Lost in the left

The victory of reformism and the reactionary character of Greek Marxism.


In the days after the referendum the final chapter of SYRIZA’s political history began to be written. With the sense of political liberation the referendum had provided, the leadership of the party moved away from the left reformist wing of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, at first by establishing that very night a parliamentary alliance with the opposition parties, and afterwards, in the days that followed, with the unconditional acceptance of a new deal by the European political establishment. The referendum set the stage for a political catharsis to take place and created a means for the buildup of political frustration, that was overwhelming Greek society, to become defused through the illusion of individual democratic power. Every question that materialized throughout the last period in relation to the economic and political crisis Greek society was facing culminating to the day of the referendum, became enclosed within a meaningless expression of social patriotism; with the result of that expression baring no responsibility to address let alone answer those questions.

The leadership of SYRIZA had passed on to the Greek people the responsibility of addressing the crisis and through the narrow and superfluous narratives of the referendum the Greek people returned the responsibility in the manner of political exoneration. Not only did SYRIZA’s leadership receive a mandate from the referendum to become the party of preservation of the economic and political status quo, effectively by being politically in a position to translate the result to suit its own political needs and aspirations, but also in effect to complete what started two years ago with the party’s inaugural conference i.e. the marginalization of SYRIZA’s parliamentary ‘left reformist’ wing and liquidation of the party’s factional structure. The story of SYRIZA is the story of reformism in Greece triumphantly managing to masquerade itself and inconspicuously move the political stage from the streets into parliament. Convincing the masses of the irrelevance of political activism and participation. That the revolution can indeed take place within the closed doors of the Greek parliament not by the working class but certainly for the working class. It is also the story of Marxism in Greece failing to offer theoretical protection against the deceitful nature of reformism and its political agenda of class collaboration and political appeasement of the working class. The principal political enemy of the working class has and will always be reformism in all its political manifestations, and the role of Marxism has and always will be to combat it on a day to day basis within the labour movement and more importantly within the core area of its expression i.e. the social democratic parties. The failure to address this issue within PASOK in the period before the economic crisis having abandoned it to the hands of political careerists and reformism returned to haunt the Greek labour movement and Greek Marxism when the reformist wing of PASOK having lost its parliamentary voice and fearful of its future existence took its place at the head of SYRIZA in becoming the party’s main parliamentary force. The organizational fragmentation that characterized SYRIZA’s structural form was overshadowed by the surge of parliamentary movement of the collapsing PASOK creating at the same time the electoral movement that propelled the party from the margins of parliamentary existence to electoral prominence, thus concealing the lack of working class participation in its base. In its new home reformism adopted the socialist and revolutionary rhetoric needed to express to sustain the alliance until it would be time to shed the political weight it was feeling to its left, that would prevent it from achieving prominence not just within Greek bourgeois parliament but within the European bourgeois political establishment; driven at all times by the petty bourgeois need to finally take its natural place in serving their true masters. And so the left wing of parliamentary PASOK became the right wing of SYRIZA; now ready to complete their own circle having themselves been baptized in the bloody waters of European capitalism and the ‘necessary’ reality of memorandums. The past always held this future for this parliamentary alliance that will start to look towards its traditional home knowingly that its electoral strength will soon start to migrate towards that way. And so the reason why PASOK is still in existence and will once again become the battleground for the political consciousness of the Greek working class is because of the political nature of SYRIZA, and it becoming a transitional vessel for reformism in search of political room to express its populism. In the same manner that reformism directed the Greek working class and Greek society electorally to the illusion of populist change, will also direct them back to PASOK under the illusion of ‘necessity’ of class collaboration.

The referendum provided the social basis for the transformation to begin and in the process the government joined silently the political and media frenzy of demonization of socialist values. Mass class involvement within SYRIZA would be the only way reformism could be battled and the party moving towards achieving a class character. Yet such a possibility has been from the start an impossibility due to the manner SYRIZA was politically artificially established; when in 2004 every Marxist organization driven by sectarianism, adventurism and a sense of self importance contributed to the establishment of a party of factions in order to theoretically sustain their political and organizational ‘purity’. In doing so the political gate for the Greek working class to cross in a unified manner was never open, rendering them defenseless to the parliamentary and political intake that became SYRIZA’s reality. The left reformists and the Marxists became hostage to the political power of the leadership in parliament; which itself became hostage to the will of the European political establishment and European capital. So in a perverse way Marxism depended on the mercy European capitalism would show in order to find political space to promote its program. The creation of a new party did not defeat the political enemy it merely concealed that enemy from the working class convincing it that did not exist in the first place and in effect that there was no battle to be fought.

And so Greek Marxism instead of leading events and showing the way ahead , protecting the masses from the politics of petty bourgeois adventurism, uncertain of itself and its role in the modern era of bourgeois democracy, substantiated the existence of those politics taking its reactionary place within the Greek political establishment. The unconditional support for the populist government was given in return for a possible path to state power falling deep into the political realms of economism and in essence uniting fully with reformism since the manner through which this share of power could provide change was through reforms that could only materialize, provided there were favorable capitalist conditions, in the form of concessions. These would had been reforms that the working class being absent from political participation could not defend. And indeed this was precisely the nature of the first few months of SYRIZA’s government where the initial concessions that were announced were swiftly taken back and brutally replaced by further austerity. This is the difference between reforms and the working class leaving its political and cultural imprint on society. It is where Marxism today needs to orientate politically and theoretically towards in order to unify itself and the class whose political reality made Marxism’s existence a political necessity.


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