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If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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From reformism to struggle and regroupment

The economic crisis in Greece has produced a political crisis there for social democracy (or reformism) that has echoed around the globe. The complete capitulation of SYRIZA to European capital has destroyed the reformist project of managing capitalism for the benefit of the poor and working class.

Instead SYRIZA has become the agent of European capital, accepting and being about to implement severe proposals that further attack workers and the poor, and  that privatise major parts of the Greek economy, all in the interests of European and other bankers.

This isn’t a failure of will on the part of Tsipras and other SYRIZA leaders. It is an expression of the logic of reformism, the idea that you can win power through capitalist democratic institutions and manage the beast in the interests not of capital but of labour.

Sometimes this is cloaked in the rhetoric of socialism, which often then translates as some form of capitalist state intervention. This state capitalism at its height can be found in the old Stalinist states and current ones like North Korea and Cuba where the state and capital merged. In the developed West it found expression in the welfare state Western capitalism built after the second world war in response to working class agitation and on the back of a boom in capitalist profitability that lasted for about 20 years until the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The reassertion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall around then led to the rise of neoliberalism under Pinochet, Thatchter, Reagan, and in Australia Labor Prime Ministers Hawke and then Keating. Its main prescriptions were all about extracting more surplus value from workers to counterbalance the fall in profit rates.

So it attempted to cut nominal and real wages (depending on the country), shift more of the share of national income going to labour to capital, cut the social wage, privatise government assets and where the state still played a role, introduce price signals or commodify state provided goods and assets.

To do this it required and requires the weakening of the organised defensive section of the working class, the trade unions. In this sense it requires a strong interventionist state to undermine unions.

Often the best vehicle for implementing these policies for capital have been social democratic or labour parties.

Certainly the Hawke and Keating Labor governments in Australia achieved results for capital that surpassed Margaret Thatcher, and because of the class collaboration of the trade union bureaucracy in Australia, without the costs of any real social struggle such as the miners’ strike in Britain.

PASOK in Greece was the equivalent of the Labor Party in Australia. Its implementation of severe austerity saw it both split (with some elements, along with Euro-communists and others helping form SYRIZA) and lose almost all working class support.

In January a new version of social democracy, SYRIZA, won top spot – 36% of the vote – in the Greek elections.

Six years of austerity have not solved the problems of Greek capitalism. SYRIZA’s electoral program was no to austerity, a no reinforced by the overwhelming (61%) no vote in the referendum ten days ago.

Yet in the space of a few days SYRIZA abandoned that democratic referendum vote and bowed before the altar of profit.  Its project of resisting austerity and improving the lives of millions of Greek people through winning parliamentary power is now dead.

This is not because resistance is futile. It is because in times of economic crisis, essentially a crisis of profitability, resistance by winning capitalist state power is futile.

The traditons of resistance are fresh in the minds and souls of the Greek working class. The Greek public sector union, ADEDY, has called a 24 hour strike for Wednesday, 15 July, the day the SYRIZA government will present legislation to implement the memorandum of agreement between Tsipras and the vultures of European capital.

As well the KKE (Greek Communist Party) trade union confederation, PAME, has called demonstrations against austerity for that day.

Politically it appears that up to one quarter of SYRIZA parliamentarians (35 or so), in the main from the Left, could vote against their Government’s austerity package. They will then resign or be sacked from the party of capitalist collaboration.

The crisis is producing a political realignment and regroupment in Greece. For a start the SYRIZA government will have to rely on New Democracy, the Conservative opposition, to pass  its austerity program. That opposition after the referendum was dead.  SYRIZA’s actions have resurrected it. Their actions may also revitalise the fascists, all of whose MPs voted against austerity and who are now claiming to be the nationalist wing of opposition to impoverishment.

Second the radical and revolutionary left in and outside parliament has a common objective – to defeat austerity.  In some cases they share common political heritages and have differed over whether or not to be part of the SYRIZA project. Rather than unhelpfully debating that issue, they seem to recognise their task is to unite against the SYRIZA government’s austerity program and help mobilise the Greek working class against the brutal attacks on it.

That unity might be a unity of action or it could go further and be the first steps in an organisational regroupment.

In Australia the complete capitulation of SYRIZA has opened similar fissures in the left. In supporting SYRIZA’s sellout, some have echoed the SYRIZA leadership and adopted the Margaret Thatcher defence – there is no alternative (TINA). Well if that is the case, why not say so to the working class from the beginning, even before the January election, instead of lying to it? Why then organise a referendum that votes overwhelmingly against austerity without even mentioning TINA?

Of course it is a funny kind of socialism which accepts there is no alternative to capitalism. That funny kind of socialism is reformism.

As Marx wrote, ‘Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’  We in Australia have much to learn from the tragedy and farce that is SYRIZA in Greece.

There are strong currents on the left in Australia which understand that it is the self activity of the working class which is the basis for the class’s liberation, and those healthy elements have all come out against SYRIZA’s austerity package and in support of the Greek workers’ strikes against SYRIZA’s austerity proposals.

If there are two lessons I draw from the surrender of SYRIZA they are, first, not to pursue a grand reformist project, especially an electoralist one aimed at winning power to manage capitalism, and second to consider how to unite those small and disparate forces now on the ground in Australia whicxh understand that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class.

Regroupment, or at least discussing it, may help reinforce the resistance to the allure of reformism.

One final point. Greece shows that capital cares little for democracy. It cares for profit.  It is our role to make the case again and again for democracy, for the spread and deepening of democracy, for a new democratic world where production is organised to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.

It is working class struggle and resistance that opens up that possibility. The strikes and demonstrations against the SYRIZA government’s austerity proposals, the split in their ranks, the strong anti-capitalist left building on the ground and in the struggles contain the seeds of hope for the future of Greece and of humanity.

And for Sydney readers don’t forget the Sydney Wednesday solidarity rally with Greek workers striking against austerity at 5.30 pm outside Sydney Town Hall.

Globally there is a call for solidarity with Greek workers striking against austerity.

5.30 pm local time Wednesday in every central square worldwide.

Post script. It is wonderful in practice to see the Greek movement highlight in a day the need for more subtlety and nuance in my argument and the realisation not only that there are major differences and trends in SYRIZA but that the mass movement on the streets and in the workplaces has forced major sections of Parliamentary SYRIZA to reject the deal.

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Comments

Pingback from From reformism to struggle and regroupment – Written by JOHN PASSANT | winstonclose
Time July 15, 2015 at 3:48 am

[…] Posted by John, July 14th, 2015 – under Austerity, Australia, Greece,Reformism, Revolution. Comments: none […]

Comment from Lycaon
Time July 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Though not sympathetic to social democracy as represented by the post 1914 Second International or Syriza, I can at least understand the continued if misplaced allure of reformism for the working classes. It is also reasonable that the radical left, such as it is, continues the debate on how to best orient itself to social democracy.

However, given their public disavowal of reformism and social democracy, it is interesting that sections of the left (UK SWP, ISO, SAlt), persist in promoting illusions in openly bourgeois and reactionary forces like Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) or the right-wing and nihilist jihadists (Libya and Syria). This section of the left had previously demonstrated its understanding of the Marxist demand for political independence of the working class when it lent its support to the disastrous CIA/Saudi sponsored war in Afghanistan war in the 1980s.

If the reformist parties of social democracy have little to offer the working classes, as you claim, then you really ought to explain to your readers what organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the nihilist jihadi militias in places like Syria, Libya and Afghanistan have to offer the working classes anywhere.

Indeed, the uninitiated observer might be forgiven for concluding that the movements supported by our comrades in the UK SWP, ISO and SAlt are more frequently associated with failed states, warlord-ism, deepening imperialist intervention and intrigues (Syria, Libya, Afghanistan), or military dictatorship (Egypt) than with the emancipation of the working class.

This raises the question about the character of the regroupment which you propose for the left. Is this regroupment going to be based on a meaningless lowest common denominator programme like as Syriza’s Thessaloniki Programme? Will it be programme that places primacy on the political independence of the working class, or will it be another unprincipled, undemocratic and unpopular front lash-up such as the UK SWP tried to secure with George Galloway in RESPECT?

A left which willfully refuses to come to a truthful reckoning of its own failures, including the disastrous consequences of its own anti-democratic internal politics or its tailing of anti-working class and anti-Marxist political movements such as Syriza on the one hand, and nihilist Jihadis and the MB on the other, has nothing to offer the working classes anywhere. On the contrary, the working classes

Comment from Lycaon
Time July 16, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Though not sympathetic to social democracy as represented by the post 1914 Second International or Syriza, I can at least understand the continued if misplaced allure of reformism for the working classes. It is also reasonable that the radical left, such as it is, continues the debate on how to best orient itself to social democracy.

However, given their public disavowal of reformism and social democracy, it is interesting that sections of the left (UK SWP, ISO, SAlt), persist in promoting illusions in openly bourgeois and reactionary forces like Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) or the right-wing and nihilist jihadists (Libya and Syria). This section of the left had previously demonstrated its understanding of the Marxist demand for political independence of the working class when it lent its support to the disastrous CIA/Saudi sponsored war in Afghanistan war in the 1980s.

If the reformist parties of social democracy have little to offer the working classes, as you claim, then you really ought to explain to your readers what organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the nihilist jihadi militias in places like Syria, Libya and Afghanistan have to offer the working classes anywhere.

Indeed, the uninitiated observer might be forgiven for concluding that the movements supported by our comrades in the UK SWP, ISO and SAlt are more frequently associated with failed states, warlord-ism, deepening imperialist intervention and intrigues (Syria, Libya, Afghanistan), or military dictatorship (Egypt) than with the emancipation of the working class.

This raises the question about the character of the regroupment which you propose for the left. Is this regroupment going to be based on a meaningless lowest common denominator programme like as Syriza’s Thessaloniki Programme? Will it be programme that places primacy on the political independence of the working class, or will it be another unprincipled, undemocratic and unpopular front lash-up such as the UK SWP tried to secure with George Galloway in RESPECT?

A left which willfully refuses to come to a truthful reckoning of its own failures, including the disastrous consequences of its own anti-democratic internal politics or its tailing of anti-working class and anti-Marxist political movements such as Syriza on the one hand, and nihilist Jihadis and the MB on the other, has nothing to offer the working classes anywhere. On the contrary, the working classes , the working classes are right to be distrustful and sceptical of this left which owes more to Bakunin than to Marx.

Comment from Lycaon
Time July 16, 2015 at 11:51 pm

Though not sympathetic to social democracy as represented by the post 1914 Second International or Syriza, I can at least understand the continued if misplaced allure of reformism for the working classes. It is also reasonable that the radical left, such as it is, continues the debate on how to best orient itself to social democracy.

However, given their public disavowal of reformism and social democracy, it is interesting that sections of the left (UK SWP, ISO, SAlt), persist in promoting illusions in openly bourgeois and reactionary forces like Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) or the right-wing and nihilist jihadists (Libya and Syria). This section of the left had previously demonstrated its understanding of the Marxist demand for political independence of the working class when it lent its support to the disastrous CIA/Saudi sponsored war in Afghanistan war in the 1980s.

If the reformist parties of social democracy have little to offer the working classes, as you claim, then you really ought to explain to your readers what organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the nihilist jihadi militias in places like Syria, Libya and Afghanistan have to offer the working classes anywhere.

Indeed, the uninitiated observer might be forgiven for concluding that the movements supported by our comrades in the UK SWP, ISO and SAlt are more frequently associated with failed states, warlord-ism, deepening imperialist intervention and intrigues (Syria, Libya, Afghanistan), or military dictatorship (Egypt) than with the emancipation of the working class.

This raises the question about the character of the regroupment which you propose for the left. Is this regroupment going to be based on a meaningless lowest common denominator programme like as Syriza’s Thessaloniki Programme? Will it be programme that places primacy on the political independence of the working class, or will it be another unprincipled, undemocratic and unpopular front lash-up such as the UK SWP tried to secure with George Galloway in RESPECT?

A left which willfully refuses to come to a truthful reckoning of its own failures, including the disastrous consequences of its own anti-democratic internal politics or its tailing of anti-working class and anti-Marxist political movements such as Syriza on the one hand, and nihilist Jihadis and the MB on the other, has nothing to offer the working classes anywhere. On the contrary, the working class are right to be distrustful and sceptical of this left which owes more to Bakunin than to Marx.