Workers Vanguard No. 1075
2 October 2015
IG on Greece: Bridge to Fourth Reich
The mass of the Greek population is being ground under the heel of the imperialist-dominated European Union (EU). Over the last five years, harsh austerity measures dictated by the EU masters and enforced by their lackeys in the Greek capitalist government, currently represented by the misnamed Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), have slashed wages to the bone, destroyed jobs (leaving over half of all youth unemployed), starved pensioners and devastated the economy. With the “Troika”—the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund—demanding even more savage cuts, over 60 percent of the Greek population voted “no” to accepting the imperialists’ diktats in a July 5 referendum.
Opposition to the EU and the euro is fundamental to the defense of the working class and oppressed. The EU is a consortium of capitalist powers whose purpose is the increasing subjugation of the working class throughout Europe and the domination of the weaker EU countries by the imperialist overlords, for which the euro is an instrument. As our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece argued in a statement titled “In the Referendum We Say: Vote NO! Down With the EU! No Support to the Syriza Government!”:
“A ‘yes’ vote would be a victory for the imperialist rulers and the Greek bourgeoisie and a terrible defeat for the working people of Greece and throughout Europe. It would be used by the EU to further devastate conditions of life for millions. A ‘no’ vote would help rally the working people in Greece and throughout Europe against the EU capitalists and their bloodsucking banks.”
We of the International Communist League seek to foster common class struggle of workers internationally, in this case especially in the imperialist centers of Germany, France and Britain, against the capitalist exploiters.
In contrast, the Internationalist Group (IG) argued that there was no choice for Greek workers in this referendum. While allowing that a “yes” vote “would mean abject surrender to the Brussels bureaucrats, Frankfurt bankers and vicious Berlin politicians,” the IG argued that a “no” vote was nothing but “a vote to politically support the Syriza government” headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (“Defeat the Bankers’ Diktat, Occupy the Banks and Ports!” internationalist.org, July 2015). But the question posed in the referendum was not “for or against” the bourgeois-populist Syriza government; it was “for or against” the Troika’s vicious austerity program. To have opposed taking a side on this straightforward question was nothing less than a betrayal, a capitulation to the EU imperialists, centrally the Fourth Reich of German imperialism, which holds the whip hand in Europe.
For all its hot air urging the Greek workers to occupy the banks and the ports, the IG’s neutrality in the referendum ran counter to the class interests of the Greek proletariat, the mass of whom voted “no” as a statement of defiance of the EU. Congratulating itself for resisting “the pressure of mass sentiment,” the IG proclaimed that the Syriza government’s surrender to the EU demands in the aftermath of the referendum “validates our refusal to call for a ‘no’ vote” (“The Naked Rule of Finance Capital,” internationalist.org, July 2015).
On the contrary, had the “yes” vote won, the EU and Syriza would have been delivered a mandate to impose even greater devastation on the working class. Instead, the resounding “no” vote and Syriza’s capitulation to the Troika served to expose Tsipras & Co. as the craven bootlickers of the EU imperialists that they are. The IG can’t even get its story straight. Despite arguing that to vote “no” was to “politically support the Syriza government,” they wrote following the referendum that the overwhelming victory of the “no” vote was a “humiliating defeat” for Syriza. Although Syriza was re-elected last month, the voter turnout was the lowest in decades, speaking to widespread disaffection following the sellout by that bourgeois party, which has falsely been seen by many workers as resisting the ravages of the EU.
The IG on the EU: No Exit
The IG argues, “Unlike Euroleftists like SYRIZA, authentic Trotskyists have opposed the imperialist European Union from the beginning.” Leaving aside that Syriza is a bourgeois party, it is indeed true that authentic Trotskyists have always, and on principle, opposed the EU. That has been the position of our international organization, the International Communist League (and its predecessor the international Spartacist tendency) from the beginning. Not so the IG, which from the beginning of Greece’s debt bondage to the EU has argued against its breaking from the EU and euro. As the IG wrote in a December 2010 article titled “Greece on the Razor’s Edge”: “To call for Geece [sic] to exit the EU and drop the euro in favor of the drachma” is “a bourgeois nationalist demand, with negative consequences for Greek workers.”
There are some bourgeois spokesmen and economists who promote “Grexit” as the best way to preserve capitalist profits. Our purpose in calling for Greece out of the EU and euro proceeds from an entirely different standpoint: what is in the best interests of our class, the proletariat. As we argued in “Greece: For Workers Struggle Against EU Starvation Diktat” (WV No. 1072, 7 August):
“Repudiating the debt and leaving the EU would of course not end the exploitation of the working class by the Greek capitalists, nor would it free this dependent country from the ravages of the global imperialist system. However, it would create more favorable conditions for the working class to struggle in its own interests. Moreover, Greek exit from the EU would undermine that entire imperialist-dominated bloc. What is needed is a Socialist United States of Europe!”
Amplifying its earlier theme of Grexit’s “negative consequences,” the IG echoed the EU imperialists’ scaremongering campaign in the lead-up to the Greek referendum. Presenting its own “apocalypse now” scenario, the IG argued that leaving the EU would mean “austerity with a vengeance” and conditions even worse than the devastation that has been wrought by the EU and the Greek bourgeoisie. They argue that there is no way out of debt peonage for the Greek working class and oppressed short of a Europe-wide workers revolution.
At a recent IG forum in Mexico, given by its líder máximo Jan Norden, a comrade from our Mexican section, the Grupo Espartaquista de México, exposed the IG’s counterposition of socialist revolution to a Grexit as empty radical bombast covering for a position that is at best defeatist if not outright reactionary. Noting that Greece has even less national sovereignty today than neocolonial Mexico, he asked if the IG was opposed to Mexico breaking from the 1994 NAFTA treaty that ushered in that country’s wholesale “free trade rape” by U.S. imperialism. Our comrade added: Did Norden counsel that short of working-class revolution the Mexican workers and peasants must endure NAFTA’s devastation?
In the past, the IG has attempted to square the circle by describing Greece as part of the imperialist club, writing: “Along with the Greek tanker and freighter fleet, Greece’s banks are key to its status as a second-rate imperialist power, financially dominating the southern Balkans and with strong positions in the Near East” (internationalist.org, July 2011). Recent events have made a mockery of such ludicrous alibis for the actual imperialists who have trampled on Greece’s sovereignty. Far from being financial heavyweights, the Greek banks were forced to close for three weeks in July while the Troika haggled over loans and debt payments.
In stoking fear over Greece leaving the euro, the IG howls against our pointing to Argentina, whose economy recovered from bankruptcy in 2001 by decoupling its currency from the U.S. dollar. Are we to presume that they consider being tied to the Yankee dollar a better alternative? A country’s control over its currency is an elementary prerequisite for national sovereignty. Yet the IG argues that our use of the example of Argentina puts us “in the business of offering advice on how to handle the capitalist crisis within the framework of capitalism.”
To the contrary. The Greek bourgeoisie has lined its own pockets as the loyal servants of the EU. Grexit would set the stage for further exposing these predators for what they are: like the imperialists, the class enemy of the Greek workers. It would help break workers from Greek nationalism, the lie that the workers and their “own” exploiters have a common interest. This same lie is pushed by the fascist Golden Dawn and other reactionary forces, which currently posture as defenders of the Greek “nation” against the imperialist EU. For purported proletarian revolutionaries in the imperialist centers to argue that it would be a catastrophe if Greece were to break from its subjugation to the EU is nothing short of chauvinism and an acceptance of Greece’s debt bondage to the EU.
For Workers Action Committees!
The resounding “no” vote in the July 5 Greek referendum destabilized the parliamentary order in that country, providing an opening for the working class to come forward in struggle. On the other side stand the Golden Dawn fascists who, especially in the absence of such struggle, seek to take advantage of Syriza’s sellout to its EU masters through appeals to the ruined petty bourgeoisie and masses of unemployed youth. Ominously, Golden Dawn placed third in the September 20 elections with nearly half a million votes.
Seeking to strike a flint to ignite proletarian struggle, our comrades of the TGG issued a call for workers action committees “composed of workers from different tendencies and their allies—youth, unemployed, immigrants, pensioners” to fight to repudiate the EU and euro and to struggle “toward a government which will act in the interests of the working people and be subordinated to them.” Our call sought to mobilize workers around such demands as cancel the debt; for workers defense guards against the fascist threat; and for workers control of food distribution and prices (see “Enough!” WV No. 1072, 7 August). Sneering that the TGG’s call did not include demands for a revolutionary party or a revolutionary workers government, the IG derided it as a “parody” of Trotsky’s Transitional Program (“The ICL on Greece,” internationalist.org, August 2015).
In fact, our call drew on Trotsky’s appeal for committees of action in France in 1935, while recognizing the differences between the periods. Trotsky’s call was issued amid an acute social crisis, a year after fascist gangs had attacked the parliament. Massive strike waves and protests demonstrated the proletariat’s readiness to fight. But it was being held in check by the reformist social democrats and class-collaborationist “People’s Front” policies of the Stalinists. Calling for building committees of action, Trotsky argued:
“Committees of action at their present stage have as their task to unite the toiling masses of France in a defensive struggle and thus imbue these masses with the consciousness of their own power for the coming offensive.... Such tasks as the creation of a workers’ militia, the arming of the workers, the preparation of a general strike, will remain on paper if the struggling masses themselves through their authoritative organs do not occupy themselves with these tasks.... Only committees of action embracing the most important centers of the country will be able to choose the moment for the transition to more decisive methods of struggle, the leadership of which will be rightly theirs.”
— “For Committees of Action,
Not the People’s Front!”
26 November 1935
The very notion of defensive struggle as outlined by Trotsky is anathema to the “revolutionary offensive” blowhards in the IG. They deride our call for workers committees of action as “a classic ‘minimum program’ like those raised by the Stalinists and social democrats for struggle within the bounds of capitalism, aiming to attract reformists with demands they can all agree on.” The idea that the demands raised by the TGG—which also included calls to expropriate the banks, utilities, transportation, ports and shipping industry and for jobs for all through a shorter workweek at no loss in pay—are realizable “within the bounds of capitalism” would seem to say more about the IG’s own illusions in capitalist class rule.
Cut of the same cloth is the IG’s appraisal of our call for workers action committees to mobilize the proletariat and its allies in the struggle “toward a government which will act in the interests of the working people and be subordinated to them.” The IG finds this to be “an elastic call for what could amount to ‘left-wing’ bourgeois governments.” In fact, as our call stressed, “This battle cannot be won within a parliamentary framework.” The idea that a bourgeois government of any stripe could be subordinated to the interests of the working class reveals rather more about the IG’s “elastic” understanding of which class rules.
Like Trotsky’s call for “committees of action,” the TGG’s call for workers action committees was an application of the tactic of the united front. Appealing for workers from different tendencies to join such committees was an attempt to use our small forces as a lever for broader, and yes at this stage, defensive struggle by the proletariat and its allies. Taking part in such struggle is not conditional on agreeing with the need for a revolutionary workers party or the dictatorship of the proletariat. If formed, such committees would be arenas for vital debates on the way forward involving the different parties that claim to represent the workers’ interests and for the fight for revolutionary leadership, that is, a proletarian internationalist perspective and party.
In contrast, the IG presents the fight for proletarian power—presumably with Norden as “commander-in-chief” or, perhaps, the ghost of the late Michel Pablo—as immediately on the agenda, not only in Greece but throughout Europe. Sounds really r..r..revolutionary, but it isn’t. In fact, the IG seems to be trying to make time with the Stalinists of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), whom they congratulate for also opposing a “no” vote in the July 5 referendum. Not so long ago, they opposed the KKE’s calls to repudiate the debt and leave the eurozone as an example of its “left nationalism.” Now, the IG opportunistically salutes the virtues of the reformist, populist KKE for dropping its opposition to the EU and the euro in the referendum.
For our part, the TGG gave critical support to the KKE in the 2012 and January 2015 elections because it stood in opposition to the EU and to all of the parties, including Syriza, which defended the continuing EU subjugation of Greece. At the same time, we denounced the KKE’s pandering to Greek nationalism as a central obstacle to building a proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist party in Greece and its refusal to mobilize its considerable forces in the working class against the Golden Dawn fascists. In the most recent Greek elections, our comrades argued that until and unless the KKE repudiated its opposition to voting “no” in the July referendum, the TGG would not call for a vote to it.
From the confines of their New York City apartments, the IG demands that a working class devastated by the relentless blows of the EU and the Greek bourgeoisie immediately take up the fight for its own class power. In contrast, our purpose is not phony agitation but the struggle to arm the workers with the consciousness, confidence and fighting spirit to wage real combat against the capitalist class enemy. The forces of our Greek section are small, but they have nonetheless fought to address the burning needs of the workers and oppressed and provide them with a revolutionary direction in opposition to their current misleaders.
The IG sneers that the TGG’s call for workers action committees is “A Bridge to Nowhere.” The truth is that a self-proclaimed revolutionary Trotskyist organization that can’t even call for a vote against the diktats of the EU is on a bridge to the Fourth Reich of German imperialism.