Europe’s radical left on the march

Posted April 9, 2009

While the US banking elite takes advantage of the crisis to further consolidate their economic control and wealth – with little more than a whimper from workers – social unrest around the world points to the kind of struggle that is possible and necessary. To gain a proper understanding of the possibilities that have opened up, it’s necessary to paint in broad strokes, as John Bellamy Foster did in a February interview:

The sudden fall of the governments in Iceland and Latvia as a result of protests against financial theft is remarkable, as are the widespread revolts in Greece and throughout the EU, with millions in the streets. The general strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique, the French Antilles, and the support given to these movements by the French New Anti-Capitalist Party is a breakthrough. In fact much of the world is in ferment. Latin Americans are engaged in a full-scale revolt against neoliberalism, led by Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, and the aspiration of a new socialism for the 21st century (as envisioned also in Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba). The Nepalese revolution has offered new hope in Asia. Social struggles on a major scale are occurring in emerging economies such as Brazil, Mexico, and India. China itself is experiencing unrest…

Since that time we can add that not only did the Antillean strikes happen, but won victories, and the electoral defeat of decades of right-wing rule in El Salvador by the FMLN (which has been previously[1] discussed[2] here.)

And then, of course, there’s Europe: the part of the world with the most similar economic and political conditions to the US. Back in mid-January, I co-authored a piece for Left Turn on the radical left in Europe. Chasing at the heels of mass protest in some places, recognized leadership in others, the far left has undergone a continental rebound nearly two decades after the collapse of Stalinism and rightward lurch of mainstream Socialist and Labor parties. The main point of the article, which appears in draft form at the bottom of this post, is that the formation of “broad anti-capitalist parties” has been an uneven process, gradually refined through experiments in different countries. The founding of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste in France, just after the article was finished, represents a high point.

Of course, when history is moving faster than the editing, layout and printing schedule of the radical press, you risk of being out of date by the time “news” hits the stands. Such was the case here: the article makes no mention of some of the most exciting mobilizations and strike action in the past couple of months. Before the article, check out these videos and links:


The December social rebellion in response to police murder of an anarchist in December has been followed with months of strikes and protests:

France – March 19 General Strike:

French 3M Workers hold boss hostage:

G20 Protests:

Analysis of the G20 meeting from a Keynesian economist

G20 Protests, London – Police Kill Ian Tomlinson:

NATO Demonstrations – Strasbourg, France:

Don’t miss this in depth eyewitness report.

The article below is from issue #32 of Left Turn magazine – Subscribe today!

There is an Alternative: The European Anticapitalist Left

—Poulikos Poulikakos & Isaac Steiner

Two decades after the Berlin Wall fell and signaled an apparently triumphant capitalist order, the spectre of continental-wide social resistance haunts Europe’s rulers. They are desperate to contain new waves of militant direct action sparked by the spiraling economy—from the Arctic Circle, where crowds of snowball-wielding demonstrators toppled Iceland’s government, to Mediterranean Greece, where farmers blockaded highways just weeks after December’s month of urban uprisings. Meanwhile, emergency solidarity demonstrations with the people of Gaza have breathed life into quiescent antiwar movements, particularly in England, where mobilizations passed the hundred thousand mark and students occupied several universities.

While Iceland was certainly off the radar screens of most radicals, mass protests against neoliberalism have been common for the past fifteen years in many other European countries. In several cases, leaders of the movements have formed broad parties of the radical left that bring together militant trade union activists, radical students and youth, feminists, ecologists, queer activists, and other sectors under a shared political umbrella. A gathering of the European Anti-capitalist left—which included 35 such organizations from 16 countries—met in June 2008 to discuss the present and future of radical left in Europe.

Activists and organizers in the United States have much to learn from the experience of Left formations in Europe, which, though in political contexts somewhat similar to our own, enjoy a base of working class support unheard of for generations in the US.

From Social Democracy to “Social Liberalism”

To understand the emergence and potential of these new formations, one must briefly survey the political terrain of twentieth century Western Europe. The post-war period saw the traditional left—the Socialist and Labor parties as well as the soviet-linked Communists—develop a social contract with their respective ruling classes.

During an era of rising profits, this compromise granted workers and the poor social democracy: an expansive system of services, and state intervention into the economy. Together, these programs increased their standard of living and won the loyalty of a massive working class base for the parties that advocated this strategy of reform, representing primarily the interests of large party bureaucracies and trade union officials. Additionally, the maintenance of such a safety provided important propaganda benefits for Western Europe, as their governments sought to compete with the full employment, state housing, education, and health care of the Eastern European regimes.

Politically, the dominance of the reformist left in Western Europe dampened revolutionary opportunities during the revolutionary upsurges of 1968-75. In France, student battles with police helped spark a general strike throughout May 1968, only to have Socialist and Communist officials of the major unions channel the radicalization into political compromise. Six years later, Portuguese workers, students, and most notably a mutinous military, exhausted from a decade of failed wars in Africa, overthrew the fascist dictatorship. Yet, again, the strength of the Communist Party—which argued against political independence of the Portuguese working class from “progressive” capitalists—diverted the revolt.

The rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats following WWII did not rise forever. By the 1980s, profits stagnated. Margaret Thatcher, determined to restore profitable capitalist power declared “There Is No Alternative” and implemented a model of austerity that would be followed by ruling classes across Europe: cuts in social spending, privatization, and intense attacks on unions. Once the Eastern Bloc became integrated into the capitalist world economy, Western governments had one less incentive to invest in costly welfare spending. The old Labor and Socialist parties buckled, and, breaking with their past of social democracy, adopted the new neoliberal policies—“social liberalism.” As the Social Democrats moved right, most Communist Parties suffered an outright identity crisis when the USSR crumbled, leaving behind their base in the working class and social movements.

Yet working people did not lose their capacity to fight even when their traditional political institutions began to break down. In almost all European countries in the 1990s, new movements against the neoliberal assault involved millions—and in some cases, particularly France—won significant victories. This resulted in a new opening for political parties to the “left of the left”—radical formations with a hard opposition to neoliberalism that would contest for power while remaining linked to popular mobilizations.

Electoral alliances

The end of the Cold War led to several “New Left” experiments in organization. The fusion of Communists and groupings to their left into new electoral alliances was a model followed by Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance in 1989, which brought together Communists, Greens, and revolutionary socialists and Italy’s Rifandazione (Communist Refoundation), a transformation of the Communist Party into a broader pluralist front that included other left forces which came together in 1991. While the Red-Green Alliance has maintained an anti-capitalist orientation and political strategy outside of elections, Rifondazione has faced serious issues of credibility from radicals when it participated in the Prodi government of 2006 as a defense against the right-wing and Silvio Berlusconi. Many saw this as an overemphasis on the electoral system rather than mass mobilizations and other expressions of power from below. Rifondazione ministers in office also ended up voting for austerity measures and war credits for the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan, raising important questions of clarification within the “left of the left.”

New formations variously describe themselves as anti-liberal (opposed to capital’s offensive against the welfare state), anti-capitalist (recognizing neoliberalism as an inevitable profit recovery plan of the capitalist system itself) and revolutionary (explicitly favoring a strategy of insurrection to replace capitalism with a democratic socialist society.) All political formations that manage to gain a “critical electoral mass,” however, face the question of whether or in what way to enter government in coalition with the social democrats. As the example of Rifondazione shows, even parties who describe themselves as “anti-capitalist” but lack a clear position of independence from the liberal capitalist parties can become deformed. As a result of that particular case, several left currents have split from Rifondazione in an effort to rebuild an independent far left in Italy.

Internal conflicts

By the mid to late 1990s, a wave of anti-liberal movements picked up steam just as Social Democratic parties completed their move to the right. Leftists from different traditions and militant movement leaders discovered an organic unity in action as they fought on the same side of practical questions that surfaced in the global justice and anti-war movements. Some parties discussed in this article played central roles—sometimes contentiously—in the strong European Social Forums that drew together hundreds of thousands in Florence 2002, Paris 2003, and London 2004 (as the global justice and antiwar movements declined, attendance at subsequent ESF gatherings in Athens and Malmö, Sweden has fallen.)

Many forces of the Left found their shared political practice, rather than historical tradition, would be a starting point to develop unity, and took part in a second wave of new parties. The Scottish Socialist Party, and Respect, in England, originated in this fashion, usually expanding around one or more smaller far left parties with roots in the 1960-70s youth radicalization: Militant Labor in Scotland, Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Socialist Resistance in England. While each of these formed around a core party able to marshal resources and political networks, the diversity of political traditions was absolutely necessary to achieve a level credibility. In both England and Scotland, these new parties attempted to give political expression to mass anti-war sentiment, coming off of the biggest demonstrations in British history just before the Iraq War.

After just a few years, however, they both suffered (unrelated) splits. In particular, the decline of Respect raised two important questions: first, the relationship of the SWP to Respect posed whether or how existing parties should maintain an independent identity within broader formations; second, different participants drew wildly different conclusions from the unity between the largely South Asian Muslim population, immigrants, and the socialist Left based around trade unions.

Many, including MP George Galloway, accused the SWP for failing to fully commit to the new project, maintaining an emphasis on recruiting to their own party and attempting to control Respect through sectarian behavior. For their part, the SWP lodged charges of an overly electoral focus and “communalism,” or representing exclusively the interests of Muslim communities. Given the massive migration of the past two decades that has transformed the face of Western Europe’s working class, the success of the Left is very much a question of cross-pollination and support of labor, social movements, and the particular struggles of immigrant populations—including the right of immigrant populations to elect their own representation.

Finally, a couple of anti-liberal parties also deserve attention. Despite its confusing name, the Dutch Socialist Party was the project of a previously Maoist party to loosened into a broad left formation during the 1980s and has experienced nonstop growth since then. A much more recent Germany formation, Die Linke, has united a social democratic party strong in the former East Germany with forces to its left. But in some cases where this young party has entered coalition government, its MPs have accommodated the neoliberal and imperialist agenda.

21st century socialism in Europe?

The Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire (LCR) of France also underwent quantitative and qualitative growth during this period, leading them to initiate the launching of a new anti-capitalist party with a mass audience, if not yet a mass base. The LCR gained influence in several important unions and international networks throughout the 1970s and 80s. Its core of experienced activists helped them cohere a strong resistance to neoliberalism in the 90s, defeating several right-wing initiatives with strike waves and mass mobilizations. In 2005, a broad French movement including the LCR, left Social Democrats, and leaders of the radical left organized a rejection of the European Constitution. Charismatic spokesperson and presidential candidate of the LCR, the young postal worker Olivier Besancenot, has twice received over 4% of the vote and is one of the most popular political figures in France. Still, despite the growth and prestige of the LCR, young activists have not joined the party in large numbers. Crucially, the movements of immigrant and non-immigrant French youth have also remained largely segregated.

Taking into account the contradictions that still exist and with the benefit of experience from previous initiatives, the LCR voted to launch a process of building a “Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste” (NPA – a temporary name that will be replaced at its founding congress) into which its own membership will dissolve. To prevent this from simply being a front group of the LCR, members of the Ligue will have fewer than one-third voice on any decision making body. Over the past year, meetings of the radical left, ecologists, and feminists have taken place in over 400 committees across France to hammer out a program.

A document prepared for the final LCR congress lay out the basic unity of the NPA

“class struggle and support for all the struggles of the exploited and oppressed; unity in action of workers and their organizations; a break with the capitalist system; an eco-socialist project; opposition to any policy of managing the capitalist economy and the central executive powers of capitalist institutions; the struggle for a workers’ government; the revolutionary transformation of society; socialist democracy; and an internationalist program and practice. To be sure, a number of questions will remain open: the nature of revolutions in the 21st century; problems of the transition to socialism; and a whole range of other questions having to do with the reformulation of the socialist and communist project. But we are not beginning from scratch; and the NPA will collectively determine its own positions on the basis of new common experiences.

The recent experience of the far left, social movements, and labor in France were necessary for the possibility of something like the NPA. First, the past decade of victorious mass non-electoral mobilization won a significant minority of French workers and activists to a strategy of independent opposition to social democracy in power. Second, the long-term commitment of the LCR members to activism in mass organizations allowed veterans of previous radical periods to maintain a relevance to struggles. Finally, the commitment of the LCR to democracy and rejection of orthodoxy allowed the organization to maintain a healthy political life in between those periods.

If the NPA is able to successfully break with orthodoxy while navigating the questions posed above, its example will be a vitally important initiative. As political and economic crisis unfolds across Europe, the task of building of a New Left for the 21st century is more urgent than ever.


5 responses to “Europe’s radical left on the march”

  1. Isaac Avatar

    Thanks. I’ll take a look at the links when I get a chance. Admittedly, Germany is one of the situations which I know the least about and I was unsure of that statement (in fact, it may have been edited in the published version, which I don’t have on my computer.) Surveying political formations spanning a whole continent of countries I’ve never been to was a daunting task, so other input is welcome – that’s one thing that’s great about the internet!

  2. negative potential Avatar

    This statement:

    “A much more recent Germany formation, Die Linke, has united a social democratic party strong in the former East Germany with forces to its left.”

    …is something of a distortion, if not outright falsehood. The WASG (the split-off from the SPD that merged with the PDS to form “Die Linke”) can hardly be described as to “the left” of the PDS. The PDS was a heterogeneous formation, with a “realist” social-liberal wing, a left-social democratic wing, and an “anti-capitalist” wing comprised of different tendencies (hardline Stalinists, entryist Trots, etc.). A formation which is so diverse does not lend itself easily to comparisons along the lines of “who is more left?”.

    The WASG, by contrast, was pretty much exclusively a breakaway of disgruntled trade union bureaucrats and SPD functionaries dissatisfied by the passage of the Hartz IV laws by the SPD. Granted, the WASG had some entryist Trots within it (the local CWI and IST franchises), but it’s character is arguably to the “right” of the old pre-merger PDS, given that the WASG was characterized by the casual racism and chauvinist nationalism of the social democratic milieu.

    Lafontaine’s inexcusable “Fremdarbeiter” talk was largely ignored by leftists in other countries. Unfortunately, leftists also seem largely uninterested in the vicious racism against asylum-seekers by the Left Party candidate Klaus Eckhard Walker in Saarland:

    I understand that the lack of any institutionalized “socialist” mass parties in the United States carries with it a tendency by American socialists to mystify the actual conditions in Europe, but really, the enthusiasm over Die Linke leaves me scratching my head. Die Linke = the old PDS + West German trade union and ex-SPD bureaucrats. I guess it is significant to the extent that it represents a party “to the left” of official Social Democracy, but in terms of the actual content of its demands, it is actually “to the right” of the 1980s CDU (as pointed out by the cabaratist and journalist Rainer Trampert).

  3. Isaac Avatar

    This piece just appeared on International Viewpoint (and I don’t know why it’s called “The October revolt!”):

    Left perspectives on the October Revolt

    Tassos Anastassiadis, Andreas Sartzekis

    Nearly four months after the immense youth revolt that followed the killing by a policeman of young Alexis Grigoropoulos, it is indisputable that it has become a reference point not only in Greece, but also at least in Europe, where you can hear for example on French student demonstrations: ’’Guadeloupe everywhere, a general Greece!’’. In addition, Greece continues to experience mobilisations which, while certainly less massive, reflect the fact that, in the face of the broadening crisis and the repression which seems the only stable policy of the right, the fires of revolt continue to burn.

    Even if the powerful wave of December did not lead to what was then possible, the overthrow of the right wing government, many things are beginning to profoundly change here, as witnessed by the impressive mobilisations of recent years (port workers, farmers, students, environmental struggles and so on). Without going back on the causes of this unexpected mobilisation, there are many reasons to review rapidly some key points of the period, so as to clarify for the reader some questions which are debated, some of them more outside Greece than in Greece itself. And it certainly seems necessary to us to evoke the development of the Greek anti-capitalist left which, after “December 09” has begun to regroup its forces and discuss programmatic axes.


    This is clear: No political force can claim to have led the movement .in any way. Activists from the revolutionary left, from Synaspismos, without forgetting the KKE (Greek CP), fairly well implanted in the high schools which, while denouncing the other forces and dividing the mobilisations, could not refuse to mobilise, massively and immediately participated in this movement. What is certain is that the movement, seeking a determined response to the police violence, was influenced, initially massively, by somewhat anarchistic practices, without the groups of this current being able to organise anything concrete in relation to this multiform tendency. On the contrary, it should be recalled that one of the axes of intervention of the anti-capitalist left in the movement was to propose a self organised structuring, of which the difficult establishment of the coordination committees was an element. Nonetheless, the absence of a democratically self-organised structuring at all levels was one of the main, if not the main, weaknesses of the movement.


    In any movement of the breadth of the December revolt, there are crucial moments, which, according to how they pan out, affect the likelihood of a victorious generalisation. The date of December 10, four days after the killing and the immediate extension of the movement to all the regions of Greece, thus became a crucial moment: the trade union movement, with the single confederation the GSEE and the Public Federation ADEDY, had for some weeks called for a one day general strike against the anti-worker policy of the government. In the context opened since December 6, the stakes became very high for a right hesitating between the strengthening of repression and political disorientation before the breadth of the revolt. The Prime Minister Karamanlis then asked the GSEE to postpone this strike, obviously fearing the juncture of the revolt of youth and angry workers combined (remember that in spring, when the right introduced pension reforms, the reformist PASOK bureaucracy, Synaspismos and KKE succeeded with great effort tin preventing the extension of the renewable strike). The president of the GSEE (PASOK has the majority of its leadership) very firmly refused to sacrifice the workers’ interests to Karamanlis…. but he transformed the planned demonstration on the streets of Athens to a rally without demonstration at Syntagma square in the centre of the capital. The objective was clear: to prevent a common and determined demonstration of tens of thousands of workers and youth, which could be transformed into an immediate demand for the departure of a government henceforth clearly in the minority (30 to 35% in the polls, if we add the scores of the far right).

    It was one of those moments where history can accelerate and the choice was clear: either to maintain the appeal to carry out the planned demonstration, or to align with the trade union bureaucracy rejecting class confrontation with the right and the possibility of a power vacuum which the institutional left did not want. And the choices have been made according to this alternative: on the one hand, a determined demonstration on the planned 2 km route, attracting numerous youth (in particular students), teaching unions, groups of radicalised workers, numerous groups from the anti-capitalist left, and, among them, the KOE, the main group of the revolutionary left in Syriza. On the other, numerous workers who listened to the speeches of the reformist union leadership without demonstrating before dispersing without worrying the government too much. Let’s be clear, with regard to the massive participation in the two initiatives and in measuring then the possibilities, it is obvious to many in Greece that the reformist bureaucracy had saved the government on that day and indicated the political framework in which it wished to contain the movement. The demand for the resignation of the government became secondary to slogans, certainly indispensable, on the disarmament of the police and the dissolution of the special corps. And the absence of a living democratic self-organisation prevented a real discussion in the movement on the importance of this political question and on the necessity of the workers’ movement taking it up.


    Of course even if it hasn’t fallen, the right has since December been more discredited. But it keeps is nuisance power, in a situation where the economic crisis is now reflected by thousands of dismissals in February (80,000 jobs lost between September and December 2008) and still darker perspectives. Traumatised by the youth revolt, it seems that at least a part of the right sees the accentuation of the repression as the sole possibility: we saw it in early January, with resumed youth demonstrations attacked by police, and in mid March when the right took up the proposals of the far right against wearers of hoods and anti-police slogans! But also with the recourse to para-state forces against those protesting against the destruction of a green space in a popular neighbourhood, with the throwing of a grenade at a café which was a meeting place of the Network for Political and Social Rights (DIKTYO) and other radical organisations. However, the key issue today for broad mobilisation has been the aggression against an immigrant trade union coordinator, Konstantina Kouneva, a heated defender of rights of cleaning workers. Attacked with vitriol and very seriously wounded, his support was initially limited to the radical left and combative trade unions like his own. But support has spread following several big demonstrations and now even PASOK leader Giorgos Papandreou inveighs against companies who turn workers into slaves. Meanwhile, PASOK and Syriza have proposed Kouneva as a candidate on their respective lists at the European elections. Kouneva, who as a class struggle trade union leader has had to confront the Pasok or Synaspismos union bureaucracy several times, has rejected the proposal. This struggle has a significant impact in a context where racist attacks and propaganda have sharpened (and not just from the neo Nazi ’Golden Dawn“ group, Chryssi Avgi, one of whose members has just received a light sentence following his trial for armed attacks against revolutionary activists).


    Of course, there are premises, with the existence for some years of MERA and ENANTIA, two separate grouping of several groups of the revolutionary left. And the very successful meeting with Alain Krivine in the spring on May 68 saw a fairly broad co-organisation. In addition, many of these groups participated in meetings organised in France for an anti-capitalist left. One can then say that for nearly a year now, things have been moving, But the December revolt allowed the shift to a higher gear: It is now clear that to weigh politically in the struggles and at the national level, the Greek revolutionary left must regroup to launch a credible anti-capitalist left. That is what was set up at the end of January, the idea being to reach agreement on some key programmatic axes, on the basis of activism in the big mobilisations.

    It is about building a left rejecting entry into institutional management, which already makes all the difference with PASOK as well as with the KKE and Syriza. If the two latter are capable of a class struggle language (KKE) or acceptable programmatic orientations (Syriza), their practice very often denies it. Many in Greece remember that Synaspismos regrouped in 1989 the two Greek CPs … to form a government with the right, first against PASOK (July-November 1989) then with the right and PASOK (the so-called ecumenical government of November 1989-April 1990). If the KKE left Synaspismos in 1991, it continues as we saw in December to back the right. Synaspismos inherited from this period of coalition with the right three former ministers of whom two were among the main leaders of Syriza (belonging to two different currents): Fotis Kouvelis, parliamentary spokesperson for Syriza, and Giannis Dragasakis. One could multiply the examples of the enmeshment inside the bourgeois institutions of the KKE and Synaspismos. The young leader of Synaspismos, Alexis Tsipras, is presented by the media as the ’’Greek Besancenot’’, although our postman comrade would never cordially fraternise with a right wing minister and one of the country’s biggest employers as Tsipras has just done in the context of the beginning of the construction of a new football stadium in the centre of Athens.

    Independence in relation to PASOK is obviously a key element: if we cannot at this level reproach the KKE, which denounces the “gang of three’’ but has in its turn been accused of being allied to the right, we cannot say the same of Synaspismos. Here also we must distinguish proclamations from everyday practice. But first examine a fact which has been little examined in recent months by triumphalist analyses: The percentages given in 2008 in the electoral polls to the Syriza grouping have been in fact, beyond a base of 5 to 7% clearly attributable to Synaspismos (1996: 5.12% for Syn; 2007: 5.04 for the Syriza grouping.), generally variable according to the pressures of the PASOK electorate on the Papandreou leadership. Today when the electoral credibility of PASOK as the way to beat the right has in part been re-established, the percentages give Syriza from 5 to 9% (in a poll on March 20: 5.6% for the parliamentary elections, 7.3% for the Europeans, PASOK being given 33% in the 2 cases), and in 3 polls out of 4, it has fallen behind the KKE.

    But this close electoral relationship is reflected in the approach to the ’’big questions”: thus, the journal “Eleftherotypia” noted at the end of February that Papandreou and the president of Syriza, Alavanos, had come together around what should be demanded of the prime minister at the European summit, the measures proposed being classically reformist if not technocratic! Like PASOK it supports the classically reformist parliamentary proposal, for reorganisation of the police put forward by the group Syriza. Let us add that the “renewer” current of Synaspismos leans openly to governmental cooperation with PASOK. This current has just moreover rendered an invaluable service to the government: At the elections for the leadership of the higher education teachers union (POSDEP), it coalesced with the rightist tendencies and PASOK to overthrow the outgoing leadership, close to the majority current of Synaspismos!

    Indeed, in a context where university struggles are politically important, the old leadership rejected the ’’dialogue without preconditions’’ which the minister for education had just proposed: the new POSDEP leadership is on the verge of accepting, the better to smother rank and file combativeness. But so far as the majority of Synaspismos is concerned, Alavanos, the president de Syriza, has just written to Karamanlis (for the right) and to Papandreou (for PASOK) to propose to them to work for the recomposition of the student union EFEE, fragmented for several years, as if that was not the strict area of the students themselves through their debates and struggles! We will say no more on this reality which in fact distances Synaspismos and Syriza from a practice or a will for rupture with the bourgeois institutions, but we must obviously state that there are differences (the Synaspismos youth organisation, which has grown, is clearly more to the left) and that it is necessary to lead mobilisations and discuss with Synaspismos and Syriza. We are content to restate here what the Greek section of the Fourth International has said for some year: What is urgent in Greece is to build an independent anti-capitalist left, which could weigh on the developments expected in both Synaspismos and the KKE (sign of the times? The most Stalinist of its deputies was not re-elected at the CC during its congress!) as in PASOK (through its worker militants).


    Following the appeal of January 31 and during the months of February and March there was a whole series of local and sectoral rallies to discuss the idea of a unitary and structured anti-capitalist left. Baptised “anti-capitalist assemblies” they were in fact veritable rank and file meetings of all the organisations who had signed the appeal. Open to various anti-capitalist left activists beyond organised elements, these meetings discussed the possibilities of local construction but also of unitary structuring of the anti-capitalist left at the national level.

    It should be said that the ground was not completely virgin, at the level of mobilisations, pre-existing contacts, and even sometimes of informal co-ordinations. But a specifically political discussion, with a precise organisational point, was not part of the habitual practices of most!

    The conference of March 22, which crowned this movement, constituted a very significant step forward while also registering limits, insufficiencies, needs and so on. A general political text, as well as a political declaration and central slogans for the period were adopted and the undertaking to advance together in the coming battles (including in the European elections) constituted a new point of departure. A national coordination has been set up, but it should be strengthened to the extent that the local structuring acquires a closer character.

    The Left Anti-capitalist Coordination for the Overthrow (of the system), whose name was in part chosen for its initials, Antarsya, which means in Greek “mutiny” or “revolt” or again “take to the maquis” (the ’’antartes’’ were the ’’partisans’’ of the anti-Nazi resistance), was then launched in the immediate battles of the class struggle, with a common consciousness of the urgency of radical responses faced with the crisis of capitalism and the damage it causes. All the questions could not be answered, like the ideological references, strategy or also organisational questions. But the unitary framework now exists, and some of these questions will find a response with time, experience, debates.

    The urgency is to develop an instrument which can weigh decisively on the résistance and struggles of the workers, who must face, beyond the repression of the right, divisions and impasses which, under various forms, are those of PASOK, Synaspismos and the KKE. It is vital for the combats of the working class and youth that the anti-capitalist forces, through ’’Antarsya’’, propose a response at the level of the social anger, which if it was doubted, has been verified with the very high participation in a one day general strike on April 2nd whose only official perspective was that it be followed in some time by a new 24 hour strike! The hope is that from now on the workers can take their affairs into their own hands, aided by the militant presence of the anti-capitalist left.

  4. Isaac Avatar

    Well, there are a couple points on this. First, it’s clear that the political ideas of a huge number of people in the US are changing. The worst reactionary and pro-market excesses of the Bush years are unpopular. And there’s the possibility of alternative, even radical ideas getting a hearing. Even so, I take polls like this with a grain of salt given that “socialism” and “capitalism” are not defined in the poll.

    More importantly – and maybe to be a little cliched, here – they’re not defined in the streets, workplaces, movements. What’s important about the anticapitalist parties in Europe, especially in France, is that they are the leading recognized political expression of a real trend among the working class, youth, immigrants, and other marginalized and exploited parts of society. The experience of years of mass resistance to neoliberalism has developed a self-consciousness and self-confidence that is for the most part lacking in the USA.

    Also crucial is that they are clearly independent and to the left of established reform-oriented political parties that seek to “manage the crisis of capitalism.” Here, the current administration enjoys broad support. In the direct words of Obama to financial executives, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” An exaggeration, perhaps, but we see the very real effects of this in the antiwar movement, which has been suffocated by the widely held belief that Obama plans to end the war. (Reality: he’s recently requested 83.4 billion – which tragically seems smaller than it should against all these enormous bank handouts.)

    In the USA the isolation of different struggles (like immigrant rights, rank and file unionized workers fighting around contracts, student environmental activists, police brutality, for example) mean that they are easily, well, isolated: lessons and solidarity are not shared. We need more links between movements so that scattered victories aren’t merely “sectoral” but more broadly inspirational.

    None of this is to say that it CAN’T be done, just that we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do: organizational dialogue of the far left to develop strategy more widely than in tiny grouplets, building and politically strengthening struggles that exist, and ultimately combining the two!

    Finally, this isn’t from any direct experience but I imagine that some political education in this period will take the form of “working backwards” from left-leaning conclusions that many are drawing. Frome there we gotta ask the question: “ok, so what do we DO?”