Greece: The importance of the SYRIZA congress and the struggle of the Communist Tendency

The founding congress of SYRIZA is taking place July 10-14, where all the component parts that previously made up the alliance are to dissolve into one unified party. In the process, however, party leader Tsipras has moved to the right, endangering the significant gains made by the party in the recent period. We publish here an article explaining the emergence of the Communist Tendency within the party and its struggle for a Marxist programme and policy.

The most important development in the Greek political situation in recent years has most certainly been the emergence of SYRIZA as the main political voice of the workers and youth. However, in the most recent period the shift to the right on the part of the leadership of the party is undoubtedly something that has to be underlined.

For all those who still doubt that such a shift is actually taking place – although their number is declining – we only have to mention a series of specific events which highlight this shift to the right on the part of the leadership:

  • Repeated ambiguity concerning what a SYRIZA government would do about the Memoranda.
  • Replacing – depending on the audience of the moment – the collectively stated aim of a Left Government with that of a government of “People's Salvation”.
  • “Rehearsal” of future negotiations with the IMF behind closed doors.
  • Attempting to portray the troika as a “partner” of the Greek people rather than its class enemy.
  • Refusal to make specific commitments to restore the living standards of workers and attempting to manage the expectations of the Greek people within the supposed "limits of the economy", i.e. within the suffocating confines of capitalism in a state of disintegration.
  • Creating links for political cooperation with the bourgeois, right-wing party of ANEL.
  • Cultivating relationships of “mutual understanding” with factory owners, publishers, ship owners and generally the “capitalist market” by participating in their meetings and giving speeches at events organised by their associations.

At the same as we see this turn to the right taking place, we witness the passive stance adopted towards the mass class struggle in the name of the so-called “independence of the movements”, thus avoiding the responsibility of organising and developing such movements by adopting an attitude of “clever rhetoric” rather than the systematic spreading of revolutionary slogans among the ranks of the workers. In addition there is a move towards solidarity actions which have no political or class content, backed up with “guidelines" from the party leadership to the local branches of charity type interventions in the local communities. The high point of these mistaken tactics on the part of the leadership emerged quite clearly when tens of thousands of teachers showed a determination to conduct a struggle that could have led the fragile coalition government to fall. Instead of fully backing the teachers the party leaders initially kept a distance from them. Immediately after this we also saw how the trade union leaders of SYRIZA – with the approval of the party leadership of course – openly ignored the strike mandate that the rank and file of the teachers’ union, OLME, had voted for.

In conclusion, the shift to right is not a fabrication of ill-intended opponents of the party, as party leaders may wish to portray. It constitutes a fact which is clearly evident from a series of public statements, meetings, speeches, acts, omissions and political vacillation on the part of the leadership.

Causes of this shift to the right

What is the reason behind this shift to the right on the part of the leadership of SYRIZA? It is a mixture of a number of reasons: political illusions in capitalism, giving in to the ruling class and lack of confidence in both the potential of the working class to change society and in the ideas of scientific socialism.

When the SYRIZA leadership claims that in the context of a deep, historical crisis of capitalism, humane living conditions for workers can be achieved with “militant” negotiations and through reforms, without, however, removing the economic and political power of capital, it gives us a vivid picture of their misconceptions about the existing exploitative socio-economic system. When after a long period of political terrorism on the part of the bourgeois media and bourgeois politicians against SYRIZA, the leadership still insists on systematically attempting to prove their “non-threatening” and non-revolutionary credentials in conferences, forums and TV shows of the bourgeois, it reveals that it doesn’t have sufficient strength to resist the pressures of the ruling class. When this same leadership views the struggle of the teachers, who are choosing overwhelmingly to defy the mass sackings, as a lost cause, then it clearly expresses their own lack of confidence in the ability of the working class to play a decisive role in the “democratic overthrow” of the coalition government and in social change altogether. Finally, when it considers that the “strategic goal” of socialism is not the task of the day and its realisation is relegated to some distant future, then it effectively adopts the views of social democracy that have resulted in so many past betrayals of the workers in the name of what is “feasible”.

Would it be correct, however, to deduce from all this that the leadership has had a long-term plan to shift to the right? The answer is no. The reasons behind the leadership’s shift to the right are to be found in the illusions they have in capitalism, in their submissiveness and in their political weakness, but in no way does it flow from any long-term worked out plan. This is simply because the leadership has not shown that it is capable of formulating and implementing any kind of long-term plan. The existence of such a plan is incompatible with the short-sightedness which unfortunately reigns within the leadership. Its attitude towards the serious political tasks set before us during this period is not based on solid political, class and ideological principles, but on short-sighted media and electoral considerations.

If the opinion polls reveal the “latest trend”, then the leadership immediately tries to adapt its rhetoric to it. If a development that is filtered through bourgeois public opinion creates a momentary conservative mood within society, then the leadership adopts a so-called “balanced” position to reflect this so-called “public opinion”. Such a method, of course, under the pressure of an intensification of the class struggle can also lead to a new shift to the left in the leadership’s rhetoric. What the working class needs, however, is not a leadership that changes positions depending on the latest opinion poll and on ephemeral pressures, but a leadership that will lead on clear socialist principles, serving the workers’ interests.

The effects of the shift to the right

This shift to the right – in spite of those apologists of the leadership who pretend not to see it – is noted and commented negatively on a daily basis by ordinary workers in the working class neighbourhoods and workplaces. On the other hand, as should be expected, it receives positive comments in the media from the apologists of the ruling class and the troika.

The political consequences of this approach are devastating because it causes serious damage in a number of critical areas. It strengthens the feeling of frustration among the workers that already exists due to the fact that the mass struggles of recent years have not achieved any victory. It cuts across the mass support for the party which was won thanks to the left and radical slogans of SYRIZA during the previous period. It weakens the electorate support for SYRIZA, as it leads to a lack of enthusiasm towards its policies and a justified scepticism about the true intentions of the leadership. This would lead to a crisis within SYRIZA and the possibility of splits in the near future. Above all, this shift to the right paves the way for huge defeats once the “moderate” views that flow from this shift to the right are implemented as government policy when SYRIZA gets into office.

Any attempt to carry out “moderate” government policies in a climate of “mutual agreement” will serve to embolden the troika and its local representatives, who will place enormous economic, political and diplomatic pressure, combined with threats, in order to fully subdue the leadership and thus “expose” SYRIZA in the eyes of the workers. Thus, the leadership lacking any comprehensive revolutionary socialist programme will have to face its own social base, the working class and the poorest layers of the population, as it drags the party down a dead end.

What every activist of SYRIZA needs to realise is that, in contrast to shift to the left that took place in the middle of the previous decade – albeit a confused, blurred and insufficient, but nonetheless clearly identifiable – which raised the hopes for a genuine revolutionary party and which catapulted the party to a historic 27% in the last elections, the current shift to the right threatens to destroy, within even a few months, everything that has been conquered in the past few years. Those left-wing activists of SYRIZA who built up the party’s forces in the neighbourhoods and workplaces with their enthusiastic participation in the movements of the working class and youth, must not allow everything that they created to be destroyed because of the illusions in capitalism and the political weakness of the leadership.

The need for a consistent left-wing opposition and the attitude of the Left Platform

The “SYRIZA of its members” is undoubtedly the favourite slogan of the party leadership. Unfortunately, this is “forgotten” during key moments. For instance, it was forgotten when the leadership had the brilliant idea of changing the demand for the cancellation of the Memoranda into the call for its “suspension”, when renaming the troika from an enemy of the people to a “partner” of the country, and in other moments where the decisions of the party members were publicly violated because they were considered to be “too left-wing”. In contrast to this, the leadership seems to remember this slogan very well when they want to attack the left wing of the party. However, regardless of how the leadership sees this slogan, it is precisely this SYRIZA, the “SYRIZA of its members”, that can save the party from the main danger it faces today, the actual real shift to the right on the part of the leadership and not the existence of a “party within the party”, as the present leadership would like us to believe.

The coming founding conference of SYRIZA provides a marvellous opportunity to the members of the party to put a halt to this shift to the right. In every local branch and in the national conference a battle must be waged for a left SYRIZA. This can only be realised if we fight for the ideas and programmatic positions of Communism. To be consistently left-wing, means fighting for a truly Communist party, i.e. a working class party, revolutionary in its aims and methods, with a socialist programme, organised in a democratic manner and internationalist in its approach. Any other way of defending a left and radical SYRIZA, for example by replacing a socialist programmatic discourse with “progressive “or “democratic” views, or with the defence of a national monetary policy, or with any trading of proletarian internationalism with a patriotic type rhetoric, would be ideologically inconsistent and would contain within it the “sees” for further right-wing shifts.

Bearing this in mind, it should be noted that the leadership of the Left Platform [the left wing of SYRIZA – LP] with their political stance so far have revealed that they cannot provide political answers that would place the party in a truly left, Marxist position. Despite their correct calls for a shift towards revolutionary Marxism three years ago, the leadership of the Left Current (LC) of Synaspismos – the main force behind today’s LP – in the period that followed did not push for any such revolutionary programme, but instead called for an exit from the Eurozone and a return to the Drachma. By concentrating on this slogan instead of a socialist programme, they gave their policy the character of national protectionism. This distorted and undermined their class based and left declarations and established LP in the minds of the masses – much to the satisfaction of the ruling class who gladly rushed to utilise this patriotic deviation – not as a Marxist, but as a “Eurosceptic opposition”.

One would have expected to see a struggle to rectify this within the left wing of the party on the part of the leadership of the other left groups within SYRIZA that form the Left Current such as DEA, Kokkino and APO, which despite their rejection of the fundamental positions of Trotsky – for example his analysis of the nature of the Soviet Union – they continue to rely on the internationalist, Trotskyist tradition. These comrades, while passionately fighting to retain their own independence within the new party of SYRIZA, have not yet made any serious attempt at a Marxist critique of the nationalist and monetary positions that the leadership of the Left Current has presented as the views of the Left Platform.

The approach of the leadership of the LP towards the upcoming SYRIZA congress is a continuation of their timid and mistaken approach displayed in the last congress last December. Instead of pressing for an alternative Marxist manifesto, they accepted the manifesto of the leadership, limiting themselves to proposing some additions and amendments. In general, they appear much softer on political questions than on issues relating to the control of the party apparatus. A typical example of this was the mild reaction of the LP leadership on the issue of the provocative abandonment of the teachers’ struggle by the leadership of the party, while they reacted fiercely and passionately over the issue of the self-dissolution of the different parties and groups that constitute SYRIZA.

Thus the LP leadership portrays the whole of the left opposition within SYRIZA in a way that, from a Marxist, communist perspective, is characterised by contradictions, mistakes and internal inconsistencies. The thousands of comrades who support the LP must understand that the most consistent response against the shift to the right of the SYRIZA leaders, both politically and programmatically, is to be found in the positions and ideas of the new tendency founded by members of SYRIZA in many local branches across the country, the Communist Tendency (CT) [Kommounistikis Tasis Tou SYRIZA]. The CT is fighting in solidarity with those comrades of the LP, and any other left opposition voice within the party, who are opposed to the social democratic transformation of the party. The CT does not propose, however, in any abstract manner “progressive and socialist roads” or ideas “filtered” through the distorting lens of patriotism, but a crystal clear communist political alternative.

What is being targeted is the right to tendencies, not the dissolving groups

The core of SYRIZA supporters who founded the Communist Tendency are those comrades who since 2005 have been publishing the Marxist Voice (Marxistiki Foni) newspaper (now a magazine). Five years ago, the editorial board of MV was the only political group that was calling for the transformation of SYRIZA into a single party with tendencies. We were the only ones who patiently explained that the model of “federation”, with its rights of veto and quotas, is incompatible with genuine internal party democracy and affects the rights of the SYRIZA members. A front of fierce opponents of this view emerged, consisting of the Renewal Wing (now DIMAR, who split from the party and up until recently were part of the coalition government), the current leadership, the Left Current and all the leaders of the small groups that made up SYRIZA. The only ones who found this proposal reasonable and necessary were the rank and file left activists and the non-aligned activists who then could not be members of the party directly.[Note: This is because SYRIZA did not exist as a legal entity, but was an alliance of different parties and groups. Therefore, if someone wanted to join they had to first join one of the parties that constituted this alliance.]

Now everything has changed. Even the leaders of the small groups, which disagree with the compulsory dissolution, declare publicly that they will not insist on preserving their old, undemocratic privileges. We would like to remind all comrades that now appear as supporters of the single unified party, that the only political tendency which maintained a consistent and principled approach on this question from the start is ours.

The leadership moved towards defending the idea of the single party so as to rid itself of the “nightmare” of vetoes from the small leftist groups, but also to shift the party further to the right. If they had been in favour of genuine internal party democracy they would not have consented over these years to the undemocratic functioning of SYRIZA. A careful reading of their latest public statements reveals that in fact what they are against is the right to form tendencies rather than the existence of the groups. The independent existence of the groups has in fact been terminated since the jointly agreed decision to transform SYRIZA from an alliance of small parties and groups into a single unified party. This explains the “warnings” that comrade Tsipras has issued, even before the formal creation of the single party, that “parties within the party” will not be tolerated.

The acceptance and functioning of tendencies within Synaspismos since the early 1990s was undoubtedly an important achievement for the Greek communist movement. This was not the result of a democratic culture on the part of its leaders, but rather the result of a deep questioning and reconsidering of Stalinism and its bureaucratic traditions after the collapse of the USSR. Allowing the existence of tendencies, not only did no harm to Synaspismos, but facilitated the party’s shift to the left. And this is what led Synaspismos and SYRIZA to be seen by the masses as moving away from social democracy and towards a left alternative, which is why it was able to win a historic 27% in the last elections.

The right of tendencies to exist within the new SYRIZA is even more important today, because a free and democratic party is the prerequisite for halting democratically the shift to the right taking place and also for tendencies such as the Communist Tendency to conquer ground within SYRIZA on the basis of a defence of the genuine ideas of Marxism. Those within the party – and outside of it – who have an interest in adopting preventive measures to suppress any attempt to transform SYRIZA into a truly revolutionary and socialist party, must of necessity attack the right to tendencies and try to turn the rank and file, abusing their “party loyalty”, against the alleged “damage” to the image of the party. There are two categories of people who are keen to target the right to tendencies within SYRIZA. There is the ruling class, who observes with great satisfaction the shift to the right of the SYRIZA leadership and would like this to be further strengthened and then there is leadership of SYRIZA itself, who understands that in order to pull the party further to the right, they need to curb any opposition.

Party members should not be swayed by what the leadership says. They must understand the true political content in what is at stake regarding the tendencies and groups. Behind the rhetoric about “SYRIZA of its members” is concealed a submissiveness to the pressures from the ruling class, who wants a monolithic and bureaucratic SYRIZA, in order to be able to more easily influence it.

Every effort should be made to persuade the groups to voluntarily incorporate themselves into the new single party and have the right, if they wish, to establish tendencies. Generally, the right to form tendencies around a political platform must be guaranteed. Instead, what should be punished with expulsion is the creation of cliques of careerists, of groups with no basis in published texts, newspapers or magazines, but that are gathered around single personalities. Tendencies in a mass party like SYRIZA should be granted a minimum presence in its leading bodies and the right to be able to convince with their views the members and supporters of the party, of course on condition that they will respect and apply the decisions of the majority, but without being forced to renounce their disagreements.

The most dangerous group is the bureaucracy

The Communist Tendency consistent with its principles opposed the parasitic status of separate groups with right of veto, quotas and in receipt of sizeable government subsidies. Even more, however, it opposes the way the current bureaucratic apparatus of SYRIZA operates, manned primarily by the professional staff of Synaspismos and its Youth organisation, which in fact is not controlled by the party ranks, but is attached to parliamentary routine. This bureaucratic apparatus has proven incapable of educating and effectively mobilising the party and has also been tragically incapable of building the party in areas such as the trade unions and the student movement. The democratic rights of SYRIZA members are threatened infinitely more by this bureaucratic apparatus, rather than the functioning of small groups as independent bodies.

The most undemocratic and dangerous group within SYRIZA is the bureaucratic apparatus, which will become stronger as the party gets closer to power and as a group of careerist elements – mainly coming from PASOK – will flood the party in order to participate in the distribution of positions. Among these, the leadership will find the most passionate opponents of the right to tendencies. It is they who will react against “pluralism”, with the so-called slogan of “SYRIZA of its members”.

We call on the active rank and file of SYRIZA to fight with us, first and foremost to push back the careerist and opportunistic elements. We are for a SYRIZA without bureaucrats, with a full time apparatus composed of comrades who will be selected based on the criteria of serving the movement, of proven organisational skills and with a high level of Marxist theoretical training, who will report regularly to the rank and file that elected them.

Support the Communist Platform!

The current leadership with its sharp shift to the right has already put a brake on the dynamic of SYRIZA in society. The manifesto approved by the Central Committee for the congress shows that they wish to continue on the same mistaken path and not to change policy, seeking non-existent “progressive” chimeras within the confines of capitalism. The leadership of the left opposition of the party, with LP as its epicentre, should already have challenged the entire political line of the leadership. It should present a full political and programmatic alternative and on this basis fight for a majority of the Central Committee and the position of party president. This issue is deeply political, not personal.

Comrade Tsipras, as leader of the party, undoubtedly contributed to the meteoric rise of SYRIZA. Today, however, he embodies the shift to the right. No single person should be placed above the party. Thus, both his policies and his position as the president of the party should be challenged. But the leadership of the LP, consistent with their timid tactics, do not seem willing to radically challenge his policy, nor his position as president.

The Communist Tendency of SYRIZA is a new tendency in the party and does not have the strength to radically change the policy or the programme of SYRIZA, nor the current balance of forces within the leadership, let alone the president. But it can do something equally important in terms of the prospects of the party. It can build solid foundations so that the vital matter of the genuine communist orientation of SYRIZA and the Left can become a reality in the shortest time possible.

Since the beginning of the pre-congress period, the Communist Tendency has waged an ideological and political struggle. No careerists are to be found amongst us, only activists who fight for the revolutionary orientation of the party. These activists consider that the critical issue that needs to be addressed during the founding congress of SYRIZA is the adoption of a policy that can today change the fate of the workers. Responding responsibly to the question of what type of programme should SYRIZA have, the Communist Tendency has formulated, and will put forward for voting in the local branches of the party and at the conference, a revolutionary and socialist programme for a SYRIZA government. A programme that connects the current demands of the workers with the objective of a socialist transformation of society, if implemented, would lead to the establishment of a nationalised, democratically planned economy and a truly democratic power which would replace reactionary capitalism and its parasitic state.

We call on each SYRIZA activist to support this programme, defend it during the pre-congress meetings, vote for it and elect delegates who will support it at the congress. In the local branches of SYRIZA where there are no members of the tendency, we invite all the left activists to try to get elected as delegates to defend our programme.

Any kind of support and vote in favour of the programme of the Communist Tendency is equivalent to expressing a decisive “no” to the shift to the right of the leadership and at the same time it is practical support for socialism and the revolutionary ideas of Marx and Lenin, who they are attempting to bury under the bankrupt and old recipes of social democracy.

Source: Κομμουνιστική Τάση του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ