Critique Notes 65
The production of Critique has been held back owing to illness on the editorial board. Hopefully the problems will resolve themselves over time. Readers may note that there is a free virtual issue on the Critique location at Informa until December 31st 2013. It contains 12 articles taken to express the originality and drive of the journal over the period since it first came out in 1973. The Critique journal site itself at www.critiquejournal.net has 3 more podcasts on the current crisis. Finally, the annual Critique conference will be held at the London School of Economics on 11–12th April 2014.
Part 1: The Nature of Current Wars
There is at this time much discussion of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. Only a misanthrope would not condemn the use of chemical weapons or for that matter the use of thermo-nuclear weapons, bacteriological weapons etc., all of which are held by the current imperial powers plus Russia. It is not possible for any ordinary observer to make much sense of the debate, as the two sides have a vested interest in either proving or disproving the use of chemical weapons. However, it is clearly possible that the existing Syrian regime has used chemical/gas weapons as alleged, given the repressive nature of that regime. Socialists would condemn that regime with or without chemical weapons.
It is, however, also possible to see the reason for the use of the argument by the USA, UK, France etc. and that has little to do with human rights, given their track record on the question. They have only intervened when they have something to gain, as in the case of Libya and Iraq, and they have not intervened in much worse instances as in Ruanda, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and indeed when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iranians.
What, therefore, is the interest of the USA, as the Imperial power, in the Middle East, and particularly in Libya and Syria. There are four aspects involved. First is the issue of oil. Secondly, there is the geopolitical situation in relation to Iran, in particular, though there are concerns over the need to protect Lebanon and Israel. Thirdly, there is the right to exercise imperial power against those who would challenge it, at least in their own countries. This applies to Russia and China, but it also applies to Arab nationalist regimes which initially showed a degree of independence, while building up their own national elite or bourgeoisie. The United States government is critical of any regime which has substantial nationalised property.
In the first place, the role of oil and hence the continued position of the various Middle Eastern countries as suppliers of oil and as home to the massive investments of oil companies, whose ownership and control is vested in the UK, and USA, is obvious but the nature of the threat has to be spelled out. The major oil companies today hold control over the oil less through direct ownership than through their monopoly over international shipping and distribution facilities. That, and their global control over technology and research and development of that technology, gives them dominance in establishing contracts for the extraction of the oil itself, where they can extract the oil and ship it to their customers. It is no coincidence that productivity in terms of quantities of oil extracted per unit of investment is usually lower in those countries where they have nationalised their oil wealth. Given their strength, therefore, why would the USA need to invade Syria to preserve its access to Middle East oil? Clearly it does not need to do so to supply the USA itself given its newly discovered indigenous supply, nor is one of its prime sources, Venezuela, in any position to withhold supplies. However, in capitalism, it is surplus value, or profit, which is crucial and hence its uninterrupted flow and continuing expansion which is determining for ruling class decision making and action. In this respect, stability is the crucial goal and stability requires both the preservation and also the continued extension of private property, with the accompanying profits, and so with it, the firm application of the rule of law.
From the time that the Bolshevik Party overthrew the Tsarist regime and proclaimed that its aim was to help the cause of world socialism, the Imperial Powers, at that time, Great Britain and later the United States, saw it as their duty to wipe out any such attempts at replacing capitalism. They have never given the fundamental reason for their animosity, as the preservation of capitalism. Usually they talk of the need to protect the local population. The fact is that the British and American Empires in their imperial expansion killed thousands, and caused the death of millions through wars and famines. What is more, the fact that they tortured any number in their need to build and maintain their empires is played down, because it would make clear that the real reasons for invasion are the preservation or extension of private property and imperial control. It is, therefore, no coincidence that wars are conducted at the present time under the banner of the rule of law to which has been assimilated protection of human rights.
In the second place, the USA regards Iran as a threat to global security in so far as it is possibly involved in the construction of a thermo-nuclear device. This is a power play worthy of a cartoon strip. It is clear to any regime which attempts to be independent of the USA that the possession of nuclear weapons gives it a degree of security, it could not otherwise possess. Hence the curious attempt of Gadhafi to have an atomic bomb. It does not look like a coincidence that he was dealt with once he disposed of the idea. On the other hand, North Korea which is clearly more oppressive than the Gadhafi state continues to survive, with its nuclear bombs. The Iranian regime has reached the obvious conclusion. The fact that such regimes need an up to date means of delivery and that they cannot be deployed close to friendly regimes or populations means that their possession is more of a threat than a possible reality. Nonetheless, it does mean that they have more bargaining power than otherwise might be the case. It is, therefore, not surprising that the global superpower wants to relieve them of this means of defence. To the extent that the Syrian regime could change its allegiance, the United States would have an easier task. It is not surprising that Iran and the West have reached a compromise, (still to be fully spelled out at the time of writing). After all, the Iranian regime is in favour of private property and capital dominates the economy. The Iranian ruling class is looking for a guarantee that they will be left alone to rule, while the USA wants some promise that there will be no conflict with it in its role as the global imperial policeman.
In the third place, there is effectively a proxy war between the USA and Russia/ China being fought out over Syria. The demonstrations in Russia have been led by the right and supported by the United States. Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister and prominent oppositionist is clear about his support for market fundamentalism. Navalny, the current leader, is no different in this respect. Their support comes particularly from business interests and the sections of the ‘middle classes’ particularly associated with finance. The Russian regime is far from socialism but Putin had to shift the locus of the regime towards greater state intervention in order to avoid further disintegration, and to allow an indigenous ‘middle class’ and elite to survive. The negative attitude that the US adopted to the Russian regime, with strong verbal support for the ‘official’ opposition, would make any leadership suspicious of US intentions after witnessing the overthrow of other rulers. The same argument applies to China. In effect, they are saying that enough is enough, the status quo is preferable.
It is clear that Russian support for the Assad regime is not just because Russia had the use of a port on the Mediterranean. They are similar in that the ruling class in each case is comparatively independent of the USA. They are authoritarian, with a substantial economic role for the state, and hence relatively weak.
The result of this complex causation is that the USA needs to push forward towards the control of Syria in order to ensure its own survival as the imperial power. Capitalism is in decline and the form of that decline is necessarily shown in the decline of its dominant power. The nature of that control may be less direct than at first thought. Hence the deal with Iran necessarily implies some kind of compromise over Syria.
Part 2: The Continuing Depression
The crisis continues, amid congratulations on the so-called recession coming to an end in Western Europe. The ‘emerging markets’ are in trouble, India, China, Brazil, Indonesia etc. have lower or low growth, so bringing them closer to the situation of the developed countries. The key countries of China, Germany and the USA have positive growth but the future looks problematic. The rest are in various kinds of trouble. Greece has to be bailed out again, while it is not clear that there is any solution other than a debt- forgiveness programme. Portugal, Italy and Spain remain mired in de facto austerity programmes which have no real terminus, with the need for another bail-out programme for Portugal. The East European countries are now largely dependent on Germany.
The ruling class in Germany has been the most important force maintaining the extremist ‘austerity’ programme for the Eurozone. At the same time, an important article in the Financial Times summarizes the limits of the German economic success. Wages have been held down by the reforms carried out by Gerhard Schroder when he was Social Democrat Chancellor, but are now edging up.1 In any case, one might add, the relative passivity of the German working class has been dependent on the presence of a section of the workforce who had lost their jobs with the unity of East and West Germany. At some point, fairly shortly, this situation will become history. The article points to the way in which necessary state investment has been cut so drastically that sections of the infra-structure will have to be replaced or repaired very quickly2. The example cited of the main train artery from Berlin to the West being closed in mid-year, 2013, to the end of the year because of the effects of flooding, as, makes Germany look worse than some of the countries that it is bailing out. The crucial point, however, is that German productivity per man-hour is below the level of 20073. Such stagnation we are told is the worst since the end of the Second World War. The result is one of rising costs for German industry. It is not surprising that they have been outsourcing assembly plants to Eastern Europe, but even the low costs in that part of the world will not be enough to offset the changes in Germany itself. Indeed, under the desperate conditions of Eastern Europe after the end of Stalinism it is not surprising that workers could be absorbed at low wages in such plants, but history shows that such occasions are limited in both place and time. In this instance, they are threatened by a fall off in demand for German custom made machine tools, household durable goods, cars etc., something which is inevitable, given its dependence on Chinese demand. Given that only a revival of industry can reestablish the position of the British, French and Italian economies, the situation for the German ruling class can only worsen, even if a full revival of those countries industrial economy is unlikely. In fact, the situation in Germany is archetypal for the world economy. It is not surprising that the Wolfgang Munchau sees a problematic future for the Eurozone: “I do not foresee a long period of negative inflation, but I see a long period of below-target inflation, together with very low economic growth”.4
Why is the situation so desperate? After much nonsense written on the downturn, about bubbles, bad bankers, the Chinese etc., it is now becoming an orthodoxy that the problem is one of the hoarding of investment money. The Keynesians would put it another way-that there is a huge savings glut, so that money is not going into investment. This point has been made many times in these columns.5 The question lies in the reason for the continued growth of profits and their continued saving rather than investment. The growth of profits is not difficult to understand at the present time. With the large rise in unemployment and so the reserve army of labour, wages are depressed and workers are being dismissed. At the same time, banks have been propped up and major corporations in trouble like the automobile companies have been saved one way or another, whether through merger, entry into administration, subsidies etc. Welfare has continued to be paid even if it has been cut back. The result is that profits are rising for larger companies. Demand is down but not catastrophically so. Clearly there is a limit to such rises since workers’ wages cannot be depressed beyond a few years, while any so many workers can be dismissed before the firm malfunctions.
In summary form the problem is that profits have remained high but they are not being re-invested. Instead they are moving into finance resulting in an oversupply of money for both the debt markets and the stock exchanges. One account of this process quotes Bain and Co, the consultancy that from now to 2020 there will be a superabundance of capital. There will be 900 trillion of financial assets as against 90 trillion of GDP in the world, a ratio of ten to one. “Capital superabundance will increase the frequency, intensity, size and longevity of asset bubbles” The article points out that this is all reminiscent of the period before the crash.6 He argues that investment used to track investment until twenty years ago.
However, the fundamental question remains why there is such a block on investment. One author puts the issue as a decline in workers’ pay in relation to the return to capital, with a resulting decline in labour’s share of output. Profitability is at a record high, at 12 per cent of GDP, while investment is at 4 per cent.7 Although the underlying reason is obvious, except to bourgeois economists, and was discussed in socialist circles before the first world war and used by Lenin, it remains absent from contemporary theory. I will give the argument in a few sentences and then elaborate the theory as developed for contemporary circumstances.
The issue is a complicated interaction of monopoly contraction of supply, the shorttermist embrace of finance capital, demanding quick maximum returns and the need for guarantees or subsidies from the state, which are now more limited. To this has to be added the increasing burden of lengthening lead times for the completion of projects, construction, and the development of research product-results. The so-called risk today is far greater than in earlier times. Hence the state is crucial. All this, however, is only a method of ensuring that there is as little oversupply, and so decline in profitability as possible. Hence ultimately a rational economy could plan a vast expansion by arranging to increase investment in producer goods and services and infrastructure plus an equally vast increase in wages over time, but capitalism is based on profit not rational planning for need. The ultimate block lies in the need for profitability, the higher the better as against a rising standard of living provided through labour income.
It should be obvious that the present crisis is only an extension of the problems of the economy before the crash of 2007-8. As the quote above predicts, future bubbles and crashes are inevitable. Or else one might say the global economy will remain depressed for most people for whom the bubbles are what they see on TV, and feel as their standard of living changes marginally.
In order to discuss the nature of the present crisis, I will go step by step through its different elements. The nature of crises has changed since Marx wrote about the subject, but his take on it remains valid. As before I will use his statement that “The world trade crises must be regarded as the real concentration and forcible adjustment of all the contradictions of bourgeois economy”,8 “as the basis of the analysis.
While the cycle clearly existed in some form during the years down to 2000, the present downturn is clearly different in its length, depth and apparent unpredictability. It is closer to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Long depression of the end of the 19th century than the usual cyclical downturn. In other words, it cannot be explained simply by arguing that the capitalist class expanded production and services to a point where they exceeded demand. While there is an underlying truth there it is not a sufficient explanation. That has to be unpacked. I will take the example of automobiles.
Over the last 30 years there has been a considerable expansion of automobile production and its associated services. It is clear that capacity far exceeded demand, and that actual production was surplus to requirements. Demand for luxury cars has kept up with capacity, but production for the masses has gone from strength to strength. This has resulted in a series of producers entering troubled times. General Motors reconstruction has been the most spectacular. Although a series of producers have either merged, disappeared, gone bankrupt or restricted planned production, capacity remains beyond demand. Automobile production has been central to modern capitalist industry and what is true of it, is also true not just of its suppliers but of the parallel consumer durable manufacturers, who are often also automobile suppliers also. Partly as a result, the same phenomenon has overtaken the production of machine tools. In both cases, the elimination of the UK producers has both shown the nature of the crisis and alleviated it. While one is talking of overaccumulation or overproduction, it is controlled. It is this control that is the crucial element.
The solutions adopted to deal with the problem provided clues to the nature of the present form of the crisis. In the first instance, capital does not have the pristine form which pertained at the time of Marx. He described a market in which any number of firms competed and the firm that innovated best by reducing costs or a superior product would get higher profits. Prices could be reduced driving out the less innovative firms. That is not the present situation. Modern capitalism does its best to establish a monopoly, whether by driving out most other firms by the lower costs and prices of the successful firm or so branding its own product that other firms cannot compete effectively. In other words, modern capitalism is monopolistic, or oligopolistic as bourgeois economists sometimes call it. It is commonplace today to hear politicians talking of the importance of SMEs i.e. small and medium-sized firms on the grounds that they have a large number of workers, and so deny the importance of monopoly and large firms. Bourgeois economics has dropped the discussion of monopoly, fashionable before the seventies. However, many of the suppliers to the larger firms are those same small firms, sometimes owned by the larger firms, as in Japan, for instance. The argument, thus far, had been made by Marxist economists at the beginning of the 20th century. Hilferding in particular discussed the issue in his Finance Capital, and Lenin adopted his view adapting it to his theory of imperialism. Most Marxists know of the theory through Sweezy and Baran’s book, Monopoly Capital.9
Paul Sweezy developed the argument beyond Lenin and Hilferding by providing detail on the way in which capital restricts production to maximize profits. In a sense, it is the aim of modern capital to produce a brand, whether product or service, which has no direct competitor. Regulation of competition by the state cannot do the job it is supposed to do. At most it can ensure that there are a number of firms in the sector but such competitors do not need to meet to collude. Furthermore as Paul Nolan has pointed out, we are now dealing with international monopolistic competition, which is beyond national controls.10 This is goes beyond the multinationals in that it is stating there is a division of the world among a very few firms. In some instances there may be only one firm supplying one important product. This obviously has been the tendency for a century or more but it is largely realised today.
The further development is the way in which finance capital drives firms in which it has invested towards maximum profit in the shortest time. This is not the same thing as commercial banks demanding their money back, although that can play a role. Rather it is the behaviour of private equity, hedge funds and investment and shadow banks in the way in which they pressurize the firms that they control or in which they play a role to maximize production in the shortest possible time.
Whereas firms would restrict production to get the best profits, this additional pressure forces the firms to reduce expenditure on medium to long term investment, cut corners and raise profits, whatever the long term damage.
This raises a more important theoretical issue on the role of government or state investment and its importance, also discussed in the Financial Times, this time by Martin Wolf. He summarized the work of Mariana Mazzucato: The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths11 as showing the critical importance of governments or what we may call public administrative entities. This is, of course, an issue well-canvassed by various political parties, academics and various schools of economists. At the present time, it is very much part of the ongoing debate or more correctly ‘struggle’ between capital and labour, even if it is often hidden behind other issues and other types of people.
Today most politicians profess to accept the mixed economy, but there is a great difference between the policy of the present British Government or the right wing of the Republican Party and the policy of the British Conservative governments down to 1964. Today, Conservatives want to reduce the state to its minimum form, with the privatisation of practically everything possible and impossible, leaving only a very limited economic administration. In practice this has been very difficult to achieve and hence Conservative pragmatists accept a limit to denationalisation and hence a lesser version of a mixed economy.
However, the exigencies of the mixed economy are such that Capital itself demands the intervention of central administration in its projects. As implied above, both the long term nature of many business projects and the huge capital requirements of the needs of the infrastructure and other social entities make the participation of governments essential for successful outcomes. The third aspect which necessitates government intervention is the need for outcomes which respect human equality.
Capital is not capital without profit and an egalitarian policy will lower or even destroy profit. As an example we may take the spread of broadband over a country. If left only to the few companies involved, (in the UK there are effectively 4 companies) there would be no broadband, or at best a limited or inferior form of broadband, for the countryside and small towns and villages. That already is the case in the UK and government has taken steps to improve it. However, the absence of government has meant that the fullest forms of broadband exist first and foremost in the South-East of the country. The only way to alter this situation is to provide substantial subsidies for the companies involved. That indeed was the case with the utilities, which are now privatised-electricity, the mail, telephone, (gas) and water. The same point obviously applies to education and health etc. Modern capitalist governments are therefore torn between demands for spending ever increasing sums on human needs through private enterprise and more efficiently through public administration.
The term infrastructure seems to imply a necessary underpinning of human society, which is embedded in any social and economic structure. It is therefore apparently not based on class or the needs of capital itself. The term is required to turn investment in infrastructure into a neutral requirement, which is beyond capital and labour. Capital needs the neutrality because it does not have the resources to spend huge sums with the real possibility of large losses. Expenditure on a high speed railroad over several hundred or several thousand miles requires large sums of money to be spent over many years, and possibly even decades. The problem is that modern machinery and raw materials are considerably more complex and more internationally sourced than earlier times. The result is that the capital requirements have grown both absolutely, and relatively to wages. (This does raise a separate question of the rising organic composition of capital.) The result is that, however much modern Conservatives might huff and puff they have to accept the reality that Capital needs public administration to provide both the capital and the ‘planning’ or rather coordinating apparatus for the projects involved.
As various authors have pointed out12 research and development have become integral forms of modern production of goods and services. Pharmacological firms are today an important part of modern economies and their products take many years to bring to market. Even after that period they may prove to be failures or partial failures. They are strictly regulated by governments in order to avoid the worst results of unsupervised private enterprise. Although the firms are private, much of the research is done by Universities, Charities, and public research institutions. In effect, social funds subsidize the private enterprise firms involved in the production of medical drugs. In this respect, the military sector has played an important role in order to ensure that they remain an effective fighting force. This same point, of the effective subsidy provided by public institutions for private enterprise, is true throughout the economy, whether engineering, chemistry or whatever.
To sum up this part of the argument, the drive to limit the public sector is counterproductive for capital itself. Engels’“invading socialist society” cannot be wished away. Yet, that is the contemporary drive, under finance capital. The result is not more successful private enterprise but less opportunity and more limited, if any, innovation.
Although this point is controversial for some right-wing economists and for many modern Conservatives, it is less so for capital itself, which is consistently demanding both subsidies and guarantees from governments. The point, however, is that modern governments have taken the private enterprise route and so limited investment possibilities.
Overall result: blockage of Investment
One of the results of these limits on investment is that money flows to commercial property. Martin Wolf made this a particular point when he said: “”Manufacturing received 1.4% of the total” (of UK bank lending). He concludes that the latter is a machine for leveraging up property assets.13
Given the risky nature of investing in manufacturing and the lack of push to invest, given the limited nature of competition, but the fear of losing money, it is inevitable that money will go into unproductive areas of the economy. In this respect, advertising/branding is crucial. The Sweezy thesis was precisely that the modern economies have large real surpluses which are wasted in finance and advertising. The waste of labour time in the unproductive sector is clear and is a result of the factors analysed-monopoly/the short-termism etc. of finance capital/riskiness of investment over longer time periods.
The overall effect is that substantial sectors of capital cannot move beyond shifting money around rather than using productive labour to add value. Its role in history, in raising productivity, would be quickly eclipsed by an egalitarian planned society, controlled from below. In the meantime, however, we are stuck with a dysfunctional capitalism.
Critique Notes Part 2
The Case of the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, and its attack on Ralph Miliband
Marxism and Evil. The Daily Mail carried articles on Ralph Miliband in October. It argued that he14 hated the UK and that he was a Marxist. The items were then connected. To drive their point home the Daily Mail carried letters and articles arguing that Marxism led to the purges and hence was necessarily evil.
More than one person raised the question of anti-Semitism in relation to the article. A detailed case was made in the New York Times.15 Zac Goldsmith, Conservative member of parliament pointed out that the Daily Mail supported Hitler in the thirties, while Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph went further o the question of anti-Semitism.16 “John Mann, a Labour member of Parliament and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, clarified the issue in a tweet. He called the attack on Ralph Miliband a “classical age-old anti- Semitic smear about disloyal Jews”.17
It should be noted that Ralph Miliband took part in a discussion with Ernest Mandel and myself at the founding conference of Critique as a journal in May 1973. A decade or so later he refused to take part in another conference. As Critique is an anti-Stalinist journal the fact that Ralph Miliband took part in our conference may be regarded as ipso facto proof that he was critical of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, one has to presume that he did not go quite as far in his critique of the USSR as the editors of Critique itself.
In the eighties I met him at a committee meeting and found that we had our disagreements. I am not sure that I would call him a Marxist, indeed. So the Daily Mail’s criticism may be regarded as misplaced even in its own terms. However, the reality is that the attack was not in essence personal, although that was its form. It was part of a more general attempt to impose a McCarthy-like orthodoxy on the UK, by demonizing Marxism and implicitly the idea of socialism itself, not to speak of Republicanism, atheism etc.
It does not look as if the articles were anti-Semitic in intention, not least because the author of the original article was himself Jewish. Nonetheless, the remarks made fell easily into a classical anti-Semitic mode as one observer quoted above noted. Clearly the current conservative mood of demonizing immigrants would have made such a major lapse much easier. The fact that important father figures of socialism were Jewish would have added fuel to the fire. It may be true that such writers have to go out of their way to ensure that their campaigns are not anti-Semitic in modern conditions. It is also true that anti-Semitism is rising as it always does in times of crisis. One cannot, however, exclude the possibility that anti-Semitism is playing a role somewhere in the background, among a section of the ruling class and it links up closely with their attack on immigrants but more on the left.
The issue of the Daily Mail’s campaign against Ralph Miliband and his son, Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party is another matter. It was clearly an excuse to attack Ed Miliband and Marxism and Marxists in general. It is hardly news that the right wants to ensure that Marxism is associated with mass killings, famines, the atomisation of the population and the inefficiency of the Stalinist economy, but it does bring home the message that there remains much work to show the difference between Marxism and Stalinism and drive that home. This has always been part of the essential purpose of Critique of course.
The worse is not the better and the present situation is not in itself conducive to the left moving into a position where it stands as the clear alternative to capitalism. It is, however, part of a process whereby the old ideology loses support, becomes increasingly despised and the working class and young people in general look again at the proud history of those who have fought for a genuine socialist society. The present situation is above all one of overall uncertainty. Just as people in the former USSR moved into what seemed like a void, so too today people are worrying more and more about the future for themselves and their children. The right is playing to that scenario, constantly tightening the screws and attempting to discredit any alternative to their own one of a hard working hard future.
These are the conditions which lead to attempts to smear the most real and powerful alternative – socialism, and demonise those who are the most consistent socialists-Marxists. On this occasion, it looks as if the Daily Mail and its backers have lost the battle and had to retreat. If anything they have scored an own goal. What is happening in Greece, however, constitutes an awful warning of what is possible.
Critique Notes Part 3: The Situation in Greece
The Continuing Economic and Political Repression
The trial of Savas Matsas.
We print in this issue an article by Savas Matsas on the situation in Greece. Readers may note that he stood trial in September 3rd –4th 2013 in Athens. The trial ended with the Judge quashing the prosecution, supported by the prosecutor.
The British newspaper, The Guardian,18 carried an article on his trial which began as below:
“I’m the embodiment of every fascist’s fantasy. I’m a Jew, a communist –and a heretical communist, a Trotskyist, at that. I don’t fit anywhere. The only thing I happen not to be is homosexual.”
My old friend Savvas Michael-Matsas –activist, internationally respected writer on philosophy and literature, general secretary of the Greek Revolutionary Workers’ party (EEK), utopian thinker, fiery speaker and wild white-haired survivor of 17 courses of chemotherapy (“No compromise with death”) –is on trial in Athens on Tuesday, 3 September, for “libellous defamation,”“incitement to violence and civil discord”, and “disturbing the public peace”.”
Below are three documents, contemporaneous commentaries, two on the trial and the continuing violence in Athens and the third on the government measures taken against Golden Dawn. Since that time there has been continuing repression and a deepening of an already profound political economic crisis. The reporting of the trial outside Greece was poor, the Guardian being the only substantial establishment newspaper to carry a detailed critical report. After the trial ended there was limited reportage. It should be noted that the Financial Times, a highly respected liberal newspaper, carried an article protesting at the arrests of members of Golden Dawn, in the name of freedom of speech, by a right wing American commentator, Christopher Caudwell. The violence of Golden Dawn and its targeting of the left, in association with the police, mentioned below are not reported in liberal newspapers. The allegation that they are financed by some Greek ship-owners is also not generally known.
THE TRIAL OF SEPTEMBER 3–4 AGAINST THE EEK: A FIRST VICTORY AGAINST THE NAZIS OF THE “GOLDEN DAWN”AND THE BOURGEOIS STATE AND GOVERNMENT
September 3, 2013 could have been a day of darkness for the democratic rights of the Greek people and for the EEK, the Greek Section of the CRFI. It turned into a triumph against the class enemy, and a beacon of revolutionary struggle.
The trial of Savas Michael-Matsas, the General Secretary of the EEK, and of Konstantinos Moutzouris, former Dean of the National Technical University of Athens, after a lawsuit by the Nazi ‘Golden Dawn”promoted by the judicial arm of the bourgeois State, had as a direct aim to penalize anti-fascist activity and to produce a legal precedent against the revolutionary vanguard, against the Left and the workers movement as whole, against the freedoms of the people. The entire operation to condemn the “accused”for “defamation”of the alleged Nazis, for “instigation of violence”, and for “disruption of the social peace”turned into a boomerang against the alleged Nazis and their protectors in the “deep” State and in the Samaras government, the instrument of the hated troika of the EU/ECB/IMF.
After a gigantic mobilization of solidarity internationally and in Greece, and a powerful fight in court by the accused and by their defenders during the two days of juridical procedures in court the fake “charges” were destroyed, the conspiracy came to light and the final unanimous verdict was to declare “not guilty” both accused.
It was the first defeat of the “Golden Dawn” in courts from the time of its ascent as this alleged openly Nazi Party enjoyed a revolting legal immunity for its criminal activities so far.
The victory was the result of a powerful mobilization of solidarity by thousands of workers, activists, intellectuals, youth, “well known” personalities and “unknown” simple people both worldwide and in Greece. More than three thousand and half signed the petition; thousands of personal messages of support came from dozens of countries, from all continents, as well as from all corners of Greece itself. Leading philosophers, scientists, economists and theoreticians like Michael Lowy, Bertell Ollman, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Etienne Balibar, Robert Brenner, Milton Fisk, Nancy Holmstrom, Eleni Varikas etc wrote powerful public statements and organized activities of support. Articles were published in newspapers of wide circulation internationally like in the Guardian in Britain, in Liberation, Le Monde, Charlie Hebdo in France, Junge Welt in Germany, Libre Belgique in Belgium, Izvestia, Komsomolskaya Pravda et al. in Russia, Haaretz in Israel etc.
Protests in front of the Greek embassies and consulates were successfully organized in Buenos Aires( by the Partido Obrero and the Left Front) in Rome and nine other cities of Italy( by the PCL and other left wing organizations), in London ( by the Ad Hoc Committee for Savas Michael-Matsas following a call by the Socialist Fight group), in Moscow, and Leningrad in Russia (by the Russian Party of Communists, the Association of Marxist Organizations, the Social Movement Alternativyi, and others), in Odessa in Ukraine( by the ‘Against the Current” organization), in Chicago in the United States by local activists etc. The International Anti-War Assembly in Hiroshima, Japan sent a message of solidarity voted in its meeting the day of commemoration of the nuclear holocaust, August the 6th.
The trial, although the pro-government Greek mass media were absent, was followed by journalists of all the newspapers and web journals of the Greek Left (including Rizospastis, the daily of the Stalinist Communist Party of Greece), a journalist of the Russian Press, and covered live by the National Radio-Television of Belgium (RTFB) and by the French TV5. The arrival of the “accused” General Secretary of the EEK was received by more than a thousand workers, and youth holding banners and red flags, shouting anti-fascist slogans, and singing the “International”. The supporters of the “Golden Dawn” did not show up, apart from those in the ranks of the huge police force mobilized on this occasion.
The juridical procedure was a real battle. Despite the obvious hostility of the Procurer, the accusations were falling part. From the side of the fascist plaintiffs only two appeared; one who said that he signed the lawsuit “ because they told him to do so”, and a second, the official lawyer and legal adviser of the “Golden Dawn” who said that he was ‘afraid for his life because of the leaflet of the EEK’!!
Dozens of witnesses of defense spoke courageously and powerfully: many deputies and leading members of Syriza, leaders of the Antarsya, a Russian representative of the Left in his country, leaders of the National Federation of Public Workers (ADEDY), of the Federation of professors of the secondary education (OLME), of the Federation of Hospital Doctors (OENGE), Rectors, Deans, and many University professors, leaders of the Local Government Workers, of many other unions, Councilors in the Local Governments, leading members of the EEK itself.
The accused became accusers against Nazism, and anti-Semitism, against the capitalist government and State, against the troika, the ruling classes and world capitalism that want to crush the masses by the ruins of their own bankruptcy and by barbarism. When the near one hour speech (apology) by the General Secretary of the EEK ended, the comrades and supporters who packed the court room started a thunderous protracted applause and the Judge, very upset, adjourned the case, temporarily.
Afterwards, even the Prosecutor asked the Judge to rule “not guilty” for both accused, and so the final ruling declared the innocence both of Savas Michael and of Konstantinos Moutzouris. The announcement of the ruling was received again with thunderous applause, with antifascist slogans (“The people does not forget, it will hang all the fascists!”, “Death to fascism-Freedom to the People!”, “Bosses and fascists will be smashed-Long live the world proletariat!”), and the singing of the International.
The first reactions in the aftermath of the trial were significant. The people received and hailed the verdict as its own victory. Some characteristic examples were: The journalists and workers in the State Radio-Television (ERT) occupied and self-managed by them from last June after its arbitrary closing by the government firing 2700 workers, declared publicly on a national scale: “When we learned that Savas was acquitted by the Court, we started shouting, embracing each other, crying, and singing!”; or, in the general assemblies all over the country of the Federation of Education OLME, where they decided by 96 per cent of its tens of thousands of members to start next week an indefinite General Strike against the demolition of education by the government and the troika, all the speeches were beginning by hailing the result of this historic trial. The same happened in the general assembly of the Union of Bus Workers; of the local government workers et al. Workers now identify their own struggles with our political battle against the Nazis and the capitalist State behind them.
From the side of the class enemy, fascists and the State look for revenge. At the end of the tens of thousands strong demonstration in Thessalonica on September 7, although no violent incidents occurred, the riot police arrested 150 demonstrators, including some cadres of the local organization of the EEK. When the police arrested our comrades as well as workers from the occupied self-managed factory of VIOME, the policemen insulted them in the most vulgar way, accusing the comrades to be “supporters of the party of the dirty Jew” (i.e. Savas). Something even more sinister: the young son of a well-known comrade and trade unionist of the EEK was stabbed in the back by a gang of fascists in Pyrgos, in Peloponnese.
We are conscious that we won an important battle with great repercussions internationally and in Greece but the class war continues and is becoming even sharper! Savas Michael-Matsas, 10/9/2013
From the trial of the antifascists to a murder by the fascists
The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, General Secretary of the EEK, and of Konstantinos Moutzouris, former Rector of the National Technical University of Athens, took place on September 3-4, 2013, after a lawsuit deposed by the Nazi party “Golden Dawn” on May 8, 2009, and promoted in 2013 by the Greek “democratic” State and its judiciary arm, after the entry of the “Golden Dawn” in the Greek parliament in June 2013. The trial had enormous repercussions and produced a huge outrage internationally and nationally.
As many statements by many organizations, by well-known or “unknown” individuals, and personalities of the cultural and political world, including in the mainstream international Press and media, from all parts of the planet had stressed, it was the first time after the end of the second world war, and the defeat of Nazism, that two antifascists, including a Jewish communist intellectual and leader of a Trotskyist Party, in the case of Savvas Michael-Matsas, were brought in court by Nazis, with the complicity of the official State institutions in a country –member of the European Union.
It was this powerful tsunami of protests and solidarity that created a political dynamics permitting the victory of the “accused” in an initially very difficult trial. Parties of the Greek Left, many trade unions, anarcho-syndicalist and anarchist collectivities, cultural associations, dozens of artists and intellectuals, issued public statements of solidarity and/or sent witnesses of defense for Savvas Michael-Matsas. About a thousand people gathered in and around the court in the two days trial. Finally, the unanimous ruling of the court was “not guilty” for both accused.
The three interconnected aims of this outrageous persecution were, as Savvas Michael pointed out in his final speech, “apology”, to the court,
- to illegalize any antifascist discourse and action in conditions of social polarization and mass upheaval, in a country where the ruling class in a state of emergency uses the fascist gangs as an instrument to re-impose its control;
- to begin, starting from the Trotskyist party, the process of illegalization of the entire Left and the dismantling of democratic popular rights in Greece;
- last but not least, to institutionalize the virulent anti-Semitism that accompan ied from the start, the persecution of Savvas Michael-Matsas, an “instrument of the world Jewish conspiracy to impose a Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Greece in crisis”, according to the Nazi non-stop hate campaign.
The organizers of this witch hunt failed. For the first time, after its ascent, the Golden dawn lost a trial in Greek courts (which tells a lot about Greek Justice…) An important tactical victory was achieved, hailed by all the workers movement (particularly in general assemblies where strike action in the public sector was decided) and among the popular masses identifying this battle with their own struggles against the escalating social disaster and barbaric repression by the bourgeois State forces and fascist paramilitary gangs.
But, as the EEK stressed in its first statement after the trial, a battle was won but the class warfare continues. What followed proves the truth of the statement.
Even minutes after the end of the trial, many youth participating in it in solidarity with the accused were stopped and bullied by the special DELTA police forces (the same DELTA force, which had attacked the EEK in a peaceful demonstration in December 2009 nearly killing comrade Angelika Koutsoubos and seriously injuring dozens of comrades) shouting to them “are you coming from the trial of the dirty Jew?” A similar attitude was maintained by the police forces after the massive workers’ demonstration in Thessalonica on September 7, arresting 130 demonstrators, including many comrades of the EEK who were insulted by the police as “dogs of the dirty Jew Matsas”… The same insult was used the next day against another comrade arrested in an antifascist demonstration in Larissa. Even more sinister it is the murderous attack, the next day at the trial, on September 5, by a fascist gang in Pyrgos, Peloponnesus, against the 19 years old young son of a well-known trade unionist cadre of the EEK, an attack that led the young boy to the hospital with serious injuries.
The fascist criminal activities escalated in the last two weeks after the end of the trial: there was another murderous attack by dozens of alleged Nazi storm troopers – a gang allegedly financed and supported by Greek ship-owners-in the Perama shipyards area against a group of members, trade unionists and supporters of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) peacefully campaigning for the Festival of KNE (Communist Youth of Greece).
The climax of these activities was the murder, on September 18, of the 34 years old Pavlos Fyssas, a young left wing antifascist activist, musician and metal worker-a cold blood murder organized at the highest level by the alleged Nazi Party and by its protectors in the bourgeois State, and executed by the “Golden Dawn” alleged Nazi Mafia in the working class area of Nikaia, a historic stronghold of the communist movement. The murder produced huge popular uproar and anger, and sharpened the political crisis of the bourgeois regime and the Samaras government. Nevertheless, and despite the hypocritical crocodile tears of the government and the announcement of “imposition of the rule of law”, the mass antifascist demonstrations that followed the murder were savagely repressed by the riot police, sending dozens to the hospital seriously injured( one demonstrator lost his sight), and arresting hundreds of demonstrators.
This on-going confrontation is insolubly tied to the new phase of the class struggle, the eruption of a powerful strike movement of the workers in the entire public sector, in Education, in the Health services, the struggle in three major industries( including the LARKO factory, one of the biggest in the country and in Europe) facing closures under the diktat of the hated troika, with the LARKO workers blocking the motor way Athens-Thessalonica, and brutally attacked by the hordes of the riot police sent by the government.
The murder of comrade Pavlos Fyssas, the fight with the murderous Nazi gangs, and their protectors, the repressive State apparatus, the sharpening struggle against the social devastation imposed by the troika of the EU/ECB/IMF and the Samaras government deepen the regime crisis, and reveal the bankruptcy of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.
The EEK fights all over the country to unite the struggles in an indefinite General Political Strike to bring down the government, to kick out the imperialist troika, to smash its catastrophic policies, to build a United Front of the workers and popular organizations, Workers Self Defense groups and workers militias against the Nazis and State repression, to open the road to workers power and a socialist way out from the crisis, for a socialist Greece in a United Socialist States of Europe.
Savvas Michael, 24/9/2013
The arrests of the “Nazi” gangsters of “Golden Dawn”in Greece
The arrests of deputies and members of the “Nazi”“Golden Dawn”, including of its farcical “Fuhrer”Nikos Michaloliakos, last weekend in Athens, following the murder of the young left wing antifascist hip hop artist and worker Pavlos Fyssas, is a clear sign of the deepening regime crisis in socially devastated Greece. Only a few days before the crime, leading government officials (like the secretary of the government itself Takis Baltakos) and journalists in pro-government bourgeois mass media (for ex. in the TV Channel Sky) advocated the possibility of a future coalition in power, after the next elections, between the ruling right wing “New Democracy” with a “more serious”(?!), “more moderate”version of the same ‘Golden Dawn’.
But the enormous popular anger following the murder of Pavlos by the “Nazi” gangsters operating under the eyes of the supervising local Police present in the site of the crime, as well as the international outrage with the role of the Samaras government and the Greek State, which left y unpunished 4 murders and 400 serious injuries in one year by attacks of “Nazi” storm troopers assisted by the Police, produced a politically unbearable position for the capitalist government. They have to act not out of fear from the menace represented by the criminals of “Golden Dawn”, their extra-institutional instruments of rule. They were frightened that the explosion of popular hatred would make them to lose any control of the situation. As a matter of fact, the crime of September 18, the mass protest demonstrations that followed, and the arrests of September 28, are signs of a situation, where the ruling class is losing control of the situation and the working class still has not yet won control. The pre-revolutionary conditions in Greece are rapidly ripening.
The murder of Pavlos came one week after a first wave of a strong strike movement in the public sector, and while the troika is visiting Greece again to dictate new anti- working class and anti-popular measures. Only two weeks before the crime, the trial of two antifascists took place, the General Secretary of the EEK Savas Michael-Matsas and the former Rector of the National technical University of Athens, Konstantinos Moutzouris, following the lawsuit of the Golden Dawn supported by the State repressive apparatuses. Thanks to a powerful international and national solidarity movement, the trial ended by declaring the two accused “not guilty”. It was the first trial that the “Golden Dawn”had lost after its “ascent”! Immediately afterwards, there was once more an escalating repression campaign by the Police against the Left and the anarchists, accompanied by death threats by the “Golden Dawn” against the EEK, its Secretary and against the antifascist movement as a whole. A series of new violent assaults by the storm troopers-has culminated in the killing of Pavlos Fyssas by a 50man strong Nazi gang, including the killer itself Roupakias.
This time it was a Greek person who was killed by the “Nazis”, not an immigrant like the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Afghans or Egyptians killed by the ‘Golden Dawn” and their supporters in the Police in the recent past, particularly after the 2012 elections of the “Nazis” in the Greek Parliament. So the entire people, including a conservative nationalistic part of the Greek population that stood quiet when immigrants were killed or Jews were put on trial, could not tolerate anymore the criminal role of the Greek government and State themselves, not just of its Nazi watchdogs.
The Samaras government had no other option than to act. But no illusions could be nurtured about a government where the ruling, closed circle of “advisors” around the Prime Minister is composed of well-known far right nationalists, and vicious anti-Semites (T. Baltakos, Chr. Lazarides, Failos Kranidiotis etc.), even by former leading members of Greek Nazism( Makis Voridis, spokesperson of the parliamentary group of the New Democracy, the Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, his close co-thinker and “adviser” Thanasis Plevris, son of the notorious guru of Greek Nazism Kostas Plevris, and now appointed by Samaras as Vice-Chairman of the National Organization on Pharmaceuticals et al.). Nobody can be secure or naïve enough knowing that the Nazis have important positions and strong influence inside the Police, the secret services, and the Army. The government itself not only covers up for them but is also deliberately using the current arrests of the most prominent elements of the gang to introduce new antidemocratic legislation and impose measures against the Left in the name of “the fight against extremism, both right and left”.
Above all, the material social economic conditions that helped the ‘Golden Dawn” to become the third strongest bourgeois party in the country (according to the polls) remain and are deteriorating, even after the murder of Pavlos: the systemic capitalist bankruptcy, the measures of social cannibalism imposed by the troika of the EU/ ECB/IMF, the decomposition of a discredited bourgeois parliamentary system.
The struggle against fascism cannot be separated from an uncompromising struggle against social devastation, to kick out the troika and its servants, the New Democracy-PASOK government; to smash the bankrupt capitalist system that generates hunger, and mass unemployment as well as the repressive State apparatus and their complement, the Nazi storm troopers; to open the road for a socialist way out from the crisis with the workers and oppressed taking power, and re-reorganizing society on new social bases.
Either Socialism or barbarism!
Savas Michael, 30 September 2013
- 1. Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/11d74b2c-1096-11e3-b291-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2fkYBe5ju August 29, 2013 5:01 pm “The German miracle is running out of road” By Sebastian Dullien. He argues that ‘manufacturing is losing its edge’: wages are rising relative to other countries, investment in education, research and development and infrastructure has been stagnating, Productivity, per working hour, is stagnating at 2007 levels. At the same time, demand from countries like China is rising less fast.
- 2. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ac8cf6b2-213f-11e3-8aff-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2fkdT0trT Financial Times, “The World has the Germany it always wanted” Tony Barber, September 20 2013, 7.45pm “But whoever forms a government after Sunday’s election will face serious economic challenges. But whoever forms a government after Sunday’s election will face serious economic challenges. Years of under-investment in public infrastructure, such as roads and railways, and in private sector capital stock help explain a long-term growth rate of a mere 1.25 per cent.” 3 ibid. 4 Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times, November 10th 2013, (online) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b8808c684868-11e3-8237-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=uk#axzz2kLy9qmAY
- 5. Hillel Ticktin: “The Crisis and the Capitalist System Today”, Critique 53, Vol 38, no. 1, August 2010, and Critique 47, “Political Economy of Capitalist Instability and the Present Crisis”, Vol 37 no. 1, February 2009.
- 6. John Gapper, “Wave of money eludes the real economy”, Financial Times, February, 8th 2013, 7:22pm.
- 7. Dominic Rossi: “Companies must reinvest their cash hoard. Savings glut contributes to a lacklustre economic recovery.”, Financial Times,27th November 2013, 6.01pm. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8653e66e-4de911e3- 8fa5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2n4PYoh
- 8. Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 2, (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1969), p.510.
- 9. Paul Baran and Paul M Sweezy: “Monopoly Capital”, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1966.
- 10. Peter Nolan: Is China Buying the World, Polity Press, 2012.
- 11. Anthem Press, London 2013.
- 12. Ernest Mandel, Late Capitalism, NLB, London, 1975, Ch 8. is a useful example, though his angle is different to the above.
- 13. Martin Wolf, ‘Carney’s bet on big finance’, Financial Times, Wednesday, 30 October 2013, p.13.
- 14. The relevant article is in the Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435751/Red-Eds-pledgebring- socialism-homage-Marxist-father-Ralph-Miliband-says-GEOFFREY-LEVY.html. That was followed by the editorial on 1 October and 4 pages of further comment and letters to the editor on 2 October, pp.6–9.
- 15. New York Times, 7th October 2013: A Jew Not Quite English Enough, By “http://topics.nytimes.com/ top/news/international/columns/rogercohen/” \o “More Articles by ROGER COHEN” ROGER COHEN, Published: October 7, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/08/opinion/cohen-a-jew-not-quite-englishenough. html?src=me&ref=general&_r=0
- 16. Donald Macintyre: “Ed Miliband’s stand against the Daily Mail could represent a significant political turning-point. He is the first party leader of modern times to confront the popular press”, The Independent, Thursday 03 October 2013.
- 17. New York Times, 7th October 2013, op.cit. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/01/ absurd-golden-dawn-hound-friend-court, accessed 29-11-2013.
- 18. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/01/absurd-golden-dawn-hound-friend-court, accessed 29-11-2013.