[Marxism] An open letter by Stathis Kouvelakis to the British SWP
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 30 08:15:59 MDT 2012
An open letter regarding the Greek left
Disagreements are not only normal and, in any case, unavoidable
within the left. They can also be productive provided they are
formulated in terms that do not excessively distort the positions
of the interlocutor.
In a recent issue of Socialist Worker answering the question “What
shape has Greek reformism taken?” (the terms of the question seem
already biased to me), Panos Garganas summed up Syriza’s position
in the current situation as follows: “Syriza’s leaders promise we
can escape from austerity by reforming the EU.
“They say a left government shouldn't take unilateral steps like
cancelling the debt and breaking with the euro. They seek a
negotiated exit from austerity. They claim a budget with a surplus
would strengthen Greece’s negotiating position with its creditors.
“This effectively postpones the promise to end austerity until the
German government and banks agree to it. That’s why Antarsya says
we need a strong anti-capitalist left and a continuation of the
With the exception of the last sentence, I’m afraid this statement
is quite far from giving an adequate picture of Syriza’s position
but also of the lines of demarcation within the radical left and,
more broadly, within the current conjuncture.
It is true that Syriza’s general position is in favour of an
internal transformation of the EU, but on the basis of denouncing
all the existing European Treaties (Maastricht, Lisbon etc).
It is also true that Syriza is against exiting the eurozone,
although significant currents both within Synaspismos and in other
components of this political front (which, by the way, also
includes many significant organizations of the Greek far Left,
mostly from Maoist and Trotskyist backgrounds) are in favour of
such an exit (or of considering it as an unavoidable consequence).
But Syriza won the support of the majority of the left electorate,
and, as its leading position in recent polls suggest, probably of
a relative majority of the Greek people as a whole, not by
proposing to wait for an EU reform or negotiations to end
austerity but by electing a unitary government of all the
anti-austerity forces of the left.
Such a government would immediately, as “its founding act” like
Alexis Tsipras keeps on repeating, abrogate, by a vote in
Parliament, the whole framework of the infamous Memorandums. The
Memorandum is non-negotiable, stating the contrary would be like
“trying to negotiate hell” as Tsipras also recently said.
On that basis, and that unilateral move, an anti-austerity
government would ask for a renegotiation of the debt in order to
write-off the major part. If this demand for renegotiation is
rejected then Greece would stop the repayment of the debt, declare
a moratorium which would last as long as necessary in order to
allow a favourable outcome of the renegotiation, along the lines
that similar negotiations have taken in the past (more recently in
Syriza says that these moves will not entail an exit from the
eurozone nor the interruption of the current payments to the
country given as part of the bailout plan.
The statements of EU officials and European leaders claiming the
contrary are presented as a propaganda war aiming at putting
pressure on the electorate and blocking the rise of Syriza. This
position, it should be stressed, reflects the mood of the vast
majority of the Greek population, which rejects austerity but
doesn’t want an exit from the eurozone.
It also corresponds to the fact that, as Larry Elliott wrote in
yesterday’s Guardian, ‘Europe has form when it comes to ensuring
that electorates vote the ‘right’ way’.
It is nonetheless true that it seems extremely unlikely that the
EU, representing the interests of Greece’s creditors, and more
broadly of European finance capital, would not react to the
unilateral exit from the Memorandum-based austerity framework.
Recent statements of Syriza leaders show an awareness of the
necessity for such a contingency plan, but its lines remain very
unclear, since it would almost inevitably amount to exiting the
euro and immediately defaulting on the debt.
The two logical possibilities that appear, if Syriza wins the June
17 elections and leads the next government, are either surrender
and reneging on the commitment to abrogate the memorandum, which
would amount to an unmitigated disaster not only for Syriza but
for the entire radical Left and, moreover, for the Greek people,
or engaging in a protracted battle which would almost certainly
lead to results that go beyond the current objectives put forward
This would conform I think to a quite familiar in history pattern
of processes of social and political change, where the dynamic of
the situation, boosted of course by the pressure of popular
mobilization, pushes actors (or at least some of them) beyond
their initial intentions. This is what scares most the dominant
forces in Greece and in Europe and explains their hysterical
campaign against Syriza and the perspective opened up by its
possible coming to power.
The stakes of this battle are immense, probably the more
significant we had in Europe since the Portuguese Carnation
Revolution. In such a context, all the forces of the radical Left
should work together as closely as possibly, not only on the
terrain of struggles and mobilizations, which is the indispensable
starting point, but also politically, to help the situation to
radicalise and to unleash its full potential.
Sterile polemics, reiterating the all-too familiar pattern of
‘unmasking the reformist enemy’, should therefore be avoided in
favour of fraternal discussion, which includes of course in-depth
clarifications of the real and welcomed disagreements between the
forces of our camp. Our responsibilities are huge, millions of
progressive people have their eyes turned to Greece as a name, and
place, for hope, and of a concrete possibility for a long-overdue
Stathis Kouvelakis, London
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