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Tag: syriza

A Happy Future is a Thing of the Past

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The Greek Crisis and Other Disasters by Pavlos Roufos  (2018)

Reaktion Books / UChicago Press / Amazon

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Years of Stone, pp. 96-102

The Beach Beneath

The movement that began in Syntagma Square in late May 2011 and very soon spread out to squares all over Greece (thus gaining the nickname ‘squares movement’), represented one of the most condensed moments of the struggle against the crisis, its consequences and management. Many have argued that it did not have a specific aim or demand; according to one’s politics, this observation had either a negative or a positive undertone. However, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the masses that took to the streets, occupied public spaces and fought for almost two months to defend them, were directly concerned with putting an end to the austerity policies that were underway. And these policies, as we have seen, were nothing but a systematic attempt to render people’s ability to survive in a way that was meaningful to them increasingly difficult.

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Is This a Coup?

Yanis Varoufakis comments on Paul Mason’s documentary “#THIS IS A COUP” 

Paul Mason’s recently released four-part documentary #THIS IS A COUP, on the crushing of the Athens Spring, offers much food for thought. Paul and I have had many opportunities to discuss the issues it covers, including on stage in London in front of a magnificent audience. When the time comes, I shall publish my full account. But for now, here are some comments for each one of the four episodes, culminating to a general comment at the very end. 

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Kosmoprolet 4

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Erhältlich ab September 2015 | 208 Seiten | 5 € / 6 CHF

Herausgegeben von den »Freundinnen und Freunden der klassenlosen Gesellschaft» (Berlin), »eiszeit« (Schweiz) und »la banda vaga« (Freiburg)

■ Editorial
■ Abseits des Spülbeckens. Fragmentarisches über Geschlechter und Kapital
■ Reflexionen über das Surplus-Proletariat. Phänomene, Theorie, Folgen
■ Elend und Schulden. Zur Logik und Geschichte von Überschussbevölkerungen und überschüssigem Kapital
■ Moloch und Heilsbringer. Zur Geschichte und Kritik des Sozialstaats
■ Israel, Palästina und der Universalismus
■ Leiharbeit. Ende der Identifikation mit der Ausbeutung oder doch nur Waffe des Kapitals?
■ Zwischen Eigentor und Aufstand. Ultras in den gegenwärtigen Revolten

Einzelexemplare gibt es bei Syndikat-A in Deutschland, sowie in verschiedenen Buch- und Infoläden zahlreicher Städte in Deutschland und der Schweiz. WiederverkäuferInnen bestellen über das Kontaktformular. Sie bekommen (inkl. Versandkosten): 3 Ex. für 12 €; 5 Ex. für 18 €; 10 Ex. für 35 €. Die Auslieferung erfolgt nur gegen Vorkasse auf das Konto: Weltcommune, Konto Nr.: 494584109, Postbank Berlin (BLZ 10010010). Als Verwendungszweck den Namen des Bestellers angeben.

Editorial

Das Jahr 2011, in dem die Leute an vielen Orten in Scharen auf die Straße und manchmal auf die Barrikaden gingen, wurde oft mit 1968 verglichen. Kommentatoren, denen Revolutionsromantik fern liegt, stellten verblüfft fest, dass weltweit sogar erheblich mehr Menschen in Bewegung geraten waren als im legendären Jahr der Revolte. Seitdem hat sich die Lage bekanntlich je nach Land eingetrübt oder pechschwarz verfinstert. Wo 2011 Plätze besetzt wurden, wie in Europa, herrscht wieder der bekannte Alltagstrott, ohne dass sich an den Gründen zum Aufbegehren etwas geändert hätte. Wo Diktaturen gestürzt oder wenigstens ins Wanken gebracht wurden, wie in der arabischen Welt, herrscht heute fast ausnahmslos das Militär oder ein Bürgerkrieg unter reger Beteiligung von Djihadisten. Aus dem großen Aufbruch ist nichts geworden, zumindest nichts Gutes. Fast scheint die Regel zu gelten, dass die Misere umso größer ist, je weiter die Rebellierenden gegangen sind. Stillhalten wird zwar nicht belohnt, aber wenigstens auch nicht bestraft.

Trotzdem plagt die Sachwalter der Ordnung weiter das Gespenst der Revolte. »Die Situation erinnert mich an 1968«, unkte ein hohes Tier des europäischen Staatenkonglomerats, als die Griechen neulich dem Spardiktat mehrheitlich ein Oxi entgegenhielten. »Es gibt in Europa eine weitverbreitete Unzufriedenheit mit den bestehenden Verhältnissen, die schnell in eine revolutionäre Stimmung umschlagen kann. Es wird die Illusion erweckt, es gebe eine Alternative zu unserem Wirtschaftssystem, ohne Sparpolitik und Einschränkungen. Das ist die größte Gefahr, die von Griechenland ausgeht.«1

Der Befund stimmt nur zur Hälfte und darin liegt das Problem. An der weitverbreiteten Unzufriedenheit besteht kein Zweifel, zumindest für Griechenland kommt das Wort sogar einer gewaltigen Beschönigung gleich, schließlich hat dort in den letzten Jahren angesichts massenhaften Elends schiere Verzweiflung um sich gegriffen. Dass bereits die bescheidene Hoffnung, wenigstens nicht noch weiter zu verarmen, in der politischen Klasse die Alarmglocken schrillen lässt, sagt einiges. Eine Alternative zum existierenden Wirtschaftssystem aber hat anders als 1968 niemand aufgeworfen, die Protestierenden von 2011 so wenig wie die Athener Linksregierung von 2015. Beide eint vielmehr der Glaube, die drastischen Einschnitte ließen sich prinzipiell innerhalb der jetzigen Ordnung vermeiden, und ein Absehen von weiteren Kürzungen bei Renten, Löhnen, Staatsjobs wäre für diese Ordnung – Stichwort Massenkaufkraft – sogar von Vorteil. Insofern ist Syriza tatsächlich die Fortsetzung der Proteste mit anderen Mitteln; eine Fortsetzung ihrer Illusionen, mit Mitteln, die all das abschneiden, was an ihnen trotz dieser Illusionen vorwärtsweisend war: Selbstorganisation, Missachtung der Gesetze, direkte Aneignung, Konfrontation mit der Staatsmacht.

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A Discussion of Syriza’s Referendum in the Current Crisis

Supporters of Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's Syriza left-wing main opposition party attend his pre-election speech at Omonia Square in Athens Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party has failed so far to overcome a gap in opinion polls with the anti-bailout Syriza party ahead of the Jan. 25 general election. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Where has Syriza taken Greece? Which are the forces at play in the restructuring of the Greek economy? And what are the conditions of its radical critique? What follows is a discussion of Cognord’s text “Changing of the Guards”, including TH’s critical remarks on that text, Cognord’s reply to these remarks and Ady Amatia’s comments on the questions raised in this discussion. TH and Ady Adamantia are members of Sic collective.

For full debate, see SicJournal.org

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Changing of the Guards

The recent anarchist riots in Greece have cost the country billions of dollars in damage. Rioters destroyed shops and luxury cars, sparing homes.  They attacked Citibank and other buildings which represented the system.  They were not interested in looting.  For example, they broke open an ATM machine and burned all the cash.

The recent anarchist riots in Greece have cost the country billions of dollars in damage. Rioters destroyed shops and luxury cars, sparing homes. They attacked Citibank and other buildings which represented the system. They were not interested in looting. For example, they broke open an ATM machine and burned all the cash.

by Cognord, Brooklyn Rail, July 2015

It appeared that the endless saga of the negotiations between the Syriza government and the European lenders had come to an end. After five months of ferocious zigzags, suspense, and fear, a certain deal had been reached. A sense of relief was radiating from the world press, the technocrats, and government bureaucrats. Whether the deal would be a success or not, however, seemed to depend on whom you ask. For those who wanted to ensure that austerity would continue, the deal was certainly to their liking. Curiously, for those who claimed to be on a mission to end austerity, the deal was also favorable. For those who will be immediately affected by the proposed measures, it seemed that not much had changed. The devil is in the details, some say, and many would have preferred those details to get lost amidst the obscure technicalities. Unfortunately for them, however, even Lorca knew that “ […] under the multiplications, the divisions, and the additions […] there is a river of blood.” The relief and satisfaction that the deal brought about could only have been short-lived. In fact, it could only have provided some gratification to the extent that it remained on paper. For as soon as its measures would have been implemented, the party would have been over.

Gentlemen, we don’t
need your organization

In the February 2015 issue of the Brooklyn Rail, I described Syriza’s infamous Thessaloniki Program(its veritable pre-election box of promises) as a minimal Keynesian program, with no real chance of reversing the catastrophic consequences of five years of violent devaluation. Back then, to say this was nothing short of blasphemy. An enthusiastic left was roaming around the globe speaking of a radical left, proclaiming an end to austerity, blowing a wind of change. Criticisms of Syriza and its economic program were cast aside as indications of an unrealistic and arrogant ultra-leftist dogmatism.

Today, the very people who supported Syriza in widely read articles and interviews are forced to admit a certain “moderate Keynesianism”1 in the initial program as well as a real distance between that program and today’s agreement. The happy chorus has stopped singing about the “end of austerity/Troika/etc.,” and has made a hard landing onto the desert of the real.2

It seems it took five months to openly admit what was already clear from the February 20th agreement. And while for those who put their trust in Syriza it is somewhat understandable that hope dies last, for those close to the decision-making process of the Greek government, such naiveté is, to say the least, suspicious. For if something has become crystal clear in the last few months, it is that Syriza was not negotiating with European officials; it was actually negotiating the ways through which the continuation of austerity will be accepted by its own members and by those who will be forced to endure its consequences.

Decline and fall of the
spectacle of negotiations

From the February 20th agreement in the Eurogroup onwards, it had become clear that Syriza was in no position to implement its Thessaloniki Program. After it became clear that they had no leverage to impose a discussion on debt reduction and an admission of Greece into the Qualitative Easing program of the ECB(European Central Bank),3 Syriza’s last chance was to rely on a show of good will from the Troika (which was kind enough to accept a ridiculous name change into “Brussels Group”), in exchange for social and political stability in Greece’s troubled territory. A clearly misunderstood version of the “extend and pretend” policy that the Eurozone has been following since the beginning of the crisis was seen by Syriza as a possible win-win for everyone: both the Troika and Syriza would pretend that austerity is minimized, while its essential character would remain unchanged.

However, a combination of the orchestrated irritation caused by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his inconsistencies, and the more substantial fact that any lenience towards Greece might spiral down towards Eurozone countries with more significant GDPs, meant that this sort of divergence from austerity was out of the question.

The only remaining way to salvage the spectacle of “negotiations” was to engage in a PR campaign which would offer different narratives to different audiences. In this process, what was a series of humiliating compromises in the Eurozone meetings was constantly transformed into a “harsh negotiation” for the Greek audience. Varoufakis became a cause célèbre, whose ability to annoy German Finance Minister Schäuble became a source of national pride in Greece. A mixture of hope beyond proof, disbelief, and the non-existence of political opposition made the task even easier for Syriza’s think-tanks. To top it up, one only needed to throw in a series of incomprehensible figures and decimal points. The self-evident truth of the abandonment of any prospect of minimizing austerity consequences was mystified through a steady production of numbers and statistics which left even experienced “experts” baffled.

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Communist Round-Up

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The Great Wheel by Phil Neel

Fuck freedom, I concluded. Fuck having to choose between a variety of identically vacuous options and identically fucked futures and then being forced on top of it to enjoy them because they were, after all, my choice. I didn’t want freedom, I didn’t want choice. I wanted the raw, impersonal logic of sheer chance. No systems, no skills, no betting high, no bluffing, no holding aces, no revolver in the back pocket, just the one wheel—red or black, the ball spinning like the dead thing that it is and landing wherever for no reason and that complete absence of reason determining whether I make or lose a hundred dollars, two hundred, a week’s pay even, the win or the loss without any work or myths about how much I earned it or how badly I invested. No self-help books. No inspirational stories and no cautionary tales. Just democracy by lot. Absolute equality in the most unequal of times.

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Defending Rojava by AM Gittlitz

The time is right to redraw the map, former US lieutenant colonel and Fox News talking head Ralph Peters argues, with a Free Kurdistan as the New Middle East’s crown. “Stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, it will be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan,” he says, continuing a century-long tradition of treating the Kurdish people as a talking point in negotiating borders, disciplining Turkey or invading Syria or Iraq. As the most effective fighting force against ISIS and the faction most likely to set up a stable secular democracy, Western hawks like Peters are once again championing the Kurdish cause, so long as it fits the daily agenda. Often equally instrumentalizing, the Western left has taken a newfound interest in the allegedly revolutionary situation in the Kurdish-majority region of Rojava in northern Syria. There, a new system of stateless governance has formed and their rhetoric against patriarchy, neo-liberalism, and the nation-state quickly lead to both enthusiasm from those who see the embattled Kobane as the new Catalonia, and scorn from those who see it breeding short-sighted and faux-revolutionary nationalism.

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Interview with Adolph L. Reed, Jr.

I think anti-racism is beyond useless as a politics. It is now an artifact of neoliberalism and has been for quite some time. Its inadequacies even for making sense of the carceral state are made clear by contrast with Marie Gottschalk’s new book, Caught, some of the key themes of which she articulates in a recent interview. As Gottschalk notes, even if all the racial disparities in criminal justice were eliminated, for example, the United States probably would still lead the world in carceralization. Anti-racism—along with anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, etc., as well as diversity as the affirmative statement of them all—is a species of a genus of social and economic justice that is utterly compatible with neoliberalism: parity in the distribution of costs and benefits among groups defined by essentialized ascriptive identities. That is what is commonly referred to as identity politics. Despite the chatter among its proponents about group celebration and recognition, the substantive ideal of identity politics is a condition in which costs and benefits and potential individual winners and losers are sorted in rough proportion to their representation in the society. A “Left” committed to this metric, in addition to identifying outrages, focuses on cleansing opportunity structures of invidious and unjust discrimination along identitarian lines within what remains a regime of increasingly ruthless upward redistribution. That is a vision that marks the ultimate triumph of Gary Becker’s utopia.

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The Anthropocene Myth by Andreas Malm

A single average US citizen emits more than 500 citizens of Ethiopia, Chad, Afghanistan, Mali, or Burundi; how much an average US millionaire emits — and how much more than an average US or Cambodian worker — remains to be counted. But a person’s imprint on the atmosphere varies tremendously depending on where she is born. Humanity, as a result, is far too slender an abstraction to carry the burden of culpability. Ours is the geological epoch not of humanity, but of capital. Of course, a fossil economy does not necessarily have to be capitalist: the Soviet Union and its satellite states had their own growth mechanisms connected to coal, oil, and gas. They were no less dirty, sooty, or emissions-intensive — perhaps rather more — than their Cold War adversaries. So why focus on capital? What reason is there to delve into the destructiveness of capital, when the Communist states performed at least as abysmally?

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60 Days Older and Deeper in Debt by TPTG

Only a new insurrectionary, self-reflective proletarian movement that will manage to impose the needs and interests of the proletariat on the capitalist state on a European level can subvert both austerity and moral panics ideology. Surely not a left government which prevailed on the basis of the retreat, the defeat or the recuperation of previous class and social struggles and which moreover is not willing to sacrifice its practical eurocentrism over its theoretical left keynesianism. Neither any faction of the Greek ruling class. The latter has been entangled into an unresolvable contradiction: on the one hand, by submitting itself to the protection of the hegemonic neoliberal/neomercantilist powers in the Eurozone it managed to submit the working class to labour and wage discipline. On the other hand, the ridiculous ideology of “expansionary contraction” in the EU, i.e. the policy of permanent austerity, especially as it has been implemented in its extreme version in Greece, has led to a disastrous devaluation of total social capital and contractionary effects on private domestic demand and GDP from which there seems to be no exit.

If Syriza is the answer, then the question was wrong

by Cognord, Mar 5, 2014

Predictions are often problematic. The complexity of the issues, the variety of important factors, and the unpredictability of social subjects forbid such attempts, and usually discredit those who make them. This realization, however, has ended up opening a space in which people feel free to say anything at all, with few consequences. This is what happened lately with Syriza: the left found a long awaited rallying-point to proclaim the “last chance to end austerity,” while the right warned against irresponsible “radicalism.” Both were, once again, wrong.

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Poster: HOPE IS COMING. GREECE IS MOVING ON. EUROPE IS CHANGING. SYRIZA. Graffiti: I WAS JUST WAITING FOR THE BUS.

It was remarkable, though not really surprising, that hardly any of the willing supporters of Syriza took the time to examine its expressed economic program. Repeating a few key phrases was enough to render Syriza the hope for the future of Greece (and Europe, for that matter), while any detailed analysis of Syriza’s proposed remedies was postponed to an indefinite moment in the future.1It was as if the left thought it impoliteto present Syriza as a social-democratic party with progressive sensitivities, treating a close look at its expressed program as unnecessary—if not intrusive.

The present age prefers the appearance to the essence, as was said a long time ago, and the greatest illusion is defended as vigorously as possible. Syriza came to represent something almost sacred for today’s disoriented left, and the rules for talking about Syriza’s past, present, and future were set from the beginning: it is a sympathetic and small Marxist party, far from the dogmatism of the Stalinist KKE; a bearer of the hopes of the tormented Greek people to catch a breath outside of the suffocating grasp of austerity; an honest fighter which will do its best to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis. If anyone criticized Syriza, they were surely ultra-left inhabitants of the ivory tower. Evoking the need to be “painfully realistic” and down to earth, Syriza’s supporters paradoxically scorned any actual attempt to be realistic. It seems as if no contradiction was allowed to spoil this common-sensical approach. Apart from the actual facts, that is.

In essence, and taking the best-case scenario, Syriza was merely proposing a Keynesian model of dealing with the crisis. For people like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz, this is as radical as it gets. Building a straw man of German-led invariance, Keynesian policies came to represent an oasis in the desert of neoliberalism. But what gives credit to all these pro-Keynesian writers (i.e. their hostility towards neoliberalism) masks certain easily-forgotten historical realities about social-democracy: its starting point is to urge capital to understand labor both as a cost and an investment; it prefers to see workers as both consumers and partners; it rejects the necessity of confronting the totality of social relations, insisting instead that the solution for the problems that capitalist social relations create lies within capitalism itself. On the bottom line, its goal is to liberate the potentials which neoliberal hard-headedness has undermined, promising that it is in a better position to manage capital. What it fails to realize is a very simple fact: Keynesianism already tried to save capitalism, and it ended in failure. Why this is considered such an offensive thing to say, is hard to understand.

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Is it Possible to Win the War After Losing All the Battles?

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by Cognord – Feb 5, 2015

Prehistory of a Success

The announcement of national elections in Greece, roughly two years before the coalition government of New Democracy and Pasok completed their term, immediately sparked a renewed interest in this southern and economically peripheral European country. The relative silence that preceded this novel attention for the last two years was, at least in media terms, understandable. If Greece enjoyed an earlier moment of fame, it was primarily due to the unprecedented austerity measures imposed by the troika—the European Commission, European Central Bank (E.C.B.), and International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.)—in exchange for new loans, designed to “assist” the Greek state after it officially announced, in April 2010, that it was unable to repay its existing, “non-viable” sovereign debt (120 percent of G.D.P. at the time). The reactions to the implementation of the austerity program were also pivotal in bringing Greece into the spotlight: general strikes, violent demonstrations, and the movement of the squares ensured, between 2010 and 2012, that the future of Greece’s “fiscal consolidation program” (to borrow the official economic jargon) was seriously threatened. Along with the memorandum imposed by the troika, what came under attack was the legitimacy of the political system,1 generating wild speculation about the future of Greece’s membership in the Eurozone, as well as the unpredictable consequences this could have for the E.U., not to mention the global economy.

However, the movement which tried to halt the austerity program failed. The reasons are varied, and it is not within the scope of this article to explain them in detail. Suffice it to say that, as in every other social movement, this failure should be traced to both the violent determination of the government(s) to proceed with austerity at all costs (for which the ruling factions have paid a price) and the inability of the movement to transform itself from a defensive mobilization to protect existing conditions into an offensive attack on the conditions that created the crisis.

Nonetheless, the attention that Greece received was justifiable. Without exaggeration, one could argue that many of the political strategies of resistance which the international left has only read about in books were tried and tested in Greece in the years after the crisis: general strikes with massive participation, bringing economic activities to a halt; militant and violent demonstrations with constantly growing numbers of participation; neighborhood assemblies that sought to act as minuscule formations of self-organization, attempting to deal with immediate issues caused by the crisis; one of the most militant squares movements, which managed to call for two successful general strikes; a climate of continuous antagonism that gradually but steadily involved more and more people.

It is, however, no exaggeration to say that none of these inspiring moments managed to counteract the effects of the crisis and its management by the state. However exhilarating, promising, and tense these outbreaks were for those of us who participated in them, it has become imperative to understand their failure to achieve even a small (however reformist) victory.

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