The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Greece:
Reformism’s Dead End

Jul 20, 2015

A number of people who are in solidarity with the Greek working people have been surprised and disappointed by the way in which Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, betrayed the large No vote on the austerity demands by capitulating to them. Tsipras was elected while denouncing austerity plans and by promising to protect the poorest people by raising the minimum wage and preserving Social Security pensions. But that never made him a representative of the interests of the exploited. Moreover, he never pretended to be so.

Tsipras always stood within the framework of the capitalist order. He never contested the domination of the bourgeoisie or even the payment of the debt, that is to say, the right of the financiers to take their cut from his country. He sought to grab a margin of maneuver to restore the “sovereignty” and “dignity” of his country. He demanded, as he did in his speech of July 8th before the European Parliament, “the right to choose, as a sovereign government, to decide where we concentrate and increase the fiscal burden.”

Did he count on forcing the hand of the European representatives of the bourgeoisie through electoral pressure? But the big bourgeoisie scorns being disavowed by the popular will! It doesn’t keep its power through the ballot box, but maintains it by its hold over the banks, factories, the big retail chains and the entire economy.

No doubt Tsipras hoped to be able to reason with the creditors. In fact, the austerity plans imposed on Greece are absurd, because they plunge the economy into depression, reducing its ability to pay them back. Alas, the representatives of the bourgeoisie made use of these plans to administer a political lesson and to show people that it’s impossible to disobey them.

Tsipras, who respects the bourgeoisie, never sought to create a true relation of force between the international bourgeoisie and Greece. One doesn’t have to be a revolutionary to make the bourgeoisie of his country pay even a little. Tsipras didn’t even do that. For example, he didn’t get rid of the tax exemption of the Greek shipping companies or the Orthodox Church. For months, he refused to decree the control of capital and let the rich take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country, driving the Greek banks to bankruptcy.

Tsipras belongs to that category of leaders of poor countries who try to loosen the stranglehold of the big powers. The most determined of this type of leader was Fidel Castro. He went the furthest in his resistance to imperialism because he held his power due to a peasant uprising and because he was able to lean on the support of his mobilized population and on the Soviet Union. But the fundamental choice that Castro made to accept the capitalist order didn’t permit the Cuban people to free itself from imperialism, as we can see today. The attempt of Tsipras, which was purely electoralist, led to a lamentable capitulation.

Oppose the Social Force of the Workers to the Power of Capital

What is happening in Greece proves once more that it is an illusion to try to reconcile the interest of the exploited with those of the bourgeoisie. By making people believe that it’s possible to make the domination of capital over the world less cruel, the reformist and nationalist leaders deceive the exploited. Class war is ferocious and implacable. And with the crisis, the bourgeoisie won’t give up a crumb without being forced to by a mass mobilization and a relation of forces that makes it fear losing its power.

The Greek working classes have just learned that the most moderate demands, such as the maintenance of Social Security retirement for the poorest, won’t be agreed to from above. The preservation of their vital interests depends on their capacity to fight. What we can hope for is that the exploited people of Greece don’t abandon their demands over their living conditions and that they won’t accept the new retreats that the Tsipras government wants to impose on them.

But beyond this vital necessity, the workers in Greece as elsewhere need to give birth to a political force ready to defend the interests of the exploited class, beginning with the necessity of having a job and decent retirement. A political force which doesn’t deceive the oppressed by raising slogans pretending to be radical, but which don’t advance an inch the material situation of the exploited. An example of this are the slogans for the cancellation of debt and giving up the euro currency, which the French reformist left increasingly preaches.

A political party that doesn’t seek to compromise with the bourgeoisie but gives itself the goal of overthrowing it, by having the perspective of the suppression of private property in the means of production and of exploitation of the workers, will know how to lead the fights, including partial ones, which are before them.