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Greece

Urgent need to regroup union movement and workers in a more class-oriented direction, say Greek Communists

Interview with Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga by Athens News, 27 Apr 2012

Athens News: Does the EU-IMF memorandum raise issues of national sovereignty, of the unfettered operation of the democratic system and of enforcement of the constitution?

Aleka Papariga: Whoever raises issues of the abolition of “national sovereignty” because of the memorandum is hypocritical. This issue is raised by a segment of capital which objects to certain provisions in the loan contracts. Greece, as every capitalist country in the EU, participates on unequal terms. This participation includes the conscious cession of sovereign rights within the EU framework, with the aim of defending the profits of Greek monopolies and the stability of the political system.

This is not the first time this happens. Just remember the Marshall Plan in the 1940s. The same applies to the second part of your question. The class-based character of the democracy in which we live is not due to the memorandum. It is a democracy of capital and monopolies, and not one for working people, and this emerges more characteristically under conditions in which the bourgeois political system faces problems of stability. To enforce their class policies in favour of capital, they will not be stopped even by the provisions of the very bourgeois constitution, which they say working people should respect.

What model of production and which measures can help pull the country out of the crisis?

The problem is not the so-called production model, but rather the path to development. The known path of capitalist development – which aims to bolster the profits of industrialists, shipowners and bankers – is the one that leads to the bankruptcy of working people and of the popular strata, the one that will bring the next crisis with mathematical certitude. The other path -that of development for the people -presupposes that workers have in their hands the means of production, mass transportation, ports and infrastructure and utilise them with the aim of expanding the satisfaction of social needs. The only exit from the crisis that benefits the people is to change the purpose of production.

The memorandum has brought total deregulation of labour relations, with the implicit abolition of collective bargaining contracts. Is it important to save sectoral contracts before May, when each employee will be at the mercy of their employer?

The KKE, with its activity in the trade union movement, has opposed the effort to abolish collective bargaining contracts, because that will remove a weapon of the trade union movement in its negotiations with capital. One must note, however, that, in the name of defending the institution of collective bargaining, the forces of employer- and government-controlled [Pasok and ND] unionism, as well as forces from Synaspismos/Syriza, are essentially adopting the dilemmas set by capital – such as either cutting salaries or accepting layoffs. They thus assist the strategy of capital and support the idea of social partners. Just look at what happened with the association of private employees and in OTOE [the federation of bank employees’ unions], where they agreed to sign collective bargaining contracts with salary cuts.

General strikes and labour action by PAME [communist unionists] have not brought the slightest change in government policy. Do the structure and strategy of unionism need a change?

For the struggle to result in overturning policies that are against the people, it requires a change in the power balance, in favour of the struggle for workers’ popular rule. The struggles that occurred are not lost – they are a valuable legacy for the future. It became apparent that there is an urgent need for a regrouping of the trade union movement and of the working class in a more class-oriented direction. That requires the weakening and abandonment of the leaderships of employer and government-controlled unionism. The leadership of [private and private umbrella unions] GSEE and ADEDY, with the responsibility of PASKE [Pasok] and DAKE [ND] unionists, but also those with Synaspismos, announced strikes without mobilising in order for them to happen. That undercuts any effort. The main issue is to organise workers in sectors and production units -in factories, businesses and offices.

What are the necessary conditions for the KKE to prevail in Greece? Would such a case spell the end of multi-party parliamentary democracy, as in other communist regimes?

The KKE wants the workers and the people to prevail. They must take power. That will mean the end of the fraud of people voting every four years to pick who will manage anti-popular policies. Popular rule will be predicated on the organisation of the entire population in institutions, based on the unit of production, which will elect and recall representatives, who will receive no material privilege from their participation in the organs of workers’ popular rule. The people themselves will determine how many and which parties will exist.

Why have the crisis of two-party dominance and the splintering of the Greek political system not brought more support to the KKE? Is the dominance of Pasok and ND over, or will it recover?

First of all, elections lie ahead. We must note, however, that the KKE’s percentage is much higher in the working class, and that is most important. The party’s policies have been vindicated and the appeal of the KKE’s positions for thousands of working people is greater than its polling numbers. But people have not yet acquired the self-confidence and faith in their power and in their ability to impose their own interests. They have experience, however, which should be utilised.

We call on all these people to take the step now, to ignore the fear-mongering and the dilemmas that are against the people’s interests and to support the KKE. The problem is not that until now the two parties traded places in ruling, but rather that they are parties of capital that implemented policies against the people. Any restructuring of the political system with the rise of new parties will not change their class-based character. The issue is not only to weaken two-party dominance, but to weaken the political system’s ability to transform and disguise itself.

How do you interpret the rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party and the possible repercussions if it manages to enter parliament?

It is not the first time that the system organises and bolsters reactionary forces that are linked with the state apparatus so as to use them against the popular workers’ movement. It had assigned this role to Laos in the recent past, and it is preparing Golden Dawn for such a role.

History has shown that social democracy played an important role in the rise of Nazism and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s, taking a lead role in the anti-Soviet and anti-communist campaign. Anti-communism – in which Pasok played a lead role, supporting Laos directly and indirectly – helps nurture such forces. In the case of France, the Socialist Party and Francois Mitterrand played a major role in bolstering [far-right leader Jean-Marie] Le Pen.

The only possible answer is to intensify the effort to organise the labour movement and create a popular alliance in the fight to overturn the rule of capital.

How would Greece’s withdrawal from the euro and the EU, which you advocate, be accomplished, and how would that benefit working people?

We speak of disengagement from the EU, with socialisation of monopolies, and making all the country’s wealth the property of workers and of the people, with central planning of production – in other words, with the adoption of another path of development. That position has nothing to do with those who speak of leaving the euro but staying in the EU or of staying more generally on the path of capitalist development, along with the creation of a national currency. That position can contribute nothing to the rights of labour and the people.

The dilemma “euro or drachma?” is false. The real dilemma is “development for whom?” Disengaging from the EU and pursuing development for the people will utilise Greece’s developmental capabilities with an aim to satisfying the needs of labour and the people in terms of education, health, welfare, social insurance, the right to stable employment and immediate access of workers to the wealth that they produce.

How do you view Germany’s role in Europe – is it becoming a hegemonic power with the force of economic weapons? Would a victory of socialist Francois Hollande in the French presidential elections change power balances and policies?

Germany is a leading power in the EU -and that is nothing new. Today, what the KKE was saying then – when everyone else was talking about the EU of equality, convergence and democracy – this is even more obvious. The EU is not a union of co-equal states, since such states cannot exist under capitalism. The EU is an alliance of capitalist states that fight against other capitalist forces on the international level. But that does not take away the contradictions within the EU, which are becoming sharper.

In previous years, the French-German axis was dominant in the EU framework. The election of Hollande may signal changes in the relationship between France and Germany. The negotiation to which he refers regards negotiation between French and German capital within the EU framework. In contrast to what anti-memorandum parties claim in order to disorient, working people cannot expect anything from this negotiation.

Towards a popular awakening

Athens News: Why is it that the Greek people have not revolted against the austerity measures?

Aleka Papariga: There were struggles. Of course, they did not correspond to the force of the attack. We have the trust of the people. The time will come when the people, organised and decided, will overturn the rule of capital and will impose their own popular workers’ rule. The intensity of the attack against the people is not enough for working people to take such a step. They must overcome the phobias, prejudices, blackmailing dilemmas and terrorism projected by various mechanisms of capital by Pasok, ND, Laos and other parties linked to capital, as well as by the mass media.

At the same time, they must transcend the self-deceptions and delusion cultivated by so-called anti-memorandum parties – such as Syriza, the Democratic Left and others – that there can be a solution that benefits the people, without clashing with monopolies and their power. They must grapple with anti-communism and the slandering of the socialist construction of the 20th century.

That cannot happen with workers cornered, and with participation in elections every four years. It requires that the people be at the forefront, participating in organised labour action, in the labour movement, in a popular alliance. The KKE is the only party working towards a popular awakening. All others are, in one way or another, on the opposing side.

No conditions for cooperation

Athens News: You have steadfastly refused any cooperation with other leftwing parties (Syriza, Democratic Left etc). Are they not true leftists? Have you nothing in common?

Aleka Papariga: The divisions between right and left or memorandum and anti-memorandum forces may highlight differences. But they do not highlight the main difference that exists today: the differences over the idea that EU participation is a one-way street, over the strategy of capital and over struggle in an anti-monopoly, anti-capital direction, breaking with the EU.

The policy of alliances promoted by the KKE is a social alliance of the working class with other popular strata, in the direction of struggling for popular, workers’ rule, the socialisation of monopolies, disengagement from the EU and the unilateral writeoff of debt. That alliance is promoted through the clash with the strategy of capital, and with EU policy. It requires the joint action of workers, the self-employed and farmers, in a common framework of anti-monopoly targets.

Clearly, in that framework it is impossible to cooperate with parties who believe that the EU is a one-way street, because that determines the framework of their broader strategy, which abolishes the gains and rights of workers. These are forces that cooperate with the parties of capital in local government, essentially to implement anti-popular policies. Within the trade union movement, they advocate the realism of subjugation to the strategy of capital. They are pillars of support for today’s situation of collapse and for the compromised trade union leaderships.

Precisely for this reason there is no possibility of cooperation with Syriza and the Democratic Left – not only because we have fundamental differences in our programmes, but because we are working in opposite directions.

Athens News

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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