By Kumar David –
Mass anger against moribund European capitalism; Lessons of Syriza victory for JVP-JHU-Sobitha
Leftist Syriza led by charismatic Alexis Tsipraz won 149 seats in the Greek parliamentary elections of 25 January falling two short of an absolute majority in the 300 member parliament needed to govern without the burden of an encumbering coalition. In 2012 Syriza took 27% of the vote to emerge as the second largest party, last week it won 37% and came first. It got 3.3% in 2004 and 5.4% in 2007. Two hundred and fifty parliamentary seats are distributed proportionally, but 50 extra seats are allocated to the party that obtains the largest number of votes (plurality). This bonus system makes for stable government since, to the best of my knowledge, a single party has never secured 50% in Greece. The New Democracy party which was pushed out of office secured 76 seats, semi-fascist Golden Dawn 17, the CP 15, Social Democrats 13, and the liberal Independent Greeks 13.
A portrait of Rosa Luxemburg adorns Syriza headquarters, but Apollo like Che gilds the walls of JVP branches; the distinction between the most gifted Marxist of the Twentieth Century on the one hand, and the scourge of imperialism on the other has more than symbolic relevance. Rosa – Lenin called her a soaring eagle – is a beacon of civilisation beyond moribund capitalism; Che a hero in the struggle against decaying imperialism. The future of civilisation, or in her own words ending “barbarism”, is therefore the task of 21-st Century internationalist Rosas. There is more than a cultural and emotional twang to these remarks as I will explain anon.
Syriza is a fusion of about 15 left entities which merged in 2013 to form a unitary party and elected Tsipras leader by 74% conference vote. Interestingly, ‘Left Platform’ a group which stands to the left of the mainstream secured 30% of the places on the Central Committee and ‘Communist Platform’ (Greek section of the International Marxist Tendency) secured two places. This fusion of several left and Marxist entities to form a unitary left party is what made the 2015 election victory possible. This is a lesson that is entirely lost on the buffalo brains of Lanka’s hidebound and sectarian leftists whose only interest is to protect their own bits of turf. This is true, obviously of the Dead Left, but also of Sirituga’s USP, Bahu’s NSSP and clueless Frontline. Unfortunately it is also applicable to the JVP’s higher-and-holier-than-thou standoffish sneering at other leftists. I will return to how Syriza interleaved organisation and policy firmness with sensitivity to the ‘over-determining’ issue in the minds of the people after a brief digression to economics.
The economic catastrophe
I can only spare a few paragraphs to sum up the catastrophic Greek economic collapse which is the background to Syriza’s election victory. First let it be plainly stated that this is not a tragedy of Greek capitalism but a deep structural fissure in global capitalism which manifested itself at different moments, with different severity in different countries, depending on local factors and how these factors coalesced into the global picture. The earthquake first hit US finance capital in the autumn of 2008 in the worst depression of world capitalism since the 1930s. The reasons why a collapse of capitalism in the form of a death-agony of US banking (rotten balance-sheets, unserviceable debt and ridiculous derivative instruments) was unavoidable in general, and why it manifested itself at that time in that location, has been much analysed and this is not the place for a summary. (Of course nobody expects me to resist the temptation to gloat over the validation and vindication of Marx and his method!)
European banks were not immediately inundated by the 2008 tsunami but they did not take long to fall like ninepins (Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland, Spain’s Santandar, BNP Paribas in France and Ireland’s Allied Irish, to name some big ones). European sovereign economies, except Germany, then went broke as well. Spain and Italy were bad but Greece was the basket-case with rotting banks and a bankrupt government that could not service sovereign debt. International financial institutions had used Greek banks as an entry pointy for risky financial transactions, tax evasion and financial sector corruption. The failing government was propped up the European Central Bank (ECB) and European capital markets as the debt to GDP ratio soared. Greece, a plaything of the European money game, when it collapsed was a threat to the pan European house of cards. This must not be read as criticism of a criminal enterprise but as brisk and entrepreneurial capitalism doing its natural thing.
When the sovereign state and private banks went into free fall, desperate measures were needed. The ECB bailed out the state, European banks bought or held on to Greek bank bonds to help the sector tide over, and most significant, unbearable austerity was imposed on the people. When capitalism goes bust society has to carry the burden of rescuing the rotting carcass. But Syriza said ‘No, we will not abide by European Union (EU) imposed austerity; no we repudiate some sovereign debt imposed by ECB financial gaming’. This is the logic of Syriza’s refusal to honour some sovereign debt and its repudiation of austerity measures which were driving people to desperation and suicide.
It is the boldness and determination of this programme that underpinned victory. Speaking to thousands of supporters Tsipras said Greece was leaving behind “catastrophic austerity and five years of humiliation and anguish”. He said he would cooperate with Euro-zone leaders for “a fair and mutually beneficial solution”. He may have his eye on Spain, Portugal and Italy where left leaning alliances will do well in future elections. Spain’s fast growing left alliance Podemos, which tops opinion polls in a country where despite economic recovery unemployment still stands at 24%, may be set to repeat the Syriaz experience.
The JVP’s Syriaz opportunity
The Syriaz triumph was made possible by blending together three factors viz; a bold and decisive approach to the principle issue facing the country, second a broad democratic appeal to the whole of society, and third unifying several like minded movements into a single programme and party. It rejected the ECB-IMF imposed austerity package to which the previous government had been a slave and boldly defied trans-European capitalism. While not insisting on quitting the Euro-zone it is prepared for the eventuality that Greece may be expelled. It mobilised people and prepared them to face the consequences of rejecting the supremacy of European and global capitalism. Out of necessity Syriaz has now formed a coalition government with the right of centre Independent Greeks who have agreed to reject austerity. (This is like the JVP forming a coalition government under its leadership with the JHU, General Fonseka and radical UNP sections to cleanse the entrenched Mafia-State out of Sri Lanka’s body politic).
What is the principal or over-determining issue that needs to be addressed in Lanka at the present conjuncture – I am leaving out the national question? It is the State; the Authoritarian-State, the Mafia-State. The dismantling of authoritarianism commenced with the defeat of Rajapaksa and the next forward step will be when (if?) the Executive Presidency is abolished. (Drafters Jayampathy Wickremaratne and J.C. Weliamuna will have a lot to answer for if abolition is not thorough. Ceremonial supremacy of the armed forces will be invested in the president like in India, but I see not the remotest reason for vesting the slightest real executive authority in a president).
It is progress in dismantling the Mafia-State which put down deep roots in the Rajapaksa period that has been slow, confused and prone to reversals. President Sirisena has made bad appointments and gives the impression that he lacks the will to apprehend crooks who grew into giants under the previous government in which he served. The public mood, just listen to the people phoning into Sinhala TV channels, reflects disappointment and frustration. The official explanation is it takes time to catch big fish and evidence for prosecution must be meticulously prepared; this is true. But it is also true that signs of the worst vermin of the Rajapaksa days crawling back in hordes and compromising the post-election government are widespread. The Sirisena-Ranil government is squandering its credibility by not showing itself determined to root out the Mafia-State.
I have to repeat a quotation used last week about the Mafia-State because it is important to drive home what happened in the Rajapaksa period and to help people understand this grotesque monster.
“In recent years, a new threat has emerged: the Mafia-State. Across the globe, criminals have penetrated governments to an unprecedented degree. The reverse has also happened; rather than stamping out criminal gangs, some governments have instead taken over their illegal operations. In Mafia-States, government officials enrich themselves and their families and friends while exploiting the money, muscle, political influence, and global connections of criminal syndicates to cement and expand their own power. This fusing of governments and criminal groups is distinct from the more limited ways in which the two have collaborated in the past. In a Mafia-State, high government officials actually become integral players in, if not the leaders of, criminal enterprises, and the defence and promotion of those criminals become official priorities. Mafia-States integrate the speed and flexibility of transnational criminal networks with the legal protections and diplomatic privileges enjoyed only by states”.
The challenge of ensuring complete abolition of the Executive Presidency and the battle to smash, root out and cleanse Lanka of the Mafia-State is the Syriza-moment of the JVP, Sobitha Thero, and on the second point, that is anti-corruption, the JHU as well. Unwavering determination to press forward with the principal issues of the moment – for Syriaz rejecting austerity, for us defeating corrupt, authoritarian state power – is the lesson that Lanka can learn from the last week’s Greek election.
Rosa versus Che
If you think in terms of human progress and ferret out the figure on the left on whom the mantle of Marx most naturally descends, it is not Lenin or Trotsky, nor of course Mao, Fidel or Che, it is Rosa Luxemburg. Among socialist leaders of her day, among those among them who saw a new world, Rosa is the acme of European civilisation. Though nearly a century has passed since her assassination on 15 January 1919 this revolutionary socialist, internationalist, philosopher and economist, is a Twenty-first Century harbinger of a new world. Lenin’s revolution grew out of struggle against Tsarist primitivism; Mao cultivated even more ancient ground. Naturally they painted on a canvas narrower than Marx visioned as socialism which lays the foundations of a new culture. (Cuba and Vietnam, diminutive in philosophy and geography, have little to offer).
Without pushing the point too hard and giving offence, and keeping my remarks deliberately metaphorical, it would be good if the JVP could widen its civilisational horizons and progress from its early Che Guevara origins to Rosa Luxemburg vistas.
Javi. / February 1, 2015
Kumar David dont count your chickens before they are hatched and moving with delight in the Greek affiar.
Can the Greek public eat the vote?/ Hooo hooo…..we have seen old labour UK and no money to invest then came new labour and the spin of all for all, the arselicking labour to harvest the unbelivable and enter house of lords then comes hung parliament- where is the say of the people??
If Greece leaves it can go for its own cheap currency and export but where is the security?? Cypress Turkey and an imminent invasion which the greeks will never live up to. Remember there are 2 US bases with 100 k marines stationed there for any eventuality. The Greeks paid nil taxes and failed its their problem of no fiscal policy.
All that glitters is never gold.
All that the cold blooded skin heads and revolutionaries can dream of but never reason.
All are thieves and the poorer and more intelligent background they come from the bigger the crime to join in the club like maverick Peter Mandelson.
The Yankees and Germany have too many knuckle dusters watch the fun.
Amarasiri / February 1, 2015
“All that the cold blooded skin heads and revolutionaries can dream of but never reason”
Is the Prof getting lost among the tress in the forest, again?
Can’t See The Forest For The Trees ?
Javi. / February 2, 2015
If only he could take his mind away and see like child!
He’s lost the (Hedera) Ivy Foundation 8 like Vasu duva to Boa_constrictor.
Javi. / February 1, 2015
David instead of all your left drum beating because as an electrical engineer of the old school who turned more left and left till you were left out of your common peoples candidate selection.
Rather than the late 80-90 idea of engineers going in for finance and management PG like Raju Ragavan and shocking the world with out of the box fiscal management.
That is your main problem getting old than young.
Tell me who at lanka would like to live as the poorest president in the world??
Jose Mujica: The world’s ‘poorest’ president-
None because you never fought for independence eveything is fre food free education and above all free CT now and the abuse they get.
Passa was your left golden jackel in sheeps clothes- SILENCE (very buddhist)
All the lefty skin heads need is a crown of thorns.
You have to work hard play hard and pay taxes to prosper not try to fib the world because it has bigger con masters than you.
gogomahinda / February 1, 2015
Dhammika Perera,Sajin Vaas,MR,Stock manipulators,Access horas,Rugby horas,Overnight mega hoteliers,politikkas of prev.regime are free and growing in confidence daily…even giving interviews whereas they should be apologizing,Should be prosecuted.
Almost one month and media circus only.There can be only one reason for inaction….
EDWIN RODRIGO / February 1, 2015
The problem with Politician Kumar David is the same of the Engineer Kumar David. Both are immersed in theory and that theory also is half baked. Engineer Kumar David though he became a Professor of Engineering, has no industrial experience. He was so bright in maths and theory that he won a scholarship to do a PhD. That was his downfall as well as that of his many students.
Javi. / February 1, 2015
The picture I see is yet the best.
Visit Sri Lanka :The Pomp & Power of Idleness- cold blooded skin heads-Gello
Supun Jayawardhane / February 1, 2015
Who are Syriza and what do they stand for?
An acronym meaning the “Radical Coalition of the Left”, Syriza was formed in 2004 as an umbrella group
Led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras
The party first came to prominence following the 2008 Greek riots
It promises an end to Greece’s painful austerity measures and wants to renegotiate its debt
Markets worry about a Greek debt default and a possible exit from the eurozone, though Syriza says it wants to keep the euro
Javi. / February 3, 2015
Who are Syriza and what do they stand for?
they sent you pussy bragas when you beg for help while Thailand and India refused.
Go bestality breed 4 leeged jaya goo wardena attha.
Srilanken_Frankfurt / February 1, 2015
Comparing the lanken political decoction with those of Greece is a joke really.
We are not a powerful nation though idiotic polticians make every effort to pain an ireal picture about the country. Latter is very much known to AKD of JVP and the senior party men as a whole – so only wayout for lankens is SPD style politics – led by a coalition. SO I believe the steps already proposed by RW and MS can give a lead to our country. We have to be fully dependent on IC since country is not at powerful to be compared with even totally fallen down economies of eastern european countries. Those who lived only within the country cant know this while the others being the minority seem it will be difficult to outreach the masses for the latter s opinion. However, if people would be fed with facts at least from now on, things could work healthy for the future of the nation.
Javi. / February 1, 2015
“”fully dependent on IC since country is not at powerful””
As you know nothing comes for free from IC or west-
there is nothing called a free lunch at germany or london.
The nation has to take 3 giant steps backwards for IC liking.
Look em up.
Srilanken_Frankfurt / February 1, 2015
Conditions depending on Grexit can no means be comparable to anything of srilanka. Greek populace is not misguided by the current situation -but in srilanka over 5.7mio of people DID behave (according to election results last month)as if they dont care even they themselves have been looted by state machineries.
I can see it already the way how majority folks would react in next general election -not many would use their universal franchise using their brains. I personally believe – people of the country should adequately be informed with facts and figures of ground realities.
Supun Jayawardhane / February 1, 2015
Greek economy in numbers
Average wage is €600 (£450: $690) a month
Unemployment is at 25%, with youth unemployment almost 50%
Economy has shrunk by 25% since the start of the eurozone crisis
ountry’s debt is 175% of GDP
Borrowed €240bn (£188bn) from the EU, the ECB and the IMF
Javi. / February 3, 2015
Algebraic lies is your goo that what all you jaya goo thrived likie Richard Jayawarden the 1/2 animal whpo got kicked out by preme.
you think you will get to rule without indians approvel?
Go Mugave loves your family backside. go lick his low class shit pot.
You want to tell us how to run EU- balla higano.
Jagath Fernando / February 1, 2015
Thilak at SEC and Deputy Minister Harsha will catch all the crooks. Be patient.
The days are numbered for the stock market mafia. CBSL and EPF crooks will be caught shortly.
Thilak will re open the 17 files closed by Nalaka at SEC. Then the big wigs will be exposed.
Uthungan / February 1, 2015
An ideal democracy in the true sense of the word is something that can be a danger to corporate ventures.
There was a time during the first part of the twentieth century when US Coporations worked for German fascism that was when Rosa Luemberg was assassinated.
What Ranil and Maithripala during this time of globalisation is they do not nderstand that their policies can and would be undermined by tyrannical global systems which are unaccountable to the Lankan public.
FDI and outsourcing which will look for an ununionised environment for investment.
The goal,is profit.The casualty ihuman rights.
If the Left in SL,know this then there is hope.
Over to you AKD.
D.Nimal / February 1, 2015
Kumar David has come-out with new section introduces the fake political science and social class that flash research study from which his new eassy says “…that JVP could winder his civilization horizon and progress to its early origin Che Guevara to Rosa Luxemburg vistas…”
David is political manipulator by Trotskyists adventurism, which that betray Leninism and against Marxist point of view, misdirected vistas of National Question by Rose Luxemburg. The his emerged and describes the epistemological underpinnings of methodology and methods applied during the KD’s an Engineering -political fail fieldwork of last several decades.
I have early mention KD is not Marxist, class that he belongs to backward and underdeveloped capitalism, that had more colonial roots closed Tamil political class, which roots goes back to the Law of Thesawalam that legal cover by North Tamil political interest not that the concept of capitalists modernization in regions or country.
Hence that he want, undertake that ‘…JVP could wider civilization horizon People of Sri lanka, that encourage south Terrorist political party turn into party of civilization.
That is quite impossible task entrusted to JVP given by KD.
Is that KD genuine believed such politically hypothesis? KD had similar views of LTTE in North ? Which he claimed to bring together the interclass demands for political unity of democratic revolution the needs of economic development of Sri lanka by JVP and LTTE?
Is this two terrorist outfits can posed, that could deliver capitalist modernity and development? KD did not realized simple terms of Marxism.
Che was anti-Imperialist and radical genuine revolutionary.
In my understanding he was not fully converted Marxist-Leninist.
But that CHE played decisive role in Latin American was progressive, democratic and laid foundation for Cuban revolution. Indeed that his contribution to ensure People of Cuba and its revolution was tremendous and unprecedented. Hence CHE was not seeking any return his life, except sacrifice.
Rose Luxemburg was Germany socialist revolutionary join had with Karl Liberniec with left-oriented Social Democratic Party of Germany.
They played important role in Third International during First world war.
There was different opinions between Lenin on National question with Rosa. She opposed policy of national-self-determination. Lenin was highly critical of Rose’s position primarily because she fail to recognized, the progressive character of the nationalism (even bourgeoisie nationalism)of colonial, semi-colonial and subordinated countries.
Lenin thus affirms the RIGHT TO NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATOIN, which really the right to SECESSION for all.( see V.I Lenin Right of nation to self-determination.)
KD is fully unaware of Role played by Lenin and Stalin of Russian October socialist Revolution in 1917. In fact which Mao Zedong led CPC play leading mission Chinese Revolution in 1949. Both revolutions, Russia and China has change World class balances from Bourgeois class into leadership of Proletariat class that first time in Human History.
KD is totally unaware of Proletariat class politics and Bourgeois class ruling politics .He fail to realized differences of class interest, its political mission, class and parties of Global existences. KD seems to be more anarchism rather than radicalism.
The case of Greek crisis is new set out of political phenomena of that result FREE FALL of Hegemonies Financial Capitalism in US 2008. Subserviently which was that serve for the collapse of Wall street is the Center of Capitalist headquarters in US, EU and Japan.
Max1917 / February 1, 2015
Mr. David is correct. The left in Srilanka is either opportunist or sectarian or just plain stupid. However their is no option for Srilanka but a Left option. Why do we have to wait to see that same characters taking over will do the same things that they’ve done before – steal, lie and sell our sovereignty to the IC. The reason why Syriza succeeded in Greece is because the daily life became unbearable for the majority. No school of economics can gloss over the hunger, deprivation and suffering in the final analysis of the vast majority of people. Lucky for Greece there was a Syriza to give positive and intelligent hope to the people otherwise it would have been the Nazi’s. It may yet be the nazi’s if Syriza is unable to deliver on its promises and withstand the global capitalist onslaught. In Srilanka we are not quite at the point relatively of where the people of Greece are. There is suffering but compared to the suffering under the war years there is relative improvement. But undoubtedly Mr Sirisena and his ilk will betray the hopes of the people because their interests are driven by local and global capital. When this happens a strong , united, vibrant, dynamic, visionary Left in Srilanka should be ready to take the reigns.