Lessons In Greek For Leftists

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As I said in the column which inaugurated my “Duopoly Watch” series for The Greanville Post, one of the most important books by the great leader on the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, was “The State and Revolution.” Among other things, I noted:

“it deals with the nature of the state apparatus under capitalism. It is important to understand that the state apparatus never exists independently of the economic system of the country within which it stands. (Italics ours) Rather it is there to make sure that it, the economic system, stays firmly in place.  The disagreements between political parties in the capitalist nations come over how best to go about maintaining the ruling class’s control, the ruling class being those individuals, corporations, organizations, and interests that have their hands on the levers of economic [and consequently political] power in the nation. In other words, the direct and principal beneficiaries of the rule of capital. 

“Concerning the nature of ‘constitutional democracy’ under capitalism, Ulyanov himself put it this way:

‘To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics’ ”.


“[The role of] constitutional democracy’ under capitalism, is…‘to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism…”


Now, every once in a while comes along a leftist party, although pledged to operate within the confines of capitalist “constitutional democracy,” that truly believes that it can get elected (a), and (b), that it can really change ruling class control, through the parliamentary system. 

Well, Greek lesson 1: what has happened to Syriza and Tsipras shows, once again that that is not possible.  The ruling class is the ruling class, and short of revolution, as Lenin so rightly noted, it will always rule, one way or another.

Greek lesson 2:  The Greek ruling class seems to be coming out of the mess in very good shape. They managed to make sure that the worst of the “austerity” measures, imposed by their brethren in the European Union, were carried out under the nominal governmental control of a “leftist” government rather than its “center-right” predecessor.  Of course it was the latter that was largely responsible for presiding over the making of the mess to begin with, e.g. (a VERY important article): “How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis: The investment bank made millions by helping to hide the true extent of the debt, and in the process almost doubled it,” by Robert B. Reich (who, by the way, is no socialist). 

Please note also, that the tax increases demanded by the European Union do not seem to be falling on the Greek ruling class (although I may have missed something there), nor do the demanded “reforms” (read further punishment for the Greek working class to pay for the ruling class’ mistakes/greed) seem to include forcing the Greek billionaires to pay the taxes that they have avoided for years by shipping their profits overseas.

Greek lesson 3: The international capitalist ruling class (of which the Greek ruling class is of course a part) is absolutely intent on showing the people of Italy and Spain what would await them if they were to elect a left-wing government that would attempt something along the lines of what Syriza originally intended to door seemed to, if we are to take their rhetoric as a true reflection of intent (at bottom, force a significant amount of loan forgiveness upon the most irresponsible of the original lenders).  In my view, it is the teaching of this political lesson, even more rather than the “regardless of who was responsible for incurring them, good people pay off their debts, donchaknow” lesson, that Angela Merkel and the joint ruling classes of the EU nations, want to accomplish through the “negotiations.”

There are more lessons for the left in parliamentary so-called democracies, of course, but to my mind, thanks to Vladimir Ilyich, these are the most important ones.

  • Gina

    Please note also, that the tax increases demanded by the European Union do not seem to be falling on the Greek ruling class

    Yup. Greece submitted a reform plan, which included exactly this some time ago, but it was rejected by the IMF. Sorry, can’t find the article anymore.

    Greece has missed a chance. Lack of courage to face the unknown!

  • RD Worley

    Most likely, Greece will still exit the single currency in a year or two unless the IMF forces the EU to come up with a credible program of debt relief. The best thing the Syriza government can do is make some preparations for that. They seem to be aware of this, by the way. To have gone out of the Euro now without adequate preparation would have been a political as well as economic disaster. Think of the Greek acceptance of the new austerities as a kind of Brest-Litovsk Treaty; buys some time.

  • Gina

    I hope you’re right. But in the meantime people suffer & have even to give away their children or will die because of lack of care. After that a transcient decline because of a return to the Drachma is even more difficult to bear. Add to this that Tsipras has dismissed most of the “rebel ministers”.

  • DHFabian

    I’m not sure that we’re inclined to learn lessons from other countries. Did you know that the US simply took a different approach to implement the same agenda? Our government has been rolling out the austerity agenda, for example, for years, slowly and incrementally, from the bottom up. Simultaneously, the general public has been successfully re-educated when it comes to poverty and wealth. This has been very successful, ensuring the empowerment of corporations in a way that suppresses any notions of an “uprising.”

    Now, consider the message of America’s “left” today: Stand in Solidarity — to protect the status quo of the bourgeoisie, the middle class alone! This generation has thoroughly dehumanized all those left behind by years of shipping jobs out of the country, and now regard our homeless poor as vermin that must be kept out of the public square (and off the park benches). Today’s generation believes that only those who are of current use to employers/the corporate state deserve the most basic human rights of food and shelter. We justify austerity as it spreads. We’ve reached the point where we’ve been so successfully divided and subdivided by class and race that we can no longer push back against corporate powers.