We have to spread the “Greek virus” to other countries

Interview with Anastasia Giamali from SYRIZA
 
The Greek elections are coming on the 20th of September. We ask four comrades and friends (Anastasia Giamali from SYRIZA, Yiannos Giannoulos from Laiki Enotita, Sokratis Giannopoulos from the former Youth of SYRIZA, Kostas Gousis from ANTARSYA) some questions about their experience of the Left Government, the split of SYRIZA, the relationship between Greece and Europe, the Memorandum, and the political positions of the party they support. They answered not as representatives of each party, but according to their personal opinion and, at the same time, as supporters or candidates of each party.
ANALYZEGREECE!
 
 
How do you evaluate the experience of the government of the Left these seven months?
The first seven months of governance were dedicated to the negotiation process with the creditors/institutions to such an extent that it pretty much absorbed all the energy of the government. Yet, we can reach some conclusions at least on a preliminary level: 
As far as the negotiation goes, most of the facts are now known to all and I don’t think that the problem concerned the negotiating strategy but the assumptions. SYRIZA did not expect that the creditors would push it to the limits and thus there was a lack of a complete proposal to deal with this situation, especially with the financial and banking asphyxiation. 

As far as “governance” goes, the emphasis was placed in the promotion of emergency legislation, some of it with a clear ideological stance (prison bill, citizenship bill, bill to tackle the humanitarian crisis). Indeed we must note that some of the legislative initiatives of the first period were very daring and progressive for the country given the timing.

From then on, my view is that SYRIZA –due to lack of time– failed to “govern” in the sense that it did not have enough time to change the governance model, so it merely staffed some key positions with people of trust, in order to –at least– be able to have an overview of a state and a state apparatus which had been designed and built to be hostile to anyone that is not part of the establishment.
 
After the whole period of negotiations, we woule like shortly your opinion a) the Eurozone and whether Grece should stay or not in it b) the EU as a field of struggle (for the movement, the Left etc).
During and after the negotiation some things became crystal clear. First, the mere existence of a leftwing government within the Eurozone worried and caused anxiety to the European elite.  Secondly, it became evident that within the Eurozone there are conflicting priorities and interests and there is no solid bloc.
On the other hand it was proven that with the systemic danger of contaminating Europe with the Greek virus, the choices were limited to cynicism, naked of any pro-European integration veil and in the end, hostile towards Greece. If a conclusion can be drawn given the parallel developments in other European countries (Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Corbyn becoming the new head of Labour in the UK) is that the EU remains the core of class struggle. 
 
What do you think are the immediate political priority for SYRIZA after the elections of 20/9? (basic demands, priorities, fronts of collaboration and tasks)?
It is fairly obvious that, as a whole, the Left has not lived up to the challenge presented by the times. This may have to do with inefficient analyses or organisational preparation, but at its core lie two things that together set a certain mood among both the people and the organisations of the Left: first, the ideologisation of the decade-long heritage of defeat and the idealisation of lost struggles; second, the abrupt change of Syriza's scale which was expected to turn from party to government. From then on, breakups and fragmentation are almost inherent to the history of the movement, not just in Greece but internationally. In every country there are many distinct left-wing collectivities, parties and groups, that are products of internal disruptions and that very often have indiscernible differences between them.
 
The Greek Left after several years of initiatives of collaboration like Syriza and Antarsya know is getting again split and divided. How do you evaluate the current situation and which do you believe are the future perspectives?
To answer that very briefly, the first strategic goal for both Greece and Europe is to not allow the “left-wing parenthesis” to close, that is to have a left-wing government after the election. Second goal: the renegotiation of all open matters, i.e. prevention of main home foreclosures, restoration of collective bargaining, retention of important infrastructures under public control. Third goal: combatting corruption both in its political and institutional aspect and in the framework of income redistribution via taxation, i.e. make the rich pay. 
 
 The recent years, Greece became the center of interest for the international movement because of the struggle of Greek people against austerity and also because of SYRIZA becoming the first left government. Where do you think we stand today after the signing of the third Memorandum? What is your message to the people that struggle in Europe and in the whole world?
The struggle continues. We are at a very early stage, we succeeded in bringing a left-wing party to power in the EU, our goal must be for the “Greek virus” to spread to other countries, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, so that a critical mass is formed for a confrontation with neo-liberalism on a European level. In Greece, Syriza was forced to retreat, because it was faced with a threat of sudden death orchestrated and promoted by the most extreme neoliberal circles in Europe and the Greek capitalist block, with the aim to get rid of the left-wing government in Greece and to intimidate the other European people. It is what Wolfgang Schäuble cynically described as “they will skin you like hares and wave your skins to Podemos”... Even if we look at it as a simple reflex action, the first goal of the movement both in Greece and abroad should be to refute the expectation of systemic forces all over the continent.
 
Anastasia Giamali is a journalist, candidate with SYRIZA  at the general elections of 20 September.
 

 
  • Published in POLITICS

A success of LAE will mean a strong Left

 
Interview with Yiannos Giannopoulos  from Laiki Enotita (Popular Unity)
 
 The Greek elections are coming on the 20th of September. We ask four comrades and friends (Anastasia Giamali from SYRIZA, Yiannos Giannoulos from Laiki Enotita, Sokratis Giannopoulos from the former Youth of SYRIZA, Kostas Gousis from ANTARSYA) some questions about their experience of the Left Government, the split of SYRIZA, the relationship between Greece and Europe, the Memorandum, and the political positions of the party they support. They answered not as representatives of each party, but according to their personal opinion and, at the same time, as supporters or candidates of each party.
ANALYZEGREECE!

 
How do you evaluate the  experience of the government of the Left  these seven months?
In order to draw useful conclusions for a new strategy for the Greek and the European radical left in general I think that we should focus on the main picture and not parts of the government’s action. The first government of the Left in a Eurozone country during the crisis years ended up in a strategic defeat. The defeat is probably most due to the shortcomings of our (since I was a member of the Youth of SYRIZA till recently) analysis for the Eurozone, and not the way of governing itself. However I would like to stress three important issues. The first one is that during the negotiations with the lenders, the movements' role was completely underestimated. The government did not try to use the power generated by the motivation of the masses to support its position in the negotiations in general, with the exception of a short time interval before the agreement of the 20th of February, and the week before the memorandum.

The second one, which is linked to the first, is that no changes were made to the structure of the state that could have allowed the people, the productive forces of our society, the ones that experience the problems and can, hence, address the problems more directly to propose solutions. A wider and deeper democracy, that has no financial cost, was not established. Moreover, and here comes the third point, not even the democratic force within SYRIZA was taken into consideration.

 The party was totally absorbed by the state, exactly in the way that M. Nikolakakis predicted some months ago [1] and so were its chain of command and decisions. People in key state positions were playing a significant role, whereas party officials had no idea what was going on. This meant that the government lost track of the society, and the party, and it also probably explains the confidence of Alexis Tsipras to pronounce the elections, probably expecting that the party would not undergo major losses. We might want to reread the enlightening interview of A.Baltas to L.Panich, where the most famous Greek althusserian philosopher practically tries to relativize structuralism, while he admits that spending 12 hours per day in the ministry did not allow him to communicate with the party. On the other hand side, we cannot abolish the things the government did do for the prison system, higher education and migration policies. Sectors where the government really tried to implement a different logic in its first steps, and this is why the polemic of the bourgeoisie opposition concentrated on these fields. These progressive reforms are going to be fought against by the right wing of the probable government coalition that is going to be formed after the elections.
 
After the whole period of negotiations, we woule like shortly your opinion a) the Eurozone and whether Grece should stay or not in it b) the EU as a field of struggle (for the movement, the Left etc).
Being a member of the left euro communist tendency of SYRIZA, I thought that the strategy of changing the equilibrium of power or to implement anti-neoliberal policies inside this Eurozone was possible. I think that we must honestly admit that we made a huge mistake there. The threat to destroy the currency was not enough, let aside that we did not even have a plan for that. Moreover, I think that we somehow subconsciously assumed that the Left will rise in parallel in other European countries. We actually made the same mistake that the architects of the Euro made. We did not take the economic crises into consideration, and during the crises, the political changes that took place in the affected countries are really asymmetric.

The dilemma we are actually facing is not euro or drachma. It is euro or democracy. The political importance of crushing the different example that could be made by the Left is much more important to the ruling classes of Europe than the cost of taking the risk of a GRexit. The common currency might not survive such an event, but we will not find out till it happens, and it seems as if Dr. Shauble is very willing to take the risk. Apart from the fact that, no one believes that the new memorandum can be implemented successfully, and that the GRexit may lead to an even worse situation after the end of the programme. In addition, the clash of the ruling classes of Europe against each other during the crisis that is still not over cannot let anyone be reassured that there might not be a schism in the Eurozone caused by France or Italy in the next years, since some of the capitalists in these countries would favor exiting the Euro. It is short-sighted not to have a plan-B after everything that happened during the negotiations, even if one would not choose this path himself.

Regarding the EU, I think that we shouldn’t rush to answer this question, however, leaving the Eurozone might have to be combined with leaving the EU. We have to analyse if it is possible to stay in the EU and follow our own policies in  strategic areas such as energy production and distribution, or the common agricultural policies,  were the common EU, and not the Eurozone policy, is strictly neoliberal,. In any case, we must not in any case ignore the importance of the internationality of our strategy. Even if we need to leave the EU to be able to exercise independent policy, Europe remains the geographical space where a socialistic strategy can prosper, due to historical, political, and economic reasons, and we should not forget that.
 
The Greek Left after several years of initiatives of collaboration like Syriza and Antarsya  know is getting again split and divided. How do you evaluate the current situation and which do you believe are the future perspectives?
I am deeply concerned that we may experience a similar situation to the Italian Left in the last decades. Numerous splits and social-democratic mutations that will bury the ability of the Left to form a massive movement to take power. And this is what we need nowadays, fighting for our rights is not enough. If one also takes into consideration the really poor situation of the Greek syndicates, the concern grows. However, the formation of Popular Unity as something that wants to evolve into a front is a step for the Left to survive from the crash and the mutation. The previsions would be more optimistic if the cooperation with ANTARSYA had been achieved, this did not happen, though. SYRIZA will continue to dissolute, and we need to start to discuss very seriously after the elections on how we will manage to create a new party that will be able to serve our new strategy.
 

 What do you think are the immediate political priority for LAE after the elections of 20/9? (basic demands, priorities, fronts of collaboration and tasks)?
The importance of the electoral success of Popular Unity is to have a strong Left in the central political scene after the elections (since the Communist Party acts as if it does not want to be involved with real politics, especially after suggesting to voters to cast an invalid vote in the referendum). From this position it will be able to help the struggles of the next day to blossom again. However, we must not be fooled. The question now is not whether we will be able to gain part of what we lost in recent years. We need to form a proposal and a plan to gain power, not only governmental, but political power in general, inside, outside and against the state and the ruling classes’ coalition which will not retreat easily. This will be a very tough thing to achieve since almost none of the really big enterprises wants to leave the euro, perhaps apart from the pharmaceutical industries. We need to build a plan that will confront and "detour" the classic capitalistic economic and administrative functions of our society as we know it, a plan that one would call, in traditional terms, semi-revolutionary.
 
* The recent years, Greece became  the center of interest for the international movement because of the struggle of Greek people against austerity and  also because of  SYRIZA becoming  the first left government. Where do you think we stand today after the signing of the third Memorandum? What is your message to the people that struggle in Europe and in the whole world?
There is a severe concern that the defeat and the mutation of SYRIZA will affect the Left in the other European countries. We will have to wait for the elections in Spain to estimate the impact of what happened to the other left parties especially in the Eurozone countries. One has to admit, though, that in any case SYRIZA was a beacon for the European Left, the consequences will be severe. I think that we need to confine the repercussions, and start forming an internationalist strategy to break down the Eurozone, in a way that will favour the youth, the unemployed and the working classes of Europe, and not the different lobbies that want to profit from returning to national currencies. We need to cooperate on that, and we need to reach the next level as far as coordination goes. The coordination of the movements does not meet the requirements of the new era, we need to coordinate the strategies, from now on.
 
Yiannos Giannopoulos is a civil engineer, candidate with Laiki Enotita (Popular Unity) at the general elections of 20 September.
 
 
 

 
  • Published in POLITICS
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