SYRIZA cannot save Greece’s social welfare state
Here is an essay by Costas Lapavistas in which he tries to explain why the anti-austerity struggle as it is currently being waged makes sense — it doesn’t.
According to Costas Lapavitsas:
“Syriza’s anti-austerity programme is more sensible than radical, and what Greece needs. But the EU is far from convinced”
In his essay, Costas Lapavistas never explains why what we refer to as austerity may be far more historically significant than the capitalists simply trying to starve the working class once again.
There is definitely the element of a crisis wherein the capitalists are trying to pass the costs of the crisis along to the working class inGreece; and so far, it has succeeded, with the working class
incurring staggering social costs. However, to put this simply: the Greece social welfare state is dead and has to go away. Nothing can save the European social welfare state and no amount of anti-austerity struggle by the working class will reconstitute Greece as a sovereign state with the means to direct economic development.
Greece as a sovereign state was a fascist state, which managed its national capital and functioned as the national capitalist, exploiting its domestic working class. But this era ended the moment Greece joined the Eurozone and left its own domestic currency behind. There is no going back for the same reason Greece joined the Eurozone in the first place: it could not survive outside the Eurozone. Greece is trapped in the Eurozone and an exit at this point would be devastating for the material standard of living of the working class.
The Greece that was a sovereign state is gone; the present austerity offensive is about which class will pay for the death of the Greece state. And our side is losing — period. Our side is losing because we refuse to recognize the nation state is dead and instead cultivate dreams of restoring it to its former glory: we call this dream “the anti-austerity struggle”.
Ultimately we will lose in the present conflict if we allow our choices to be “accept the ECB, IMF and EU terms or leave the Eurozone.” Either one of those options will impose untold misery on Greece, which has already suffered terribly because of the troika.
The Left in Greece has two imperatives: 1. Greece cannot leave the Eurozone and 2. it cannot accept the troika’s terms. The Left will have to figure out a way to stay in the Eurozone and force the troika to accept its terms.
Austerity is all about increasing the extraction of surplus labor time out of Greece and Greece alone controls its labor time. If Greece wants to remain in the Eurozone and stop the troika, Greece will have to shut off the surplus labor time presently being employed to service the debt
This means the state sector must be reduced: the primary budget surplus is being used to fatten the ECB cartel and Germany. The debt must be renounced and written off. Public sector spending must be further reduced by reducing hours of labor. Taxes should be slashed, not increased.
Most of all, labor time must be shared between the employed and unemployed. SYRIZA’s first job is to get everyone a job, and it cannot use state spending to accomplish this. As an emergency measure, it can ration out labor the way other countries ration basic commodities like oil or food. In the bloated public sector, it can employ two workers half-time each and make this half-time job full time employment. This will allow SYRIZA to hire back everyone who was laid off by the troika.
Another way to think about this: the troika cuts imposed on Greece could have been met simply by reducing hours in the public sector in the first place. The previous governments did not have to lay off tens of thousands of workers. That was completely unnecessary. And while Greece was reducing hours of labor in the public sector, it could have reduced hour of labor for everyone as well.
Why wasn’t this path chosen initially?
Thousands were laid off to ensure that those remaining employed were worked as long as possible producing surplus value. By laying off some and overworking others, surplus value was created to service Greece’s debt. The unemployed were and are still being used to intensify the exploitation of the employed. This cycle has to be broken.
There is resistance on the Left to reducing hours of labor because it implies lower nominal wages. This is just the Left being selfish and insensitive to the needs of the unemployed workers and should not be tolerated by Leftists. There is no reason for one worker to be overworked and one worker left starving when hours can be reduced and work shared among all. And reducing hours has the added benefit of cutting bloated corporate profits.
In a sense, Greece needs “austerity” measures, but it should be an austerity that works for the working class, not the capitalists. The bloated state sector has to be reduced, but in a way that protects the working class from unemployment and poverty.
These ideas are admittedly speculative and crude, but the path we are currently on means SYRIZA will sooner or later be forced to cave to the troika, I think. None of the Left commentary I have seen has come to grips with the reality that the nation state is dead — everyone hopes SYRIZA can fix it and restore the golden age of fascism. The dominant Left strategy across Europe and in the US and UK is to try to save the state. I think this is an error and will bring a disaster.
Some on the Left have already expressed fear that the Left seems attracted to regressive nationalist parties like the anti-EU UKIP and FN. People on the Left seem very attracted to the idea of a Grexit leading the Left parties out of the EU wherever they gain power. This is a fascistic longing for the past.
Looking to the future, the Left has to figure out how to stay in the EU without caving to the troika demands and without the social welfare state.