Create Two, Three, Many SYRIZAs?

The programs of the Left are being threatened from an unexpected direction

openbordersOver the weekend I spent some time  taking a deep dive into the programs of some of the radical parties on the Left and I have a big question: How do you have open borders, on the one hand; and many of the programs supported by the Left, on the other hand?

The Socialist Equality Party argues:

“The SEP fights for the repeal of all anti-immigrant laws and the disbanding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol. It calls for all undocumented workers to be guaranteed full legal rights, including the right to work and the right to travel to their home countries without the threat of being barred from returning and torn from their families. Against the attempt to militarize borders and persecute immigrants, not only in the US but all over the globe, the working class must uphold the principle of open borders—the right of workers to live and work in whatever country they choose with full citizenship rights.”

So far, so good, right?

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SYRIZA, the Left and the long, slow, painful death of the nation state

I have been reading this post-mortem on the collapse of the first SYRIZA government, Greece and the “SYRIZA Experience”: Lessons and Adaptations. My purpose was to see if I could gain some fresh insight into SYRIZA’s failure and some fresh idea of how to recover from that failure.

The writer begins on a good enough footing:

“SYRIZA failed to stop austerity and neoliberal transformation in Greece.”

Okay, how did it fail? According to the writer, SYRIZA failed because it chose to remain in power, thereby becoming the new, Left, face of austerity and accepting limitations of national power in the European Union and euro common currency.

TitanicIn perhaps less diplomatic terms, SYRIZA accepted the domination of the ECB and EC over the Greece nation state and the corresponding lack of any effective Keynesian economic policy in the middle of what can only be called a full blown depression. By accepting these real limits on its room to maneuver, rather than resigning office, SYRIZA threw away the opportunity to retreat gracefully once it realized it was completely outmatched by the EC and ECB. Thus, a defeat was turned into a rout and utter disaster for the Left in Europe.

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Keynes and the myth of the Reagan administration’s neoliberalism

Robert Skildelsky, biographer of John Keynes, has written an essay written an essay on the 80 year legacy of the General Theory in which he credits Keynes with inventing macroeconomic policy and for showing how government could employ means at its disposal to offset economic depressions.

For all the genius of Keynes’ General Theory, its importance has not always been acknowledged by mainstream economics. By the 1980s, according to Skidelsky, most of mainstream economics came to reject many of the ideas first proposed by Keynes, particularly his argument capitalist economies were inherently prone to chronic underutilization of both capital and labor.

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Can SYRIZA be fixed? Can Greece?

If this Jacobin article, Becoming Syriza Again, is any indication, even the remaining radicals within SYRIZA have no idea why it is failing.

The writer acknowledges that the debate over Greece leaving the euro, which raged within SYRIZA for a period of time before the split, was an oversimplification. However, even now he proposes no alternative economic program that would allow SYRIZA to achieve its stated aim of bringing austerity to an end while avoiding Grexit.

He proposes a 5 step solution in which SYRIZA must:

  • Hold onto power;
  • Stop fighting with KKE and other Leftists;
  • Eliminate opportunism in its ranks;
  • Reconsider staying in the eurozone; and,
  • Put forward a new vision that inspire the country.

Here is my problem with this essay.

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A conversation with Phil Greaves: Neoliberalism, Communism and the State

I spent the greater part of a day having an exchange with Phil Greaves over the situation in Syria. The exchanges have been sharp and uncompromising, but very helpful to me, in the sense it has allowed me to understand a problem that can only be discussed in wider context than I have so far.

That problem is this: So far as I can figure out, neoliberalism is the crisis of the existing state, a period of its collapse. If this is true, we are looking at almost 200 states that will more or less effectively disappear over the next few decades. I have spent most of the last year watching this process unfold in Greece, but Greece is not by any means the only example of the process. Just to name a few, we have seen political crises in Egypt, Spain and Japan. We have watched the rise of a nationalist movement in Scotland and euro-skeptic movements in the UK, France, Germany, etc. Finally, we have seen ongoing US and NATO aggression in Ukraine, Venezuela, Libya and Syria. The crisis of the state is now morphed into a prolonged global political and economic crisis.

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State Harder! Jacobin’s despicable, dishonest take on the “European project”

In an laughably dishonest and unprincipled article by Cédric Durand, “The End of Europe”, Jacobin demands the Left double down on its impotence.

“Uneven and combined developmental dynamics in the European periphery highlights the need for the Left to move from a defensive fight against austerity toward a positive agenda of systemic alternatives. The Greek experiment demonstrates that, on this path, there is no other choice than breaking with neoliberal European institutions and regaining democratic sovereignty on domestic currencies.”

fc8205e257e092365e142da72c149b47Jacobin has thrown all in with those who argue the European Union, the largest free trade zone in history, is a failure. Fascist management of national economies, which emerged after the Great Depression is dying and Jacobin is not amused. Jacobin calls what is happening in Europe, the “disintegration of the European project”, when obviously we are witnessing fascism’s demise.

What is their evidence for ‘disintegration’ of the European project? Well, actually, Jacobin offers no evidence at all, but the the victory for No in the July 5 Greek referendum. We are, in other words, suppose to interpret the outcome of the referendum as a rejection of the so-called “European project”.

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James Petras and the dying Cult of the Three Saints

James Petras has an article in which he tries to describe what he calls the rise of the non-leftist Left, The Rise of the Non Leftist Left
The Radical Reconfiguration of Southern European Politics.

By the non-leftist Left, Petras means the new players in Europeans politics, like SYRIZA and Podemos, who defy “traditional” Left politics. According to Petras, these new elements, “no longer are qi52893be9based on class conscious workers nor are they embedded in the class struggle. With the decline of unions in the advanced countries, he argues we are witnessing the emergence of a “middle class radicalism”. This middle class radicalism is accompanied on the Right, by escalating state repression instead of state economic intervention. The repressive intervention of the state aims to completely dismantle the social welfare programs that emerged immediately after World War II. The non-leftist Left that has emerged to resist this sort of state intervention advocates a horizontal-style but practices top down politics aimed at securing state power. On the Right, the fascists no longer pursue national autarky, but willingly strip their countries of national sovereignty.

I think Petras missed the opportunity to coin a useful term here. In place of “non-leftist Left”, I would have called it the neoliberal Left. Same letters could be used “NLL”, but “neoliberal Left” like its predecessor “social-fascism” more accurately describes what is taking place. The term, social-fascist, was self-explanatory: fascist economic policies advocated by the socialist parties of the Second International. In the same way, “neoliberal Left” describes the neoliberal policies of a rump collection of Third International political formations.

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Greece: Graveyard of the radical Left critique

Vasnetsov_Grave_diggerThis item appeared on Yves Smith’s blog, Naked Capitalism: Greece Talks With Eurogroup Hit “Complete Breakdown”. According to Smith, things look very dark for SYRIZA to avoid exiting the euro:

“It is hard to see how Greece squeaks through and makes its two early May debt payments to the IMF. A default may be imminent. … Greece has engaged in a game of brinksmanship for months, but it looks as if the wheels are about to come off. It’s too easy to second-guess outcomes, but cooler heads had suggested that if a Grexit looked to be inevitable, the Eurozone could take measures to ameliorate the pain. The relations between the two sides are so sour that this sort of conscience-assuaging sop seems inconceivable, unless Merkel insists on it as a statesman-like gesture.

Very pessimistic of SYRIZA’s and Greece’s future, Smith adds these sympathetic words:

“Greece was almost certain to continue to face harsh times, but the likely outcome looks to be particularly difficult. I wish the long-suffering Greek people the best of luck. They need it.”

Isn’t it great when, on April 25, a respected blog informs us of something we already knew on January 25.

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Stop kidding yourself: SYRIZA is an unlikely model for the U.S. Left

Since SYRIZA has won in Greece many activists have wondered whether it offers a model that can be applied to other countries in the EU and even in the United States.

One essay by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen offered their take on this possibility. The writers suggest that the SYRIZA model can be exported to other countries and that it can offer an alternative to neoliberalism:

“Across the continent, there is quite rightly a huge wave of hope at seeing that there is an alternative to simply taking our neoliberal medicine and watching as work, education, health, democracy and common decency are hacked to pieces by our increasingly-indistinguishable rulers.

David_Cameron_and_Barack_Obama_at_G8_summit,_2013The argument is fascinating, not because people are thinking about what it takes to move the Left beyond its current position on the margins of political life in most countries, but because it is not at all clear to me why the writers believe SYRIZA is an alternative to neoliberalism. (See important note below in the comments.)

Briefly stated, any serious examination of SYRIZA’s victory will show that victory was a triumph for many of the principles on which neoliberalism is founded.

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Is the working class now neoliberal too?

According to Spyros Dapergolas, (“Syriza at the gates”), here is the moral of SYRIZA’s victory in the Greece election:

“As before with PASOK, once again with SYRIZA…”

In other words, SYRIZA is doomed to follow in PASOK’s footsteps and end up as just another neoliberal social democrat party.

The writer wraps up his article with the big question:

“What should happen?”

by-tiago-hoiselWhich is to say, he ends by describing his anarchistic fantasy of, “a new militant and horizontal syndicalism, through self-organization in neighborhoods and a radical political engagement in libertarian/anarchist ideas and practices.”

This fantasy is, of course, the purest ideology, a recipe for new society jumping full blown from his head and, therefore, not covered in the shit and muck of countless political compromises. In the fantasy world Dapergolas inhabits, there are no insolvent banks, no NATO bases, no foreign trade and no capital flows. Since all of this filthy real world stuff has been cleared from the scene, we are now free to dream as if no such considerations press on our radical agenda for society.

Of course, it has taken Greece five years of brutal austerity just to get Greece voters to the point where they will even consider a radical government that basically promises no more than to be the next PASOK. Yet, in Dapergolas’s head, we can already dream of “a new militant and horizontal syndicalism”; Because, obviously, the 36% of voters who, after a half decade of austerity, bothered to vote for SYRIZA, really wished “a new militant and horizontal syndicalism” was on the ballot.

But here’s the problem: If the working class of Greece wanted “a new militant and horizontal syndicalism”; they did not need an election. Clearly the working class of Greece still wanted the illusion that, the writer argues, SYRIZA constitutes.

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