Greece, OKDE-Spartakos (gsfi), declaration of tendency (TPT), 23/12/2017
OKDE-Spartakos is being led towards ideological disintegration and organizational transformation. The organization’s crisis was in full swing when the opposition was formed on a common platform during the last national conference in the summer of 2016. The situation is getting worse and it requires a more drastic response.
A short history
The organization grew proportionally in the 2000s and mainly developed through forums, the «left-wing» student movement and the unification with groups that had previously participated in the ESF1, etc. The high points of this course were the intervention in the ESF 2006 which ended with an international demonstration in which OKDE-Spartakos organized the largest block of its history and the active participation of the organization in the «anti-capitalist assemblies» in the summer of 2007 that later led, through intermediate stages, to the establishing of ANTARSYA.
The relationship between the Greek section and the 4th International has had its ups and downs especially pertaining to the analysis regarding the issue of SYRIZA, but in general it was driving forward decisively. The International Youth Camp of the 4th International was the main school for the political education of the youth in OKDE-Spartakos and our relative organizational development made Greece one of the countries that could now organize it. OKDE-Spartakos was the «Greek section of the Fourth International» and proud of it, opposing any form of lasting hostility even when it disagreed with decisions made by executives of its international bodies – contrary to what its current leadership does.
In 2010, the heterogeneous development of the organization reached its limits and with a worrying opportunist alliance the majority changed. A section of comrades who had been politicized in the radical student movement called for an active leadership role by making alliances with comrades who had traditionally disagreed with the political orientation of the 4th International at least since the 14th Congress of 1995. Although up till then there had been no indication that they had disagreed with the political line of the organization, they won the majority with the basic argument that the previous leadership sought to dissolve OKDE-Spartakos within ANTARSYA just as the 4th International, supposedly, had dispersed its organizations into wider anti-capitalist or left formations. Here lie the root causes of the current situation: permanent fanaticism, a policy of confrontation with anyone reputed to be a «right wing traitor» (whether it is in ANTARSYA or in the 4th International or in the organization itself) and the logic of organizational self-reproduction found in other currents Trotskyist or not.
The attempt to combine different political and social origins had so far failed and gradually the character/profile of the organization changed. From a small, developing and interesting venture, OKDE-Spartakos has evolved into yet another typical sect that is a self-proclaimed Bolshevik embryo. Of course this did not happen overnight.
The stagnant political and social developments in Greece, from the first stabilization program of 2009 to the 2015 referendum, objectively exerted pressure to put aside internal differences. The minority tendency at the 2010 conference held the view- already proven to be erroneous – that «the organization will learn from its experience and correct its mistakes» leading to appeasement and resignation. The initial growth of ANTARSYA, even at the electoral level, which can be understood by the tectonic changes on the political scene against the backdrop of constant social turmoil also diminished the differences in analysis concerning this particular political plan. It is ironic that the new leadership has grown into a strong supporter of ANTARSYA and is in fact has latched onto it. However, OKDE-Spartakos throughout this explosive social context was characterized by organizational stagnation and lack of a clear political plan for building the organization.
The previous period had allowed for a smoother development on the basis of known coordinates. The new period with mass mobilization had much greater demands. The usual appeals for self-organization and communism were not enough to respond to the dominance of an anti-mεmorandum patriotic rhetoric among the Greek left, including ANTARSYA, which found ground among activists themselves as a first level of awareness of what was happening to them.
The mutation of OKDE-Spartakos became more apparent especially in the recent period 2015-2017 when the broad social movement was led to the third memorandum by SYRIZA, on which it had pinned its hopes. The disillusionment was not accompanied by further radicalization but by numbness and a sense of having reached an impasse, a situation that allowed the relative stabilization of the political system and the steep decline in social struggles from the 2009-2013 levels. Everyone was now alone in their microcosm. And OKDE-Spartakos with its ideological crisis and organizational mutation was losing members.
Factionalism without principles
We may have «saved» ANTARSYA, but have «lost» the 4th International. The empiricism of today’s majority has led to assimilation into the political culture of ANTARSYA and simultaneously to a failure to address the tactical differences of party building within the 4th International on a common programmatic ground.
The reason we are in the 4th International is not the absolute agreement on the tactical choices of the period but a common and, above all, living programmatic legacy, a culture of intervention and a framework for discussion. And for those of us who set up a common platform at the last conference we had, have and probably will still have different views on tactical issues, but we are all united in defending all of the above/aforementioned.
We find ourselves with many different left organizations in common formations, from trade unions and student groups to common electoral fronts. We do not exclude, in fact, we pursue coalitions, mergers and superior organizational configurations. As long as the conditions exist. With our comrades and comrades in NAR2 and SEK3 we «built» ANTARSYA. But we can not set up a «common international current” for the time being. Conversely, we are not leaving the 4th International because its majority apparently wanted to apply a misguided tactic like that of DEA4 in SYRIZA for the sake of any ANTARSYA.
The programmatic legacy of the 4th International does not simply relate to retrospective references- the first four Comintern conferences and the founding conference of the Fourth International in 1938 – but to the living continuity of the current through the analysis of the world revolution in the 1960s. But also to the elaborations pertaining to the broad vanguard after May 1968, the central role of the struggle against female oppression since the late 1970s, the theoretical density of our struggle against bureaucratization and for workers’ democracy in the mid-1980s, the analyses of the reconstruction of the socialist and workers’ movement in the 1990s up to the recent studies regarding the destruction of the environment by capitalism.
None of this is of importance to the unprincipled factionalism that the current majority of OKDE-Spartakos is conducting both within and outside the 4th International. The culmination of these tactics is the formation of a parallel «mini international» with a team from Argentina (TPR) coming from the Partido Obrero and a split of the Turkish section of IST (SEP).
We do not exclude any organizations and none in advance. In today’s historical circumstances, some historical differences between revolutionary currents have lost their gravity. Is this the case with the new «Sister Organizations» of OKDE-Spartakos? In reality how can we declare ourselves to be a «sister organization» without a prior programmatic debate and a declaration regarding political agreements that has been previously discussed by our organizations? It’s one thing to talk about «sister currents» and another «sister organizations». We do not see a basis for mutual agreement beyond a consensus («you are the ones who are right, not the majority of your International») in the tactical choice of ANTARSYA and behind this the majority of OKDE-Spartakos mimicking the linear construction model that these organizations are adopting.
It is inconceivable in our relationship with the Turkish SEP for the Turkish section of the Fourth International to be bypassed and not regularly informed of discussions with SEP and the main political objective of seeing if there is a feasible point at which these two Turkish organizations can converge to be overlooked. These kinds of tactics are plainly at odds with the criticism of the 4th International by the majority of the organization regarding the privileged treatment of DEA in Greece.
The leadership of OKDE-Spartakos has a finger in two pies. On the one hand it is building an international group of freelancer friends of OKDE-Spartakos and on the other it maintains a platform of trends and organizations who refer to the «United Secretariat of the Fourth International» but many of them are not members – IZAR in Spain and Socialist Action in Canada – and have been formed by former associates of the national branches. We can exert political criticism on the sections that do not allow these organizations to gain the status of a sympathising organization. OKDE-Spartakos, in spite of the direct conflict with DEA on the evolution of the Greek Social Forum into SYRIZA, unanimously voted at its conference to give it the status of a sympathising organization. We do not believe on principle in the logic of organizational and institutional exclusions, especially when organizations are constantly seeking to maintain a formal relationship with the 4th International. But since the national sections have a different opinion, we must respect the constitutional and organizational principles of our international organization. From this point of view the initiative to organize an IZAR workshop at the international youth camp contrary to the opinion of their national section and the energy intensity with which the majority of the OKDE-Spartakos invested in this event does nothing to help IZAR’s relationship with the Spanish section. It’s nothing but a «factional theatre» that aims at politically capitalizing on maximizing the rupture. It can not be said more clearly!
That they are a clique without principles is also clearly revealed in the insistence of the majority of OKDE-Spartakos to make room for the Argentinian PTS, which won the majority in the NPA youth, at our international youth camp. The majority is acting as a battering ram for an international current that is competing with us.
The recent embarrassment regarding the signature of the Greek section – that is the majority tendency of the Greek section but not the Greek section as such – at the International Platform’s event in view of the World Congress of the 4th International and the transformation of the public event of ANTARSYA into a vehicle for the organizational struggle going on inside and outside the 4th International is nothing but the cherry on the cake in this sectarian decline.
We will see, however, that the football-like fanaticism of «hating each other» is a public display that conceals the ideological poverty and transience of the majority of the organization.
Despite the incessant criticism of the “opportunistic” policies of either the 4th International, SYRIZA or the majority of ANTARSYA, the current leadership of OKDE-Spartakos has manifested a gradual but steady shift towards a metastalinist, left mainstream.
– Firstly, the support for the pro-Russian partisans of Ukraine by the majority. The two-pole dilemma being either fascist / antifascist as used as an excuse for the one-sided intervention of the «Anti-fascist Solidarity Campaign in East Ukraine» in which the organization tagged on to the pro- Russian Greek patriotic left. If we thought that Russian oligarchs were fighting to crack down on fascism, we would have already drawn our last breath in East Ukraine organizing international anti-fascist brigades. The struggle against emerging fascism in Ukraine must be determined by a completely different internationalist and class-based principle away from and contrary to the imperialist plans of Moscow and its dummies in the «popular democracies» of East Ukraine.
– Secondly regarding its analysis of Brexit, OKDE-Spartakos, partly reiterating the argument of the lexit campaign in Britain, adopted an «internationalism» tailored to suit the way in which internationalism is perceived by the bulk of the Greek left: solidarity among those struggling for sovereignty even if it is British imperialism or if the political parties that led the brexit campaign were conservative and right-wing! By arguing that » supranational imperialism is being destabilized» implies that a return to national imperialism is preferable and that the class struggle will benefit from it. This naive fatalism instead of analyzing class relations of power is basically a view compatible with dominant left-wing patriotism.
With an anti-imperialist line of argument, the majority of the organization have indirectly and equivocally taken a stand in favor of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war in the sense that, while recognizing its dictatorial character, it nevertheless wants victory against the opposition which it regards as clearly Islamic.
The main article in the May 2017 issue of Spartakos magazine even criticizes Phillipe Poutou (without naming him) for stating «that for the first time in six years, the army of war criminal Assad was the target of an air strike» (by the West) in response to the use of chemical weapons οn Khan Sheikhoun. According to the article Poutou, along with the swarm of western neoliberal public opinion, underestimates the role of Western imperialism in Syria. In fact, Poutou was and is right: western imperialism has formed a framework of understanding with the Assad regime and the forces that support it. But the majority of the organization protests loudly about the bombing of Assad and keeps silent about the destruction of Homs by Russian bombs. Often the Syrian «jihadists» are refered to together with the «fascists of Ukraine» in texts written by the majority. The connection is obvious. Campism emerges from under an anti-imperialist mantle and is confirmed, over time, by various examples.
Slowly, the majority shifts to a perception of Trotskyism as a radical complement of neo-Stalinism. The anti-imperialist, anti-Nato and anti-EU rhetoric is developing at the expense of the classical internationalist analysis of OKDE-Spartakos on almost everything from the immigration issue to the Greek-Turkish dispute, making the organization look tragically like the rest of the Greek left. The difference is that in the dissemination of its beliefs in a positive manner the majority of OKDE-Spartakos is «discreet». Criticism of the opposition is «loud».
Sectarian building tactics
Since the late 1980s when OKDE-Spartakos the Greek section of the 4th International was formed in its latest organizational version, the building of the organization was along the lines of the «recomposition of the anti-capitalist left». First with the EAS venture in the late 1980s, then with the Initiative for the Unity of the Anticapitalist and Radical Left, later with the transitional scheme of ENANTIA and finally with the more «successful» scheme of ANTARSYA. Reality though did not confirm any of our prefabricated models. However, even in the most incomplete form of recomposition as in ANTARSYA, which today has been limited to electoral coalitions, the historical experience of the last 40 years has confirmed more than it has refuted our basic theoretical starting point. The anti-capitalist left can be constituted into a national political force through the convergence of forces that have followed different historical trajectories. The path of introspective development has been much less successful.
The evolution of A / Synecheia into KOE5 and OSE into SEK were the only examples of small groups of the 1980s that developed into relatively mass organizations alongside NAR which had been the result of the break-up of KNE6 in 1989, and we have seen the limits of this type of linear party building. Our experience requires that we review the way we perceive recomposition based on new conditions and problems. It does not advocate considering models of self-centered development in any situation.
For the first time in the 40-year history of OKDE-Spartakos the majority of the organization formulated a radically different plan at the last conference after several years of vagueness and empiricism: OKDE-Spartakos is building and being built into a revolutionary party for the proletarian struggle. Once again the historical experience of Bolshevism is transformed and can be compared to a frog who believes that by puffing itself up it can change itself into a bull.
The majority of the organization strategically excludes any talk about organizational convergence or any type of party building with any known organized force in the Greek left. With the majority of ANTARSYA it is not possible to achieve greater unity. There cannot be serious discussions with the groups resulting from the disintegration of SYRIZA’s left wing, and OKDE-Spartakos has nothing in common with the multiform radical, extra-parliamentary, anarcho-autonomous forces that have developed initiatives in the past.
They co-ordinate action according to the occasion and take part in the elections with ANTARSYA while building the party around themselves and friends of the organization in ANTARSYA. As the majority of the organization does not comprehend the change in the political situation in Greece and criticizes the 4th International for underestimating the revolutionary potential of the era, it formulates not only the most sectarian political plan but also the most defeatist.
It is the most limited concept for building the organization that has ever been put forward in the historical continuity of the mainstream of Greek Trotskyism, in which OKDE-Spartakos has played a part since the 1930s. For many decades, the Trotskyists were a small minority but they were either the only or one of the few left-wing organizations outside the outlawed KKE7 and the legitimate EDA8. The pursuit of building a massive revolutionary formation around themselves usually intervening in a clandestine manner within the rank and file of EDA had a certain realistic dimension despite the obstacles they encountered. And the initial indications of the success of such logic began to appear in the political crisis (Ioulianna9) of ’65 – a success that ended with the imposition of the military junta10 in ’67. The reality of OKDE-Spartakos building itself into a revolutionary party in today’s conditions over and above the many Greek left-wing organizations is simply an illusion.
TPT, the opposition tendency in OKDE-Spartakos, while putting forward a realistic description of the retreat of the class struggle in Greece following the referendum of 15, sees opportunities for wider regrouping in the gap left by the shift of SYRIZA provided anti-capitalists mobilize so that the Greek left is not dominated by a «drachma left»- organizations campaigning for a return to the drachma. We know that it is difficult to build new, promising groups in an atmosphere of defeat and frustration but this does not mean we should lose touch with reality and proclaim ourselves as the model for a revolutionary party.The debate on the organizational development of OKDE-Spartakos has shown how far today’s majority is moving from the historical legacy of the organization to which it belongs and under whose name it acts.
Today’s majority of OKDE-Spartakos has introduced and consistently served a model borrowed from the practices of other organizations of the Greek far left including a debate club and a (national) summer camp both of which are not to be underrated. In other circumstances they could play a promotional role. A relatively outward-looking, growing and heterogeneous organization such as OKDE-Spartacus was in the 2000s may have needed a tighter organizational process to accumulate and consolidate its experience but a closed political group adopting such a model increases its introversion at the expense of intervention and strengthens its sectarian self-sufficiency.
Previous generations of members were also educated in the international youth camps of the 4th International. It is true that the economic crisis in Greece and the success of the domestic camps held by other organizations forced the emphasis to be placed on a national camp. This shift, however, given the factionalism of OKDE-Spartakos’ majority within and outside the 4th International, has had major implications for the political education of new members. Missions to international camps are now politically controlled by the majority and participants prepared in advance for a “battle in the trenches” against enemies.
Participation has dwindled in every activity of the organization: club events, book presentations, cell meetings. Every year participation in the national summer camp falls. Blocks of the organization in demonstrations are smaller than ever. Developments on the political scene and a general mood of demobilization have played the main role, but the majority refuses to recognize the new circumstances. Maintaining, supposedly, its revolutionary readiness. The poor image of the organization cannot only be blamed on the sectarian turn it has taken, however it has been worsened by it.
– Over-investment in a non-functioning ANTARSYA which, according to the majority of the organization, can not develop into anything better and is not going to transform into a revolutionary party.
The efforts of the majority of the organization are consumed by an ANTARSYA whose rank and file base has been weakened. It has put all its energy into the organization of an opposition platform «for a revolutionary and anti-capitalist ANTARSYA» which clearly expresses just criticism regarding the contradictions within the majority of ANTARSYA but persists in a sectarian rejection of any collaboration in the name of autonomy that the internal daily proceedings and external interventions of ANTARSIA do not justify. However this platform has also been losing momentum along with ANTARSYA’s entire inner life.
– International factionalism: Having little interaction with the 4th International the majority has filled the gap with a series of contacts, meetings and events with new international partners.
-Interventions by OKDE-Spartakos have been seriously influenced by the student movement and are now simply reproductions of EAAK11 tactics.
Apart from contact with international factions everything else plays a secondary role in the organization’s interventions including work in the labor movement which is disorganized, non-systematic and basically individual interventions that do not involve all or most of the organization. All the leftwing organizations in Greece are being tested – to a greater or lesser extent – by the difficulties of this period but the majority of OKDE-Spartakos makes things more difficult as it reacts by denying reality and digging in with hardened sectarianism.
An undemocratic culture
Worst and more frustrating is the change in the context of democratic, comradely debate and the development of autonomously and critically- thinking militants.
In the plenary sessions, the majority unanimously attack anyone who has a different opinion. Young, new comrades educated by the majority of the organization appear in internal discussions saying that «the whole organization identifies with the majority» and «whoever disagrees can get out» to people who have been building OKDE-Spartakos and the 4th International in Greece for decades. The minority is accused of sabotage when the problem of participation in the organization concerns it as a whole and transcends tendencies and platforms.
The situation has become more acute since most of the original members of the majority block- the more experienced members who had been educated in a totally different frame of discussion, as well as the student cell, which in 2010 had suddenly changed its position on recomposition but retains the memory of an organization that develops and breathes the pure air of democratic debate – have now withdrawn.
In the current circumstances it seems impossible for OKDE-Spartakos to integrate or merge with other groups / tendencies or to recruit active members of movements as it did in the period around 2000. Internal life has deteriorated and political debate tends to be deviating. The majority is fortifying itself in a climate of intolerance and hostility towards the unbending pursuit of truth that is the foundation of communist criticism.
The Fourth International
The situation for OKDE-Spartakos is crucial and borderline. As a tendency we are taking the battle we gave at the last conference to its next logical stage in a public report of the changes attempted by the majority of OKDE-Spartakos in a break with the programmatic principles of the Fourth International and the political culture of OKDE-Spartakos.
We are grouping on the common ground of the programmatic processes and the strategic horizon of the Fourth International to build a revolutionary Marxist organization capable of becoming a tool in the hands of pioneering militants for their intervention in the workers’ and social movements. We are not a debate club nor a center that gives lessons from a position of authority but an organization that communicates with the conscience and concerns of activists. An organization capable of distilling a vital part of the historical experience of the international and the Greek Labor Movement from the special position of the revolutionary Marxist movement and the Fourth International without sectarianism and self-proclamations – ready to contribute to the development of strategy and prospects without ever ceasing to fight and act in the real movement alongside other workers’ organizations.
We are fighting for:
- social liberation as the work of the working class itself
- the struggle for workers’ democracy against bureaucracy and substitution
- a modern program of transition towards socialism
- class independence, the independence of social movements and the unity of workers in their daily struggles
- female liberation
- LGBTQ liberation
- the end of ecological destruction by capitalism
- an open critical Marxism
- the 4th International
1ESF: European social forum.
2NAR: An organization of the anticapitalist left that comes from a split with the KKE youth in the early 90s. It is the largest organization in Antarsya. [Translator’s note]
3SEK: This is the Greek section of the international IST tendency. [Translator’s note]
4DEA: Split from SEK in the late ’90s and participated in Syriza and then in Popular Unity. It has a fraternal relationship with ISO in America as well a rapport with FI. [Translator’s note]
5KOE: An organization of Maoist origin (originally named A / Synecheia), which integrated with Syriza before going their own way. [Translator’s note]
6KNE: Youth Organization of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). [Translator’s note]
7KKE: Communist Party of Greece. The KKE was formed in the early 1920s through the transformation of the young Greek Socialist Party (SEKE) headed by Pantelis Pouliopoulos who is also the founding figure of the Trotskyist movement in Greece. Despite its early stalinization, the KKE managed to lead the fight against the Nazis during the war, and to organize the «civil war» of the late 1940s. Declared illegal after the defeat it does not becomes legal until after the Colonels’ dictatorship is overturned in 1974. However there had been a major split in 1968 hence the «Eurocommunist» current that later founded Synaspismos, which led to Syriza in the 2000s. [Translator’s note]
8EDA: The KKE, being illegal, had formed EDA in the 1950s as a broad legitimate party. [Translator’s note]
9«Iouliana» (= «Days of July»): Beginning with the demand for «democracy» this is the July 1965 revolt against the right wing state and the king who had done everything to overturn the «liberal» government in office at that time. [Translator’s note]
10«Junta of the colonels»: Name given to the military dictatorship of April 21st 1967 which lasted until the summer of 1974. [Translator’s note]
11EAAK: Tendency in student unions. In fact there are several groups of revolutionary or anti-capitalist students in each faculty, without national centralism, but with a unitary and radical spirit and a certain degree of coordination (there have been similar processes in workers’ unions with «Syspeiroseis» = «groupings»). Therefore this acronym can be used either in the singular or plural. The EAAKs appeared in the 1980s and served as the social base for the anti-capitalist Antarsya regrouping much later. [Translator’s note]