Interview |Manos Skoufoglou: “We need an autonomous anti-capitalist revolutionary front.”
The interview has published on Marksist Bakış in July 2015 issue.
1-To what extent economic crisis and impoverishment observable in daily life?
The devastating effects of the capitalist crisis and of the austerity measures on the working class and the oppressed are obvious everywhere in the country. They are obvious in the enormous rate of unemployment, which is officially almost 27%, the highest among all countries of the EU. In the 55% rate of unemployment among the youth. In the 40-50% of net income loss for wagers and pensioners over a period of five years, which is actually even bigger if the increased Value Added Tax and the fact that wagers and pensioners have also to cater for the unemployed are considered. In the closed employment offices. In the thousands of homeless people, for whom not even an official counting exists. In the more than 3,000 suicides since 2010. The situation leaves no room for misunderstanding.
2- Does SYRIZA keep its popularity among the people? Is there any difference between the rate of popular support before and after approval of the memoranda?
SYRIZA is still popular, mainly because all traditional bourgeois parties are massively discredited and heavily hated by the working class and the people. However, there is definitely a change after the new austerity measures were imposed by the government, even if this change is not impressive yet. The new program not only consolidates all austerity measures previously taken, but it also introduces further cuts in pensions and wages, it raises the age for being retired up to 67 years, it imports new raises in the VAT for basic goods, it renders house evictions and auctions easier, it foretells massive privatizations of ports, airports and energy (gas, electricity) etc.
The popularity of SYRIZA in terms of polls is indeed declining, though the gap with the second party (the right New Democracy) is still huge. The reasons why this decline is slow is that SYRIZA can use the excuse that the pressure by the EU and the IMF didn’t leave them any chance. However, as the measures will be turning from numbers on a paper into reality for workers and the oppressed, the power of this excuse we be vanishing. This is already visible among militants and unionists that trusted SYRIZA before, even among members of the party. This is what the SYRIZA leadership will probably try to anticipate by rapidly calling for a new national election this Autumn. However, SYRIZA will not eventually avoid the destiny of all previous pro-austerity parties.
3- Although Greek people voted for No, SYRIZA accepted EU’s memoranda. In the history, Greek proletariat went on general strikes for many times as its trump card. Do you think SYRIZA government would face with a general strike movement? What kind of a role would be played by the trade union bureaucracy?
Strikes were, are and will definitely be a key weapon in the hands of workers. There is a practical obstacle right now, which restricts the perspective for an immediate general strike in the private sector, which is the bureaucracy of the General Confederation of Workers (GSEE), which has gone as far as calling for a YES in the referendum, being still controlled by the completely bourgeoisified socialdemocrats of PASOK. The situation is better in the public sector. Anyway, I think that this Autumn will signal a comeback of strikes.
4-What is KKE’s position? Can masses drifted away from SYRIZA lean to KKE? If so, what are the limits and possibilities of it?
KKE has been right to reject SYRIZA’s counter-proposals to the troika (EU, ECB and IMF), as well as all agreements with them. The party has made a left turn, at least in word, and they are justified to denounce SYRIZA’s policies. However, by abstaining in the referendum, they have isolated themselves from the struggling people and their wills. Once again, they have subdued the needs and tasks of the mass movement to their our bureaucratic interests. As a consequence, they don’t stand a serious possibility to profit from the losses of SYRIZA, at least for the time being.
5- What about ANTARSYA that OKDE Spartakos is also a part of it? What is ANTARSYA’s position in the process? If a new radical class movement starts against SYRIZA government, does ANTARSYA have the power to lead it? What are the prospects?
ANTARSYA’s position was correct. We entered the movement for NO from the very first moment, and we have been able to play an important role. In several occasions, it was actually ANTARSYA who that built and organized the campaign, as SYRIZA has always been ambivalent towards the very referendum they announced – let’s not forget that they were considering even canceling the referendum a few days after they called for it. While supporting a vote for NO, ANTARSYA clearly rejected also the proposals of SYRIZA, that were only slightly different than the ones of the troika, imposing austerity as well. We didn’t any support to the government, because we could not trust it, and we soon proved to be absolutely justified in doing so. This way, ANTARSYA was prepared to call for new demonstrations against the new measures imposed by the SYRIZA government just after the memorandum, while the left of SYRIZA was still embarrassed and could not mobilize.
ANTARSYA has certainly attracted the attention of lots of militants, students and unionists, who trust the front and appreciate its combativeness. Saying that ANTARSYA is at the moment able to lead the workers’ movement would be an exaggeration, however it can play a very important role in it and lead some sectors. However, this very hopeful potential is undermined from the inside, as a large part of the leadership of ANTARSYA seem to be heading towards a shift to the right, in order to cover the ground that the total capitulation of SYRIZA has left behind. They are willing to negotiate with the old bureaucrats of the left of SYRIZA, lead by Lafazanis. They risk, thus, the most valuable element that ANTARSYA has: being distinctively anti-systemic and anti-capitalist. OKDE-Spartakos fights against this orientation, and fortunately we are not alone.
6-You were on the street and face with police brutality while the parliament voting for memoranda. Many detained, and arrested including two members of OKDE Spartakos. They were judged and 3 of them punished. Can we say that Syriza starts a new wave of oppression against the radical left?
July the 12th was not only the day of the introduction of the 3rd memorandum (austerity pact agreed with the EU, the ECB and the IMF), but also a day of heavy police repression. The riot police and motorcycle special police units, using the usual pretext of clashes provoked by a small part of the demonstration, attacked the crowd with absolutely no reason, spraying tear gas, beating people, arresting and torturing them. Two comrades of OKDE-Spartakos, both young unionists, were arrested and injured because of the police violence inficted on them during and, mainly, after their arrest. One of the cops involved admitted: “it has been three years since I have had such a good time”, obviously referring to the huge demonstrations in February 2012, when the police performed another violence orgy, under the “national unity” government of PASOK, ND and the far-right LAOS. This time, it was under SYRIZA. It was a shameful day for the “governing left”.
Seven of the arrested were put on trial the very next day of their arrest, and the others will be judged later. It was obvious during the trial of the seven that the court would grant no tolerance. The accusations were scandalous and completely ridiculous, based exclusively on the testimonies of cops, among whom nobody had suffered any attack or harm. Finally, three of the accused were found guilty, one of them being member of our organization. He was convicted in 13 months of imprisonment, with a three year suspension period, for an assault supposedly committed against a cop that nobody could name (no victim), with a stick that was never found (no weapon)!
There is no doubt that the order for this unprecedented persecution of non-violent protesters came from the government. Tsipras himself called the arrested “foreigner provocateurs”, and the Minister in charge of the police publicly offered full support to the police officers involved. It is clear that the government need the club and the heel of the police in order to impose their program against the working class.
7-What about the Left Platform in Syriza? After Syriza approved memoranda Tsipras shuffled the cabinet and excluded Varoufakis who seemed by EU as a “radical”. Then, Tsakalotos was appointed to Ministery of Economics that was also a signal to the Left Platform. And now, it is said that the Left Platform lead by Lafazanis is calling for a party congress and prepares for a split. What does Antarsya thinks about the Left Platform?
The Left Platform, along with some other left groups within SYRIZA, opposed the agreement and the austerity pact, but they did not seem to have a principled and unified plan so that to confront it. They followed different tactics. Apart from 2 trotskyist deputies who voted against, the rest of the Left Platform either abstained or voted in favor of the mandate to the Greek delegation to achieve a deal with the troika. Later, they all voted against the austerity pact in July 12, (32 out of 149 SYRIZA deputies voted against and 6 abstained). As a consequence, the 4 Left Platform were removed from the government. Last Monday, the Left Platform held a big pubic meeting against the new memorandum, however, at the same time, Lafazanis says that SYRIZA is united and that he fully supports the government, though he rejects the measures. So, the message they sent is confusing.What they have probably hope was to win the majority in the Central Committee of SYRIZA, however they emphatically failed to do so last week, the the CC met.
The problem with the Left Platform is not only that they are still focused of the developments in the interior of SYRIZA, but also that they still advocates a reformist program, against austerity and “with no sacrifice for the euro”. This is more or less the original program of SYRIZA, which has already proved to be completely inadequate and to lead finally to austerity. Even if they decide to fight for an exit from the euro currency (and indeed, no progressive, never mind revolutionary, solution can be achieved within the euro-zone), this will be in favor of a national scale, progressive democratic stage. The trotskysit Red Network is too weak to determine things.
Anyway, the Left Platform will most probably be forced to leave SYRIZA. ANTARSYA is not unanimous as about what to do with them. The right wing supports an immediate approach to create a common political front against austerity and the EU (even if the Left Platform is not clear in opposing the latter). We stand for common action with them against the new measures, but we reject a political fusion or an electoral coalition, as their program is fundamentally reformist. We need an autonomous anti-capitalist revolutionary front within a broader front for common action
8- Last but not least, the fascists… As we have seen in the history, during the big crisis moderate politics cannot be a solution. If the revolutionary hope is defeated, the disappointment can fertile the environment for fascism. Greek left is now on the stage. But, Golden Dawn have a growing popularity at the backstage. Do you think Golden Dawn gets stronger if SYRIZA fails?
For the time being the Golden Dawn does not have a good momentum. Their support for NO in the referendum has been hesitant and contradictory, and in any case fascists never feel comfortable when mass movements are underway. Besides, their leadership is still on trial for leading a criminal organization. However, there is no doubt that they still maintain their popularity, even with more modest manifestations. On top of that, SYRIZA has put forward an obvious policy of tolerance towards them, which leaves them more space. So, they are indeed a big threat in case the whole left fails, especially if the are released in the court, which seems very probable. This means that there is no time to lose and we can’t neglect the fight against fascists for a single moment. We have to fight so that they can’t find their way back to the streets. At the same time, we have to create an alternative to the left of SYRIZA in time.