In the Greek left, the Syriza coalition and the KKE are the biggest groups, but there are many others. This briefing describes the background to Syriza and KKE, and to some of the groups in Greece which consider themselves Trotskyist.
Syriza is an alliance of 13 left parties and groups. The dominant force in it is Synaspismos. It was formed in 2004 (with only five groups in the alliance then).
It campaigns now, and campaigned in the run-up to 6 May, for a left-unity government. After 6 May it proposed six points to other parties after 6 May as conditions for Syriza’s participation in a coalition government:
• Reverse all the anti-working-class policies implemented during the last two years — wage and pension reductions and abolition of collective bargaining agreements, union rights etc
• Freeze all debt payments. A moratorium on the debt for at least three years.
• Nationalisation of the banks under workers’ control.
• Elect a committee to examine and assess the Greek debt and write off the "illegal" part of the debt
• Introduce proportional representation
• Scrap protection for MPs from being prosecuted for acts of corruption and robbery of public money.
It wants Greece to stay in the EU and eurozone, and argues that defiant rejection of the cuts imposed on Greece by the EU, ECB, and IMF can force the EU leaders to back down.
Synaspismos essentially comes out of the "Interior" ("Eurocommunist") faction of the old Communist Party of Greece, KKE.
In 1987 the two factions of the KKE formed an electoral coalition under the name Synaspismos. In 1989-90 Synaspismos joined a coalition government with New Democracy (Tories), theoretically on a short-term mandate to clean up corruption.
Most Synaspismos members and leaders came to think that the coalition was a bad move. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 led to KKE-Exterior quitting the Synaspismos coalition, and the remainder of Synaspismos converting itself from a coalition to a party.
"Eurocommunism" was a trend in many Communist Parties in the 1970s to distance themselves from the USSR and Stalinism and to open up to movements like feminism.
In Britain the "Eurocommunists" soon became, essentially, right-wing Labourites or liberals with a top-coating of Marxist jargon. In some countries, including Greece, the "Eurocommunists" were more left-wing.
The KKE-Interior was so called because led by those "inside" Greece (rather than in exile) under the military dictatorship of 1967-74.
Some of the old "Eurocommunist" leaders, such as Fotis Kouvelis, split off from Synaspismos in June 2010 to form the Democratic Left. Most Synaspismos members today have joined since the days of "Eurocommunism".
The Synaspismos youth movement is more left-wing than the older members, and among the older members too there are several different shades of politics.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is the oldest political party in Greece, and has much deeper roots in Greek working-class history than Pasok (founded only in 1974, and without the organic links with trade unions which the Labour Party has in Britain). This makes the landscape of the left in Greece very different from in Britain.
KKE was founded in 1918, when the workers' revolution in Russia inspired a number of small socialist groups to join together and many workers to join them.
The first general secretary of the KKE, Pantelis Pouliopoulos, and others, stayed loyal to revolutionary Marxism and became Trotskyists, but the majority of the KKE became Stalinised.
Pantelis Pouliopoulos, first secretary of the KKE, stayed loyal to revolutionary Marxism and became a Trotskyist
Between 1941 and 1944 the KKE played a big role in the armed resistance to the Nazi occupation of Greece. A civil war followed, between 1946 and 1949, between KKE-led forces and the forces of the monarchy, backed by British troops and the USA.
The KKE of today is the diehard-Stalinist remnant of the old KKE, after the splintering-way of "Eurocommunist" currents which have flowed into Syriza and of Maoist groups,
It proposes a "popular government" which will "disengage from the EU" and overthrow "the monopolies" at some time in the future, but all large measures have to wait for that distant future. For now it has no answers but to strengthen the KKE so that it can pursue "the path of rupture, conflict, [which] requires sacrifices". The KKE is diehard-Stalinist, and publicly mourned North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.
Xekinima was in Syriza between 2008 and 2011. It quit last year but called for a vote for Syriza or other left parties on 6 May, and backed Syriza's call for a united left government.
"Xekinima urges Syriza to make a bold call to the rank and file of the KKE and other left forces to join in an electoral bloc on an anti-austerity platform and to fight for a majority left government with a socialist programme".
The tag "with a socialist programme" reflects Xekinima's links with the Socialist Party in England, which for a long time summed up its aim as "Labour to power with a socialist programme", as if a full socialist programme were something that could be achieved by nudging along Labour (or Syriza).
Xekinima's attitude to Europe is, however, very different from the "No2EU" Socialist Party's.
"While the vast majority of Greeks vociferously oppose the austerity programme they also want to remain in the eurozone. They understandably fear the aftermath of exiting the common currency".
DEA is a group within Syriza which sees itself as part of the same "tradition" as the SWP in Britain. Its international links are, however, not with the SWP, but with the ISO in the USA, which the SWP expelled from its international network in 2001 in an obscure dispute, and Socialist Alternative in Australia.
DEA commented on the 6 May election: "we commit ourselves once again to doing anything we can to keep Syriza moving in a radical left-wing direction..."
It further explains: "In the Syriza alliance, we are trying to organise around the slogan: 'Not a single sacrifice for the euro, no illusions in the drachma'. Our goal is a left-wing policy that confronts the vulgar 'Europeanism' which legitimises austerity policies today, but without taking responsibility for raising a call for an immediate return to the drachma... If [a return to the drachma] does happen under the current constellation of social and political forces, the results will be bitter for the Greek people..."
Kokkino is a splinter from DEA, also within Syriza. It appears more ecumenical than DEA. It declares that a left government will "face a coordinated attack from the markets" and should respond with measures like "stopping payments, nationalisation with compensation of banks and key sectors of the economy, control of trade and capital flows... The key is to organise a wide support network for a left government by the organisation and mobilisation of its social base".
The Democratic Left is a split from Synaspismos in 2011. Although it voted against the second EU/ ECB/ IMF "memorandum", in negotiations after 6 May it indicated it would cooperate in a government carrying through the "memorandum".
Antarsya, SEK, Spartakos
Antarsya is a coalition of ten left groups including two Trotskyist currents, the SEK and OKDE-Spartakos, Maoist groups, and splinters from the KKE tradition.
It got 1.2% of the vote in the 6 May election, with the slogan "Bread, Education, Freedom" (clunkily adapted from the Bolsheviks' "Bread, Land, and Peace" in 1917: the Bolsheviks also pushed less bland demands for workers' control, for the organisation of the working class, for Red Guards, and for power to workers' councils).
The vote was more than in 2009, but has disappointed Antarsya activists and led to some debate between them.
DEA criticises Antarsya as follows: "Antarsya... adapted the slogan 'an anti-capitalist exit from the euro'. This formulation isn't honest... If we are talking about an anti-capitalist overthrow of the existing system and the new system that would emerge from this, then a slogan about currency isn't the best place to start... For most of the comrades of Antarsya, the way to resolve the contradiction in their everyday political activity is to forget about the adjective 'anti-capitalist' and speak only about an exit from the euro, pure and simple..."
SEK, however, praises this position of Antarsya for bringing EU withdrawal into immediate left politics. The KKE is very anti-EU, but talks about Greek withdrawal from the EU as something which should happen only with a "popular" (KKE-backed) government already in power in Greece, not now.
SEK does not oppose the call for a united left government, but stresses the "limits" and sees the answer in more militancy in workplaces.
SEK is the group "officially" linked to the SWP in Britain. OKDE-Spartakos is linked with the "Mandelite" current represented by such organisations as the NPA in France. (There is a tiny affiliate of this current in Britain, called Socialist Resistance).
Spartakos suggests that the left should give "extra-parliamentary support or votes in parliament to all measures of a leftist government that break with the politics of capital", but emphasises struggle for "workers' control and workers' self-management".
There are two main Trotskyist groups which stood in the 6 May elections against both Syriza and Antarsya.
EEK (which got 0.08%) was historically linked to the "Healyite" SLL/ WRP in Britain, which was the biggest and most visible revolutionary left group in Britain in the 1960s and early 70s. EEK stuck with the WRP even after it went crazy (from about 1968) and then (from 1976) took money from the Libyan and Iraqi governments to sustain itself, and in return praised those tyrannies. In 1987 Healy expelled the EEK because it would not go along with his applause for Gorbachev. EEK is now linked not with other ex-Healyite groups but with Politica Obrera in Argentina. It declares:
"Elections will not provide the solution, the solution lies in the immediate organisation and victorious conduct of an indefinite General Political Strike that will last until the fall of the Papademos government and its potential successors... a red socialist Greece in a red socialist Europe".
OKDE (which got 0.02%) is the result of a split from OKDE-Spartakos by young activists who saw the whole "Mandelite" current as drifting into soft, flabby politics. The OKDE comrades are open and keen to discuss, and AWL has attended meetings with them and carried comment from them in Solidarity.
OKDE's view on the EU is different from ours. OKDE distinguishes itself on the Greek left by raging against the EU as "the anti-worker headquarters, the prison of peoples".
OKDE calls for a revolutionary party and a socialist revolution, but also for a Constituent Assembly.
The text: Down with the barbaric policy of - hunger - unemployment - repression - and submission. Vote for justice
There are many Maoist groups in Greece, offshoots of the strength of the KKE tradition. Two of them, KKE-ML and ML-KKE, have formed an electoral alliance focused on "the struggle of our people for leaving the EU and NATO and to overthrow the domination of imperialism". It won 0.25% on 6 May.
The statement that the Antarsya slogan "Bread, Education and Freedom" is adapted from 1917 is not correct. In direct terms it is an adaptation from the slogans of the student revolt in 1973 against the military junta then ruling Greece.
OKDE, as distinct from OKDE-Spartakos, are indeed not like your ordinary "Mandelites", and they do indeed regard the "Mandelite" mainstream, the Fourth International, as hopelessly mired in compromise and efforts to form broad fronts. They do however still circulate and value the writings of Ernest Mandel himself, who died in 1995.