An “Encounter” of Movements, A “Confrontation” with our Shortcomings
In the circumstances of defeat and class retreat, particularly since 2015 and after the return of the hard-line neoliberal and extreme right to government, one section of the Greek radical left refused to pull back and is making a concrete effort to proceed with its reconstruction!
The unifying congress1 is planned for the first weekend in January2 on the basis of hands-on radicalism, which mainly refuses to be trapped in self-proclamations and certainties, considering crucial an organizational but also programmatic recomposition of the 21st century left – in Greece as well as internationally. Although many of the programmatic, strategic and tactical issues require further discussion, here we are trying to give the current mark of the Greek experience.
We live in a period of transition which, sometimes, seems static in terms of everyday life. The world of the 20th century with defined political, social and ideological borders has been left behind us and we have entered the 21st century with the omnipotence of the market, Western domination, and capitalism on the pedestal of the "end of history". This status quo has been shaken by dynamics of the crisis, the reemergence of class struggle, and even social revolutions. From the anti-globalization movement, the movements that erupted after the structural capitalist crisis of 2008 to the pandemic reality of COVID, the ghosts have returned over Europe, over occupied Wall Street, over the Arab world.
Capitalism has experienced more crises and conflicts than its theorists predicted. To such an extent that the question "what comes after capitalism?” now concerns the whole political spectrum - and not only the so-called marginalized and radicals. States choose to shield themselves by counter-insurgency, by intensifying intra-class competition among the poor, by increasingly linking its power to the protection of the wealth of the few. The right-wing either turns to fascist and racist positions conjuring up internal enemies or tries to project a new narrative of integration. In many cases, it assumes the parasitic role of social democracy: it integrates some demands of movements, only partially and only in a framework of liberalism that does not question political and productive conditions. Such is the shift in the political spectrum that traditional historical positions of social democracy are communicated as radicalism - even as socialist politics (a typical example is the reaction of the American Alt-Right and Trump to Biden). It is now clear that the defense of the existing, "everything is going well, with a few exceptions" account of the bourgeoisie, has collapsed on the steps of the US Capitol Building.
The discourse of movements around the world, often in the minority, seems to understand the sources of inequality, to identify capitalist exploitation as the root cause of multiple crises and to anticipate that anti-capitalist stigma will prevail in the near future. The future, however, does not come by itself. We believe that in order for the movements to be able to confront the ruling powers, a radical, social intervention of the movements and of the left is required.
In this global context, what is the situation of this left today in Greece after the collapse of the “left government” as represented by Syriza and the devastating effects it had? In greater sociopolitical terms, Syriza’s government continued and expanded the neoliberal policies, inflicting damage to workers, students, and young people, and was comfortably defeated in 2019’s elections allowing the return of the now dominant and vengeful New Democracy Party - which in previous years had taken a heavy blow due to the implementation of the memoranda.
Greece’s right-wing government, under the cover of the pandemic, has passed dozens of measures to benefit the wealthy at the expense of workers, while massively expanding police powers as a precautionary measure for the possibility of a new round of insurrection. The task of defending society and workers rights becomes apparent, but organized struggles fluctuate: we have struggles that can be considered marginal, developing into central movements (such as the struggle to support the political prisoner Dimitris Koufondinas) and major issues (such as the recent reactionary labor bill) passing by with minimum resistance.
This paradox brings us back to the reality of spontaneity in the development of the class and social struggle, that stems from the multidimensional aspects of everyday life, collective alternatives (or their absence) and their ability to connect with movements and social initiatives. The revolutionary left is significantly weaker than at the beginning of the last decade when powerful social dynamics erupted in the struggle against austerity, IMF and neoliberal attacks on the vast majority. Our collective shortcomings became apparent with the complete integration of SYRIZA into the politcal mainstream in 2015 and the appearance of the TINA dogma. It found itself in a situation of significant internal crisis that led to divisions, or even self-isolated groups, which projected revolution as their main “tactic” and “strategy”, and failing to formulate the means or the tempo of these social ruptures. We were and are part of this left, we share its mistakes and weaknesses, we have anxieties and questions.
But beyond questions, we want to have some answers. We believe that the left of the 21st century should not be cut off from its historical past but should develop a critical theory of this past, to reconstruct it in such a way that it makes sense in the present and especially in critical moments and moments of danger. In a context in which capitalism fuels the deep fatigue of society, we see two tendencies:
Either society turns to the far right, which is always redrafting its old recipes: the search for internal enemies, parastatal action, authoritarianism, war and national rhetoric. In such a reactionary, xenophobic and racist climate, the revolutionary left is often marginalized and registered as an anti-popular force, even on subjects it wishes to address.
Or, the left understands the current movement and desires of the many: the movements that have developed in the last ten years have at their core direct democratic characteristics, which were marginalized in the traditions of the last century. There is a practical global desire for movements to reject bureaucratic models, for direct democracy, for "new forms of collective life", for the establishment of a new model of political intervention as a result of overwhelming distrust of political representation, of identifying and prioritizing radical needs connected with race, sex, social and political rights. These positions are general, as the various interesting experiments, creative resistances, and practices, develop ephemerally and sporadically: they function as cradles and ephemeral laboratories.
To operate according to these guidelines, we need to return to Lenin's forgotten words: "victory will come only to those who have faith in people, to those who are immersed in the life-giving spring of social creativity". We do not wish to lead, we do not wish to perceive ourselves as an organized avant-garde: we wish to learn, to care, to contribute to the meeting and empowerment of movements and workers structure. We wish to confront our shortcomings and develop a new identity that communicates with the social distrust in order to transform it into social creativity. Kostis Palamas, a famous Greek poet wrote: “Listen. I am the demolisher, for I am the builder too” and thus we need to demolish and to build.
An unavoidable condition for a reconstruction of the left is the account of the accumulated defeats. This task can not be omitted. We need to find ways to transfer and exchange the fragmentary experiments of recent years, as well as the critical ideas that accompanied them. Reconstruction must proceed from below, taking on a triple task today.
The international task has to do with the prospect of spreading social creativity, the synthesis of individual demands or national movements into a broader vision of victory.
The internationalist left that we want to build must be for all the reasons we have said, in solidarity with the persecuted and disenfranchised of the whole world, the peoples, the movements and the planet. But solidarity is not enough: we also need mutual assistance, coordination, convergence, organization transnationally, just as our enemy is transnationally organized. We therefore need a left that understands the world beyond the national blinders imposed on us by capitalism and is organized accordingly. We need a left that is international.
International in advance, ethically, programmatically, but also organizationally: And more specifically, we want to learn from the experiences of the rest of the left, which is not just confined to our country, from the thoughts, lessons, processes that can help us enrich us, from our neighboring countries and from the most distant. And not just to learn, not only to support each other, but also to organize together our common existence, our common struggles, our common future.
The political task is to fight both for issues of the many (for work, social acquis, etc.), but also for issues that may seem to relate to minority or identity, but which are necessary for the release of social creativity, for integration of those who are invisible in the political struggle.
It is also to know that reforms may be useful and necessary but they are not the way to the overthrow of capitalism and to socialism. Putting our hope in a vigorous process of reform, no matter how genuine and active, would mean to ignore the fact that social reforms do not change the nature of existing society. A century of social democratic reform in the West unequivocally shows that reforms are not enough to "overcome" capitalism -and its atrocities will come back!
Even if reforms seem to be the only possible way at the moment, this does not make them suitable tools if, as the Zapatistas put it, the task is to create a new world. If done in a certain way, they can contribute invaluably to progress in this direction, but it is not in itself the path that will lead us there. The barbarity of today's world certainly transcends the narrower boundaries of reform and marginal transformation but requires far-reaching transformations.
The organizational task is to escape the state of left melancholy, the idea of “what could have been” of previous times, movements and organizational models. To build from what we have, what we need. We have witnessed that a new coherent effort to reconstruct the movement and the radical left may find fertile ground, especially among younger people. Social movements are lively and new mobilizations are always emerging. New generations are approaching the Left and ideas resembling communism (eg a kind of millennial socialism) are expanding in significant numbers.
In this direction, we are going to create a new revolutionary left organization in January with an open, collective, and meaningful congress. A new organization that is boosting its numbers and reinforcing the fronts/movements it has participated in but also has the ability to reconstruct traditions and ideas. This initiative has been undertaken by two main organizations, called Synantisi (roughly translated as Encounter) and Anametrisi (roughly translated as Confrontation) with their members including people who participated in Syriza, the radical majority of Syriza’s Youth that broke from the party in 2015, people who played an active role in Antarsya (the Anticapitalist Coalition) and other far-left organizations, young people who joined the political struggle after 2015, and members of the 4th International.
The ideas and values that prevail in capitalist society penetrate the left. That’s why the configuration of the left that we need is the unceasing struggle for a new practice of radical left politics. With an honest and permanent will to encounter the other currents, organizations, and activists of the radical left, we seek to contribute to a new culture on the left away from evil spirits of the past. We want to take over tasks that belong to us and to share responsibilities with the other forces of the left with the criterion of the common good of the movement. We want to contribute to common attempts of the left to go on the counterattack by building and utilizing links with society in the workplace and neighborhoods and developing a strategic communication that will utilize digital media to break the exclusion of critics and dangerous voices from the public sphere.
In this direction, we address the activists and movements of the world: Keep discussing Greece and keep talking about a radical alternative in Greece.
As Chile showed us with the insurrection and the recent struggle of its people, we are not going to return to normality because normality was precisely the problem.
24 December 2021
Antonis Faras is a militant and member of the coordination committee of Synantisi (Encounter). Tassos Anastassiadis is a militant of TPT (of the Greek section of the 4th International) which is participating in the constitution of this new organisation.
- 1In 2018 there was an initial coalescence, revolving mainly around the SYRIZA youth, who had already left the party in 2015, (ONRA) and other groups, most of them originating in splits from SYRIZA. In the meantime, a large number of militants consisted of young students who may have become active politically after 2015, without being burdened with the experience of splits. This coalescence had kept the descriptive name “Encounter for an Anticapitalist and Internationalist Left”. At the same time, however, the same concerns were also held by sections originating in ANTARSYA, a coalescence of the anticapitalist left already in its twelfth year, which had become trapped in the backtracking+ of its member organizations. A split from the NAR youth (the largest organization in ANTARSYA) had established itself as “Anametrisi” (Confrontation), with similar concerns regarding the need for recompostion, practical radicalism and programmatic pursuit. The current unification has as its main body these two entities, “Encounter” and “Confrontation”, but smaller groupings also belong. This is the case of a split from ARAN (an organization that belonged to ANTARSYA and later to LAE), and also of TPT (Greek Section of the 4th International), and of independent militants.
- 2As the “omikron” covid-19 pandemic hits Greece violently in this beginning of 2022, the founding conference was reported for some weeks.