A brief history of the movement for workers’ self-management in the 20th and 21st centuries. Examines instances of workers’ control in Yugoslavia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and contemporary Argentina.
Worker self-management (WSM) has re-emerged as a major movement in Argentina, particularly this year with over 200 factories organized and controlled by their workers and a national co-coordinator of self-managed enterprises in the process of being organized.
Historically, WSM has been the centerpiece of the socialist project, dating back to Karl Marx’s famous statement that the “workers’ emancipation can only be accomplished by the workers themselves”. In that sense, WSM as the road to socialism stands in contrast to the bureaucratic centralism of the former Soviet Union and the hierarchical system of capitalist management. This essay will briefly survey the great potentialities of WSM and then review some historical experiences during the 20th century to point up some historic lessons that are relevant to the current Argentine experience.
Potentialities of WSM
WSM is a truly liberating experience, both in the sense of freeing the working class from capitalist abuse and insecurity and providing them with the freedom to create new forms of social relations of production and distribution. Briefly stated, WSM provides the workers with the decision-making power to:
1) decide what is to be produced and for whom
2) safeguard employment and/or increase employment
3) set priorities in what is produced
4) define the nature of who gets what, where and how
5) combines social production and social appropriation of profit
6) creates solidarity of class at the factory, sectoral or national/international level
7) democratizes the social relations of production.
The Argentine experience with WSM exemplifies some of these potentialities. In Brukmann textile factory and Zanon ceramic factory as well as in the WSM enterprises established by the unemployed workers in Solano and elsewhere, productive and distributive decisions are taken by assembly of all the workers (see Interviews by Mario Hernandez 23-08-02 FSM (La Casona). The high degree of solidarity is evidenced in the popular slogan “an attack on one, is an attack on all (“Tocas uno, Tocas todos”).
Historically, the realization of the potentialities of WSM have encountered both limited successes and failures. It is useful to review some of the major experiences of WSM in different historical contexts.
Historical Cases of WSM: Yugoslavia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru
WSM has taken hold in several countries at different moments and contexts. We will examine four cases: Yugoslavia, Chile, Bolivia and Peru and highlight the strengths and weaknesses.
WSM was the official doctrine of Yugoslav socialist regime between 1950 and the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation. Throughout Yugoslavia all the major factories were under the system of WSM, resulting in greater influence over production and income than anywhere else in the former socialist countries. Free health and education and secure employment was guaranteed by WSM. The WSM movement in Yugoslavia emerged from the defeat of fascism, Yugoslavia’s President Tito’s break with Stalin and the Soviet Union and the socialist revolution. The WSM went through several phases, in the first period 1950-64 it operated at the factory level as the Communist Party controlled national policy; from 1965-1972 under “market reform”, the WSM factories began to be effected by capitalist pressures, resulting in greater social inequalities between factories and economic sectors as well as unemployment; the period between 1973-1990 the encroachment of ethnic chauvinism, IMF pressures and the degeneration of the Yugoslavia Communist Party led to the eventual demise of WSM.
The early success of the WSM in Yugoslav experiment with WSM for over 30 years was due to the mass struggle which preceded WSM during the anti-fascist, anti- Stalinist period 1940-1950, which politicized and mobilized the working class and raised class consciousness and organization. The limitations of Yugoslav WSM was that it was always limited by the fact that the State remained in the hands of the Communist Party which limited the extent of WSM to the local or sectoral level, and thus created a dual system of power between the bureaucratic state and the factory-based WSM movement. When the bureaucracy turned toward the market and later to ethnic politics it undermined the system of WSM.
In Chile, under the Allende government (1970-73) over 125 factories were under some system of WSM. About half mostly controlled by public functionaries, the other fifty percent by commissions of workers in the factories. Studies demonstrated that the factories under WSM were much more productive, efficient and with less absenteeism than state run factories under centralized management. The WSM movement created “cordones industriales” industrial belts which coordinated production and self-defense against capitalist attacks. In the successful factories controlled from below, the party and trade union disputes were subordinated to the power of the popular assemblies in which all workers in the factory participated. WSM defended the factories from closure, protected workers’ employment and vastly improved social conditions or work. Most importantly it raised workers’ political consciousness. Unfortunately, the WSM took place under a parliamentary socialist regime and a capitalist state. WSM created a situation of dual power between the workers’ power embodied in the factories and the cordones and on the other hand the military-bourgeois state apparatus. The Allende Government tried to balance between the two power centers, refusing to arm or to repress the workers. The result was the military coup of 1973 which led to the overthrow of Allende, the destruction of the WSM movement. The lesson was clear: as the success of the WSM advanced and spread throughout the country, the displaced capitalist and landlord class turned toward violence and repression to recapture control over the means of production. The capitalists first attempted to sabotage distribution and production via truckers strikes,then they attempted to block financing and finally they turned to the military and dictatorship. The WSM attempted to pressure Allende to act more decisively in the face of the imminent threat but he was blindly committed to parliamentary procedures and the WSM was defeated. If the WSM in Chile as in Yugoslavia had moved from the factory or sectoral bases of organization to the taking of state power, the workers would have been in a superior position to defend the system of WSM.
The system of worker self-management in Bolivia emerged from the popular revolution of 1952, when an alliance of class conscious miners, peasants and nationalist petty bourgeois overthrew the oligarchical pro-imperialist regime. In the first phase of the revolution, the workers and peasant militias were able to destroy the army, expropriate the mines and realize the redistribution of land. The armed militias of the miners, through their assemblies and unions however, were geographically and politically confined to their mountain strongholds and isolated from the mass of the peasantry, which came under the influence of the nationalist petit bourgeoisie (Nationalist Revolutionary Movement) which gained control of the government and reorganized a bourgeois state. This created a system of dual power which led to intensified conflict in the post-revolutionary period. Throughout the 1950s the Bolivian Workers’ Movement took militant action, general strikes, armed confrontations, to defend the gains of the Revolution, while the MNR bureaucratized the nationalized mines, establishing a State Mining Company, COMIBAL which effectively took control away from the workers while retaining state ownership. In 1964, a military coup led temporarily to the military occupation of the mines. However, a worker-peasant alliance with the progressive military government of J.J. Torres in 1970 led to the re-emergence of popular power in the Popular National Assembly. While the Assembly approved of revolutionary legislation, it did not have state power. A military coup led by General Banzer dissolved the Assembly and effectively destroyed the miners’ militias.
The lessons from the Bolivian experience are that WSM in a single sector (mining) is vulnerable if it does not form alliances with other popular sectors; that a Popular Constituent Assembly without the backing of the state or of popular militia is vulnerable to a coup. The third lesson is that the statification of worker-controlled factories may result in petit-bourgeois technocrats and bureaucrats taking control away from the workers and centralizing it in the state apparatus, and running the public enterprise like a capitalist firm.
Peru: The Revolution From Above
In 1967 a group of progressive nationalist military officers led by General Velasco Alvarez took power. The new regime expropriated a large number of mines, factories and plantations and established two types of innovations: industrial cooperatives and industrial communities. Industrial cooperatives were based on management-workers participation and led to significant growth of productivity and socio-economic benefits, but eventually management took over the policymaking and marginalized or co-opted the worker representatives. The industrial communities were supposedly a form of co-participation between military officials, and workers, but de facto, the military officials retained the centralized control of the previous capitalist ownership as well as the salary differentials. As workers realized that co-operatives and industrial communities organized from above would not operate in their interests, they organized to democratize them and to secure greater control and equity, frequently resorting to strikes against their own enterprises. Eventually, under neo-liberal rulers, the factories and plantations were re-privatized and the progressive labor legislation under Velasco was abrogated. The lesson from Peru is that statification or nationalization from above reproduces the hierarchical structure of capitalism and marginalizes the role of the workers in the public sector. The social gains achieved by the workers in the struggle are then reduced by the bureaucrats in charge, who operate with capitalist criteria. Corruption and mismanagement by the bureaucrats and the lack of workers’ control leads to de-nationalization and privatization.
The Historical Experiences and Argentina
Several important lessons of past experiences with WSM are relevant to Argentina’s growing number of worker-managed factories.
1) The success of past worker-managed factories was based on horizontal structures based on popular assemblies. The successful operations in Chile and Yugoslavia were based on workers’ councils and factory assemblies.
2) The success in one sector, mining in Bolivia, manufacturing in Chile depended on extending the WSM to other sectors and alliances with other classes, a phenomena that the worker vanguards failed to consummate.
3) Local victories and dual power heightened class consciousness and improved working conditions, but also provoked violent reaction from the ruling classes. The failure of the WSM in Bolivia and Chile to move from local power to state power led to bourgeoisie repression via military coups: counter power or dual power is an unstable and temporary situation, which inevitably is resolved by the question of state power.
4) The context for the growth of WSM movements varies from country to country and under specific conditions. In Yugoslavia, WSM began with the workers’ anti-fascist war, and culminated in the massive occupation of factories under the Yugoslav Communist Party. In Chile, WSM was a result of both government policy and direct intervention of workers to prevent capitalist lockouts and sabotage. In Bolivia, WSM grew out of a popular anti-oligarchical insurrection. Only in Yugoslavia did WSM consolidate power over 3 decades, and that is largely because the state power was in the hands of a non-Stalinist Communist Party. WSM, in order to consolidate and operate needs to move from the local to the national, from the factory to the state, from the employed industrial workers to the unemployed, the youth, women, ethnic minorities.
Argentina’s growing WSM movement, particularly in the occupied factories and in the enterprises organized by the unemployed workers’ movements the MTD have opened a wide-ranging debate on the structure, trajectory and politics of the movement. In the debate at the Foro Social Mundial on “Emprendimentos Productivos, Propuestas Obreras Desocupacion y el Cierra de Empresas” it became clear from the interventions of workers from Grissinoppoli and Bruckman, that the workers’ takeover was the result of necessity not ideology: the workers had not been paid for several months and when paid their pay was reduced; the owner was emptying the factory and dismantling machinery, etc. In other words, the worker takeover was a desperate act to save their jobs. Once the factories were organized, then the more political workers in general assemblies proposed that the workers organize production and sales without the capitalists. Eventually, the move toward a WSM factory attracted economists and professionals who offered technical advise on how to operate the factory. In the course of these developments, as Ivana from Grissinoppoli stated, “we are learning every day…the struggle is long…but we are learning to jump over the obstacles because we listen and we understand each other”. The struggle and the practice of self-management is creating the class consciousness as much after the factory occupations as before. The Argentine experience with WSM in the unemployed workers is also leading to new forms of social organization popular assemblies. As Valdemar (MTD-Solano) noted, the guiding organizational principles of the movement is direct democracy, horizontality, and autonomy. The distrust of representative democracy is based previous barrio and trade union experiences where leaders were bought off or corrupted. As our previous discussions of experiences with WSM in Peru and Bolivia suggests this is a real problem.
The WSM movement particularly among some of the activists in the occupied factory are aware of the need for solidarity with other movements and popular sectors. For example, faced with the threat of factory eviction by the state, they have called on the neighborhood assemblies, and the unemployed movement to join in the defense of their workplace. The growing coordination between the factory occupation workers’ movement and the unemployed workers has increased, particularly in moments of crises, and in the face of growing state repression. As Hector (MTD from Guernica) recognized the threat of militarization is imposing the need for the broadest popular unity between factories, assemblies and MTD.
Some of the leaders of the unemployed workers’ movement not only understand the limits of islands of WSM in a capitalist market, but also project the need for actively participating in the general political struggle at the national level. As Martino of the MTR stated at the FSM meeting, besides resolving immediate problems and recognizing the importance of construction of local power it is important to understand that this local power is linked to the construction of a political force, a national social force. The building of alliances between the unemployed workers’ movement and the WSM in the occupied factories is described by a delegate from Zanon in the following synoptic terms. During the initial factory occupation, the organized unemployed workers’ joined in defending the ceramics plant from efforts by the former owners to forcibly dislodge the workers, calling on the police. The mass united resistance effectively blocked them. Subsequently, Zanon ceramics a well known and respected product expanded production, and hired ten workers from among the unemployed in the movement.
The Argentine WSM movement organized two national events, a march on August 24, 2002 involving over 3,000 workers and delegates from the occupied factories supported by dissident trade union leaders demanding workers’ control over all the productive units which are bankrupt, are not meeting their payroll, firing workers, or selling off machinery and equipment.
The WSM movement however, is in the midst of a major debate over several issues:
1) the form of the occupied enterprise cooperative or worker self-managed?
2) the alliances, should it include politicians from the traditional parties or no parties (autonomy) or only Left parties (and which ones)?
3) the perspective should the focus be exclusively local, regional, sectoral or national?
Previous historical experiences provide us with some guidelines.
First alliances with traditional parties have served to co-opt leaders, to isolate WSM from the larger struggle and to bureaucratize the internal structure. The most successful alliances are horizontal alliances, networks of workers and popular classes organized in assemblies and with a class perspective toward transforming state power.
Second, while cooperatives have improved their members’ living standards, they have usually found a niche in the capitalist system. At a time when close to 60% of the population is below the poverty line and 4 million children of the 8 million below the poverty line ,are suffering from malnutrition and related illnesses, the political need is to go beyond “islands” of success to basic changes in the socio-economic structure a transformation from savage capitalism to a worker self-managed socialism.
Thirdly, while the autonomy of the unemployed and WSM movements is positive insofar as it rejects state tutelage and party control, it would be an error to reject allying with Left parties and other social movements that share common goals and tactics of direct action. The example of Bolivia with its highly class-conscious but isolated mining sector is an example of how autonomy carried to its extreme, is self-defeating.
Fourthly, there are at best between 100,000 and 200,000 unemployed worker organized and in action approximately 5 to 6 million unemployed and underemployed who are unorganized.
The success of the political and social organization of the popular classes in WSM and unemployed movements as we have seen in other countries, provokes repression and violence by the ruling classes. At some point the movements, as they grow and gather momentum, will have to establish mechanisms of self-defense and many forms of resistance, to avoid the fate of the WSM movements in Chile and Bolivia.
The key to the success of the WSM in Argentina depends on deepening the ties to the existing networks, with the neighborhood assemblies, the progressive trade unionists, and the organization of the unorganized. Unity of action is of the highest priority as the crises deepens, factory closings multiply and repression increases. The basic policy of solidarity “tocas uno tocas todos” is a good starting point toward the task of creating a national political movement capable of challenging state power.
James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer
A few facts are enough to show the horror of the situation facing the migrants:
- On 27 August, in Austria near the Hungarian border, 71 bodies (including 8 women and 4 children) were discovered in an advanced state of decomposition, locked into a lorry abandoned by the roadway;
- A few days later, the body of a little boy of three, drowned at the same time as his mother and brother, was washed up on a beach at Bodrum in Turkey.
These were both cases of migrants from Syria fleeing the nightmare of four years of war. This phenomenon of refugees has now been globalised on an unprecedented, going well beyond the exoduses of the worst years of the 20th century.
Propaganda and solidarity
One thing about this is striking. The media are not trying to hide the unbearable horror of the situation. On the contrary, they are headlining it and are coming up with more and more shocking images, like that of the little boy on the beach. Why?
In fact, the bourgeoisie is exploiting, for the purpose of its propaganda, both the barbarism for which it is itself responsible, and the feelings of indignation it provokes, and the spontaneous expressions of solidarity between local working people and migrants which in the last few months has begun to develop in several parts of Europe. The propaganda is aimed at strangling at birth any possibility of independent thought and to instil nationalist ideology in a more insidious way. In the eyes of the ruling class, left to themselves, proletarians in Europe are acting in a curious and even irresponsible way: they are helping and supporting the migrants. Despite the permanent ideological bombardment, we find that very often when these proletarians are in direct contact with the refugees, they bring them what they need to survive – food, drink, blankets – and sometimes even take them in to their homes. We have seen such examples of solidarity in Lampedusa in Italy, Calais in France and a number of cities in Germany and Austria. When, after being hassled by the Hungarian state, train loads of refugees have arrived at the stations, the exhausted migrants have been welcomed by thousands of people offering them support and material aid. Austrian rail workers have worked extra hours to transport the refugees towards Germany. In Paris, thousands demonstrated on 5 September to protest against the treatment of the refugees. They raised slogans like “we are all children of migrants”.
Faced with such massive and international expressions of solidarity from the civil population, when the main concern of the state has been to intimidate the refugees and keep them under control, the ruling class has had to react. Almost everywhere the bourgeoisie has had to modify the anti-immigrant discourse of the last few years and adapt to the situation. In Germany, the turn-around of the bourgeoisie has helped it to strengthen the image of the country as a very advanced democracy, to exorcise the ghosts of the past in response to those of its rivals who never miss an occasion to refer to Germany’s dark history. What’s more, it’s the trauma of the Second World War which explains the sensitivity of the German proletariat to the question of refugees. The German authorities have had to suspend the Dublin agreement which calls for the deportation of asylum seekers. In the eyes of the world’s migrants, Angela Merkel has become the champion of Germany’s openness and a model of humanity. In Britain, David Cameron has had to modify his hard line stance, along with the worst right wing tabloids which up till now have been describing migrants as a threatening and sub-human horde. For the bourgeoisie, one of the key issues has been the need to hide the fact that there are two totally antagonistic logics at work here: capitalist exclusion and ‘every man for himself’ versus proletarian solidarity; a dying system sinking into barbarism versus the affirmation of a class which bears within itself the future flourishing of humanity. The bourgeoisie cannot avoid reacting to the real feelings of indignation and solidarity which are appearing in the central countries.
The spectacular explosion in the number of refugees
The situation is not totally new. In 2012, the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) was already counting 45.2 million “displaced” people and was ringing the alarm bells about this growing human disaster. In 2013, 51.2 million were fleeing various kinds of horror. The threshold of 50 million had thus been crossed for the first time since the Second World War. The HCR explained this as the result of “the multiplication of new crises” and “the persistence of old crises which never seem to die down”. The year 2015 is about to mark a new record: 60 million refugees for Europe alone. Since January, appeals for asylum have increased by 78%. In Germany, according to the minister of the interior, these appeals have quadrupled, reaching the record figure of 800,000. Macedonia has declared a state of emergency and closed its borders. Officially, more than 2800 of these exiles, men, women and children, have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last few months. In Asia, the phenomenon is also massive. For example, a growing number of people have been fleeing repression and persecution in Myanmar and desperately seeking refuge in other southeast Asian countries. In Latin America, criminality and poverty have reached such levels that hundreds of thousands of people are trying to get to the USA. A goods train which goes from the south of Mexico to the north, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, has been regularly carrying thousands of migrants. They run the risk not only of falling from the carriage roofs or being thrown off in the tunnels, but also of being assaulted by the authorities; they are above all at the mercy of the drug gangs or other bandits who ransom them, rape them, kidnap women for prostitution, and as often as not kill them. And for those who have the fortune to get through all this, all along the US frontier they face a wall of barbed wire policed by armed guards who don’t hesitate to shoot at them.
In fact, the hypocritical and civilised speeches of the democratic states go very well with the nastiest and most xenophobic rants. The first encourages feelings of powerlessness, the second of fear. Both obstruct any real reflection, any real development of solidarity.
A phenomenon accentuated by the reality of decomposition
Entire zones of the planet are being devastated and made uninhabitable. This is particularly the case for the regions linking Ukraine to Africa via the Middle East. In certain of these war zones, half the population is in flight and are being held in gigantic camps, at the mercy of the most unscrupulous traffickers, organised on an industrial scale. The real cause of this hell is the decay of the world system of exploitation. The breadth of the refugee phenomenon is a clear expression of the downward spiral of capitalism, which brings in its wake pogroms and violence of all kinds, growing pauperisation linked to the economic crisis, and ecological catastrophes. Of course wars, crises and pollution are not new. All wars have led to people fleeing to save their lives. However, the intensity of these phenomena is growing all the time. Up until the First World War, the number of refugees remained relatively limited. The war then brought the beginning of massive displacements, ‘population transfers’ etc. This spiral took on a whole new dimension with the Second World War, when the number of refugees reached unheard-of levels. Then, during the Cold War, the numerous proxy wars between east and west generated a significant number of refugees, as did the famines in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 70s and 80s. But since the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 a veritable Pandora’s box has opened up. The antagonism between the two imperialist blocs imposed a certain order and discipline: most countries obeyed the diktats of their respective bloc leader, the US or Russia. The wars of this period were inhuman and murderous, but in a sense they were ‘ordered’ and ‘classical’. Since the collapse of the USSR, growing instability has given rise to a multiplication of local conflicts, to all sorts of shifting alliances. Conflicts have gone on and on, resulting in the disintegration of states and the rise of warlords and gangsters, in the dislocation of the entire social fabric.
In addition, the contradictions between the imperialist powers (marked by the development of ‘every man for himself’, in which each nation plays its own imperialist card with increasingly short-term objectives), have led the latter to make military interventions in an increasingly regular, almost permanent manner. Each of the big powers support this or that mafia clique or warlord, this or that increasingly irrational band of fanatics, in the defence of their imperialist interests. What dominates in capitalist society today is the disintegration of entire regions, where the most crying expressions of social decomposition can be seen: whole regions controlled by drug gangs, the rise of Islamic State with its barbaric atrocities, etc.
The bunkerisation of the great powers
The states which bear the main responsibility for all this social, ecological and military chaos have at the same time become real fortresses. In a context of unemployment and chronic crisis, security measures are being stepped up to a drastic degree. States have become ‘bunkerised’. Only the most qualified migrants are allowed in to be exploited, to lower the cost of labour power and create divisions within the proletariat. The majority of refugees and migrants, the ‘undesirable’ ones, those reduced to misery and starvation, are cynically enjoined to stay where they are and die without inconveniencing anyone. The northern states have literally chased them into a corner, as in the case of France with its ‘Jungle’ near the Channel Tunnel at Calais. Gangrened by a crisis of overproduction, capitalist society can no longer them any perspective. Instead of opening up, the doors are being closed: states are barricading their frontiers, electrifying fences, constructing more and more walls. During the Cold War, the time of the Berlin Wall, there were about 15 walls defending frontiers. Today more than 60 have been built or are being constructed. From the ‘apartheid wall’ raised by Israel in the face of the Palestinians, to the 4000 miles of barbed wire separating India from Bangladesh, states are falling into a real paranoia about security. In Europe, the Mediterranean front is littered with walls and barriers. Last July, the Hungarian government began construction of a four meter high razor wire fence. As for the Schengen space in Europe, and the work of the Frontext agency or Triton, their industrial-military effectiveness is formidable: a permanent fleet of surveillance and war ships there to prevent refugees from crossing the Mediterranean. A similar military machine has been set up along the Australian coastline. All these obstacles seriously raise the mortality rate among refugees, who are forced to take more and more risks to get past them.
The cynicism of the bourgeoisie
On the one hand, the bourgeois state is barricading itself in. It feeds to the maximum the warnings of doom coming from the most xenophobic populist parties, sharpening hatred, fear and division. Themselves facing deteriorating living conditions, the weakest sections of the proletariat are hit full on by this nationalist propaganda. In a number of countries there have been anti-migrant marches, physical attacks, arson attack on refugee centres. The refugees are the target of campaigns against ‘foreigners who threaten our way of life’. The state legitimises all this by setting up internment camps (over 400 in Europe), deporting those it can, patrolling the frontiers.
On the other hand, this same bourgeoisie fakes its indignation through the voice of politicians who talk about the ‘moral challenge’ posed by the refugees and offers them token support and assistance. In short, the capitalist state, the arch-criminal, poses as their saviour.
But as long as capitalism lasts, there can be no real solution for the migrants and the refugees. If we don’t fight against this system, if we don’t go to the roots of the problem, our indignation and solidarity will not go beyond the stage of basic aid, and the deepest and most noble human feelings will be recuperated by the bourgeoisie, turned into heavily publicised acts of charity which will be used to fuel a more hidden form of nationalism. Therefore, we must try to understand what’s really happening. The proletariat has to develop its own critical and revolutionary point of view on these questions.
In future articles, we will return in more depth to this historic issue.
Nikos Romanos was a model teenager, a good student from the bourgeoisie, son of a well-known novelist, until on December 6, 2008 he was involved in a traumatic event. His best friend, the young anarchist Alexandros Grigoropoulos (15 years) falls under the bullets of the police in the streets of Athens. Shot in the heart, he dies in his arms. This event leads to some of the most intense urban riots of the early 21st century in the West, and Nikos is already there on the front line that same evening, enraged, dignified in the face of the media (total rejection), and respected by comrades despite his young age.
To the rhythm of the backlash from the Greek anarchist movement, Nikos is forever changed by this experience, immediately throwing himself headlong into the anarchist struggle, until his arrest five years later after a double armed robbery in the Kozani region. Tortured, accused (and convicted) of belonging to the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (armed anarchist-nihilist organization), which he denies, while taking responsibility for the robberies (and their need in order to spread anarchy) in a confrontational attitude face to face with justice, like his five co-accused Giannis Michailidis, Dimitris Politis, Andreas Dimitris Bourzoukos, Argyris Dalios and Fivos Charisis. On October 1st 2014, they were all sentenced on to fifteen years’ prison.
[Note: for understanding the crisis in the Greek movement of the past year, this is an extremely important text. For the present, these excerpts only cover some portions of the longer Greek text.]
Systemic crises are periods when major economic, social, and political changes appear, where unique opportunities for action and struggle for subversive movements are created. These are opportunities to the extent that can be exploited properly to irreparably undermine a shaky and unstable power system, but to the extent they are not used, from opportunities for subversion and revolution they can be converted into catalysts of internal divisions and conflict. The forms of action and struggle are called forth into de facto development to meet the new historical situation, and old forms of struggle that show themselves insufficient in front of present challenges obviously collapse. History itself is a challenge for those who struggle, especially for revolutionaries.
Against the current historical challenge we are all called to advance forward. And this not only because we as revolutionaries owe it to ourselves to grab unique historical opportunities and put into practice a revolutionary design, but because if we do not stand we equal to the task, if we can not fulfill our own historic mission, History itself will trample over us, perhaps destroy us. However, as the crisis deepens, nothing will remain the same. Large sectors of the political regime’s bloc deteriorate, weaken, dissolve and some are threatened with extinction, while the attempt of Left intervention in the system collapsed with the Syriza government; new political dynamics will spring up as political extremes are reinforced, and what is at stake is who will occupy the political vacuum left behind by systemic crisis. It is known to everyone that nature abhors a vacuum, and this also applies for politics.
Although it is not at all pleasant to deal with specific political pathologies of the radical movement, I think I have at the moment no choice, since apart from presenting one’s positions, some borderline situations like the present require grappling with issues operating counterproductively in terms of creating a revolutionary movement, issues which intensify and consolidate divisions among revolutionaries- and if you do not get past this political crisis it can reach conditions of generalized political cannibalism, although in some cases such cannibalism is already manifest. An important issue for me is to see in this context the issue of alignment for some or tolerance for others of leftist attempts to transform the system. These attempts clearly represent projects that not only do not promote revolution, but very effectively work to undermine it.
Since 2010 when Greece came under controlled bankruptcy with memorandums, we failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented to us in order to create a revolutionary movement of the quality, consistency, and dynamic range required in order to be a political catalyst to promote revolution in broader sections of the population affected by the brutal crisis. Instead, some invested in political forces foreign to revolution, such as Syriza, hoping that a leftist government would relax the pressure exerted previously by the neoliberal forces of the regime, both to the social base and to those who resist, and thought this would help to improve the conditions for the development of the movement.
In fact this trend- which some cultivated long before Syriza took power and many have always believed- was expressed in different theoretical and practical forms, and was a result of our individual and collective inability to build a revolutionary movement and to shape the terms of a genuine subversive struggle. As the rise of Syriza to power was the result of the defeat of social resistance in the early years of the crisis, in an analogous way the aforementioned political tendency was and is a result of a political failure of the anarchist space in the same period. And because seeing deadlocks is contrary to my nature and political stance, I think the complete turnaround of Syriza into a neoliberal party totally identified with the lenders and a political bankruptcy which came in record time, can help to finish once and for all with any illusions concerning leftist political formations. This can help us clearly define matters, both as to the creation of a revolutionary movement and for the building of healthy revolutionary relations amongst ourselves.
A review of the last months is necessary to the extent that from previous elections and throughout the period following the coming to power of Syriza, the different perspectives and positions on the left government have served as the main background for a series of confrontations and warlike collisions within the movement. Another factor that makes this review even more necessary are the forthcoming elections [note: those of September 20], where it is certain for some and likely for others that in searching for the “new” political base and project for the movement they will find it in the new political group that emerged against the excess of Syriza’s austerity, pitting themselves as the “genuine Syriza” and using – once again- various crowns like resistance to lenders, in order to demand power.
If we want to see in real terms the creation of a revolutionary movement, we must free ourselves once and for all from any left political arrangement that flirts with power just as the dominant political forces are collapsing; we have to create our own design and help this project find the necessary social support in order to give impetus to the revolutionary perspective.
Syriza coming to power played a catalytic role in highlighting divisions and contradictions, which were mainly expressed through specific events and, as such, were lacking the basis of substantive discussion. And while Syriza went bankrupt politically bringing the third memorandum- which brought to light also the bankruptcy of any arguments from a portion of the movement concerning an attitude of tolerance towards them, by trying to make them seem different from the rest of the political elite, as well as having shared premises with them in certain events and policies- no account of the period that passed has happened, but this is necessary to enter the new period characterized by the bankruptcy of reformism in all its manifestations.
As a part of the anarchist/anti-authoritarian space consistently voted for Syriza in recent years without any political hesitation, it is the logical consequence that once Syriza came to power, divisions and conflicts would accompany many actions and would undermine any attempt at joint activity. A small peak of this division came on the occasion of the referendum. The final culmination of an internal conflict in the movement would have come if there had been a Grexit, which was avoided for the moment at least. And it is important to have some clear positions on what everyone professes, in particular clear political stances, because an explosive moment that might blow up, first of all, the actual subversive struggle has not disappeared from the horizon. And such a potential development in my view, can not be blamed either on power or the “pacified” society. The only responsibility will fall on us, especially on those who whatever their politics, base themselves on estranged authoritarian plans and targets.
But as for Grexit and what it would mean socially, politically, economically and within the country, I refer first to the period before the referendum and the period that followed. If some are pondering why I give such weight to the possibility of a Grexit and its effects, they probably do not realize the historical significance that it will have both for society and for radical forces. And above all, they do not see the assimilative potential latent in such a development. This is a dynamic that can convert a large portion of the movement, in the absence of a revolutionary plan, into reactionary defenders of counterrevolutionary policies aimed at remedying the system on new bases.
Well before Syriza was in power, a part of the space viewed the prospect of a government of the left as an opportunity for favorable treatment on a number of issues concerning the immediate interests of the movement, especially those concerning enforcement issues: the less harsh treatment by security forces in the streets, the better treatment of political prisoners, the softer treatment of comrades in courts were some of the “expectations” that a portion of the movement had for the government of Syriza. Based on the above, it was a consistent political choice of some to avoid frontal political confrontation with the government. And the protests and complaints recorded in public discourses or actions were mild pressure for the government to make a more…left turn- it being not at all obvious that these phrases contain subversive meaning and direction, even if their propagators like to believe that. Even after the agreement with lenders, while the government eliminated every excuse of anti-memorandum politics and acquired a completely neoliberal view, Syriza still enjoyed a peculiar political immunity. Perhaps because, under whatever circumstances and whatever this government does, some still insist that “it is in our interest for it not to fall.”
These “expectations” arrived, onto which were grafted in the previous months several theories about “sharpening antagonisms within the ruling class”: that if Syriza formed a government, it will automatically “favor the development of the movement.” In these cases, the expectation of a possible rupture with the lenders in recent summits amid the referendum and the prospect of exit from the eurozone had so far replaced the complete lack of revolutionary project that it made some who had invested in the probability of a rupture rave about the government’s decision to hold the referendum- until the harsh reality brought them back to earth.
The full integration of Syriza in the neoliberal framework and the void left behind as an anti-memorandum party will be attempted to be met with the new arrangement of LAE (Popular Unity), trying to bring back the illusions about the “abolition of memoranda”, for “tough negotiations” and “conflicts with lenders” and as a “banner” exiting the euro. Behind this new arrangement -with the inappropriate and unworkable policy which I will deal with later- is absolutely certain to crawl a portion of the radical space, reproducing a new base for the position of “strengthening ruling class rivalries for the benefit of the movement”, this view which has been orphaned following the identification of Syriza with the creditors.
What some should reconsider, beyond the futility of investing so much for small political interests (such as managing repression) in one tendency of a political regime that comes to power, is that it also is futile to expect that any difference within ruling sovereignty operate de facto in favor of subversive struggle by covering for the absence of a revolutionary movement. With that in mind, for some, the exit from the eurozone and the EU itself constitute a development that brings us closer to revolution (!). Without any approach to what kind of rupture, who causes it and why, without thinking of its effect on society, without analysis or only deferred analysis of the new situation and conditions that will arise, especially without an elementary revolutionary project for the exploitation of any new developments, any major rupture within the ruling order- rather than making a trench that will bury the system- may well be one that will swallow the revolutionary project. And this might happen because such a development will serve as the ultimate field of assimilation for a portion of the movement, where from anti-authoritarians they will turn into loyalist followers due to a vague political outlook of “exploiting inter-bourgeois rupture and conflict.”
It is always our job as rebels to operate in acts and therefore undermine systemic stability by any means. But when this effort is not accompanied by a revolutionary reason for our focus and prospects, only confusion can be caused both within the movement and in society more widely. And ensuring that the benefits of a systemic destabilization can be exploited in a revolutionary direction, matches the continuous effort to develop a revolutionary movement with a clear design, with sincere positions and proposals to the base of society.
With their “good morning” to the coalition Syriza-ANEL, some people took care to make their position clear to the “new era”, making public their willingness to exit the frame of political conflict with authority. We read about the “deep state” that would exploit the situation (whether for agreement or a break with the lenders) to make “provocations”, thus not only heightening the price for any selection of political conflict against the government, but also to accuse that struggle as a provocation, especially if it acquired violent characteristics. The political scaremongering about “strengthening paramilitary circles”, for the “strengthening of the fascists”, for the action of the “deep state”, was beyond superficial, it was actually hostile to many comrades- especially those who chose not to make any truce in conflict with the central political power due to Syriza. But the most serious issue arising from this perspective is how it is constant and fixed for every possible political development and position-whether this development is a compromise with creditors or a break with them, every choice of violent social reaction to government will serve the”deep state”, the repressive mechanisms, and the fascists. Thus both anarchists and society, if they revolt against the government, will only play the game of “the deep state”, which will be benefitted in every scenario. And so as to “avoid the worst” (e.g. the return of New Democracy to power), it is necessary for the movement to give stable political immunity to Syriza at all times. And if part of society rose in revolt against the government, what would these people do? Would they stand against them?
Regarding the “change” in economic policy from Syriza, for some this would be in the “field of substantive rather than symbolic,” expected to “hit European fascism” and finally, “to tame European capital.” Obviously, this approach does not take account- or does not know- of the initial and current position of Syriza in favor of capital (and European capital) and the system in general, positions which are recorded in the analysis of governmental officials long before Syriza climbed to power (and which were incorporated into the strategy of the government in the days of Varoufakis); and at the level of the necessary systemic reforms needed to exit from the euro crisis, there is a great unanimity of their views with a portion of the international economic elite. And as far as electoral promises go, yes, these were clearly at the level of the symbolic. I refer to these in the text below in more detail.
Regarding the attitude of cops against actions of the radical space, I for one, like many other comrades, can list several cases under previous governments where heads of riot police squads either desperately sought confirmation from headquarters to allow them to “liquidate” us and this without there having flown a single stone, or they have tried to do so without orders. This happened in serious social protests and conflicts-either a single cop found the opportunity e.g. with the chanting of only one slogan, to attack causing a general police attack without any prior command. And never was there any position in the movement where we avoid actions that cause repression. This view just causes laughs because until recently it was ascribed as the official line only of the institutional left. Finally, for some it became a political “line” in the radical space. To protect who? Us?- but we have always had such phenomena from the cops, as I have said- or Syriza? But we never bothered to distinguish under any other government the regular repressive moves by the police, nor did we feel that any repressive policy was based on either the institutional right or extreme right vote of cops. Why do so over Syriza? And how is it possible to judge so accusingly the decision of some people, by demanding that they not march against this government under any circumstances?
To come back to “the deep state” in the case of rupture with lenders -a rupture that could only result from deadlock in the negotiations and would come from the lenders themselves- in such a case the only “deep state” would be Syriza and the far-right ANEL who would impose the most brutal repression to maintain social peace in the case of a major crisis of relations between the Greek state and “the institutions” which could lead to Grexit. And somewhere here we should look for the importance of placing Kammenos in the leadership of the armed forces and the assurance that “the armed forces will preserve order in the country.” From such a position, and some variations thereof, another impetus was given to the conflict in the movement, as shown in smaller and larger examples. And based on the perspective of the “deep state” the Syriza coalition government was given carte blanche for every repressive offensive against militants, as some had the care from the outset to relieve the government of its responsibilities, this government which had “brought under control the autonomised segments of Greek police.” This would continue until the hunger strike of political prisoners dispelled this claim, and then there was unveiled the repressive policy of the government and its political opportunism in its attitude towards the demands of the hunger strikers.
The hunger strike of the political prisoners [~March 2015]
Before turning to the hunger strike of the political prisoners, which I believe was an important political episode with rich lessons and conclusions for the struggle, I say that what I write both in this section and throughout the text, is based exclusively on texts and facts that have been published. It is an historic fact that this strike ended with serious conflicts and confrontations within the movement. But in so much as there were expressed individual issues, attitudes and options, the basic causes of the problems were two: the different political stance towards Syriza, and negative attitudes and positions of some people against armed action. Regarding the latter, some publicly recorded in a text that the fact this particular strike concerned “people prosecuted for armed struggle constitutes a difficulty for many parts of the radical space to get involved”. And that “it was understood” and accepted by a large portion of space how some have given armed struggle “central political significance”. Now who or what organization puts at the center of struggle or has a hierarchy with armed struggle placed as all-important, this is the question to answer. At least with regard to Revolutionary Struggle both myself and my partner Maziotis, in writing and orally in central events and assemblies for what we do and do not consider key matters in the fight for social revolution, we do not consider any specific form of struggle as the most important and we are not recommending to form the “vanguard” of any kind. And because often repeated -until now practically constantly- this filological obsession by some to point out with anxiety the hierarchical practices and methods in the fight by Revolutionary Struggle, is probably stimulated by some kind of political complex of their own, because Revolutionary Struggle could not have given rise to such anxieties. As well, we have repeatedly said that an armed revolutionary struggle is not about weapons or tools like dynamite etc. but the political aims and strategy it has. And the same applies to any form of struggle.
From these two causes came all the other controversies, in whatever way or form they were expressed. The only exception were the anonymous attacks on the differences and confrontations during the strike which were the reason, or rather the pretext, for a coordinated attempt at the political isolation of comrade Nikos Maziotis. And some people thought that the opportunity was given for them to attempt the unthinkable: to isolate him from the organization, separating the comrade from Revolutionary Struggle. From this attempt there may be absent a political starting point, or at least not one included; but to target a representative in this way retains a political character. The attempts to isolate the comrade through mud and filth is finally an attempt to isolate Revolutionary Struggle itself. And such attempts at isolation, at political devaluation of Revolutionary Struggle were never attempted even by the state, save for the first days of arrests in 2010 and the failed attempt of ministerial and repressive mechanisms -an attempt eventually canceled by them- to tarnish the organization and us as fighters, as is recognized even by their own state institutions after years of militant presence and serious tests of repression, how Revolutionary Struggle was too hard for “their teeth.” But some of “ours” had the audacity to try “from within.” And the worst of them did it anonymously, as befits vulgar mudslinging. A futile attempt for those who think to damage Revolutionary Struggle, above all because this is a task too difficult for their own non-existent “teeth.” I know that during the hunger strike some computer keyboards were “lighting up” for their premier chance to “hit” Maziotis. But really I give too little credit to myself and to him in referring at all to this laughable delirium, which only acted to the discredit of its exponents. Apart from some events that are worth mentioning, for the rest of what I have to say (for those who follow this narration), it is advisable to focus on political positions and the substance of events, to look at each political course, and avoid entering the trap of criticism based on style or good manners. And if one sees coordinated attacks against a comrade, one is a little bit suspicious. Because if anything was more surprising than the deficit in unity during the strike, it was how far this was outstripped by some in their rush to attack Maziotis.
At any rate, the hunger strike’s different political positions were two. One political position was the frontal political conflict with Syriza as expressed, at least, by comrade and member of Revolutionary Struggle, Nikos Maziotis. This willingness to make a common struggle against the government spearheaded the hunger strike, had been recorded in the first text of its start, and had long ago declared readiness to collide with any trend considering armistice in war with political power due to Syriza. Obviously there was the hope through this hunger strike to conduct a joint anti-government struggle of all political prisoners, creating the ground for a broader rallying of the movement and joint action against the coalition government that would contradict any tolerant positions for the government emanating from a portion of the radical space- further hoping that the success of such a broad rallying would contribute to the growth potential of a revolutionary movement. As to the texts of the other strikers at the start of the strike, in which they gave the political tone and when solidarity actions began, they did not involve the issue of conflict with the government. Later this issue came from the overwhelming majority of the strikers, like the issue of creating a radical movement. Finally, both on the ground and in the attitude of the strikers, was seen the necessity of a movement of solidarity with all political prisoners and the mistake of abandoning anyone for any reason in the hands of the state. In short, the logic of this strike- which was to attempt a concerted political conflict with the government of Syriza, to attack the repressive arsenal of the State, and to contribute to the development of a solidarity movement for political prisoners which raises the issue of creating a revolutionary movement- was correct. But with this perspective not everyone agreed.
Against the above issues raised mostly one way or another by most of the strikers, some outside the walls disagreed and undermined this strike by their own attitude. The solidarity movement undermined itself by playing up divisions, tending to cause a mood of distancing from “individuals” who made the strike and who were in prison for armed action. I believe, and since it has been some time from that strike so we can crystallize the main problems, that the base problem was the inability to create an expanded solidarity movement with increasing momentum which would support the strikers and would strengthen solidarity for each other and (at least to a large extent) prevent any conflict from ensuing. But as the strike progressed, the solidarity movement took on a descending note rather than strengthened and increased participation, an occurrence which so far is without any precedent.
Solely from negativity and their covert polemic with armed action some have made it a given for distancing or selective “solidarity” for some, which determines their stance in solidarity issues concerning why someone is imprisoned, driven by some kind of political insecurity lest their sympathy be attributed to the choice of armed action or lest they suffer some kind of political marginalization. Or lest there be imputed to them aiding the policy of armed organizations by giving the floor for prisoners to speak in solidarity events. That is, what they consider as solidarity is only their own view offered in their own speeches and the silence of those who put their crosshairs against the state and repression- in this case the hunger strikers. And this, in the name of “maintaining political differences”, apparently makes it “reasonable” to jump to equating solidarity movements with political prisoners and organizations to whom some of them belong, all while underestimating -and I would say faithlessly- the comrades who sided with the struggle. Does this not mean downgrading solidarity to an issue of petty maneuvering politics? Is this not turning the strikers or imprisoned fighters into use-values to promote the speech of “our group”? And what is this “two-way relationship”, since in advance is excluded some consideration for the different reasons for the present partnership? And what is this kind of “solidarity”?. . .
[NOTE: (and an added note) We tried to paraphrase and summarize a few pages here, but the effort was too much for our limited Greek and knowledge of the hunger strike, as was helpfully pointed out by some Greek comrades.]
. . .If someone thinks that a revolutionary movement can be built on the basis of exceptions and divisions in solidarity, they make a huge mistake. And as this text is coming out, E. Statiri is on hunger strike demanding her release from pre-trial detention, and I express my support for her and wish her strength and liberty, hoping that her demand and struggle will find a wide response. To close, this hunger strike was neither the first nor the last event to help define and clear up the attitude of the radical space towards Syriza. . .
The illusions of the “left confrontation with the imperialist center”
The referendum deserves a special mention, as it entailed a concentration of political positions concerning the government and a number of issues, but mainly because it brought to the fore the confusion caused by the absence of revolutionary design and perspective. Confusion is a non-negligible factor in political analysis, one which often manifests itself in various “erudite” approaches to the “inevitable” clash inside organized power and how this will deterministically benefit the struggle and the intensification of conflict.
The referendum and the voting I analyse based on two parameters. First, on the level of society. Regarding the ‘yes’ vote, I think things are quite clear. Where there is confusion is about the ‘no’ and abstention, and whether one or the other option serves the intensification of the struggle or not. To reiterate some of my positions on the referendum-or to clarify for whoever did not understand or did not want to understand- in the text I published before the summit in July, I spoke of many things, but not a single ‘no’. The social base for much of the ‘no’ that fell for voting, had a social and economic background and was a direct result of the pressure that austerity has brought on a large section of society. For some of those who voted ‘no’, it was the simple “I can’t take any more austerity measures” without political aims or strategies. And some of this ‘no’ had illusions that perhaps the referendum could be used by the government to prevent further harsh measures.
But towards the societal ‘no’ without a plan and strategy, we can not stand in the same direction as we do towards the ‘no’ of the radical space and various leftist parties and factions, which are supported by analysis and fit into some “strategy” for struggle. The approach can not be the same. For the sake of economy, let us remove from the discussion the ‘no’ of the Golden Dawn neo-nazis, since it is openly hostile to the revolutionary ‘no’. The important is to stick to at least some of the ‘militant, political no’ of the movement. What are the strategies and policies guiding this ‘no’? And most importantly, in default of any strategy at hand in the case of Grexit -conditions that would trigger the explosion of new political antagonisms- what would be their attitude, not only within the radical space, but also to society?
Here I make a brief parenthesis to note that what I say in this document does not relate to people, but to political positions and trends like the ones that I see expressed through public discourse and debate. Because of my status in clandestinity I neither know nor want to know (and am completely uninterested in) who are the personal exponents of these views.
A general idea for many on the scene was that the referendum was an opportunity for the “sharpening of class contradictions.” Was this view was based on the belief that the government would be forced come into conflict with the lenders if there was a majority ‘no’? Why should one blind oneself, consciously or unconsciously, in front of the given decision of the government to come to an agreement, not rupture, and to keep the country in the euro, a decision that was continuously expressed at every opportunity by Tsipras? For while it is wrong, in my view, for the society to vote “no” over the false dilemma that the government put in the referendum, on the other hand, it is truly tragic to invest politically in the government thinking it will move towards the sharpening of class contradictions, coming into conflict with creditors of its own will and supporting the interests of the poor. It is tragic to expect the government to go forward in conflict with the EU and lenders by serving the interests of the lower class and socially weak. It is also an illusion that can have tragic results, believing that any contradiction within the ruling powers can automatically boost a subversive movement.
And let’s suppose that they did not understand this and believed Syriza would not sign any agreement. That is, from a mistaken appraisal, politically investing in Tsipras who will “serve the people’s verdict”. But what did they do when Syriza signed the agreement? Where are the “unyielding” who preach “no means no”? And if they really believed in the revolutionary importance of this referendum, then they would have to raise the question of the defense of the ‘no’ with armed proletarian violence against, first of all, this government. And finally, how would they defend this? This new rhetoric of “no until the end” promotes and recommends the continuation of being trapped in reformist directions and new deadlocks. The same rhetoric is employed by the left tendency of Syriza that gave birth to LAE (Popular Unity) which claims the majority of the ‘no’ for the coming elections; various parties and factions of the left and a portion of the anarchist space show the new “alliance” that might be formed, with some of the space to follow this time the “drachma-ists” as the promising trend of the left that will “guarantee” to promote conflict with the EU.
The numbness that followed the Syriza-creditors deal in that part of the movement which promoted the ‘no’ was the result of understanding neither the government’s objectives nor the goals of the European economic and political elite, as well as the absence of any revolutionary design to exploit cyclical crises. This numbness was aptly recorded by the absence of any reaction to the agreement. In this, the conflict in front of the Parliament was a serious political barometer. Not for society, since its absence indicates that the referendum on its own was unable to reverse the social moods about a political confrontation with the government, but for the movement. And if anything should be admitted by all, it is that the few comrades who organized the clash in front of the Parliament saved appearances for everyone. And that goes as well for the political, militant ‘no’ parts of the movement.
At any rate, as I said above, the case of a Grexit (which the lenders would cause, not the government) could have been one that triggered the culmination of conflicts within the radical space. This is because that while it is a development that does not at all promise to promote the revolutionary project, nor even a frank confrontation with the elite, many in the space see the exit from the euro deterministically as “a step that brings us closer to the revolutionary goal” since it “will relieve us from the yoke of the big imperialist powers” such as Germany. The tragedy of this view, and the heavy cost it would bear not only for the space, but also for society itself, we can approach in all its heavy weight if we try to see in practical terms what it means to implement a Grexit. This development was avoided at the last minute but did not disappear as a prospect and possible realization in the near or later future, and requires clarification here and now for all the political objectives and goals of the anarchist space, especially now that the trend of “drachma” has developed into coherent political entity, threatening first of all to digest -if it can swallow- the portion of the space that, until the agreement and the “betrayal” of the ‘no’, was favorably inclined towards Syriza. And this is not only because the situation itself requires a revolutionary perspective, but because first and foremost we need to avoid the height of an internal political drama and second, and most importantly, to avoid the peak of a drama for all of society.
The only rupture that could come and was averted at the last minute, as I wrote previously, was not that “from the government resisting the creditors”, as some in the movement wanted to believe. It would be one with the “partners” throwing Greece out of the euro. And this Grexit, do we realize what it would mean politically, economically, socially? Those who have reduced the exit from the EU to a guiding political direction, how do they perceive the sequel to such a possibility, since the crisis itself brings the country close to exit without much special effort on the part of the left government? And when it became clear that exit from the euro was promoted vigorously and systematically by a large part of the European economic and political elite, that elite of course having its continuity plan for Greece, in what terms and with what targets can we see this development as a positive for “the intensification of class conflicts”, as beneficial for struggle? Or is it that the de facto acceptance as a positive development a Grexit -in whatever fashion and however it arrives- and the belief that by itself it would “liberate revolutionary dynamics”, is this gradually leading to a total societal integration and a resignation estranged from revolutionary projects?
To make clear what I mean, I need to make a return to recent political developments. In short, the government decided to proceed to the referendum when it was at an impasse both on the part of the lenders, and on the side of internal party conflicts. I believe that everyone now realizes the original plan of the government was to exert a pressure on the lenders to sign an agreement in a slightly modified shape from the existing one, believing that they would not reach the edge of the cliff due to the “inability of Europe to risk a Grexit”. With this plan months passed, all the time increasing the financing needs of the Greek state and making it increasingly difficult for the government’s position to hold. As the stalemate deepened, monetary reserves had dried up and the government realized that the “honorable compromise” would become dishonest compromise and that lenders do not bluff, and the government was coming closer and closer to the possibility of leaving the euro, reasoning that it could come as a result of a deadlock on the side of the “partners”, and for which the responsibility would be European, and not their own. This solution, as demonstrated by the events, was promoted by part of the European economic and political elite, with leaders of the governments of the North, but was processed and concretized by all the EU leaders, including the European Commission, which prepared the most complete report dealing with it.
The government wanted an agreement at any price, and only the different policies and the threat of conflict inside the ruling party created obstacles to achieving it. And the referendum’s guiding strategy was for the ‘no’ vote to lose, and not the opposite, since this would legitimize the government to overcome the contradictions inside Syriza and would legitimize the agreement based on the “people’s verdict”. And that explains all the phrases of Tsipras both during and upon completion of the referendum: “From this referendum there will be no winners and losers”, “we do not want a break”, “we do not want division”, “Come Monday and we’re all together “, and much more. But much of the organized movement and political militants, with the ‘no’ of the government, celebrated at Syntagma or perhaps were ravished while Tsipras explained as clearly as he could that the ‘no’ for the government was irrelevant. To tell the truth he did his best to defeat it. And the result was that it brought a very difficult position for the government to manage, which now had to convince lenders that the ‘no’ was, after all, “yes to the euro” as propagandized by the entire European political elites and political parties of the local constitutional establishment, that it was “no to no agreement”, “no to rupture.” . . .
The rupture with lenders, still defended by some former officials of Syriza in current conditions, opens serious questions that must be answered. What does it mean, practically, the Grexit offered by lenders? Generally it constitutes a kind of economic, political and social quarantine for Greece, where things will look more like a failed state with refugees that survives on the medicines and canned foods of Europeans in exchange for a “partial remission of debt”. It is the bankruptcy of a state. This is currently proposed by Schauble and by the European Commission.
A number of useful lessons can be learned through the facts and it should not be skipped, concerning the positions adopted by some anarchists against “German imperialism”, which they set as the peak of their activity. These reflections come to respond, with seriousness and composure, to some questions raised through recent events. Ultimately what does ‘German imperialism’ want for Greece? Within or without the euro and the EU? What does ‘German capital’ want to do in Greece? And where is the conflict of interest with ‘Greek capital’ when the latter wants desperately to keep the country in the euro? Why was Grexit a common target for a portion of the German government and a portion of the leftist government? And not for some Grexit different from that promoted by Schauble, since neither side anywhere saw subversive action as a plan amidst such a development nor was there a different proposal to exit the euro. This is quite simply because it didn’t exist. It is obvious -and this is proved not by a long ideological confrontation, but by particularly stubborn historical events- that some people’s method of analysis leads to problems, since in this way they cannot even deal with reality, let alone try to make predictions. And because each climax of subversive action involves broader proclamation of the struggle to which we invite ever-larger sections of society to participate, each time we aim at something as the main enemy, this is the target that most involves our aims of wider subversive crisis and has little potential to resist that.
Therefore, if one sees as the principal enemy another European state, and specifically its policy in a given period (in this case Germany) where precisely is the revolutionary perspective of a wider subversive social struggle? Is Germany, or German imperialism as is claimed, the main enemy of Greek proletarians? And if German policy did not apply a strict monetarist view and impose on the weaker eurozone economies austerity policies and fiscal discipline, if it followed the suggested direction encouraged by many of the transnational (like Soros) economic elite and many of the political elite (including Keynesians, including Varoufakis), exerting a hegemonic imperialism through policies of redistribution of the surpluses of the North, would it still be the same enemy of the Greeks? Will you find any real basis to it, or it is mainly rhetoric, this German imperialism? And why does the whole mob of rulers worldwide exert fierce criticism of German policy, by charging it with the very fact that it refuses to fully assume the role of a hegemonic imperialist power in Europe, and that this refusal is a major reason for the fact that European crisis deepens more and more? And after all, who places the social and class revolution in a project that can include all the domestic elite, as they apparently also “suffer from German imperialism”?
I am deeply convinced that the comrades who adopted and promoted these positions would do well to review them in light of new developments of class rule in our time and the new features of the crisis, for which methods of analysis imported from prior historical periods are not sufficient. . .
[NOTE: the text continues further in this vein, but as we’ve covered the major events of the past year, this is the end for this selection of excerpts. . .]