Sunday, February 1, 2015

Syriza: For a Workers' Offensive Against Capitalism

Alex Tsipras
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The victory of Syriza, as I wrote in a previous commentary, is not simply a victory for the Greek working class but for workers throughout Europe and the world.  But as with union victories, sitting in the drivers seat brings new hurdles and demands bold action.

The Greek working class has made it clear that it rejects the austerity agenda forced on it by the Troika, the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF.  The pages of the Wall Street Journal and other major journals of US and global capitalism have chided the Greeks for their “profligate” lifestyles.  As always, it is workers who are to blame for the capitalist economic crisis.

Alongside the Troika, it is Germany and Angela Merkel that has stood firmly against any relief for the  “profligate” Greeks. But with Syriza’s victory the landscape has changed and, for what we hope is not just a brief moment in time, the European and global bourgeois are on the defensive. But now is not the time for hesitation.

As in all events of this nature, whether an electoral or trade union surge of working class power, it is not the leadership so much that concerns the strategists of capital but whether or not this upsurge from below can be contained and its desires and aspirations held within the straitjacket of capitalism and the market.

In the present epoch there is little room to maneuver. The strategists of capital are embarking on an all out war against the Greek workers' victory spreading, especially to the poor countries of Europe, Spain where the left leaning Podemos has made gains and where there have been huge rallies against austerity and Portugal, and Ireland where we have seen rising protests, more recently against water charges. In Britain  as well, there is growing anger at the savage assault the old Etonian Cameron is waging against workers and the poor.

There are already rifts between the world’s capitalist powers as the need to stop the contagion from spreading mounts and it is Merkel that is facing some of the harshest criticism for her tough stance against relief for the Greeks. Bloomberg Business Week’s latest issue (Feb 2nd)  warns. “It’s Time to Give Greece a Break.”.  Bloomberg supports Syriza’s leader, Alex Tsipras’ call for a European Debt Conference aimed at reducing the “debilitating obligations” the Greeks have to the moneylenders, Germany in particular. “Unlikethe rest of party’s program…”, Business Week maintains, “…this idea makes sense.”

There have been precedents as those more open to some Greek relief point to the Marshall plan for Germany at the end of WW2 when Creditors forgave 50% of German debt and plowed cash in to the economy. It was in the best interests of capital in order to keep the scourge of communism at bay and the possibility of the Soviet Union becoming a pole of attraction to a starving German working class.  This is the cause of the recent calls for Merkel to be more flexible and support Greek aid, capital is looking after its own interests and  sometimes a temporary retreat is in one's own interests.  The situation in Greece with half of the population living in poverty and one in four Greeks unemployed is what has led to Syriza’s victory and it is in global capitals interest to contain it. We must also not forget the possible role Russia and Putin might play if the Greeks have nowhere to turn.

Sryiza’s program has called for a “European New Deal” promising help for some of the most desperate ,like meal subsidies for some 300,000 families, raising the minimum wage and putting public sector workers back to work.  But Tsipiras has made it clear that Syriza is willing to negotiate with the bankers.  Economist Jean-Marc-Daniel underscored the general mood of the bond holders and moneylenders who determine the policy of governments when he said on a French TV show, that the super rich are not threatened by Syriza’s  election, “The stock market does not usually like the beginning of ‘left’ governments..." the economist said, "....but it picks up gradually as they abandon their program. What is most striking about Alexis Tsipras, is that he is already diluting his program,” WSW.

Yanis Varoufakis
Syriza’s new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has been traveling the continent trying to convince governments to back a renegotiation of the Greek bailout as opposed to an extension of the present deal that expires February 28th.

Varoufakis’ tone has been more confrontational than Tsipras’ who, according to the Financial Times, reassured European and global capital over the weekend that he was not “seeking conflict” and hoped to “reach a mutually beneficial agreement”.  Here we have the “Team Concept” in global politics.  There is no “mutually beneficial” agreement that will lead to long-term security for Greek workers.  Tsipras also phoned Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, representing one third of the dreaded Troika to “reassure him of his intention to reach a deal” according to the Financial Times.  This was a call he didn't need to make. Those of us that have lived through negotiations at the labor/management bargaining table cringe at such a pre-emptive strategy assuring the boss that we're not committed to a fight. It mirror images the approach the labor bureaucracy has to contract negotiations.

While the retreat of Syriza’s leadership is gaining some momentum, Syrizia’s victory has not yet been sabotaged.  That the Greek workers elected Syriza at all is no small matter and the rifts that have started to develop between elements within Europe and US capitalism with regards to Merkel’s intransigence are a positive development even as we recognize it is a strategy to undermine working class militancy and the spread of opposition to the capitalist offensive throughout Europe.

One the eve of Syriza’s electoral victory I shared the enthusiasm that millions of workers throughout the world shared, but stressed that an important “….first task for Syriza and its allies would be to take in to public ownership the banks, financial institutions and the dominant sections of the Greek economy.”  This is still a crucial road to go down and failure to do so can ensure the Greek workers’ stand will be for nought.

In addition, the opposition shown in Greece must spread throughout the continent. There were huge demonstrations in Spain earlier this week and the effects of the capitalist offensive are being felt throughout the continent from Italy to Ireland and the UK.  Syriza’s leadership should refuse to meet with representatives of the Troika whose ultimate goal is austerity and further assaults on the European working class.  Instead, Syriza should be sending, in a joint effort with Greek trade unions, delegations of Greek workers throughout Europe to meet and discuss in workplaces, union meetings and with left forces and all the campaigns against cuts in these countries calling for on an all European conference against austerity and for the building of a continent wide movement against this capitalist offensive.  If Tsipras and Syriza deems it necessary to negotiate with the Troika it should be with the above goals in mind and all negotiations, if they take place, should be open and conducted in the social media we have today that allows for the largest audience to participate in matters that affect all of our lives.

If the immediate results of this strategy would be increased divisions among the EU as well as the Troika and a German retreat with regards to the Greek bailout, this would be a tremendous victory and open up the possibility of further gains, socialist policies and the ultimate demise of the dictatorship of capital.

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BenL8 said...
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