“The EU has no fear of SYRIZA. SYRIZA is not the oligarchy’s first choice, but it is the new face of social democracy, useful for the system,” says Papadakis, whose party is polling above PASOK in some polls.
Is Greece turning left with the expected victory of SYRIZA?
First, it is necessary to clarify that the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) should emerge stronger after the elections because, we believe, there will continue to be concrete facts against the interests of people. The change of government will not change crucial aspects, such as the fact that the country will still be in the EU, the fact that the stability pact and the memorandum will not disappear, the fact that this agenda of the EU will remain the same. All these reactionary measures will continue to exist.
The second factor is that the debt of the country will still be here. We are fighting to exit the EU and to completely cancel the debt. We want to exit the EU, but on the condition that the means of production are socialized. Now people must defy all the power of the oligarchy. The day after the elections, the oligarchy will still be here.
That is why we ask people to keep this in mind, for, after the elections, people will still be on the opposite side. Since SYRIZA in the opposition obtained 27% of the votes, there has been a decline in social conflict. We say that this applies to Spain, too, where the year of PODEMOS’s emergence also saw a fall in mobilizations. People think that voting alone can change the conditions of life, but we say it is important for people to convince themselves that there are neither saviors nor messiahs, that people must save themselves by their own struggles, by their own decisions, and by confronting the EU, NATO, and monopolies.
Are you comparing SYRIZA to PASOK or New Democracy?
SYRIZA has made very clear that it is not going to defy the EU or NATO. What kind of left is this? The term Left has concrete criteria: against the EU and NATO, fighting to exit them, to confront entrepreneurs and the oligarchy. Entrepreneurs have already said that they will welcome “SYRIZA’s radicalism.” The same contradictions apply to the EU, where the talk is about more expansive or restrictive policies, but this doesn’t change the lives of people. We have heard about Draghi’s program: it has a condition, for the program to exist — the memorandum. And SYRIZA says that we will follow the European program, with its rules and standards. New Democracy says that we must stick with the debt; so does SYRIZA, albeit with a haircut. But our people have endured the biggest cuts, accompanied with the harshest measures to pay the debt. And there will be more measures to pay the debt, though that is hidden. SYRIZA’s Rena Dourou, the governor of the Attica region, has already done the opposite of what she said.
But SYRIZA really says that it will be changing things.
They say that they will get rid of the memoranda, but they have concrete requirements. Which law against the workers will you change? Which one against the pensioners? All those measures taken by New Democracy will still be there. What does SYRIZA propose to do? They say that they offer the Thessaloniki program, which was originally conceived for the first 100 days and to tackle the social emergency. But now it turns out that the program is for four years. But what the program does is charity meals and electricity for the poorest, plus a minimum wage of €750 per month for those covered by collective agreements. Those who have part-time jobs do not benefit from this. That’s the reality. People have lost much of their pensions, and SYRIZA’s response is to add €1.20 per day to the lowest. This doesn’t change life, and we are telling people that it doesn’t. New Democracy cultivates fear; and SYRIZA, illusions. But if we want some relief, we have to fight for it, and this is a red line — [to recover] the loss since 2008.
So, you won’t support Tsipras for prime minister.
For all these reasons, given responsibility to the people, having closely examined what SYRIZA said, we cannot take part in a bourgeois capitalist government, under which this barbarity will continue. A week ago SYRIZA implored us to give it our vote to form a government, but it didn’t do so sincerely because they know our long-standing positions; and we will stand opposite this government because it will be in the hands of the oligarchy while staying in the EU. We cannot stain our hands, we cannot take a leap of faith, while the people are on the other side from it. Moreover, the most rotten elements of PASOK have joined the ranks of SYRIZA, including deputies who have voted for the memoranda and boycotted the working-class and trade union movement.
Are you going to take to the streets from day one?
We have a great capacity for mobilization and major presence in the unions. These ideas put forward by SYRIZA are meant to create an alibi for the day after. The Greeks hold the KKE in high esteem, ours is a serious, militant, and cool-headed party, and what SYRIZA wants is to use us as its alibi, to demobilize people, to get rid of struggle. We understand SYRIZA and from the very first moment we will be in the streets, and they hold that against us. But we say: If there really were a government of the Lefts, and, we would hope, if it were a good government for the people, the KKE would not be fighting against it. They are afraid that having the KKE facing their government may unmask the fact that they are going to be responsible for what’s happening.
How can you be so sure?
We have experience in the movement of the European communist parties, in Italy, in France, that voted for agreements on wages, pensions, and privatizations in the morning and in the afternoon organized mobilizations against the same agreements they had voted for in the morning. We have come to conclusions based on these negative experiences, and we want a government against the EU and the oligarchy, and we won’t be jumping into the void. We will not participate in discussions about what people are going to lose by government decisions — people need us the day after the elections. SYRIZA and its government are committed to businesspeople in Texas, the Bilderberg Club, the City of London. . . They are already committed to big capital.
That idea about SYRIZA is not very widely shared,
Outside Greece, no. But here we know that they are not a revolutionary party — quite the opposite. People who vote for SYRIZA do so with cold hearts, without having confidence in them. People are desperate and do not want to continue with New Democracy, but the idea that there can’t be a worse government has already been used regarding previous governments. It’s clear that what we are saying will happen. The EU has no fear of SYRIZA. SYRIZA is not the oligarchy’s first choice, but it is the new face of social democracy, useful for the system, which SYRIZA won’t counteract for the sake of the working class. We must organize the struggle to challenge them.
Do you really consider yourselves to be a revolutionary party?
There are concrete facts that demonstrate it: we are fighting against the EU and NATO, we want to break the chains of capitalism, socialize the means of production, centralize all wealth to distribute it, as well as the labor force, so that there won’t be problems of unemployment. Our country has wealth and a great strategic location to the north of the Mediterranean. We have technology, science, progress in all the means of production, people should be able to enjoy this progress, but there exists this contradiction. There has not been another period of history that saw people even dying of cold when there were power plants all over the place.
Doesn’t the collapse of the USSR generate doubts in your mind?
We have studied it a lot. And we have arrived at the conclusion that there were great benefits in the socialization of the means of production. The key lies in the fact that they sought to solve the emerging problems by capitalist, not socialist, responses. With the reforms in the 60s the market entered and so did antagonism, creating concrete problems that grew over the years and generated negative consequences in the direction of the party.
The main point is that in a socialist country problems cannot be solved by capitalist measures — we can solve them only by socialist ones. We have learned from these experiences, and it is important to have your own program, and the Communist Party of Greece organizes the struggle not only around daily problems but also with its perspective. People must know which path is the one you propose and do not trust the parties that are not clear. We are very clear. And SYRIZA, New Democracy, and PASOK follow the path of capitalism. We are the only ones who have a completely different political proposal — a radical path.
We are known for having predicted what was going to happen. In 2010 we said a storm was coming. And we were right. People know that the party reads the reality well and that it is a militant party that tells the truth despite consequences. Notwithstanding the easy paths offered by some, people in Greece are living a very grave crisis with grave consequences and are now aware that life cannot be easily changed by just voting. We do not say that SYRIZA is the same as New Democracy, they are different parties, but when you have a concrete strategy that has the same priority of serving for the benefits of capital and the EU, objectively it takes you to the same place: capitalism, capitalist production, and the EU.
Do SYRIZA and New Democracy have so much in common?
Theirs are different versions of capitalism, but the differences are not crucial when it comes to the essence of what type of policies they will promote. In the 80s PASOK used to talk about exiting the EEC (European Economic Community) and NATO, and they used to also talk about socializing the means of production. . . But, now, SYRIZA doesn’t even say that.
In Spain there is a party with which we share the same strategy, the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE), and it is a party fighting to keep the light of the only path that can show people an exit. The rest — both PODEMOS and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), which has changed since accepting eurocommunism and becoming pro-European Union — want to prettify the EU, to be able to have a better EU. And this is dangerous for people, for they have support — illusions captivate with the idea that one way or another it is possible to negotiate with Merkel or the IMF to get the enemy to adopt pro-people positions. This really is a utopia.
We are clear: this high road is difficult, but we have to fight to exit the EU. To cultivate the illusion that a hawk can become a dove — that’s wishful thinking. That is why we say that PODEMOS in our opinion is doing the same thing as SYRIZA, beginning with certain slogans, and, over time, will become the same thing. Iglesias has already said recently that they have listened to financial allies and that there are unrealistic positions. We are talking about the new version of social democracy adapted to the terms of the crisis. This is what capital needs. Since people no longer trust PASOK or PSOE, despite their new leaders, new cards are dealt in the game, and people must be strict when scrutinizing their positions while fighting their own struggle.
Do you think that there can be rifts in the SYRIZA coalition?
In the history of social democracy there has always been a left-wing current that said it would strive to shift the party. But there has been no proof that it could be converted into a revolutionary one. A left-wing current may have a blog, protest from time to time, but then quits doing it.
Kostas Papadakis is a member of the central committee and the international relations department of the Communist Party of Greece and Member of the European Parliament. Andrés Gil is the editor-in-chief of eldiario.es. The original interview “Entrevista del KKE: ‘No apoyaremos a Syriza; estamos contra la UE, la OTAN y las cadenas del capitalismo'” was published by eldiario.es on 24 January 2015. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com). See, also, Sebastian Budgen and Stathis Kouvelakis, “Greece: Phase One” (Jacobin, 22 January 2015); and Stathis Kouvelakis, “After Syriza’s victory” (Verso, 26 January 2015).