitalism cannot meet their needs, and they will then embrace the full program of the Fourth International.
3. Antarsya, Syriza and Greece and the elections of 17 June 2012
Now let’s apply this to Greece
Syriza Programme following the May 6 elections (taken from the Coalition of resistance website, 9 May)
* The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.
* The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that undermine fundamental workers’ rights, such as the abolition of collective labor agreements.
* The immediate abolition of a law granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of the electoral law and a general overhaul of the political system.
* An investigation into Greek banks, and the immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking sector by BlackRock.
* The setting up of an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece’s public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit are published.
Or in the words of Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson on the Socialist Unity website, 12 May,
• Cancelling the bailout terms, notably laws that further cut wages and pensions
• Scrapping laws that abolish workers’ rights, particularly a law abolishing collective labour agreements due to come into effect on 15 May
• Demanding proportional representation and the end to the 50 seat bonus to the first party
• Investigating Greece’s banking system which received almost 200bn euros of public money and posing the need for some kind of state control over the banks
• Setting up an international committee to find out the causes of Greece’s public deficit and putting on hold all debt servicing.
Analysis: What type of Programme is Syriza’s
I thought the 5 point plan put out for negotiation by Syriza serves well as a socialist minimum, defensive, programme.
In other countries such a plan would (currently, with existing states of political and class consciousness) be considered more than a minimum programme, but such is the state of political and class consciousness in Greece currently that this can be regarded as a minimum programme. However, it can also be analysed as a left social democratic programme, and this is my view of what it is. A huge advance on neoliberal, neo-conservative pro-austerity programmes of ND and PASOK for example, but Syriza says, essentially, overall… `no more cuts’… it does not say,` reverse the cuts! Restore the wages and pensions’.
The View of By Christos Kefalis, May 10, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
SYRIZA aims to rescind the “Memorandum” and renegotiate the debt, which will include cancelling a large part of it as odious. It also demands a three-year suspension of debt obligations, which would provide important relief, if achieved. SYRIZA’s aims include nationalising a number of banks, heavier taxation of the rich and restoring the people’s living standards. SYRIZA leader Tsipras has proposed a five-point program which concretises this.
`When I interviewed a SYRIZA spokesman earlier this year I explored the problem of a far-left party, which is anti-NATO etc, taking power in a country whose riot police have been regularly clashing with that party’s youth since 2008. The message was that they would be purposefully limited in aim, and that the core of any programme would be a debtor-led partial default – that is, the suspension of interest payments on the remaining debt and a repudiation of the terms of both Troika-brokered bailouts. What SYRIZA shares with the Dem Left and PASOK it its commitment to the EU social model: they are left globalists’
… the resulting government may, in effect, be little more than a left-social democratic government, despite its symbology and the radicalism of some of its voters..
The Antarsya programme
The anti-capitalist Left, ANTARSYA, is the only tendency of the Left that openly called for an immediate annulment of debt payments and exit from the Eurozone (Sotiris)
1. Immediately terminate the loan agreement, any memoranda and all related measures.
2. Do not recognize the debt, debt cancellation and suspension of payments.
3. Break with the system and with the euro/EU.
4. Nationalize the banks and corporations without compensation under workers’ control.
5. Immediately increase wages and pensions! Cancel the poll tax and increase the taxation of capital.
6. Prohibit layoffs and fully protect the unemployed. Shorten working hours and reduce the retirement age.
7. Expropriate hundreds of closed factories and re-commission them controlled by the employees themselves.
8. Provide cheap and good quality food through agricultural cooperatives, poor and middle farmers—without middlemen and large producers.
9. The solution is a strong Left struggling for a break with the system and the anti-capitalist revolution!
The Antarsya statement continues
The parliamentary parties of the Left do not meet their historical responsibilities. SYRIZA suggests a “leftist government,” but does not dare to say anything against the euro and the EU. It is increasingly in search of “solutions” to the debt problem through agreements with the creditors! The Communist Party (KKE) now rejects the recognition of the debt and takes a stand against the EU position, but points to the metaphysical presence of “peoples’ power” that should come into existence through parliamentary channels and through the conquest of the parliamentary majority in the election. This party avoids any overt political conflict and still refuses to participate in a united front for a workers and popular uprising. Such an approach is a barrier to the struggles. Joint action is more necessary than ever!
What is needed is the mobilization and organization of goals and demands, put today on the agenda by reality itself (cancellation of debt, leaving the euro zone and the EU, nationalization and workers’ control). This can be achieved by a united front of all those who want a break with the system and revolution, by the escalation of the workers’ and popular uprising combined with strikes, occupations, demonstrations, also by the organization and coordination of struggles at the level of the rank and file on the basis of an anti-capitalist program. This is the way to achieve the power of working people, true democracy combined with a socialist and communist perspective.
This is the left ????RS?? is struggling to create. We are committed to ensuring that this left—one which will break with the system and aim for the insurrection, the anti-capitalist revolutionary left—will come out stronger from the national parliamentary elections.
In the elections we give our voice and support to ????RS??!
Analysis: What type of Programme is Antarsya’s
This is a revolutionary Marxist programme that would lead to the expropriation of Capital/ism and its replacement by a Socialist state. It can be regarded as a Transitional programme.
4. The Ways Forward for Antarsya: a) Support/ Coalition with/ Join in with Syriza/ Become, or at least Support, `the Broad’ (Left) Party
Socialist Resistance, together with Costas Lapavitsas, Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson, various socialist and Marxist groups nationally and internationally (such as the ISO in the USA) and the SP in Britain argue for various versions of Left Unity. SR’s position (to be voted on at an NC meeting on 26 May 2012 (the fuller extract from the policy statement is below) states:
In fact the strategy of building broad parties (either anti-capitalist parties like Syriza or radical left reformist formations in other situations) capable of uniting the left and radical trade unions across the political spectrum, from revolutionary socialists to those who have not reached such conclusions, is designed for exactly this kind of situation – when no single current or tradition can meet the challenge alone.
Socialist Resistance in Britain:
In a Socialist Resistance Editorial statement of 13 May, SR stated,
We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to all sections of the Greek left to unite behind Syriza in the upcoming elections and to unite behind a Syriza-led anti-austerity government if it is elected. This is exactly the reason for building broad organisations like Syriza – in order to unite the working class in this kind of situation.
In a further statement, SR’s position is very clear, in its title for the statement: `Unite behind Syriza’s anti-austerity programme’
Editorial statement by Socialist Resistance, Britain
There is, however, a serious problem, in the face of another election, which cannot be avoided. That is the issue of the unity of the Greek left. Before the election Syriza was the only organisation to call for the most obvious thing – a united anti-austerity platform and for a united anti-austerity government if the left won. Now the situation is even worse. In the upcoming election both the KKE and Antarsya (though the KKE more stridently) have already said that they will not only stand their own candidates but will give no support to, or would ‘not prop up’ a Syriza-led government if it were elected! This, they say, is because Syriza’s platform is not a full revolutionary programme. But a more extensive programme is something that must be discussed and developed as the struggle advances and should not to be counterposed to the immediate needs of the struggle as it unfolds today.
This is a very dangerous situation. We could see an anti-austerity government either denied office – and the austerity continue with all its consequences – or opposed once taking office by other sections of the left! We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to all sections of the Greek left to unite behind Syriza in the upcoming elections and to unite behind a Syriza-led anti-austerity government if it is elected. This is exactly the reason for building broad organisations like Syriza – in order to unite the working class in this kind of situation.
The SR EC statement (sent to SR NC members, to be voted on as a statement of policyto be voted on at the SR National Council meeting of 26 May 2012) states
The most appalling sectarianism comes from the KKE, which, in pure third period style Stalinism, which declared Syriza not only to be reformist, but that reformists are the main enemy! Antarsya rejected the appeal in favour of a call for mass action against the cuts and declared that they would not ‘prop-up’ a Syriza led government! With the Greek SWP section the main force in Antarsya this approach is reflected in the SWP in Britain. An article by Alex Callinicos in SW has nothing to say about the governmental situation in Greece, or of left unity, but accuses Syriza of ambiguity, of refusing to break with social liberalism, and of seeking to contain the situation within the framework of capitalism. This he says, “underlines the necessity of building a revolutionary left that is part of this great movement sweeping Europe but maintains its own political identity”. We can agree with the last sentence but that must be as an active part of the Syriza coalition and with a united front method.
This is a dangerous situation. A victory for the left is not guaranteed, but we could see an anti-austerity government with a radical anti-capitalist action programme either denied office – and the austerity continue with all its consequences – or be opposed once taking office by other sections of the left! We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to all sections of the Greek left to unite behind Syriza in the upcoming elections and to unite behind a Syriza-led anti-austerity government if it is elected. Of course the movement must be vigilant, but in the concrete situation that exists in Greece today, building a broad anti capitalist organisation like Syriza – that can unite the working class – is what is needed, and what revolutionary Marxist currents should be engaged in.
We should call on the KKE and Antarsya to break from sectarianism to become part of such a movement and a possible left government. If Syriza carries out its programme, and there will be massive pressures against it doing this, it would be a true Workers Government, leading to the first major political battle in Europe against austerity and the capitalist crisis. The Marxist left should do everything in its power to ensure this succeeds, not stand aside in sectarian purity and isolation.
To conclude, the new elections, in which Syriza stands every chance of becoming the largest party, or winning, could lead to a coalition government of the anti-bailout, anti austerity forces. The task of revolutionaries is to fully support the formation of such a government, but with vigilance against any compromise on Syriza’s action programme. This is particularly important if the reformist Democratic Left holds the balance of power and according to opinion polls two thirds of Syriza’s voter in the first round were in favour of a political compromise to form a government. However it is important to recognise that Tsipras has shown no signs of any political compromise on Syriza’s programme. He states time and again that the “memorandum of understanding must be revoked.”
If at the end of this remarkable opportunity the Greek left and workers movement fails through internal divisions to form a government when the opportunity had been there and the right-wing take control as a result the organisations which opted for sectarian isolation will have a great deal to answer for, and not just in Greece. In fact the strategy of building broad parties (either anti-capitalist parties like Syriza or radical left reformist formations in other situations) capable of uniting the left and radical trade unions across the political spectrum, from revolutionary socialists to those who have not reached such conclusions, is designed for exactly this kind of situation – when no single current or tradition can meet the challenge alone. (my italics)
In this analysis of the Greek political situation and necessary strategy, SR stands alongside The Socialist Party/ Committee for a Workers’ International (or at least, its Greek section, Xekinima), which on 16 May stated:
In this situation, what should the Greek Left do? Xekinima welcomes Syriza’s public call for left unity. Syriza should open up and develop its structures as a broad left alliance, so that fresh layers of workers and youth can join and decide party policy democratically. Xekinima supports united action of the left parties ahead of the next elections and for working people to vote for Syriza.
This should be done concretely, with the convening of mass assemblies at local, workplace, regional and national levels to discuss and agree programme, demands and electoral tactics, to campaign for a left government and to strive to ensure that such a government pursues anti-austerity and pro-working class policies.
The communist party (KKE) and Antarsya (the Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation) both took a sectarian attitude before the last elections and rejected Syriza’s ‘left unity’ proposal, with the result that their votes remain stagnant. To the amazement of many millions of workers, the KKE leadership still continues to refuse to form a block with Syriza.
But under growing pressure from their rank and file, and the working class in general, a section of Antarsya has indicated that it is prepared to have joint collaboration with Syriza.
Michael Karadjis in an article for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on May 16 (republished by Socialist Resistance)made a clear call for a United Front, the article is entitled `Greece: SYRIZA, the Communist Party and the desperate need for a united front’
All the smaller parties of SYRIZA and Antarsya need to take the lead in ensuring continual mobilisation, alongside the ranks of Synaspismos and the KKE, as well as the trade unions and even the traditional base of PASOK, in demanding a left united front to smash the austerity as a minimum program and sustain such mobilisation through the intensification of the crisis that will inevitably result from the collapse of the Memorandum, the exit from the Eurozone and the cut-off of EU cash.
The KKE’s idea that it will gain from a “second wind” when the masses see the failure of SYRIZA is almost beyond comprehension in its sectarian reasoning. In a situation that is revolutionary, that is life and death for the masses, the nettle needs to be grasped. More likely a failure of the left to unite at such a crucial moment for Greek society will open the door to fascism as a section of the masses swing right to find an “alternative” to the crisis. The massive 7% vote for the neo-Nazi, immigrant-bashing criminal gang Golden Dawn on May 6, alongside the 10% vote for a right-wing nationalist split from ND, may end up being a signal of the future direction if the left cannot offer an alternative. Those leftists who pave the way for this will be, and ought to be, judged harshly by history.
Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson in Socialist Unity website (12 May) states:
What is necessary in Greece is a united front of all workers’ parties. The situation is so grave that historical and programmatic differences must be set aside in the interests of the working class. Parties can maintain their own organisational independence and slogans whilst the government centres on concrete political and economic issues for the benefit of working people.
The current position of the KKE is a tragedy both for itself and the people of Greece. At the next election its vote is expected to fall and many KKE supporters will switch to Syriza – but even then it is unlikely that Syriza will be able to form a government without the support of the KKE.
The same support for a united front should come from all sections of the left in Greece. Whilst it does not have the same political weight as the KKE, the far left anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya should also back a Syriza-led government. But as a leader of the British Socialist Workers’ Party – its British sister organisation – tweeted ‘Anti-capitalist left Antarsya will not prop up SYRIZA govt but is calling for joint-action to beat austerity in strikes, occupations’.
Antarsya is not in a position to prop up any government – they got 1.2% of the vote and polled 75,000 which is down on their result in the 2010 local elections when they polled 97,000. However, Antarsya contains many good activists and they have been at the forefront of anti-fascist activity and the call that they make for united action on the streets is important. On some demonstrations in Greece this is beginning to happen in practice, notably in February when cadre from the KKE opened their lines to protect Syriza supporters from the riot police in Syntagma Square.
This view is supported by Costas Lapavitsas:
It is important to seek unity at all times, avoiding both gloating and the ancient factionalism of the Greek left. Syriza will need the active co-operation of the rest of the left if it is to muster sufficient forces to deal with the storm ahead.
5. The Way Forward for Antarsya: Stand separately at the elections, not joining in Broad Party, but by standing as a Revolutionary Party with a Transitional
A variety of commentators, Marxist groups and individuals nationally and internationally support this analysis, including the OKDE itself, the SWP in Britain and its sister party in Greece, which is part of the Antarsya coalition.
Alex Callinicos suggests that `Over-simplifying a little, it (Syriza) is essentially some version or other of left reformism.
Andreas Kloke (a member of OKDE, writing in International Viewpoint, 16 May)
ANTARSYA had not a sensationally good, but solid election result gaining 1.2%. It was the main force on the left that placed the importance of social resistance through strikes, occupations and mass protests, the self-organization of all victims of the memoranda policies, of the workers, young people, pensioners and of the partially “illegal“ immigrants at the center of its election campaign. ANTARSYA has shown the way how social resistance may be victorious through the propagation of a program of actual transitional solutions that are geared to the real needs of the vast majority of the population and aimed at the self-organization of these people, and by adhering to the perspective of the anti-capitalist revolutionary overthrow of the existing political and social system.
In his commentary on Syriza, Kloke argues,
The SYRIZA leadership is coming under attack because of the ambiguities of its election promises from two sides: first, the forces of the establishment can harass SYRIZA to do everything to ensure that Greece remains in the euro-zone, or make SYRIZA also responsible for a possible failure of this intention and expose it; on the other hand, there are critics on the left, pointing out quite rightly that the various promises of SYRIZA leadership are inconsistent and contradictory. It is virtually inconceivable that a Greek left-wing government, if it came about, could accomplish a revocation of the memoranda policies and thus of the credit agreements agreed with the Troika, that are leading to a strangulation of the Greek society, without Greece’s exit or expulsion from the euro-zone.
My own view is as follows.
I am a supporter of OKDE, indeed, speak at OKDE and Anratsya meetings in Greece. In Britain I am a supporter of TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and stand for them at local, national and Euro-elections -while recognising its faults of democratic deficit/ top-down control and its gate closed policy to Marxist/ Socialist national parties other than the SP / CWI and the SWP.It has, though, welcomed, local groups and has an individual membership facility group, and an embryonic branch structure. I am a member of SR, though not in sympathy with the Broad Parties policy.
Dave Hill response (17 May)
Joining Syriza is the strategy of Socialist Resistance and the large majority of the Fourth International, the USFI, as part of its `Broad Parties’ strategy. Incidentally, yet another Broad Left party, Die Linke in North Rhine Westphalia, was punished at the polls this week for supporting big cuts. A number of other commentators have noted how broad parties swallow or eject Marxist revolutionary currents, and often end up voting for neoliberal programmes.
Dave Hill response 23 May
The view of OKDE, the Greek section of the Fourth International, is, like the view of the Irish section, opposed to the `Broad Parties’ line of SR and (most of) the FI. I happen to agree with, for example, the critique of Broad Parties put forward by John McAnulty (20 Jan 2012) in his Book Review and with the FI Discussion Document prepared by Jette Kroman in December 2011, ‘A class answer to the capitalist crises: A transitional Program of action for Europe’
My own view, like that of OKDE, and the large majority of Antarsya, is that Marxists should seek revolutionary Left unity, putting forward a Transitional, Socialist, programme. (Kokkino, which has observer status at the FI/USFI, is in Syriza, and would disagree with this view of mine and of OKDE and Antarsya more widely). This is in fact what Antarsya has decided. Different from the Syriza programme (which itself is far to the left of anything New Labour, the PS in France, European social democracy is considering).
But if Syriza can form an anti-austerity government, then my analysis is that the KKE and Antarsya should not oppose it in Parliament, should vote for those proposals that are socialist, should oppose any measures that retain any cuts, while campaigning for taxing the billionnaires, and pushing / organising the involvement of working class organs/ organisations to defend any gains by means such as nationalisations, workers control, using local assemblies as parallel systems of power.
For Antarsya, In a nutshell, not to join Syriza, but announcing in advance of the elections that it will support a Left government, hold it to its programme, while pushing for a more socialist programme such as repudiation (rather than negotiation) of the debt, nationalisations of privatised industries and the banks.
For Antarsya to continue with its Transitional Programme.