The Marxist economist Michael Roberts has an interesting and important piece on the economic plans of the present leadership in Greece and also the criticisms of the main left opposition there. The lessons he draws should be followed by the struggle against oppression and poverty the world over.
Roberts repeatedly refers to Greek capitalism’s lack of competitiveness, and capitalism is of course based on competition. But in any competition, there are necessarily winners and also necessarily losers. The capitalist economy of some country will inevitably be less competitive than others. In the EU Greece, for whatever reasons, is one of those. The entire drive of the EU commanders is to make Greek capitalism more competitive through driving down living standards, which means increasing the surplus value* extracted from the working class. If they succeed, then some other country would be less competitive, and then they would be forced to install similar measures.
The Greek Minister of Finance, Varoufakis, repeatedly claims he’s a Marxist, but that “Marxism” won’t work in the short term. That brings to mind the old joke that nuclear fusion is the energy source of the future… and always will be. It also brings to mind Trotsky’s comment on workers’ leaders who reserve their socialism for holiday speechifying. It’s got no relevance for today. Or, to put it another way, they have no sense of the transitional method, meaning seeing what immediate steps can be taken that lead to the longer term solutions.
This relates to maybe the most important point: The Tsipras/Varoufakis leadership of the ruling party in Greece, Syriza, seems not to base itself on a mobilization of the working class. That appeared to be so over a year ago on a completely different issue: the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn, who at that time were assaulting the immigrant community. The main Syriza leadership simply saw electing a left government as the solution. Granted, that was part of it, but that didn’t answer the immediate crisis for immigrants in Greece. For that, a mobilization at the base to stop Golden Dawn in the streets was needed. The Tsipras leadership didn’t see that. Whatever the issue, whether it be street thugs or nationalization of the banks, it cannot be resolved from above. But neither the present leadership nor the main left opposition seems to be committed to mobilizing the base.