FI 17th world congress, TPT1 contribution, 23/1/2018
The past three years
1) After 3 years under the government of SYRIZA, the time has come to see not only what mistakes the leadership of the FI made with regard to Greece but also in what way the line adopted by the majority of the Greek section was wrong and what the prospects are at the beginning of 20182.
2) In the previous period (2010 – 2015), we had an extremely massive movement ready to fight. We had outstanding participation in the nation -wide general strikes, which in the general strike of October 2013 showed the first stages of a pre-revolutionary state. The last manifestation of this mass movement was the NO campaign in the referendum of 2015. On the other hand, we had a Greek left that was able to use very left rhetoric but at the same time promoted the preservation and strengthening of divisions and the absence of self-organization within the movement. There has been pressure from the mass movement and in particular from some trade unions for rank and file proceedings to be given a more prominent role, but so far it has proved impossible to have a general strike without it being declared by the leadership of the national trade unions.
3) As far as SYRIZA is concerned it has proved to be a reformist party with radical speech and bureaucratic function. Its party mechanism has always been controlled by the Coalition (Synaspismos/SYN), and it was structured in such a way as to prevent any real strengthening of a radical or revolutionary wing. The core (the «president’s men» and others too) of the party had adopted a social liberal policy in the 1990s which culminated in the support of privatization and the vote in favor of the Maastricht Treaty. The shift towards the «movement» was due to the pressure caused by the rise of the Communist Party (KKE) and the weak electoral results in the same period.
A party that is struggling to reach the 3% needed to enter parliament is clearly prepared to make more verbal concessions to far left allies than a party that governs and manages a systemic crisis (SYN of 1989 or SYRIZA today). So despite the presence of the revolutionary groups whose strength in congresses was nearly 30%, absolute control remained in the hands of a political power with a history going back decades. The inability to develop radicalism within SYRIZA was also reinforced by the fact that the majority of the «movement» was outside of it. Also the presence of SYRIZA in the labor movement was extremely limited.
Thus, as early as 2010, the SYRIZA leadership was proposing the possibility of renegotiating the memoranda rather than rejecting them.
4) The independent anti-capitalist left has always been strong and militant but extremely sectarian and divided. However, since 2009 with the creation of ANTARSYA, it has become politically and socially visible at a national level – though this has yet to show at the polls – but has a strong presence in the movements. Observing both the inability to increase radicalism in SYRIZA as well as the emergence of an anti-capitalist left with the strength of several thousand activists leads us to the conclusion that our priority should have been to invest in the building of ANTARSYA with the aim to strengthen it so that it could weigh politically towards a break with the management of the capitalist system. An investment that was all the more necessary as ANTARSYA tended to be indifferent to the central issues of the government and to focus mainly on the development of the struggles.
5) The question of the government was in every way crucial. For a long time the dominant sectarian logic of the Stalinist left prevented both the mass propagation of the slogan and the practical preparation of a «workers’ government» with the participation of the left-wing parties (SYRIZA-KKE-ANTARSYA) allowing the line of «the left-wing government» of SYRIZA to dominate. However, with some delay, all the forces of the left felt the pressure regarding the government issue. The majority of NAR, a major force in ANTARSYA, adopted the formula of «Workers’ Power and Government». Even the leadership of KKE faced intense pressure with the massive revolt of the party’s base in the referendum of 2015 when it was forced, even if only for a few days, to change its rhetoric. Of course, the transformation of NO to YES by Tsipra’s government effectively ended every discussion and relieved the pressure on the leadership of the left.
The mistakes of the leadership of the Fourth International
The mistakes of the leadership of the Fourth International in relation to the Greek issue are two kinds:
– the first is the choice of its sources of information which is a problem that has existed since the early 2000s. Credibility was given to information that was provided by non-members of the FI, who presented the dialogue between members of the Coalition and (former) members of revolutionary or radical organizations as an «exceptional event». The leadership of the Fourth International was impressed by the Coalition’s ability to surf the anti-globalizing movement using leftist speech.
The efforts made by the comrades of OKDE-Spartakos (with articles in Inprecor or the NPA press) to call attention to and point out the limitations of the administrative, reformist nature of the Coalition were not taken seriously, nor were references to massive intervention in the movement by revolutionary forces that would form the anti-capitalist left. This trend of selective information will be confirmed later (a statement of the FI about Greece in 2012, without seeking the opinion of the section, delays in taking into account the reality of militancy of the movement and the role of ANTARSYA, and following the summer of 2015, the tendency to focus on LAE rather than ANTARSYA).
– the second kind is of a political order and we could say was in two phases. In the first phase comrades in the leadership of the FI apparently believed in the possibility of the radicalization of the Coalition. In the second, it gradually became increasingly clearer that the largest part of the Coalition was indeed classically reformist, but on the eve of the January 2015 elections, it appeared that the leadership of the FI still believed the SYRIZA leadership would apply their minimum 5-point program even though the Greek section at that time pointed out that there was no way that this would happen, and this was in fact confirmed immediately after the elections.
The same was true of the referendum in the summer of 2015: the leadership of the FI clearly identified the crucial issue, but believed in an aggressive initiative by Tsipras though everything indicated that he was counting on the defeat of the NO (to the orders of the Troika) vote to resign. Thus, there followed a period of incomprehension on the part of the FI regarding Tsipra’s relinquishment of any aspirations whatsoever, even reformist, on the very evening of the huge victory of the NO vote in the referendum. This campaign had been conducted politically by ANTARSYA and the left of SYRIZA.
In this second phase, long before 2015, the leadership’s attention was directed mainly to the left wing of SYRIZA which became LAE after the referendum. There was a clear overestimation of the potential that this left group might have had to influence the course of the government and its internal relationships, or even to constitute a crucial element in advancing the mass movement. The anticipated results of LAE in the autumn elections of 2015 were also overestimated, while the fact that the core of this leftist current is made up of bureaucrats (who served as ministers completely within the party line) who are rallying on the patriotic grounds of a return to the drachma was underestimated.
All this had to do with the general position of the Fourth International regarding the building of broad parties with the participation of anti-capitalists and reformists, and both its choice of sources of information as well as its positions on Greece were based on this. In general, the experiences of this orientation so far have not been positive, and particularly in Greece the results have been extremely negative.
We must not, of course, nullify the positions of the FI such as those regarding the analyses of the dynamics of the mass movement, the need for measures leading to a break with capitalism, the role of self-organization, the central political and economic issue of debt, the understanding of a necessary active solidarity in the labor movement with the organization of campaigns in many countries, and the importance of the government issue taking into account the real situation of the labor movement.
However, we believe that the Greek situation should have been given greater prominence in FI debates and in solidarity campaigns, on a particularly European basis that could reflect the old slogan: «Against a Europe of trusts and the parliaments of capital; Long live a Europe for workers and international solidarity». The main political mistake was the lack of interest in ANTARSYA as a consistent rallying of anti-capitalist forces. Undoubtedly, in the critical period from 2010 to the present day, an ongoing discussion and relations with ANTARSYA as such, as well as with NAR, which is its largest component – and whose significance Ernest Mandel had already realized in the late 1980s (when he came to initiate a discussion with them on the occasion of their founding) – would have given us more opportunities to play a more weighty role in today’s political situation, which is so rich in developments and reversals of all kinds, from the nationalist orientation of LAE to the often separate political pursuits of the organizations which make up ANTARSYA.
Another consequence of these mistakes was the leap forward by the majority of OKDE-Spartakos, which – on the basis of our critique of the errors of the FI in relation to Greece – now presents a theory regarding the supposed reformist character of the leadership of the FI, or even the whole of the FI, which was described as a «corpse» at the local conference for the World Congress.
A deep disagreement with the text of the Platform for Greece (July 2017)
Our disagreements with the platform are on many levels. The main points of disagreement are its over-optimism regarding the period, the shift to anti-imperialism in opposition to the classical anti-capitalism that characterizes our current, as well as the hostility towards the FI. What we consider to be mistakes made by the FI in relation to Greece and SYRIZA are used by the Platform to consolidate its theory that the FI is bankrupt and/or reformist.
Re-reading the texts of OKDE-Spartakos from 2012 onwards, we see a very clear evolution from positions that took into account the complexity of the situation up to the text by Manos (or the part of the Platform that relates to Greece) that is in stark contrast to previous texts. And above all, there is a conclusion that we absolutely disagree with: «we must admit that the leadership of the FI and the leaders of most international revolutionary currents gave uncritical support to SYRIZA and therefore are responsible for having aided SYRIZA in dominating the social outbreak against austerity, thus leading to the passive stance of the working class (…) and, finally, to disaster.» We feel that everything is wrong with this particularly grave conclusion.
The central points of disagreement with the text by Manos and the Platform regarding the situation in Greece are:
1) A lack of understanding about what SYRIZA embodies
SYRIZA, according to the text, has never had an organic connection with the movement. We can accept that SYRIZA is only a limited part of the movement (Leon seems to see SYRIZA as «hegemonic»), but it succeeded in giving voice to this social movement in the elections, although it had little presence in the organized labor movement.
SYRIZA was not the expression of a rising mass movement but an expression of fatigue and deceleration: it is perhaps the main mistake of this text, which stops at the great moments of the movement in 2012. However, there were other strikes – the most important being that of 2013 – and this framing contradicts the statement of the Greek section in January 2015 which underlines the multiple mobilizations of the autumn and winter. It does not realize that without the impetus of the mass movement in the previous years, SYRIZA would never have come to power.
2) The inability to understand what a government in the service of the workers should do: the promise of abolishing the memoranda was, according to the text by Manos, false (though it is under debate whether this was valid from the outset) and detrimental because it favored delegating the struggle against austerity to a parliamentary leadership. But, under the light of many experiences, why is it a harmful for a mass movement to demand that a government should abolish an injustice? On the contrary: we have to imagine what a victory would have entailed, a victory that would have been imposed by the mass movement against the memoranda. A new period would have dawned both on a Greek and European scale.
The text says that in the first years after 2011 it was possible to build an alternative outlook based on self-organization that would be limited but real and significant. Unfortunately, this is wrong because it overestimates the political potential of that time. If indeed there were 2 or 3 moments that could have led to pre-revolutionary situations, unfortunately this was not within the framework of any specific experiences of real self-organization. So the limited possibilities of the period, based on this logic, caused the line of the Greek section at this time to be mainly a call for revolution, while the urgency of the situation called and calls for the building of a framework for a united front for the development of labor, anti-fascist, internationalist struggles, with an anti-capitalist political dimension.
3) With regard to SYRIZA’s reformism, the FI has never denied the reformist character of SYRIZA and never presented it as an anti-capitalist party – see, for example, Leon’s response. Mistakes of another nature were made by the FI, as mentioned in the first part of this text. The leadership of the FI does appear to have believed in a «new type of reformism». Apart from the fact that every experience of the reformist left has its peculiarities, Manos himself recognizes that this new aspect «was not entirely true» … so it was not entirely wrong!
The leadership did indeed support SYRIZA’s urgent program, but distinctly clarified that this required worker mobilization and the initiation of a break with capitalist logic. Did it support SYRIZA (as alleged in the text)? The question is not of interest unless things are further clarified. Even Manos and the other comrades write that, in 2012, they would have supported the positive measures of a SYRIZA government – «If a government led by SYRIZA took measures in favor of workers, such as challenging memoranda, it is obvious that revolutionaries would support them «. Should being involved in the creation or participating in the Greek Debt Truth Commission be regarded as government support? No, not as long as the labor movement were involved in this commission (albeit in a limited way) and this participation were within the framework of a mobilization. This committee helped popularize the issue, even if it remained too much within a parliamentary context, without promoting massive mobilizations around the abolition of the debt.
As for the allegation concerning support for SYRIZA that Manos’ lets fly in his text we must return to the FI text of 2012: «in the face of the Troika’s offensive against SYRIZA for refusing to implement the austerity measures, should we or shouldn’t we support SYRIZA in its opposition to today’s policies … we need to support SYRIZA.» In this context, we are far from supporting SYRIZA’s general line and the problems, from our point of view, were completely different (illusions about the possibility of the former Synaspismos moving to the left, (see the first part of this text).
Should a «labor opposition» to SYRIZA have already been built in January 2015? This is wrong tactically: we should have focused mainly on promoting massive mobilizations to cancel the memoranda demanding the specification of this programmatic point.
Parallel to these developments in the analyses of the Greek section from 2012 to 2017, as they are recorded in Manos’ text about Greece, with a destructive and erroneous conclusion which we do not agree with, there are two final comments:
• The issue concerning the publication and dissemination of information: for reasons of principle and in order to refute the information which was given to the leadership of the FI by non-members (see part 1), there were members of the Greek section who regularly sent articles to the governing bodies as well as to the press of the FI. This enabled us to inform the leadership of the FI and others beyond of our assessments with regards to SYRIZA , the building of an independent anti-capitalist left, what was at stake for the movement, but also of the mortal danger that was emerging with the, at that point, very small electoral victory of Golden Dawn in 2010, and of the responsibilities that it entailed. Since 2012, except for two or three declarations of the section, there has been no analytical text from comrades of the section, while one could read contributions from political shades different from those of the section. There is no explanation for this other than that the section did not feel the need in the surely difficult, but critical period to regularly provide informative and analytical texts, a fact which certainly did not help to disseminate the analyses among the militants of the FI.
• The issue concerning future prospects: one of the reasons that induced us to found our tendency is, exactly, the absence of specific and credible political prospects in Manos’ text as well as in the Platform’s text. With regards to Greece, this seems crucial to us, so as to avert adverse developments and reversals the times are fraught with and also to be able to put forward specific prospects for the current period in Greece.
The balance sheet of the political line followed by the leadership of the Greek section is clear: during this long period, while the Greek section had an open range to prove the credibility of its line, in an exceptional situation on a historical scale, it was simultaneously unable to ‘seize the opportunity’, as appealed for by the Platform in which it participates. Reality refutes it. While the Greek section should have been significantly reinforced, as it was following a political line against the ‘impasses’ of the leadership of the FI, it nonetheless remained a very small group, which does not weigh at all on the political situation and which – what is even more serious than its small size – has lost its stature as an organization that is useful in the unity of action, whether that is within ANTARSYA, in the revolutionary and radical left or generally in the labor movement. Consequently, it is urgent that we implement an alternative to this destructive political line, and that is exactly what our tendency plans to do.
The prospects concerning the period opening before us are particularly difficult and demanding. Objectively, it poses the question of reconstruction: political, and even moral of the movement and of the forces of the left against a background of defeat and disappointment, but also with significant confrontations in the class struggle under the continuing offensive of capitalism within the framework created by the SYRIZA government and Greece’s creditors.
This reconstruction must take place without sectarianism but also without the repetition of the tried and failed venture of SYRIZA, so that we are able, through the lessons we have learned and our bitter experiences, to forge better conditions for intervention and the development of a mass antisystemic and anticapitalist left.
TPT OKDE-SPARTAKOS (gsfi), 23/1/2018
1TPT = “Fourth International Programmatic Tendency”, a tendency inside the OKDE-Spartakos (gsfi).
2See the discussion in the pre-conference debate on the 17th World Congress, including:
1) FI Bureau, A Reply to the Opposition Platform,
2) Manos Skoufoglou, Greece, a story without the distorting prism of Syriza, Μάνος Σκούφογλου, Ελλάδα, μια ιστορία χωρίς τον παραμορφωτικό φακό του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ
4) Christian V, Janek M, Léon C, Penny D, Pierre R,(members of the Bureau and of the NPA), Some points of debate with the platform “Let’s seize the opportunities…”