Socialist Studies Socialist Studies


Greek capitalism is back in the news. The Troika, a group of auditors representing the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, has been enforcing an EU- IMF austerity programme in exchange for loans to the Greek government. This followed the financial problems affecting the Greek economy from 2010 onwards which saw the country on the verge of bankruptcy. Now the Troika looks like it is to be replaced.

The election of Syriza in the January 2015 elections is now set to challenge the terms and conditions of EU-IMF loans. The desperation of so many workers in Greece, four million out of 11 million of whom are at the edge of poverty, led to the rise of populist parties with non-socialist reform policies claiming they would stand up to the EU and German Capitalism.

Not only does the election of the new government threaten the attempts to stabilise the Euro and protect the interests of Greece’s creditors but it potentially undermines the power the EC and Germany to impose their will on other nation states within the European Union. Of the 227 billion of euros in loans from the Eurozone lenders and IMF, 89 per cent went straight to Greece’s creditors, notably in Germany.

When Greece's new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, an “unconstructed Marxist” according to Jeremy Warner of the TELEGRAPH (1st February 2015) gave his victory speech flags were flying high. Supporters of Syriza gathered from across Europe to celebrate an event which they are hoping will change the political landscape of the European Union and beyond. Athens has become a symbol for thousands of so-called left-wing activists, who are coming to Greece to be part of what they hope is the beginning of a revolution. On the Syntagma Square, a group of 200 Italians unfurled a bright red banner "L'altra Europa con Tsipras," it read - "An alternative Europe with Tsipras." (BBC (January 31st 2015) Mingling among the crowd were dozens of people in purple T-shirts carrying the Podemos logo.

Podemos is, politically, the Spanish equivalent to Syriza, and they believe their country could be next for change when they hold general elections later this year. Tens of thousands of their supporters recently took part in a rally in Madrid under the banner “March for change”. Revolutionary Socialist change, though, will not come about through Podemos anymore than it will come through Syriza. Ironically the anti-EU DAILY TELEGRAPH and its journalists, like Jeremy Warner, actually support Tsipras as a means to end the “European project”!!!!

The demonstrators in Spain see the outcome of the Greek elections as a sea change in European politics. For the capitalist left there is the possibility that the political programme and policy of Syriza could be reflected in future political success in Spain, Portugal and Italy. They wish. Unfortunately for the capitalist left it will all end in tears. Greece's new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras and his government will administer the economy; negotiate the best they can with the Troika or leave the EU and implement economic policies only in the interest of Greek capitalism and the capitalist class not the working class majority. If there is social unrest the government will use force and state violence just as previous governments did.

Under capitalism the working class might create all the social wealth but they are an exploited class cut off from the means of production and distribution. These are owned privately by the capitalist class which al governments must serve; that is, protect their property and deal with foreign capitalists and their governments the best they can. Of course there is brinkmanship. Already the Greek government is apparently making overtures to Russia; perhaps the use of the Souda naval port current used by NATO for the Russian navy which would not go down well with Brussels. But this politics has nothing to do with the working class. Workers have no interest in the EU any more than they have with Greek capitalism. Workers, as Marx noted in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, “have no country”.

And increasingly the ruling government in Greece will come into conflict with trade unions and the working class generally. Under capitalism it can be no other way. Syriza is not a socialist party nor is it’s analysis of capitalism a Marxist one. It’s radicalism is bogus and its popularism will soon become unpopular leading to resentment cynicism and anger from the working class once the Party can no longer blame the EU, corruption and the policies of previous government for Greece’s austerity and the abject poverty and unemployment millions of Greeks are currently living under.

More importantly the Syriza Party were voted into power by a non-socialist working class whose allegiance could swing either to the fascists or support for military intervention. The result is not socialism but a political atmosphere similar to Chile in 1973. And Syriza are opportunists. Syriza has chosen as its coalition partner a group called Independent Greeks. They're a centre-right anti-immigration party whose only common ground with Syriza is their shared opposition to the policies of austerity. On pretty much everything else they disagree and eventually that disagreement will come to the surface in a split and perhaps new elections which might bring back the old regime.

Without any evidence, we are told by the journalist, Gabriel Gatehouse, that the Syriza Party are supported by “Middle-class Marxists” (The middle-class voters who can't resist Karl Marx, BBC News, 31st January 2015). Gabriel Gatehouse believes a revolution is taking place in Greece; a shift in politics and political allegiance throughout society away from the dominant free trade, free market economic liberalism of Germany and the other EU countries:

Where were the firebrands? Where the militant Marxists? Why were these polite, middle-class professionals waiting for Alexis Tsipras to sweep onto the stage and usher in the first ever radical leftist government in the European Union?... They were what would, in any prosperous nation, constitute the political middle ground.

However, the term “middle-class” is a fictional concept much like “the political middle ground”; there are only two classes in capitalism, a minority exploiting capitalist class and a majority exploited working class. And what does the “Marxism” amount to. We are not told. It certainly is not in creating a socialist majority necessary for a socialist revolution and no flags could be seen in Syntagma square with the words “abolish the wages system”. Where, indeed, are the “Militant Marxists”?

The ancient Greeks invented tragic theatre. One of the mythical figures was Cassandra, a woman with the ability to see the future but no one is prepared to listen – a character from the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus. Socialists often feel like Cassandra; our advice to the working class of not voting for capitalist politicians is ignored despite the economic and social consequences. Capitalist governments cannot run the profit system in the interest of all society and the workers will always be disappointed and let down. As the capitalist Left from all over Europe joined in the celebrations the demonstrators played Patti Smith's anthem “People Have the Power” over the loudspeakers. It should have been the Who’s “Won’t be fooled again” where the song ends with the warning: “Meet the new boss: Same as the old boss”.

The tragedy is that the working class in Greece, like the working class elsewhere in the world, has the potential for becoming a conscious and political force for revolutionary change but they presently vote into power capitalist political parties like Syriza. Democracy also began in Greece; however, just as Greek tragedy leads to death and destruction so democracy is a double-edged knife to be used either to cut the ties of capital or to be used to slit your own throat.

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