On the 14/06/2016, The Workers Party of Ireland held an event in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the topic: «The European Union and the crisis of capitalism-lessons from Greece. A delegation of the KKE headed by Elisseos Vagenas, member of the CC and Responsible for the International Relations Section of the CC of the KKE had been invited to speak at the event. Below you can find his introductory intervention at the event.
Dear comrades and friends,
We are very pleased to be here today with you in Northern Ireland, at the invitation of the Workers’ Party of Ireland, in order to discuss the situation and developments in Greece, as well as the conclusions that the workers can draw from them.
Just a few months have passed since the mutated “Left”, the SYRIZA party, was able to win the elections in September and for the second time in 1.5 years form a government with the nationalist party “ANEL”. In the months since then, Greece has witnessed new major workers’ and popular mobilizations against the anti-people political line implemented by the SYRIZA-ANEL government. Thousands of workers, the majority of them under the banners of the All-workers’ Militant Front (PAME) participated in these struggles. Thousands of farmers, with the important contribution made by the communists, gathered at over 100 points all over the country and for over 40 days blocked the national highways. Dozens of mobilizations have been carried out by other popular strata that are being negatively affected by government’s policies, a government which has picked up the baton left for it by the previous rightwing and social-democratic governments.
The question arises, how is it possible for a “leftwing” government, which had declared that it would come into conflict with the neo-liberal political line of the previous rightwing and social-democratic governments, with the memoranda that they had signed, to find itself in the same position as them? And not only! But to implement even harsher anti-people policies, as it has kept all the previous measures in place and in these last 18 months has taken new barbaric measures that reduce salaries and pensions, increase taxation for the popular strata, with further cuts in social security, healthcare and education. In addition, it continues Greece’s full participation in NATO’s imperialist plans, states its willingness to take part in all NATO expedition, provides new bases and infrastructure for their implementation and continues and deepens the military cooperation with Israel.
Certain political defenders of SYRIZA cannot, do not want to believe this development. Like a terrified ostrich with its head in the sand so that it cannot see, they hide themselves in various misleading ideological constructs in order to avoid facing reality and so that they can interpret the developments in a way that is convenient for them, e.g. that “SYRIZA could not do otherwise due to the negative correlation of forces in the EU” or that “things began well but then they retreated and carried out a betrayal” or even that SYRIZA is still resisting the EU, not on every question, because it cannot, but is allegedly conducting “guerilla war” wherever it can.
These are pretences that aim to obscure the reality. SYRIZA knew and knows what is doing! It did not betray anything, but faithfully continues to serve the same class interests, those of big capital, of Euro-Atlanticism.
It is no secret that even before SYRIZA became the country’s government the KKE issued warnings about its role. Of course, someone who carefully monitored the situation, without relying on the theory of scientific socialism, would have noticed Tsipras’ visits, for example, to the USA, his statements in Texas, where he made it clear that he was ready to offer his services to manage capitalism. They would have noted his statement, before the 2015 elections, even in 2014, when he said “from the depths of my heart, I state that Greece belongs to the EU and NATO”, they would have observed the celebrations of business groups and the USA, as well as their close links with officials from SYRIZA.
Aside from these obvious things that an observant person would have noticed, the KKE uses its analysis, its understanding of our worldview, Marxism-Leninism, and of our country’s history as well as of international history.
Our knowledge tells us the following: economic crises and imperialist wars are inherent in the capitalist system. This system of exploitation cannot outgrow them, because they are a part of its nature.
We can see, for example, in many regions of the planet and particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean the intensification of imperialist interventions and wars over the control of raw materials, the transport routes for commodities and the market shares. The issue of our country’s involvement in a war was discussed at the recent 19th Congress of our party, which noted that: “In the instance of Greece's involvement in an imperialist war, either in a defensive or aggressive war, the Party must lead the independent organization of the workers'-people's struggle in all its forms, so as to lead to the complete defeat of the bourgeois class, both the domestic one and the foreign invader, and link it in practice with the conquest of power.”
Dear friends and comrades, it is very important on the question of war and also on other issues that the workers are not dragged into following a “false flag”. For example, in recent years in Greece, there has been a lot of misleading talk about the causes of people’s unemployment, poverty and destitution. The Greek people have not just been facing a form of neo-liberal policies in recent years, before SYRIZA took the reins of government, but the outbreak of a deep capitalist crisis, which in our country manifested itself through the rapid inflation of the public debt. The workers and popular strata of Greece were called on to pay, through cuts in public spending for social services, wage reductions, heavy taxation for a public debt they did not create.
In these conditions, the bourgeois political system mobilized all its forces to manage the crisis. Amongst other things it was forced to form a coalition government of all the bourgeois political parties (rightwing and social-democratic) in the context of the harsh anti-people measures that were being pushed through.
Up until that point, social-democratic PASOK represented the "light" (according to PASOK!) and rightwing ND the "darkness". In a matter of a few days, all this changed and they both found themselves in the same government, which amongst other things led to the electoral collapse of PASOK, in just a few short months from 43% to 13% and then later to 4%.
Then, like a "conjurer", the bourgeoisie pulled SYRIZA and a leftwing government from its hat. SYRIZA, which contains forces that had split from the KKE in 1968 (following the eurocommunist current) and 1990 (under the influence of Gorbachev's "new thinking") was every quickly transformed from being a small opportunist party into being the basic vehicle of social-democracy in Greece, absorbing like a "sponge" a lot of the rotten material from PASOK, the previously dominant social-democratic force.
Of course this was not the only change in the political system during the period of the crisis. We saw the emergence of the fascist organization, Golden Dawn, which was supported in various ways by sections of the bourgeois class and its state apparatus. Golden Dawn is the “guard dog” of the bourgeoisie against the labour-people’s movement during the period of the outbreak of the capitalist crisis. The KKE confronts fascist Golden Dawn, fights to isolate it and at the same time struggles against the causes that give rise to fascism.
This was how things are, dear friends and comrades, and the essence is that the government of the "left" with its rightwing nationalist "helper" (ANEL) defended the interests of the country's bourgeois class .It negotiated hard with the EU and IMF for those interests. Not for the workers and people. Its goal was to provide breathing space for the businessmen, either through a reduction of the debt or through allegedly low primary surpluses so that the government can find ways to strengthen "entrepreneurship" and to bring about a recovery in their rate of profit, to return them to profitability. So that in this way some "breadcrumbs" from capitalist growth can fall from the table to some sections of the workers. At the same time, it did not relax the anti-people measures but took new ones that further reduced the price of labour power. Because the "formula" that all the parties follow , which try to manage the crisis of capitalism, whether they are rightwing, social-democratic or "leftwing" is one and the same: financial backing for big capital in every way possible, on the ruins of the workers'-people's rights and gains. It is a reality that even led the Minister of Labour of the SYRIZA government to admit a few days ago that what his government is implementing is "distilled liberalism, which in the past was implemented by Pinochet in Chile".
The Minister confessed in the same statement that this is the direction in the EU as a whole. The "same current" for the reduction of the workers' gains is prevalent everywhere. We express our internationalist solidarity with the French workers and we denounce the social-democratic government of Hollande which via the "El Khomri" law and using intense repression against the struggling workers is demolishing sectoral labour agreements and paving the way for mass dismissals, as well as increasing flexible labour time and increasing the length of the working day
The question also arises that perhaps this EU could change and improve and become more humane. Perhaps a political correlation of forces could be formed inside of it, either through the so-called "alliance of the South", or through the emergence of other "leftwing governments" as SYRIZA and PODEMOS claim so that they could become more equal? Or as some say, less German?
You know this is not a new question. It was tabled in discussions that were held over 100 years ago. In fact it is exactly 100 years since Lenin wrote "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe». In this work, the leader of the October Revolution, stated with clarity that in the conditions of capitalism a United States of Europe would either be reactionary or impossible,. Today Lenin has once again been proved to be relevant, when we examine what is happening in the EU. The onslaught of the exploiters is underway in every EU member-state, all the capitalist states, irrespective of whether they have memoranda or not.
The EU also demonstrates its reactionary nature when together with the USA and NATO it plans and carries out interventions in, for example, Ukraine, indeed utilizing fascist forces there as well, and also when it abolishes the 8 hour day, increases the retirement age and demolishes the social-security funds.
It is not a project that began well but took a wrong turn along the way, as certain opportunist forces claim, like those that are members of the “Party of the European Left" and act as the "leftwing chorus" in defense of the EU. The EU was never a union of the peoples. From the very beginning, as the Coal and Steel Community, then later as the EEC, it was a union of capital. It is a temporary alliance of the bourgeois classes of the EU with aim of exploiting the workers more intensely and also confronting together the other bourgeoisies that are its competitors. It was never a safe haven for the peoples, as the bourgeois parties promised and this was also apparent as regards the outbreak of the capitalist crisis in Greece, where the EU, together with the IMF, the Hellenic Federation of Industries and all shades of bourgeois governments destroyed the workers' social gains one by one.
The goal set by certain political forces, including some CPs in Europe, for the formation of "equal" relations within the EU has no grounding in reality. To begin with, these political forces ignore the chief issue, the class character of the EU, which cannot change, as long as its member-states are governed by the laws of capitalism, the market, capitalist ownership of the means of production and bourgeois power. In addition, they overlook the fact that the EU is a temporary alliance of the bourgeoisies of Europe, formed on the basis of their respective economic, political and military strengths. Relations inside the EU were not and could never be or become equal. They were always characterized by inequality. Indeed, due to the impact of the law of uneven development, the unequal relations between capitalist states are inherent in the imperialist system and there is a constant changing and shifting of the correlation of forces in the capitalist alliance of the EU. So the communists cannot have the safeguarding of equal relations between the capitalist states as their goal.
Nor can the communists and other militant radical people have the enhancement of their country's position within the EU and the imperialist system as a goal. Such a goal would lead them into class collaboration, into collaboration with sections of the bourgeoisie in managing capitalism.
The difficulties in managing the capitalist crisis, the unequal relations and competition inside the EU, inside the states and inside the bourgeoisie of each state itself are factors that lead to the emergence and development of what is known as 'Euroscepticism". But the "Eurosceptic" trend is not just represented by rightwing, nationalist, racist and xenophobic parties in the EU, but is also expressed by parties that have a leftwing label, criticize or reject the EU and Euro, support a national currency and seek other imperialist alliances, with a strategy that operates within the framework of capitalism.
In essence, these forces are calling on the peoples to "mobilize" under a false flag, under the banners of the bourgeoisies or sections of them that seek to improve their position inside the imperialist system.
As you possibly are aware, the KKE even in the years when it was illegal characterized the then EEC as being a "Lions' Den». The KKE was the only political force in Greece that voted against the Maastricht Treaty that transformed the EEC into the EU. We have voted against all the reactionary agreements that followed.
Our party has always confronted the bourgeois forces in Greece as well as the various opportunist forces that supported and extolled the EU. This includes the predecessors of ND and PASOK and also SYRIZA, whatever their names were (ERE, THE CENTER UNION, the so-called "KKE INTERIOR", SYNASPISMOS), that enthusiastically voted for all the reactionary treaties and aligned with this hornets' nest, served the system's plans i.e. the system that gives rise to economic crises, poverty, unemployment and wars.
Today the so-called "European ideal" and "ideal of a united Europe" has unraveled in the people's consciousness, because life in the EEC and EU has clearly demonstrated that this organization does not widen the rights and gains of the workers but on the contrary attacks them, through flexible labour relations, the abolition of the 8 hour day, the privatization of healthcare, education and social security. It is driving the small farmers and livestock farmers off the land, through the CAP. It is bankrupting the urban self-employed, as it supports the activity of the monopolies everywhere.
The communist men and women support the struggle of PAME, the class-oriented movement, in which hundreds of trade unions participate; they support the struggle of the farmers, the urban self-employed, the youth.
Through daily activity, strikes, occupations, dozens of mass demonstrations, the superiority of the class-oriented movement is apparent. This movement comes into conflict with capital, the anti-people political line and government and employer-led trade unionism. It wins over new forces, new trade unions in its efforts to change the correlation of forces, to regroup the movement, to strengthen its mass characteristics, insisting on fighting for demands that correspond to the contemporary needs of the people.
A strong labour movement that fights in an antimonopoly-anticapitalist direction can be the spine of a great social alliance that will gather popular forces together, make its mark on the daily struggles and fight to overthrow capitalist barbarity.
This is the KKE's line of struggle, a party that has formed a revolutionary strategy and has dispensed with the rationale of intermediate transitional stages that operate within the framework of the system and have tormented the communist movement for decades. We fight for socialism and draw strength from this in the daily struggles for the workers'-people's rights, which require self-sacrifice and determination. We argue that the solution for the people is to be found in the unilateral cancellation of the debt, in the rupture and disengagement of the country from the imperialist organizations of the EU and NATO, something that only workers' power can impose for the benefit of the people, which will socialize the means of production and will implement the scientific central planning of the people's economy.
We know very well that our struggle is an international one, is not restricted by national borders, because capital is an international force. For this reason, we seek coordination and joint action with other communist and workers parties. A new form of cooperation between our parties has emerged in the last two years in Europe, in which the KKE, the WPI and dozens of other parties participate and have defined the EU as "the European imperialist centre, supports the aggressive plans against the peoples, and is aligned with the USA and NATO" and take a position against it. Our parties, inside the European Communist Initiative, stress that "there is another development path for the peoples». The perspective of another Europe, the prosperity of the peoples, social progress, democratic rights, equal cooperation, peace, and socialism are highlighted through the workers' struggles."
Dear comrades and friends,
At the end of our introductory intervention, we would like to warmly salute the communist men and women in Britain and Ireland for the struggle they are waging in the upcoming referendum, highlighting the reactionary class character of the EU. We assess that a large section of the working class, popular strata and youth support a vote to leave the EU, in opposition to capital and its power.