Greece, Venezuela and the prospects for a new left

by Louis Proyect on December 27, 2015


After the Venezuelan elections, what is to be done?

After an extended period of relative quiescence in which the North Star editorial board has been continuing to assess the progress (or lack thereof) toward the creation of radical, nonsectarian formations on the left, we hope to begin publishing relevant content again. To some extent, this is an unavoidable task since the defeats in Greece and Venezuela of such parties has led to widespread discussion of whether they were oversold to begin with.

While the emphasis for people who believe in the North Star type approach has always been on organizational questions (what Lenin really meant, etc.), there is no avoiding the programmatic aspects of both Syriza and the Bolivarian revolution. In the first case you are dealing with a party that ostensibly refused to live up to its promises. With Venezuela, the issue might be one of whether the ruling party could have done anything to stay in power given the dire economic situation triggered by falling oil prices.

For leading groups on the left in the USA such as Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organization, the lessons drawn are familiar: despite their anti-capitalist rhetoric, Alexis Tsipras and Nicolas Maduro facilitated counter-revolution—the first man wittingly and the second unwittingly to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Socialist Alternative, a group whose co-thinkers had been part of Syriza and that had helped organize a coalition in New York to support its election, published an article that condemned it as crossing the Rubicon in July 2015. The solution, according to the comrades in the USA and Greece, is to adopt a socialist program that includes “the state monopoly of foreign trade; the nationalisation of the banks and the commanding heights of the economy, under democratic workers’ control and management.” To fight for such a program, a new party is necessary. Fortunately, it seems to exist as the Popular Unity led by Panagiotis Lafazanis, the former Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy under Tsipras. Like Syriza, the PU is a coalition of different left groups including a couple that were also part of Antarsya. It is not clear at this point whether there are grounds for uniting PU and Antarsya. The KKE, needless to say, will have nothing to do with either group.

In terms of the socialist goals of the Trotskyist CWI’s sister party Socialist Alternative, it is worth noting that PU’s name was inspired by Salvador Allende’s party that has been stigmatized by the various brands of the Fourth International as being as flawed as Syriza. The Irish affiliate of Alex Callinicos’s state capitalist international tendency did make the connection:

The 25 Syriza MPs who split this week have chosen the name of ‘Popular Unity’- this name references the Popular Unity government of Chile (1970-73) which was overthrown by Pinochet’s military coup. I think that those of us that know something of the thousand days of the Chilean Popular Unity, owe it to everyone to talk about the ups and downs of the movement and its government…However, and this is the most important for us today I think, the government and Salvador Allende himself, still thought that they could handle the situation using normal parliamentary tactics like the incorporation of more of the military into the government, negotiation, persuasion of one sort or another.

By most accounts, the best that Syriza could hope for was to duplicate the Venezuelan experience in Greece. In a June 2012 Telesur interview Alex Tsipras made that clear: “The example of Venezuela is characteristic. Hugo Chavez was able to achieve important things for his country through a peaceful process. He carried out the nationalisation of the natural sources of production. And he did so while under the constant attacks of the big end of town.” At its first congress a year later, Syriza adopted a political resolution that used a formula long associated with Hugo Chavez: “The unified, mass, democratic, multi-tendency party of the Left we are founding aims to sum up – from the perspective of 21st century socialism – the claims and demands of the working classes and oppressed social groups. “

Long associated with the Bolivarian revolution, Michael Lebowitz concluded just one year later that Syriza had watered down its program in order to win an election. In an August 2015 article titled “Social Democracy or Revolutionary Democracy:Syriza and Us”, Lebowitz wrote that the Thessaloniki program of September 2014 marked a retreat from the 2013 resolution, which he condemned as Keynesian:

Economically, the Thessaloniki Programme was based upon Keynesian (not even post-Keynesian) theory, and it supplemented its focus upon aggregate demand stimulation by proposed measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis (e.g., subsidies for meals, electricity, medical care and public transit for the poor and unemployed).

Of course, once in office Syriza did not even carry out a Keynesian program. As Lebowitz ruefully notes, it followed the same neoliberal path as PASOK, the discredited social democratic party. Like the Americans who voted for Obama in 2007, the Greeks got Herbert Hoover instead of FDR.

It must be said, however, that despite the frequent confrontations between Hugo Chavez with the local bourgeoisie and Washington as well as his crediting acclaimed Marxist theoretician István Mészáros as a major influence, el Presidente also saw himself as carrying out a Keynesian program in Venezuela at least if you can make the connection between Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith. That is the only conclusion you can draw from Greg Grandin’s article in the October 2007 Nation titled “Chávez: ‘Galbraithiano’”:

Chávez has described himself as a “Galbraithiano” and says he started reading the economist, whose books have been available in Spanish in Latin America since the 1950s, as a teenager. Long before he began referring to Chomsky and other currently better-known political thinkers, he cited Galbraith to explain his economic policies; at the beginning of his presidency, in 1999, for example, he urged a gathering of Venezuelan industrialists to support his mild reform program, quoting Galbraith to warn that if they didn’t, the “toxins” generated by “extreme economic liberalism” could “turn against the system and destroy it.”

If you are skeptical about Grandin’s claim (as Lebowitz was), I can refer you to this 2011 Youtube video in which Chavez recommends Galbraith’s “The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth For Our Time”.

The election of the rightwing opposition in Venezuela elicited the expected “I told you so” article in Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the International Socialist Organization. Titled “The end of ’21st century socialism’?”, it is to be given some credit for at least acknowledging falling oil prices to be the “primary” cause. Once that is out of the way, the comrades put the blame on the Chavistas as lacking the proper revolutionary fiber:

Comments about the need for revolutionary sacrifice couldn’t be more cynical coming from a politician at the top of a bureaucratic state. Faría’s comments symbolize how a section of the Bolivarian movement has alienated itself from the everyday lives of the average working person. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident, but describes the dominant political trend within the Chavista leadership.

The article also takes note of the FSLN in Nicaragua that succumbed to neoliberalism and corruption after being voted out of office by the imperialist-backed Violeta Chamorro. As might be expected, the answer to sell-outs in places like Nicaragua and Venezuela is revolution from below. Indeed, Googling “revolution from below” qualified by will result in 2,650 hits. Whether or not the invocation of this potent phrase will have a material effect on changing history is yet to be determined.

To complete its responsibilities to the revolutionary left, the ISO interviews Antonis Davanellos, a member of Internationalist Workers Left (DEA), a group that might be described as the counterpart to the ISO in Greece. Unlike the British SWP that condemned it from the beginning, the ISO and Davanellos had been charitable toward Syriza just as was Socialist Alternative. He implicitly takes Alex Callincos to task by saying: “some sectarians take the opportunity to say the effort to create and build Syriza was wrong from the beginning.”

Looking back at the DEA experience in Syriza, Davanellos sees it in terms of Jiminy Cricket’s relationship to Pinocchio. It served as the revolutionary conscience of a formation he describes as a mixture of reformists and people more like him. He sees their role in broad historical terms:

One well-known European Marxist, I think Perry Anderson, wrote in July that the compromise of Tsipras with the ruling class and the European leadership can be compared with the Social Democrats’ betrayal a century ago in 1914, when they voted in the German Reichstag for war credits. In the same vein, the position of the left opposition inside Syriza can be compared with Liebknecht’s “no” vote, which saved the honor of the left of the party at that time.

Who can possibly be opposed to face-saving votes? But isn’t it about time that groups such as the DEA begin to figure out a way to exercise power themselves? As Peter Camejo once told me after launching the North Star Network, groups such as the DEA never end up having to deal with the practical matters of governing so having correct positions becomes rather easy.

In coming to terms with the transformation of Syriza into a new PASOK and the election of the rightwing coalition in Venezuela, there are some important theoretical questions that the left has to address. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I am relatively confident that they are the right ones being posed:

  1. What are the possibilities of a socialist transformation using electoral politics?
  2. Can socialism be built in a country like Greece or Venezuela in light of Engels’s response to the question “Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?” His answer: “No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.”
  3. Are conditions conducive to socialist revolution today? Does the relationship of forces favor the working class?
  4. Given the failures of Syriza and the PSUV, is it a mistake to continue advocating broad-based radical parties? Perhaps constructing Leninist nuclei will safeguard you from selling out the revolution.

What are the possibilities for socialist transformation using electoral politics?

I first began to think about this in the course of researching the history of Swedish social democracy prompted by Bernie Sanders’s reply to Bob Schieffer on CBS News who asked if he favored Soviet style socialism. Sanders replied that he was for Scandinavian type socialism, in fact the very same social system that the rightwing accused Obama of promoting.

A close reading of Swedish history will reveal that when socialists prioritize electoral politics, there is enormous pressure to relegate the sort of tasks identified by Socialist Alternative above (“the state monopoly of foreign trade; the nationalisation of the banks and the commanding heights of the economy, under democratic workers’ control and management”) to the indefinite future. In an article that appeared in the July/August 1980 New Left Review titled “Social Democracy as a Historical Phenomenon”, Adam Przeworski identified the dynamic that seems to have affected both Syriza and the PSUV:

The combination of minority status with majority rule constitutes the historical condition under which socialists have to act. This objective condition imposes upon socialist parties a choice: socialists must choose between a party homogeneous in its class appeal, but sentenced to perpetual electoral defeats, and a party that struggles for electoral success at the cost of diluting its class character … A pure party of workers who constituted a majority of the electorate would perhaps have maintained its ultimate commitment without a compromise, as socialists said they would when they saw the working class as majoritarian.

Under the best of circumstances, a left party in power can make a major impact on peoples’ lives so whether or not it is offering “socialist” measures is almost a secondary consideration. Given the way that oil profits have been squandered on the mansions and Rolls Royces in places like Nigeria or Kuwait, the Chavista’s willingness to use them for the benefit of the poor is a revolutionary act in itself, especially considering the extra-parliamentary measures that were required to make that possible. It was a combination of the ballot and mass protests that helped transform Venezuela after all.

However, without the power to enact legislation the Chavistas would have never been able to implement ambitious social programs. To win votes, it had to appeal to middle layers many of whom might have been reluctant to support the sort of measures we associate with what the Trotskyists call “workers states”. In fact such states have never rested on parliamentary democracy but on their wreckage as Lenin stressed in “State and Revolution”.

I saw the contradictions of revolutionaries having to operate within the limits of parliamentary democracy in Nicaragua in the 1980s. When Daniel Ortega ran for president, he had to tolerate private property in the countryside. Many of the small ranchers who were ready to back the FSLN’s armed struggle were not as ready to follow “the Cuban road”. An assault on that sector would have likely cost the FSLN an election earlier than the one that finally unseated them in 1990.

The same contradictions existed in Venezuela. Despite Chavez’s enormous popularity, there was little doubt that nationalizing private property tout de suite would have cost him votes. Instead he performed a balancing act that allowed him to rule in favor of the poor while tolerating a lot of the corruption that the rightwing of his party trafficked in.

Furthermore, to “abolish” parliamentary rule and to create a workers state is not a task that can be carried out according to some blueprint. The two most famous examples in history—the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution—were linked to the institutions that emerged organically out of the extreme conditions of war and the general collapse of the bourgeois state. Workers gravitated to the commune and to the Soviet because the old order had collapsed. In Nicaragua, where such extreme conditions also existed after a protracted civil war in which the rebels smashed the old state, there was no equivalent “dual power”. The FSLN embraced parliamentary democracy because the objective conditions demanded it. Capitalism continued under FSLN rule as well because the Nicaraguan economy was dominated by small proprietorship and the informal economy. Politics was determined by economics just as it was in Greece and Venezuela.

Edward Rooksby, a former member of the British SWP who has written in favor of formations like Syriza and Podemos, has called attention to the economic contradictions that face governments ruling in the name of the working class that must be considered:

Furthermore, doesn’t the new regime need imports and exports? Doesn’t the regime therefore require foreign exchange? Won’t it therefore have a balance of payments problem to attend to? Doesn’t it need to ensure that its export goods are ‘competitive’ in terms of quality and price? Doesn’t it need to ensure that wages don’t outstrip productivity (and doesn’t this suggest also that the relationship between a revolutionary regime and unions can’t be harmonious – and that indeed the regime and the working class can’t actually be wholly synonymous?). You could answer this with appeals to a world revolution – but this is going to take a while. There is going to be, for a considerable amount of time, a defensive holding operation to conduct – that is, revolutionaries are going to have to manage, for what is probably long while, a more or less capitalist economy and are therefore going to find themselves subject to the constraints of ‘business confidence’.

Until the far left begins to engage with such economic realities, it will not be up to the task of constructing socialism.

Can socialism be built in a single country like Venezuela or Greece?

Most left critics of Syriza and the PSUV don’t quite come out and say that they favor a Soviet Venezuela or Greece but the logic of their criticisms implies such an outcome. Instead you get calls for a more radical program that does not sacrifice the needs of working people, something that requires a break with global financial institutions such as the IMF and a showdown with their local servants. Even the KKE speaks in terms of “the coming revolution” and only writes about socialism in abstract terms not that different in some ways from Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor Party.

However, it would be naïve to think that nationalizing Greek banks, refusal to pay the debt, declaring a monopoly on foreign trade, etc. does not amount to a break with capitalism whether or not it maps to every detail of states traditionally regarded as “communist”.

What are the possibilities for economic independence and social development when a state takes on the forces of international capital in a period when communism has virtually ceased to exist except in Cuba and North Korea?

Perhaps it is time to remind ourselves of what some of the major figures of the Marxist movement have said about the possibility of a revolution succeeding in a single country.

In the “Address to the Communist League” in 1850, Marx and Engels wrote about the prospects for a socialist revolution in Germany, one in which it could only become “permanent” under a series of conditions, the last of which was “not only one in one country but in all the dominant countries of the world, has advanced so far that competition among the proletarians of these countries has ceased and that at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians.” (emphasis added)

In a “Speech on the International Situation” delivered to the 1918 Congress of Soviets, Lenin said, “The complete victory of the socialist revolution in one country alone is inconceivable and demands the most active cooperation of at least several advanced countries, which do not include Russia.” For those on the left who would counter that Lenin changed his mind and advocated socialism in one country, they should be reminded that the “socialism” he spoke of toward the end of his life was a big retreat from the ambitions of the early 1920s. Instead of harping on the forced collectivization of agriculture and breakneck industrialization, he wrote of peasant cooperatives in the following terms: “It is one thing to draw out fantastic plans for building socialism through all sorts of workers associations, and quite another to learn to build socialism in practice in such a way that every small peasant could take part in it. That is the very stage we have now reached. And there is no doubt that, having reached it, we are taking too little advantage of it.”

It was one thing for Soviet Russia to prioritize peasant cooperatives but what were the possibilities for Greece following such a path, especially when the economy revolves around ATM’s, the need to garner foreign exchange through the export of yogurt, olive oil, etc. Not very good, in my opinion.

The relationship of forces

One of the most striking omissions in all of the analysis of the failures of Syriza and the PSUV has been that of the social context in which the two contending classes of bourgeois society meet. At least the ISO seemed to recognize that conditions were not favorable when it noted that Maduro “faced a profound challenge when prices fell from $140 a barrel to under $40 a barrel in recent years.”

One can say the same thing about Greece as well. For all of the opprobrium heaped on Tsipras, there is little engagement with the sheer impossibility of leaving the Eurozone in the final month or so of the showdown with Merkel and company. As I have tried to point out in a series of articles that appeared on Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism, it would have taken at least two years to have converted computer systems to handle a new currency. Of course, if the Greek economy had been as rudimentary as that in Russia in 1923, this would have been no problem. No ATM’s, no worry.

But what really stands out is the lack of any critical reflection on the steep decline of strikes in the USA and Western Europe over the past decade or so. There are objective conditions that dictate this. In the USA manufacturing jobs have fallen from nearly 20 million in 1979 to 12 million today. Workers who are still employed in basic industry are reluctant to go out on strike because the boss can easily close down a plant and move operations to Mexico or China, taking advantage of computer networks and cheap labor. Under such unfavorable conditions, workers tend to accept crappy contracts. Considering Greece in those terms, it is not a stretch to say that Tsipras was not that much different than the average trade union bureaucrat who saw no alternative except the one that was finally offered. If this sounds like TINA, it is no more so than what happened to UAW members who were “slapped in the face” by the bosses in their most recent contract according to the super-sectarian Socialist Equality Party that is at least consistent enough to denounce the entire AFL-CIO as a company union.

What kind of party do we need?

Although this is probably the question that requires the greatest amount of space to elaborate on, I will be brief. There is no reason to assume that small vanguard parties or alliances of such parties as constituted in formations like Antarsya will succeed.

The paradox is that by breaking with “reformism”, they guarantee that they will remain small. The reason for this should be obvious. In every instance the masses have not reached the state of consciousness where a break with capitalism is seen as absolutely necessary. The reason that votes were so high for Syriza and so low for KKE and Antarsya is simple. Syriza’s program corresponded to the consciousness of the Greek masses that were simply not ready to become the Cuba of Europe. They wanted a break with austerity but were wary about “going it alone”. Who can blame them? With so few allies in Europe, the chances of an autarchic economy succeeding were minimal at best.

The same thing is true of Venezuela. For all of the contemptuous observations about Maduro’s failure of nerve, there had to be a recognition that American imperialism had enormous power over South America with an ability to ruin a country through economic, political and military means.

On the occasion of Hugo Chavez’s death, Michael Yates, the editor of Monthly Review Press, wrote:

In April 2009, at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad, Chávez arose from his seat, walked over to Barack Obama and handed him a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic work of the centuries-long exploitation of Latin America by the great imperialist nations (including, of course, the United States): Open Veins of Latin America. He inscribed the book, “For Obama, with affection.” As word of this spread around the world, the English edition of the book reached #2 on Amazon’s sales charts.

Galeano’s book was probably news to Obama, whose reading most likely gravitated toward the realpolitik that has served his two terms so well and humanity so poorly. But for most educated South Americans, especially Venezuelans whose president spoke to them each week about the realities contained in Open Veins, this was second nature to them. On page 155 of Galeano’s masterpiece, there is a reminder of the relationship of forces between Uncle Sam and Latin America:

In Venezuela, the largest U.S. military mission in Latin America sits on Standard and Gulf’s great petroleum take. Argentina’s frequent coups d’etat erupt before or after each offer of oil concessions. Copper was a far from minor factor in the Pentagon’s disproportionate military aid to Chile before the electoral victory of Salvador Allende’s left coalition; U.S. copper reserves had fallen by more than 60 percent between 1965 and 1969. In 1964, Che Guevara showed me, in his office in Havana, that Batista’s Cuba was not merely sugar: the Imperium’s blind fury against the revolution was better explained, he thought, by Cuba’s big deposits of nickel and manganese. The United States’ nickel reserves subsequently fell by two-thirds when Nicaro Nickel was nationalized and President Johnson threatened an embargo on French metal exports if the French bought nickel from Cuba.

Those are the realities that Venezuela and other countries in the South have to deal with. There will be a revolution against this savage inequality but as was Che Guevara’s intention in the 1960s, it will be a continent-wide if not worldwide movement that will be necessary.

In the years ahead of us in which capitalist injustice will be deepening year-by-year, there will be a greater and greater receptivity to socialist ideas even when they are distorted through the speeches of Bernie Sanders. For us to achieve the goal of socialist transformation, the left will have to become as globalized as our capitalist enemies. Fortunately for us, new technologies will prepare the way just as computers enable the boss to foster runaway shops. In the same way that the bosses understand their common interest as exploiters, the left has to begin to see itself as united in the need to defend the interests of workers, the farmers and the unemployed. That in essence is the mission of the North Star, just as it was when it was first announced in 1981.


{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Schulman December 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

What’s so bizarre about the Socialist Alternative-type perspective is that they seem to think a Greek workers’ state would be able to function without collapsing via economic sanctions for more than a few weeks at best.

It was one thing for the Bolsheviks to gamble on the Russian Revolution setting off a chain of national revolutions at a point in history when there were millions of Marxist workers in Europe and it was possible to create a (very flawed) Communist International. But even that gamble failed. And today, of course, there aren’t millions of Marxist workers in Europe.

I suppose the CWI comrades think that a Greek proletarian revolution (for which there’s little support in Greece anyway) would spontaneously turn the majority of European workers into revolutionary socialists. Not blood likely.


Jason Schulman December 27, 2015 at 5:33 pm

What’s so bizarre about the Socialist Alternative-type perspective is that they seem to think a Greek workers’ state would be able to function without collapsing via economic sanctions for more than a few weeks at best.

It was one thing for the Bolsheviks to gamble on the Russian Revolution setting off a chain of national revolutions at a point in history when there were millions of Marxist workers in Europe and it was possible to create a (very flawed) Communist International. But even that gamble failed. And today, of course, there aren’t millions of Marxist workers in Europe.

I suppose the CWI comrades think that a Greek proletarian revolution (for which there’s little support in Greece anyway) would spontaneously turn the majority of European workers into revolutionary socialists. Not bloody likely.


Jim Williams December 27, 2015 at 7:10 pm

I seem to recall that the Bolshevik’s slogan was “Peace, Land, Bread!” Nary a word about socialism or capitalism.


S.Artesian December 27, 2015 at 11:05 pm

The slogan of the Bolsheviks, the one that brought huge support from the working class in the cities was “All power to the soviets.” Peace, land, bread meant nothing without the organ of class power. Take a lesson.

It’s one thing to say: “Considering Greece in those terms, it is not a stretch to say that Tsipras was not that much different than the average trade union bureaucrat who saw no alternative except the one that was finally offered. If this sounds like TINA, it is no more so than what happened to UAW members”

It’s quite a different thing to say that above and never acknowledge the role the so-called broader left, including the editor of North Star played in touting Syriza as being something other than a dead end, the “average trade union bureaucrat.”


Naj HK December 27, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Chavez was a fucking blowhard who at various times claimed to be a Christian, a socialist, a Nationalist, a Trotskyist, a Castroist, and a Galbraithist. In reality he was at best a left wing reformer like the French SP or Allende. At worst he was a strike breaking coup mongering military official who headed the bourgeois state in Venezuela. Only in the complete absence of a labor movement could such a guy be worshiped by the American left – – a sad leftover influence of 1960’s liberal radicalism national liberation and Maoism.


Jason Schulman December 28, 2015 at 11:55 pm

One thing I’ve noticed: “Chavismo” never became a model for the global left to follow, the way Bolshevism (however badly understood) or Maoism did. I haven’t noticed lots of organizations popping up around the world touting the virtues of Hugo Chavez Thought.

Given Maduro’s unpopularity and the PSUV’s recent parliamentary decimation, I doubt anyone will still be talking about “Chavismo” in five years hence. Hopefully something better will take its place.


Manuel Barrera December 28, 2015 at 12:36 am

I am glad that Louis was brief in his view of the need for a revolutionary party. The first step seems counterintuitive; that the left should become united on a worldwide and regional scale utilizing the technical tools at our disposal as well as developing a true sense of solidarity with every people’s struggle that arises and, even, with electoral campaigns that one must swallow hard to accept. By that I do NOT mean support for Sanders, who is simply a capitalist politician by choice if not by “theory”. I do mean swallowing hard at supporting the disdainful SAlt campaigns and their ilk that do stand against the twin parties–as candidates–if still treacherous for their support to Sanders and their even more treacherous betrayal of revolutions like the Syrian people’s struggle against their dictator.
My view is that support to such horrid examples of revolutionary thinking is really a matter of course when looking at elections through principle. What is more important is that we think through how we can work together on more crucial campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, and women’s rights alongside the campaigns for worker’s rights in service industries such as restaurants and retail (Walmart, McD’s, etc) as well as the steadily building movement to oppose standardized testing among parents, students, and teachers. Indeed all these struggles are a reflection of the class struggle as it is unfolding while the SAlts and Sanders are really only about themselves.
I look forward to reading more discussions like this one and, if the topic is appropriate, will contribute more.

The briefness about the need for revolutionary organizing only indicates to me that perhaps, finally, we are going to get beyond the “question” of a revolutionary party and to the actual building of one through the steps that matter; discussion, analysis, solidarity, and commitment to overcome the old formulae realizing that for all our experiences, we still need to learn. Ever more.


Naj HK December 29, 2015 at 12:12 am

Tailing “every people’s movement” is what destroyed communism as a real movement. Communism isn’t about “the people.” Every human is a person, so even Donald Trump is a part of “the people”.

Communism is about the working class in particular resolving the class struggle (a struggle BETWEEN people) in its own favor and liberating all of humanity in the process.


john game December 28, 2015 at 2:33 am

“In the years ahead of us in which capitalist injustice will be deepening year-by-year, there will be a greater and greater receptivity to socialist ideas even when they are distorted through the speeches of Bernie Sanders.”

Absolutely. To treat this all as just another form of false consiousness would be ridiculous. Similarly not to look at the contradictions and problems thrown up by the new actually existing reformism as it develops. I think all of these phenomenan from Syriza to Bernie Saunders reflect much the same thing-whether or not ferociously denounced or sycophantly applauded by the left. The decomposition of the old political apparatus of incorporation are proceeding more quickly then the recomposition of a collective subject capable of self emancipation which can put its stamp on the process. Thats why I think both dismissal and sectarianism or on the other hand sneering about ‘from below’ is a mistake. The increasing radicalisation of a section of establishment politics has a material basis. And so do its developing contradictions. We have to contend with both. Hence the need for a Post-Leninism of the left rather then the right. But we also have to be aware that all this occurs against a backdrop of a global authoritarianism not simply reducible to ‘the system’ on the one hand or on the other more traditional kinds of fascist threat.


Naj HK December 29, 2015 at 12:04 am

Will North Star and especially Louis Proyect take responsibility for promoting SYRIZA as a socialist alternative to capitalism? Will you stand up and say you were wrong for leading people to support a bourgeois dead end? Will you apologize to the others on the left you bashed as “sectarian” for pointing out that SYRIZA was a dead end long before they were elected?


Louis Proyect December 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

Naj, you need to engage with the article that was posted above. A “socialist alternative” that consists of small groups like ANTARSYA advocating socialism is no alternative at all. Why don’t you put forward some proposals that could have adopted in Greece that were in line with your general thinking about proletarian revolution? That would be more constructive than demanding an apology.


S.Artesian December 29, 2015 at 9:13 am

Don’t you think it is essential to evaluate the role the “broader” “united” “non-sectarian” “open” etc etc left played in the dead end of Syriza through its uncritical endorsement? Through its fear and trembling at the prospects of “leaving the euro”? Through its nauseating proclamations that “this [Syriza] is the best ‘we’ can do”?


Louis Proyect December 29, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Artesian, so what is your alternative to Syriza? I posed the same question to Naj and he has not replied. I definitely am for broader, united and non-sectarian formations. In Greece, the program was at fault not the organizational model. In Cuba there was a marriage between the program and the organizational form, just as there was in Nicaragua. I tried to point out that a program that was sufficient to transform Cuba in the 1960s would have failed if the USSR had not been able to back it up. That is why the FSLN collapsed and why Venezuela now has a rightwing government. The relationship of forces is key just as it would be in a strike. The reason proletarian revolutions are difficult to carry out today is the same reason militant strikes are a rarity. Or more precisely, why there are so few militant strikes that succeed. Looking for petty-bourgeois traitors is an understandable temptation for a left that feels impotent but unfortunately it does not have much of an effect on the class struggle.


Naj HK December 29, 2015 at 7:26 pm

My program is proletarian revolution and nothing less. Abolition of capital, classes, commodity production and exchange, wage slavery, value, money. Since this hasn’t happened we don’t necessarily know how it will happen. We do know from history how it won’t happen: Leninist coups, seizing the existing bourgeois state, limiting to one country, etc.

But I would rather fight for what I want and fail. You apparently would rather fight for what we don’t want and succeed. Isn’t that the definition of opportunitism?

You refuse to even accept responsibility for your support of a phony bourgeois leftist party (albeit an electable one, mainly because it posed no threat to capitalism) which enacted austerity immediately after taking office. How can you expect to be a leading or even meaningful voice to working people looking to escape capitalism?

One wonders if you would have supported the more popular and electable FDR with his soft left New Deal reformism over the “unrealistic” and much smaller communist movement.


S.Artesian December 30, 2015 at 1:50 am

First off, let’s be clear. Syriza had achieve its “legitimacy” by proving its ability to “keep the streets clear”– to turn back demonstrations against the austerity program that rocked PASOK govt. to its core.

Secondly, Syriza’s program was one of, and those who supported Syriza, have to acknowledge this if there is to be serious discussion, of deliberate deception, deliberate obfuscation of the issues– the ridiculous “New Deal,” the dishonest “EU Marshall Plan”– all this was designed, and deliberately so, to deflect from the real issue, which was the preservation of capitalism. Syriza was committed to that preservation. If you, who was such a vociferous supporter of Syriza, can acknowledge that, we can have a discussion. If you can’t or won’t, then there’s no point, because everything you continue to say will only repeat what you’ve already said– “There Is No Alternative.”

I would point out that a year before Syriza’s election, you wrote to the effec that if Syriza should fail or ‘betray’ the obligation it assumed to oppose the MOUs imposed by the troika, then an appeal to the “left” of Syriza would have to be made and the “left” would have to embark on a revolutionary opposition to Syriza. When push came to shove, however, only uncritical support of Syriza was offered. That was your assessment, not mine. You were the one considering what should be done about betrayal.

The alternatives were quite frankly for the “left” outside Syriza, through whatever means available, including demonstrations, community networks, neighborhood councils to oppose the Syriza program particularly after the parliamentary committee issued its report declaring the debt was dishonestly, fraudulently, and illegally imposed upon Greece. At that point the parliamentary left inside/ outside Syriza, ANTARSYA or whatever, had to push for the immediate repudiation of the debt, and when confronted with Syriza’s refusal, demand a vote of no-confidence in the government.

Outside of parliament, what was needed was opposition to Syriza’s demand that municipalities and government organizations (like hospitals) forward all cash reserves to the national government which Syriza would use to make the debt servicing payments.

Outside of parliament, and inside, agitation against further Greek bank participation in the ECB’s ELF (Emergency Liquidity Funding) should have been made a priority, as all those funds did was make it easier for the rich to move their deposits out of Greece.

There were, and are, a whole host of concrete practical measures the “left,” including the “left” outside Greece, the “left” so busy hailing Syriza as a victory” could have made, but didn’t, because I guess then the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from such “victories” might be jeopardized.

To say that that wasn’t feasible in the conditions that existed is pretty much immaterial when those asserting such a claim spent the first 6 months of Syriza’s existence cheerleading its every maneuver, silent to or rationalizing every capitulation, or explaining how “overwhelming” the “odds” were against any alternative.

You say the “relationship of forces is key.” Of course it is. But Syriza didn’t even represent, in reality, a force. The question is how do you build an actual “countervailing force.” Do you do it by pretending the issue of austerity can be separated, isolated, from the debt? that the debt can be isolated from the EU? that the EU can be isolated from capitalism?

It’s one thing to recognize an “imbalance of forces”– it’s quite another thing to positively, and materially, maintain that imbalance by endorsing pro-capitalist forces.

Maybe we need to get that clarified. Do you think Syriza was a pro-capitalist force? If yes, then what basis can there be for supporting it? If uncertain, then how would you propose to make that determination? If you don’t think Syriza was pro-capitalist, well… then you just weren’t paying attention.

So I’ve answered, to the best of my ability, your question. You may not agree. You may think the answers beg the questions. So be it.

In return, I’d like you to answer mine. Don’t you think the left “owes” itself, and those in Greece who supported Syriza, an explanation as to the role it played, why it played it, how that role reinforced certain “trends” and what the “left” has learned that might prevent repeating such failures say with Podemos in Spain, or Corbyn in the UK?


Gordo December 30, 2015 at 10:47 am

If we’re going to talk honesty then let us be honest all the way through. In three years of reading Louis Proyect’s blog on a semi-regular basis I have never seen him support anything OTHER than a “pro-capitalist force.” No real mention of strikes, lockouts, mass committees but plenty of talk about various political parties and candidates running for office in bourgeois governments, nationalist and fundamentalist armies, Russia, etc. No talk about what tactics and strategies might work or fail for the working class from this “marxist” but plenty about who can and can’t get elected in this or that election.


Richard Estes December 29, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Haven’t had the opportunity to read your article in full, but one thing that gets missed is that the Bolivarian Revolution was not about building socialism in one country, it was about someday building socialism in South America by traveling a Keynesian road.

Brazil, which goes unmentioned from what I have read, was the critical linchpin, the country that was going raise all surrounding boats through foreign direct investment in its neighbors, Paraguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay. Brazil was going to liberate South America from its dependence upon US and European investment. Brazil has become a substantial exporter of capital in the last 15 years, most of it going to other South American countries and Africa.

As a consequence, Chavez and Lula were very close. If this approach had succeeded, the shortages that brought down Maduro and PSUV would have been less severe or non-existent. But the defeats of the PSUV in Venezuela and Kirchner in Argentina suggest that it has failed, and even the PT risks losing power in Brazil as well.

Of course, this was a soft form of imperialism, as chronicled by Zibechi in the “The New Brazil”, and one can understand why many of the left objected to it. But an understanding of the process and its limitations provides more insight into the defeats of the PSUV and Kirchner and the challenges ahead for the left.


Louis Proyect December 30, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Naj: “My program is proletarian revolution and nothing less.”

Reply: Words are cheap.

Gordo: “No real mention of strike, etc. No talk about…

Reply: Words are cheap.


Jordan December 31, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Words are cheap?

Maybe you have led some unknown labor actions that you think are better? As far as I know you sold The Militant at grocery stores, joined a volunteer mission to back the bourgeois Nationalist strike breaking Indian killing sandanistas, dropped out of politics and then spent ten years blogging and reviewing documentaries.

By the way, “action not words” has always been a fascist motto in contrast to the emphasis on theory and program of Marx and the working class movement.


Jim Williams December 30, 2015 at 12:14 pm

As Lenin said “words butter no parsnips.”


Louis Proyect December 30, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Artesian: “Do you think Syriza was a pro-capitalist force? If yes, then what basis can there be for supporting it?”

Reply: My interest in Syriza as I have already explained is that it provided the revolutionary movement in Greece a framework for regroupment. Until Tsipras effectively split from Syriza while retaining the brand name, it allowed groups that had formerly existed as isolated sects to begin to relate to the broader masses in a fashion that was never possible in “vanguard” formations. For the past 34 years, ever since I began working with Peter Camejo on the original North Star Network, that has been my primary message. You want to turn the axis of discussion on whether I pass your “pro-capitalist” litmus test. I have zero interest in such a debate.


Manuel December 30, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I believe S Artesian (and to some extent, Naj) are fairly clear in the alternative, which is the reason for Louis’ article in the first place; in both cases, Artesian and Naj, are simply too stuck in the rather easy portion of the “truth” that Syriza’s government under Tsipiras (yes, I do know my formulation is equivocal–I’ll explain in a moment) or Chavismo were failed attempts at battling European or imperialist capital. Artesian wants the “left” who he believes supported Syriza to account for this failure, as if those “lefts” were really the problem and somehow just didn’t see it. After all, if Syriza or the Chavista governments were in fact, Tsipiras or Chavez/Maduro, then what was really needed according to Arteisan’s fairly non-political argument (and even more so, Naj’s) was for the masses to educated better and that Tsipiras/Chavez-Maduro and, perhaps, their minions, be “exposed” for their liberal bourgeois intentions: I was tempted to say “capitalist-roadism” but there simply are too many quotation marks and metaphorical statements in the sectarian lexicon already–I envision S-Art. and Naj using air quotes in a face to face debate that would make it hard to listen with a straight face.

I do recognize it is difficult to argue with seemingly obvious points about leftists trying to run a bourgeois government for the bourgeois and the clearly hopeless–from a revolutionary perspective–effort to bring about socialism from such an unrealistic disadvantage. However, this disadvantage, in fact, was not Tsipiras’ or Chavez’ problem. It was the fundamental problem of the masses themselves who brought both these leaders into a framework not of dual power (yes, I do know that this part of the formulation is a bit of shorthand, so, if you don’t know what I mean here, look it up), but of so much more limitation than that. Remember how Syriza and Chavismo both came to their respective positions to run a capitalist government. It emanated from the masses in struggle seeking a way out of the capitalist morass that was–and continues to–promulgate misery in the interest of profit. The mass movements were and continue to be fed up. However, they/we (remember, “leftists”, if truly so, do not separate themselves from our class and sectors of that class) were not ready to do what it would actually take to establish, let’s say a more traditional form of workers government that would have initiated a stage of actual dual power. The clue to that problem was visible when, in Greece, the masses were in support of Syriza, voted for a referendum against austerity, but that vote was NOT for leaving the euro or the EU. Indeed, Tsipiras and his cabinet up to the day stated they would support the referendum believing that the vote would be against. The vote was for it, but the vast majority of people were not in favor of Grexit. All that is besides the more glaring reality that even if Syriza and the Greek masses had actually challenged all of the European capitalist governments that the people of Greece would be subjected to even more tremendous suffering economically and politically, that the ensuing economic devastation would likely embolden the small fascist movement to engage in the demagoguery that would create at the least a civil war if not a complete fascist reaction. In short, individuals like Tsipiras or Chavez/Maduro (or, even, Syriza or PSUV), are not the reason why Greece or Venezuela “lost heart” but because the masses were simply not willing at this stage to take the all too fateful steps to their liberation precisely because such liberation cannot take place WITHOUT the solidarity and mobilization of the working masses at the least in their regions if not the world. Nothing in SArtesian’s or Naj’s supposed evidence of capitulation by Syriza and the PSUV (leaving now, the individual leaders) even hints at these much more telling reasons behind these defeats. Rather, as has been so devastatingly typical of supposedly enlightened, but simply sectarian and simple-minded almost-Marxists, the mass struggle is really defeated by one or two individuals (and maybe minions) who just didn’t stand up to the bourgeoisie and that the masses, if those individuals had simply the “guts” to stand up, would somehow overcome their own misgivings and become willing to suffer abominably to assert their place on the stage of world revolution. In this kind of fantasy, just a few “good men” will suffice so that leftists with relatively fewer stakes might take the masses the rest of the way. In the sectarian perspective the building of a revolutionary leadership (never mind a party) is about recruiting the best fighters into a “combat party” that can then lead the masses to a successful struggle. Never mind that such fantasies NEVER existed–not in Paris, not in Czarist Russia, not in China, nor in Cuba. There are really only 3 instances where a mass movement successfully challenged capitalist governments, resulted in a framework of dual power, and then successfully overthrew capitalist property relations. Only 3 out of a myriad of opportunities emanating from mass ferment. Only one remains standing within the framework of imperialist domination and, although Cuba remains, its revolutionary leadership is fraught with contradictions stemming from their isolated status that it has unsuccessfully been able to do anything except be a “beacon” of possibility. This last point is made to show that it is immensely difficult for the masses to build a mass leadership sufficient not just to “stand up” to capitalist power, but to overcome it. It was, and is, not the problem of Tsipiras or Chavez/Maduro but of the space between the desires of the masses and the will to bring their desires into fruition. We should stop putting on trial the failure of the leaderships that the masses created and start working to create enough mass consciousness that promote the conditions for a stronger revolutionary will among us–the masses, which include the Artesians, Najs, Proyects, and Barreras.

Artesian suggested the “non-sectarian” left be held to account for the failure of Syriza and of Chavismo. That non-sectarian left would include the mobilized masses of Greece and Venezuela if one were to be honest and comprehensive would it not? Wouldn’t those fed up masses who brought these organizations into the governments that were created also constitute that non-sectarian left? Or do Artesian and Naj really just think of non-sectarian leftists as revolutionaries who are willing to engage in a (well, almost) political argument with them? If you really want a proletarian revolution with a proletarian program, I suggest you–we–set about engaging with all those non-sectarian leftists–a.k.a. the emerging and mobilizing masses–not to educate them how they were wrong to elect a Chavez, Maduro, or Tsipiras, but to work with them so that they begin to create better more democratic mechanisms to establish a mass program and from which the masses can exert their own leadership and revolutionary will. In such a framework, individuals of revolutionary will can look to building revolutionary backbone among our friends, neighbors, relatives, comrades, so that whomever is chosen to stand at the head of such organizations and consequent governments will fight to maintain the revolutionary will of the masses careful to rely on the masses’ express direction and involvement. Yes, what I just stated is not only vague and a bit ephemeral. It is so not because I could not speak more organizationally, more directively, but because such a matter is not really for me, or you, or any small number of the masses, to state more plainly, but for the actuality of such organization to take place in the real time when it becomes appropriate and apparent.

In short, the problems of Syriza’s or Chavismo’s capitulation were not the problems of failed or treacherous leaderships, but of the decidedly immature will of the masses whose actions brought forward leaders that acted upon that immature will with predictable consequences. We–all of us–need more backbone not saviors.


S.Artesian December 30, 2015 at 8:03 pm

The problem according to MB, and LP, then is the “decidedly immature will of the masses whose actions brought forward leader that acted upon that immature will with predictable consequences.”

That’s not a historical analysis of the struggle in Greece, Venezuela. or anywhere. It’s a self-justifying apology.

Discussions about the immaturity or maturity of the masses are basically absurdities, designed simply to justify personal and/or organizational failure by blaming the “immaturity of the masses.”

We could use that to explain anything, and thereby explain nothing. “The reason why the black power movement faded away was the immaturity of the masses that produced immature leaders doing immature things.” Say what? That’s supposed to be some sort of materialist analysis?

Even if there is such a thing, or condition, as “immaturity– or maturity– of the masses” such a condition or relation is temporary, and the issue is, and is always, what are the effective transitions, movements, demands, organizations that must be developed to a) ward off defeat and b) advance the struggle?

Now that may sound old fashioned, but the bourgeoisie are an old-fashioned class.

Just as importantly, I’m asking, not the “masses,” but the professional leftists, those who claim 30 or 40 years engagement in the struggle, those who have supported the FSLN, or worked with the ANC, those who are in fact anything but immature to explain their apparent, systematic, chronic inability to propose any alternative to the repeated capitulation by whatever is the “next best hope.”

I mean come on Manuel, and come on Louis, Syriza rode to victory claiming it would end to the terms of the 2012 “Master” (as in master and slave) agreement. So when, from February on, Syriza starts reneging on that— why the silence?

When the parliamentary committee finds that the debt is fraudulent and illegal, and the Syriza leadership keeps vowing to honor the debt– why the silence?

When the Tsipras government demands that regional and municipal government bodies and national organizations forward all available cash, beyond the amounts required for immediate operations, to the national government accounts so that Greece can make the payments on the debt, why the silence?

When the “left wing” of Syriza absolutely refuses to demand either/or both internal party votes and votes on the parliament floor, on the government course, why the silence? Do you think silence is going to “improve” the “maturity” of the masses? Do you think silence improves the “relations of forces,” advances “left” politics?

When the ECB restricts the collateral that it will accept from Greece, but keeps the ELA (Emergency Liquidity Access– sorry for calling it ELF earlier) windows open, so the Greek banks can keep moving deposits of its wealthy clients to other countries, and the minister of finance does NOTHING– is that expressing a deeper maturity, or wisdom that poor little post-adolescent me just can’t grasp?

Proyect claims: “My interest in Syriza as I have already explained is that it provided the revolutionary movement in Greece a framework for regroupment. Until Tsipras effectively split from Syriza while retaining the brand name, it allowed groups that had formerly existed as isolated sects to begin to relate to the broader masses in a fashion that was never possible in “vanguard” formations. For the past 34 years, ever since I began working with Peter Camejo on the original North Star Network, that has been my primary message. You want to turn the axis of discussion on whether I pass your “pro-capitalist” litmus test. I have zero interest in such a debate.”

Well, no that’s not accurate. Syriza did NOT ever provide a revolutionary movement in Greece with a framework for regroupment. First off, if in fact the masses are “immature,” then there is NO revolutionary movement, right? There is no revolutionary movement without the “masses.” So exactly what is Proyect talking about? He is talking about nothing more, and in reality, something much less, than another iteration of the popular front. ( And while we’re at it, let’s be clear, Syriza was at its most radical so far to the RIGHT of the PS in Chile 1967-1973 that it isn’t funny. And Tsipras wouldn’t raise a pimple on Allende’s ass, as screwed up as the UP govt. of Chile was.)

And secondly, Syriza offered regroupment only along certain terms– which terms were terms of outright failure.

I don’t want to turn the axis of discussion any which way but where it belongs– on the so-called correlation of forces that Proyect and Manuel pretend to assess.

Proyect claims that the structure of the organization was not at fault, but the program of that organization was at fault. OK, I’ll go along for the ride on that. Then why wasn’t there ever a single word of critique of the program? Why from the very getgo didn’t our seasoned sophisticated leftists who have spent forty or so years in the struggle point out the baloney in the Syriza program?

Why, several months before the election of Syriza is Proyect writing about “betrayal” and in the event of betrayal, “we’ll” have to appeal to the Syrizan left to initiate a revolutionary struggle, but after the election, it’s oh-to-complicated to leave the eurozone, the computer code changes alone are staggering? Funny thing– Schauble wasn’t worried, was he?

You want a litmus test? Here’s a litmus test. Do you as a “friend” “supporter” of “revolutionary regroupment” in Greece, with or without Syriza put forward a call, demand, slogan, PROGRAM, the begins with immediate repudiation of the fraudulent, illegally imposed DEBT?

Bottom line here is that the professional Syriza supporters offer nothing, no assessment of their particular failure other than to say the “masses were immature.” Which of course tells us how little the professional Syriza supporters understand of the very correlation of forces they pretend to grasp. All that is offered is repetition in the service of failure.

Revolutionary backbone indeed– osteopaths, heal thy-selves.


Manuel Barrera December 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Well, then, if the immaturity of the masses doesn’t suit you, then the problem is the immaturity of the class struggle and, more specifically, the poor will of workers to do more than what they were willing to do, which was to elect a leadership capable only of acceeding to that class’ wishes, not in the words and declaration, the program, if you will, but what the working class was able and willing to do in the context of the overall consciousness–lack even of words or declarations of solidarity, never mind actions–of the European working class and oppressed masses (I assume, perhaps naively, that you do believe that there remains a role for the other strategic sectors of the working masses; women, youth, immigrants, people of color). Artie, you cast about at straw “men” thinking you are winning debater’s points when the issues here are not about whether my words are better than yours, but whether the “assessment of failure” conforms to your apparent need to show how bad people like Tsipiras or Chavez actually were. It is not about Syriza–yes, it failed. However, Syriza failed and Chavismo failed because the working masses of these countries could not mount enough proletarian solidarity (those words should comfort you) to develop a veritable struggle for power. The immaturity I speak of is not an epithet but an observation, a distinct nature of the working class and its related forces. We see it even worse here in the U.S. Black Lives Matter is willing to stop traffic on freeways and airports, but when it comes to mounting a realistic campaign to end police occupation and murder through organized community control, not of the police, but of their neighborhoods, schools, and public spaces that would prevent the police from even patrolling without community consent. The reason is not because such notions-demands–like community control, or, in the case of Greece, nationalization of banks are incomprehensible to the masses of people, but because the people, at this moment, without a strong revolutionary-minded leadership, do not wish to “go there”. Yet. The real question is when and how? By pronouncing revolutonary programs, demands–transitional or otherwise? If it was really just about getting the words right or finding the right leader, I would say that there was more maturity among the masses. You worry about words like maturity or immaturity when you should be worrying about how do we build a better mass-oriented “left”. Saying that Syriza failed and that their leadership quailed at Europe’s bourgeoisie is NOT analysis. It’s just self-gratification. Do you really believe that devoid of any other context if S Artesian had been at the head of Syriza that what would have happened would be different? That if Naj had just proclaimed proletarian revolution–even louder than Antarsya or the KKe or the 5th Internationalists in Venezuela–that the Greek masses or the Venezuelan masses would have just said, “oh, why didn’t I think of that?! Let’s get the hell out of the Euro!”? If you really believe that “analysis” by the “professional revolutionaries” is the problem here then you have a responsibility to do better than just to demand that we repudiate Syriza or Tsipiras or Chavez or the PSUV. I will state that Syriza and Tsipiras caved in to European capital, allowed the Greek Bourgeois to hold on to their money, spent more time placating anti-Arab sentiments by working with the thugs of Egypt and Israel and the whole host of other sins you can name. Chavez tried to run capitalism to support socialist measures, when Oil was lucrative, while Maduro inherited the drop in Oil and allowing the Latin American bourgeois to horde goods. Where did you see the masses of Greece or Venezuela take on these socially-conscious issues straightforward? Where were the revolutionary democratic mechanisms (they were called soviets “back in the day”) and how did they just not appear? Was it simply because Tsipiras and Syriza didn’t call for them? Or Chavez? Immaturity is not pejorative term, but an appraisal of the current state of working class consciousness. To be sure, there were and are more mature thinkers among the Greek or Venezuelan masses and among folks like Black Lives Matter, but they are NOT among the leaderships of Antarsya or the PSUV or the ISO or Socialist Alternative (never mind Bernie). But such potential revolutionary leaders are still very small voices. Conditions have to change and part of this change is the growing maturity of the mobilized masses in struggle. We need to push forward actual struggle not denouncements of people that the masses still see as their leaders. In struggle, the leaders of the masses will either create a backbone or others with a backbone will emerge. These discussions here are important, but they cannot be about immature analyses regarding how leaders didn’t lead–They didn’t–and then point to Comintern theses on workers governments to show how they “usedta do it”.
Finally, S’Artie, if “professional Syriza supporters” fail to grasp correlations of forces (what an epithet aimed not at comradely discourse but only rude inaccurate name-calling), perhaps your appraisal of the relationship of forces is different, more accurate? Do you even have such an appraisal that doesn’t involve the patently simplistic “appraising” of Tsipiras/Syriza or Chavez/Chavismo as demagogues who betrayed the masses? Or, do you really believe you would have done better and that’s all there was to the problem?
Oh, and by the way,repudiating the “fraudulent illegal DEBT” is pretty easy. Hey, it’s fraudulent, it’s illegal, I repudiate it. . . Somehow, I tend to doubt that really is enough for you. It wouldn’t be enough for me if you, or Tsipiras, said it.


S.Artesian December 30, 2015 at 11:47 pm

” Artie, you cast about at straw “men” thinking you are winning debater’s points when the issues here are not about whether my words are better than yours, but whether the “assessment of failure” conforms to your apparent need to show how bad people like Tsipiras or Chavez actually were.”

First off, I have no need, and never attempted to “show how bad people like Tsirpas or Chavez actually were.” That’s just made-up nonsense on your part. I was asked specific questions about what I proposed as alternatives and I answered them in the concrete, regarding the Syriza program and then the Syriza government’s actions. You have provided exactly zero concrete analysis of a)the conditions of capitalism in Greece b)the “assessment of forces” other than the so-called immaturity of the masses c)the program of Syriza d) the actions of the Syriza government and how it became the upholder of austerity, of increasing austerity, etc. etc.

This isn’t a debate, and these aren’t debating points. You talk about class struggle as if you are talking “nuts and bolts,” and when confronted with what actually happened in class struggle, you trivialize it as “debating points.”

” If it was really just about getting the words right or finding the right leader, I would say that there was more maturity among the masses. You worry about words like maturity or immaturity when you should be worrying about how do we build a better mass-oriented “left”. ”

I don’t worry about words. I oppose the words being used to obscure the actual conditions, the actual opportunities for alternatives that did exist.

“, perhaps your appraisal of the relationship of forces is different, more accurate? Do you even have such an appraisal that doesn’t involve the patently simplistic “appraising” of Tsipiras/Syriza or Chavez/Chavismo as demagogues who betrayed the masses? Or, do you really believe you would have done better and that’s all there was to the problem?”

Again, I have never used the “patently simplistic appraising of Tsipras…. as demagogues who betrayed the masses.” Never. As for my assessment of Syriza– I probably wrote about 40 articles on Greece between the election of Syriza and the “big capitulation.” You can read them anytime you want on my blog.

If you like you can contact me and I’ll give you the URL.

As for referring to “professional Syriza supporters” being “rude inaccurate name-calling,” I’m sorry if that hurt your feelings, but I know of no other way to describe those who made a regular practice of supporting Syriza during its progressive and increasing abandonment of the very program that these supporters claimed represented something “new,” something “revolutionary.”


Manuel December 31, 2015 at 4:33 pm

You know, this pseudo dialogue is really disappointing. This reply will be the last one to you directly.

Perhaps we may (may) share a common analysis, but we clearly differ on what to do next. I learned the hard lesson in the American SWP that being “right” is simply not enough. Who is going to argue that conditions are necessary and needed for a workers government in Greece or,for that matter, anywhere else? Certainly not me. The question is what do we do now; in Greece or here? How is obfuscating the words of Louis or mine because they do not conform to what you believe is needed to be said and how to say it at all helpful?

Whether on Marxmail or, now, here, all that you seem to be doing is staking out how “Marxist” you are as if staking out a class analysis is all that would be necessary. Perhaps doing so is all that you feel you need to do now? Good enough. You and the Gordo’s, Jordans, seem to think you’ve captured a high ground to attack as rigthist movement a perspective that simply doesn’t see how a program for workers’ power is in any way a useful point of action? Indeed, asking for such action in the minds of sectarians seems to lead to epithets about being fascist.

Don’t worry about my sensitivities. You’re being rude and name calling to “make a point” that obscures where I really stand was an observation not a complaint. Epithets like that are usually the mark of a weak argument and either ignoring or simply falsifying what I say is a clearer indication. I don’t need to prove to you that I understand the class relationship of forces or share a Marxist analysis of Greece, the world, or how what has transpired in Greece and Venezuela has altered that relationship to the disadvantage of the toiling masses. I’m more interested in knowing, by your actions not words, whether, as a puported leftist, you are capable of arguing for unity despite disagreement. We need comradeship to work together not winning a secure high ground in the mistaken venture to achieve some clarity of program. Programs come and go. Opportunities for unity are too often rare.

I’m not going to argue anymore on this “analysis”. Indeed, I’m not going to respond to you further until I see real political movement toward unity. Your correctness is simply not worth it. I’ll confine myself to reading and responding to more serious revolutionaries rather than holy grail sectarians bent on ersatz enlightened “winning” what they think is a debate. To borrow a phrase from the 80’s, “that’s so 70’s”.


Gordo December 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

“You and the Gordo’s, Jordans, seem to think you’ve captured a high ground to attack as rigthist movement a perspective that simply doesn’t see how a program for workers’ power is in any way a useful point of action? ”

I can’t speak for anyone else on this site but I believe that the left wing of capital is a dangerous obstacle that in its various incarnations (eg. Bernie Sander’s campaign, SWP, ISO, SYRIZA, Socialist Party, etc.) redirects radicalizing workers into bourgeois politics, and is one of the reasons “conditions aren’t ready” and “the working class is immature.”

The question isn’t one of left and right then. It’s one of the proletariat and bourgeoisie. Class struggle. I believe Marx was grounded in the class struggle too, which would explain why terms like “left wing” can’t be found in any of his works while “proletarian,” “bourgeois” and “petty bourgeois democrats” are all through them.

I don’t want to steer capitalist states to the left. I want to abolish them. If that never happens I can at least say I fought for it. When one fights for the election of a SYRIZA than watches them win and fuck over the entire working class what can they say? Apparently nothing.


Louis Proyect December 31, 2015 at 5:18 pm

I don’t want to steer capitalist states to the left. I want to abolish them. If that never happens I can at least say I fought for it.

Really? By how? Commenting on my blog or the North Star website? I truly wonder how the ultraleftists who hang out here or other petty-bourgeois traitor websites can stand living such a Walter Mitty life. They could make a move about it if they already hadn’t–it was called “Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment” and is quite funny.


Gordo January 1, 2016 at 8:02 am

Frankly, you have no idea what I do and don’t do. Whatever I do can’t be worse than blogging daily in support of austerity enforcing parties like SYRIZA though.

In this period there is only so much that can be done. I talk to my fellow workers as often as possible, I talk to other radicalized workers around the world, I study history and the present, I theorize, I criticize. I have also been engaged in strikes and mass committees though obviously neither went very far.

And yes I comment on websites like this which takes about 5 minutes a day.

I would consider this a part of political work. When workers radicalize and start looking around it is too easy for them to get sucked into these left wing circles since they are more visible (partially because leftists like you who push for bourgeois parties to get elected are acceptable to the bourgeoisie while communist workers are not). If my public critique encourages even one worker to take a second look at the kind of thing you and similar leftists say I consider it a worthwhile endeavor.

In person I wouldn’t waste my time arguing with you. I am not trying to change your positions. You are who you are and it is reflected in your politics. You would apparently consider the abortion banning tyrant in charge of the capitalist state in Nicaragua a revolutionary but write off “ultraleftists” like Bordiga who stood up against Stalin and survived.


S.Artesian December 31, 2015 at 5:51 pm

God, you’re really full of hot air, aren’t you. All you do is pose and throw around labels like they’re dog shit, hoping some will stick to someone besides yourself.

I answered concrete questions with concrete answers.

You cannot. Neither can Louis.

Was there a problem with Syriza’s program or not?

If not, then why the abject, pathetic silence when Syriza abandoned the program step by step?

Did Syriza provide a point for “revolutionary regroupment” or not?

All I ask is that those interested in what happened in Greece consider this: What if New Democracy, not Syriza had captured a majority in January 2015– and New Democracy had conducted negotiations with the Troika–and New Democracy had agreed to all the things Syriza had agreed to?

What would the reaction of the Manuels and the Proyects be? There is no alternative? The working class was too (immature, isolated, disoriented, defeated– pick one or some or all)? The problems would only begin if New Democracy repudiated the debt? It’s too complicated to change currencies?

Or would it be the critique of New Democracy as the “tool” of the Eurozone, of the bankers, of the bourgeoisie, of capitalism?

So what’s the difference? Syriza did exactly what New Democracy did prior to it; what PASOK did prior to that. So what’s so brand-spanking new and different about Syriza? Not a thing. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. It was, and is, the same old same old. With the same old same old cheerleaders on the sidelines wagging fingers at the “sectarians” who go “wait a minute. haven’t we done this before?”

Manuel can withdraw from the discussion. Louis can avoid accounting for the words he wrote a year ago, so they both can participate in the Jonestown Cult of “new political regroupment.” The Kool-Aid however tastes of what it is.

Finally, as my “final” word I guess, I’d ask Proyect if he still supports Syriza– that is to say, does he support the measures Syriza has enacted since the big climbdown? Does he support recapitalizing the Greek banks? Does he support the restrictions on homeowners seeking refuge in bankruptcy proceedings?

If you supported the baloney “referendum” that Syriza put through, if you supported participation in the ELA, the ESM, etc. etc. during the “negotiations,” do you still support those?

And yeah, those things matter.


Louis Proyect December 31, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Did Syriza provide a point for “revolutionary regroupment” or not?

Of course it did. The real Syriza continues in the Popular Unity coalition. If that group sells out, another group will likely emerge to continue the struggle. What I reject is the approach of small sectarian groups that festoon their websites with hammer and sickles and write mind-numbing manifestos like Gordo and Naj about proletarian revolutions and the dictatorship of the proletariat. You at least can be respected for writing serious economic analysis even if it is turgidly unreadable. Frankly, that’s the reason I haven’t been responding to your intervention here. It needs to be much more to the point and less prosecutorial not that you would be capable of another method of communication.


Louis Proyect December 30, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Then why wasn’t there ever a single word of critique of the program?


Because I found nothing wrong with it. If Syriza had carried out the measures outlined in the Thessalonika Programme, the European left would have been thrilled. As I pointed out in an article after Tsipras’s election but before he took office, the only way the program could be implemented was through a general upsurge of the European left that could have mounted the kind of pressure that allowed the Bolivarian movement to move forward in Latin America. However, the upsurge did not take place. Instead there was a lack of solidarity except from Podemos.


S.Artesian December 30, 2015 at 9:40 pm

” In Greece, the program was at fault not the organizational model.”

“Because I found nothing wrong with it.”

So there was something wrong with the program, but what exactly that something is never stated.

And at the same time……..

So there was nothing wrong with the program, but when Syriza does its about face, within 2 weeks of being elected, then there’s nothing wrong with that either?

Only thing to do is, I quess, reproduce the program:

We demand immediate parliamentary elections and a strong negotiation mandate with the goal to:

Write-off the greater part of public debt’s nominal value so that it becomes sustainable in the context of a «European Debt Conference». It happened for Germany in 1953. It can also happen for the South of Europe and Greece.
Include a «growth clause» in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed.
Include a significant grace period («moratorium») in debt servicing to save funds for growth.
Exclude public investment from the restrictions of the Stability and Growth Pact.
A «European New Deal» of public investment financed by the European Investment Bank.
Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank with direct purchases of sovereign bonds.
Finally, we declare once again that the issue of the Nazi Occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece is open for us. Our partners know it. It will become the country’s official position from our first days in power.

On the basis of this plan, we will fight and secure a socially viable solution to Greece’s debt problem so that our country is able to pay off the remaining debt from the creation of new wealth and not from primary surpluses, which deprive society of income.

With that plan, we will lead with security the country to recovery and productive reconstruction by:

Immediately increasing public investment by at least €4 billion.
Gradually reversing all the Memorandum injustices.
Gradually restoring salaries and pensions so as to increase consumption and demand.
Providing small and medium-sized enterprises with incentives for employment, and subsidizing the energy cost of industry in exchange for an employment and environmental clause.
Investing in knowledge, research, and new technology in order to have young scientists, who have been massively emigrating over the last years, back home.
Rebuilding the welfare state, restoring the rule of law and creating a meritocratic state.

We are ready to negotiate and we are working towards building the broadest possible alliances in Europe.

The present Samaras government is once again ready to accept the decisions of the creditors. The only alliance which it cares to build is with the German government.

This is our difference and this is, at the end, the dilemma:

European negotiation by a SYRIZA government, or acceptance of the creditors’ terms on Greece by the Samaras government.

Negotiation or non-negotiation.

Growth or austerity.

SYRIZA or New Democracy.

What will happen though until the negotiation is over?

With SYRIZA for a National Reconstruction Plan for the Greek society.

We assume responsibility and are accordingly committed to the Greek people for a National Reconstruction Plan that will replace the Memorandum as early as our first days in power, before and regardless of the negotiation outcome.

The National Reconstruction Plan focuses on four major pillars to reverse the social and economic disintegration, to reconstruct the economy and exit from the crisis.

Nothing wrong, something wrong, everything wrong– I got it now. Obfuscation is the common currency of this so-call “regroupment”


S.Artesian December 31, 2015 at 11:14 am

Just for the sack of accuracy, here is what Louis wrote in the summer of 2014 about Syriza:

“Finally, the real issue facing the Greek left is how to unite people on a class basis against a ruling class that is tightly coupled to the German bourgeoisie. Syriza offers a framework for revolutionaries that will enable them to connect with millions of Greeks who have not yet achieved a revolutionary consciousness. Unlike the Greek Communist Party, Syriza is relatively open and transparent—a function of the “reformism” that Callinicos disdains. The alternative to the CP and Syriza is the tiny and inconsequential Antarsya that is united around the need for revolution but a “reformist” party that can begin to serve as a pole of attraction for revolutionaries. In the event that Syriza is elected and fails to carry out its mandate, it will be up to its left wing to push the agenda for overcoming austerity in the only way possible: overthrowing Greek capitalism.”

a year later, we get:

“I am long past the point when I expect anything different. I never had an(y) expectations that Syriza would be victorious…I take everything in stride.”

In the interim– nothing but support for Syriza; nothing but proclaiming that Greece’s then current problems will be nothing compared to the problems it will experience if it breaks with the EU, defaults on the debt, abandons the euro, etc. etc. etc

The stride that Louis takes everything in is profoundly to the right.


Gordo January 1, 2016 at 8:03 am

For the admins of this site, after commenting or when clicking a link direct to a comment (for example: ) the comment section fails to load and Wordpress gives the following error:

“Warning: Division by zero in /home/binh123/ on line 343”


Louis Proyect January 1, 2016 at 9:50 am



louisproyect January 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm

test 2


sartesian January 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Yikes. Home page says 37 comments but “test 2” was all that showed when I clicked in.


louisproyect January 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm

There was a technical problem with the “recent comments” that Gordo pointed out to me. In fixing it, I had to switch to Disqus to fix it but it purged the recent comments list unfortunately (which actually weren’t working). We should be fine going forward.


sartesian January 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm

I’d say the issue is precisely NOT criticizing Syriza for not being more radical, or for “betrayal,” or for not being ‘more’ of a ‘workers’ government, but rather to criticize Syriza for what it always was, a pro-capitalist formation that explicitly sought to blanket and smother class struggle in program of “capitalism with a human face.”

Greece 2015 wasn’t Chile in 1973. Syriza came to power riding a retreat of class struggle. The UP came to power on its advance.

You certainly can get away with criticizing Allende’s UP government for not being more radical, and for not being more of a ‘workers government’– although personally I don’t think such a thing can even exist– but the PS in Chile was explicitly socialist, explicitly for workers’ control, and Allende was a socialist.

Syriza certainly was not socialist, no more than PASOK was in 1980. And Tsipras wouldn’t make a pimple on Allende’s ass.


Hector Lopez March 27, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Crisis and Colonialism in Puerto Rico
by Olga I. Sanabria Dávila

It used to be the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico was touted as the Showcase of Progress and Democracy in the Caribbean as a result of its accelerated industrialization, the development of its infrastructure, education and health systems and a constitutional system of government in the 1950s and 60s.

At present, however, many United States news outlets and economic reviews are writing about Puerto Rico´s astronomical public debt, its economic crisis and its ramifications. At present the debt is estimated at 73 billion U.S. dollars – up from 32 billion dollars in 2006, one year after the beginning of a recession in Puerto Rico that is expected to persist until 2018, although given the present fiscal crisis that is doubtful.

Beyond the junk bond status of Puerto Rico bonds, with unemployment estimated at between 13 and 14 per cent, a 44.9 per cent poverty rate, with 84 per cent of its children living in poverty stricken areas, only four out of ten of those able to work doing so, and at a $19,000 median annual income that is half the income of Mississippi, the United States´ poorest state, Puerto Rico can hardly be called a showcase of anything but the failure of a dependent economy based on foreign, predominantly U.S. investment, low wages, tax exemption for foreign corporations, and dependence on U.S. federal funds.

Population and other demographic data are also indicators of a showcase gone sour. The new wave of Puerto Rican migration to the United States has been continuous and massive numbering 84,000 in 2014 alone, including professionals, with a population of 5.1 million in the United States while an aging population 3.6 million remains in Puerto Rico.

Thus the constitutional system of government established in PuertoRico in 1952 with the founding of the Free Associated State was a misrepresentation and also a failure as it left intact the backdrop for the present crisis which is the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Despite its autonomy in fiscal affairs, U.S. Congressional laws govern over PuertoRican legislation in the areas international relations and commerce, monetary issues, migration and emigration, maritime traffic (with U.S. Maritime Law applied to Puerto Rico), customs, labor relations and trade union organization, border patrol, airspace and transportation, communications, defense, and many other areas.

In terms of its environmental protection and policy, ecological balance, climate change, global warming Puerto Rico is also subordinate to outside United States agencies, interests, policies, and power. This is very dangerous for the Puerto Rican population as Puerto Rico is a small island country in the Caribbean. In this regard, Puerto Rico´s internationally known geomorphologist, Dr. José Molinelli, recently warned that the PuertoRico Planning Board lacks protocols for handling events in tsunami prone zones.

In the present situation of fiscal and economic crisis, the PuertoRican legislature adopted a bankruptcy law which would have made it possible for public corporations on the Island to declare bankruptcy and thus be enabled to restructure their debt. The debt of the Puerto RicoElectric Power Authority alone is estimated at 9 billion U.S. dollars. However, this legislation was overruled by the United States extraterritorial Federal Court which operates in Puerto Rico. Action which followed byPuerto Rico Resident Commission in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, for a law to be enacted in order that the Federal bankruptcy law be applicable toPuerto Rico has gone unheeded. A broad movement in Puerto Ricoattempting to have Puerto Rico exempted from application of U.S. maritime law has also gone unheeded.

Response by the government of Puerto Rico has been to raise taxes, fees for a broad spectrum of services, as well as reducing services, and budget cutbacks in general – in general, a neo liberal austerity program styled after International Monetary Fund formulas that will lead to much hardship for the people of Puerto Rico.

Convoking of a Constitutional Status Assembly to deal with the colonial status, unity of purpose, greater protection of local business… are some of the objectives voiced in interviews of Puerto Rican leaders by Cándida Cotto, a reporter with the Puerto Rican pro-independence newspaper Claridad, on necessary actions in the face of the present fiscal and economic crisishitting PuertoRico at present and the hands off position of the United States president and Congress which have negated Puerto Rico the tools necessary for confronting this crisis. The answers included that the United States must be forced to address the crisis in Puerto Rico, including putting an end to its colonial relationship with the United States.

However, as noted in a number of editorial appearing in Puerto Rico major daily newspapers, El Nuevo Día and El Vocero, responds by the three branches of the United States government have been non-committal and even indifferent.

Puerto Rican pro sovereignty legislator Luis Vega Ramos, said “We need to understand, once and for all, that we can only depend on ourselves for moving forward, although many actors were involved in creating this financial bubble, we should not be hopeful that our creditors will negotiate with consideration of our better interest. And the three branches of the U.S. federal government have been reluctant to allow us necessary tools and support such as exemption from U.S. Maritime Laws, applying Federal bankruptcy law to our public corporations or support from the Federal Reserve of the U.S. Treasury.”

Vega Ramos also referred to the fact that other jurisdictions and countries have also been affected by the financial bubble that has now exploded, including as a result of the actions of creditors.

“We must act with unity of purpose if we are to be successful in the difficult upcoming negotiations and to accomplish this we must have full transparency and citizen participation as never before seen in Puerto Rico. We need to all feel a part of the solution.”

According to Pro Independence Party leader, Juan Dalmau, the Puerto Rican community in the United States has a determining role because more than half of the Puerto Rican population is presently living in the United States where they participate in politics and form public opinion regarding Puerto Rico. When PuertoRico is not a problem it can be swept under the rug. However, now that PuertoRico is a theme, a problem, it can exert pressure.

He noted that all international financial analysis that have been done regarding the situation in Puerto Rico closely connect the situation toPuerto Rico´s colonial situation, political subordination and lack of powers therein, and the need to resolve that.

Wilma Reverón Collazo, a leader in the National Hostos Movement for the Independence of Puerto Rico, and others have called for an independent audit of Puerto Rico´s public debt, reparations to Puerto Ricofor the exploitation, repression and environment damage the Puerto Rican people have endured at the hands of United Statescolonialism and solution of the colonial status through a Constitutional Status Assembly and independence.

The power relationship and political subordination of Puerto Rico to the United States points to a colonial status issue. Colonialism is an historical anachronism that has long been declared contrary to international law and human rights, from which emanates, in the case of Puerto Rico, the injustices inherent in the colonial relation which the United States has maintained with Puerto Rico since its invasion of the Island in 1898, one hundred and seventeen years ago.

Commitment to grassroots democracy is totally consistent with support for the decolonization of Puerto Rico as colonialism is also totally contrary todemocracy. For the country ruled, democracy is non-existent where one country rules over another, if even if there are elections every four years to elect local authorities. Taking into account that in Puerto Rico the United States controls commerce, international relations, immigration, monetary issues, communications, postal matters, defense, labor relations, and others, to truly support democracy in Puerto Rico, its decolonization has to be supported as the first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in ademocracy.

The issue of the support of the Puerto Rican people for independence and there not being enough support, therefore, is not an impediment forsolidarity with Puerto Rico. Support for decolonization is a matter of principle precisely because colonialism is contrary to human rights, contrary to self-determination and contrary to democracy.

Regarding decolonization, what comes into play is what should be the mechanism in order that the Puerto Rican people freely exercise their sovereignty and their right to self-determination which are the inalienable rights of all peoples as recognized by international law, specifically by Resolution 1514(XV) of the United Nations General Assembly (1960), which is considered the Magna Carta of Decolonization.

Further, it must be stated that regarding the future status of Puerto Rico, the only option recognized by international law as inalienable, is the right to independence. International law maintains that all peoples have the inalienable right to self-determination and independence. The Free Associated State status, free association under international law and statehood for Puerto Rico are not inalienable rights. Further, Puerto Ricans are a separate people from the people of the United States.

Before the United States invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, the nationhood of the Puerto Rican people had been forged during more than four hundred during which our culture and national identity became clear and distinct from that of any other people in the world. The Free Associated State status and statehood for Puerto Rico are not inalienable rights. Besides being an inalienable right, because Puerto Rico is a nation, international posits that independence is the natural aspiration of peoples who have not yet acquired full self-government.

The plebiscites, referendums and the like carried out in Puerto Rico are not the solution precisely because they have not been free exercises of the will of the Puerto Rican people. They have taken place in the context of colonial rule, military occupation, repression and persecution of the independence forces, economic dependence and colonial legislation and U.S. Congressional legislation. Thus, their results cannot be said to reflect the true will of the Puerto Rican people. For these reasons they have not been an exercise of self-determination.

While the United States has maintained that it will accept the will and decision of the Puerto Rican regarding its status, it has obstructed the process by maintaining that the issue is its internal matter and not recognizing the role of the United Nations. Precisely through these referendum and plebiscite processes, it has used its power in Puerto Ricomaintain the present status, which is the option most consistent with its economic, political and other interests in Puerto Rico.

These are the reasons that the Puerto Rican pro-independence forces and even some supporting other options continually resort to United Nations Resolution 1514(XV). It is recognized that the United Nations has a role to play. In order for an expression of the will of the Puerto Rican people regarding its future relation to the United States to be a free exercise, it must be supervised by the United Nations because it is understood that otherwise the determining factor in any exercise will be the power relationship of domination of the United States over Puerto Rico.

As regards the present situation as regards the fiscal and economic crisis, the situation is increasingly billed as a political crisis which will force attention to the colonial status and the need to resolve it if the fiscal and economic situation are to be addressed. Regarding the political status and independence, while it is true that a lot of work needs to be done by the pro-independence forces in order that support for this option grow substantially, there is in Puerto Rico an overall sentiment that the present situation and the colonial status must be resolved.

Cleavages along which Puerto Rico’s main political parties are divided delineate options which, according to the rhetoric of leaders of even the pro statehood and pro Free Associated State parties, move the country away from the colonial status. Even those supporting statehood (which would be the culmination of colonialism in Puerto Rico) continually attack the Free Associated State as colonial and the second class U.S citizenship of PuertoRicans under the Free Associated State as the root of the country’s problems.

Meanwhile, within the pro Free Associated State Popular Democratic Party, there is a growing so-called autonomous, pro sovereignty wing, which espouses greater powers for the Free Associated State, including to freely engage in international trade relations, and that outside of certain areas only powers specifically delegated should be exercised by the United States over Puerto Rico.

The vibrant social movements active today in Puerto Rico regarding women’s rights, civil rights, community empowerment, the environment, youth, sports, culture, labor, cooperative economic endeavors, and many other areas, are in constant encounter with the colonial status as an impediment to their objectives. Thus, these social movements are also a base of the anti-colonial, potentially pro-independence movement that will participate in any future exercise in self-determination supervised by the international community, specifically the United Nations.

These movements and the pro-independence movement and organizations overlap in many scenarios, and along with the action of the United Nations and international solidarity, especially that of the people of the United States and our Latin American and Caribbean region, are the basis for the future possibility independence and democracy in Puerto Rico.

The inalienable right to self-determination is for all of the Puerto Rican people to exercise including those who do not support independence, but in order to be legitimate and a true exercise of self-determination with a level playing field for all options, including independence, the mechanism for its exercise but must a fair one that abides by international law, not any plebiscite or referendum.

Such is the case of a Constitutional Status Assembly, a mechanism fordecolonization which is gaining ground in Puerto Rico as it becomes more urgent for the colonial status issue of Puerto Rico to be resolve. Within the United States progressive sectors, support for Puerto Rican decolonizationand a fair mechanism for the decolonization process and independence to take place, is crucial.


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