Wikinews interviews spokesman for Greek far-left party Xekinima
Monday, May 3, 2010
Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald today interviewed Petros Tzomakas, a Greek far-left activist and member of Xekinima, which is the Greek division of the Committee for a Workers' International. The party is a member of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
Tzomakas also sits on his local 5th Athens Municipal District committee, which is a joint effort by left-wing parties including SYRIZA, the Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow and a number of other political parties to oppose austerity measures proposed by the government. All left-wing parties in the country except the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) are involved. Tzomakas explained that the KKE prefers not to co-operate with other radical left-wing groups.
The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation's debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.
((Iain Macdonald)) How are you doing today?
((Petros Tzomakas)) We are coping; we’re looking at numbers and digits and how they're tearing us apart.
((IM)) Has slavish pursuit of free-market capitalism been the cause of Europe, and particularly Greece's, economic woes? How, given the Soviet collapse, and China being communist in name only, would your vision of a communist system have been better for the majority of citizens?
((PT)) Given current circumstances I think the main goal should be to nationalise means of production and services such as banks but under democratic control by unions and local councils where it effects local economies and re-elect local representatives where needed.
There is a necessity for a planned economy but one controlled not by bureaucracy but by the people participating in it.
((IM)) For right or for wrong, we have now reached a situation where Greece is on the brink of an international bailout. If you were given power tomorrow, what steps would you take immediately to get Greece back on track?
((PT)) We would immediately nationalise the banks. We would refuse to pay the bonds which were called upon during this time, renationalise privatised industries and invest in such a planned economy.
Basically, we would refuse to pay debts created by the banks on our government.
- Petros then gave some statistics on Greek defence expenditure. He stated that Greece is the 5THin the world in such expenditure; but, has only the 28TH-highest GDP combined with the 73RD highest population count.
((IM)) Picking up on your comments about defense expenditure: Is that expenditure a result of a perceived threat from Turkey, and if so, is this really an issue or a creation of a problem where there isn’t one?
((PT)) There has always been tension between the governments of Greece and Turkey, some created by attempts to cover mistakes by both sides. It is no coincidence that both are in dire straits financially.
It is an artificial thing created by [the] government[s]. Of course these things can escalate; both Greece and Turkey have a policy of arms buildup. We recently had the sledgehammer controversy in Turkey where they planned to create incidents within Greece in an effort to seize power.
Also, many high-ranking army officers have been prosecuted in Turkey for trying to seize power in a coup.
((IM)) Why do you oppose the current austerity measures? What has the government, in your view, got so wrong?
((PT)) The government, in its effort to pay back banks and in fact to pay back interest on loans, has already paid in some cases twice the original loan at high interest rates.
They're trying to grab as much money as they can and we know for a fact that’s also on the orders of the Greek capitalist class.
They are reducing the worker’s rights for more money and this actually leads to poverty. Greece will be in guaranteed recession for two years and hopes then to create a 0.1% GDP rise. That will be very hard.
We know from a variety of statistics that the working class will be made to pay around 35% of the current GDP.
Consuming will go to standstill so that in two years time debt will rise from 120% of current GDP to 150% GDP and people will suffer. We know all the loans, just like the previous loans, will be siphoned off by business and will not go into Greek coffers. It will go instead to lining the pockets of big business.
((IM)) I have heard that people in Greece are upset that the euro has weakened Greece’s economic position, as the Drachma’s low value actually encouraged spending by foreigners. What steps would a socialist government take to encourage new spending in Greece by both foreign tourists and investors?
((PT)) A socialist government could actually work if other economies and other people would follow Greece’s steps. Greece would then be a self-sufficient economy and not need these investments. Of course we once had these investments, through the tourism industry, and they didn’t work.
This is whether with the new currency of the euro or the old. The government is seriously thinking of relapse right now which would be a disaster because it would be so devalued. It would possibly even go into a tailspin of devaluation.
The possibilities are grossly underestimated in Greece and not enough investments are made in these possibilities.
Tourism is the main industry in Greece because there is little cost needed in investments, and it doesn’t need a very big infrastructure.
Any infrastructure that was needed has been left to abandonment by both [the last two] governments, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and New Democracy. A visitor can see and understand this by the shape ships and ferries are in and the way facilities are lacking.
((IM)) How do you respond to the assertion that 'democracy is the least-worst of all the political systems tried'? Would the Greek communists accept a multi-party system where some parties would be stridently advocating free-market economics?
((PT)) One of the difficulties people face when seeking answers about a better political system is the black-and-white approach of ideas and names. True, democracy is a necessary principle, but there are vast differences between e.g. a bourgeoise democracy and a socialist democracy...
Also especially in Greece, the term "communist" is used by many in the left, it's almost a synonym. The majority of the left would strongly disagree with a one-party model. The Stalinist leaderships - what erroneously most people call "communists" - would probably desire such a system, but no-one would advocate such a demand today. The only political forces that everyone in the left agrees should be banned are those of the ultra-right, with racist and fascist agendas, and this because they stand against the principles of democracy in any case... As we can see however throughout Europe and in history the capitalist system needs such "allies" especially in times of crisis. In Greece for instance the ultra-right populist La.O.S [Popular Orthodox Rally] party has proven itself an invaluable ally of PaSoK [Panhellenic Socialist Movement] in supporting the most vicious anti-labour measures, suppression of workers' rights, even a "no-questions-asked" policy of currency depositing that would favor money-laundering for illegal trades such as narcotics or human trafficking. In the mean time it tries to put the blame for the crisis caused by the financial system on scapegoats such as the immigrant and refugee populations.
If people had a fair and unbiased view of what a planned economy under democratic control could offer I believe that free-market advocates would be marginalized by the working class internationally, with no call for suppression which can lead to dangerous paths!
((IM)) You mentioned in your email to me that the KKE does not co-operate with the rest of the nation’s left-wing community. Why is this? Does this split confuse potential voters about who to support?
((PT)) Unfortunately the un-democratic Stalinist traditions and practices of the KKE are deeply-rooted in the Greek CP [Communist party] - one has only to read the analysis of their last congress to see this. Therefore the KKE cannot stand in coalitions as an equal to other opinions. The current leadership of the KKE not only refuses to collaborate with the rest of the left but treats it as a class enemy, on the pretext that Synaspismos (the largest faction in the SYRIZA coalition) voted for the "Maastricht Treaty". This became more obvious during the December 2008 uprising where it denounced the youth as "agent provocateurs that seak to destabilize the country manipulating the masses to violence" and that SyRizA was "harboring vandals and criminal elements", earning shameful congratulations from the government and the far-right. Also the KKE through its union front P.A.ME. refuses to collaborate with other unions in industrial action except general strikes, and then always with separate demonstrations and rallies. This behaviour however has not gone unnoticed by the rank-and-file members, and there is sizable discontent with this hardline approach. The only thing that holds them is traditional strict party discipline and the occasional weaknesses of SyRIzA in terms of less militant, and more reformist positions projected by Synaspismos. In both cases, we expect to see developments that will answer to the indeed-confused public that does not give mass support to the left mostly because of disappointment over sectarianism, lack of militancy and larger demands rather than disagreement on principles.