Monday, 2 March 2015

Syriza and Brest-Litovsk - Part 2 of 3

In the 1930's, Trotsky when he was resident there, wrote about the problems facing Mexico, and against the dangerous illusions being peddled both by ultra-leftist critics of the Cardenas regime, and the inadequacies of that regime's own policies as set out in the second Six Year Plan. The Cardenas regime had nationalised the British oil companies in the country. Sectarians in the Fourth International's Mexican section criticised the government for having paid compensation. Trotsky criticised them for effectively reducing their position to carping from the sidelines, rather than allying themselves with a struggle against the imperialist pressure that Mexico faced.

Trotsky points to the problems any such poor country faces, which lacks capital, and which, therefore, must make compromises with international capital. Trotsky points to the fact that Lenin himself was at great pains to try to attract foreign capital, to invest in Russia, after the revolution, because the country needed capital, and it needed the kind of technology and expertise that these large companies could provide. Lenin made quite clear that the joint ventures they would enter into with these companies, and even the straightforward issuing of licences to operate in the country, would necessarily mean that this foreign capital exploited Russian workers, but, he argued, that firstly, they had little choice about that given their condition, and secondly, it would be worth it for the advantages they would reap, in more rapidly developing the economy, and more rapidly training their own managers, and technicians.

It is a policy that China has adopted, over the last thirty years, and one that is being applied in other economies such as Cuba. As Trotsky points out, in relation to Mexico,

“Considerable international capital is seeking areas of investment at the present time, even where only a modest (but sure) return is possible. Turning one’s back on foreign capital and speaking of collectivisation and industrialisation is mere intoxication with words.”(On Mexico's Second Six Year Plan)

But, the reformists and statists, believe that the problems of Greece can be resolved simply by the state nationalising the banks, or nationalising this that or the other, that essentially the capitalist state can carry out the socialist revolution from above, and bring about this kind of collectivisation. It is, however, as Trotsky suggests, a “mere intoxication with words”.

In another article on Mexico, Trotsky makes this even clearer.

“It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations.”

Contrasting the problems that Mexico faced, even compared with the problems faced by the USSR, Trotsky writes,

“Despite all these advantages (enjoyed by the USSR, AB) the industrial reconstruction of the country was begun with the granting of concessions. Lenin accorded great importance to these concessions for the economic development of the country and for the technical and administrative education of Soviet personnel. There has been no socialist revolution in Mexico. The international situation does not even allow for the cancellation of the public debt. The country we repeat is poor. Under such conditions it would be almost suicidal to close the doors to foreign capital. To construct state capitalism, capital is necessary.” (On Mexico's Second Six Year Plan)

Mexico, unlike Greece, had the advantage of large supplies of oil, but the situation in both countries comes down to the same problem – a lack of capital, required to modernise the economy so as to make it competitive in a highly competitive global economy. Greece has the advantage over Mexico that, as part of the EU, which as a whole has more than enough capital to bring about a modernisation and restructuring of the European economy, it has the potential of access to that capital. Removing yourself from the Eurozone, and potentially from the EU, removes even that potential.

(2) “since essentially that is the reason why Greeks voted for a party of the radical Left”

But, its not clear that this is the case. Its certainly true that a large proportion of the people of Greece are tired of austerity, and who can blame them. But, only a minority actually voted for Syriza. Moreover, a far greater proportion of the population than actually voted for Syriza, have continually asserted their belief that Greece should remain in the Eurozone. Its one thing to recognise that the majority of the people who voted for Syriza did so because they oppose a continuation of austerity, and quite another to believe that all, or even a majority of those who voted that way did so because they shared some kind of revolutionary consciousness that makes them favour a break with the Eurozone and EU to force such a crisis. There are many revolutionaries who are elected as shop stewards, and even more senior union positions, but very few of those who vote for them share those revolutionary politics.

For Syriza to simply act over the heads of the population, and assume that it should leave the Euro so as to continue its opposition to austerity is elitist, and dangerous. The problem that Syriza has always faced is being able to maintain popular support, and to be able to mobilise active support when required to face down internal opposition. If Syriza were to simply declare that it now felt that its anti-austerity position was incompatible with Eurozone membership, and that it intended to leave, what basis is there for believing that it could mobilise active support for such a position within the country? That is especially the case, if such a course of action rapidly led to a descent into economic chaos, as problems emerged in rolling out a new currency, as money and capital fled the country ahead of any such decision, and as the value of the new currency was made worthless, sending inflation and interest rates in the country into the stratosphere.

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