A balance sheet and the perspective of the revolutionary left in Greece

 The following text contains parts of the document that was voted for in the last Conference of OKDE-Spartakos (October 2021) and was submitted as a report in the last meeting of the International Committee of the Fourth International (February 2022)  


Developments within the Left and the movement 


The situation of the anticapitalist left in Greece is characterized by the absence of a new political paradigm. Organizations that build themselves independently only exert very limited influence, given their small numbers. On the other hand, the dominant model of re-composition or front-like regroupment is in crisis. 


The collapse of Popular Unity (the largest left split of SYRIZA, in 2015) leaves absolutely nothing behind, apart from a few anticapitalist organizations that will still be around in the future, weaker rather than stronger out of this experience. The extremely delayed rupture with SYRIZA, more than half a year after SYRIZA had taken power, the striking programmatic contradictions (“left government” strategy, position about the EU, stance towards the institutions of the state etc), its conservative positions in various subjects, the dominance of a discredited and repelling leadership coming from the bureaucratic apparatus of Synaspismos (the reformist party leading SYRIZA) and having occupied high ranks in the first SYRIZA-ANEL government, as well as the extreme confusion in making a balance sheet of the experience within SYRIZA, deprived Popular Unity of the possibility to lead the current of left opposition to SYRIZA. Popular Unity represents the most impressive case of failure in the Left, disproving any argument or expectation of those currents who considered it a hopeful project.


 If Popular Unity was built around the late Left Platform of SYRIZA, a second pole of attraction of the area in-between reformist parties and the independent anticapitalist left emerged based on the left wing of the SYRIZA majority who supported Tsipras in the party, namely in the youth. Following the crisis of Popular Unity, this wing claimed hegemony among those who left SYRIZA. However, the whole project ended up in a mini merge between Synantisi1 (after suffering its first split, in its very birth) and Anametrisi2, with no substantial dynamic and a particularly loose programmatic framework. The first crisis of this new project was about the question of its position regarding SYRIZA. The next question to bring about a crisis concerns a possible alliance with DiEM 25 of Varoufakis. 


Our criticism of the “intermediate” area, between reformist and revolutionary organization, is not meant to disrespect its militant activity, nor its positive features in each case: a certain influence of Popular Unity in the unions or the remarkable positions of Synantisi concerning nationalism, racism and sexism. Our political criticism regards their strategy and political project. From this viewpoint, we have to acknowledge that most splits from SYRIZA share the moral corrosion of SYRIZA. In most cases, they remain trapped in parliamentarism, in a conception of the movement as a means to pressure the bourgeois institutions basically, in the strategy of “left governments” and of “broad parties” encompassing all left currents, including reformist bureaucrats. They tend to reproduce the same logic that led to the disastrous experience of SYRIZA, a logic that is leading most anticapitalist organizations to similar disasters in several other countries too. 


Towards a balance sheet of ANTARSYA3 and the intervention of OKDE-Spartakos 


For different reasons, ANTARSYA, the largest anticapitalist alliance in the country, is in a prolonged crisis too. Its constituent organizations mostly work independently. However, since neither the conditions nor the actors to substitute ANTARSYA with something superior exist currently, we can’t say that ANTARSYA is outdated. This doesn’t mean that, under the present circumstances, it is a credible project to revitalize it. However, it means that developments in the near future cannot ignore the experience of ANTARSYA, nor can they bypass those forces that have gathered, and still gather, around ANTARSYA. 


This is the time of a balance sheet. ANTARSYA has achieved a scale of influence and intervention that the anticapitalist left had never enjoyed in the past. It gained nation-wide recognizability. It was, and partly still is, despite its paralysis, respected by a remarkable layer of militants in the mass movement. However, it didn’t manage to determine the course of events. 


The question why anticapitalists didn’t manage to determine the course of events and to confront the fraudulent electoral promise of SYRIZA is, a certain sense, more important than the question usually posed, that is why ANTARSYA, or any other force to the left, didn’t manage to attract those who were disappointed by SYRIZA, following the implementation of the third memorandum (austerity pact). The explanation for the passivity of the working class in face of the turn of SYRIZA to austerity is not to be found in the supposed sectarianism of those who never joined SYRIZA. It lies exactly in the fact that the strategy of SYRIZA hegemonized the mass movements of 2010-2012. 


Obviously, many factors have contributed to this: the relatively small (albeit existent) influence of the anticapitalist left on the working class, tactical mistakes, insufficient previous experiences of self-organization. However, the widespread view that the problem was that anticapitalists and revolutionaries could not present a realistic counter-proposal to the SYRIZA government proposal is unfounded: any "realistic" counter-proposal for an electoral solution would be less convincing than that of SYRIZA, since it was already far ahead in electoral influence. On the contrary, what was missing was a radical counter-proposal for a different perspective, based on the expansion and coordination of the forms of self-organization that actually emerged (assemblies, strike committees, etc.), that contained the seeds of a way for the workers to organize against the bourgeois state - the seeds of workers’ power. While it is unlikely that such a proposal could win the majority of the movement of the squares in 2011, it could nevertheless create a more massive and conscious bloc, capable of playing a greater role in what followed. Despite the significant contribution to the struggles, ANTARSYA, the most recognizable and influential anticapitalist formation, could not articulate such a project, trapped in almost exclusively anti-Euro and anti-EU demands. Subsequent programmatic clarifications, although gradually turning ANTARSYA to the left, did not eradicate its political contradictions. These contradictions seem insurmountable today. The circle seems to be closing, without this being our responsibility or directly up to us. 


The years of ANTARSYA were not lost, neither for the militants of the vanguard, nor for our own organization. Full programmatic convergence proved impossible, even after the more "right-leaning" organizations and currents left the project. If the goal was for ANTARSYA to become a party, with a common program and centralism and with the positions of our current, then we would say that the participation of OKDE-Spartakos would have been a failure. The same can be said if the criterion was for this massive formation to offer us a stable base for new militants; but the fierce competition among the organizations made the existence of a large pool of independent members, that we could recruit, impossible. 


However, OKDE-Spartakos has reaped other very substantial benefits. It has been established as a small but existing force of the anticapitalist left, committed to this and not opportunistically oscillating between the independent anticapitalist left and reformism, like many other Trotskyist organizations. The project in which OKDE-Spartakos was invested did not have the tragic end of SYRIZA or Popular Unity, nor did it, on the other hand, lead to the isolation that lonely organizations have suffered. OKDE-Spartakos has proven to be firm in its positions and democratic traditions. These have given it credibility within the anticapitalist left and in its intervention in workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. 


On critical issues, such as nationalism (Greek aggression in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Macedonia), the fight against fascism, the demand for open borders, feminism, the LGBTQI movement, independence from reformism and from nationalist economic protectionism, the organization contributed to programmatic shifts of wider forces. Perhaps more importantly, militants of OKDE-Spartakos are now able to work with a large number of comrades of the anticapitalist left in their areas of intervention, and to have links in workplaces and sectors where we were not present before. This, previously scattered, wider political space was organized around the ANTARSYA. We have a more immediate image of the struggles today. The relations of political trust with the militants of PAAE4 are the result of years of work. At the same time, with our action we were not cut off from organizations and currents outside ANTARSYA (internationalist initiative for the Macedonian question, systematization of relations with other organizations of the revolutionary left, collaborations with forces of anarcho-syndicalism and anarchism); forces with which we collaborate more often recently. OKDE-Spartakos was also forced to take positions on political and tactical issues that were not up to us previously. 


Need for a renewed anticapitalist plan 


Today, it is necessary to put forward a renewed anticapitalist project, both politically and practically, even if it is not possible for a revolutionary anticapitalist party to emerge immediately. This project of reconstruction will be based on real convergences in the movement and on key programmatic issues. The logic of abstract recomposition leads to a perpetual cycle of negotiations, initiatives and transitional formations that lead nowhere. The necessary strategic framework of agreement includes independence from the state and its institutions, from reformism and from parliamentarism - but it also includes more specific elaborations, programmatic elements and balance sheets. 


We insist on the importance of an independent anticapitalist left, which has proven able to take crucial initiatives in the movement, linking radicalism with mass class struggle. We consider ourselves an organic part of this political area. We must remind the usefulness of anticapitalist and revolutionary left to a wider range of activists in practice. This also passes through the reconstruction of this political area. 


A reasonable first goal is to form an anticapitalist revolutionary pole, by regrouping the left of ANTARSYA together with other organizations close to it. In today's murky landscape, the plan may not be as specific as we would like it to be. However, we do need a plan for the independent anticapitalist left today, after the lessons of the crisis and failure of broad parties and left-wing governments. Initiatives on specific key fronts and decisive events of the class struggle can bring affiliated organizations, militants and currents closer. ANTARSYA, with its strengths and impasses, will surely be the point of reference for any new experience. 


Any process of reconstitution or recomposition cannot be cut off from the ultimate political goal, which is the creation of a revolutionary party, as unfortunately happened in most of the recomposition experiences we have in mind. 


A revolutionary party cannot emerge by self-proclamation. The far-left organizations that were renamed into parties did not change at all the fact that they are small vanguard organizations, and not parties, in the sense of a considerable portion of the working class with programmatic unity. 


The revolutionary party (or the revolutionary parties, since the one-party logic is alien to us) is not built by postponing it for another historical era. We need to explain why revolutionary parties are necessary for the working class to claim power and also what exactly a revolutionary party is. It is necessary to explore which sections of the working class can be the vanguard of the struggles today, and which political forces can be the political vanguard. Which forms of organization are most appropriate, based on the objective needs and the situation of the modern working class, as well as the historical experience. The revolutionary program, which is the spine of a revolutionary party, also needs to be discussed. 


OKDE-Spartakos does not have the illusion that its forces are sufficient for it to be in itself the matrix of a revolutionary party. We seek to function as an organization of the vanguard, by means of theoretical education and intervention in the movement, an organization that will participate in the creation of a revolutionary party, through the processes that will be needed for it.


Need for a revolutionary international organization 


The project for the reconstruction of the anticapitalist left cannot be limited to the national context. We still believe in the international organization of the working class. There is no internationalism without an international organization. The project for a revolutionary party is intertwined with the project for a revolutionary international. 


Despite their involvement in the struggles of the period, the international organizations of the revolutionary and anticapitalist left generally proved to be unprepared for the needs and revolutionary opportunities triggered by the global capitalist crisis of 2008. The international movement still bears the marks of the defeat of 1989-1990 and the dilutions of labor organizations. However, significant political shortcomings, strategic mistakes and elements of degeneration also played a role. 


Instead of finding it strengthened after so many years of crisis of capitalism, the new cycle of class struggle finds the global revolutionary and anticapitalist left in a deep crisis, both political and organizational. This crisis is also reflected in the international organizations: crisis of the British SWP and consequently of the IST; successive splits in the CWI and its successors; self-dissolution of the American ISO and consequently of the international network around it; split of the Partido Obrero in Argentina and of the CRFI; split of the Brazilian PSTU and LIT. This phenomenon also manifested itself in the FI, especially after the self-dissolution of the LCR in the NPA, which entered into a process of chronic crisis. Most sections of the Fourth International today are split. A number of smaller internationals may not have the same problems, but in fact these small internationals are just weak clusters around a parent organization. 


The specific circumstances of the crises in international formations vary, but they all include internal democracy, the question of participating in "broad parties" and the stance towards reformism and left-wing governments. The majority of the revolutionary left internationally chose a policy of trailing behind reformism and the governments in which reformists have participated (PT in Brazil, Communist Refoundation in Italy, Podemos in the Spanish State, SYRIZA in Greece). 


The problem of the crises in the internationals is of historical dimensions. Existing internationals are difficult to reform, and there are no forces ready for a new revolutionary international. The unification of the revolutionary forces in one international, on the basis of new class struggles, is not a matter of self-declaration, but it demands real convergences and founding events. The problem, however, cannot be postponed for the distant future. A deeper process, a cut-off, a radical change of direction is needed today internationally. Practical steps are needed. In this sense, the crises and disruptions of existing internationals can also create opportunities. 


The efforts and international initiatives of OKDE-Spartakos are to be seen in this context. We start from our natural space, the Fourth International, the most historic and massive international revolutionary organization, whose programmatic load, political elaborations and traditions we defend. We do not abandon this historical organization and its heritage. But we do not close our eyes to its current impasses. Establishing the Tendency for a Revolutionary International (TIR) within the Fourth International has been a small but practical step. In the process of its development, our tendency is already in touch with currents that have either been excluded from the Fourth International, or come from other international organizations. If we do not claim that our size is enough to be the core of a future revolutionary party, we certainly don’t claim the same for a future revolutionary international. But we can contribute to this goal. 


1 Synantisi is an organization bringing together a limited number of former SYRIZA members. Less than a handful of ex-OKDE Spartakos members, who left to form TPT, participate in Synantisi.


2 A minor split from ANTARSYA, moving to the right.


3 ANTARSYA is the front of anticapitalist and revolutionary forces in which OKDE-Spartakos is a founding member. 


4 Initiative for an anti-capitalist and revolutionary ANTARSYA, our permanent tendency within ANTARSYA.