Protest and the Coalition

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The last three months of 2014 in Britain saw a number of high-profile protests. On 19 October, around 100 activists from Occupy Democracy made an attempt to establish a protest camp in Parliament Square. Some of the demonstrators brought tarpaulins, which the police decided were “structures for the purpose of facilitating sleeping”, and therefore banned in the square by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, and these were confiscated. Activists were outnumbered by police, threatened with arrest if they did not leave, and several were forcibly removed.

Protesters returned on 21 October, at which time fewer police were visible but around a dozen vans were held in reserve. The grass was sealed with a two metre high fence, and all protesters excluded.

There was a student demonstration for free education from Malet Street in Bloomsbury on 19 November with between 4,000 and 10,000 protesters, making it the largest student protest since 2011. Press coverage focussed on the supposed violence of the demonstrators, principally consisting of a group of between 200 and 400 students escaping from the main body of the demonstration and setting off on various breakaway marches. During one of these micro-demonstrations, protesters attempted to remove the barricades which were still up in Parliament Square.

On 22 November, around 100 supporters of Occupy Democracy made a further attempt to enter Parliament Square, where they were again prevented from staying.

On the evening of 26 November, between one and two thousand people took part in a protest at the US embassy at Grosvenor Square to condemn the decision not to prosecute a police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. An impromptu march then headed South, via Oxford Street, with some demonstrators eventually reaching Parliament and temporarily tearing down the barriers there.

On 3 and 6 December, further student protests took place at a number of university towns, including Brighton where demonstrators were photographed holding placards in the style of book covers: Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, Wolstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. The most significant of the assemblies was at Warwick University, where on 3 December the police were called by the University, police drew a taser and were filmed using CS spray against students. The images helped to spark a “Cops off Campus” protest of around five hundred students on 6 December and an occupation.

On 10 December, 76 people were arrested at a 600-strong “die-in” at the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush to mark the death of Eric Garner, a black man who had died during an arrest in New York in July.

The return of student protest in particular invited comparisons with the demonstration of 10 November 2010 when in the first significant march against the Coalition government some 50,000 university and further education students and lecturers had protested against increases to student fees and the removal of the EMA grant for 16 to 18 year olds. Around 2000 of the students entered Millbank Tower which housed the Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters. They hung banners from its roof, smashed panes of glass at the front of the building, and it took several hours for the police to gain control of the building. When the National Union of Students distanced itself from the occupation, activists – some of whom had worked together in occupations around Gaza in 2009 and the 2010 closure of the Philosophy Department at Middlesex – announced further protests for 24 November and 9 December, the evening when Parliament was due to consider increasing tuition fees.

Over the next four weeks of demonstrations many students were contained behind police lines and others subject to repeated police charges. Baton strikes were aimed at the heads and bodies of demonstrators. The highest profile victim of the charges was Alfie Meadows, who required surgery after being struck on the head by a police baton. Meadows was then prosecuted, unsuccessfully, for violent disorder.

While protesters may have hoped that events in London in winter 2010-11 would indicate the first blossoms of a “British spring”, in the image of events in Tunisia and Egypt that winter, as important in retrospect has been the hostile response of the police, which has continued, even to protests for very different causes.

For about a year and a half prior to Millbank, the message of the police authorities had been that they were adopting a facilitative approach towards public protest. After the death of Ian Tomlinson at an anti-G20 rally on 1 April 2009, much was made of a supposed British model in which policing was by consent. This shift was given a visible expression at that year’s Climate Camp gathering at Blackheath in August. The police very publicly eschewed the surveillance and intrusive searches that the camp’s supporters had had to endure in previous years.

In the aftermath of the Millbank occupation, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson criticised his own force for having failed to accurately estimate protesters’ numbers or predict that politicians might be targeted, “it must have been an awful time for the people trying to go about their daily business in those buildings. I feel terribly sorry that they have had to go through what must have been quite a traumatic experience. We are determined to make sure that sort of thing does not happen again on our streets.”

Two days before further student demonstrations planned for the first anniversary of Millbank, the LBC radio station reported that police officers had told them they would use baton rounds, like rubber bullets, to deal with any unruly protesters.

“Public revulsion about Ian Tomlinson’s death meant there was a brief window of opportunity in 2009 to challenge heavy-handed police tactics and their negative depictions of most protesters as inherently violent. That window was closed after the student demonstrations”, recalls Kevin Blowe of the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), “and it was locked after the 2011 riots”.

Over the following three years, there have been successive press stories about the police being armed with increasingly high tech weaponry to be used against either rioters or demonstrators. As part of the preparations for the London Olympics, the Ministry of Defence revealed that ships on the Thames had been equipped with “Long Range Acoustic Devices”, or as they were also known “sonic cannon”, devices which disrupt protests by emitting piercing, high pitched sounds at high decibels and can cause lasting deafness.

The demonstrators who negotiated with senior police officers the route of the Counter Olympics Networks protest, the largest event protesting against the London Olympics, insisted on assurances that the sonic cannon would not be used against their event, and while the officers would not give any guarantees, it was clear from their response that they viewed the devices with a mixture of anxiety and derision. “We are here to protect public order”, the officers said, “That … LRAD is in no way conducive to keeping people safe.”

The Home Office’s 2014 acquisition of water cannon shows a similar pattern with parts of the state welcoming the opportunities to use a wider set of powers against demonstrators, and other parts disowning any actual intention to employ the weapons. The Association of Chief Police Officers produced in January 2014 a briefing paper justifying the purchase. The document acknowledges the risks associated with the cannon which “are capable of causing serious injury or even death”, but justifies their use for disorder such as “the student protests of 2010 where specific locations were targeted”. “The mere presence of water cannon”, ACPO maintains, “can have a deterrent effect and experience from Northern Ireland demonstrates that water cannon are often deployed without being employed.”

Another feature of the past five years has been the Metropolitan Police’s frequent use of kettling, a tactic which requires officers to surround demonstrators in a small spaces, allowing small numbers out after only a lengthy delay. Kettling predates the Coalition but under the Coalition it has become a regular feature of policing, no longer restricted to a few protesters associated with “disreputable” causes rather it has become the force’s principal way of dealing with protest in all its forms.

Kettled demonstrators are held for hours at a time without food, water, or opportunities to go to the toilet. The police’s selection of who to kettle is necessarily arbitrary and, for its dissuasive effect, the tactic requires a rule that no-one may leave the kettle once it has begun. The most high profile case to challenge the use of kettling, Austin v UK, began as an action by two people who were caught for 7 hours in the first kettle in 2001. One was a young mother, who was unable to collect her 11 month old baby from the childminder. The second was a member of the public who had been caught up, without warning and entirely by surprise, in the kettle. He was not a demonstrator but in London on work business when he found police lines closing around him. Both asked to leave the kettle but were refused.

One of the establishment’s criticisms of the police after Millbank was that they had failed to gather sufficient intelligence so as to predict the student numbers. The National Union of Students had told the police to expect 20,000 people, while the true figure turned out to be a little 50,000. The police were also criticised for failing to predict the occupation of Millbank Tower. It would be possible to construct an upbeat narratives of British policing in which this failure has been remedied by a general shift towards a new intelligence-based approach, Intelligence-Led Policing (“ILP”), in which the gathering of information pre-empts a problem by detecting and disrupting criminal activity. There is however a category error in the extension from employing intelligence gathering as a step towards preventing (for example) money-laundering to using it to prevent organised political protest. The former prevents conduct which is wholly negative; the latter leaves protesters without a voice, and the wrong which they have gathered to oppose is left substantially in place.

An example of how ILP has been mis-used in the context of protest is supplied by the High Court case of Mengesha v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. On the afternoon of the 30 November 2011 public sector protests, around 100 demonstrators were held in a kettle near London’s Panton Street. Police officers informed them that they would be entitled to leave the kettle only once they had been photographed and given the officers their names dates of birth and addresses. Without that information, the police officers appeared to believe, they were entitled to hold and detain members of the public indefinitely. The High Court had no difficulty in finding that the conduct of the police had been wholly unlawful.

Another recurring theme of the policing of protest under the Coalition has been the frequent arrest of up to several hundred demonstrators at a time, followed generally by the selective charging of only a small proportion of those arrested. Protests disrupted in this manner have included the cyclists’ Critical Mass protest of July 2012 coinciding with the opening night of the Olympics, at which 182 people were arrested. The cyclists were then held in buses overnight before being given bail conditions the following morning. Just nine people were eventually charged and of them only four were convicted.

A 2011 UK Uncut protest at Fortnum & Mason saw 145 arrests but only 40 people were charged and 10 were convicted.

At a protest against the English Defence League in autumn 2013, over 300 anti-fascist demonstrators – some from the nascent Anti-Fascist Network, others local youth from Muslim backgrounds in East London – were held in kettles lasting for many hours and arrested. Just two were charged and only one was convicted.

Those held in these mass arrests have been subject to pre-charge bail conditions. The experience of protesters is that these have tended to become more onerous during the term of the present government, with the trend being to exclude protesters not merely from similar protests for the duration of their bail conditions but also from places which have some – often vague – connection to the location or nature of their protest. So, those arrested in 2013 in protests against the English Defence League were required not to be present on any demonstration where a member of the EDL might be present, which is not as easy as it might first sound given that the EDL has a history of infiltrating trade union and left-wing events. Protesters were also excluded for the duration of their bail conditions from the City of Westminster. Some readers of this piece will no doubt be able to draw the boundaries of Westminster from memory, but I doubt most people who live or work in London could do so.

Protesters arrested at a Cops off Campus demonstration in December 2013 were excluded for the duration of their police bail conditions from the central London campus area where the protests had taken place. The editor of the London Student newspaper Oscar Webb was banned from attending any protests or demonstrations anywhere around the University campus, even in his capacity as a reporter. Other students were prevented from being in groups of more than four people. The President of the University of London Union Michael Chessum was required to refrain from “engag[ing] in protest on any University Campus and not within half a mile boundary of any university”, a proposal that was clearly intended to curtail protests rather than prevent crime or ensuring Chessum’s attendance at court.

The deadline for charges to be brought in the Magistrates Court is six months from the original offence. While protesters are typically arrested on the demonstration itself, charging decisions tend to be made near the end of the six-month deadline. This delay is capable of justification since it gives the state the maximum opportunity to gather all the information required to make a charging decision. In all legal proceedings, criminal or civil, litigants tend to issue near to the deadline rather than as soon as an act occurs. But the delay maximises the inconvenience faced by the protester, who knows that if they breach their conditions they will probably be arrested and held in custody before appearing before the courts.

By participating in the occupation of Millbank Tower, students made themselves vulnerable to being charged under the Public Order Act 1986, but which is the appropriate charge is not straightforward. The first three offences under the Act are Riot, Violent Disorder and Affray, carrying maximum sentences of 10 years, 5 years and 3 years respectively. The statute provides similar definitions of each, making each charge potentially appropriate where there has been conduct so that a hypothetical bystander might fear for their safety.

As researchers from Defend the Right to Protest have shown in a recent briefing (http://www.defendtherighttoprotest.org/new-dtrtp-briefing-threats-to-freedom-of-assembly-and-association/), the original Law Commission report which recommended the creation of the offence envisaged a crime of great seriousness as would happen, for example, if a crowd of people threw a series of missiles with the intention of causing injury. In subsequent guidance on charging produced by the Crown Prosecution Service, this intention was subtly altered, and prosecutors were guided to charge protesters with violent demonstrators if there was serious disorder at a public event and any missiles of any description were thrown. At the Gaza protests in 2010, demonstrators faced charges of violent disorder for being within crowds from which empty water bottles or placards sticks had been thrown.

Overcharging has the practical result that the trials take place in the Crown Court rather than the magistrates’ courts, with the greater delays of a lengthier, more formal system, and the risk of a longer jail term if the defendants are found guilty.

A further consequence of over-charging was that juries were put on notice that demonstrators faced lengthy sentences and this (as well as genuine shock when jurors were confronted with images of police violence prior to the supposed disorder) may have contributed to the very high acquittal rate after the student protests, with 18 of the 19 defendants who pleaded not guilty to violent disorder being acquitted.

In most of the high profile political prosecutions, around half of the demonstrators have been acquitted and in some cases, the acquittal rate has been higher still. There were 126 arrests made by police in 2013 of anti-fracking protesters objecting to a Cuadrilla exploration site in Balcombe in West Sussex in 2013. Ninety defendants faced 114 charges but only 29 of the charges resulted in convictions.

At Balcombe, rather than overcharging as such, the Sussex police attempted a different approach of reviving antique criminal charges, in this case, the anti-picketing offence of “watching and besetting”: “A person commits an offence who, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing or to do any act which that person has a legal right to do … wrongfully and without legal authority … watches or besets the house or other place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be…”

Had this strategy proved effective if it might have gone some way towards making the act of protest outside any workplace unlawful. Instead, the relative obscurity of the charge may have contributed to the high acquittal rate: the courts were unwilling to countenance an extension of the legislative prohibition against protest.

Yet if protesters have largely avoided criminal convictions; in the civil courts, the decisions of the judiciary have generally narrowed rather broadened the rights of demonstrators. In the main St Paul’s case, the Mayor Commonalty and Citizens of London v Samede, the Court of Appeal found that “while the protesters’ Article 10 and 11 rights”, that is their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of expression and association, “are undoubtedly engaged, it is very difficult to see how they could ever prevail against the will of the landowner, when they are continuously and exclusively occupying public land.”

A year earlier, in Hall and Others v Mayor of London, the most significant case involving protesters’ occupation of Parliament Square, the Court ruled that a permanent protest camp outside Parliament could not be sustained. The Court of Appeal accepted the findings of the High Court that the Democracy Now protesters were preventing others from demonstrating outside Parliament, and that if Parliament Square was left in the unfettered control of the Mayor of London, other protesters would have greater access to it than they had at the time.

The Court insisted that evictions were justifiable as a step towards a wider freedom to protest: “It is important that the Democracy Village members are able to express their views through their encampment on [Parliament Square Green], just opposite the Houses of Parliament. However … it is equally important to all the other people who wish to demonstrate on PSG that the Democracy Village is removed.”

The consequence of the Mayor of London’s zeal to protect the rights of protesters can be seen in the establishment of the barriers that met the Occupy Democracy protesters, accompanied by signs warning protesters that any demonstration might damage the grass. Claudia Grigg Edo was there with Occupy. “It was pretty clear to all of us that the fact the ‘keep off the grass’ cordons were put up just before our openly-publicised 9-day occupation was not a coincidence. On one occasion, when one of fellow protesters asked what they were for, one policeman said ‘to keep you lot out’.” Fences threaten to become the default response of the police to any protests by any demonstrators in the vicinity of Parliament.

Demonstrators who were schooled by the experience of marching against New Labour will tell you that the principle factor determining the response of the police to a protest is usually a political assessment of the public support for the protesters’ cause. So, TUC marches against austerity, or marches against the Iraq War, will be subject to light-touch policing, since the police know that the causes themselves have the support of either an actual majority of people or of a sufficiently large minority of people so that it would be inadvisable to confront them. By contrast, anarchist opponents of the capitalist system or those perceived as sympathetic to terrorism may expect a much more intrusive style of policing.

Protesters who are shaped by the experience of protesting under the Coalition government tend to see things differently. In their explanation, it is not the degree of support for the cause which is decisive, but the tactics adopted by protesters. The paradigm example is something like the Balcombe protests, which had very wide support within the local area, with the Women’s Institute and church groups attending. The protesters even had their own a knitting circle. And yet, for all their local legitimacy, demonstrators were still subject to the full rigour of a police action in which any protest was treated as criminal.

Asked to explain why there has been a shift towards greater hostility on the part of the police in the face of protesters, Kevin Blowe of Netpol begins his explanation with a shift towards more diverse and mobile tactics by the demonstrators. There has been a modest but definite shift he argues against the demand for large “A to B” marches in the style of the anti-war movement that reached its peak in 2003. Instead, protesters are seeking to employ a range of tactics: ranging from at one point the occupation of spaces, to at the other extreme, rapid movement from place to place, with the intention above all of keeping away from police lines or the risk of being kettled. “If two million people was not enough to change the politicians’ minds, it followed that protesters needed to do something different. With social media, protests have become easier to organise and harder to police.”

“Many of the infamous examples of mass arrests”, Blowe suggests, “have happened when the police encountered a new social movement which they did not understand. The arrests at Fortnum & Mason seem to have been about the police needing a better understanding of UK Uncut. The police were unfamiliar with who belonged to what networks, and so they pulled in people in large numbers. It was the same with Critical Mass and the Anti-Fascist Network. The police were looking – in vain – to see if they could find out who the leaders were.”

Tom Wainwright, a barrister who has represented several of those charged in protest cases, including Zak King, Caroline Lucas MP and a number the Critical Mass and Balcombe defendants, has a similar analysis. “The police view is that a legitimate protest is a bunch of people waving placard sticks. As far as they are concerned if you put people in a pen, some distance away from their considered target, you have struck a proportionate balance between people’s right to protest and the business’ right to carry on doing regardless whatever it was already doing. But people are fed up with ineffective protests which do nothing to stop an action. Protesters are experimenting with occupations, lockdowns, and actions intended to have a real effect. The police regard any expansion of protest as inherently problematic.”

Reviewing the last four years a whole; while it can certainly happen that hostile policing has the effect of only encouraging further protests, the experience of some activists has been that the struggles are leading rather to fatigue and the new activists who brought their optimism to the various protests have then retreated, demoralised by the hostility of the state.

There is no single statute at work here, no authoritarian legislation masquerading Blair- or Cameron-style as reform, no single policy that could be opposed by a well-targeted petition, but the incremental way in which values have changed and an extra dose of iron has entered into the soul of the state.

On taking a break

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I have decided to take a break from this blog; I don’t know how long it will last – the gap may be a matter of a few days, it could easily be several months. I have had a blog or a website now for just under 20 years. Inevitably that means there is a danger of the quality degrading. When I started I would post lengthy pieces based on original research, but given my day job, which is often exhausting, I have less and less time to do the necessary reading, and there is the danger of slipping into a kind of automatic “comment”, where you are repetitively saying nothing new at all.

I also have a particular problem with this blog. When I started it, one of my principal motives was to publicise a memoir I had published about running; and for the first few months many of the pieces were “tasters” based on that book. It was a personal albeit left-wing running blog. Very soon afterwards there were the Olympics Games, and I posted effectively a whole book’s worth of new material based around the Counter Olympics Network and the broader campaign against the Games. This first transition – from running to interest in the intersection of Marxism and sport – was relatively modest and I didn’t ever properly pause and think to myself whether I needed to keep the blog going or what I would use it for.

By the end of the same year, the SWP crisis had begun and it suited me to have a blog ready to hand where I could post directly without having to go through the – tight – censorship that operates in the SWP’s internal “pre-conference” publications. The previous focus on sport was lost altogether, rightly and necessarily. But for 15 months now I have been outside that party, and neither my writing nor my political activity have made the transition I had hoped.

When I left, I spoke of having comrades in both “any party” and “none”, and this title was not accidental. I was inspired by the number of people outside the SWP who were following our internal battles and enthused by their support, and felt an intense comradeship with them.

One of my hopes was our generation of departees would construct a left culture in which the lines dividing the various left groups would become much more permeable. We would still have our differences of course and our different groups, but there would be an extent to which we co-ordinated ourselves without rancour and it would become relatively common for (say) a person principally associated with group X (say, RS21), to be invited to speak on a platform by group Y (say, the ISN, or the SP, or whoever else) and be trusted by group Y to be at that moment, their representative, bringing people into the left through the medium of group Y on behalf of whom they were then speaking. If this kind of mutual trust sounds naïve, it is worth saying that it was relatively common among much of the pre-1914 left, both in Britain and throughout Europe. (And it is not very difficult to do  – in my own local RS21 group, we have managed to sustain a pattern of nearly 50% outside speakers over more than a year, without in any way diminishing the coherence of our group).

Yet, if I am honest with myself, I do not believe that my writing has made the transition that I hoped to see in my own and other people’s political practice. Since leaving the SWP I have continued to write about the partisans of the old IS libertarian fringe, and even when talking about events far from home, I have on at least one occasion fallen into the trap of reading them through the black hole of ideological conservatism created by the dying star of the SWP.

There is a recurring debate between and within the SWP diaspora which pits those who would rather we kept on criticising the SWP against those who would ignore it. My own view is rather the orthodox Hegelian one that we need to supersede it by constructing a left which has different, more effective, reference points.

A writer can do little to build a party, still less the sort of broader political movement that I am describing, but one modest task to which they can contribute is the creation of a new political language of metaphors which capture the relationships of oppression on which capitalism thrives, and the distilled, century-long activist learning behind such seemingly-simple as ideas as revolution.

I would like to reorient my writing towards that task; it may never happen; my attempts may fail. But it will not happen unless I take a break, and (if or when I return) try something new.

Before there were cars

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There were only hands
Calloused by many years of working with stone.
A figure shuffled into water, bent down,
Scooped out fists of damp sand.
Two arms came together, the hands cupped.
Walking back, the figure bent again.
Damp sand and dry mingled,
Bricks were formed.
Structures began.
With discovered shells, a hut was made and people.
Trenches were grubbed,
Digging down at an angle, never straight.
A piece of sea glass became a suit of armour.
And then, at night, the creatures came.

On the Independent Greeks; and on Alliances

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Six weeks ago, when Syriza formed a coalition with the Independent Greeks a common view among my friends was that this was Syriza’s first betrayal and that others would inevitably follow. The story was familiar; outside government, Syriza had promised to do politics differently, including granting 100,000 migrant children in Greece full citizenship, tearing down the refugee camps and rehousing the people in them. It would be the greatest challenge to Fortress Europe in a generation. But electoral parties are no different, the pressure of keeping in office always moderates reformists. And by joining with the racists of the Independent Greeks, Syriza was indicating its willingness to compromise on everything.

This pessimism was always unconvincing. After 40 years of left-wing parties exercising ever greater efforts to show how little they differ from the press-business neoliberal consensus, paling their flags an ever lighter pink as they went, Syriza is very clearly a different sort of project. And it was never going to be exhausted merely by its first, incomplete, compromise.

Being short of a majority in parliament, Syriza had no real option but to do a deal with someone. The KKE had already refused an alliance, foreshadowing its present position which is to vote with New Democracy and PASOK. The only other option, the River, was a party of neoliberal enthusiasts for cuts; on the central issue facing Greece –  austerity – the Independent Greeks were Syriza’s only possible allies.

And there are many different kinds of alliance. Such was the Parliamentary arithmetic (Syriza only needing two votes for a majority) that Tsipras had no need to water down on his commitments. This was reflected in his party’s deal with the Independent Greeks, where the two parties agreed to vote for migration policy along party lines (ie Syriza will get these measures through without needing the Independent Greeks’ support).

Far from dropping its promises, Syriza has renewed its commitments, on citizenship, and on the camps. The migration minister is Tasia Christodoulopoulou, doyenne of Greek migrants’ lawyers – the equivalent in England of giving our unreconstructed CLR James-ite Ian Macdonald the job. Indeed even the wretched four-month bailout deal has given Syriza additional reasons to maintain its promises to migrants. Precisely because its economic programme has become harder to implement, Syriza has needed to show that its social programme remains undiluted.

At this point, the voice of conscience intrudes. Isn’t the whole point about left-wing governments (or, at least, those worthy of the name) that they make no compromises, and in particular they do not, under any circumstances, make an alliance with conservatives or racists?

It may be helpful to review at this point some of the compromises that the party most often cited as a comparison, the Lenin-era Bolsheviks, made with its enemies. Brest-Litovsk, the recruitment of Tsarist officers to senior positions in the Red Army, one-man management in industry, the NEP, the Rapallo peace treaty under which the German military hosted its research facilities in tanks and chemical weapons on Bolshevik soil. The pamphlet in which the Bolsheviks drew up a balance-sheet on their experiences drew the inevitable conclusions – “to reject compromises ‘on principle’, to reject the permissibility of compromises in general, no matter of what kind, is childishness, which it is difficult even to consider seriously. A political leader who desires to be useful to the revolutionary proletariat must be able to distinguish concrete cases of compromises that are inexcusable and are an expression of opportunism and treachery.”

Some of the Bolsheviks’ compromises went deep. As Isaac Babel pointed out, long ago in Red Cavalry (and as Brendan McGeever has shown again in research which, when it makes it into print, should be compulsory reading for anyone nostalgic for a time which never existed), these compromises included in 1918-1919 leaving local Soviet power in many areas in the hands of people who were murderously anti-Semitic. This approach proved temporary because the Civil War finished and there was then a struggle within the fragile Soviet regime to purge itself of these elements.

So, a compromise with conservatives or racists is always unwanted and undesirable (means and ends always interconnect), but may be necessary as a temporary device provided as a minimum that it is the right making the principal compromises and the direction of travel is towards liberation.

Panos Kammenos, the leader of the Independent Greeks is no outsider, having been an MP for New Democracy for 20 years and a former minister for the shipping industry. The majority of its MPs were recruited like Kammenos from the anti-bailout wing of New Democracy, although they have had at least one MP come over from PASOK. The party is fiercely nationalist, and enthusiastic about the Orthodox church. Its racism expresses itself in two ways, first, in a hostility to migrants, and second, in a tendency to explain the Greek debt crisis in terms of banks, and therefore Jews, who stand in familiar anti-Semitic trope as the imaginary, physical embodiment of all that is wrong with finance as opposed to industry.

Just as Syriza has profited from “pasofikation” (ie the dramatic collapse of the main party of the centre-left, in conditions where it ceased to offer its voters anything), the Independent Greeks seem to have their own plan to become over 5-10 years the main party of Greece’s political right. They act as if they believe that austerity will ultimately be cancelled, and that all the parties which attempted to enforce Greece’s debts will wither. One of the Independent Greeks’ key proposals is therefore to investigate the terms under which during the second half of the 2000s New Democracy agreed to a massive increase of Greece’s debts, and to prosecute the ministers responsible. A deal with Syriza, from this perspective, is merely the means to an end: the complete reconstruction of the Greek political system and the defeat of New Democracy, after which it will be left vs right politics as usual.

English writers tend to compare them to UKIP, but they are in other respects more akin to the kinds of far-right “independents” that became the third power in the House of Commons between 1918 and 1920, in a period of intense paranoia about German power. To understand their appeal you may recall the inventor and champion of middle-class life but serial debtor, Caractus Potts, in his war with the Vulgarian (i.e. German) Baron Bomburst. Beneath the castles of the Baron’s power are the children of the poor, held in debt bondage through the medium of the (Jewish) childcatcher. The secret of German power, it follows, is its hold over the debt. If only the Baron can be captured, the children will go free. But who will defeat the Baron? You could scour Ian Fleming’s books (or those of his predecessors Erskine Childers or John Buchan) for an answer but you will find none.

Kammenos’ thinking suffers from the same weakness: the Independent Greeks are furiously anti-austerity, and blame Troika, and behind them “Germany”. During the negotiations, they were if anything harder against compromise with the Eurozone than Syriza. In contrast to them, Syriza has an idea of how to renegotiate the balance of forces within Germany – by encouraging the election of anti-austerity parties in Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and by promoting anti-austerity leftists in Britain, German, etc. The Baron can be defeated in other words, by the German Left Party, or (beneath it) by the German working class. Short of switching Greece’s client status to some alternative backer wealthier than Germany, Kammenos has no equivalent plan. His racism, in other words, constantly limits the desire for national independence which is his party’s rationale.

Syriza’s strategic thinking in response to the Independent Greeks appears to be as follows. The tasks facing the left (which remains a minority) remain too large for the social forces available. Therefore, the left has to try to split the right into two parts, a first with which it is possible to work, and a second (New Democracy, Golden Dawn), who are or will be beyond the pale. The Independent Greeks are sufficiently robust allies, not merely because they are committed to anti-austerity politics but because their social base reflects above all the influence of the Orthodox church, which has a very wide but very shallow hold over large parts of the Greek people and even dispossessed classes. If the recomposition of the left happens on the terms that both Syriza and the Independent Greeks want, Syriza predicts, the destruction of both Pasok and New Democracy, will not just result in the replacement of one old left-right rivalry with a new one (Syriza versus the Independent Greeks), it will also lead to a shift between left and right, with the future balance of powers foreshadowed by Syriza’s present hegemony in the coalition (it has 12 times as many seats as the Independent Greeks). Syriza will win because it will prove to have been the better fighters against austerity – and the (limited) polling evidence to date appears to be that it, rather than Independent Greeks, has been winning the most voters from New Democracy since the election.

An obvious attraction of this thinking to those of us outside Greece is that is a strategy for dealing which the right which envisages a victory over it. As such, it has an advantage over our usual way of thinking in which the right represents a significant social layer (the petty bourgeoisie) which has a static position of utter hostility to the workers’ movement, and whose racism is permanent and unsatisfiable. We have an idea that if this class throws up outlier parties, they may become so unpopular that we might isolate and physically defeat them. But we have seemingly no conception at all of how to go beyond a situation where they are not outliers but more respectable, and we (rather than they) are the unpopular minority.

Now the fact that a party has a plan does not mean that it is guaranteed to succeed. The gamble (as it is best characterised) risks treating the “left” and the “right” as if they were objective political realities rather than temporary relationships. Precisely because Syriza has had some success in quarantining off the bad parts of the right, they risk over-using the tactic. You can see this danger when it comes to the pending  prosecution of the leaders of Golden Dawn, Greece’s neo-Nazi revivalists, with their base in the police and their 5% of the vote.

Critics of Syriza to its left have taken umbrage at Syriza’s suggestion that elected Golden Dawn MPs should be released from custody to attend votes in Parliament suggesting that Syriza is extending too much deference to the right, and warning that Syriza may be cooling as to the prosecution itself. At this distance, it is impossible to know whether they are right about the prosecution itself (which is necessarily in the hands of the judiciary rather than the politicians) or these are the exaggerated fears of people who have committed themselves in advance to the narrative that Syriza will betray its supporters. But Syriza’s friends should be watching closely and urging the government to take no steps which help the fascists.

There is a second area where the alliance with the Independent Greeks bears a risk; and it is in terms of Syriza’s analysis of its  problems with Europe. Because they are advocates of simple, conspiratorial thinking, the Independent Greeks tend to explain all of Greece’s difficulties simply in terms of “Germany”. Here they risk bolstering some in Syriza for whom neo-liberalism in Europe is a German  phenomenon, and all sorts of alliances (with the United States or Britain or with Italian or French technocrats) remain potentially open. The alternative tentatively emerging within Syriza, which gives the greatest weight to explaining the balance of forces honestly to the party’s supporters, is incompatible with that sort of fantastical thinking.

The alliance with the Independent Greeks remains a difficulty, then; even if it is not yet the fatal germ against which Syriza’s original critics warned.

Peter Sedgwick, The Unilateralist State

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[first published as anon, ‘Say no to Nato’, Rebel, September 1960]

After nuclear disarmament, then what? it would be good to think that we were anywhere near asking that question. Most of us in CND are too busy asking, “Before nuclear disarmament, what?” to bother about very long-term crystal-gazing. However, it is very necessary to have a general picture in one’s mind of the kind of Britain that could pursue a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and the kind of foreign politics that such a Britain would follow.

If we limit our vision to what a single anti-nuclear government could do in NATO to influence its “partners” towards abandoning the Bomb we are not trying to see nearly enough possibilities. Of course Adenauer, De Gaulle and the American government won’t listen. But a British government which had abandoned nuclear arms would also, if it was consistent, have to abandon the use of the Bomb by other governments on her behalf; that is, simply to refuse to stay in an alliance dominated by an atomic strategy. This does not mean isolationism. On the contrary, Britain would have to appeal to the peoples, and particularly the working-class movements, of other NATO countries, to follow our lead.

A year or two ago there was a vast anti-Bomb movement in West Germany, an Aldermaston in every major town, which petered out largely because it didn’t seem to be acheiving any real change. But if the working people of the world were faced with an actual government which had given up the Bomb, the international consequences would be tremendous.

After all, the reason why the Stalinist brand of Marxism has had so much influence in the world over the last thirty years, as opposed to other, less influential varieties like Trotskyism or Austrian Marxism, is that there has always been at least one important Stalinist government actually existing in the word. An anti-nuclear Britain would have at least as shattering an influence, by-passing governments and disarmament conferences, as October 1917.

I would certainly agree that there is a risk, if we were to break out of the Cold War, of being squeezed between the rival politics of Russia, or China, and the USA. But we run that risk anyway by being in the Cold War. The Deterrent theory is in any cause the maddest gamble in the world, beside which even the most risky alternative of breakthrough seems as sure as a fixed roulette-wheel.

It is difficult to understand how members of CND can have any doubts about NATO. NATO and the Bomb are inseparable for Britain and if you reject one you must reject the other. General Gruenther stated as long ago as 1954 that the Western Powers had already “passed the point of no return” in the use of conventional weapons, and that he had “no choice except to use atomic weapons whether the enemy does so or not” (quotes from Alistair Cooke, Guardian, 1/3/55). It is quite unprincipled for people like Crossman and Wigg to talk of Britain giving up her own Bomb and contributing conventional forces to NATO. This only means that we will start or engage in the “limited” wars, a new Korea or Suez perhaps, that may develop into an “unlimited”, “unconventional” H-Bomb blitz.

The policy advocated here is probably best called “subversive neutrality”. A government which was seriously neutral and anti-Bomb would have to be subversive too about its domestic capitalism. It is inconceivable that the vested interests of British imperial capitalism would stand by quietly and watch their overseas alliances and nice fat arms-shares fade away into nothing.

A Britain which gave up the Bomb and the arms-race and stayed capitalist would in any case find itself in a serious economic crisis, since static military spending provides an essential boost to a private-enterprise economy.

That means the only sort of government that is capable of implementing CND policy is one which is revolutionary -Socialist and internationalist. A tall order you might say; but no taller than the facts of power demand.

[Thanks to John Rudge, for finding the article and confirming the attribution. More on Sedgwick here]

A European Strategy for Syriza

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Guest post by John Palmer

[After the discussions in the comments on my blog last week, I invited John to write an article fleshing out what Syriza could gain from a policy of staying for as long as possible within the Eurozone]

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In the politically highly charged post-mortem into negotiations between the Syriza government and the Euro-area powers, one fact should not be overlooked. In spite of the widespread view that Athens suffered a humiliating set back at the hands of the German government and its allies, the latest opinion polls show that more Greeks than ever support Syriza – enough to give them an overall majority in a new election.

This should not be entirely surprising. The mass of Greek voters do not blame Alexis Tsipras, or his finance minister, Yannis Varoufakis, for the dogmatic refusal of Berlin and Brussels to recognise that their austerity strategy has failed. They also believe the Euro-area leaders – as well as Syriza – also had to make concessions. As the US economist, James Galbraith has put it: “What happened was that at the end of the day, the creditor countries and the creditor institutions took a step back. There had been through the entire process a very firm position taken by the German government that you had to sign up to the existing loan program, all of its conditions, lock stock and barrel, no changes that the elections have really meant nothing.

This was an untenable position. It was a position that over the time of these discussions lost the sympathy of the European Commission, and I think also of the International Monetary Fund, and also of several other major governments. And it was a position from which the German government at the end of the day took a step back, agreeing to the essence of the Greek position all along, which was to have a financing arrangement that would be in place over a four-month period, and then discussions about the specific terms, based upon a list that was submitted yesterday to the institutions.

So that strikes me–I wouldn’t call that a capitulation; I would say that what happened was that the German government, having taken a very tough line through the process, took a step back from that tough line in order to secure a basic framework agreement for going forward. And that’s where we are now.”

No one in their right mind would suggest that Syriza is winning the struggle to defeat mindless austerity or that the pressures on Athens to retreat will not be re-doubled in intensity in the weeks ahead. I agree with those who urge Tsipras and his comrades not to gloss over the compromises they have been forced to make or the profound challenges ahead. In that sense, they should emulate the Russian Bolsheviks who never denied the terrible price they had to pay to Imperial Germany for the Brest-Litovsk treaty ending Soviet involvement in the First World War.

Some of the criticism of the Syriza strategy made by the Greek and international far left is, however, based on misunderstandings. For example those calling on Athens to defy Berlin and impose capital controls to prevent money being drained from the banks do not realise that this can be done under Euro-area rules. This what the Cypriot authorities were forced to do last year. It may be something Syriza adopts but the recent statistics show that capital is starting to return to Greece.

Leaving aside the Greek neo-Nazi and populist far right, and a small minority on the left, the mass of Greek workers rightly suspect – indeed fear – talk of abandoning the Euro. They remember the disasters which Drachma devaluations brought in the past and suspect it would mean an even more terrifying collapse in living standards.

But are the Greeks right in believing that Syriza should struggle to change the Euro-area, indeed the European Union itself, from within? Is there the remotest chance that Syriza could trigger a shift in the balance of class forces needed to secure a radical change of economic policy? Where in the EU are the allies to be found else to bring this about?

It is essential here to avoid exaggeration. But there are some signs that popular opinion in most EU countries is swinging against any prolongation (let alone intensification) of austerity. It takes different forms in different countries. In Portugal even the leader of the Social Democrats (the Mayor of Lisbon), who is favourite to win the next election, has declared he will negotiate an alternative agreement with the Euro-area authorities.

Of course we should not hold our breath. But the financial markets will be quick to see another crisis point in Portugal if talk of an economic policy change grows. Should a forced Grexit be seen as pre-figuring a possible Portuguese or even Spanish default, Berlin will be at risk of losing astronomic amounts of money.

Indeed why stop there? Market suspicion could easily fall on France and/or Italy – which may be why Berlin has just agreed to give both government more time to come into line on deficits and debt. Of course the right wing governments in Lisbon, Madrid who have insisted on the unpopular austerity policies are desperate they are not exposed by any concessions given to Athens.

The European Commission has already signalled it favours some relaxation of the current terms of the Greek austerity “agreement.” The balance of opinion in the elected European Parliament is in favour of even more substantial concessions because austerity has only succeeded in increasing rather than decreasing indebtedness.

Another important factor working Greece’s favour is the growing alarm among mainstream academic economists that the austerity card is being overused. In any future policy review it would not be surprising if even bodies like the IMF and the European Central Bank signalled to Berlin and its allies that some fiscal relaxation was in order.

None of this is to attribute any inherent or dependable progressive orientation to the EU institutions. They reflect the ideological tenor of the great majority of pro neo-liberal EU national governments. Nor can any confidence be placed in the mainstream social democratic parties whether in opposition or in coalition with the right – as in the case of the German SPD.

But political parties have to keep a keen weather ear on the fluxes in public opinion. Tolerance of austerity is wearing thin which is one reason why some even the populist far right – such as the French FN – is giving expression to public anger about public spending cuts and falling living standards.

Important in this context are the signs of a new restiveness stirring among workers in both northern and southern European countries. In Germany the Metal Workers have just forced through a major, inflation busting wage increase and public sector look set to follow. There have been strikes by airport workers against job losses in Denmark, Finland and by Portuguese transport workers against privatisation plans.

None of this is to suggest an imminent change in the economic or the political balance of forces which Syriza will have to confront in its struggle to survive and to win tangible relief for the Greek people. Pressure is growing from hard line right wing German tendencies (Alternative fur Deutschland, PEGIDA but also within the CDU/CSU) against any concessions to Greece.

A swing to the right in the recent Hamburg election brought Merkel’s CDU percentage vote down to the mid-teens.  Little wonder Schauble and co are worried.

I agree with those in Syriza (and commentators like David Renton) that Syriza must strengthen the societal groups at its base and ensure the government is more actively accountable to them. This will, however, involve these organisations also taking some very hard decisions on priorities and compromises. The Greek foreign ministry should be encouraging the maximum contact between Greek social interest groups – obviously including the trade unions – and comparable organisations throughout the European Union.

The next weeks will be crucial. It will be essential to use the maximum political leverage to ensure a substantial revision of the terms of the policy review. But Syriza cannot avoid having to play a longer term strategy. It should be judged by how it balances these priorities with maintaining the commitment of its support base to fundamental change both in Greece and throughout Europe. That is why it is bound to be a lengthy war of positioning.

For those socialists who regard their political pedigree in some sense as derivative of the so-called “IS tradition” I would like to quote from a leading article on the issue of European integration written in 1961 during the first debate on British membership of what is today the European Union, by the first editor of ISJ, Michael Kidron: For us the move to Europe extends the scope of class struggle in which we are directly involved; it worsens its conditions for the present. But it makes ultimate victory more secure.”

Demanding the right to breathe

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If there had been any doubts about the meaning of the agreement reached by Syriza and the Eurozone, they were resolved by the publication on Tuesday morning of Greece’s proposals to reduce its deficit.

Panagiotis Sotiris has subjected them already to a detailed analysis and I will do no more than endorse the points he makes that Syriza has agreed to an absolute cap on the public sector wage bill (and therefore a wage freeze), the agreement weakens Syriza’s previous commitments not to allow the auctioning off of homes which are in debt, and it concedes in principle to the continuation of the privatisation programme including of workplaces which are central to the Greek union movement such as the docks at Piraeus

If anything, there are still more criticisms could be made. For example an English-language audience will be attentive to the implications of promises to “develop the existing scheme that provides temporary employment for the unemployed”, or to “strengthen the independence of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues” (ie. the Greek equivalent of George Osborne’s Office of Budget Responsibility) “from all sorts of interference (political or otherwise)”, in other words from attempts by an elected Syriza government to control its own economic policy. And in addition Syriza has given the troika, now relabelled “the institutions”, an unwelcome, express veto over any future increases to the minimum wage.

One writer who wishes Syriza well has cautiously welcomed the agreement saying that it “cancels the previous Greek government’s planned cuts to pensions”, which may be true, but the proposals tabled by Syriza still involve cutting pensions by reducing early retirement, and index-linking of payments in future. In any event, the right comparison is not with the plans of the previous government, but with Syriza’s own Thessaloniki programme on which it was elected. This had promised to restore the Christmas bonus for pensioners, and increase pensions thereafter (along with public sector wages) as a means to increase demand in the economy. Both of these promises appear to have been quietly shelved.

The most important part of the Thessaloniki programme were the starting principles of Syriza’s policy in regard to the Eurozone, ie that it would “write-off the greater part of public debt”, obtain “a growth clause in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed”, and “include a significant grace period in debt servicing”.

Now, of course, you can only reach a fair agreement in negotiations with someone who is willing (or compelled) to bargain fairly with you. And, Syriza’s negotating position was reduced even beneath any foreseeable position of weakness by Greek savers’ removing £12 billion from their bank accounts.

To grasp the enormous pressure Syriza was under, imagine a trade union which is trying to negotiate a pay increase from a hostile employer, while at the same time, its savings are separately being withdrawn from the union’s main bank account at the rate of about 10% of all its money every single day. Whatever other difficulties Syriza may have had, it simply did not have the ordinary negotiator’s option of stringing discussions along in the hope that something better would emerge.

Without falling into the ritualistic language of “sell-out”, it is not hyperbole to accept that the Greek government is being “strangled” or to compare it to “a debt colony with a bit of ‘home rule’”. Those, including 20 Syriza’s MPs, the speaker of the Greek parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou and Syriza’s chief economist John Milios, who have criticised Tspiras for trying to portray a defeat as a victory when it is in Milios’ words “suffocating” are right; no healthy politics, reformist or revolutionary, can start except from stating the facts truthfully.

How then might the harm of the last week be undone?

A return to the movements (with two notes of caution)

There is an almost universal desire on the Greek left, from the leadership of Syriza as far as Greece’s anarchists, to see a shift from the government to the social movements, so that it is the latter which initiate policy and the latter which control the former. How this change is conceived depends on the politics of the different groups.

Syriza itself to some extent supports the idea, and included within its Thessaloniki programme promised to “empower the institutions of representative democracy and introduce new institutions of direct democracy.” The detail of the programme included legislation to allow referenda, removal of MP’s immunities from prosecution, and a democratisation of radio and television broadcasting.

But there is potentially a much more inspiring version of the same vision in which the balance of forces within Greece is changed by the emergence within Greece of powerful social movements demanding a return to the sorts of politics which won Syriza the election.

This would the best next step. But I do have two notes of caution. First, merely seeing the best hope does not conjure it into being. Among socialists in the English-language world, there is still often a conception that Greece has enjoyed a continuous five-year period of open struggle, with widespread workers’ strikes, occupations, etc, and that therefore it is inevitable that any moment now, a social movement will emerge which will have interests clearly opposed to both those of their own government and those of the Eurozone. And yet the pages of indymedia Athens, or of the major Marxist organisations in Greece, whether pro-Syriza or anti, do not give an outsider the impression of a society on the verge of open ferment.

Second, it is important that the re-emergence of social movements is not abstracted from their politics. The last occasion when a social movement “broke through” to challenge austerity was during the revolution which took place in Egypt from 2011. This was a movement which for two years, like the great revolutions of France or Russia, seemed to constantly renew itself. It had a similar effect to Syriza’s election in terms of raising hopes internationally. At its peak, workers were involved in around 1000 strikes or protests every month. Yet, at the end of the revolution, the fatal moment was the emergence of a counter-revolutionary force “Tamarod” which portrayed itself, plausibly, as just another reform campaign. The form which the counter-revolution took was a series of public protests which were widely (and inaccurately) described as the largest demonstrations in history.

Socialism means democracy; it means the abolition of the present state and its replacement by one governed by the mass of producers. Any process which tends in that direction is always better than one that does not.

Yet in a context where very many Greek unions are linked to the political parties which been voting together in parliament against Syriza (ie New Democracy, Pasok and the KKE) more politics is needed than the simple analysis which says that we have had too much of government and now we need a syndicalistic return to the movements.

What Greece needs is something more specific a local counterpart to the huge numbers that rallied in support of Chavez against the 2002 coup and then radicalised and transformed his government, in other words a mass movement with a democratising dynamic.

Breaking with the Eurozone (but)

Syriza’s survival as a government will depend on it taking measures which could be seen as the beginning of Grexit, i.e. the introduction of capital controls, and limits to withdrawals from personal and corporate bank accounts. If it does not introduce them, then in four months’ time, Syriza will be faced with the same difficulties it faced in the last week, ie it will be nearing the end of negotiations with hostile powers, while money drains out of its banks leaving its negotiators without any leverage at all over Greece’s creditors.

Accordingly, increasing numbers of activist in Greece would not just agree with this analysis but go further, arguing that Syriza must take Greece out of the Eurozone altogether. If nothing else, the politics of Syriza’s isolation in Europe seem to compel this approach. At present, it is in a minority of one, and even in if Podemos wins the Spanish elections in November of this year, the radical left will continue to be a tiny minority among the governments, and will lose repeatedly.

But the vision of a Grexit without a change in the underlying social relationships was criticised by Antonis Davanellos of Syriza’s Left Platform, in an article from 2011:

“a return to the drachma, if it happens under the direction of capitalists and their state, would have devastating results for the Greek population. The drachma would be undervalued from the start and would instantly lose even more value when it is introduced. This would wreak havoc on the value of everything that is important to wage-earners (their wages, pensions, housing, etc.) and also farmers (the value of cultivable land). On the other hand, the capitalists–who would retain over 600 billion euros deposited abroad, more than twice the sum of the Greek debt–would be able to grab for just pennies public enterprises, hospitals, land and more”.

Those who know their history will recall how the solution to the German debt crisis in 1923 had exactly the dynamic that Davanellos cautions against, ie that inflation enabled a massive concentration of wealth within Germany, with the largest businesses buying up their dozens of their smaller counterparts on the cheap.

It also involved the impoverishment of Greece’s savers who then turned to the far right, which is not something that the leadership of Syriza, motivated as they are by the fear of Golden Dawn, will countenance lightly.

And the assumption that Davanellos makes that Grexit would lead to devaluation (and therefore inflation) is, notably, accepted by Grexit’s supporters, for whom devaluation is of course the mechanism to encourage increased foreign trade. A devalued currency is intended to sell its goods abroad for less, kick-starting the economy – but even to formulate the policy in these terms is already to see Grexit as a strategy for defending Greek business, rather than Greek workers.

Moreover a Greece equipped within an independent currency would not lose the economic problems which are weighing presently on its workers. Greece would still have a debt larger than its GDP; merely announcing “we will not pay any more” would not make the debt disappear unilaterally. It might be for example that an independent Greece would seek to trade occasionally with the European states which surround it. They, of course, would attempt to make trade conditional on the payment in full of the debts they are now enforcing.

The problem is not Grexit but the failure to attach it to transformation from one kind of society to another – from one ruled by its bosses to one ruled by its workers. Socialists often make this invocation, sometimes ritually, but this really is a situation where seemingly the same possibility (the departure from the euro) can have a wide range of different outcomes, from the most hopeful to the most desperate.

The vision has to be not the restructuring of capitalism, but its defeat.

So, there are two solutions, albeit neither is straightforward. Yes, Greece needs a return to the movements, but one which arms Syriza (and its left critics) rather than its opponents in the parliament or the Eurozone and one which changes the relationship between the government and the streets.

Yes, Greece needs to take steps towards Grexit, and possibly Grexit itself, but one based on a changing dynamic between classes within Greek society, rather than the mere exchange of capitalism in one continent for capitalism in one nation.