A very stimulating conference on the Radical Left (17 May 2013, University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

I am just returning from a very interesting conference in the University of Edinburgh.

Its subject was the    ‘The radical left and crisis in the EU: From marginality to the mainstream?’

Its programme was the following (my contribution follows at the end)

9.30                      Panel 1: New approaches to conceptualising the radical left

  1. The situation of the radical left in Europe (overview), Cornelia Hildebrandt (Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin)
  2. Opportunity structures and the vote for radical left parties in Europe: A multi-level approach, Dieter Ohr and Sabine Pokorny (Freie Universität Berlin / Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung). Paper given by Dieter Ohr
  3. The ‘dependent variable problem’ in the studies of the radical left, Cesar Guzman-Concha (Freie Universität Berlin)
  4. The radical left and the European Constitution: Another Europe or the same old Euro-scepticism?, Michael Holmes (Liverpool Hope University)

11.30                   Panel 2: Understanding divergent responses to the crisis

1. All anti-neo-liberal now? The Party of European Socialists, European Greens and European Left Party respond to the crisis, Luke March (University of Edinburgh)

2. Uplifting the masses? Radical left parties and social movements over the crisis, Myrto Tsakatika (University of Glasgow)

3. The radical left and the politics of migration: Resilient or acquiescent in the face of populism?, Dan Keith and Francis McGowan (University of Sussex)

4. Organizational responses to «crisis management» among the South European and Irish radical left, Giorgos Charalambous (University of Cyprus)

14.15                    Panel 3: Case studies: Northern and Eastern Europe

  1. The Left Front and the EU. Ideological and strategic meaning of an opposition, Fabien Escalona (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Grenoble) and Mathieu Vieira (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
  2. Failing to capitalise on the crisis: Why did the Dutch Socialist Party miss its chance?, Dan Keith (University of Sussex)
  3. The French extreme left, David S. Bell (University of Leeds)
  4. Czech Communists and the Euro crisis: Between radical alternative and pragmatic Europeanization, Vladimir Handl (Charles University, Prague)

16.15                    Panel 4: Case studies: Southern Europe

  1. Economic crisis, austerity policies and coalition potential of the Portuguese radical left, André Freire (Lisbon University Institute) and Marco Lisi (New University of Lisbon)
  2. Greek radical left reactions to the crisis:  Three types of political mobilization, one benefactor, Costas Eleftheriou, Michalis Spourdalakis, Athanassios Tsakiris (University of Athens)
  3. The Greek Left vis-à-vis the EU: From opposition to accommodation and back again, Stavros D. Mavroudeas (University of Macedonia)
  4. Strategic difficulties of organizational experiments in European radical left parties. The case of SYRIZA, Panagiotis Pantos, Loudovikos Kotonopoulos and Haris Golemis (Nikos Poulantzas Institute, TransformI Europe). Paper given by Panagiotis Pantos.

‘The radical left and crisis in the EU: from marginality to the mainstream?’

University of Edinburgh conference

17 May 2013

Preliminary Draft

‘The Greek Left vis-à-vis the EU:

From opposition to accommodation and back again’

Stavros D. Mavroudeas

Assoc. Professor (Political Economy)

Dept. of Economics

University of Macedonia

54006 Thessaloniki


e-mail: smavro@uom.gr

web: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

I.                Introduction

This paper studies the position of the main currents of the Greek Left vis-à-vis the European integration project. The first part analyses the politico-economic nature of this project and the main phases of its evolution. Its main argument is that it is an attempt to create a European imperialist bloc in the beginning as an ally to the US versus the Eastern Bloc but – particularly after the collapse of the latter – as an increasingly aggressive competitor to the US for imperialist primacy. The second part studies the relationship of Greek capitalism with the European integration project. Its central thesis is that Greek capital (being a second generation, middle level one with limited imperialist abilities) found in the accession to the European integration project its modern ‘Big Idea’[1]: it considered that its partnership with the more developed western European capitalisms – however unequal maybe – would signify its ascent in the world imperialist hierarchy. This plan, which passed through several stages, is going completely astray today with Greece’s severe crisis and the imposition of the IMF-EU-ECB Memoranda. In order to substantiate this thesis, a concise presentation of the economic consequences of Greece’s accession first to the EEC and then to EU and EMU is being presented. The third part surveys the position of the three main currents of the Greek Left but also of the other political forces vis-à-vis the EU. It is shown that the majority of the Greek Left (orthodox communist, radical and anti-capitalist Left etc.) – together with PASOK and with the exception of the Eurocommunists – opposed vehemently the accession to the EU. However, once it the latter took place, PASOK and parts of the Left accommodated – openly or silently – with it. This was related to several EU economic initiatives (aid packages, agricultural policy etc.) which – although terribly inefficient and ultimately disastrous for the Greek economy – created a popular appeal. However, the eruption of the 2007-8 economic crisis and the subsequent Greek crisis overturned all these as anti-EU feeling and positions prevailed in the Greek society despite the vociferous resistance of the Greek politico-economic establishment. This led to a return of the older Left anti-EU position which became dominant in the Greek Left. A survey is offered of the current politico-economic positions of the main currents and parties of the Greek Left vis-à-vis the EU. There is also a particular focus on the role of the Euro and the EMU in the current Greek politico-economic controversies. The last part concludes by presenting the argument for a Left opposition to the EU and an alternative to the IMF-EU-ECB Memoranda program founded on a strategy of disengagement from both the EU and the EMU. The main political and economic aspects of such a program are being analysed.

 II.              The European integration project

The European integration project has definite class and geopolitical origins. It began as an economic, social and political buffer against the labour movement and the Eastern bloc, which contained intra-European rivalries under the US and NATO auspices. It helped reconstruct and secure capitalist relations of production after the 2nd World War against a militant working class. It set a framework constraining intra-capitalist struggles to functional levels and securing capitalist development. The latter had spill-over effects to the working class in the sense that a portion of the new surplus-value produced by workers was allowed to return to them in the form of better wages (which however did not cover the full contribution of labour). These increased wages offered social ‘legitimisation’ to the system and enhanced its ability to dominate ideologically the working people in the face of both internal disputes and the external challenge by the Eastern bloc. Particularly regarding the ‘external enemy’ the European integration helped to keep Western European countries together and not falling, like dominos, one after the other under the influence of the Eastern bloc (as it had happened with several Central European countries).

With the collapse of the Eastern bloc, in the beginning of the 1990s, things changed. Whereas before the main European powers – and consequently the European integration – remained under the US auspices, the end of bipolism released their previously latent and hidden ambitions. The main European hegemonic power (Germany) started aspiring to a stronger international role. Thus, in accordance with France’s similar aspirations, it pushed for a stronger, more tightly knit integration. It is indicative that when the Maastricht Treaty was signed the then French president Francois Mitterrand declared that now Europe becomes the first global power.

Thus, beginning even before the collapse of bipolism, a common monetary architecture was added to the common market of the EEC. This was supposed to be able to challenge the global hegemony of the US dollar, which is one of the main American economic weapons. The common monetary structure was supplemented with the further political integration of the member-countries and the strengthening of centralised mechanisms. The transformation of the EEC to the EU marked this process. Of course, the bigger powers (Germany etc.) are the true bosses behind this process.

On the other hand, the US became even more suspicious towards European integration as it considers it as a possible imperialist competitor. Hence, it uses all its power to undermine it. The US does not strive to dissolve the EU. Rather, they push for a loose and weak economically and politically (and after all militarily) European integration that would not be able to challenge their dominance. Thus, contrary to Germany and the other more antagonistic to the US European powers, they favour a broad expansion of the EU (through the entrance of many new countries-members) that would make difficult any closer integration and a more tight control by Germany. On the other hand, Germany and France attempt to side-step the problem by delaying the entrance of many new-comers and by moving towards a two or even three-levels European integration where the more advanced countries would constitute the hard core and the other one or two zones the periphery. The latter would have a limited impact on the main decision centres.

In a nutshell, the European integration is a project with definite socio-economic aims. It aspires to an enhanced and smooth labour exploitation within its countries, the dominance of its core economies over its ‘peripheral’ ones, the containment intra-capitalist and intra-imperialist antagonisms within a regulated framework, the enhanced economic dominance over other countries and, last but not the least, the competition for global primacy with other geopolitical blocs.

European integration: from the common market to the EMU

The beginning of the European integration project was the creation of a common market. However, it soon moved on to the construction of a common monetary structure. It began in 1971 with the Werner plan, which failed but left behind the ECU (a logistical unit). Other attempts followed (‘the snake in the channel’, the European Monetary System (EMS) etc.) all of which failed for a number of reasons. The idea of a monetary integration resurfaced in the middle of the 1980s and was agreed in 1991 with the Maastricht Treaty. The latter posed a more ambitious aim: the creation of a common European currency, the euro. The euro project has inscribed in it the ambition of the European imperialist bloc to create a competitor to dollar in the role of international reserve currency and, consequently, of challenging US hegemony in a crucial area.

Monetary integration has a number of crucial merits for capitalist accumulation in the European countries. First, it facilitates and develops further the common market. Now this wider market is even more accessible because instabilities and problems due to monetary differences are eliminated.

Second, it imposes even stronger discipline to intra-capitalist and intra-imperialist antagonisms. Previously, the capitals of a less developed country (with lower labour productivity) could repulse competition from the more developed ones (with higher labour productivity and thus, possibly, lower prices) by resorting to competitive devaluation. By devaluing their currency they could make their products cheaper in international markets and thus compete with the more developed countries, which fall prey to their stronger currencies. With the EMS the range of these competitive devaluations was constrained. With the euro they become non-existent.

Third, all these oblige capitals to solve their profitability problems by cutting costs (and especially wages) and not by competitive devaluations.

On the other hand the EMU project is fraught with dangers and difficulties. First, it carries with it significant risks. Second, there are winners and losers within its ranks.

The risks have to do with its well-known problem of being a non-optimal currency area. Setting aside the mainstream jargon, this means that it tries to put under the same monetary mean several very diverse economies. Again, setting aside the mainstream utopias about convergence, these economies instead of converging they have actually started to diverge dangerously (see Christodoulakis (2009)). Furthermore, crises tend to have ‘asymmetric’ effects on diverse economies and thus they exacerbate their imbalances. This strains even more the function of common monetary mean. The current crisis is a typical example of this case and it had, rightfully, challenged the very existence of the euro.

Moreover, the EMU project did not create an equitable angelic world for all its participants but favoured some at the expense of others.

It is obvious today that it boosted both the competitiveness as well as the overall dominance of a ‘hard core’ around Germany at the expense of the less developed economies and particular the European South. This is recognized even by fervent supporters of the European integration project (e.g. Christodoulakis (2009)) when noting that the EMU had exacerbated the polarization between these two groups. Characteristically, Christodoulakis (2009, p.32) acknowledges that the most crucial asymmetry in the Eurozone has been the emergence of huge disparities in the Current Accounts and the Trade Balances, with the Northern members (Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium) reaping large surpluses while the Southern (Portugal, Spain and Greece) ones suffering huge external deficits ranging from 10-15%. Apart from politico-economic scheming and institutional designs at the commanding heights of the EU, the main fundamental cause of this dichotomy is the fact that the abolition of national monetary, industrial and commercial policies (and the severe curtailment of the fiscal policies for the weaker economies) made intra-EU competition a competition on the basis of ‘absolute advantage’[2]. This has the distinctive characteristic (sometimes branded neo-mercantilism) that the gains of the winners have to be paid by the losers. This exacerbates unequal development and the divergence between EU’s two main groups.

Additionally, ceding monetary and commercial policy to Brussels had adverse policy effects for the European Southern group. Brussels conducted these policies according to the special needs of the euro-core even when this conduct disaffected the euro-periphery. This intensified the dilapidation of South’s productive structure as it favoured sectors linked to the Northern group and damaged others more crucial for national development. Furthermore, it created an environment favouring conservation of unrealistic growth rates based on external borrowing (as the Maastricht Treaty effectively prohibited internal borrowing). This created the basis of the current debt problems of the euro-periphery.

The EU crisis

All these internal contradictions of the European integration project were pushed to their limits by the eruption of the 2007-8 global capitalist crisis. Moreover, the imperialist competition with the other major global blocs weakened, for a number of reasons analysed briefly below, seriously the EU. It would not be probably premature to argue that EU has become the new ‘Big Sick Man’, similarly to the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20th century (for a detailed analysis see Mavroudeas (2010a, 2010b, 2012 and 2013).

The economic crisis has a crucial repercussion. It aggravates international antagonisms and conflicts, particularly between the major imperialist powers. Each of the major imperialist powers attempts to pass the burden of the crisis on other countries. Here the EU has sought to make a sleigh of hands. With the outbreak of crisis, the U.S. adopted a policy mix characterized by (a) an expansionary fiscal policy and (b) a very loose monetary policy (interest rates to almost zero and successive Quantitative Easing programs). A similar route was adopted by several other economies and, most significantly, China. The latter implemented an expansionary fiscal policy but not a very loose monetary policy (China has no problem of funding since it has plenty of funds). By contrast, the EU has followed a policy mix of (a) a tight fiscal policy and (b) tighter monetary policy (e.g. interest rate cuts were slower and smaller than the FED). This meant that the U.S. and China ‘inflate’ their economies to address the immediate danger of the crisis but also flirt with the perils of a bursting of ‘bubble’ which will rock their international position. On the other hand, the EU seeks to exploit the ‘bubbles’ of its competitors (by selling in their markets) while house-keeping its own economy and of course not providing similar facilities to its competitors. In a telling recent comment (Wall Street Journal, 25/1/2012) Volker Treier, chief economist at Germany’s chambers of commerce declared that Germany’s economy (which accounts for 30% of the eurozone) has benefited from strong growth in emerging markets such as China and a recovering U.S. economy.

Simultaneously, the EU initiated a process of ‘internal China-ization’ by pushing the euro-periphery (particularly the PIGS) into the debt trap. That is, the hegemonic European capitalisms fabricated the explosion of the foreign debt of the PIGS (by manipulating statistics, rumor spreading and calculated attacks). This already led four of them into the straitjackets of the EU-ECB-IMF Memoranda and their austerity programs. Through these Memoranda the euro-peripheral countries are being drawn in a recession spiral accompanied by drastic reductions of wages and rapid deterioration of working relations. In other words, the euro-core is attempting to create its own internal ‘China’. This move does not leave unaffected the bourgeoisies of those euro-periphery countries. They too have to take considerable pain since the Memoranda lead to defaults and falling valuations of enterprises and properties. In a nutshell, these euro-periphery capitalisms are falling back within the international division of labor and are losing their economic sovereignty.

But this EU plan is too cunning to come true. The other major global imperialist poles do not permit the EU to play on their backs. So – especially through the supposedly anonymous ‘markets’ and the rating agencies (two basic tools crucially influenced by the U.S.) – the debt crisis of the euro-periphery was transformed into a debt crisis of the whole EU and as the crisis of the euro. What began as a controlled fire within firewall zones became an uncontrollable fire. Thus, the other global imperialist poles push the EU to ‘inflate’ its economy – both through debt (euro-bonds, etc.), but mainly through a European Quantitative Easing policy (especially by printing money). Of course this would put the tombstone on the dreams of a global European imperialist hegemony and will leave the European pole behind its key competitors.

III.            Greek capitalism within the European integration project[3]

Greek capitalism is a second-generation, middle-range capitalism with limited imperialist abilities. It is a second-generation capitalism because it belongs to the group of countries that followed later those areas (Western Europe and Japan) where capitalism was firstly established. This engrafted the very DNA of Greek capitalism with angst to catch-up with its neighboring West. This trend became stronger since Greek capital made, in the late 19th century, the strategic choice of linking with the West instead of aspiring to dominate its near East. However, trends and transformations that took place in the developed, first-generation capitalisms were usually transplanted with time-lags in Greece. On the other hand, in several cases these trends and transformations, when adopted, took directly their latest version (by then predominant in the West) and by-passed their primitive ones.

Greek capitalism is middle-range capitalism with limited imperialist abilities. It preceded the capitalisms of the other Balkan and near East areas. Once established, its proximity to and close relations with the main centers of capitalism influenced it crucially, particularly through the Greek diaspora which held significant economic positions in several of these centers. This was reinforced by the fact that Greeks merchants, proto-capitalists and (later) capitalists held important economic positions within the Ottoman economy; particularly since the latter’s economic centers moved to the Mediterranean area and intensified relations with the more developed West. Thus, Greek capitalism, from its very birth had sectors that were internationalized and/or inordinately developed compared to its overall status. This equipped it with strong expansionary tendencies, given the small size of the Greek economy; particularly during the first steps of the Greek state in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These expansionary tendencies of Greek capitals—reinforced by their inherited positions in the surrounding areas and constrained by the small size of their national basis—engrafted Greek capitalism with imperialist tendencies from its very beginning. However, these imperialist tendencies were inherently unstable and weak because of the lack of a strong national arm. They took the form of periodic forays to other areas which had middle-brow results but not usually longevity.

Greece’s entrance to EMU, in 2001, was a crucial moment for Greek capital’s longitudinal strive to participate in the European imperialist integration. Accession to the EEC, after the 1974 fall of the dictatorship, secured not democracy but capitalism in an era of global economic crisis, struggle with the Eastern bloc and popular radicalism. First, the European integration offered the prospect of a wider market, comparing with the smaller Greek one. Second, and more important, it offered to Greek capitalism the clout of an at least second-class imperialist power (comparing to its lesser status before) which enabled it to exploit better other economies and regions. Third, and equally important, it simultaneously provided a superior economic mechanism and a powerful ideological weapon in order to increase the exploitation of the Greek working class: the participation to the EEC was presented as an new era where “people will eat with golden forks” (to remember an older slogan used by the bourgeoisie during the Greek civil war in order to make US anti-communist aid popular).

Moreover, Greek capitalism entered the EEC at a rather lucky moment. At that time EEC was eager to attract more members and thus was willing to ‘sweeten’ the integration process and make-up for its costs by offering economic aid. Thus, capitalist activities but also the middle classes and the agricultural sector prospered by taking advantage of these programs. This dressed EEC with a popular appeal and obscured its hidden burdens. In particular, it overshadowed the rapidly worsening trade account with the EEC economies.

Things started to change rapidly in the 1990s. The collapse of the Eastern bloc, the internal defeats of the labor movement and the continuation of the capitalist structural crisis changed the situation. Capital became both nationally and at the European level more aggressive and at the same time more pressurized. First, the continuation of the crisis, despite the victories over the labor movement and significant gains in profitability, made capitalism more eager for a decisive breakthrough. Thus, austerity policies—now under the rubric of convergence and stability programs—became more aggressive. Second, the collapse of the East led to the emergence of the till then latent intra-capitalist antagonisms between the United States, Europe and Japan. This intensified intra-capitalist and intra-imperialist rivalries. Germany, the basic power behind European integration, pushed for a stronger economic and political integration (founded on national power and not on federalism) under its hegemony. At the same time the opening of the Central and Eastern European countries lowered the importance of the South European less developed economies. This led, together with the intensification of crisis and competition, to a tendency to curtail aid to less developed countries and problematic sectors. This affected the agricultural sector—where the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a blatant failure sustained for political reasons only—and those capitals, small businesses and self-employed that prospered through EU aid.

The 2001 entrance to the EMU was professed as a ‘national goal’ and a decisive upgrade of the Greek economy. However, very soon grave problems appeared: instead of a relaxation of austerity and a boost to people’s incomes and welfare the Stability Pact dictated new harsher rounds of austerity. At the same time the euro was proven extremely problematic. The price level increased significantly particularly for the basic consumption goods and Greek families start to realize that it constitutes a drain to their pockets. Additionally, the international competitiveness of Greek products in crucial sectors (particularly tourism) deteriorated rapidly because of Euro’s increasing exchange rate. Finally, the old bastion of pro-European feelings—the agricultural sector—became a hotbed of anti-EU mobilizations as CAP’s successive changes eroded its incomes and led towards the annihilation of small peasants and family farming. Last, the aggravation of the crisis caused a new European wave of enterprises’ mergers and acquisitions, which was facilitated by the EMU. Greek capitalist enterprises were faring dismally in this wave, as they are ‘small fish’ comparing to their European partners and competitors. They exploited it to expand in the Balkans but faced problems in Greece as their bigger foreign counterparts were buying them cheaply[4].

The EU-IMF Intervention: Greek Economy in the Straitjackets

Greece lives under the rule of the EU-IMF Memoranda since 2009. The first Memorandum (signed in 2009) projected a 4-years restructuring period during which the initial mild recession would be completely reversed in the end. It failed utterly. New loans were required and a second Memorandum was imposed with harsher terms and a longer time-horizon. It has also failed utterly because the recession generated by these programs is far greater than openly envisaged. The cumulative GDP loss for the period 2009–12 is approximately 22%, 2013 would surely be one of steep recession and the first year of reverse is continuously pushed back. This recession worsens all crucial indicators (debt to GDP ratio, public revenues, etc.). The only one positively affected is trade balance deficit which is decreasing because of the contraction of internal demand.

The Memoranda’s declared aim is debt reduction. Its undeclared aim is Greece’s restructuring from a state-fed capitalism to a privately-led one. This second aim implies that if Greek economy becomes more competitive (and possibly export-led) it will boost public revenues. It follows the typical IMF lines: (a) fiscal consolidation (with extensive cuts and privatizations) and (b) competitive disinflation (which means primarily austerity and ‘internal devaluation’ i.e., a barbaric assault on wages). There is, however, a crucial difference with typical IMF programs: currency devaluation is missing since the program’s aim is to keep Greece within the EMU. This implies that the entire adjustment burden falls directly on wage cuts. It is ideologically pretended (as already explained) that labor costs are the culprit for competitiveness and that their fall would generate a fall in prices. This is also a pro-cyclical strategy in the sense that it attempts a structural transformation within a crisis. It follows a ‘bourgeois Marxist’ logic: crisis solution requires capital devaluation (and primarily that of variable capital). Thus, the economy is actually directed deeper in recession (by mainly restricting fiscal policy and its anti-cyclical role) in the hope that a steep recession together with the structural transformation would lead to an equally steep boom. This strategy has another undeclared (for obvious social and political reasons) element: foreign (primarily the European Union) capitals would take a growing chunk of the new, restructured economy.

Greek capital plays along this game and tries to turn its difficulties into opportunities. It is in one of its worse historical moments as it sees its European ‘Big Idea’ backfiring and at the same time is so intricately bound to European integration that does not even think an autonomous national course. It agreed to the derogatory terms of the two EU-IMF Memoranda, relinquished economic policy to Brussels and agreed to the sell-out of national wealth. Accordingly, it is pushing for deep pro-capitalist structural changes by raising the specter of default and Grexit while sniveling that it is being obliged to do so by the European Union. In this way it pays a premium to the hegemonic European imperialisms while attempting to pass its own burden to the working people.

The Memoranda strategy is deeply flawed and for this reason its reformulations fail systematically. Not because of its general logic: exit from overaccumulation crisis can come only through massive capital devaluation. But because its time-frame and the extent of productive forces’ destruction required are historically overambitious. The time-frame of fiscal consolidation cum structural transformation is set as too short because the fully-blown EU crisis (which endangers Euro’s very existence) pressurizes for a speedy end. Thus, 2020 is envisaged—utterly wrongly as the dominant circles already know—as the year that Greece could return to international financial markets[5]. When a target-date fails it is succeeded with an equally unachievable one. Moreover, the hegemonic EU imperialisms are not willing to provide the required finance for this strategy and play cheaply and for time. The loans of the two Memoranda do not suffice as financial gaps emerge continuously as the Greek economy spirals into uncontrolled recession. Hence, new financial tricks have to be devised (almost usurious short-term loaning through T-bills that increase debt, Emergency Liquidity Assistance [ELA] that is based on leverage, etc.) in order to avoid paying the full bill. Both Greek and EU capitals shy away from the necessary destruction of capital (that would hit them as well) and try to solve the problem only by pushing its burden on the working class and the middle classes. This requires a huge reduction of the value of labor-power that would lead to almost Third World levels. Additionally, it leads to a rapid proletarianisation of the middle-classes that endangers capital’s social alliances. The bankruptcy rate of small businesses has increased rapidly, their ability to evade taxes—a traditionally and tacitly accepted practice—and thus survive is threatened and they face cut-throat competition by big firms. Thus, their unions have already voiced their concern and disagreement regarding several aspects of the Memorandum policies. Moreover, sections of Greek capital started being nervous about the whole process. First, the imposition of the EU-IMF directorate implies that Greek capitalism is facing a downgrading in the imperialist pyramid and become a lesser class capitalism. Second, the disinflation process is welcomed when it affects wages as in this way capital’s profitability is enhanced. However, as soon as this process touches assets and when it is coupled with a slump of the economy it leads to a fall of the value of Greek firms. Thus, apart from the danger of bankruptcy because of the slump they face also the danger of being bought for nearly nothing by foreign capitals. This worry has already been voiced by the chairman of the Greek Banking Association when he mentioned the danger of ‘de-hellenisation’ (sic!) of the banking sector[6].

In a nutshell, the Memorandum strategy—co-agreed by Greek and EU capitals—pushes forward an overambitious program that violates the current historical socio-economic limits of Greek capitalism. The ‘China-isation’ of the working class together with the proletarianisation of the middle-classes and the bankruptcy of sections of Greek capital can create a truly subversive situation. A major consequence of the Memorandum strategy and policies is the rapid increase of not only Euroscepticism but also of explicit anti-EU feelings in the Greek society[7].

IV.            The main currents of the Greek Left vis-à-vis the EU

Accession to the EEC (and its Common Market) initially and later to the EMU have been major strategic targets for the Greek establishment, as analysed before. What was the position of the Greek Left vis-à-vis these targets and the European integration project as a whole?

Before proceeding to survey this subject it is necessary to distinguish the main currents of the Greek Left. From the fall of the dictatorship till today it is comprised of three main currents.

The first current, and till the recent 2012 elections, the stronger one is represented by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). It is a very conservative communist party, faithful to the USSR till its collapse, with a pronounced revolutionary rhetoric but an actual avoidance of truly revolutionary politics. Socially it is mainly based in the traditional working class and also the traditional middle-strata. Historically, KKE has been the main cradle of the Greek Left as a mass social-democratic party did not existed till the creation of PASOK[8]. Essentially all the other currents of the Greek Left are KKE’s offshoots. In recent years (particularly the last 3-4years) KKE adopted an extremely sectarian political line which, on the one hand, preached socialist revolution as the solution to almost every popular problem and, on the other hand, abstained from any mass movement to face these popular problems. In fact, it coupled revolutionary rhetoric with activist inertness. This goes against the long-standing tradition of KKE that was based on active involvement in mass struggles and which actually made it the cradle of the whole Greek Left. This new political line caused the serious decrease of its vote in the last (June 2012) general elections and a serious crisis not mainly in its organization (the ‘mechanism’) but in its mass following.

The second major current comes from the ultimately[9] Eurocommunist split from KKE in 1968. It was initially represented by the small Communist Party of Greece of the Interior (KKEes), then by the Greek Left (EAR) and finally by SYNASPISMOS. It gradually moved away from communism and Marxism; a move which caused several splits and was more clearly encapsulated in EAR. In 1989 the Coalition of the Left (SYNASPISMOS) was created as a coalition of KKE and EAR (again causing left splits mainly in KKE). Subsequently, and after a failed and disgraceful participation in governments with PASOK and ND[10], KKE left SYNASPISMOS while suffering at the same time a major split from the right. Those that left KKE together with the ex-EAR kept SYNASPISMOS which gradually lost ground to KKE and for several years existed at the limits of parliamentary representation and in permanent danger of not being represented. Practically, SYNASPISMOS represented a ‘softy’ Left based mainly in upper middle-class and mental labour strata. It was notoriously political unstable and prone to co-operation with the political and economic establishment. In 2004 it took a radical turn as its more conservative members left for PASOK and SYNASPISMOS embraced social movements (e.g. anti-globalisation) and made a coalition with several extra-parliamentary left groupings. The term ‘Radical Left’ was adopted and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was formally created in 2004. SYRIZA lay, for a considerable period, behind KKE (that had been reorganized and re-attained a mass following particularly during the Yugoslavia war). However, since the eruption of the global economic crisis and the imposition of the Memoranda SYRIZA had considerable electoral gains (as expressed in the last two 2012 general elections) with gains coming mainly from PASOK but also from the other left currents.

The third major current is the extra-parliamentary (seldom self-characterised as revolutionary) Left. This current also comes from older (going back to the 1920s and 1956) and newer (1989) splits from KKE. It has a significant presence in youth, students and several mental labour categories but its election results till recently were rather dismal. This changed, to a certain extent, in recent years and particularly after the eruption of the Greek crisis. Its main expression is ANTARSYA which is the front coalition of the Greek Far Left. The Greek word antarsia (which is pronounced the same as the acronym ANTARSYA) means ‘mutiny’. It is self-described as the ‘Front of the anti-capitalist, revolutionary, communist left and radical ecology’. It was founded on 22 March 2009 in Athens by ten organisations and independent militants by merging two pre-existing coalitions (the Radical Left Front (MERA) and the United Anti-Capitalist Left (ENANTIA)) with some minor losses (disagreeing members of these two previous coalitions). The participating organisations and militants come from different left wing currents ranging from the KKE and the Eurocommunists to Maoism and Trotskyism. In the 2010 regional elections and the May 2012 general elections it achieved the best results ever for a Greek Far Left electoral ticket (1.8% and 1.19% respectively). However, in the subsequent June 2012 elections it lost most of its voters to SYRIZA (polling its worse result, 0.33%).

In terms of March’s (2013) classification of Radical Left Parties it could be argued that KKE belongs to the subgroup of conservative communists, SYRIZA is a hybrid of democratic socialists and reform communists. ANTARSYA on the other hand could be classified as belonging to the sub-type of extreme left. Of course, it should be noted that SYRIZA and ANTARSYA acknowledge and use the term ‘Radical Left’ (the latter usually adding anti-capitalist) whereas KKE does not. However, it should be noted that lumping these three currents under the term ‘Radical Left’ can be disorientating with regard to the Greek specificities for a number of reasons. First, in Greece there is no other Left than the ‘Radical Left’. PASOK has used the term Left in its beginning (and even flirted with positions and encompassed far left groupings) for reasons of expediency (i.e. to get hold and check the post-dictatorship radicalism). However, it soon moved to its physical area, i.e. the Centre-Left and nowadays to even more conservative positions. Second, lumping together these three currents under the term ‘Radical Left’ can obscure their significant differences. If we follow Mair & Mudde (1998)[11] fourth criterion for defining party families (i.e. according to party policy and ideology), then there exist deep differences between these three currents. For example, KKE and ANTARSYA declare their anti-capitalist and communist character whereas SYRIZA is definitely reformist (despite some vociferous far left grouping within it). Moreover, if we consider Mair & Mudde (1998) first criterion (origin and sociology), origin is more or less the same (the KKE candle) but their social basis is significantly different.

These three currents have a continuous presence, despite their splits and mutations, in the Greek political scene from the fall of the dictatorship till today.

As already explained, the issue of the participation in the European integration project dominated the post-dictatorship economic, social and political scene. Again, as analysed before, the participation in the European integration project was a strategic initiative of the Greek bourgeois establishment for short, mid and long term reasons. The main short term reason was the stabilization of the socio-economic regime in the turbulent post-dictatorship period. The main mid-term reason is that the participation in the European integration project facilitated the advancement of necessary and deeply unpopular capitalist restructuring waves that followed the 1973 global crisis (see Mavroudeas (2010a), (2013)). These waves of capitalist restructurings were instigated and pushed forward under the pretext but also through the guidance of the EEC (and the EU subsequently). The main long term reason was that through this modern ‘Big Idea’ Greek capitalism attempted to solve its perennial problem of the vital space (i.e. the contradiction between its limited country basis and its economic expansionary abilities and schemes). More specifically, by entering an unequal partnership with the more developed and powerful Western European capitals, Greek capitalism aspired to expand and dominate a wider area particularly in the Mediterranean and the Balkan areas). Consequently, the participation in the European integration is a strategic choice that shapes and affects almost all aspects of political, social and economic affairs in Greece. Unsurprisingly, the position towards it constitutes a ‘red line’ for the Greek establishment. To put it plainly, it is less hostile to a party vociferously preaching socialist revolution (but practically inactive) than to one actively confronting the European integration project.

Returning to the initial question, the position of the main currents of the Greek Left evolved overtime according to the political, social and economic situation. This is consistent with Mair & Mudde (1998: 20-21) argument that parties are not characterised solely by their ideological stance but also by the concrete practical significance they attribute on the former. In other words, it is important to survey not only the salience (i.e. the party ideological and programmatic content) but also the policy (i.e. the concrete political proposals[12]) of these three political currents.

When the issue of participating in the European integration project was firstly put forward the great majority of the Greek Left, and even PASOK, vehemently opposed it. Only the Eurocommunist current (KKEes) was in favour; essentially adopting the main bourgeois argument (i.e. participation in the EEC would strengthen democracy) and adding a ‘lefty’ flavour (i.e. it was for a ‘peoples’ Europe’). KKE and the revolutionary Left opposed participation by equating EEC with NATO and US imperialism. This was a politically popular position since US and NATO were rightfully blamed for the military dictatorship and the Turkish invasion and dichotomisation of Cyprus. With the same argument PASOK also, in a blatantly opportunistic manner, opposed accession. For KKE opposition to the European integration was informed by USSR’s opposition to it (at that time). Similarly, for the Eurocommunists acceptance was informed by their attempt to constitute, under the EEC auspices, of an alternative to Moscow Left political current. For the revolutionary Left opposition to the European integration project was informed purely by ideological reasons (being rightfully considered and imperialist project). Underneath the political clamour little attention was paid to the economic and social consequences of the establishment’s initiative. Thus, whatever economic analyses existed they were usually adopting a dependency theory perspective[13]. This is a weak economic analysis that cannot grasp the complexities of the international capitalist system. In particular, it failed to grasp the mini-imperialist role and aspirations of Greek capitalism. Moreover, it erroneously argued that participation in the EEC would imply an immediate worsening of the Greek economy and weak rates of growth.

As soon as Greece entered the EEC the whole ground of the debate changed. PASOK, again in a blatantly opportunistic manner, dropped its opposition and its governments actively promoted European integration; and together with it the development of party crony relations with Greek and European capitals on the basis of EEC links. Eurocommunists bolstered further their support for the integration project. SYNASPISMOS became even less critical of EEC and openly espoused it. It even voted, with a few exceptions, for the controversial Maastricht Treaty. Moreover, not only prominent members of its leadership but also middle-level cadres deserted it for PASOK and even governmental positions in the EEC and EU apparatus. KKE remained oppositional but inside it a debate was simmering regarding the party’s actual position. A growing part of the leadership favoured accommodation with the new reality and even open calls for acceptance of the European integration project were aired. These came mainly from that part they ultimately left KKE in 1991 (when it lost the leadership contest) to participate in the new SYNASPISMOS[14]. In practical political terms KKE while keeping the programmatic aim of ‘disengaging from the EEC’ it moved to a political line of ‘avoiding the consequences of EEC participation. In fact, this was a political compromise between the pro-European fraction and the left and traditionalist fractions. This compromise crumpled in the end of 1990s with the splits from the left and right of KKE. The new party consensus kept the opposition to EEC and EU and the programmatic aim of ‘disengagement from the EU’. The revolutionary Left kept its opposition to EEC (with the exception of some mainly Trotskyist groupings that preached a utopian ‘Socialist States of Europe’ position).

Thus, in practical terms the majority of the Greek Left moved to a certain accommodation with the European integration project. There were crucial socio-economic reasons behind this accommodation. As already explained Greece entered the European integration at ‘happy’ times. The immediate impact of the 1973 economic crisis was ebbing and dominant Western capitalisms were willing to ‘sweeten’ the accession process of their less developed partners. Thus a series of economic aid programmes were launched for enhancing economic convergence between the developed euro-core and the less developed euro-periphery. This created an ‘air’ of bliss in broad segments of the Greek society. ‘Easy money’ was thrown around in ambiguous economically and scientifically projects and extensive clientelist relations were organized around these European networks. Of course, it would be a gross lie to maintain that EEC and EU were ignorant of this process. On the contrary, clientelist and crony relations were established at their full knowledge and with active participation (e.g. the Siemens scandal). However, behind this superficial ‘merry-go-round’ significant structural problems were amassed. With the accession to the Common Market the previously protected, traditional (in sectoral composition and technology) and closely-knit Greek economy (particularly manufacturing) suffered a shock as it was exposed to the competition by its more competitive European rivals[15]. The Greek establishment tried to gain time and restructure its economy by introducing austerity policies from the end of 1980s and onwards. Thus the bulk of the burden was place on the working people. This generated hostility and stubborn resistance that led to political and social turbulence and fragility.

There were however economic variations and political manipulation of the problem. Manufacturing suffered and was downsized as percentage of the GDP. Moreover, manufacturing activities became more and more dependent upon foreign (and mainly European) counterparts than upon domestic ones. On the other hand, services offered a refuge as they remained overtly or covertly protected from international competition (a great majority of this sector being non-internationally tradable goods). Additionally, commerce flourished for a significant period as importers of foreign goods (which were cheaply priced particularly after the accession to the EMU). There was an obvious disadvantage in this expansion of commerce on the basis of retailing imported goods: domestically produced goods were substituted b imports and their production lines downsized or closed. This expansion of the service sector was facilitated by accommodating economic policies. To put it in a nutshell, the EEC (and subsequently the EU) actually offered something equivalent to cheap commercial credit (through cheap finance, aid packages etc.) in order to control the Greek economy and expand their market shares. Characteristically, both the trade balance and the current account balance (and in particular those with regard to the EU and EMU members) started deteriorating dangerously. Finally, agriculture had also an artificial and short-legged euphoria as the illogical and monstrous edifice of the European Common Agricultural Policy bolstered, for a period, farmers’ incomes through subsidies. However, this euphoria was at a terrible structural cost as the structure of the Greek agricultural sector became totally inefficient and the agricultural trade balance from traditionally surplus became deficit. To sum up, for a considerable period in the 1980s structural problems caused by the accession to the EEC amassed but were partly offset or hidden by short-term factors. Thus, pro-European integration feelings became dominant (and with unusual even by European standards ratings) in Greece.

All these alarming problems were masqueraded for more than another decade in the 1990s the beginning of the 21st century by two other developments. The first was the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the opening of the Balkans and the Central and Eastern Europe for economic (imperialist) exploitation by Greek capitals. The latter expanded to these areas and, in several of them, acquired almost very strong positions (e.g. Romania). This bolstered profitability and had a trickle-down effect to incomes in Greece. The second development was an artificial – actually bogus – growth instigated by the Greek state through fiscal policy and particularly megalomaniac schemes like the 2004 Olympics (the most expensive and overpriced in the history). This policy bolstered capitalist profitability, hide structural problems and fomented a widespread feeling of social and economic euphoria. These developments set the ground for Greek Left’s accommodation with the EU.

All these changed abruptly with the eruption of the 2007-8 global capitalist crisis. In the beginning there were widespread beliefs in official and establishment circles – expressed in several national and international reports (the IMF among them) – that Greece would not be affected. However, quite soon these beliefs started crumpling for several reasons (e.g. the Balkan ‘Eldorado’ was hit severely by the crisis) and the crisis started biting the Greek economy. The eruption of the EU crisis (usually but inaccurately branded as ‘EU sovereign debt crisis’) aggravated further the situation. Greek society abruptly moved from euphoria to shock. The imposition of the EU-IMF Memoranda added injury to shock. The result was an equally abrupt resurgence of Euroscepticism, in the beginning, and open anti-EU sentiments subsequently. There is a difference and a similarity with De Vries & Kersbergen (2007: 307) observation that ‘while the integration of the European Union was largely uncontested until the early 1990s, most EU member states have witnessed an often dramatic decrease in public support for European integration’. In Greece this reversal took place with a significant time lag. But when it happened it accelerated faster than in other countries for obvious reasons (the EU-IMF Memoranda).

This resurgence of Euroscepticism and anti-EU feelings set the ground for Greek Left’s new change towards the EU. However this change had several intriguing aspects. KKE, which could be credited for ‘having warned for the role of the EU’, choose a suicidal position. For a considerable period it completely neglected its programmatic target of ‘disengagement from the EU’ and continued preaching for socialism (which however it accepted that it is not at the current political agenda). It even denied fighting against the EU-IMF Memoranda arguing that the problem is capitalism and not these policies. After significant pressure its leadership resurfaced the programmatic target but firmly wedded to a socialist revolution. In other words, its leadership chose to resurface the target but to make it inoperable. This political line is totally incomprehensible in terms of KKE’s social representation (which are strata severely hit by the crisis) and only conspiratorial scenarios can probably explain it. The result is the collapse of its vote in the June 2012 general elections (polling a dismal 4.5%) after several years of increase (2007: 8.15%, 2009: 7.54%, May 2012: 8.48%) and the loss of the first position within the Greek Left by SYRIZA.

ANTARSYA had banked more consistently on the anti-Memoranda and anti-EU sentiments and had a non-sectarian engagement in mass mobilisations. This gave it its major breakthrough in the 2010 regional and the May 2012 general elections. However, it has not succeeded either in forming a coherent and realistic alternative political and economic programme or to surpass internal conflicts that limit its appeal. It remains always a focal point for (a) militants disenchanted by the main Left parties and (b) broader social strata that cannot find elsewhere a consistent left anti-EU position. This gives it the potential for a further breakthrough to the main political stage. But this potential will not be materialized so long as its programmatic position remains unclear and its political image appears unconvincing.

On the other hand, SYRIZA – which was a left transformation of the current represented previously by SYNASPISMOS – moved from ‘Euro-concupiscence’ (as it was characterised in Greece) to Euroscepticism. It embraced the widespread anti-Memoranda feelings and thus managed a spectacular electoral (but not organizational) success by increasing its vote from 4.6% (2009) to 16.78% (May 2012) and 26.89% (June 2012). Thus, SYRIZA was the main beneficiary of the anti-Memoranda sentiments. It promoted a political line rejecting the Memoranda but by remaining within the EMU and the EU and striving for ‘another Europe’. This SYRIZA offered a curious (and inherently unstable) mix of Euroscepticism (rejection of the Memoranda and the current EU architecture) together with a return to its current’s initial calls for a ‘social Europe’ and the common struggle of the European people. This policy mix worked well electorally as the Greek public turned against the EU but was afraid of risking the disengagement from it (and particularly from the EMU). The main reason behind the latter is the fear of the unknown which has been cleverly cultivated by internal and external circles as the last ditch defense of the ‘Big Idea’. However, this policy mix is inherently unstable and as economic and social contradictions are aggravated it is unlikely to hold. The European integration project has a definite class character, as already argued, and cannot be reformed significantly. The European dominant powers are persistently and with only minor alterations pushing the Memoranda strategy for the euro-periphery. The Greek establishment is intricately entangled in the European integration project and is not willing to break out of it even when it is being downgraded within the EU. This implies a further deterioration of the economic position of popular and middle-strata and, consequently, a further increase and radicalization of the anti-EU sentiments.

Concluding, the economic crisis – both the global and the Greek – fomented popular protests and anti-EU sentiments. The Greek Left by disengaging from its previous accommodation with the EU and banking upon these grievances made significant gains. Contrary to the experience of other European countries till now the economic crisis has benefited the Greek Left rather than the Right. The Radical Right (the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn) continues to lay behind the Left and is not the main beneficiary of the crisis.

There is a final issue regarding the issue of national independence. Popular reactions to the EU-IMF Memoranda and the EU have been blended with a widespread sentiment of loss of national independence. And this for good reasons as the country has become an economic protectorate with the obvious loss of its self-government in economic matters. This loss of national independence is not restricted to economic affairs as the Memoranda envisage what actually is a ‘regime change’ by changing radically not only the economic but even the political institutional framework. These changes are being pushed forward without a social consensus and through legal and constitutional coup d’ etats. Therefore, the question of national independence reappears. For answering it, till now, the social majority has turned to the Left rather than the Right. This does not mean that Left’s responses to the issue of national independence are adequate. For example, SYRIZA preaches it but has significant currents that actually belittle national independence issues as mere nationalism. KKE also has a surprisingly similar attitude – going against its historical tradition of national liberation struggle – and also belittles this issue by arguing that the real issue is capitalism and not national independence (which is guilty of inter-class alliances).

Notwithstanding, the depth of the crisis and the extent of blatant interventions by the troika are bound to exacerbate further the issue of national independence. Thus, for the Greek Left, is of paramount importance to form a realistic and coherent position of the national issue[16].

V.              European integration and the Greek Left: an alternative programme

The relationship to the European integration project is the litmus test for the whole Greek society. In a nutshell, the only viable solution for Greece to remain within this project is to be actually transformed to a European ‘Chinese’ special economic zone with low wages, unregulated labour market, easy access to profiteering foreign capitals, extensive control of its economy by foreign capitals and high unemployment. Contrary to the Keynesian illusions a capital overaccumulation crisis cannot be solved by boosting demand (unless someone else is paying the bill). The solution to such a crisis requires (a) a steep and big reduction in wages and (b) a big ‘devaluation’ of capital (i.e. bankruptcies and shrinkage of the economy). This process of economic destruction is necessary for the economy to become leaner (more competitive and less overaccumulated) and then and only then a growth process will start again. However, growth whenever it comes (and the Memoranda projections have been consistently over-optimistic and thus failed) it won’t be rosy. The great majority of the population would have radically reduced incomes and downgraded standards of living. Moreover, for the growth process to continue these low incomes and standards of living would have to be kept intact. This is a dismal prospect, the EU (its structure and its policies) is the main culprit for it and, for this reason, anti-EU sentiments and prospects would be on the ascendancy for not only the immediate future.

The establishment political forces are unable to manage this trend. There are deeply entangled in the European integration project and its Memoranda policies and cannot envisage an alternative way out of this quagmire. This poses a critical question for the Greek Left. If it cannot offer an alternative programme for exiting this quagmire and remains either a protest-without-a-solution force or an associate to the establishment forces then its surge will be curtailed and other political forces (possibly the extreme Right) will gain.

The crux of an alternative solution is the position towards the EU. For the establishment parties – despite a bit of sparring here and there – there is no other solution than that envisaged by the EU-IMF Memoranda. This is the only way that Greece can remain within the EU. And the prerequisites and the results of this solution are deeply unpopular (even when their origin is not clearly recognized).

SYRIZA’s middle-of-the-road recipe – which gave it electoral success – is not a viable solution nor has a coherent and realistic economic programme. It is already showing weariness signs as its polling rates are stagnant and its organizational and political ability has remained to its pre-electoral insignificant levels. KKE’s chiliastic position (preaching a distant socialism – identified uncritically with the failed USSR – and abstaining from mass mobilisations) is already curtailing both its influence and its prospects. The only possible solution for the Greek Left is to embrace – for reasons of both principle and political expedience – the opposition to the EU. If the anti-EU trend is not expressed by the Radical Left then, at some time in the immediate future the Extreme Right will highjack it[17]. The main pool of Golden Dawn’s voters comes from right-wing voters disaffected by the Memoranda policies and expressing their anti-EU sentiments with nationalism. This is consistent with Lefkofridi & Casado-Asensio (2010, p.4)) findings that the most successful radical right-wing parties are those that offer a policy blend of left-wing socioeconomic, right-wing sociocultural and anti-EU positions.

A Left alternative to the EU requires the formation of a coherent and realistic economic programme. A debate is currently raging within the Radical Left whether an alternative strategy should geared solely to Grexit (and thus remaining within the EU and its Common Market and political structures) or to a total disengagement from the EU. The Grexit solution is inadequate and wrongly conceived. A simple exit from EMU, particularly for a less developed country like Greece, is ineffective as it will continue to be bound by the rules of the common market and the benefits of a competitive devaluation of the new currency would be short-lived. Moreover, the main problem (i.e. the necessary restructuring of the productive economy) remains unanswered and EU’s institutional framework (Common Market etc.) will hinder it.

The only realistic alternative to the distractive strategy of the Memoranda is a total disengagement from the EU. Such a strategy would have a cost but this less than the colossal costs of and the destruction of the Memoranda strategy. Only through the disengagement from the EU the country can regain the necessary tools of economic policy (monetary, financial, industrial, commercial, etc.) that should be used according to the characteristics and needs of the Greek economy. Such a programme of disengagement from the EU must be based on the following short-run pillars:

(1) Defaulting on the external debt (since this debt cannot be serviced and constitutes an unbearable drag on the Greek economy).

(2) Introducing capital controls (to avoid, at least to a certain extent, the flight of capitals and to economise on foreign currency reserves).

(3) Nationalising the banking system (in order to avoid its collapse and to use it to finance the economy).

(4) Creating an effective system of progressive taxation (in order to stimulate the popular and middle-class’ demand and simultaneously to obliterate capital’s tax evasion).

(5) Introducing a national currency and then manage its exchange rate in an efficient way (e.g. a system of multiple exchange rates, a managed devaluation, currency swap deals).

(6) Introducing a system of price controls particularly in mass consumption goods (in order to avoid any undue inflationary increases, black market and profiteering).

(7) Formulating an independent (from Western and EU prerogatives) foreign commercial policy with discreet deals and partnerships and the use of appropriate tools (e.g. barter exchange).

The long-term backbone of such a programme should be a discreet, broad and elaborate industrial policy geared towards a social productive restructuring of the Greek economy. This implies the creation of a general economic plan designed by the state and with active social participation. This plan should offer a new design for the Greek economy (sectoral structure, inter-sectoral linkages etc.) on the basis of the needs of the great social majority and contrary to the establishment’s interests. A key ingredient of this planned restructuring of the productive economy is the social ownership and control of at least the strategic economic sectors. In plain terms, this requires a social developmental state.

Such a programme can offer a realistic and popular alternative to the EU-IMF Memoranda and thus offer to Greece a way out of its current quagmire. For the Greek Left it is the only way to win a new world instead of chasing lost ones.


Charalambous G. (2013), ‘Nationalism, Euroscepticism and the radical left and right: A short response to Halikiopoulou’s Nanou’s and Vasilopoulou’s (2012) study, Extremis Project http://extremisproject.org/2013/01/nationalism-euroscepticism-and-the-radical-left-and-right-a-short-response-to-halikiopoulous-nanous-and-vasilopoullous-2012-study-2/

Christodoulakis N. (2009), ‘Ten Years of EMU: convergence, divergence and new policy priorities’, GreeSE Paper No 22

De Vries C. E. & van Kersbergen K. (2007), ‘Interests, Identity and Political Allegiance in the European Union’, Acta Politica no.42.

Halikiopoulou D., Nanou K. & Vasilopoulou S. (2012), ‘The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left Euroscepticism’, European Journal of Political Research vol.51 no.4.

Lefkofridi Z. & Casado-Asensio J. (2010), ‘European Vox Radicis: Representation & policy congruence on the extremes’, paper presented at the Conference on ‘Policy Congruence and Representation in the EU’, University of Manheim, Germany 27-29 May.

Mair P. & Mudde C. (1998), ‘The Party Family and its Study’, Annual Review of Political Science no.1.

March Luke (2013), ‘Problems and perspectives of contemporary European radical left parties: chasing a lost world or still a world to win?’, International Critical Thought vol.2 no.3.

Maniatis Τ. & Passas C. (2013), ‘Profitability, capital accumulation and crisis in the Greek economy 1958-2009: A Marxist analysis’, Review of Radical Political Economics (forthcoming).

Mavroudeas S. (2010a), ‘Greece and the EU: capitalist crisis and imperialist rivalries’, paper presented in the 1st conference of IIPPE (International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy) and Greek Scientific Association of Political Economy, 10-12 September 2010, University of Crete http://www.iippe.org/wiki/images/b/b4/CONF_GREEKCRISIS_Mavroudeas.pdf.

Mavroudeas S. (2010b), ‘The Greek External Debt and Imperialist Rivalries: ‘One Thief Stealing from Another’, Monthly Review Zine, http://www.mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/mavroudeas200210.html.

Mavroudeas S. (2012), ‘The crisis of the European Union and the failure of its salvation plans’, Spectrezine, http://www.spectrezine.org/crisis-european-union-and-failure-its-%E2%80%98salvation-plans%E2%80%99.

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Mavroudeas S. & Paitaridis D. (2013), ‘The Greek saga: competing explanations of the Greek crisis – A Marxist alternative’, paper to be presented at the 1st World Keynes Conference ‘Attacking the Citadel: Making Economics Fit for Purpose’, Izmir University of Economics, Izmir/Turkey, 26-29 June 2013.

[1] The term ‘Big Idea’ is an infamous term in Greek politics since it is associated to a disastrous older expansionist plan of the Greek bourgeois class.

[2] Absolute advantage theory (associated with A.Smith and K.Marx) argues when two countries are engaged in mutual trade in, for example, two goods (i.e. there are two internationally tradable goods) and the one produces more productively both these goods then it will produce them both. Consequently, this country will become a net exporter and the other a net importer. Thus a trade imbalance occurs and the second country has a continuous financial drain towards the first country. Absolute advantage theory essentially argues that in the face of unequal levels of economic development (i.e. when a country is more developed than one other) then free international trade (and, in EU’s case, the Common Market) is inimical to the interests of the less developed economies. The opposite thesis is the comparative advantage theory (associated with D.Ricardo and the neo-classical economic theory) which argues that each country will specialize in one good and thus international trade is mutually beneficial. EU’s economic experience has certainly verified the first view.

[3] For a detailed exposition of the historical course of Greek capitalism see Mavroudeas (2013). For a detailed analysis of the current Greek crisis see Mavroudeas & Paitaridis (2013) and Maniatis & Passas (2013).

[4] They confronted it, to a significant extent, by exploiting the intricate nature of Greek capitalism and particularly crony relations between Greek capitals and the state.

[5] It is unrealistically supposed that the debt to GDP ratio would be 120% (an artificial target set because it is near Italy’s ratio, which is pretended to be “healthy”). This has already been recognised as unfeasible. But apart from that it is empirically known that only ratios around 80% are practically viable.

[6] One of the main internal forces that pushed for the acceptance of the EU-IMF Memorandum is the banking sector as it safeguarded, to a great extent, its particular interests. It is ironic to hear the grievances of those that actually condoned the very ‘de-hellenisation’ of the rest of the economy (through the further opening to foreign capital and the relinquishing of the commanding heights to Brussels).

[7] The results of two recent polls are characteristic; leaving aside their notorious unreliability and their pro-EU stance. March 2013 Eurobarometer (http://www.skai.gr/files/1/alexandros/public1432013.pdf) found that only 59% have a positive view for the euro (from 70% in February) and 38% negative views (compared to 28% in February). In the same time negative views regarding the EU are at 50% (with positive at 48%). It is interesting that negative views towards the EU consistently outperform positive views from September 2012. Similarly, Metron Analysis (http://www.enet.gr/?i=news.el.8emata&id=352386) found that in March 2013 38% supports EU’s political unification (down from 45.6% in February) whereas 40.4% supports EU’s dissolution (up from 25.9% the previous month).

[8] It should be noted that PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) is not a typical social-democratic party like those of the Western Europe. It began as a left populist party based on acute corporatism (with a middle-class and popular social basis) and it soon evolved into a crony bourgeois party with blatant links with Greek capitals and an increasingly conservative political agenda. Characteristically, it is the party that led Greece into the EU-IMF Memoranda.

[9] It did not began as such since in 1968 Eurocommunism did not existed typically. However it had, to a great exten,t similar roots with and quite soon joined the club of Eurocommunist parties.

[10] New Democracy (ND) is the main party of the Right.

[11] Mair & Mudde (1998) propose four different approaches in order to define party families in a European context: 1) identification in terms of shared origin and/or sociology, 2) classification by the international links parties forge across national frontiers, 3) by party policy and ideology and 4) by party labels.

[12] This means that ideological and programmatic theses can be utilized or been shelved, diluted, hardened or softened depending upon practical and concrete political expedience.

[13] Dependency theory was derived by heterodox economic analyses (e.g. ECLA (United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America) and introduced in Marxism by the US Monthly Review school. It argued, in mainly underconsumptionist terms (which made it popular to radical Keynesians), that developed countries not only exploit but also bar the development of less developed ones. It was very popular in the 1970s in Greece both in PASOK and the revolutionary Left). It was essentially accepted by KKE, in a soviet-modified version. Dependency theory has been rightfully criticized for a number of economic and political errors.

[14] To be accurate similar opinions were voiced also by members of the highly dogmatic and sectarian current leadership of KKE. This reflected differentiations in the traditional USSR attitude towards the EU by the Gorbatschow fraction.

[15] For a detailed analysis see Mavroudeas (2010a, 2013).

[16] Halikiopoulou et al. (2012) argument that nationalism is the common denominator of Radical right-wing and Radical Left-wing opposition to European integration is simplistic and ideologically driven. It implies that any dispute of ‘globalisation’ and, in the European context of the EU, is guilty of the major crime of nationalism. Charalambous (2013) critique is very accurate in most of its arguments. Most notably, Halikiopoulou et al. (2012) artificially overstretch the concept of nationalism. It is true that nationalism (i.e. ultimately the belief in some form of national separateness and/or supremacy) is the basis of Right-wing opposition to EU. However, the Left approach is completely different. It does not touch upon national separateness and/or supremacy but upon national independence and liberty. The National Question is a long-standing and hotly debated issue particularly in the communist tradition. Halikiopoulou et al. (2012) argument that the common cradle nurturing both right and left nationalism is the right to national self-determination is an extremely far-fetched proposition. It implicitly argues that people and countries should surrender their national specificities to internationalised markets and empires which ‘miraculously’, setting aside their superficial supra-national features, have always a national basis, i.e. a national political and economic supremacy. Charalambous (2013) second major criticism is also particularly apposite. Halikiopoulou et al. (2012) cannot grasp the essentially difference between Right-wing nationalism and Left-wing national independence struggle. Truly, the former is an end per se whereas the latter is a means for social liberation and not an end result.

[17] The neo-nazi Golden Dawn’s recent ouvertures are indicative. Golden Dawn till now argued that Greece should remain within the EMU till it has been rescued from bankruptcy and then consider an exit from the euro and the adoption of a national currency. However, in the last parliamentary debate it declared that Grexit can be an immediate choice.


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