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9 May 2012
Since the birth of socialism in the mid-19 C, the left has been embroiled in non-stop internecine ideological disagreements which, time and again, have prevented the formation of a united left front against capitalism. Karl Marx himself was an active participant in the resultant doctrinal in-fighting, likewise Lenin and Trotsky at a later date.
The capitalist enemy, by contrast, has tended to remain united behind a single ideological construct – the deification of the unregulated free market – which has largely given it the edge in the never-ending battle with its socialist class enemy. While the socialists were scrapping among themselves, the capitalist cavalry could ride lock-step into battle in the single-minded pursuit of a crushing victory over the workers, peasants and intellectuals.
It is not that the capitalists do not squabble among themselves. Of course they do. But their squabbles tend to be over personality differences and rivalry for key roles in the capitalist army – and not over ideological differences.
The socialists too, of course, are riven by personality conflicts and personal rivalries, but on top of that they are terminally disadvantaged by a built-in propensity for ideological splits.
We can see this dismal scenario being played out in Greece today.
Following the parliamentary election on 6 May 2012, the two main capitalist parties – Pasok (the Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and New Democracy – between them have 149 of the 300 seats in the new parliament.
New Democracy, the party which won the largest percentage of the vote, gained 58 seats, while Pasok came third with 41 seats, giving the two parties a combined total of 99 seats.
However, Greek election rules provide that the party winning the largest percentage of the vote – in this election New Democracy – gets a free bonus of an extra 50 seats, bringing the combined total for Pasok and New Democracy to 149 seats.
Pasok and New Democracy are nominally political enemies, New Democracy being a party of the right and Pasok claiming to be socialist. However, both parties are equally committed to the market economy and, in practice, you could not slip a sheet of paper between their policies.
The leftwing opposition parties, as usual, were split.
Syriza, the leading radical leftist party, won the second largest percentage of votes cast, giving it 52 seats. The Communist Party (KKE) won 26 seats and the Democratic Left (a splinter group of former Syriza supporters) 19 seats, bringing the total for all the left-of-centre parties to 97.
Had these three parties agreed to present a united front at the election, they would have been by far the largest party and so would have been eligible for the 50 extra bonus seats, bringing the total number of leftwing seats in the new parliament to 147.
In which case, the bonus of 50 extra seats would not have gone to New Democracy and the combined total of seats for New Democracy and Pasok would have remained at 99.
There are some signs that a deal between the Democratic Left and Syriza might have been cut. A main concern of the Democratic Left is that any government that emerges from these elections should stay in the eurozone and this is a position that Syriza apparently holds as well – at least for the nonce.
However, by agreeing to stick with the euro, as required by the Democratic Left, Syriza has torpedoed any alliance with the Communists, who want to jettison the euro. The leaders of the Communist Party and Syriza are apparently not on speaking terms.
Yet until the left can sink its ideological differences and present a united front against the forces of capital, it will continue to be defeated by a united enemy that will stop at nothing to secure its ends.
This is the case not just in Greece today. A universal feature of the class war, it is valid everywhere and at all times. Alternatively, it is plain common sense.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.