Interviewed by Marcus Rolle and Alexandra Boutros – 3rd January 2017
“We live in ominously dangerous times” stated the opening line of an article by C.J. Polychroniou (with Lily Sage) titled “A New Economic System for a World in Rapid Disintegration,” which was recently published in Truthout. And while the aforementioned piece was mainly a scathing critique of global neoliberal capitalism and a call for a new system of economic and social organization, its underlying thesis was that the world system is breaking down and that contemporary societies are in disarray.
Is the (Western) world in shambles? We interviewed C.J. Polychroniou about the current world situation, with emphasis on developments in Europe and the United States, and sought his views on a host of pertinent political, economic and social issues, including the rise of the far right and the capitulation of the left.
Marcus Rolle and Alexandra Boutri: Let’s start by asking — what exactly do you have in mind when you say, “We live in ominously dangerous times?”
C.J. Polychroniou: We live in a period of great global complexity, confusion and uncertainty. It should be beyond dispute that we are in the midst of a whirlpool of events and developments that are eroding our capability to manage human affairs in a way that is conducive to the attainment of a political and economic order based on stability, justice and sustainability. Indeed, the contemporary world is fraught with perils and challenges that will test severely humanity’s ability to maintain a steady course towards anything resembling a civilized life.
For starters, we have been witnessing the gradual erosion of socio-economic gains in much of the advanced industrialized world since at least the early 1980s, along with the rollback of the social state, while a tiny percentage of the population is amazingly wealthy beyond imagination that compromises democracy, subverts the “common good” and promotes a culture of dog-eat-dog world.
The pitfalls of massive economic inequality were identified even by ancient scholars, such as Aristotle, and yet we are still allowing the rich and powerful not only to dictate the nature of society we live in but also to impose conditions that make it seem as if there is no alternative to the dominance of a system in which the interests of big business have primacy over social needs.
In this context, the political system known as representative democracy has fallen completely into the hands of a moneyed oligarchy which controls humanity’s future. Democracy no longer exists. The main function of the citizenry in so-called “democratic” societies is to elect periodically the officials who are going to manage a system designed to serve the interests of a plutocracy and of global capitalism. The “common good” is dead, and in its place we have atomized, segmented societies in which the weak, the poor and powerless are left at the mercy of the gods.
I contend that the above features capture rather accurately the political culture and socio-economic landscape of “late capitalism.” Nonetheless, the prospects for radical social change do not appear promising in light of the huge absence of unified ideological gestalts guiding social and political action. What we may see emerge in the years ahead is an even harsher and more authoritarian form of capitalism.
Then, there is the global warming phenomenon, which threatens to lead to the collapse of much of civilized life if it continues unabated. The extent to which the contemporary world is capable of addressing the effects of global climate change — frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought, rising sea levels, waves of mass migration — is indeed very much in doubt. Moreover, it is also unclear if a transition to clean energy sources suffices at this point in order to contain the further rising of temperatures. To be sure, global climate change will produce in the not-too-distant future major economic disasters, social upheavals and political instability.
If the climate change crisis is not enough to make one convinced that we live in ominously dangerous times, add to the above picture the ever-present threat of nuclear weapons. In fact, the threat of a nuclear war or the possibility of nuclear attacks is more pronounced in today’s global environment than any other time since the dawn of the atomic age. A multi-polar world with nuclear weapons is a far more unstable environment than a bipolar world with nuclear weapons, particularly if we take into account the growing presence and influence of non-state actors, such as extreme terrorist organizations, and the spread of irrational and/or fundamentalist thinking, which has emerged as the new plague in many countries around the world, including first and foremost the United States.
What is the state of the Left in today’s Europe?
Since the collapse of Soviet communism, the European Left has been in a state of complete disarray, although the crisis of Europe’s Left dates back to the 1970s — i.e., long before the collapse of “actually existing socialism.” But let’s be clear. What do we mean today by the term European Left? The European Socialist and Social Democratic parties abandoned long ago any pretext to being “socialistic” and, in fact, have become advocates of austerity and staunch supporters of free-market capitalism. There are some communist parties still around, but most of them are completely marginalized and lack political influence.
Only in Greece do you have a communist party that still carries some influence inside the labor movement, but it is essentially a Stalinist party and has actually worked hard to maintain political stability and thus the status quo. Nonetheless, until very recently, the Greek Communist Party was far more popular than the Coalition of the Radical Left, popularly known as Syriza, which has been in government since January 2015, thanks to the terrible financial and economic crisis that broke out in early 2010 and has since converted the country to a German/European protectorate.
There are, of course, grassroots movements and parties of the radical Left to be found in virtually every European country, but they lack mass popular support. The rise of Syriza in Greece was seen as representing a new dawn for the European Left, but its complete sellout to the euro masters and its actual conversion to a neoliberal and thoroughly corrupt political party has actually been one of the biggest setbacks for progressive forces throughout the continent.
You were expressing strong reservations about Syriza, in fact through these pages, long before its rise to power. What actually went wrong with the Greek Radical Left?
Syriza was a loose organization of various leftist groups (old-fashioned euro communists, anarcho-communists, Maoists and even social democrats), and its appeal was confined mainly to the intellectual class. It lacked a cohesive ideological worldview and, in fact, [it] was difficult to pinpoint its stance on a variety of crucial issues due to the many political factions that it represented.
Naturally, the great majority of the Greek voters saw Syriza as being nothing more than a movement of political clowns, with Alexis Tsipras at its helm. However, a close look around Syriza’s core leadership would have revealed a group of people who were simply political opportunists, people hungry for power. To me, therefore, it was obvious that, in the event that Syriza came to power, two things would happen: first, a split between radicals and opportunists, and second, the capitulation of the opportunists (Alexis Tsipras and his gang) to the domestic economic elite and the euromasters. And this is precisely what has happened.
After five years of brutal austerity and the sharpest decline of the standard of living in any postwar European country, the Greek people voted into power Syriza, believing that its leader, Alexis Tsipras, would carry through with his pre-election promises of ending austerity and subsequently re-boosting the economy, tearing into pieces the EU/IMF bailout agreements, and forc[ing] the cancellation of a major portion of the debt. But shortly after coming to power, the opportunists realized that the option was either complete surrender to the capitalist forces or stepping down from power. They opted for the former, just so they could stay in power, even if it meant completing the carry out of the neoliberal agenda of the European Union and the IMF as part of the financial bailout of the country.
Syriza has been in power for nearly two years now, and, during this time, it has shoved the neoliberal agenda down the throat of the Greek people with more forcefulness and determination than any previous government. It agreed to a new, far more brutal and humiliating bailout plan, and is now overseeing the complete privatization of the economy and the further deterioration of the standard of living, thereby fulfilling the long-held view of the European neoliberal masters that Greek wages and the nation’s standard of living should not be above those found in nearby Balkan countries like Bulgaria and Romania. Any public official or government minister standing in the way to the implementation of the neoliberal agenda was either isolated or pushed out of the government. Indeed, one of Tsipras’ most pronounced traits as prime minister of Greece is the ease with which he is selling out his former comrades.
To secure his goals and aims, i.e., the sellout of the country, he even ended up recruiting as his lackeys academics from abroad, such as the president of the (allegedly progressive) Levy Institute, Dimitri Papadimitriou, and his wife, Rania Antonopoulos, who is currently serving as the Greek Alternate Minister for Combatting Unemployment. Shortly after having accepted the position of Minister of Economy and Development as a result of a recent cabinet reshuffle, Papadimitriou — when asked about his research as an economist in which he challenged the European dogmas of austerity and neoliberalism and advocated the introduction of a “parallel” currency for the deeply ailing Greek economy — replied by saying that, “until last week I was an academic, and academics may say … things. But when the time comes to implement a program, then they realize that some things may have been wrong!”
Of course, the Greek media had a feast over the amazing opportunism and the hypocrisy of this man, but his reaction has been rather typical among pseudo-progressives and social democrats all throughout modern history. Unsurprisingly, Papadimitriou also went on to say that Greeks, Spaniards and Italians live beyond their means, thereby displaying his obedience to the EU and IMF masters, and that one of the major comparative advantages that Greece now enjoys is that it is a country with “cheap labor.”
What has been happening in Greece may represent an extreme example because of the actual state of the economy, but it is quite representative of the state of politics of contemporary European Left. That is, a Left without political convictions and values, a Machiavellian Left that prefers to serve the Masters of Mankind than seek to reorganize society from below.
What is your explanation for the rise of Donald Trump, and do you actually see a future in “Trumpism”?
Understanding the phenomenon of Donald Trump demands that we look beyond the individual himself and, instead, into the way US society has evolved over the last few decades. Millions of Americans have seen their livelihoods either entirely collapse or be threatened by economic forces which they neither understand or control. For example, they (and Donald Trump) blame Mexico and China for the loss of American jobs, but no one is taking the trouble to point out to them that the bulk of the products that China, for example, exports to the United States are being produced by US or multinational corporations who opted to move their operations outside the US in order to take advantage of cheap labor opportunities. In the meantime, wages in the US have remained stagnant over the course of the last 25 years for the great majority of the population, while the economy has grown considerably. But the economic gains end up almost exclusively in the hands of a tiny corporate and financial elite, which also controls the political agenda.
“Trumpism” and disingenuous populism represent the future of American politics, especially since the economic policies that the Trump administration will implement will surely further deteriorate the state of inequality in this country and thus do nothing to ameliorate anger and anxiety about the future, which were the driving forces that sent so many people into Donald Trump’s arms.
Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for concision. Reprinted with permission from Truthout.
Monday, December 12, 2016
Kostas Papadakis (KKE MEP)- No trust in any bourgeois government, any bourgeois class, any imperialist alliance
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The downward spiral of European opportunism has no end
The latter, such as, for example the French Communist Party (PCF) have for many years been divorced from Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, have even abandoned the historic symbols of the communist movement and in the name of the “left’ have become the “tail” of social-democracy and also whitewash the capitalist system and the imperialist unions of the EU and NATO. However, they keep the “communist” name and in this way, apart from their misleading activity in their own countries, even participate in the International Meetings of the CPs, seeking to play a similar role. If we can judge from the events of the recent festival of “L’Humanite”, the newspaper of the PCF, the downward spiral has no end.
Σάββατο, 3 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016
The Disintegration of Bourgeois Democracy
The classic debate between reform and rεvolution has gone on for 150 years. However, the terms have changed. It used to be, do we set a goal of revolution and organize for it, or shall big reforms be our goal? The latter, reformist view held that an extended series of gains would gradually and peacefully transform capitalism into a mixed economy and then socialism. A variant of the position said the reforms are all that count. If we have good wages, social security in retirement, guaranteed healthcare and the other components of a secure life, who cares whether it is under capitalism or socialism? The revolutionary retort was that gains under capitalism are fragile, are never as far-reaching as they need to be, and that capitalism is wracked by recurrent crises and generates one social evil after another. This opposition has typically been reflected in two kinds of parties, social democratic and communist.
2. The “Establishment” is the overlapping circles of big capitalists, top corporate executives, major political figures in public and operatives behind the scenes, media owners, and the most listened-to policy intellectuals who serve them. See the books of William Domhoff.
3. This writer heard it from a credible source in the state.
4. Fred Thompson, the committee staff person who questioned Butterfield, went on to become a prominent right-wing public figure and senator from Tennessee.
5. Justice Breyer, 531 U.S., No. 00–949, Dec. 12, 2000, pp. 1, 15.
6. Tony Schinella, “Debunking The Myth: Ralph Nader didn’t cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000,” February 25, 2004.
7. Ian Tuttle, “Yes, Trump University Was a Massive Scam,” National Review, February 26, 2016.
8. Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers, New York, Henry Holt, 2013, p. 125.
9. Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “After Lying Low, Deep-Pocketed Clinton Donors Return to the Fore,” New York Times, July 28, 2016.
10. “Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States: Prepared Remarks,” November 19, 2015.
11. The automotive oligopolies got monopoly profits, too; small sweatshops are unable to retain a big chunk of the surplus value produced in their operations. Without debating the size and significance of the matter, we note that both sides of this transfer are capitals who exploit their “own” workers for most if not all their profit.
12. Charles Andrews, The Hollow Colossus, Needle Press, 2015, p. 67.
13. Glen Ford, “Sanders Supporters Need to Split or Get Off the Pot,” Black Agenda Report, June 22, 2016.
14. Greg Garcia, Jr., “9/11/73: The ‘Chilean Way’ to Socialism Hits a Dead End,” student thesis, Western Oregon University, 2012, p. 32f.
Blog sobre temas de Política, Economia e História.
terça-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2015
Syriza: a salvação do capitalismo | Syriza: saving capitalism
|O «terramoto» das eleições gregas
Segundo os media europeus, com a eleição do Syriza vinha aí um terramoto na Grécia e até mesmo na Europa. O Syriza foi sistematicamente chamado pelos jornais portugueses (e não só) como «extrema-esquerda». Não era só o espectro de ser de esquerda que se perfilava no horizonte; ainda para mais era «extrema»! Agora, sim, a troika e a «austeridade» iriam ser arrumadas para o caixote do lixo. Agora, sim, o Syriza iria mostrar como se arrancava um povo das fauces sugadoras da troika.
Tremenda ilusão. Em que muitos caíram. Excepto as Bolsas europeias que não se incomodaram nada com os planos gregos de «renegociação da dívida» do ministro das finanças Yanis Varoufakis (YV), e do seu plano de troca de dívida por dois tipos de títulos obrigacionistas (): um deles, a pagar só quando a economia grega viesse a crescer; o outro, a pagar modicamente e perpetuamente.
As Bolsas – logo, o grande capital – não se incomodaram por duas boas razões: porque o Syriza não nacionalizou os bancos nem previa tal no seu programa; porque sabiam que por debaixo da capa de «extrema-esquerda» o Syriza era uma nova reincarnação social-democrata.
Derrota total no primeiro embate
Logo no primeiro embate com o Eurogrupo (EG) o Syriza mostrou a sua fibra. Derrota e recuo em toda a linha ([2-4]). A corrupta oligarquia grega (lá como cá ligada ao Império), tem vindo a mamar os resgates ao mesmo tempo que mantém o investimento no mínimo e descapitaliza a banca. Desde Dezembro de 2014 que 20 biliões de euros (mil milhões de euros) voaram dos bancos gregos para a Suíça e outras paragens. Com os cofres do Estado vazios, os pagamentos de funcionários públicos ameaçados, e sem controlar a banca, o Syriza foi forçado a pedir um novo empréstimo. Na primeira reunião com o EG na passada 6.ª feira, 20 de Fevereiro, YV pediu, para tal, a extensão por mais seis meses de um resgate anterior. Em troca dessa extensão Atenas comprometia-se a: manter um saldo orçamental positivo, mas abaixo da meta exigida pela troika; não tomar medidas unilaterais que impedissem o cumprimento de metas fiscais do EG (como, por exemplo, suspender privatizações); pedir a «renegociação da dívida» com vista ao crescimento económico; abandonar a proposta de perdão da dívida, com alargamento do prazo de pagamento e descida de taxas de juro.
Em suma, YV avançou com uma proposta que recuava das promessas do Syriza, designadamente no que se referia à suspensão das privatizações e à exigência de perdão parcial da dívida. Dívida essa que economistas destacados das mais diversas persuasões políticas (incluindo o keynesiano e prémio Nobel Paul Krugman) já disseram ser impagável. O que, aliás, é fácil de ver; não é preciso ter o prémio Nobel.
Para não alarmar os seus votantes, o Syriza afirmou a 20 de Fevereiro que a Grécia «deixou para trás a austeridade, o memorando e a troika» ().
Pois apesar do recuo, a Alemanha – o pivot do Império na Europa, que mais tem lucrado com a UE e a zona euro () — não aceitou o plano YV. Nem a Alemanha nem… os seus lacaios neoliberais, com especial destaque para os ministros das finanças português e espanhol. O EG apenas concedeu mais quatro meses de resgate, com YV a comprometer-se com todas as exigências da troika (sob o eufemismo de «honrar as obrigações financeiras com os seus credores») incluindo «o firme compromisso com o processo de reformas estruturais»; isto é, de continuar a desmantelar os direitos dos trabalhadores e benefícios sociais. Afinal o Syriza não tinha deixado para trás a austeridade, o memorando e a troika. A derrota de YV foi tão monumental que W. Schäuble (ministro das finanças alemão) comentou sarcasticamente que agora se ia ver como é que o Syriza se ia explicar ao povo grego. O Governo grego, para não perder o apoio dos seus votantes, veio dizer a 23/2 que concorda com 70% (?) das medidas de resgate e que não iria mudar a lei laboral nem a lei sobre o crédito mal parado. Veio também anunciar aquelas medidas que os governos capitalistas também anunciam quando querem mostrar obra: melhorar a colecta de impostos e combater a corrupção. Detalhes sem importância que não escondem o essencial: a derrota imposta pelo grande capital, personificado na Alemanha. Uma Alemanha que também já disse ao Syriza que se recusava a discutir o assunto das reparações de guerra decorrentes da ocupação nazi e a devolução de empréstimos gregos à Alemanha depois da 2.ª guerra mundial.
A desilusão com o Syriza (para aqueles que alimentavam ilusões) é total. Um herói anti-fascista grego, Manolis Glezos de 92 anos, anunciou ontem o seu desvinculamento do Syriza, pedindo desculpa ao povo grego «por ter participado na ilusão» que levou o Syriza ao poder e apelou à acção «antes que seja tarde».
O sem-saída do reformismo
Varoufakis é a face exemplar de uma certa corrente hodierna de «esquerda» que chega a reclamar-se de marxista, quando não é mais do que defensora de um Marx inócuo, não revolucionário. Uma corrente positivista («não interessa a teoria, só interessam as observações subjectivamente percebidas»), social-democrata, defensora do capitalismo. Logo, por definição, não de esquerda.
Na Grécia, esta corrente chama-se Syriza. Em Espanha, chama-se Podemos. Em Portugal, chama-se Tempo de Avançar. A pobreza teórica reflecte-se no ecletismo de todas estas organizações: mantas de retalhos de diversas proveniências. O Syriza, por exemplo, é uma aliança de sociais-democratas, de socialistas democráticos, de eco-socialistas, de patriotas de esquerda, de feministas, de verdes de esquerda, de maoístas, de trotskistas, de eurocomunistas e de eurocépticos. O Tempo de Avançar é uma coligação do Livre, Renovadores Comunistas, Manifesto 3D, Fórum Manifesto, e Movimento Cidadania e Intervenção, onde pululam as mesmas «ideias».
Todas estas correntes são semeadoras de ilusões reformistas. O que são estas ilusões reformistas e porque razão não funcionam foram já por nós discutidas no artigo: A ilusão de uma saída reformista da crise. No fundo, o que está a acontecer com o Syriza é a confirmação do que já aí dizíamos.
Vale a pena analisar o discurso de YV. O que YV diz é também o que dizem muitos reformistas da nossa praça, incluindo a actual direcção do PCP. Isto é, o que diz YV tem claras repercussões na análise a que a esquerda deverá proceder em Portugal.
Varoufakis fez uma apresentação das suas ideias no 6.o Festival Subversivo de Zagreb, em 2013. O Festival Subversivo, de subversivo não tem muito. Na edição deste ano participarão Slavoj Žižek (eurocomunista de posições sociais-democratas), Alexis Tsipras (eurocomunista), Oliver Stone (budista, votante de Obama mas crítico da política estrangeira dos EUA) e David Harvey (crítico do neoliberalismo e divulgador de O Capital). Um Festival da esquerda… baixa. Daquela que não incomoda o capitalismo, antes pelo contrário. Serve para desviar possíveis aderentes daquela que incomoda.
A versão transcrita da apresentação de YV em Zagreb tem como título: «Confissões de um marxista irregular no meio de uma crise europeia repugnante» (Confessions of an erratic Marxist in the midst of a repugnant European crisis). Portanto, YV não é um marxista; é, sim, um marxista irregular, isto é, de vez em quando. YV coloca a questão sobre se a esquerda deve utilizar a crise para desmantelar uma UE baseada em políticas neoliberais, ou se deve aceitar que não está preparada para uma mudança radical e lutar por estabilizar o capitalismo europeu. Responde, dizendo que, por muito que repugne aos «radicais» (designação vaga que serve para tudo; até Hitler era um radical) o «dever histórico» da esquerda nesta conjuntura é estabilizar o capitalismo, «salvar o capitalismo europeu dele mesmo e dos inábeis gestores da inevitável crise da zona euro». Estão a ver? Os capitalistas não sabem ser capitalistas. É preciso salvá-los de si próprios, da sua incompetência como capitalistas. Para tal, existe a «esquerda», que por definição é anti-capitalista, mas cujo «dever histórico» nesta conjuntura é salvá-los! A «esquerda» que, como todos sabem, é competentemente capitalista.
Na sua argumentação YV cita Marx dizendo que certas coisas que Marx disse estão certas. O pior é a teoria que subjaz à análise marxista que, para YV, é demasiado determinista. YV gosta mais dos «espíritos animais» de Keynes e coisas do género. Sobre a leitura idiossincrática que YV faz de Marx ver Yanis Varoufakis: more erratic than Marxist.
Mas se YV não gosta da teoria de Marx, vejamos ao menos a sua prática. Logo que foi ministro, YV afirmou que a Grécia não sofreria um «acidente financeiro» nem seria forçada a deixar a zona euro (embora, segundo YV, não devesse ter entrado). Disse também que a Grécia não deixaria de pagar a dívida ao FMI e aos investidores privados. E que a economia de Grécia podia crescer suficientemente depressa para sair da dívida; crescimento a construir a nível europeu, devendo ser lançado sob hegemonia alemã um programa de reactivação de toda a economia europeia como o New Deal de Roosevelt e o plano Marshall dos anos cinquenta! Que sonhador, este reformista!
Quanto aos bancos gregos, YV não se mostrou muito preocupado, apesar dos biliões de euros que saíram do país e continuam a sair. YV afirmou ainda que o novo governo não alteraria as privatizações em curso e que a Grécia deveria manter-se um destino atractivo para o investimento estrangeiro. Sigamos a análise de :
«Que tipo de programa é este? Na verdade é difícil dizê-lo. No que concerne à dívida, reflecte sem dúvida a realidade inescapável de que a dívida grega é impagável […] Tudo o mais parece sobretudo uma colecção de frases para a galeria, sem muita coerência, para ser suave. Que crescimento há que construir a nível pan-europeu? Como é isso de lançar um programa de investimentos em toda a Europa? Vai o governo grego convencer Merkel, Hollande e Rajoy, ou vai esperar que Podemos ganhe as eleições para ter um aliado? YV diz que os investimentos privados na Grécia se reactivarão logo que se alivie o peso da dívida. Ai, sim? Primeiro, há que ver se ocorre esse alívio mas, supondo que ocorre, por que artes mágicas vão reactivar-se esses investimentos? Será porque os salários gregos serão “atractivos” (ou seja, quanto mais baixos melhor) para os agora chamados investidores, aliás capitalistas de outros tempos? Vai o Syriza intentar o avanço nessa direcção? Irão os investimentos fluir para a Grécia porque o novo governo os brindará com segurança e garantia de que o capital será respeitado e não sofrerá beliscadura sob a forma de impostos, nacionalizações ou regulamentos? Mas, quem possui a dívida grega, não são precisamente esses capitalistas? Não lhes soará mal qualquer “quitação”, qualquer redução da dívida, que não seria outra coisa que a perda parcial ou total do seu capital?»
Sobre o desdém de YV pela teoria, diz o autor de  (ênfases nossos): «YV em Zagreb disse que em nenhuma das suas intervenções políticas ou económicas de anos recentes se guiou por modelos económicos que, a seu ver, são absolutamente irrelevantes para entender o capitalismo real que hoje existe. A frase tem que se lhe diga, porque se não se tem um modelo, é impossível fazer-se uma ideia de como se desenvolvem os fenómenos sobre os quais se quer actuar. Será possível navegar de Barcelona a Londres sem nenhum mapa que mostre os itinerários possíveis? Será possível entender um circuito electrónico com díodos, condensadores e transístores sem ter na mente esquemas de como funcionam essas coisas?»
De facto, não é possível ter uma prática consistentemente correcta sem uma teoria correcta. É certo que uma teoria correcta não é suficiente para uma prática correcta. (Podemos saber muito de díodos, condensadores e transístores e aqui e além cometer erros de compreensão do funcionamento de um circuito electrónico.) Mas uma teoria correcta é, contudo, uma condição necessária.
O autor de  conclui assim: «“O das barbas”, como Varoufakis chama às vezes a Marx, passou toda a sua vida investigando planos e esquemas teóricos […] para formar com eles um modelo geral da economia capitalista. O modelo geral está certamente incompleto, os esquemas não nos permitiram predizer, por exemplo, que os EUA se converteriam no principal país do sistema capitalista mundial na segunda metade do séc. XX, que revoluções anticapitalistas teriam lugar na Rússia e na China (e fracassariam) e que os computadores e a Internet mudariam por completo a aparência do mundo. Porém, os esquemas de Marx, abstractos em extremo como são, permitem entender porque razão o capitalismo é fonte continua de desigualdade social, porque razão está condenado a crises, uma e outra vez, e porque razão as tentativas bem ou mal intencionadas de regulá-lo ou “salvá-lo” só conduzem ao fracasso ou a converter a quem os protagonizam em parte desse grupo de gestores de alto gabarito que em Espanha são frequentemente chamados hoje de “a casta”. Eliminar o capitalismo é certamente difícil e muitos estarão de acordo com Varoufakis de que “a esquerda” não está preparada para isso. Mas afirmar que do que se trata hoje é precisamente de salvar o capitalismo, não é isso negar tudo o que de importante esteve alguma vez por trás dessa nebulosa ideia de “a esquerda”? […]»
Quanto a nós, desde o início do presente blog que temos defendido que Portugal tem de ser salvo da incivilização do capitalismo. E temos procurado fundamentar as medidas que se impõem numa alternativa de esquerda (ver artigos anteriores). Incluindo a nacionalização da banca, não contemplada pelo Syriza. Esta e outras medidas anticapitalistas, que implicam sair do euro e, possivelmente, da UE, impor-se-ão quando o povo compreender e se alçar na luta por uma solução de esquerda. Uma solução rumo ao socialismo. Naturalmente, com uma organização à altura da tarefa. «Atalhos» reformistas só adiarão ainda mais essa compreensão e disponibilidade para a luta.
|The Greek elections «earthquake»
The election of Syriza was, according to the European media, an earthquake for Greece and even for Europe. Syriza was systematically coined by the Portuguese (and others) newspapers as being from “extreme left-wing”. Thus, not only the specter of “left-wing” emerged in the horizon; it was furthermore an “extreme” specter. Now, at last, troika and “austerity” would be swept away to the dust bin. Now, at last, Syriza would show how to pull out a country from the sucking troika snouts.
Tremendous delusion. With many falling for it. Except the European stock-markets which didn’t bother at all with the Greek plans to “renegotiate the debt” of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (YV), and of his plan to swap debt by two types of bonds (): one, to be paid when the Greek economy would grow; the other, to be paid perpetually in modest shares.
The stock markets – therefore, the big capital – didn’t bother for two good reasons: because Syriza neither nationalize the banks nor put forward that intent in its program; because they knew that under the “extreme left-wing” cloak Syriza was just a new reincarnation of social-democracy.
Total defeat at the first clash
In its first clash with the Eurogroup (EG) Syriza has showed its fiber. Pull back and defeat on the whole frontline ([2-4]). The corrupt Greek oligarchy (there as here attached to the Empire) has been sucking bailouts and at the same time keeping the investment to a minimum and decapitalizing the banks. Twenty billion euros have flown out of the Greek banks to Switzerland and other places, since December 2014. With empty State vaults, threatened payments to civil servants, and without any control on the banks, Syriza was forced to beg for a new loan. In its first meeting with the EG last Friday, February 20, YV asked, for that purpose, an extension of a previous bailout for a further six months time. In exchange, Athens proposed the following compromise: to maintain a positive budgetary balance, although below the target set by the troika; not undertaking measures that would impair the attainment of EG fiscal goals (e.g., suspension of privatizations); to apply for a “renegotiation of the debt” having in view the economic growth; to abandon the proposal of a debt write-off, and instead apply to a widening of the maturity time span and the lowering of the interest rate.
Briefly, Syriza put forward a proposal that stepped back on all Syriza promises, namely on the suspension of privatizations and the demand for a partial debt write-off. A debt that prominent economists of various political persuasions (including the Keynesian and Nobel prize Paul Krugman) have already told to be impossible to pay. An observation easy to arrive at; surely not demanding a Nobel prize.
In order not to alarm its voters, Syriza stated in February, 20, that Greece “had left behind the austerity, the memorandum and the troika” ().
Well, notwithstanding the pull back, Germany – The Empire pivot in Europe, the country that has most profited with the EU and the Eurozone () – did not accept YV’s plan. Neither Germany nor… its neoliberal lackeys with special mention going to the Portuguese and Spanish Finance Ministers. The EG only granted a further four months of bailout, with YV yielding to all troika demands (under the euphemism of “to honor the financial commitments with its creditors”) including the “firm compromise with the process of structural reforms”; that is, to go on dismantling workers’ rights and social benefits. After all, Syriza had not left behind the austerity, the memorandum and the troika. The defeat of Syriza was as monumental as to trigger the sarcastic comment of W. Schäuble (German Finance Minister) that now one would see as how Syriza would explain to the Greek people what had happened. The Greek government caring not lose the support of its voters came out with a statement on February, 23, that it agreed with 70% (?) of the bailout measures and that it would not change labor and defaulting debt laws. It also announced such measures as capitalist governments use to announce when they want to show some work: to improve tax collecting and fight corruption. Unimportant details that do not hide the essential: the defeat imposed by the big capital, personified by Germany. Germany that also told Syriza that it refused to discuss the matter of war reparations related to the Nazi occupation and paying back Greek loans to Germany contracted after the Second World War.
The delusion with Syriza (for those who entertained illusions) is complete. A Greek antifascist hero, the 92-year old Manolis Glezos, announced yesterday that he severed ties with Syriza asking for forgiveness to the Greek people “for participating in the illusion” that propelled Syriza to the power, at the same time appealing to action “before it is too late”.
The reformist dead-end
Varoufakis is the exemplary face of a today’s specific “left-wing” current that claims to be Marxist when it is nothing else than a defender of a sanitized non-revolutionary Marx. A positivist current (“don’t bother with theory, only subjectively perceived observations are important), social-democrat, supportive of capitalism. Hence, a non-left current by definition.
This current is called Syriza in Greece. It is called Podemos in Spain. And in Portugal is called Tempo de Avançar. The theoretical poverty is reflected by the eclecticism of all these organizations: patchwork quilts of various sources. Syriza, for instance, is an alliance of social-democrats, democratic socialists, eco-socialists, left-wing patriots, feminists, left-wing greens, Maoists, Trotskyites, Eurocommunists and Eurosceptics. The Tempo de Avançar is a coalition of Free, Communist Renewal, Manifest 3D, Forum Manifest, Citizen and Intervention Movement, small parties where the same “ideas” swarm freely.
All these currents are spreaders of reformist delusions. What these delusions are and why they cannot work have been already discussed by us in the article “A ilusão de uma saída reformista da crise“. What is happening with Syriza is after all a confirmation of what we said in that article.
Varoufakis discourse is worth analyzing. What YV has to say is also what our home-made reformists have to say, including the present leadership of the PCP. Thus, what YV has to say has clear repercussions on the analysis that the Portuguese left must carry through.
Varoufakis made a presentation of his ideas at the 6th Subversive Festival of Zagreb in 2013. The Subversive Festival has not that much of subversive ness. This year’s edition counts among its participants Slavoj Žižek (Eurocommunist with social-democratic positions), Alexis Tsipras (Eurocommunist), Oliver Stone (Buddhist, a voter on Obama but critical of US foreign policy) and David Harvey (critic of neo-liberalism and divulger of Capital). A Festival of the Left… of the low kind. Of that kind that doesn’t bother capitalism — quite the opposite. It is of service to deviate possible adherents of the Left that truly bothers.
The written version of YV presentation at Zagreb is entitled “Confessions of an erratic Marxist in the midst of a repugnant European crisis”. Thus, YV is not a Marxist; he is an erratic Marxist, i. e., from time to time. YV raises the question of whether the Left must use the crisis to dismantle an EU based on neo-liberal policies, or instead accept that it is not ready for a radical change and struggle to stabilize the European capitalism. He answers by saying that though it is repugnant to “radicals” (vague designation suiting everything; even Hitler was a radical), the “historical duty” of the Left at the present particular juncture is to stabilize capitalism, “to save European capitalism from itself and from the inane handlers of the Eurozone’s inevitable crisis”. See? Capitalists do not know how to be capitalists. They have to be saved from themselves, from their incompetence as capitalists. For that purpose, there is the “Left”, which by definition is anticapitalist but whose “historical duty” at this particular juncture is to save them! The “Left” that as you all know is competently capitalist.
YV does quote Marx in his line of argument, admitting that some things that Marx said are correct. Unfortunately, for YV, the theory underlying Marx’s analyses is too much deterministic. Keynes’ “animal spirits” and that sort of things is more to the liking of YV. On YV idiosyncratic reading of Marx we recommend Yanis Varoufakis: more erratic than Marxist.
But if YV doesn’t like Marx’s theory, let us at least take a look of what sort his practice is. As soon he became Minister of Finance YV stated that Greece would not suffer a “financial accident” nor would be forced to leave the Eurozone (though, according to YV, it shouldn’t have entered either). He also said that Greece wouldn’t back from paying the debt to IMF and to private investors. And, furthermore, that Greek economy would be able to grow at a sufficiently high rate to escape from the debt burden. A growth rate to be handled at pan-European level, on the premise that a program for the reactivation of the whole European economy should be launched under German hegemony, such as Roosevelt’s New Deal or the Marshall Plan of the fifties! What a dreamer, this reformist!
In what concerns the Greek banks, YV didn’t show much preoccupation, though billions of euros have left the country and continue to flow away. YV also said that the new government would not change the running privatization process and that Greece should be kept as an attractive destination for direct foreign investment. Let us now follow the analysis of :
“What sort of program is this one? Truly, it is difficult to say. In what concerns the debt, it reflects no doubt the inescapable reality that the Greek debt cannot be paid […] Everything else looks more as a collection of sentences for the gallery of populism, without much coherence, to put it leniently. What growth is there to be built at a pan-European level? What is that thing of launching an investment program for the whole Europe? Is the Greek government going to convince Merkel, Hollande and Rajoy, or is it going to wait that Podemos wins the elections in order to have an ally? YV says that private investments in Greece will be reactivated as soon as the debt burden is relieved. Really? First, the relief has to be seen, but supposing it does occur, which magic wand will reactivate the investments? Will that take place because Greek salaries will become “attractive” (i. e., the lower the better) for the newly-called investors, in fact the capitalists of other times? Is Syriza going to intent an advance on that direction? Will the investments flow to Greece because the new government will gift them with assurances and guaranties that capital will be respected and will not suffer any pinch on taxes, nationalizations and regulations? But those that own Greek debt aren’t they precisely those capitalists? Wouldn’t it sound weird to their ears any “discharge”, any debt relief, amounting to no other thing than the partial or total loss of their capital?”
On YV’s disdain for theory, says the author of  (our emphases): “YV told in Zagreb that in none of his political or economic interventions of recent years was he guided by economic models, which to his looking are absolutely irrelevant to understand the real capitalism that exists today. This assertion begs a remark, because if one does not have a model, one is denied the possibility of an idea on how phenomena unfold, in order to act upon. Is it possible to sail from Barcelona to London with no map showing the possible itineraries? Is it possible to understand an electronic circuit with diodes, capacitors and transistors without having in the mind models on how such things work?”
As a matter of fact, it is not possible to have a consistently correct practice without a correct theory. True, a correct theory is not sufficient to have a correct practice. (We may know a lot about diodes, capacitors and transistors and here and there fail on interpreting how an electronic circuit works.) But a correct theory is nevertheless a necessary condition.
The author of  concludes as follows: “”The bearded one” as Varoufakis sometimes calls Marx passed is whole life investigating plans and theoretical outlines […] to form with them a general model of the capitalist economy. The general model is surely incomplete, the outlines didn’t allow us to predict, e.g., that the US would become in the second half of the 20th century the main country of the world capitalist system, that anticapitalist revolutions would take place in Russia and China (and would fail), and that computers and Internet would completely change the appearance of the world. However, Marx’s theoretical outlines, abstract in extreme as they are, allow us to understand why capitalism is a continuous source of social inequality, why it is doomed to crises one time and another, and why the attempts to “save it” or adjust it, be they good or bad intended, can only lead to failure or to convert their protagonists in members of the high-level managers group often named in today’s Spain as the “casta”. Eliminating capitalism is certainly difficult and many will agree with Varoufakis that “the Left” is not prepared for it. But stating that the real issue today is precisely saving capitalism isn’t that denying everything of importance lying behind the cloudy idea of “the Left”? […]”
As to us, we have since the beginning of this blog defended that Portugal has to be saved from the uncivilization of capitalism. And we have attempted to provide sound justifications to the needed measures of a left alternative (see our previous articles). One of them being the nationalization of the banks, not contemplated by Syriza. This and other anticapitalist measures implying exiting the euro and, possibly, the EU, will impose by themselves when the people understand and rise in the struggle for a left solution. A solution on the way to socialism. Quite naturally, with an organization up to the task. Reformist “shortcuts” will only postpone further away that understanding and commitment to the struggle.
 JN 4/2/2015, Bolsas aprovam plano grego mas próximos dias são cruciais.
 JN 20/2/2015, Vão todos a jogo mas no fim quem ganha é a Alemanha.
 JN 21/2/2015, Grécia diz que «deixou para trás a austeridade, o memorando e a troika»
 JN 23/2/2015
 Eugénio Rosa, A União Europeia e o Euro Serviram para Enriquecer a Alemanha, 31 de Janeiro de 2015, http://www.eugeniorosa.com/Sites/eugeniorosa.com/Documentos/2015/4-2015-AlemanhaUE.pdf
 José A. Tapia, Salvar el capitalismo, o las confesiones del ministro de finanzas griego, Rebelión, 13/2/2015, http://rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=195383.