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Sotiris: OXI revisited
Les brèves publiées dans cette rubrique « Informations et analyses » le sont à titre d'information et n'engagent pas la Tendance CLAIRE.
One year ago, OXI (NO) in the Greek referendum marked an impressive entrance of the popular masses to the political forefront along with a determination for struggle that had been missing from Greek politics for some time.
In the run-up to the referendum Greek society was deeply polarized. The forces of the bourgeoisie, national and foreign, set in action a strategy of ideological blackmail. Employers openly threatened employees with lay-offs, banks were closed, and pensioners had to wait in front of ATMs. Yet the spirit of struggle and confrontation remained in place. The result of the referendum was the most class-biased electoral result of the entire 2010-15 period. The result implied that a majoritary block of the subaltern classes was determined to take the struggle to the end and to choose the path of rupture. All this attested to a social and political confrontation without precedent.
From the mass demonstrations, above all the electrified demonstration at Syntagma Square on July 3, 2015, to the determination expressed at the moment of voting, it was obvious that we were witnessing the condensation of the entire explosive sequence of struggles of 2012 and of the electoral earthquakes of 2012 and 2015. The dynamic was still there.
In reality July 5 was the moment: the condensation, at a single moment, of dynamics that marked a turning point in historical time. It was the answer to the impasse at the negotiations table and the attempt towards an impossible “honest compromise”. And the reason for this was that it brought forward another factor that was out of the “normal” relation of forces: the popular movement and the excess of social force it could bring along.
However, this kind of confrontation was something that Syriza’s leadership could never do. Surrendering and endorsing in the end the policies of the neoliberal camp, was not an abrupt change that began with Tsipra’s lukewarm speech on the night of the referendum, in contrast to the passionate voices of determination celebrating the result of the referendum in the streets of Greece. Nor did it start with the council of political leaders the next day, even if thinking about an abrupt change after July 5 may be comforting for thousands of people that had believed that Syriza, despite its shortcomings was a force of change. In reality, July 2015 is the final stage in a process of political mutation that had started earlier, ever since Europeanism and the logic of progressive governance inside the EU became the cornerstones of Left politics.
In this sense, talking about Tsipras’s treason is off the mark. It is true that the dreams and hopes of an entire society were betrayed. Yet, the notion of treason, presupposes a previous commitment to values that in fact was not there. Syriza leadership’s thinking never went beyond staying in power as a means in itself, and never thought of power as anything more than a slightly more ‘progressive’ handling of dominant policies, namely the politics of the Memoranda.
Syriza’s leadership has insisted that there was no alternative to capitulation to the Troika’s demands. However, the truth is that a strategy of ruptures was possible after the referendum. Despite the delays, it was possible, based upon the tremendous display of determination in the referendum, to initiate the exit from the Eurozone, the nationalisation of banks and the stoppage of debt payments, as the first steps towards a process of productive reconstruction. The difficulties we could face would not have been bigger than the ones we actually faced (and continue to face) with capital controls and other restrictions in place. Therefore, it is obvious that from the beginning there was no political will for a rupture with the Troika.
Many people in the Left insisted on the NO vote. Yet, they did not stand up to the challenge. First, of all there was a certain disorientation even though it was obvious, immediately after the referendum, that the Greek government was heading towards full capitulation. The result of this oscillation was that at that moment there was no mass appeal to the people to take the streets and defend the OXI vote. At the same time there was no readiness to make sure that the government would not have the legitimacy to negotiate. Instead, especially inside Syriza there were still reactions of ‘wait and see’ and fantasies about a Party Congress that could overturn the capitulation. The Syriza government’s fall should have taken place immediately after the first signs of capitulation and on the initiative of the dissenting Syriza MPs and not in August, after the vote on the third Memorandum.
I am not suggesting that it would have been easy to have a different course. However, in July there was still a chance that the dynamic of OXI would not be transformed into a sense of helplessness and pessimism that led the subaltern classes to think that the only legitimate question in the September 2015 election was about what Party would implement the same Troika policies. The September 2015 elections proved that in reality the OXI vote could not be translated into an electoral legacy, the poor electoral results of Popular Unity that had campaigned on an OXI platform being one of the proofs.
The moment of capitulation was, simultaneously, a moment of responsibility for anyone in the Left who insisted on a strategy of ruptures. And the truth is that we did not stand up to the challenge nor did we acknowledge this responsibility. First, the refusal from the part of the majority of Antarsya for a common electoral ticket with Popular Unity, whatever political and ideological reasons one might evoke, simply meant that there was no unitary political point reference of the “Left of OXI”. Secondly, the absence of a sense of rupture with the legacy of Syriza (as part of a broader self-critique of the Left), along with the insistence on an anti-Memoranda rhetoric instead of a strategy to relate OXI to the necessary from the Eurozone and the EU, did not allow Popular Unity to sound credible on terms of strategy. Thirdly, the difficulty in offering an explanation to what led to the Third Memorandum, other that the invocation of “treason”, did not allow to come in terms with the open and agonizing questions coming from the popular masses, which in their turn opted for a “lesser evil” tactic.
In the months, that followed, the depth of the defeat became evident. The fact that a political Party that declared the end of the Memoranda, ended up voting and implementing a neoliberal Memorandum, enhanced the logic of “there’s no alternative”, undermined the determination of the subaltern classes, intensified their disbelief regarding organized struggle, and alienated them from Left politics.
Faced with such developments talking about a ‘pyrrhic victory’ or expecting a quick collapse of the Syriza-ANEL government, impeded critical thinking, self-critique and correction and led to an underestimation of the hard work needed towards rebuilding the collective confidence of the subaltern classes.
One year after July 5, it is obvious that we are facing a different political landscape and it is not easy to find reasons to experience the same sense of savage joy one could fill at that moment, that unique feeling that we were witnessing a actual crack in historical time and that hence, everything was possible.
However, at the same time social and political divides remain deep and the “normality” of the Memoranda means a constant deterioration of the condition of the subaltern classes. The British referendum not only highlighted the irremediable crisis of the “European Project” but also made evident that is still possible for societies to create conditions of political surprise.
Paraphrasing Gramsci we can see that against the pessimism of the will, the feeling of tiredness, futility and helplessness, what we need is the optimism of the intellect, the evaluation of the actual relation of forces, the tracing of real historical dynamics that are active, even beneath the surface, and the new historic divides that emerge.
This in reality is what we can call a process of re-founding the Left, as the optimism –and discipline– of the collective political intellect that must reconstruct the political program and the political line, treating the necessary exit from the Eurozone and the rupture with the EU as the starting point of a process of transformation in a socialist direction, stressing the role of the autonomous forms of organisation of the people not just as the answer to defeatism but also as the means of having the necessary excess of social force to counter the blackmail of the bourgeoisies and imperialism. What we also need is to treat the political front not as electoral coalition but as the point of encounter, convergence, articulation and elaboration of a radical alternative and as the opening of the possibility for a new historical bloc, a possibility that was evident in the massive vote in favour of OXI.
Whoever wants to talk about the Left in Greece today will be judged according to the answers he offers to these challenges. We have paid a heavy price for theoretical laziness, political unpreparedness, and the politics of small-scale sectarianism. If we do not change and if we continue with our routines, then we will continue to fuel the disappointment and the disbelief of the subaltern classes. And yesterday’s OXI cannot be an excuse for today’s shortcomings. Yet as Cavafy wrote “He who refuses does not repent. Asked again / he’d still say no.”.