The Greek left and Plan B

The Greek working class has made its choice: against the sectarian isolationism of the Communist Party (KKE) and in favour of Syriza’s proposal for left cooperation and a government of the Left as the political means to escape the catastrophic quagmire in which we find ourselves.

Yet the leadership of Syriza is failing to face up to the issues, arguing that “there is no risk of Greece being thrown out the euro, because that would have huge negative consequences, financial and political, for the eurozone”.

The Syriza leadership is wrong when it claims that the reason why the ECB/ EU/ IMF Troika has imposed the third Memorandum on Greece is because “the three party coalition government [Pasok-ND-Democratic Left] was not tough enough in negotiations”.

Demetris Christofias, the AKEL [Communist Party] president of Cyprus was the model cited by Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras for being tough with the Troika. But now Cyprus has a Memorandum too. Imposition of or resistance to cuts does not depend on governments’ negotiating skills.

Even if it costs a lot to Merkel and the other EU leaders to throw Greece out of the euro, and it does, it costs them much more, politically and ideologically, to tolerate little Greece overturning their policies. If a government of the Left of Greece can overturn their strategic plans without being punished, that will give a “bad example” to the rest of the South and the labour movements across Europe.

It is an illusion to believe that a government of the Left will be able to implement pro-working-class, anti-Memorandum policies smoothly and the EU leaders will continue to fund Greece, respecting the “democratic will” of the Greek people!

The threats and witch-hunting against Syriza in the May and June elections were a prelude for the confrontations to come.

It is true that there is no standard procedure for the expulsion of a country from the eurozone, but eviction from the euro is simple: the EU cuts funding, and the ECB excludes Greek banks from the euro payments system.

A significant section of the revolutionary left selects an instinctive solution, “Out of the EU and the euro”, as its plan B.

In an interview given to Prin, the newspaper of NAR, one of the main components of Antarsya, former Syriza leader Alekos Alavanos, now of MAAS (Front of Solidarity and Rupture) says:

“The focal points are the cessation of payments, cancellation of debt, exit from the euro and regaining our national monetary policy, nationalisation of banks, public planning in order to kick off the reorganisation of production, redistribution of wealth through measures that go beyond taxation and should confront property and wealth, workers’ control”.

“We call the program Plan B. Other forces of the left, such as Antarsya, refer to it as an anti-capitalist program. In my opinion it is a revolutionary program in the sense that it challenges the central choice of the ruling class of Greece from the 60s until today...

“The euro is the central point... Syriza with its pro-euro positions defines itself on the other side. Syriza’s presumption that “exit from the euro equals disaster” provides an ideological firewall for systemic eurozone domination within Greece.

“In Europe all the big powers, the parties, the banks, the big corporations have a plan B to deal with the prospect of Greece’s exit from the eurozone. Only Greece has not in hand a plan B. Both the government and the parties in opposition have neglected the necessity to work on a plan B. If however, Greece is taken by surprise when forced to exit the eurozone, with people panicking, this is going to be a main disaster.

“If the exit from the Euro takes place in an orderly way with the people’s support, led by a government of the Left, it can be the start of a dynamic response to poverty, unemployment and destruction of social cohesion”.

Thus Alavanos suggests that a government of the Left should initiate in an organised way something that market forces, the EU, or the ECB may impose on Greece. No other preconditions apart from the act of exiting the eurozone are stated in order to achieve full employment, regain our income, and (says Alavanos) get “a new equitable European economic and monetary cooperation”.

Alavanos aims for “Greece focusing on its exporting power and potential” and revitalisation of the “internal market”. But that road that has been extensively tried in the past decades, sometimes by populist social-democratic types of government, and sometimes by extreme anti-working-class dictatorships.

In truth, return to the drachma by itself is not going to solve any of the contradictions of the capitalist system, and is not going to solve any of the problems of the economic crisis,

If transition to a national currency could solve the problems, why do countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with their national currencies, remain in conditions of dependency, poverty, and hunger?

Posing the slogan “out of the EU and the euro now” carries an extremely high risk of creating national illusions, disguising the centrality of class struggle.

Greece’s loss of national sovereignty is the result and not the cause of the crisis. The explosive social problems of Greece are directly linked with the crisis of a capitalist system which operates on a global scale.

This crisis is not a Greek crisis. The “debt crisis” encompasses all the weakest economies of the eurozone. The crisis started in 2007 from the housing market in USA, and mutated in 2008 to a crisis of the international banking system. When the European governments intervene to rescue their collapsing banks, the turmoil was again transformed into the public “debt crisis”.

Capitalist governments around the world have tried to deal with the crisis in an “internationalist” and coordinated way. In 2007-8, in order to contain the financial crisis , the big central banks (Fed, European Central Bank) handed over 13 trillion of dollars to the commercial banks of their countries. Between 2008 and 2012 the Greek banks received 150 billion euros to support their liquidity from the EFSF and the European Central Bank.

What consequences of the global capitalist crisis will Greece be protected from outside the eurozone? Supporters of Plan B answer this question by saying that the recovery of sovereignty in the monetary and fiscal policy will solve problems. However, the dramatic devaluation of the new national currency that would follow Greek exit from the euro would lead to a big rise in costs of imported tools (from Western Europe) and raw materials (the Middle East), and cause unprecedented poverty to the vast majority of the population. Greek exports would be cheaper, but large benefits from that fact are not at all certain, given that the forecasts for growth in global markets are bleak. A boom for the tourist industry is unlikely in the event of turmoil caused by the currency change in Greece.

Since 2010 many “emerging economies” have hit crises, including the country cited by the Greek radical left as the prototype for the benefits of “going it alone”, Argentina. An “independent” Greece with its productive base already dramatically shrunk will be in a worse position than other “independent” capitalist economies.

In Serbia, the debt is only 50% of GDP, and there is no euro. Yet the government says it is “forced” to proceed with cuts. The Finance Minister repeats the new “There Is No Alternative” message: “You will live worse but will not die.” The issue goes beyond currencies and even beyond Memoranda.

Look at Germany itself, the “best” country of the EU. Millions of workers in full-time employment cannot make ends means and are forced to have a second job. Approximately 1.3 million full-time workers are forced to seek state benefits. More and more Germans are working for just 400 euros a month (“mini-jobs”). A worker paid 2,500 euros gross per month will receive in 2030 a pension of just 688 euros, a sum which cannot cover even housing expenses. The retirement age has already risen to 67.

The only way out is to stop functioning in the framework of capitalism, and not just to quit the eurozone.

The proponents of Plan B “forget” the international environment, for example-the wave of workers’ struggles in the European South. What should the workers in Greece propose to the workers of Spain? “Equal partnership” between capitalist states in Greece and Spain?

The priority of the Greek Left should be in inverse order: Independent of whether a government of the left would be forced to use and manage a national currency or will remain within the eurozone, the Greek Left should prioritise international solidarity, cooperation, joint action with the Left and the working class in other European countries.

Supporters of Plan B talk about nationalising banks, increasing public expenditure on salaries, pensions and investments etc. and productive reconstruction. But they do not clarify whether the nationalisation of banks would be done with or without compensation to their bosses, or whether the policy of nationalisation (with or without compensation) will be extended to other strategic sectors of the economy, nor how they will find the revenues which will provide increased public spending.

The only way out is to nationalise the banks without compensation, under workers’ control and management, and to ban the outflow of capital from the country — to put a workers’ state in control of the whole credit system. Economic reconstruction will only benefit the people if it overthrows capitalist social relationships of production.

The Syriza leadership’s duty is to tell the truth to the Greek people, and not to conceal the hard times and confrontations to come — to prepare the working-class movement politically, ideologically and organisationally (by encouraging the flourishing of workers’ committees and neighbourhood committees and other forms of workers’ self-management and control). Otherwise, an unprepared and disarmed working class movement will turn against the government of the Left blaming it for all the difficulties; and a regress led by the darkest forces of fascism and chauvinism and capitalism will be inevitable.

It is highly possible that confrontation with both national and international capitalism and its institutions will lead a government of the Left, based on workers’ control and workers’ power, to exiting the euro. That is very different from intellectual a priori plans to restructure the national economy starting from the idea of return to a national currency. Historically, the working class movement has never encountered a “currency road” to socialism.

Faced with a left government in Greece, the Troika would stop lending, the European Central Bank will cease to give credit to the Greek banks, and probably the ECB would cut off the Greek banks from the euro payments system, thus preventing the Greek central bank from creating new euros valid outside Greece.

The left government should be prepared to issue an alternative currency, which could run alongside the euro for a transitional period.

This currency could be national (drachma, say, or “geuros”, euros which would be valid within Greece but not outside, as would also be the euros in Greek bank deposits if the ECB cuts Greece out of the payments system). If the conflict expanded into a series of countries, for example across southern Europe, there could be a common currency for those countries.

The government would have to nationalise all strategic sectors of the economy under workers’ management and control, in order to create “national syndicates” per economic sector and for the economy to be designed and planned to cover the needs of society. A government of the Left would create jobs in areas of immediate need, such as infrastructure, education and health, reducing or cancelling the debts of poor households and businesses and then turning public investment into agriculture, renewable energy, tourism, and industrial production.

On that road, the Greek working-class movement and the government of the Left should coordinate and instigate common struggles with the workers in the rest of Europe, also hit by the crisis — especially workers in the South, where there have been militant strikes and social movements.

The Greek working-class movement and the government of the left will be in an infinitely better position to confront blackmail, if we can coordinate our struggle with the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Cypriot workers.

It is imperative for the revolutionary left in and out of Syriza to raise on every occasion the question of socialism. Without a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system, the austerity measures will never end, in or out of the euro.

A “no sacrifice for the Euro” slogan can unify the working-class movements against the blackmailing and bullying of the EU leaderships.

The only truly practical strategic response to the crisis and deadlock of the capitalist European Union is the red Europe of the workers.

We need a workers’ government, based on workers’ democracy, workers’ and social control, and workers’ militias. The main axis of struggle should be the following:

● Fight for the development and escalation of industrial and social struggle against the attacks of the government and Troika, with rolling strikes, occupations, stoppages, demonstrations, reinvigoration of the neighbourhood movements

● Fight for the overthrow of the three party coalition government and all the capitalist parties

● In every neighbourhood the trade unions and the neighbourhood committees should form popular defence squads and solidarity squads to defeat fascist violence and solve social problems through solidarity and cooperation

● Fight for a united front and cooperation of the left in the industrial and in the political sphere

● Fight for a government of the left and a workers’ government

● Fight to alert and prepare the working class for the prospect and the consequences of a eurozone or EU exit

● Fight for a program of transitional demands based upon workers’ self-management and control and the nationalisation of the banks and the main pillars of the economy without compensation to the capitalists and under workers’ control

● Fight alongside the European working class, and particularly the working class of southern Europe, for the overthrow of the capitalism and the establishment of the United Socialist States of Europe.

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