The International Workers Left (DEA) in Greece is deliberately falsifying Trotsky’s position and the Marxist position in general, on the United Front- There are major lessons for working class struggle locally and internationally on building a United Front and its relation to building a revolutionary working class party
The DEA (International Workers Left) in Greece published an Introduction to selected works in Greek of John Riddell’s book, Towards the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. This was the last Congress of the Third International, where both Lenin and Trotsky had active input. However, the Introduction by Antonis Davanellos, a leader of the DEA, contains a number of deliberate distortions. These distortions are to cover up the opportunist participation of the DEA in Syriza, which is today the ruling party in Greece. Drawing the lessons from what the actual positions of Trotsky and the Fourth Congress of the Third International, have major implications for current working class struggles in Greece and indeed for the world workers’ movement. This exposure is important as many in the left are proposing Syriza-type ‘united front’ coalitions to be set up across Europe, in South Africa and elsewhere.
The current crisis of leadership
The recent wave of uninterrupted crisis of capitalism since 2008 has had several consequences:
· The capitalist class waged increasing attacks on the working class resulting in the loss of credibility of many of the bourgeois leaders as well as loss of credibility in the trade union leaders and many traditional leaders of the working class;
· With the leaderships that capitalism depended on to control the masses, being discredited, there started, in about 2011 a world-wide revolt against capitalism; today this revolt is still continuing;
· Due to the inexperience of the new emerging leadership, imperialism has managed to infiltrate the forces of mass resistance, and in many cases, attempted to divert struggles into dead-ends.
· Thus imperialism has shifted emphasis to boosting entities or creating new ones to divert the masses from overthrowing capitalist states (eg the boosting of Boko Haram, the creation of ISIS, the creation of al Nusrah, the creation of the Free Syrian Army, the establishment of the fascist regime in Ukraine, the establishment of a military dictatorship in Egypt).
· Imperialism has also long built up reserve political forces that could step into the vacuum, should their current political leaders be discredited. However even the social democratic forces are being severely discredited; it can be said that imperialism too has a crisis of leadership- they are running out of political forces to contain the masses and thus are increasingly turning to brute force as a means of control;
· Imperialism’s support of Assad and of Sisi shows that they are attempting to bring in an era of fascism- they have not yet succeeded;
· Now, at imperialism’s time of crisis of leadership, they also depend on ‘left’ forces or forces that pose as ‘left’ in order to win time for capitalism to continue. These are a whole range of forces, from taking an Obama out of nowhere to be President, to relying on forces like the DEA that can use Socialist rhetoric, and even raising the name of Trotsky to keep the struggle of the masses within the capitalist framework. The exposure of the DEA is one of the purposes of this article.
The electoralism of the DEA
The central quote which the DEA depends upon is from Trotsky’s work Whither France (1934):
“The aim of the united front can be only a government of the united front, i.e., a Socialist-Communist government, a Blum-Cachin ministry. This must be said openly. If the united front takes itself seriously—and it is only on this condition that the popular masses will take it seriously—it cannot divest itself of the slogan of conquest of power. By what means? By every means which leads to that end. The united front does not renounce parliamentary struggle…5”
Now, just looking at this is seems that Trotsky is proposing that a parliamentary road to a government of the ‘left’. But the DEA deleted the most important part of the sentence that follows:
“ The united front does not renounce parliamentary struggle but it utilizes parliament above all to unmask its impotence and to explain to the people that the present government has an extra-parliamentary base and that it can be overthrown only by a powerful mass movement.” [our emphasis]
Thus, the use of the parliamentary platform is not to gain a govt of the left though parliamentary means but to unmask its impotence and support an extra-parliamentary movement to replace the regime.
Trotsky’s approach leads to the building of workers’ organs of struggle outside and against parliament. The approach of the DEA is to focus on building a parliamentary majority and thus preventing the development of soviets/workers councils as they create the illusion that Trotsky, Lenin and the revolutionary Marxists in 1922 proposed a parliamentary road to Socialism.
The masses are demanding revolutionary change but the DEA and others are limiting the demands in order to turn the struggle away from revolution to only reforms within the system
When the masses in their tens of thousands, have entered Tahrir Square (Egypt), turned out as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement (USA), when the indignados entered the squares in Spain or entered Syntagma Square (Greece), they were demanding fundamental change in the system. When Numsa members at their Congress demanded an end to the alliance with the ANC and SACP, and the formation of a revolutionary workers party, they were demanding the formation of a vehicle to lead the struggle for fundamental change.
In each of these cases, the left entered these movements and instead of helping to build organs of struggle against the system, started to limit the demands of the masses, turning the eyes of the masses towards parliament, neutralizing its revolutionary essence. These left, in the milieu where all the traditional leaders in the working class had been discredited, became the new saviours of capitalism. The Communist Parties around the world are unable to control the masses even though they still divide the masses in struggle wherever they can. Now we see the rise of fake Trotskyists, who in Greece, use the banner of Trotskyism to attempt to become the new saviours for the imperialist-capitalists. Such is the role the DEA plays in Greece. They use the writings of the Third International in the time of Lenin and Trotsky, to distort the United Front tactic, to limit the masses to economic demands and thereby prevent the rise of combat organs that would end the capitalist system. This is the same intention of a section of the Numsa leaders when they promote the United Front although in their case, they limit themselves to the same programme as the SACP, namely the capitalist programme of the Freedom Charter. The result is the same, namely to put an obstacle in the way of the working class struggling for political power.
The DEA claims that the Communist International came up with the slogan of the ‘workers’ government’ to be used ‘while the conditions for actual workers’ power did not yet exist.’ But the crisis of regime is such that is expressed by the masses pouring into the streets in hundreds of thousands indicate that several of the conditions for workers’ power do exist. In fact it can be said that a pre-revolutionary situation exists and it is as revolutionary as it can be considering the role of the reformist leaders and imperialism that do everything possible to snuff out the flame of revolution.
US imperialism is by far the biggest imperialist power in the world. Yet for the first time since its period of domination started, the US working class is no longer prepared to take orders from imperialism. There are even towns where the masses have rejected both Democrats and Republicans and voted in independents. US imperialism is building more prisons than universities, recognition that bourgeois parliamentarism has failed and that the state may have to rely much more on brute force to maintain capitalist relations. Recently, in the mid-term elections, only 30% of the electorate turned out to vote. US imperialist ability to act with impunity around the globe has been severely undermined. In South America the Bolivarian experiment of the bourgeoisie is falling apart as these Bolivarian regimes launch attack after attack on the masses; the masses are starting to resist. What better conditions are we waiting for when considering the prospects of a workers’ revolution anywhere in the world? The most important factor that inhibits the revolution from taking place is the weakness of the revolutionary forces and the unwillingness of the left to take the path of Socialist revolution.
The Communist International proposed under these conditions a United Front of all forces of the working class in action against capitalism. The pre-condition that the Communist International spelt out is complete independence of the Communist forces and complete freedom of action and under no circumstance any fusion of the Communist forces with any other ‘workers’ parties’, meaning specifically the reformist ‘workers’ parties’. The Communist International proposed the United Front to build unity in action to defend the gains of the masses and to take the masses through the process that they are won to Communism, meaning thereby the exposure of the limits and bankruptcy of the other forces that claim to stand for the working class but limit themselves to work within the capitalist framework only through reforms; in other words the reformists do not stand for revolution and the very struggle of the United Front exposes them. In other words, the United Front provides a means to unite the masses in struggle while winning the masses away from the reformist forces and to the party of Socialist revolution.
The DEA’s approach is flawed in a number of different ways:
1. The DEA politically merged with the Synaspismos (the reformist majority party of Syriza) in 2013 to form a unitary party. This is what the DEA calls a ‘political united front’, which is something the Communist International and Lenin and Trotsky never called for. Irrespective of what the DEA claims, this merger with Synaspismos, meant that the DEA adopted its reformist programme. This politically liquidates the revolutionary programme and ties it and the masses that support them. to the reformist, ie capitalist programme; the Bolsheviks always kept themselves organizationally independent, even during the times when they were in the minority in the Soviets (workers councils) in February 1917. The DEA merged with the Greek Mensheviks, the Synaspismos. In 1922 when the revolutionary tide was weakening, the Communist parties did not dissolve themselves into the larger reformist parties, rather, the United Front tactic was a means to openly clash in front of the eyes of the masses, while uniting in struggle against the capitalist class. This was a tactic to win the masses to Communism as most of the Communist parties then were weak numerically, having been formed out of splits with the larger Social Democratic parties. For the DEA, the United Front becomes a principle of ‘loyal opposition’ while merging with reformist forces, thus burying the revolutionary programme and at best providing a left cover for tying the masses to bourgeois reformism. It was only through the Bolsheviks maintaining their independence at all times and the right to raise their positions at all times, that the masses were won to Communism and that sustained and developed the workers’ councils as independent organs of struggle and as the basis of the working class dictatorship that took power in October 1917; It can be said that only because the Bolsheviks never formed a ‘political united front’ with the reformists that they were able to win the masses to Communism;
2. The basis of the DEA’s partnership with the reformists is justified as ‘ The United front must be supported by the Communist parties as an honest choice and not as a hypocritical tactical move aimed mostly in gaining members from the reformists, the social democratic parties.’ Thus the DEA did not aim to win the masses over to its programme, but rather aimed to win the masses over to Syriza, the reformist front. In this way, instead of preparing a path to expose the limits of parliament, the DEA tied the masses to a parliamentary path. The DEA provided a left cover for the reformist Syriza to grow. At first the Syriza was smaller even than the KKE, the Stalinist Greek Communist party. Thus, if it had openly maintained its independence and maintained a revolutionary programme and a revolutionary exposure of the reformist parties in Syriza, there was every possibility that the revolutionary forces would have grown and the task of the working class seizing power would have been on the agenda today; as we stated in our earlier positions on Greece, that we called for critical support in the elections then for the Syriza making it clear that they would betray the masses (as it is currently doing) and that it was necessary for the masses to build their own organs of struggle and the central task was the building and strengthening of a revolutionary working class party to lead the struggle against the bourgeois regime through uniting the revolutionary masses outside of parliament and against it; we pointed out that it was necessary for the masses to go through their own experience with Syriza to prove to them that our analysis of them was correct and that the only path forward was to build and strengthen extra-parliamentary working class committees of action that could lay the basis for an opposing power to the bourgeois regime;
3. The Communist International warns against link ups with bourgeois parties for electoral gains, yet the Syriza linked up with the ultra right wing party, The Independent Greeks, to form a government. This is not a ‘government of the left’ as DEA proclaimed to be fighting for. The Independent Greeks are anti-worker, they stand for lower taxes on the capitalists and are strongly anti-immigrant. Yet the DEA has no problem with defending and remaining within Syriza. What DEA should have campaigned for, is a linking up of Syriza with the Communist party to form a workers’ government. If the KKE refused, their leaders would have been exposed and the path to unity in action with the base of the KKE would have been opened; if the KKE leaders agreed, then the masses would have been more united for the combat against the bourgeois forces that would invariably have raised their heads;
4. The most elementary aim of a workers’ government, according to the Communist International Thesis on Tactics (1922) is to arm the proletariat, disarm the bourgeois counter-revolutionary forces and to take measures to establish workers’ control over industry, shifting the burden of taxes onto the capitalist class. These aims are noticeably absent from the programme of the DEA for the workers’ govt; instead they glorify the limited reforms of Syriza as if these are revolutionary; they point out the vocal opposition of the bourgeois forces even to the limited reforms of Syriza, as proof of them being ‘revolutionary’. The first step that Syriza did was to form an alliance with the far right Independent Greeks. Instead of arming the masses, the ministry of Defence is placed under the control of the Independent Greeks, the very ones who stand for reducing taxes on the rich! Thus, despite the high sounding warnings of the DEA about the mistakes of the left in Chile under Allende, and in 1974 in Portugal, the DEA makes the same mistakes. In Portugal, Chile and now in Greece, the left formed, not a government of the left, but a multiclass popular front. The leftist Allende made the bourgeois general Pinochet head of the army, the Leftist Syriza has placed the rightwing Independent Greeks head of the military. No, these ‘left’ never learn, so desperate they are to save capitalism. The results could be disastrous for the working class.
5. Today the Syriza is implementing the same hated programme of the IMF, the European Commission and the ECB that Pasok and New Democracy did before them, albeit at a slower pace. What is the DEA doing? It is sitting on its hands enjoying parliamentary privileges, being an ‘honest’ partner, a ‘loyal opposition’ of the reformist Synaspismos. We are loyal to the masses first and foremost, not parliamentary cliques. What it should have been doing is organizing mass marches and demonstrations in front of parliament, exposing the betrayal of Syriza and calling for workers’ to defend the demands of cancelling the debt and stopping the austerity programme. If the DEA made the call for the masses to come to parliament to defend their demands, would they have come? Yes of course, by the millions. How would bourgeois counter-revolution have dared to rear their head then? A situation of dual power would have arisen, with the masses organized outside of parliament and the Syriza inside parliament. If Syriza still persisted in implementing the attacks on the masses, the organized mass outside of parliament would have stood poised to sweep them away. The DEA raises the tactic of a call for a workers’ government to the level of a principle. The thesis on the United Front indicates that we have to point out to the masses that only a government of the Communists alone (ie revolutionary Socialists) would lead to the fulfilment of the working class taking power and the first steps towards Socialism. A government of the left means a resolute struggle against the bourgeois class and it follows that it has to be grounded in mass action outside of parliament. The DEA is silent on this, creating illusions instead that Syriza has a revolutionary programme and stands for working class interests. Completely ignored are the These on revolutionary parliamentarianism which always places mass action outside of parliament above any parliamentary campaign. The DEA deliberately only raises economic demands to as to self-limit the content of its government of the left, to concentrate on reforms only so that the bourgeois state apparatus remains intact. They reuse to raise a political campaign for real workers power despite the masses having engaged in more than 20 political strikes in the past 3-4 years. They refused to raise a call for workers’ councils as a basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead they raise the call for ‘socialism with democracy’. Democracy, as Lenin elaborates in State and Revolution, is nothing but the class rule of the capitalist class. Socialism and Democracy are opposites- Democracy is the veiled dictatorship of the minority over the majority while the dictatorship of the proletariat is the open dictatorship of the majority over the minority of the exploiters and their hangers-on. The DEA deliberately poses the path to power as being an electoral one. This is further shown by their slogan: ‘Now the vote is in the hands of the People! Now the People have the power!’ Here we have it, the vote in bourgeois elections will lead to power of the government of the left, which can only mean that the intention of the DEA is that such a government of the left can only be a capitalist government.
6. Despite its name (International Workers Left), the DEA has a nationalist, capitalist vision of Socialism. In Electoral Breakthrough in Greece and the challenges of the left (when the DEA leaders addressed a Socialist conference in Switzerland), this is what the esteemed leaders had to say: ‘on the basis of international law and the principle of peaceful conflict resolution, we will pursue improvements in Greek-Turkish relations, a solution to the problem of FRYROM’s official name and the specification of Greek’s Exclusive Economic zone’. Firstly, international law is based on capitalist principles; secondly, Turkey is a dictatorship so making peace with the regime of Turkey means making war on the Turkish masses; thirdly, Greek banks have vested interests in a number of Balkan countries- nowhere does the DEA make it clear that any Greek capitalist that exploits any masses in the Balkans or elsewhere, would be expropriated and placed under workers’ control. Fourthly, by ‘international law’ there are a number of imperialist NATO bases in Greece. It follows that Syriza and the DEA will allow the presence of imperialist military bases on home soil- How can we take them seriously when they say they will fight for Socialism? The DEA views the struggle of the masses in Greece purely from the view of the privileged middle class that has been impoverished by plunder by world imperialism.
7. The DEA cries about the absence of a revolutionary International but their vision on Europe is nationalist. The existence of the EU and the start of its imposition of laws such as the one on reducing unemployed benefits has provided a basis for European-wide action against the imperialist powers and their local capitalist henchmen. German and French banks have the biggest investments in Greek banks. When previous Greek governments bailed out the ‘local banks, they were in fact bailing out German and French banks. To add insult to injury, the past Greek governments borrowed funds from the very same German and French banks to bail them out. This burden that is not the fault of the Greek masses, is being placed on their shoulders. The ‘bailout’ funds are not even entering Greece but go directly into the pockets of the German and French banks. The Greek masses are being made to pay to bail out these banks for debts that they had nothing to do with. Nowhere does the DEA appeal for the masses in Europe to unite against the main imperialist powers such as the French and German regimes in order, not only to block the cuts on unemployed benefits but to stop the plunder of Greece and all the masses in Europe. Surely a call for a Europe-wide general strike to stop the austerity attacks in Greece and elsewhere, is one which would galvanise all the masses into action. If the attacks are stopped in Greece then this would give courage to other workers across Europe to rise up against their own regimes. Would not this open a period of revolution? The Third International arose after the Russian working class took power. Would there not be similar mass development of a revolutionary International should Greece take the path of Socialist revolution? The conditions are over-ripe for this. Does the overnight decline of Pasok not show that overnight all the social democratic forces could similarly be discarded across Europe while a revolutionary International could arise in its place?
The tasks of the revolutionary left in Greece and elsewhere- a draft for consideration:
· The DEA and other left representatives in parliament should use its platform to call for the masses to come in their millions to demand an end to the austerity programme and for the restoration of salaries and jobs that were cut in the recent period; the call should be made for the formation of committees to take over the banks and other large industry to place these under workers’ control; at the same time the call should be made for the formation of workers’ militia to defend public services and to assist to ensure that all privatised entities are once again taken over and this time placed under direct workers’ control; The DEA should call for the immediate granting of full rights to all immigrants;
· There should be a call to break ties with the capitalist Independent Greeks and in its place an alliance with the KKE, the Antarsya, the EEK, the trade unions, and other left groups and working class organizations. The DEA and other left forces within Syriza should break with it if it does not take this step.
· The Nato bases should immediately be expelled;
· Expropriation of the assets of the Greek banks and capital with assets in the Balkans and for these to be handed over to direct workers’ control;
· A call for a European-wide conference of the left to support the masses in Greece and to consider steps to set up a new revolutionary International as well as a programme of action against imperialism capitalism across Europe.
· The revolutionary left around the globe should study, once again, the Thesis of the fourth Congress of the Third International on the United Front, drawing the lessons on what may be applicable today. Fundamentally, the United front is an action front where the revolutionary forces maintain their absolute independence and freedom of action and criticism, while uniting in combat against the capitalist class. We should remember that the reformists require a split so that revolutionaries are driven out of the workers’ movement in order for the union bureaucracy to maintain their stranglehold over the masses. The United front is not self-isolationist. We should at all opportunities invite the CP’s , the trade union leaders, the reformists that have a hold over the masses, to actions of the masses. This is to expose them and undercut their base while at the same time, doing all we can to promote unity of the masses in action against the capitalist. In this way, the revolutionary forces and the revolutionary party will grow and take root.
Issued by Workers International Vanguard Party , 41 Salt River rd, Salt River 7925 South Africa ph/sms/whatsapp +27 822020617 email firstname.lastname@example.org