Posted on August 2, 2015
Crisis, such as Greece is living these weeks, appears like a force of nature, a giant whirlwind sucking the lives of millions of people into a dark and tumultuous abyss, hurling them recklessly from side to side, suffocating them, blinding them, overpowering so many with a sense of hopelessness and despair. But this same turmoil also harbours precious possibilities to be seized for a radically different future.
After seven years of repeated waves of ever more bleeding of the people in the name of “austerity”, after electing a self-proclaimed radical left that promised to reject the blackmail of the European powers, and even after the referendum and its clear results, the interests and demands of the masses of people have been trampled on once again. The principal leaders of the Syriza government have themselves become agents as well as victims of these same impersonal forces wreaking havoc.
Blind cold laws are expressed in impersonal numbers generated by financial spreadsheets and profit projections. But there is nothing sacred or permanent about these people-crushing forces. Behind impersonal laws are very real relations between people, divisions into classes, a worldwide system of ownership and exploitation.
A profound political crisis is gripping the country. The electoral system, supposedly the means for the people to express their general will, stands more and more exposed as a sham, with very little to do with the actual relations of power or decision-making. The role of elections in legitimizing state institutions in the eyes of the people has been seriously battered, even in Europe where such illusions usually hold sway.
Behind the governments that can come and go remain the police, army and bureaucracy – the ultimate guarantee of the power of a system presided over by a Greek capitalist class that cannot and will not be deposed by an electoral process. Once again we see the truth of Marx’s observation that the existing state power cannot be used to bring about revolutionary change. The intolerability of the measures that are being demanded and the refusal of the people to sacrifice still further is reflected in a massive wave of resistance, including against figures who only weeks earlier were widely hailed as heroes.
The great question now increasingly confronting the people of Greece is the same question that is hiding unspoken in most of the rest of Europe and the world: are the people condemned to these conditions, or is there a possibility of a completely different way, an alternative political, economic and social system that can replace the existing world capitalist and imperialist system and eliminate the hardships and horrors stemming from it?
Despite the suffering that the people are enduring, it is necessary to recognize that Greece is living a rare moment when the existing socio-economic, political and even cultural and ideological edifice could come unravelled. The situation itself carries within it the possibility of radical alternatives, whether liberating or further enslaving. How long this confluence of forces and circumstances will boil is impossible to predict but the powers that be in Greece and Europe will frantically attempt to impose a reordering that not only protects their interests but crushes hopes and defuses the revolutionary potential of the beginning mass stirrings. This makes it all the more urgent that out of this same cauldron of contradiction and struggle a truly revolutionary path is forged.
For this to take place a conscious force must emerge, armed with a thorough-going revolutionary communist understanding of the real fundamental problems of society and the required solution, and determined to take up the responsibility of making revolution. There is much contemporary and historical experience where possibilities for breakthroughs were unrecognised or squandered by leaders who sometimes ended up even coming to the rescue of the old system. On the other hand, there is also the extremely valuable example of Lenin’s leadership in seizing upon the intense contradictions that emerged in Russia to carve out a path to the revolutionary seizure of power by the proletariat and others seeking emancipation in 1917.
The Syriza government complains about the capitalist system but also declares that the overwhelming power of the major European imperialist powers ties the hands of Greece and leaves no choice other than humiliating surrender. But simply to rail at the capitulation of the Syriza leadership is useless unless the rejection of Tsipras goes forward to a rejection of the whole project of hoping to negotiate a better place for Greece in an unjust and unequal economic and political order. It is the very Syriza project itself that stands naked and exposed, not just the way it has been carried out.
Fundamental problems of Greece, Europe and the world cannot be solved within the existing framework of capitalism and imperialism. The real question is what a genuine revolutionary alternative would look like and what would be needed to make such an alternative possible.
While many see the events of the past weeks and months as evidence of the overwhelming strength of the world system, this is only one side of the coin. Yes, the enemies are formidable. But the same contradictions that squeeze the people also drive people to resist. The same frenetic pace of political developments which can be so dizzying and disorienting also mean that in a short period of days and weeks the true features of the political actors can come into sharp relief and the various competing political programs can be tested and compared in an extremely accelerated way – especially if a conscious revolutionary force emerges and presents its analysis and programme before the society. Large sections of the people have been awoken from their slumber by developments themselves and are looking for answers. And the same economic and political contradictions are also intensifying and revealing the conflicts even among the enemies – witness the fissure that has opened between France and Germany. Yes, the major powers are united on demanding their pound of Greek flesh but they are also truly concerned that their whole system could come unravelled and are deeply divided about how to best preserve it.
The strangling of the Greek people sharply brings into focus the relationship between the potential breakthroughs as well as limits in Greece and the reality that the whole world is dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. In fact, it is mainly the workings of the contradictions of the world system that are driving and shaping events in Greece and calling forth the need for a completely different world order. The past several decades have seen a frenzied rhythm of globalization and financialization which has ended up intensifying the underlying contradictions of capitalism. There is a need for the whole world to be liberated from the clutches of finance capital, but this truth must not be used as an excuse for leaving the present system unchallenged. Instead, the crisis in Greece must be transformed into a tremendous opportunity to set out on a revolutionary path that can impact the whole world.
The success of the revolutionary process will ultimately take place on a world scale. The present capitalist-imperialist system must be replaced by socialism and ultimately communism, the complete overcoming of classes and the institutions and ideas that arose along with classes.
Capitalist exploitation’s tightening grip on the whole world aggravates all sorts of horrors and conflicts: new forms of the oppression and subjugation of women added on to more “traditional” ones; massive dislocation and human trafficking on a scale unseen since the transatlantic slave trade; wars for empire and countless bloody conflicts where prospects of emancipation are completely absent; driving the planet toward environmental catastrophe and irreversible damage. To call for revolution, communist revolution, as the only solution is not a rhetorical flourish. It is a scientific truth, fully grounded in the realities of the world. Much of these realities are now dramatically focused in Greece, where the need to wrench a path out of the capitalist and imperialist world is more and more apparent.
The revolutionary process needs to achieve breakthroughs wherever and whenever possible, first in one or several countries. The advances and victories in these countries need to serve as clarion calls and stepping stones for battles to come in other areas as well. Now a spotlight is on Greece and many millions in Europe and elsewhere are hoping to see a way out of the adversity and blackmail and hoping that a different course can be charted. The major capitalist imperialist powers, and Germany in particular, have made abundantly clear that the people of Greece will be made to bear a great burden. Avoiding a burden is not one of the options that is available. But there is a real question of what burden needs to be carried by the people and for what ends: the burden of bleeding for one or two further generations in the interests of Western finance capital or the liberatory “burden” of carving out a real opposing path, of real resistance to the “institutions”. Greece will be a model, but what kind of model: as a battered example of collective punishment to frighten any who might get out of line in the future or, possibly, a model and a call to others in the region and indeed all over the world to take a totally different path?
The Syriza leadership and most of the Greek left have argued that the people’s movement will provide grass roots, or radical, democracy from below and can, starting from “local autonomous spaces”, bring about radical transformation of the existing political and socio-economic order. There is a tremendous importance to the process through which large sections of society stand up in resistance, and catch a glimpse of the possibility of completely different relations between people. However, this exhilarating moment of potential is being transformed, smothered and domesticated into rescuing parliamentary democracy, the system of political rule that best serves to preserve and disguise the real dictatorship of the capitalist class and its international linkages.
Any real and serious attempt at a revolutionary path would have immediate consequences, not only in Greece but throughout the world. Yes, the hatred of the major powers would be intense and they should be expected to stop at nothing, including unleashing their murderous military force as well as economic strangulation and blackmail, to try to force people to back down. But these same powers are not free just to do as they please, and vicious counter-revolution, as well as the inspiration of real revolutionary breakthroughs, would have profound repercussions throughout Europe, in Berlin as well as Lisbon, and eastward across the Aegean. Even now there are significant shows of support and widespread sympathy for the resistance of people in Greece to punitive “austerity”. Unfortunately, up to now the perspective and hopes of supporters of the Greek masses have been channelled and stifled into support for the same illusory remedies and electoral machinations (Podemos in Spain, for example) that now stand so utterly bankrupt in Athens.
A genuine revolutionary approach would bring forth much more powerful and meaningful solidarity and support, especially from amongst those who need to be, and can be, the basis for revolution in other countries, along with people from all walks of life who yearn for a solution to the ills of capitalist society.
Another question that is sharply posed is the relationship between Greece and the rest of Europe, and especially the European Union. Europe, like the U.S., Japan and Russia (with capitalist China clambering for its place in the club) are pillars of the brutal imperialist order of exploitation. Of course, this club is inherently unequal: capitalism can function in no other way. For reasons of history, geography, economics and politics, Greece is cemented into a sharply inferior position in the European order. But a protracted effort to earn or beg a better position at this banquet of thieves is both impossible and immoral.
Enough of promising Merkel and Hollande that Greece will be the necessary rampart of a wealthy Europe against the massive dislocations of the Middle East and the millions of desperate people trying to escape the escalating madness. Instead of the Greek state serving as a wall or a military outpost for “fortress Europe” against these millions or as a minor player in shoring up despots, the Greek proletariat and people could show a different path and lend a welcoming hand in providing political, moral and material assistance to everyone seeking liberation. Immigrants who are abhorred and driven away today must join in making revolution tomorrow. The needed revolutionary orientation would surely further intensify the contradiction with the great powers, but it would also bring forward new reserves of support and, most importantly, accelerate the worldwide process of socialist revolution upon which the fate of the people of Greece, along with the oppressed everywhere, ultimately depends.
Greece has been strongly impacted by the history of past efforts to make revolution both at home and in the world as a whole. The Russian revolution, the building of socialism in the USSR, the role of communists in fighting the Nazi occupation in the second world war, the Greek civil war – all of this has made an indelible mark on the collective consciousness. Both the past achievements and shortcomings in this process are full of lessons that need to be understood.
The world proletarian revolution reached its greatest heights in China under the leadership of Mao, especially during the Cultural Revolution, which not only defended proletarian rule in that country but took giant strides in attacking the inequalities and birthmarks from the old exploitative system and advancing toward communism. In the 1960s and 70s, when the barely hidden capitalist character of the Soviet bloc was casting a dismal shadow, Mao’s China was a powerful and vibrant inspiration for many in Greece as well as throughout the world. Unfortunately, far too many of the communists of the time, including those who supported then-revolutionary China because of its resistance to imperialism and support for revolutionary struggle, failed to grasp Mao’s breakthroughs in the theory and practice of making communist revolution.
For most people, the setback of the first stage of communist revolution (the defeat of socialism first in the USSR and later in China after Mao’s death), is distorted and out of focus. Lack of clarity on the historical achievements, actual mistakes and a deeper understanding of the complex nature of the process of communist revolution among those who are now fighting the current spasms and attacks of capitalism is a great ideological and political weight hampering them from taking the struggle to a whole new level.
We have the great advantage that the work has been done to achieve that clarity, an understanding that both rediscovers and upholds the great achievements of previous generations in making a breakthrough in the imperialist world order and explains in a scientific way the reasons for the defeat as well as the shortcomings, in both conception as well as practice, of those first efforts at proletarian revolution. A scientific understanding has been deepened and sharpened about what can and must be done to unleash a new stage of proletarian revolution and take this process forward toward the ultimate goal of world-wide communist society. We are speaking of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian.
This new advanced re-envisioning of communism provides the outlook to transcend all of the fundamental ills of the capitalist society that crushes the lives and spirits of billions, and foresees and advances toward a truly emancipatory worldwide human society – not only a world beyond the present decrepit order, but one much better, much livelier and more liberatory than the highest achievements of previous socialist revolutions.
This new synthesis regrounds communist revolution in the material and historical conditions that make this revolution possible and necessary. Proletarian revolution becomes more compelling, more tangible and hence rendered more desirable. The new synthesis of communism provides the crucial framework, a more thoroughly scientific approach to understanding the world and changing it, for the rebirth of a genuine revolutionary communist movement in Greece as well as elsewhere.
In addition to a rich history of struggle there is the legacy of revolutionary opportunities in Greece and elsewhere that were thrown away or squandered. The lessons of these experiences should increase our determination and capacity to not let current developing revolutionary possibilities be wasted.
The situation in Greece urgently requires a real movement for a genuine proletarian revolution and calls for revolutionaries to adopt the most advanced and scientific revolutionary thinking. Dozens can and must rapidly become thousands and the thousands must lead millions. In the face of a difficult, complex and contradictory situation with great potential, it is essential to arm oneself with the most comprehensive understanding of society and the revolutionary process of transforming it – revolutionary communism. Engaging with the new synthesis of communism is a crucial component of rising to the challenges of the moment and building a vanguard force that can meet the needs of the hour. The crisis and upsurge in Greece is a crucible in which conscious revolutionaries can and must step forward as emancipators of humanity, initiators of the new stage of communist revolution together with their sisters and brothers the world over.