The Third International after Lenin

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reformism and the United Secretariat

Statement: Crisis in Greece, division in the Fourth International

1 June 2012

We publish below a letter of protest from the Greek section of the Fourth International protesting a new policy by the FI leadership – a 'unity' project in Greece and across Europe on a reformist programme - and the fact that this position was produced without reference to the Greek movement. Socialist Democracy fully endorses the Greek protest and sees an ugernt need to discuss both the immediate issue of lack of democratic norms in the international and the substantive issue of a revolutionary programme for Europe and the need for a movement able to put forward such a programme.(ed)

Dear Comrades,

You've probably seen that the "Executive Bureau of the Fourth International" (EBFI) has issued a statement on Greece in "Int. Viewpoint". In this statement it declares itself unreservedly in favor of the previously published opinion of SR, the British section of the FI. Thus it challenges the view of OKDE (the Greek Section) and of ANTARSYA (which OKDE is part of). (My article that was also published last week in IV reflects the general approach of OKDE.) The declaration of the EBFI advocates unequivocally, and with all desirable clarity, the political conception of the SYRIZA leadership, especially its "5-Point Plan". The declaration states:

"We call for the coming together of all the forces which are fighting against austerity in Greece - Syriza, Antarsya, the KKE, the trade unions and the other social movements - around an emergency plan." And:
"Confronted by the policy imposed by the Troika, the Greek radical Left, and in particular Syriza, which today occupies a central place in the Greek political situation, defends a 5-point emergency plan:
"1. Abolition of the memoranda, of all measures of austerity and of the counter-reforms of the labour laws which are destroying the country.
"2. Nationalization of the banks which have been largely paid by government aid.
"3. A moratorium on payment of the debt and an audit which will make it possible to denounce and abolish the illegitimate debt.
"4. Abolition of immunity of ministers from prosecution.
"5. Modification of the electoral law which allowed PASOK and New Democracy to govern to the detriment of the Greek population and to plunge the country into crisis."

There is no space here for a deeper analysis. From my / our point of view I / we would comment as follows:

- OKDE, as the Greek section, was not even consulted before the publication of this statement. This, in itself, is highly irregular and completely unacceptable. Whether the comrades of the EBFI agree with the orientation of OKDE in the present situation or not (and it is certainly their right to disagree) it is a violation of every basic tenet of international leadership for them to adopt a position without even initiating a discussion with the comrades who are actively engaged in Greece itself. For some decades now, when various national sections of the FI have taken actions or developed an orientation which many in our world movement considered objectionable, but which reflected a rightward political drift, we have been consistently informed--by the same comrades who drafted and voted for this statement on Greece--that it is not the proper role of the FI's elected bodies to publicly criticize sections regarding their national "tactics." This was the approach insisted on, for example, when the comrades in Mexico endorsed the campaign of Cuathemoc Cardenas for president, running as the candidate of the bourgeois PRD; in Brazil when the Socialist Democracy current chose to politically support the neoliberal government of Lula in the months immediately after he was elected president; in Italy when a comrade in the Senate voted to fund the war in Afghanistan, justifying this by the need to follow the discipline of Rifondazione; in Denmark when the leadership of SAP agreed with the majority of the Red-Green alliance that it would be OK to vote "yes" on the budget of a potential left-reformist bourgeois government; in Portugal when comrades from the Left Bloc in parliament voted in favor of the draconian EU "bailout" for Greece. (The one partial exception to this pattern that we would note was with Brazil, but here the differentiation, when it came, was extremely mild and took place only after a considerable delay, prompted by the fact that our former section had undeniably been turned into a social-democratic formation and was no longer a section of the FI.) Today, however, when the comrades in the EBFI object to the OKDE's revolutionary policy and want to endorse the reformist SYRIZA "action plan," the EBFI suddenly leaps into action to issue a public differentiation from the approach being advocated by the Greek section. This kind of double standard should be completely unacceptable to all comrades of the FI, no matter what their opinions might be on the substantive issues.
- Whatever one may think of SYRIZA, CPG (KKE) and ANTARSYA, one can hardly deny that the "5-Point Plan" of SYRIZA reveals in no uncertain terms the true character of SYRIZA, that is, a rather right reformism to characterize it politically. It is clear that the political objectives of SYRIZA remain definitively within the framework of capitalism and bourgeois democracy (the credibility of which is, however, shaken to its foundations in Greece today).

- It is difficult to assess the differences between the orientation of OKDE (and of ANTARSYA) and the declaration of the EBFI as merely "tactical." It seems to clearly be a matter of two fundamentally incompatible views—both counterposed political assessments and political/programmatic orientations.

- At the end of each article in "Int. Viewpoint" one can read the following: "The Fourth International - an international organization struggling for the socialist revolution - is composed of sections, of militants who accept and apply its principles and programme." The time has come, however, to honestly ask ourselves: What principles, what program?

- Given the extreme escalation and the critical situation in Greece, which is emphasized by the very declaration adopted by the EBFI, the FI finds itself at a crossroads: Should we support a perspective that can only be characterized as (left) reformist, or do we support a revolutionary anti-capitalism and an updated transition program? All sections, currents, groups, and ultimately every militant will have to take a position on this question.
I would like to add a brief assessment of the current situation in Greece:

After the elections of May 6 a further polarization of the electorate between "left and right" is developing, clearly favoring SYRIZA and New Democracy (ND). On the left everything is turning towards SYRIZA. The left sentiment is still rising and is currently at about 40% (on May 6 it was still at 37%). On the other hand, the intimidating propaganda (mainly from the German mass media) urging that Greece be kicked out of the euro favors ND and PASOK. The present published opinion polls are slightly different from one another but give the following overall picture:

ND 23.5 to 26%, SYRIZA 21.5 to 28.5 (or even 30) %, PASOK 13.1 to 14.8%, Independent Greeks (nationalistic - rightwing, but against the memoranda policies) 5.8 - 7.2% , DIMAR (politically somewhere between PASOK and SYRIZA, a particular phenomenon) 6.2 - 7.0%, CPG (KKE) 4.8 - 5.2%, Ch.Avgi (fascists) from 3.8 to 5.5%, Dimiourgia xana / Drasi (extreme neo-liberal) 2.4 - 3%. ANTARSYA is mentioned with 1%. It may be, however, that the result of the next election on June 17 will be well below this figure, since parliamentary illusions are in full bloom. This should be understandable in any case.

SYRIZA could therefore actually be the first party in the next electoral round. But we still strongly doubt that the formation of a "left government" can be achieved, since there is no suitable coalition partner in sight. KKE will not participate, as everybody knows. DIMAR is one likely coalition partner but that would pull SYRIZA even further to the right. The "Independent Greeks" are very unlikely to join such a government as they are rightwing-nationalist and do not fit with SYRIZA.

If ND and PASOK, and possibly still another party (e.g. DIMAR), are going to form a government, muddling along in the context of the memoranda policies as before, the country will very soon be left with no prospect. There could well be totally uncontrollable outbreaks, more reminiscent of chaos or civil war perhaps. The society itself is on the verge of collapse and cannot simply go on like this. On the other hand, a viable alternative is hardly in sight.
There is a feeling (it seems to me) that the rise of SYRIZA is the last chance of the national as well as the international system (addressed to the Troika, i.e. especially to the German government, but also to the "public opinion" in Germany) to save the situation with something akin to "normal" methods. But one cannot be sure that this exit or escape will work, for various reasons. And then? What happens when SYRIZA fails (or, more precisely, during the time that SYRIZA is in the process of failing)? The most likely variant is a deepening polarization between left-revolutionary and fascist alternatives. Right now the fascists clearly have a considerable head start in this competition, while the revolutionary left alternative is only an embryo. This underlines the importance of following a revolutionary strategy along the lines of what the OKDE and ANTARSYA have been attempting. Now is not the time to be tailing after a reformist project. Now is the time to be building the revolutionary alternative that the Greek people need.
It is also clear that in the future "everything" may well depend on the proper TACTICAL behavior of the anti-capitalist - revolutionary forces (i.e. mainly ANTARSYA) towards SYRIZA (and secondarily towards KKE). It is obviously not enough to say, "SYRIZA means reformism, so get rid of it." Since ANTARSYA itself is under pressure and not very united or strong, a prediction about the demise of SYRIZA is hardly the best approach. The only certainty is that the disappointment will be tremendous if SYRIZA really does come into power and turns out to be incapable of changing anything for the benefit of the people. In any case, the situation is very exciting. International solidarity will be most needed in every respect. This must be radically different, however, from the political support of SYRIZA's reformism. - We shall see.

Revolutionary greetings

Andreas (OKDE)

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