Monday, May 10, 2010

How the Real Left Sees the Greek (and Euro) Crisis

As we all know, there is no political "Left" in this country to speak of, and what little remains of what once were vibrant Leftist policy and economic criticism is rigorously excluded from the Public Square. You never, ever hear a real Leftist or Socialist argument in the popular press and media, and you hardly ever see it in alternative media, either. It's as if it never was...

In Europe, the situation is somewhat different in that the governments in Europe are nearly all some version of Social Democracy, even when the ruling party is Conservative. However, the Greek crisis has exposed the strains those governments are under, especially given the stranglehold the European Central Bank and through it the Vampire Squids of Global Finance have over the Euro, and thus over the nations of the European Union.

The Greek People rise up -- as have many Europeans -- against the swindlers, but they find, more and more, that their governments, their supposedly liberal, socialist, leftist governments, align themselves with the Vampires and not with the People, and this is happening everywhere in Europe. Just like here, the working class, the masses, are to be forced into poverty to pay off the gambling debts of the banksters, and any opposition is to be met with state violence.

The International Committee for the Fourth International has produced a manifesto regarding this situation that is a startling critique given the general centrist/rightist blather we see and hear all the time. I will append just the final portion of it here, but the whole thing is worth taking a look at and pondering well. Not only does the Committee examine what is really happening and why, they propose concrete actions to thwart and ultimately overcome the Vampires in our midst.

What a concept.

Here's the end of the manifesto. But read it all...

For a socialist program

7. Finance capital and social democracy ram through cuts not because of their strength, but due to the absence of working class parties. Popular opposition is perplexed and paralyzed by the lies of the trade unions and the ex-left. The struggle against the bourgeoisie’s plans to impoverish Europe entails a break with all forms of Stalinism and opportunism.

The ex-left has created a fog of lies around socialism, in an attempt to isolate the workers from an understanding of their own political heritage. To lay out positions around which workers can develop a socialist opposition to social cuts, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) makes the following demands:

• No sackings or loss of purchasing power

Claims by finance capital and its agents in the social democracy and ex-left that there is no money are lies. The money has been plundered from the working class through decades of austerity and deindustrialization. Funds must go not to the profit interests of capital, but to the social needs of the workers.

• Nationalize the banks

The most elementary defense of working class interests requires public control of the banks. In private hands, the banks ruin countries at will, hold up lending to create high interest rates according to their political needs, starve industry of funds, and supervise a universal downward spiral in living standards in the name of “competitiveness.” To fulfill its function—providing funds to develop production and trade—the financial industry must be taken out of the hands of private interests and placed at the disposal of the workers.

• No confidence in the ex-left. For revolutionary socialism

The obsolescence of the principle of private property in the commanding centers of the economy shows the necessity of socialism. However, workers will be bound hand and foot to the diktat of the banks so long as they do not break with social democracy, the unions, and their ex-left apologists. There is no alternative to building revolutionary socialist parties to struggle for power. The nationalization of the banks and large industry will serve the interests of the masses only if state power is in the hands of the working class. Workers can have no more confidence in a government of the financial oligarchy than in individual oligarchs.

• For the United Socialist States of Europe

Rising tensions inside Europe and discussions of a possible breakup of the euro underline the bankruptcy of the EU project. They threaten a disastrous Balkanization of Europe, which would lay the basis for trade war between European economic blocs and ultimately for war itself. European workers must respond with an international struggle for a united European government of workers’ states, as a step towards establishing world socialism.

• Not a penny for war

Foreign wars, such as the NATO war in Afghanistan, foment a toxic political atmosphere, dividing the workers with far-right nationalism and anti-immigrant hatred. In addition to producing repeated atrocities, these wars drain desperately needed social resources. Opposing them is essential to establishing the unity of the European working class and its political solidarity with workers of Islamic countries and the United States.
Build the International Committee of the Fourth International

8. The political and economic situation in Europe places in stark relief the depth of the crisis of leadership in the working class. In every country, the fate of the workers is in the hands of reactionary petty-bourgeois organizations acting consciously in the interests of the financial aristocracy. Regardless of their demagogic rhetoric, every one of the old organizations—led by ex-Stalinists, ex-socialists, ex-Marxists, ex-radicals, and even ex-reformists—function politically as agents of the corporations, the banks and the bourgeois state. Not one of them is independent of the bourgeois state. PASOK, Syriza, the various socialist parties, and practitioners of pseudo-left theatrics like the NPA in France are politically corrupt to the bone. To call them “opportunist” would be almost a compliment, for that term—signifying the subordination of long-term revolutionary interests to short-term reformist objectives—belongs to another historical period. Characteristic of these present-day organizations is not only the rejection of a revolutionary program, but even any defense of the most elemental needs of the working class. As long as the working class remains under the political control of these petty-bourgeois organizations, which function as nothing other than the “left” flank of the capitalist political establishment, it will suffer defeat after defeat.

Therefore, the most urgent task confronting the working class—in Greece, in Europe and throughout the world—is the building of a new revolutionary political party, based on the principles of international socialism. The International Committee of the Fourth International is the only political organization that seeks to organize and unify the working class in the struggle against capitalist exploitation, poverty and war. Notwithstanding all the difficult problems that confront the modern working class, it remains the essential and decisive revolutionary force on the planet. The present world crisis will compel ever greater masses of workers, in every part of the globe, to enter into struggle against capitalism. The ICFI is convinced that a new period of revolutionary struggles is now beginning. It has created the World Socialist Web Site as a political organ to report on, unify and provide political leadership to the struggles of the working class. The International Committee embodies a colossal political experience, derived from its many decades of struggle in defense of Marxist and Trotskyist principles.

The ICFI calls on the most politically conscious workers, intellectuals and youth to fight for the perspective elaborated in this statement and to join the ICFI.

March 17, 2010

The History of the Internationale Pt 1

The History of the Internationale Pt 2

Alistair Hulett's version of The Internationale as interpreted by Alex Thiel:


  1. Ché,

    Very strong statement. It's more than a shame that many social democratic parties in Europe have succumbed to neoliberalism/Thatcherism. It's actually a catastrophe.

    Tony Judt talks about that in his excellent Ill Fares the Land. Though he is more inclined to fight for social democracy and not for a world socialist revolution.

    I'm still processing data, analyses, agendas, etc. etc. Still learning. But I do think many on the old left, like the folks at Dissent, who have tempered their youthful radicalism (too much at times), make some valid points.

    A big one is that the left will not be successful if it ignores the power of patriotism.

    (Gramsci understood it. As did Silone.)

    Like it or not, the working class in general is highly patriotic. Appeals to internationalism, much less cosmopolitanism, generally fall flat. Even though the goals of international socialism are laudable (I share them), and it's rational and logical to believe isolated nations can not hold out against internationalized capital . . . . the devil is in the details of the human heart.

    The left is going to have to find a way to appeal to the working class's natural sense of home and hearth, its belief in national myths of origin and the essential goodness of its country.

    The left can never do so, ever, via a return to Stalinism, which was reprehensible to the nth degree. Obviously. The one nation approach was doomed to failure, as the internationalists correctly predicted decades ago.

    (Great that the ICFI was never aligned with the Stalinist left)

    But it is going to have to find a way to appeal to the values of each nation, show the gap between those values and reality, and not appear to be some outside force trying to do "regime change." Nothing gets the working class to rally their wagons like a perceived "enemy" from outside its borders. They will do this even when their own ruling class oppresses them.

    It's going to be a tough road to hoe regardless.

    Hope all is well.

  2. If you get a chance, I urge you to watch the two videos on the history of the "Internationale." It's very moving to see so many workers all over the world united in their struggle against the ruling class through this song.

    And of course, all that's gone now, and the "Internationale" is a quaint artifact from the Old Days that is performed for historical interest (and a big fee) by the Red Army Choir. And I can see why Soviet pensioners get verklempt and pine for the days of Stalin.

    I cannot watch the Alistair Hulett video without choking up. Hulett died suddenly in January, and I look at this video as a striking tribute to something that is... gone.

    The ICFI is a throwback, too, "quaint" in its own way, but I really appreciate their news and analysis at the WWSW. And of course it's always nice to see a real manifesto!

    That kind of genuine Socialist critique is almost completely absent from today's political and economic dialog. It isn't there at all. Yet there is much that is valid in it. Marx was wrong about many things, but not everything, and "seeing" with a Marxist perspective is if anything more important now than ever.

    Their critique of Europe's social democracy is devastating, and it looks for all the world like the People of Europe understand fully what is happening to them and what they are in for now that the Big Bailout is a done deal for all of Europe. They know what it's for -- to pay off the gambling debts of the banksters -- and they know who will have to pay it, themselves, through a severely reduced standard of living.

    Kind of like what happened to Russia when the Soviet Empire fell.

    Americans still don't get it, not even the loudest TeaBagger. They're still obsessed with distractions and minutiae. It's horrifying.

    I was watching the BBC today as Gordon Brown resigned and David Campbell hightailed it over to the Palace to kiss the Queen's hands. There was some talk of the economic disaster that is Britain today, and how the Tory-LibDem coalition will have to deal with it, and how -- as everyone knows -- it will require severe spending cutbacks, there is no other way, to satisfy the "markets." Everyone agrees, there is no dissent. Nick Clegg is on board with Campbell most importantly about the need to cut public spending... No alternative is even considered.

    Same thing here. Same thing throughout Europe. All of it driven by the need to pay off the banksters. There is no other choice. They must be paid.

    Same sort of thing was going on in California during the Enron-driven phony energy crisis. And when someone stood up and said no, the energy cartels were thieves and robbers, don't pay them, they were shot down, most prominently Gray Davis, for trying to go against them. They had to be paid.

    And they were. Billions and billions, bankrupting the state. Now the same sort of extortion is going on, to the tune of trillions upon trillions, with the masses required to pay it through severely reduced living standards.

    Europeans understand what's really going on and they are fighting back, so far as they are able. And I will predict they will preserve a good deal more of their comfort when the chips are down than Americans will. Americans seem to be oblivious...

  3. Thanks, Ché.

    Will watch them for sure.

    Excellent analysis even in your response to my note.

    "Paying with a reduction in their standard of living."

    Very true. Americans don't associate that with anything the government did under liberal rule. They can't really think of social services as having anything to do with standard of living. That, to them, can only come from the private sector. But even there, they don't seem to get that their wages have been suppressed for nearly 40 years. They see extreme wealth on TV and throughout the media, so that connects them with it somehow.

    Steps. I think people forget about all the steps that were built before them to get them to their current level. Which makes it easier for them to think they can do without government entirely, because they either have amnesia or they're too young to know all the work that came before, trying to mitigate the effects of unchecked capitalism.

    I think you're right about Europe having a better chance to fight back than we do, but even there, they forget. They forget all of the steps taken before them.

    It's just a hell of a lot easier to dismiss the need for something when you're sitting on top of the foundation others built.

    I fear for future generations. I probably won't be around to see the really horrific stuff happen, but our sons and daughters will.

    Hang in there . . .