SYRIZA Rising: What’s Next For The Movements In Greece?

Published on ZNet (first on ROARMAG), by  Antonis Broumas and Theodoros Karyotis, Oct 4, 2014.

… Left-Wing Bureaucracy and the State:

In theory, the communist left relates with the state in instrumental terms. The conquest of the bourgeois state is presented as a necessary evil on the road to workers’ power. This approach, however, is immersed — even on a purely theoretical level — in a series of contradictions. Even in its most sophisticated versions it fails to address the issue of the dialectic relation between the vanguard party bureaucracy and the autonomy of the world of labor, or the possibility of achieving a transition towards an egalitarian society, when there is such disparity between the means employed and the goals proposed.  

But in social praxis, the historical experience of the relationship between left-wing parties and the state is even more complex and contradictory. In the 20th century, nearly half of the planet was governed by left-wing bureaucracies that exercised power separated from the social classes they were supposed to represent. In most victories of the left — electoral or otherwise — popular forms of organization, be they soviets, workers’ councils or assemblies, were summarily superseded by the centralized power of the new managerial class. But even where they did not capture state power, left-wing bureaucracies operated merely as agents of mediation and delegation of political power, rather than as a genuine expression of the collective subject of the labor movement. In an attempt to defeat the bourgeois state with its own weapons, they modelled their organizational structures on the most reactionary and hierarchical elements of the bourgeois state, thus stifling any attempt of the workers at autonomous self-expression … //

… Autonomous Movements and Left-Wing Governments: … //

… Contemporary Movements as Collective Subjects for Social Change:

At the time of writing this article, a long cycle of social mobilization is coming to a close in Greece and around the world, leaving behind an important legacy of structures operating through direct democracy (workers’ cooperatives, local assemblies, social centers, solidarity networks, movements in defense of the commons, endeavors in solidarity economy) but also great fatigue and frustration, since the program of neoliberal reform is being carried out to the letter despite the best efforts — at great personal cost — of innumerable social activists. It is easy for this frustration to plunge collectives into introspection and allow certain parts of the movement — already prone to such practices — to return to the pursuit of “ideological purity” and the “real” revolutionary subject; a quest that in the 20th century has proven to be a one-way ticket to political insignificance and sectarianism.

The political vacuum brought about by this frustration and by the lack of a concrete vision of social transformation from below, is exploited by parliamentary left parties to reinforce the logic of political mediation and to turn themselves fundamentally into proxies of the desire for social change. Reiterating the practices of the 20th century, they use their hegemonic position to appropriate the political surplus value of social mobilization and to create structures of representation within the movements, curtailing or marginalizing the demands that do not fit into their political agenda and thereby diverting the action of social subjects towards the parliamentary road.

Admittedly, there is a long way ahead for the nascent horizontal movements before they manage to transcend their local and particular circumstances, connect with the wider political becoming, and create new political spaces where the terms of our common existence can be shaped — that is, progress from coexistence to cooperation. However, horizontal and prefigurative movements, despite being a minority, constitute today the main antagonistic force to the current system of domination that is quickly reaching its social and ecological limits.

Autonomous movements are inclined not to capture power, but to disperse it: imagining new decentralized institutions for the governance of social and economic life to replace bourgeois democracy, which is immersed in a deep structural crisis of social reproduction, political representation and ecological sustainability. That does not entail laying out a well-defined program of exercise of power, but forging bonds and institutions that will allow the synthesis of the specific and local with the general and universal. The struggles for the commons, for knowledge, land, water and health, leave behind a legacy of accessible and participatory institutions, which can form the backbone of a new kind of power: a power of the people, not of the representatives.

The endeavors in libertarian communitarianism point towards the creation of politically active communities and the use of local institutions as a bulwark against globalized capitalism and as an appropriate field of application of precepts of de-growth and localization. The promise of the self-management of labor, of worker cooperatives and peer production, indicates a path within, against and beyond the state and the market. In any case, the new constituent power will be diverse, reflecting the infinity of militant subjectivities that the domination of capital in all aspects of social life engenders.

Certainly there is nothing inevitable in the emergence of this new world, no teleological certainty that this will come about, in the same way that the deterministic predictions of the advent of a free society made in the 19th century remain unfulfilled. The struggle of the people to prevail over the dominance of capital will take place in the contingent field of social antagonism, and will depend on their determination to turn frustration into social creativity, to break free from restrictive identities and ideological certainties, to ignore the promises of mediation and to reinvent themselves as an instituting social subject.

(full long text).

(Antonis Broumas is a lawyer, researcher and activist focusing on the interaction between law, technology and society. He participates in social movements that promote social autonomy and the global commons. Theodoros Karyotis is a sociologist, translator and activist participating in social movements that promote self-management, solidarity economy and defense of the commons. He writes on The Greek version of this article was published in the September issue of the Babylonia political review).


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