Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stathis Kouvelakis on the Eurogroup deal posted by Richard Seymour

This article by Stathis Kouvelakis is probably the most comprehensive account of Syriza's defeat in these negotiations:

In the spirit of the popular mandate for a break with the memorandum regime and liberation from debt, the Greek side entered negotiations rejecting the extension of the current “program,” agreed to by the Samaras government, along with the €7 billion tranche, with the exception of the €1.9 billion return on Greek bonds to which it was entitled.
Not consenting to any supervisory or assessment procedures, it requested a four-month transitional “bridge program,” without austerity measures, to secure liquidity and implement at least part of its program within balanced budgets. It also asked that lenders recognize the non-viability of the debt and the need for an immediate new round of across-the-board negotiations.
But the final agreement amounts to a point-by-point rejection of all these demands. Furthermore, it entails another set of measures aimed at tying the hands of the government and thwarting any measure that might signify a break with memorandum policies.
In the Eurogroup’s Friday statement, the existing program is referred to as an “arrangement,” but this changes absolutely nothing essential. The “extension” that the Greek side is now requesting (under the “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement”) is to be enacted “in the framework of the existing arrangement” and aims at “successful completion of the review on the basis of the conditions in the current arrangement.”
It is also clearly stated that
only approval of the conclusion of the review of the extended arrangement by the institutions … will allow for any disbursement of the outstanding tranche of the current EFSF programme and the transfer of the 2014 SMP profits [these are the 1.9 billion of profits out of Greek bonds to which Greece is entitled]. Both are again subject to approval by the Eurogroup.
So Greece will be receiving the tranche it had initially refused, but on the condition of sticking to the commitments of its predecessors.
What we have then is a reaffirmation of the typical German stance of imposing — as a precondition for any agreement and any future disbursement of funding — completion of the “assessment” procedure by the tripartite mechanism (whether this is called “troika” or “institutions”) for supervision of every past and future agreement.
Moreover, to make it abundantly clear that the use of the term “institutions” instead of the term “troika” is window-dressing, the text specifically reaffirms the tripartite composition of the supervisory mechanism, emphasizing that the “institutions” include the ECB (“against this background we recall the independence of the European Central Bank”) and the International Monetary Fund (“we also agreed that the IMF would continue to play its role”).
As regards the debt, the text mentions that “the Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.” In other words forget any discussion of “haircuts,” “debt reduction,” let alone “writing off of the greater part of the debt,” as is Syriza’s programmatic commitment.
Any future “debt relief” is possible only on the basis of what was proposed in the November 2012 Eurogroup decision, that is to say a reduction in interest rates and a rescheduling, which as is well-known makes little difference to the burden of servicing debt, affecting only payment of interest that is already very low.
But this is not all, because for repayment of debt the Greek side is now fully accepting the same framework of Eurogroup decisions of November 2012, at the time of the three-party government of Antonis Samaras. It included the following commitments: 4.5% primary surpluses from 2016, accelerated privatizations, and the establishment of a special account for servicing the debt — to which the Greek public sector was to transfer all the income from the privatizations, the primary surpluses, and 30% of any excess surpluses.
It was for this reason too that Friday’s text mentioned not only surpluses but also “financing proceeds.” In any case, the heart of the memorandum heist, namely the accomplishment of outrageous primary surpluses and the selling-off of public property for the exclusive purpose of lining lenders’ pockets, remains intact. The sole hint of relaxation of pressure is a vague assurance that “the institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account.”
But it was not enough that the Europeans should reject all the Greek demands. They had, in every way, to bind the Syriza government hand and foot in order to demonstrate in practice that whatever the electoral result and the political profile of the government that might emerge, no reversal of austerity is feasible within the existing European framework. As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated, “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”
And the provision for this is to take place in two ways. Firstly, as indicated in the text: “The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.”
So no dismantling of the memorandum regime either (“rollback of measures”), and no “unilateral changes,” and indeed not only as regards measures with a budgetary cost (such as abolition of taxes, raising of the tax-free threshold, increases in pensions, and “humanitarian” assistance) as had been stated initially, but in a much more wide-ranging sense, including anything that could have a “negative impact” on “economic recovery or financial stability,” always in accordance with the decisive judgment of the “institutions.”
Needless to say this is relevant not only to the reintroduction of a minimum wage and the reestablishment of the labor legislation that has been dismantled these last years, but also to changes in the banking system that might strengthen public control (not a word, of course, about “public property” as outlined in Syriza’s founding declaration).
Moreover, the agreement specifies that
the funds so far available in the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) buffer should be held by European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), free of third party rights for the duration of the MFFA extension. The funds continue to be available for the duration of the MFFA extension and can only be used for bank recapitalisation and resolution costs. They will only be released on request by the ECB/SSM.
This clause shows how it has not escaped the attention of the Europeans that Syriza’s Thessaloniki program stated that “seed money for the public sector and an intermediary body and seed money for the establishment of special purpose banks, amounting to a total in the order of €3 billion, will be provided through the HFSF’s so-called ‘cushion’ of around €11 billion for the banks.”
In other words, goodbye to any thought of using HFSF funds for growth-oriented objectives. Whatever illusions still existed regarding the possibility of using European funds for purposes outside of the straitjacket of those for which they had been earmarked — and even more that they should be placed under the Greek government’s jurisdiction — have thus been dispelled.


Read it all.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Syriza's mauling at the EU negotiations posted by Richard Seymour

Syriza has been defeated in the first round of negotiations.  

After a period of enjoyable defiance, during which they won the backing of the overwhelming majority of the Greek people - 80% according to a poll taken before the latest deal, published in today's Avgi - they have come back with small change.  Pushed to the point where they were at risk of a collapse of the banking system, and unprepared for a Grexit (and thus unable to use it as a bargaining chip), they accepted the most comprehensive drubbing.  

Tsipras has tried to put the best possible gloss on this, but what he said was delusional.  He said that the deal shows that Europe stands for mutually beneficial compromise.  No such thing.  It stands, as Schauble crowed, for Syriza being forced to implement austerity against its own mandate.  It stands for the crushing of national democracy.  

Tsipras said that the deal creates the framework for Syriza to address the humanitarian crisis.  Not with the commitment to a primary surplus and troika oversight, it doesn't.  Not with the agreement that Syriza will not 'unilaterally' roll back austerity, it doesn't.  We can admit that a 1.5% primary surplus is better than a 4.5% primary surplus.  Yet even 1.5% in a depressed economy is harsh, and coupled with troika assessment of reforms for fiscal sustainability (according to neoliberal maxims), this amounts to the repudiation of most of Syriza's reform agenda.  

Tsipras said that austerity and the Memorandum had been left behind.  That is precisely the opposite of what has happened.  The Thessaloniki programme, itself a carefully trimmed agenda shorn of the most radical of Syriza's goals, is what has been left behind.

The problem with Tsipras's speech goes further than this, however.  Not only is it deluded.  It recalibrates the government's language and goals in order to rationalise not just this thrashing but future routs.  Having said that austerity and the Memorandum are now left behind by this deal, the government shifts the goalposts and terms of future negotiations.

And this is part of the reason why those who speak of 'buying time' are wrong.  Time is not a simple quantity that only one side gains from. The EU ruling classes have also 'bought time' and they have the resources and are on the offensive, while Syriza has retreated.  There are no grounds for thinking that Syriza's bargaining position will be better in four months time than it is now.  It has already weakened its stance, while its political position, after four months of continued austerity, will probably be worse.

One can hardly pin most of the blame for this on Syriza.  They are in a weak position, and it is doubtful that any government could have obtained better against an EU determined to humiliate Greece.  Yet, the line of Tsipras and Varoufakis is simply untenable.  Their commitment to trying to resolve this crisis within the terms of the euro must fail.  They were simply wrong to think that they would have a single ally or interlocutor in the EU.  The southern European governments are even more fanatical than Berlin on this question.  Hollande, far from being a friendly face, told Syriza to shove it fairly early on: he made his decision on austerity some time ago.

The question of the currency, then, was not simply a nationalist distraction as some claimed: getting an anti-austerity government elected with the specific goal of confronting the EU and struggling to overturn austerity was always going to come to a head on this very question.  

The alternative, what one might call a People's Grexit, is far from straightforward, as Dave Renton points out in the latest of a series of excellent posts on Greece.  The economic risks would be considerable.  It would require not just economic preparedness, or secret war room gaming, but mass social and political preparedness.  It would require the mobilisation of a workers movement that has been relatively quiet since 2012.  And it would require a government willing to risk economic and political isolation from trading partners and a fight to the finish with the oligarchs, the Right, and the repressive state apparatuses for the future of Greek society.  

Nevertheless, there will now be a huge argument within Syriza over the acceptance of this deal, and the old slogan of 'not one sacrifice for the euro' will make a come back.  Manolis Glezos, an iconic figure from the antifascist resistance and prominent within Syriza, is the first to have gone public with his dissent.  He is calling for a campaign up and down the party not to accept this deal, and will vote against it.  He will not be the last.  Next week, there will be a rally in Syntagma Square, with the slogan 'We're not afraid of Grexit'.

We have no right to be surprised by any of this.  And not just because we were warned by informed sources that a retreat was taking place.  Even if it was not inevitable, we knew very well that the balance of forces favoured precisely this kind of defeat.  If we didn't know that a Syriza-led government would be "in perpetual crisis", a "spot-lit enclave, under constant assault from capital and the media", we shouldn't be in this game.  If we didn't guess that Berlin would want to "make an example of Greece one way or another", and that any concessions offered would probably "be deliberately insulting", we really weren't paying attention.  

We can be disappointed, but not surprised.  But throwing in the towel is likewise only possible with a certain degree of detachment - the sort of detachment that allows some leftists to sound even more triumphant about Syriza's rout than even Schauble.  This is still a far better and more open situation for Greek workers than had New Democracy been re-elected.  Even the modest reforms in favour of immigrants, workers' bargaining rights, and protesters - supposing they are not scotched by the troika - are worth having.  And it is only because we have now had the experience of an anti-austerity government go to the wall in an attempt to reverse austerity within the eurozone that we can now contemplate the emergence of a significant anti-euro constituency within Greece.  Further, there will be opportunities to build this: every time the troika rejects a needed reform, this can and should be held up as an object lesson in what Europe means.

This is, as was anticipated by anyone with their eyes open, a nodal point and not the end point in the process of Greek workers finding a solution to their dilemma.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Map of the Greek Radical Left II posted by Richard Seymour

This is a follow up to the previous map of the Greek radical left.  Thanks to Alastair Abraham Holmes for doing this.  Click on the image to enlarge.  Click again to enlarge further.  Or view the original, high resolution image here, where you can zoom in and out in order to read the text.  As before, corrections are welcome.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Muslim Street posted by Richard Seymour

We learn about belonging and non-belonging, inclusion and exclusion, the we and the other, not through an accumulation of facts, but through stories.  Or, to be more precise, fables.  In fables, meanings are condensed into a succinct narrative which yields a morality lesson. Social media is especially good for this, acculturating us to a degree of concision far greater than on television. A few lines of text are enough to tell of whole worlds. These representations may, or may not, be true. Or they may, or may not, make contact with pockets of lives experience. To the extent that they do, they will be more persuasive. But it is sometimes sufficient that they merely touch on and reinforce existing representations. Here is a short fable from Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News. This edifying story barely needs unpacking, but I will do it the courtesy of a sketch. Muslims have elected to put on a display of openness and, if you like, integration. By inviting members of the non-Muslim public to peer into their world, they hope to clear away the negative mystique which they argue is created by unfounded demonisation in the media, and to prove their integration into mainstream society. They are as British as the passive-aggressive whining about how unBritish they are: why, 'Dawoud' and 'Maryam', that's just 'Dave' and 'Mary'. Yet here, a white journalist, though perhaps self-evidently not a regular attendee, turned up "respectfully dressed" to visit a mosque advertising this invitation - and was not just refused entry but "ushered" away. This gives the lie to, or raises questions about, the 'openness' that was advertised. It suggests that some Muslims really do either have something to hide, or prefer self-segregation, or perhaps have some sort of prejudice against women. Either way, the moral of the fable is that Muslims remain a problematic other, whose national belonging is in question, who must be interrogated further, surveilled more intensively, kept on a very tight leash. This was rapidly taken up by the national media as a scandal and an affront to one of our top white people. The mosque referred to in these tweets reports that it was subject to threats and abuse as a result. Now, as it transpires, the story is not true. Cathy Newman, as this footage shows, was not 'ushered' by anyone:

She had, in fact, gone to the wrong place, and was politely directed to the correct place. On the evidence of the footage, she seems to have hung around for a while, considering her options, then left under her own steam, unaccompanied. Then she frantically tweeted her "interpretation of events". The mosque singled out for this treatment responded quickly, pointing out that there must have been some sort of error, as they were not participating in the #VisitMyMosque event. They then quickly checked their CCTV for evidence of what happened, and discovered that she was bullshitting. For over a week after the footage emerged, Channel 4 and Cathy Newman observed a studious silence, while the mosque continued to be subject to abuse and threats. Now, Newman has sent the mosque a letter of apology, regretting her "poorly chosen" words. The mosque has rejoined with a gracious acceptance of the apology, while pointing out that:
"We were not offended by her choice of words. We were deeply disappointed that her instinctive reaction to a confusing episode was to assume that she was being mistreated by Muslim men on the account of her gender. It was this assumption, exacerbated by the hyperbole in her tweets that caused the maelstrom of abuse and national controversy our Centre was subjected to. These were not just poorly chosen words - they painted a picture of an incident that never occurred."
In this, the mosque has it absolutely right. In itself, it shouldn't be very important whether or not the incident occurred. Yet, these incidents, these fables, constitute the crucial moments of pedagogy in the national culture. Uncontested, they corroborate one another, until they form a 'common sense' about Britishness and Islam. They also provide strategic moments of intervention for racists, both liberal and reactionary, passive and violent. Had the story not been rebutted, it would probably have made its way into a scrappy Douglas Murray unthink-piece, or a bit of Farageian eristic. Muscular liberals, neoconservatives and UKIPers would have extemporised in unity on this issue. Who knows, perhaps the police might have taken a look at the matter. Cathy Newman's letter of apology states: "Channel 4 News has a particularly strong relationship with the Muslim community..." And thank god for that. We must move beyond this unfortunate incident and fix our eyes on the future. We must gird our loins and wet our palates for the inevitably upcoming series, Muslim Street. Which I hope Newman will be available to present.

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Monday, February 09, 2015

Betraying the Enlightenment I: individual freedom. posted by Richard Seymour

We have decided to briefly betray one Enlightenment value each day*. Today's Enlightenment value which we shall be betraying is individual freedom.
The locus of individual freedom in classical liberal philosophy is the soul, be it spirit or matter. The willing soul corresponds to the legal personality who is accorded certain freedoms.
Yet what is the material basis of this soul? Nothing other than the social relations established under the capitalist mode of production which uproots agents from structures of fealty and bondage and isolates them in a matrix of competitive relations.
The corresponding politico-legal iteration of this is the individual. The individual only enters into relations of authority or hierarchy on the basis of contract, freely entered into. It does not matter as such that many of the most important contracts, such as those between family and child, or between citizen and state, are forged before the subject is born, since a responsible adult can make free and willing decisions on the unborn child's behalf. Indeed, they must, because free and willing decision-making is required as a presupposition of the contractual relation.
To see that there is nothing perverse about this, one need only remember that no contract is ever strictly voluntary. All consent is conditioned and all consenting beings are in some way coerced. Hence Marx's apparent paradox: "the wage-labourer . . . is compelled to sell himself of his own free will."
This is not an imperfectly realised individual freedom; it is the essence of individual freedom as the product not of some pristine Enlightened thought, but of coercive and exploitative relations of production.
So there we have it: individual freedom is bullshit. I spit on your individual freedom. All power to the barbarians.
*Do YOU have an Enlightenment value you'd like to see betrayed? Please leave a message below, or call our hotline.

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Map of the Greek Radical Left posted by Richard Seymour

This is a map of the Greek radical left with a glossary below.  I am grateful to Martin Laurent for creating it, with the help of Stathis Kouvelakis, Nikos Loudos and Panagiotis Sotiris.  Follow-up, by Alastair Abraham Holmes, here.





SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left)
Founded as an alliance in 2004, SYRIZA is a regroupment of left organizations around Synaspismos, by far from largest component. Since July 2013, SYRIZA is a unified party with no constituent organizations. Two main currents are active inside SYRIZA: the majority, itself a constellation of various currents, the main being Left Unity, around Alexis Tsipras; and the “Left Platform” led by Panagiotis Lafazanis and Antonis Davanellos (30% at the 2013 Congress). The Left Platform has its origins in the Left Current of Synaspismos, mainly cadres and trade unionists having who left the KKE in 1991. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA started in 2012 (16,8% in May elections, 26,9% in June). In the previous elections Syriza’s scores oscillated between 5.7% in 2007 and 4.6% in 2009.
Synaspismos (originally called Coalition of the Left and Progress and renamed Coalition of the Left and of the Movements) started as an electoral coalition between KKE and EAR for the general elections of 1989. After participating in a coalition government with New Democracy (June 1989) and in one with New Democracy and PASOK (November 1989), the KKE split in 1991 with a significant minority leaving the party and joining Synaspismos. Synaspismos was transformed into a party and EAR dissolved into it.

EAR (Greek Left) was founded in 1987 as the result of the split of the KKE (interior) and regrouped the rightist fraction of the party, on a “right Eurocommunist” line. Led by Leonidas Kyrkos from 87 to 1989, and then until its merger into Synaspismos by Fotis Kouvelis. Most members left Synaspismos in 2010 to create DIMAR led by Kouvelis and his followers.

AKOA (Renewing Communist Ecological Left). One of the ex-constituents of SYRIZA. Its origins are in the left fraction of the KKE (interior). After the 1987 split, it initially called itself the Greek Communist Party of the Interior Renewed Left, and in 1991 was renamed as AKOA. Related to the weekly newspaper Epohi (Era).

KKE (interior) (Communist Party of Greece – interior). Result of a major split in KKE in 1968, during the dictatorship. Established relations with the Italian Communist Party and endorsed Euro-communism. Split in 1987 into EAR and what later became AKOA.

KOE (Communist Organization of Greece). One of the most significant organizations of Maoist origin, product of a split in the KKE (m-l) in 1982. Puts forward a populist line focusing on the “national” or “patriotic” elements of the resistance to austerity, aligned with the majority current in SYRIZA.

DEA (Internationalist Workers’ Left). Originated as a split of SEK in 2001 and is part of Syriza since its foundation. Since 2012 collaborates with the Left Current to constitute the Left Platform. In December 2014 they reunited with Kokkoino (a previous split from DEA). Has observer status in the Fourth International (United Secretariat).

Communist Platform. Greek section of the International Marxist Tendency, led by Alan Woods. Not part of the Left Platform

***

KKE (Communist Party of Greece). Founded in 1918, it reached a membership of hundreds of thousands during the Nazi occupation (1941-1944), leading the National Liberation Front (EAM). Went underground after the Civil War and legalized only after the fall of the Colonels´ dictatorship (1974). Followed the official pro-Moscow line until the fall of USSR. Suffered the split of its youth in 1989, because of its coalition (through Synaspismos) with New Democracy. Managed to recover its losses through the ´90s and 2000s, with its active participation in the labor movement, the movement against the war in Yugoslavia, and the student movement. Electorally reached a high of 9,5% in the European Elections of 2004 and 8,5% in May 2012 general elections. Holds a sectarian line of not coordinating in the mass movements. 

***

DIMAR (Democratic Left). The origins of DIMAR are in the “Renewal Wing” of Synaspismos, associated with cadre coming from EAR. DIMAR after getting a 6,3% in the elections of June 2012 decided to join a coalition government with New Democracy and PASOK. DIMAR broke from the government one year after, at the moment of the closure of the public broadcaster (ERT).

***

ANTARSYA (Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow). The main front of the Greek far Left. Was formed out of the merger of two previous smaller coalitions, after the experience of December 2008 revolt. ANTARSYA, has a strong presence in social movements through the fronts in which it participates (13% for the student front EAAK in 2014 elections, very strong presence in public sector unions). Presence in local elections (e.g. 2,2% in the Attica region in XXXX.) It has a number of elected councilors in local governments. It took 1,2% in the May 2012 elections but saw its vote collapse to 0,33% one month after. In the Euroelections of 2014 went back to 0,72%. Its main political position is that there can be no exit from the current economic and social crisis without a halt to debt repayments, exit from the Eurozone and the European Union, nationalization of Banks and strategic enterprises. In the 2015 general election it formed an electoral coalition (ANTARSYA-MARS) with other radical left and anti-EU groups.

NAR (New Left Current). The biggest constituent of ANTARSYA, originating in the youth wing of the KKE, splitting from the party in 1989 due to disagreements over the coalition government with New Democracy. Eclectic in its ideological references, has played a leading role in the regroupment of the revolutionary left in the student movement, and has a network of prominent militant activists in the unions.

SEK (Socialist Workers’ Party). Founded in the early 1970s as the “Organisation Socialist Revolution” is one of the revolutionary left organizations emerging through the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974. Belongs to the International Socialist Tendency. Publishes the weekly newspaper Ergatiki Allileggyi (Workers Solidarity). It is the second biggest constituent of ANTARSYA. Has a prominent role in the anti-fascist, anti­racist movement and roots in some unions.
ARAN (Left Recomposition) is the third biggest constituent of ANTARSYA. With theoretical references to Althusser, Poulantzas and Gramsci, it has insisted on the need for political fronts that can be political laboratories and constituent processes for a new radical Left. Strong presence in student unions, but also in unions and local movements.

OKDE-Spartakos (Organization of Communist Internationalists of Greece –Spartakos) Section of the Fourth International (United Secretariat) in Greece, one of the historic organizations of the revolutionary left in Greece.

ARAS (Left Anti-Capitalist Group) and Aristeri Syspeirosi (Left Regroupment). These are smaller groups, within ANTARSYA. They share with ARAN the same origins in the student movement of the 1980s, and the experience of the independent left groups within universities and share theoretical references to Althusserianism.

EKKE (Revolutionary Communist Movement of Greece). A small organization with a long tradition. Of Maoist and Guevarist origins, it was one of the most prominent organization of the revolutionary left in the years after the fall of the dictatorship.

Plan B is a group of militants insisting on the centrality of the break with the European Union as the necessary starting point (the necesssary "Plan B") for any progressive politics. Alekos Alavanos, ex leader of SYRIZA is a leading figure in Plan B.

Xekinima - Socialist Internationalist Organisation - is the Greek affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International. It started out as an oppositional grouping in PASOK in the 1970s, but had been expelled by the late 1980s. It was a component of SYRIZA between 2007 and 2011, on the hard left wing of the (then) coalition. It continues to call for a SYRIZA vote and campaigned for a SYRIZA victory in the 2015 election. It is best known for its work amongst refugees and migrants, but also works in the unions, in community struggles and amongst students.

OKDE (Organization of Communists Internationalists of Greece). Small organization, split with OKDE-Spartakos in the 1980s. Claims to be loyal to orthodox Trotskyism with a workerist orientation.

EEK (Workers’ Revolutionary Party).Trotskyist organization, allied in the 1970s and 80s with Gerry Healy’s Workers’ Revolutionary Party. Participates in the Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International (CRFI).

M-L KKE (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece). Maoist organization with origins in the Maoist current of the 1970s. Remained relevant through its presence in the school teachers’ movement. They participate in the elections in coalition with KKE (m-l).

KKE (m-l) (Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist)). One of the organizations that came out of the Maoist current in the 1970s. Active in student and neighborhood movements. Takes part in the elections in coalition with M-L KKE.

OAKKE: the Organisation for the Reconstriuction o the the Greek Communist Party was formed in 1985 out of the Maoist milieux, by former members of EKKE and the ml KKE. It takes its ideological position from Mao's doctrines following the Sino-Soviet split - identifying Moscow as an imperialist force (then and now). A further emphasis on Dengist theorisation of industrialisation in China leads to an essentially "modernising position" in relation to Greece. The older and newer Sino-Marxist positions are united in a theory which holds Moscow, via the rest of the Left and the Orthodox Church, as responsible for Greek backwardness. It could not afford to stand in the elections of 2015. It called on supporters 1) to write OAKKE on their ballot and 2) explicitly not to vote for Syriza or Golden Dawn. Thus bringing it, via a Maoist detour, to the exact political resting place of Antonis Samaras and his theory of the two extremes.

Revolutionary Communist Party (Posadist): a very tiny group, Greek section of the Posadist International. Publishes the newspaper “Kommounistiki Εnotita – Communist Unity”. Oriented towards the KKE in the 80’s. At some stage entered SYRIZA. 

Revolutionary Communist Party: founded in 2008 by ex-members of “Xekinima” (CWI), EEK and “Workers’ Power” (now defunct). Publishes the newspaper “Syntrofos – Comrade”. In elections, they vote for Antarsya.

KED (Communist Revolutionary Action) was founded in 2013. The majority of its members left SYRIZA (“Red Orchestra” group) and joined with other individuals. The Leadership is of Morenoite origin. In January 2015 elections voted for SYRIZA. Publishes the e-zine “AvantGarde”.  

KTU (Communist Trotskyist Union, ex-KOEE: Communist Organization of Revolutionary Workers): of Morenoite origin. Founded by Yanis Veruchis (1931-2010), a historic figure of Greek Trotskyism. Publishes “Sosialistiki Prooptiki – Socialist Perspective”.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

"You just killed the troika!" posted by Richard Seymour

Are you enjoying this?

Make no mistake.  There are big fights coming.  Juncker has said, articulating what was always the practical doctrine of the EU: "there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties."  The EU elites are firmly declaring their insistence that Greece will pay a debt that cannot be paid, on terms that will destroy Greece.  Some of the European media is already beginning the Venezuelan-style demonisation programme, as when Le Monde published a relatively balanced article by Gerassimos Moschonas, but changed the headline without letting him know, so as to imply that he condemned Syriza as a 'demagogic', populist formation.  There is an EU push-back coming.

However.  Just for now, Syriza is playing a blinding game.  Pushing ahead immediately with a raft of reforms - not at all radical but, in context, a real break - to signal their determination to break with austerity was the first step.  The publication of a mildly Keynesian programme of public investment for Greece and Europe was the next.  Now we have this: Varoufakis refuses to seek an extension of the bailout, and instead says he won't deal with the troika.  This is not about breaking with the EU.  The finance minister is explicit that he wants to negotiate a new programme for the debt, based on write-downs of some of the debt, a substantial 'grace period' for the remainder, and a commitment to pay it out of growth rather than budget cuts.  

In principle, there should be nothing particularly radical about this.  To reiterate, this is just reasserting national sovereignty.  One notes, moreover, that there is a growing international chorus of bourgeois disapproval of Merkel's austerian hardline: from Obama to the Bank of England governor to The Economist.  They may strongly disapprove of Greece's rowing back on 'competitive reforms' such as privatisations, wage cuts and so on, but the emerging critique is that austerity has gone too far and that the debt has been used ineptly to promote the desired 'reforms'.  

Yet the anguished response from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chief of the Euro Group, says it all: "You just killed the troika!"  One middle finger in the eye for EU elites.  Enjoy it while you can.

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Overcoming our 'sad passions' posted by Richard Seymour

"How does it happen that people who have power, in whatever domain, need to affect us in a sad way? The sad passions are necessary. Inspiring sad passions is necessary for the exercise of power. And Spinoza says, in the Theological-Political Treatise, that this is a profound point of connection between the despot and the priest—they both need the sadness of their subjects. Here you understand well that he does not take sadness in a vague sense, he takes sadness in the rigorous sense he knew to give it: sadness is the affect insofar as it involves the diminution of my power of acting." - Gilles Deleuze

How is it, you ask, that we on the British Left can be, at times, such abysmal people?  How does it come to pass that so many of our noble aims end not just in defeat, ruin, but also vicious blood-letting?  Neoliberalism thrives on our "sad passions", the diminution of our power of acting, our conviction - ever harder to conceal behind cheap, chipper optimism - that there really is no alternative.  The atmosphere of bitter defeats and disappointments, one piling on the next, lours over us all.  No aetiology of the impotent rage, pettiness, misdirected aggression and self-destructiveness of the British Left would be complete without this.

One reason to be delighted by Syriza, is that it breaks with this. It breaks with years of internalised defeat and sourness.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Eight year old boy arrested for glorification of terrorism posted by Richard Seymour

That 'free speech' again.  French press brings us news of a little boy named Ahmed who 'glorified terrorism', and was duly shopped to the police by the teacher and head of school.

Apparently, when asked in class, on 8th January, if he was 'Charlie', he replied that he was not.  He didn't like Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, and that his feelings were with the terrorists.  "I am the terrorists, because I am against the cartoonists of the Prophet."

The head of the school later apprehended Ahmed while he played in a sandpit, saying "stop digging in the sand, you will not find a machine gun there to kill us all with".  Subsequently, the boy's father accompanied him to school on a couple of occasions, Ahmed being rather distressed and out of sorts by the treatment he was subjected to.

Then on 21st January, the head of the school decided to press charges against the little boy and his father.  The boy was reported to police for 'glorification of terrorism', and the father for 'trespassing' when he accompanied the boy to the school.   Both father and son were forced to report to the police station in Nice St Augustine, to answer these charges.

This follows a series of arrests and the recent suspension of a teacher who was also referred for judicial investigation for resisting the 'moment's silence' for Charlie Hebdo.  The school rector launched a rally for "republican" values after noting the "unacceptable" failure of some teachers to comply with the moment's silence, and having launched an immediate investigation.

Ahmed now has a lawyer, who said: "We are facing a collective hysteria. My client is 8 years old! He does not realize the scope of his words. It's insane."

Yes, it's insane.  Thankfully, the pup-eyed Charlies who were recently beseeching hashtagged international solidarity, and rallying to the defence of free speech, will not have abandoned the fight so soon.  They, surely - and there are so many of them - will not let the Ahmeds down.  They will spring into action with the swift, passionate alacrity that we have already seen they are capable of.  Won't they?

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Notes on Greece posted by Richard Seymour

It is imperative to get this right.  Syriza's election is the first real event on the European radical left for decades.  I do not mind being over-excited about this fact.  I am well aware of the limits of this success, and of the ways in which left governments can be domesticated.  Yet I would sooner get ahead of myself with enthusiasm than submit to the wised-up cynicism according to which every gain is an accident, and every betrayal was pre-ordained.  And this breakthrough does demand some careful research and theoretical work.  

To that end, I'm going to try to post links to good, scholarly articles offering background on Greek social formation, its working class movements and the political variations therein.  This post is a start in that direction.


Eirini Gaitanou - An examination of class structure in Greece, its tendencies of transformation amid the crisis, and its impacts on the organisational forms and structures of the social movement:

"The study of the Greek class structure is necessary for approaching and understanding the forms and structures of the labour and social movement in Greece. The class structure and the specific characteristics of the Greek social formation present special features compared to other developed capitalist countries of Europe. These features have historically resulted to the appearance of broader petty-bourgeois strata, in parallel to (and not competitively to) capitalist development. The tendency in the last twenty years (during the restructuring process) has been the expansion of capital into new areas and sectors of capitalist circulation, leading to the establishment of a range of services as capitalist commodities, and an expansion of unproductive, but necessary for the realisation of the surplus-value, activities (expanded reproduction of capitalism). Further, during the current crisis, we are witnessing a massive "ob destruction, along with a significant tendency of class polarisation and violent proletarianisation of the petty-bourgeois strata. Massive unemployment and precarious work are largely expanded, whilst the stable work model is eroded. This reality affects both the emergence and the forms of organisation of the labor and social movement. The working class is highly fragmented and heterogeneous, and the trade union movement has several weaknesses and peculiarities. $t the same time, large sections of the working strata cannot be expressed through the traditional trade unionism, because of conjunctural and structural reasons. Thus, there appear various forms of organisation that are beyond the scope of the traditional labor movement. The aim of this paper is to explore this landscape and the various possibilities open to collective action, its forms and manifestations at the political level."


Maria Kousis and Christina Karakioulafi - Labour Unions confronting Unprecedented Austerity in Greece, 2010-2013:

"The global financial crisis which began in 2007 has greatly impacted on Greece, a Southern European country of high debt. Since early 2010 the country witnessed dramatic transformations in labor, public policies, and social services, with grave consequences for its population. Since 2010, defensive protests against unprecedented austerity measures vividly reflect the effects of economic globalization across national borders as well as the swift changes imposed by powerful political and economic actors on labor organization, rights and movements in Greece.

"Within a relational approach, the paper aims to shed light on the swift reforms affecting labor unions since the crisis erupted, and the role of unions in the Greek campaign against troika Memoranda and austerity policies. Specifically, it focuses on, a) problems of representation and trust, b) the impacts of budget cuts on labor unions, c) the general strikes in the context of the Greek anti-austerity campaign, d) the related claims making and action repertoires, e) the related labor union alliances with political parties and civil society groups, as well as, f) future paths of labor unions in Greece. In order to approach the above issues, we will first present the major characteristics of Greek industrial relations until 2010 and discuss the new economic data that have emerged following the troika memoranda and austerity policies since 2010."


Myrto Tsakatika and Costas Eleftheriou - The Radical Left’s Turn towards Civil Society in Greece: One Strategy, Two Paths:

"The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) made remarkable ‘turns towards civil society’ over the last decade. It is argued that this was primarily a response aimed at strengthening their social legitimacy, which had reached its lowest point in the early 1990s. Differences in the way the two parties attempted to stabilise and engage their membership and re-establish links to trade unions and new social movements can be attributed to their distinct ideological and organisational legacies. Despite those differences, their respective linkage strategies were both successful until the game-changing 2012 Greek national elections, which brought about the remarkable rise of SYRIZA and the electoral demise of the KKE."


Lefteris Kretsos - Grassroots unionism in the context of economic crisis in Greece:

"This article draws on empirical evidence from a trade union in the centre of Athens to explore the impact of a politically active membership and its dialectical relationship with union renewal. The examined union is considered as an exemplar for the Greek accounts of unionism in the sense that it has achieved considerable collective bargaining gains and it has organized successful membership mobilization stories. It is argued in the analysis that the success of this union stems from a strategy of making rank-and-file activists the very fabric of union's organizing and mobilization activities. Further, trust issues between leaders, activists and ordinary members are significant in the increase of the likelihood of collective action."


Seraphim Seferiades - Low Union Density Amidst a Conflictive Contentious Repertoire: Flexible Labour Markets, Unemployment, and Trade union Decline in Contemporary Greece:

"The first part of this paper briefly examines the merits of neo-classical arguments regarding the causes of the recent upsurge in Greek unemployment. It shows that the view according to which high unemployment in Greece is caused by high wages rests on a weak empirical foundation. Moreover, by examining features of the Greek labour market (especially the large and eminently ‘flexible’ informal sector) it  suggests that the experience of Greece casts doubt on the view that labour-market  flexibility can serve as a cure to unemployment. The second, and major part,examines trade union decline. Unlike the situation in most European countries, rising unemployment has not affected the mobilizing capacity of the Greek labour movement. More than a century after its emergence, however, this movement has yet to overcome its historically embedded low trade-union density. This does not prevent the outbreak of militant strikes, but hampers their effectiveness. In recent years union leaders have attempted to address this problem by trying to curb the movement’s traditional penchant for confrontational action, in favour of a co-operative model of industrial relations. In the background of a weak and retrenching welfare state,however, this has led to concession bargaining which, instead of improving, has further worsened the problem of declining union credibility and density. The paper ends with some tentative suggestions on how to reverse this process."



Vasiliki Kansara - Solidarity in Times of Crisis: Emergent Practices and Potential for Paradigmatic Change. Notes from Greece:

"This article explores citizens’ initiatives in setting up groups in order to provide relief on a solidarity basis in Greece. It aims at understanding some of the processes involved by which the current organisation of social relations gradually undergoes paradigmatic change."


Leo Panitch - The rise of Syriza: an interview with Aristides Baltas:

"This interview with Aristides Baltas, the eminent Greek philosopher who was one of the founders of Syriza and is currently a coordinator of its policy planning committee, was conducted by Leo Panitch with the help of Michalis Spourdalakis in Athens on 29 May 2012, three weeks after Syriza came a close second in the first Greek election of 6 May, and just three days before the party’s platform was to be revealed for the second election of 17 June."


Panagiotis Sotiris - A Strategy of Ruptures: Ten Theses on the Greek Future:

"Jan­u­ary 25th marks a his­toric turn­ing point in recent Greek his­tory. After five years of dev­as­tat­ing aus­ter­ity, a social cri­sis with­out prece­dent in Europe, and a series of strug­gles that at some points, espe­cially in 2010-2012, took an almost insur­rec­tionary form, there has been a major polit­i­cal break. The par­ties that were respon­si­ble for putting Greek soci­ety under the dis­ci­pli­nary super­vi­sion of the so-called Troika (EU-ECB-IMF) suf­fered a humil­i­at­ing defeat. PASOK, which in 2009 won almost 44% of the vote, now received only 4.68%; and the splin­ter party of Gior­gos Papan­dreou, the PASOK Prime Min­is­ter who ini­ti­ated the aus­ter­ity pro­grams, got 2.46%. New Democ­racy came in at 27.81%, almost 9% below SYRIZA. The elec­toral rise of the fas­cists of Golden Dawn has been halted, although they still main­tain a wor­ry­ing 6% of the vote. Another pro-austerity party, the RIVER, rep­re­sent­ing the neolib­eral agenda (although nom­i­nally com­ing from the center-left) took only 6.05%, despite inten­sive media hype."

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