[Marxism] from Syriza's left wing: what is the political situation?

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Fri Apr 10 15:34:54 MDT 2015

Interview: Antonis Davanellos
The pressure to stay strong
Socialist Worker, US
April 9, 2015

. . .
Antonis Davanellos is a leading member of the Internationalist Workers
Left (DEA), one of the founding organizations of SYRIZA in 2004, and
now a member of SYRIZA's Central Committee and Political Secretariat
and a supporter of the party's Left Platform. At the start of April,
Davanellos spoke via videoconference on the current situation in
Greece and the shape of future battles. This question-and-answer
article is based on his presentation and answers to questions.

. . .
*HAS THERE been a revival of struggle among workers and the popular
movements against austerity and to pressure for the government to
honor its promises?*

WE CAN'T, at this moment, talk about a resistance among the unions and
social movements. There are few strikes and demonstrations. People
understand that there is a big confrontation going on between the
government and the creditors, and they are waiting to see what

But there are signs that the lull is coming to an end. The main
resistance right now is within the party of SYRIZA, where we have some
changes inside the party. A new general secretary was elected, and
he's one of the radicals of the party's majority. He is not part of
the Left Platform, but one of the radical members of SYRIZA. A new
political secretariat was also elected, this one much smaller. The
left within SYRIZA has kept all its forces inside this smaller body.

Inside the party and its organizations at the base, there is an
intense discussion about how to organize to make sure the government
stays to the left and committed to the program put forward by SYRIZA.
Right now, there are two main questions where this is focused--the
public health system and the issue of privatizations.

The most important political issue of the last month was around health
care and public hospitals. The sentiment is that we can't wait--the
public hospitals are in a very dangerous state, we need new doctors
and new nurses immediately, and so that means that the government must
find money for the hospitals immediately.

In reality, this was based not so much around protests or strikes, but
discussions and meetings that involved many people, including members
of SYRIZA. And the outcome was that Tsipras was obliged to change the
government's attitude. He was forced to go out publicly promise some
of the concrete things for the hospitals that we are demanding. He
pledged the hiring of 4,500 specialized medical staff and said the
government would abolish the compulsory 5 euro fee for treatment at
public hospitals.

The privatizations are also a problem for the government. It isn't
possible for the party as a whole, including ministers in the
government, after having been involved in all the previous struggles
against privatization, to accept what is demanded of Greece.

Take this example: In March, the Deputy Prime Minister Yannis
Dragasakis was in China, and he said that the government would go
ahead with plans to sell the port of Piraeus to a Chinese
multinational. But on the same day, another minister, Thodoris
Dritsas, said the government would not sell its majority stake in the
port. This shows the conflict within SYRIZA.

Plus, the minister responsible for energy and the environment is
Panagiotis Lafazanis, the best known leader of the left within SYRIZA.
It will not be possible to organize the privatization of the state
power companies while Lafazanis is the minister.

The union in the port of Piraeus is not very strong, and it is led by
the social democrats. But you must understand that, on the question of
privatization, the opposition of society as a whole is real. With the
port of Piraeus, the resistance won't just be in the union. It will be
all around. We have a history in Greece of intense battles against the
privatization of public enterprises and public space.

So we know that they face a very strong resistance inside SYRIZA. For
the time being, there is still not a large presence of workers and the
people in the streets. We will see what happens in the future. For us,
it would be much better if we had a movement like the one that existed
a few years ago, when there was more than 30 general strikes and mass
mobilizations. But we don't. There is no button we can push to create
this movement.

*NOW THAT the extortion of the Eurogroup is clear and the hopes that
the Troika would relent are tarnished, is there greater support among
the population for Greece to leave the euro?*

IT DEPENDS on how you ask the question. If you ask people, "Would you
like to see a Grexit?" the answer from the majority is no. If the
question is, "Do you want to stay inside the euro, but at the cost of
a new cut in wages?" the question isn't a clear yes anymore--it's
50-50. And if you ask" "Do you prefer to stay inside the euro, but
public hospitals will be closed?" the answer is no.

For us, we don't start from the question of the currency. There are
some on the left who do--they have an idea of how to organize the
Greek economy on the basis of leaving the euro and returning to the
drachma. But if Greece leaves the euro, and the political and social
conditions remain as they are now, it could be a disaster, with a huge
devaluation in order to make Greece "competitive" in world capitalism.

We start from the priority of overthrowing austerity--to save the
hospitals, the schools, the lives of the workers. We must do this by
any means necessary. Unlike the leaders of the government, this must
be said in advance--that a confrontation with the European Union over
the euro may be necessary.

*THERE ARE reports in the European press that Tsipras is under
pressure to get rid of the left inside SYRIZA. Does DEA and the Left
Platform generally have the support to counter this pressure?*

I THINK that it's clear--and this is something that even the
mainstream media in Greece discusses and acknowledges--that SYRIZA
will not be easily transformed into a party that accepts austerity. So
if this is the direction of the government in the next month, there
will be a major crisis inside SYRIZA.

We have made it absolutely clear within SYRIZA that we will not
compromise. We were the first people in the party who wouldn't accept
the selection of the president of the republic. That's not a minor
question, to go against your party in parliament.
. . .
In the major bourgeois media, the left inside SYRIZA is described as
primitive and stuck in the past--the old-fashioned Marxists who don't
understand reality. That's one picture. But in society at large, it's
different. In my neighborhood, they know that I am part of SYRIZA, and
when you go to the shop to buy a bottle of milk, the shopkeeper says
to you, "Don't retreat, stay strong."

That's the reality. There is a lot of pressure on us. But at the same
time, there is a lot of support in the population saying that SYRIZA
is our hope, so stay strong.

*FROM LONG before the election, you've emphasized the importance of
international solidarity for Greece and the movement against austerity
in Europe.*

YOU ALL know the old phrase of the Russian revolutionaries: Without a
revolution in Germany, we are lost. I have heard something similar
many times in Greece: "Without a victory for the left in Spain, we
will lose." That's a common feeling among ordinary people, not just
people on the left. Everybody is watching the news to see whether the
demonstrations in Madrid were big or not, because they understand that
this has to do with our lives.

Unfortunately, Podemos is falling in the opinion polls, so the
situation going into elections later this year doesn't look as good as
it did some months ago. But the bigger problem isn't Spain--where at
least there is hope for Podemos. The bigger problem is with France and
Italy. For a century, the working class movement in Europe has been
centered in France and Italy, but there, we don't see the same

We are asking for international solidarity and support from the left
in Europe, but this isn't just international solidarity. The fight is
for yourselves, too--challenging austerity in your own country.

Unfortunately, the left in Europe is weak, and so there is a clear
danger facing Greece. But we can't stop and wait until the situation
gets better in Europe. We must do whatever we can in this situation.

More information about the Marxism mailing list