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People Aur Politics

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Salvaging Greece — Lal Khan

Posted by admin On July - 28 - 2013


While change is desired, there is a failure to articulate it. With a strong Marxist current gaining ground, Greece would be at the threshold of an insurrection

The boom in capitalism of the last two decades served to mask the underlying contradictions in society, but not to remove them. The gains of economic growth were not evenly distributed. According to a UN report, the richest two percent own more than half the world’s wealth, while the poorest half of the world’s population own barely one percent of the global wealth.

In 2008, the economic crisis laid bare the obsolete nature and historical redundancy of the system. Greece, in turmoil for more than four years now, delineates this crisis like a textbook case.

While the crash of world capitalism has hit almost every economy, the ferocity of the crisis was most acute in Greece in many ways. In a population of 11 million, over four million have been pushed below the absolute poverty line. Unemployment amongst the youth is 62 percent. The ‘austerity measures’ have deprived large sections of the population of healthcare and other social benefits. Suicides in Greece have risen sharply. The masses are seething with revolt. There have been 29 general strikes in the last four years. Some of these actions lasted for 48 hours. However, Greece is not an exception. Several other advanced capitalist countries are on the brink.

Arguably, in most countries of south Europe, the revolt has already entered its first phase. The process is uneven. In certain cases, it is unfolding with intensity. The pace is rather slow in some other countries. But everywhere the process is moving in the same direction.

In Greece, there is a movement in the direction of revolution. The workers and youth have shown tremendous will to struggle. But confusion over a programme to change society remains prevalent. While change is desired, there is a failure to articulate it. With a strong Marxist current gaining ground, Greece would be at the threshold of an insurrection.

In the meantime, a certain lull in class struggle has also set in because the general strikes did not yield any tangible gains. Still, the mood remains revolutionary. The traditional social democratic party leaders, reformist trade unions, as well as ex-communist leaderships are holding the class struggle back. But the recent struggle over the state broadcasting company (ERT) of Greece shows that the movement can explode again at any time.

The right-wing Samaras government of New Democracy is weak and fractious, staggering from one crisis to the next. It cannot last very long. Sooner or later the bourgeoisie will have to pass the poisoned chalice to SYRIZA’s charismatic leader, Alexis Tsipras.

A section of the ruling class, however, would prefer reactionary measures to SYRIZA’s rule. But this would imply a call to civil war, which they are not sure of winning. They would preferably send the workers to the school of reformism.

A SYRIZA government will have to make one of the two following choices: either break with the bourgeoisie and defend the interests of the working class or capitulate to the pressures from the bourgeoisie.

Tsipras became very popular because he seemed to stand for radical policies. But as he gets closer to power, he is moderating his stance and trying to present himself as acceptable to the Troika and imperialism. His recent visits to Washington, Berlin, and other imperial capitals are evidence of this morphing. He is careful not to promise too much to the Greek workers and the youth in order not to frighten the bourgeoisie, while dampening the masses’ expectations. However, the expectations will remain high. If a Left coalition government led by SYRIZA fails to take the necessary action against big business, it will cause a wave of bitter disillusionment, preparing the way for an even more right wing coalition, possibly between New Democracy and Golden Dawn (a neo-fascist party).

Under these conditions, Golden Dawn would grow on the right, and the KKE (Communist Party) would grow on the left. For a whole period, one unstable government will follow another. Left coalitions will give way to right wing coalitions. But no combination of parliamentary forces can solve the crisis.

A spell in government will be the best way to undermine and discredit Golden Dawn in the eyes of its petty bourgeois followers. In all probably it will not be the form that reaction takes in Greece in the future. More likely a period of right wing government under conditions of extreme crisis will lead to another split in New Democracy, which can fuse with the remnants of Golden Dawn to form a much bigger and more dangerous right wing formation. Even so, the Greek ruling class will proceed carefully, testing the ground through the gradual introduction of reactionary laws and measures to restrict democratic rights.

It may also attempt to move towards parliamentary Bonapartism before imposing an open dictatorship. But long before reaction can succeed, there will be a whole series of social explosions, in which the question of power will be posed. There is a contradiction between the level of consciousness of the movement and the tasks posed by history. It can only be resolved by the experience of the masses. Consciousness often tends to lag behind events. But consciousness can catch up with a bang. That is the real meaning of a revolution. The essence of a revolution is lightning changes in the mood of the masses. Explosions can occur suddenly, without warning, when least expected. That was the meaning of the events in Turkey and Brazil. As the crisis deepens, the mood of the masses is changing. Everywhere there is a backlash against the policies of austerity. This is grasped even by a section of the bourgeoisie. There are definite limits to what people can stand. These limits are being reached.

In the period of the boom, despite overwork and increased exploitation, many workers could find a way out through individual solutions, like overtime. Now that avenue is blocked. Only through struggle will it be possible to defend the existing conditions, let alone secure better ones. Now the psychology of the workers is changing fundamentally. There is a mood of anger and bitterness. One layer after another is being drawn into the struggle. The traditional proletariat has been joined by layers that in the past would have considered themselves as middle class: teachers, civil servants, doctors, nurses, etc.

However, after decades of relative class peace, the workers need a preliminary period to stretch their muscles like an athlete whose muscles have become stiff. The school of mass strikes and demonstrations is preparation for more serious things. With the epicentre of revolution moving to Europe, Greece will be its vanguard.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at ptudc@hotmail.com

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