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.
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
"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.
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.
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”.