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What a workers' government would mean in Greece

12 June 2012

With millions of Greeks prepared to vote the left-reformist SYRIZA coalition into power on the basis of its programme of rejecting austerity, revolutionaries in Greece should fight for the formation of a workers’ government.
The Fourth Congress of the Communist International, held in December 1922, outlined the key tasks of a workers’ government;
“The most basic tasks of a workers’ government must consist of arming the proletariat, disarming the bourgeois counter-revolutionary organisations, introducing [workers’] control of production, shifting the main burden of taxation to the shoulders of the rich, and breaking the resistance of the counter- revolutionary bourgeoisie.  Such a workers’ government is possible only if it is born from the struggles of the masses themselves and is supported by militant workers’ organisations created by the most oppressed layers of the working masses.”
It continues: “Even a workers’ government that arises from a purely parliamentary combination, that is, one that is purely parliamentary in origin, can provide the occasion for a revival of the revolutionary workers’ movement. Obviously, the birth and continued existence of a genuine workers’ government, one that pursues revolutionary policies, must result in a bitter struggle with the bourgeoisie, and possibly a civil war. Even an attempt by the proletariat to form such a workers’ government will encounter from the outset most determined resistance from the   bourgeoisie. The slogan of the workers’ government thus has the potential of   uniting the proletariat and unleashing revolutionary struggle.”
Trotsky repeated these principles in the Transitional Programme of 1938: “Of all parties and organisations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name, we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers’ and farmers’ government. On this road we promise them full support against capitalist reaction. At the same time, we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands, which should, in our opinion, form the programme of the “workers’ and farmers’ government.”
What does this mean for revolutionaries in Greece today? It means calling on Syriza, the KKE and Dimar, if they emerge with an absolute majority, or even a plurality, to form a government to reject the austerity pacts, to restore workers’ wages, pension and union rights and to defy the Troika.
They should agitate for the unions and popular organisations to join in the creation of a workers militia; appeal to the soldiers to join and arm the people, crush the Golden Dawn fascist gangs and disband the most reactionary and repressive paramilitary police and regiments of armed forces. Events in Chile and Portugal in the mid-1970s show that to leave control of armed force in the hands of the generals will be catastrophic.
Such a government should in turn appeal to the workers and youth of Europe to come to its aid by mass demonstrations and direct action to force their own governments to abandon their threats against Greece and unconditionally cancel its debts in their entirety.
This does not mean political support to, or confidence in, a Syriza-led government, not even “critical support.” Revolutionaries may give critical support to workers’ parties in an election, calling on them to take the power from the bourgeois parties, but we cannot give them any political endorsement while they are still de facto the executives of the capitalist state. Nor should revolutionaries join a non-revolutionary government of the workers’ parties because it would undoubtedly attack the workers in various ways and we should be in the forefront of opposition to this. If a popular front government, that is one that includes pro-capitalist parties, were formed, we would demand – kick out the capitalist ministers! Form committees of workers and youth to defend jobs and services!
We must resolutely oppose all those who take a passive, abstentionist or sectarian approach to such governments.
Just as we call on the workers’ parties and the unions to take the power, when they are in power, we call on them to base their government, not on the legislature, judiciary and armed forces of the capitalist state, but on mobilising the working class to defend it against the inevitable counter-attack of the permanent repressive, bureaucratic and juridical state machine and the onslaught of the ‘markets’. We would vigorously defend such a government against bourgeois counterattack, for example, by raising demands to create a workers’ militia, arming it and taking measures to expropriate the capitalists.
The recent attack by a Golden Dawn candidate against two women MPs during a television talk show prompted significant anti-fascist mobilisations across Greece. Revolutionaries must take the lead in organising now to sweep the fascists off the streets, before they secure the backing of desperate and enraged capitalists threatened by the formation of a workers’ government. We must not mince our words. The fascist gangs have launched a campaign of terror against migrants, Muslims and those who defend them.
Organisations of the working-class must destroy the fascists’ headquarters, disperse their rallies and organise defence of our communities and assemblies against their thugs. Organisations of defence against fascism will be the embryo of the workers’ militia necessary to ensure the power won by the workers is defended by the workers themselves – not left to the spineless seat-warmers in parliament.
Greece is in an acute revolutionary situation but held back from revolution by a profound crisis of working class leadership. This has a huge potential effect on Europe as a whole, especially if taken together with Francois Hollande’s election, and his potential clash with Merkel and Germany.
There is, of course, a danger that the western European working class will be lulled into inactivity by continued anti-Greek chauvinism, but also by deceptive talk of adding growth packages to austerity programmes.
These will turn out not to be the huge public sector-based infrastructure programmes the Keynesians dream of, but further neoliberal reforms, the slashing of protective legislation, wage cuts, more precarity and more privatisations.
The centrist left, having recovered from its infatuation with the horizontals in the Occupy Movement in 2011, will doubtless now go chasing after left reformist parties that could form governments – obviously Syriza, but also the Front de Gauche in France, or even the ailing Die Linke in Germany. They may well drop the NPA-Antarsya ‘anticapitalist’ model.
The crucial issue in this regard is not whether it is best to intervene into ‘broad’, ‘plural’ or, indeed, centrist, organisations or to unite subjectively revolutionary forces.
Political life creates both possibilities in different circumstances, what is essential in all circumstances is that revolutionaries stick to their principles, defend and fight for a Leninist party and a transitional programme.
Towards a Socialist United States of Europe
THIS IS exactly the kind of situation that the Communist International addressed with its development of the United Front tactic and, more specifically, the Workers’ Government tactic.
Today’s revolutionaries should apply those tactics in the coming months. If Syriza wins enough votes and seats to form a left coalition and fulfills its promise of rejecting the Memorandum, the task of revolutionaries, however small their numbers, will be to defend it against the inevitable sabotage and revolt of all the key elements of the bourgeois state.
Our task should be to work all out to create councils of delegates from the unions, workplaces and popular communities, to ensure this.
This means appealing to all the trade unions, especially at workplace level, to call mass meetings and elect delegates to councils of action as real alternative organs of power, located in every village town and city in Greece. The model for such assemblies has been set by those created by occupations but also by Syriza’s local assemblies.
Such bodies would have to create a mass self-defence force of workers, unemployed, students, capable of defending the new power. Only a government resting on the entire mobilised working people could defy the forces of reaction at home and abroad and carry though the essential measures.
Within such bodies, we would agitate for them to take control over the large-scale firms and banks of the capitalist economy and demand that the government legitimise all such measures. We would demand that the government, faced with retaliation from the EU and the imperialist powers, should also appeal to the workers of Europe to come to the aid of the Greek workers by taking direct action against their own governments and the EU institutions – joining their Greek sisters and brothers in a fight for a Socialist United States of Europe, as the first step to a socialist world.
As for anticapitalists and revolutionaries outside Greece, it is our urgent duty to mobilise a Europe-wide movement to demand/support the complete cancellation of the Greek state debt and the abandonment of the Fiscal (austerity) Pact.
We should call on the French, German, Spanish, Italian and Greek unions, the left social democratic and Stalinist parties, and even the mainline Socialist and Labour parties, to mobilise on the streets and in the parliaments to demand an end to the torture of the Greek people, the complete cancellation of the Greek state debt and the total abandonment of the Fiscal (austerity) Pact.
Across Europe, revolutionaries need to unite their forces around these key policies to halt the austerity programmes, make the rich pay and put socialism and revolution on the agenda for millions.
Greece is the living laboratory in which the theories, principles and practice of revolutionaries will be put to the ultimate test – the struggle for power.
It is the duty of revolutionaries now to rally support for the Greek workers, mobilising across every border to build the practical solidarity that can deliver victory.

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