Syriza shifts to the right

Submitted by AWL on 29 July, 2014 - 5:19 Author: Theodora Polenta

SYRIZA’s Central Committee meeting on 21-22 June was a turning point for the organisation.

Although the meeting was to evaluate recent electoral results (local and European elections), the debate was primarily concerned about a new wave of radicalisation and the tactical and strategic steps that a government of the left would need. Especially one dialectically connected with a combatative working-class movement, with a “transitional” perspective on how to achieve general social liberation and socialism.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and other high profile members of the leadership team presented, without much spin, a proposal for a right shift in SYRIZA focusing on the task of destroying the government’s plan to get the enough MPs (180) to elect a President of the Republic and thus avoid early parliamentary elections.

Syriza leaders want cooperation with PASOK and independent MPs and the direct inclusion within SYRIZA of DIMAR (Democratic Left). Tsipras said even MPs that have previously voted for the two memoranda and all the austerity policies are welcome.

This was presented a comprehensive plan for how SYRIZA could govern, but with many possibilities on the range of alliances open. The shift is based on the misplaced analysis that SYRIZA has reached the limits of its influence on the left and therefore should seek to gain the “hegemony” of an illusory middle ground. In place of the “government of the left” the SYRIZA leadership are now talking about a “broad coalition of powers:.

SYRIZA have already put forward two ideas, that prepare a shift to the right: “Saving the country” and “productive reconstruction.” Nebulous references to these goals describe a “stage” where SYRIZA, can cooperate with broader social and political forces, postponing the programme and the commitments of the “government of the left” for an undefined future.

The leadership’s final proposal got a majority, albeit less decisive than the usual 70%-30% majority.

To the draft proposal the “Left Platform” submitted two amendments: one on the reconstruction and democratic functioning of SYRIZA and the relationship between SIRIZA’s leadership and the rank-and-file; the second was on the centrality of the “government of the left” and the political urgency of the united front of the radical left. The first amendment was accepted and incorporated in the final decision, while the second was put to a vote.

From the second amendment of the Left Platform:

“SYRIZA will also seek joint action and cooperation with forces and persons from the social democratic space who have not been involved with positions of responsibility in implementing the neo-liberal memorandum policies and who have been radicalised and shifted to the left.

“SYRIZA keeps an open front against the centre-left, which is the other side of the neo-liberal social democracy, and expressly excludes all forms of cooperation with forces and persons who voted, supported and implemented in parliament or under government jobs and positions of responsibility the memorandum and neo-liberal policies, which destroyed and impoverished the country, the working class people and popular strata.”

The above amendment got 59 votes in favour, 84 against, 4 blank votes and 7 abstentions. The Left Platform did not vote in favour of the majority Central Committee’s final decision. Of the 200 members of the Central Committee over 50 did not participate in the vote at all or did not vote either for or against.

The Left Platform’s attempt to reject the centre left orientation of SYRIZA highlights the essential internal processes and political and ideological battles within SYRIZA.

Over the weekend, a number of speakers shared their experiences and conclusions of the recent electoral campaigns, highlighting weaknesses and wrong choices made by SYRIZA’s leadership​​. Many members of the Central Committee spoke critically of the overall political shift of SYRIZA’s leadership and criticized, often very harshly, the selections of certain SYRIZA’s candidates (those that came from the centre left and are were part of the memorandum policies) as well as the decision making process outside the parties elected organ and bodies, highlighting the problems in the democratic and collective functioning of the party.

The criticism also came from members politically close to SYRIZA’s leadership. The switch to “realism” and attempt to establish new political geography within SYRIZA will herald re-arrangements in the intra-party correlations. This is expressed by the new group within SYRIZA, the “53 Central Committee members” initiative which submitted a text prior to the meeting but chose not to submit alternative amendments.

“The document of the 53” constitutes a clear differentiation, if not a rupture with the choices of the leadership team. The document of the 53 raises two issues: the first relates to the functioning of the party and its internal democratic procedures. The second is the political orientation of SYRIZA and its shift to the right.

There are a number of issues of democracy from who gets to make the key decisions to how Syriz is adopting the slogans and catchphrases of the class opponents like Nea Ellada/New Greece.

And in SYRIZA’s rank and file there is great concern about the speed in which the leadership is overwriting previous conference decisions.

But on political matters, the document of “The 53”, is quite diplomatic and timid. However their stance on the intra-party struggle, and their “practice” in the everyday life of the party is important. This is especially so if one observes that all the leftist opposition tendencies( Left Platform, ANASA and AREN (main force in the 53) have a majority within SYRIZA.

On the other hand, the left opposition needs to realise the leadership has two main advantages against them

The first is that it has a “clean” and coherent economic and political direction which is not characteristic of the left opposition of SYRIZA, at least in its entirety.

Secondly, within the conflict between SYRIZA’s leadership and its left opposition, the leadership will have the full support of the establishment and the media.

The document of “The 53” was co-written by major members of AREN, (Aristeri Enotita, or Left Bloc) who are the “backbone” of the President's majority, so there are ambivalences.

The final decision on alliances states on the one hand that SYRIZA should persevere an aim to be the government of the left, to try to forge a united front with the Communist Party and ANTARSYA and other forces of the radical left and on the other hand recognise as potential allies top executives of social democracy who have recently (or not yet) differentiated from PASOK. This is in contradiction with the previous decisions of SYRIZA.

This is a clear opening to the forces of PASOK, and not the rank and file of PASOK and/or the PASOK working class voters (not much left of them) but the leaders of PASOK.

The Left Platform as a whole and the Red Network in particular, highlighted the dangers of SYRIZA backtracking. They highlighted that the shift to centre-left not only does not preserve any hegemonic role for the radical left line, but opens the door to wider cooperations and governments of “national unity” and “grand coalitions” which inevitably lead to historical compromises and defeats similar in magnitude to those of the PCI in Italy in the 1970s and the Greek EDA in the 1950s and 1960s.

Meanwhile the government’s story that after the restructuring of the government the “new” ministers will be looking to offer some token “relaxation” of the memorandum policies has now been forgotten. Schaeuble, the Eurogroup and the Troika says “reforms” must continue. Bills to do that job are now being written. The most prominent example is the vote for further privatisation of the energy industry DEH and the subsequent civil mobilisation order against the DEH strikers.

SYRIZA does have an alternative. This is to form a united front with the radical left and to escalate the working-class resistance. By forming a united front in the strikes and the anti-fascist movement we can give the final blow to the crumbling New Democracy and PASOK government ensuring that the cleaners, the ERT workers, the public sector workers under the “availability” (redeployment/redundancy) scheme, the DEH workers, the hospital workers, the university striking admin staff and the Coca Cola workers are victorious. Proving that the future lies within a more anti-capitalist left rather than to a collaborationist bowing to the deflated life of Samaras left.

In a speech to business leaders Tspris denounced the policies of “privatization of profits and socialization of losses”, but without taking a breath, he also pledged to “support innovative private investment”, “reduce the price of electricity for the energy intensive industry”, “taxation of profits and not of the components of production” (this means taxation of wealth but exemption of capital — a commitment that they have not dared to utter to bourgeois politicians with such universal form), and “elimination of state bureaucracy for the business entrepreneurs”.

On the other hand, “decently paid work” was simple reset at the minimum wage level of survival threshold (750 euros), while the restoration of industrial relations, proved that it is nothing more than the restoration of Metenergeia (comitment to collective agreemens six months after expiry), as if the collective bargaining agreements have not been dismantled. Such efforts show the SYRIZA’s leadership shift and the party’s orientation towards social democratic politics and for SYRIZA to be portrayed as a “responsible” and a party encouraging “development” from a capitalist power standpoint.

But it alienates and causes frustration in the ranks of workers as well as undermining the prospects of the formation of a government of SYRIZA. Attempt to win the support of the Greek bourgeoisie or a portion of it, the imaginary productive capitalist class, can only be successful if the social democratic orientation of SYRIZA is completed and the party’s leadership proceed in the formation of a bourgeois government within the context of continuation of austerity and anti-working class attacks. But this will lead to loss of support of the working class masses and the crash of such a government.

It is important to recall that the slogan that elevated SYRIZA in the elections of May and June 2012 was none other than “the government of the left”. The leadership of SYRIZA seem to want to forget it in every possible way.

So the shift to the right of SYRIZA (if is not stopped) will be detrimental for the working class and will lead to another historical irrecoverable defeat. It cannot persuade the ruling class. It will alienates further SYRIZA’s rank and file and working class supporters.

The Left Platform, ANASA and AREN should coordinate their action and seek common coordinates. All othree tendencies want to put a brake on the leadership shift to the right. Combined together they have the majority and they can halt these developments. Each one of their own runs the risk of being defeated by SYRIZA’s leadership.

The left opposition of SYRIZA should:

• form a united front of all left wing tendencies and poles within SYRIZA (with each separate tendency retaining its autonomy)

• process a programme (economic and political) around a way out from the crisis, based on socialist policies and a programme of transitional demands under workers' power and control.

And the left outside SYRIZA, has a class responsibility and duty to support in every way, in coordination and comradely consultation, the battles that the left opposition gives within SYRIZA.

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