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Greece: Euro, Sovereignty and the State as Challenges for the

Strategy of the Left

(Full version of the intervention at the debate with Fréderic Lordon,

April 2, 2015, EHESS, Paris, organized by Penser l’émancipation)

Panagiotis Sotiris

Introduction

The arrival of Syriza to power on January 2015, that is the first time that a Party

of the non-socialdemocratic Left arrived to power in a government where the

Left does not represent the minority of the coalition is, obviously, a historic event,

the opening of a new historical phase, an indispensable message of hope for all

the subaltern classes in Europe. At the same time, this specific conjuncture poses

crucial challenges for the strategy and political practice of the radical Left, in

particular ion what concerns its relation with the European Integration project,

its strategy regarding state apparatuses and its conception of internationalism. In

this text I will occupy myself with the following questions: a) The Greek electoral

earthquake of January 2015 as the result of a profound political crisis and of an

exceptional sequence of social and political struggles, b) The neoliberal and

disciplinary offensive of the European institutions, c) the recuperation of popular

sovereignty as a necessary moment of a new internationalism, d) the necessity of

a confrontation with the State as the materialisation of class strategies.

1. Greece at the crossroads: crisis of hegemony and social struggles


This electoral breakthrough was the result of an historical sequence without

precedent. We had to go through the most profound crisis of a model of growth

and development that made manifest the contradictions of the European version

of neoliberalism and of the Euro as single currency: a combination of

uncontrollable debt, of loss of competitiveness, of constant erosion of the

productive base, of self-destructive consumerism based upon a rise of private

debt.1

In spite of the rhetoric surrounding the Greek crisis as an ‘exceptional situation’,

the 2009-10 crisis in Greece was not the failure of the ‘peripheral version’ of the

‘European project’; it was its ‘success’, it was its ‘truth’. The answer to this

profound crisis of neoliberalism in Europe was to transform Greece into the

terrain of the biggest experiment on the possibility to impose, in an extremely

violent manner, a regime of capitalist accumulation that was based upon the

annihilation of all social gains and all labour rights, upon the total deregulation of

the labour market, upon the complete privatisation of critical infrastructure, of

natural resources and of public space, and upon a considerable transfer of

revenue towards the finance capital. This response has also been a test site for

the European authoritarian post-democracy, in particular with the case of the

first post-modern coup in the form of the Papademos government, led by the

former head of the Greek Central Bank.2

1 As Stathis Kouvelakis has stressed the introduction of the euro led to ‘boosting the overall
financialisation of economies internationally, ‘bubbles’ of all kinds in the periphery (especially in
real estate, banking and credit-fuelled private consumption), accompanied by export
performances and gigantic lending flows from the core’. (Stathis Kouvelakis, « The End of
Europeanism», in Costas Lapavitsas (ed.), Crisis in the Eurozone, London, Verso, 2012, p. xvii)
2 On the concept of post-democracy see Colin Crouch, Post-Democracy, London: Polity, 2004.
The result was a social disaster that can only be compared to the consequences of

the WWII: A reduction of GDP of almost 25%, an unemployment rate which at the

end of 2013 reached 27% and which in 2015 is still at 25%, an mass flight of

young degree-holders that face a youth unemployment rate that still exceeds

50% and a deterioration of all public health indicators.3

However, the Greek electoral earthquake was not simply the consequence of

social crisis. It was overdetermined by an almost insurrectionary sequence of

social struggles, including highly original forms of political protests such the

mass assemblies in City Squares that created new forms of unity between the

subaltern classes, gave an antagonistic and radical sense to the notion of the

people as a collective subject of resisted, materialized the possibility of a new

“historical bloc” of the forces of labour, culture and knowledge. It was this

exceptional sequence that could explain the intensity of the crisis of hegemony

and the extent of changes in the relations of representation and of the impressive

discrepancy between the political system and the aspirations of the subaltern

classes. It is here that we can find the roots of the electoral victory of Syriza on

January 2015.

2. The neoliberal and disciplinary counter-attack of the European Union.

However, this hope is now being menaced by the perspective of a humiliating

defeat, which will be a message of desperation. Every day we witness new forms

of cynical blackmail exercised upon the Greek government, which is now under

the threat of financial asphyxiation, because of the dependence of Greece upon


3On the consequences of austerity in Greece see Noeë lle Burgi (ed.), La grande régression. La
Grèce et l’avenir de l’Europe, Paris: EÉ ditions Le Bord de l’eau, 2014.
credit and liquidity injections from the ECB, but also because of the enormous

cost of servicing the accumulated debt towards the EU and the IMF. There’s not a

single day without the other members of the EU demanding the imposition of

new austerity measures and new ‘structural reforms’, namely neoliberal

capitalist restructuring. We can no longer ignore the political calculation that

consists in driving the Greek government towards capitulation, a defeat aiming at

‘sending the message’ that it is impossible to escape the neoliberal ‘permanent

state of exception’, which has become the new European normal.

If this defeat indeed happens, this will be the result of the incapacity of a great

part of the Greek Left, in particular the leading group in Syriza to confront the

question of political power and sovereignty at the national level and the

international level and in particular at the intersection of the national and the

international levels. These important developments were not accompanied by a

serious debate on the question of the State and on the question of what it could

be done in the international context where the new Greek government found

itself.

In what concerns the international context you are well aware of the situation.

The Greek government has been the target of an extreme attack from the part of

the European Union. After an election where the electorate obviously rejected

austerity and neoliberal reforms, the institutions of the European Union have

tried to financially suffocate Greek society in order to see the continuation of the

same politics. The European institutions take advantage of the budgetary

dependence of Greece, which cannot continue to finance its public service, its
salaries and its pensions, and pay its debt towards the IMF and the ECB, without

using the instalments of the loans arranged under the bail-out packages and the

liquidity injections from the part of the ECB.

The aim of the ‘institutions’ is to prove that no country can escape the politics of

austerity and the neoliberal obsession dictated by the European Union. What the

representatives of the EU want to impose is not only the adherence to neoliberal

or social-liberal policies, but, mainly, to put in place a form of permanent

disciplinary surveillance, a process of constant evaluation based upon

ultraliberal norms of the political choices of the Greek government, with the

authority to bloc measures that they consider as a violation of the neoliberal

orthodoxy.

It is exactly this version of reduced and limited sovereignty that the European

institutions want to impose upon the new government. The determinant aspect

has not to do with the particular measures but with the mechanism of imposing

‘ad infinitum’ neoliberal policies. In this sense, we have to not that this neoliberal

counter-offensive does not necessarily take the form of a grand final

confrontation, of a moment of truth where ‘everything will be at stake’, namely

either rupture or definitive capitulation. We can also expect a cyclical repetition

of the government finding itself at an impasse, being under pressure and

engaging in new concessions and new compromises and trying to invent new

temporary ‘solutions’ in order ‘win some time’

.
It is exactly by means of this perverse mechanism that combines a form of limited

and ceded sovereignty, in particular in what concerns social policies, and the

imposition of a regime that consecrate the unequal exchanges between the

centre and the periphery of the Eurozone, which is most aggressively manifest in

the negation of monetary sovereignty, that the European Union has become the

most brutal experiment not only with neoliberal economic policies but also with

the most advanced form of contemporary disciplinary and authoritarian post-

democracy.

The evolution of the forms of European governance represents a vast

experimentation with the forms of this limited sovereignty, this new form of

surveillance and this violent imposition of an ultraliberal social model. The

European Union, accompanied by the FMI was ready to verse hundreds of

billions of Euros on the condition that Greece applied ‘reforms’, namely accepted

the destruction of its entire social infrastructure and put in action a violent

change in the relation of forces in favour or employers and the forces of capital. It

is exactly this that is happening today.

It is exactly this that is happening today in the negotiation of the Greek

government with the ‘institutions’, that is the infamous Troika. The aggressive

practices of the RU are not an exceptional choice. As part of the ‘permanent state

of exception’ it is the ‘normal’ functioning of Europe. In this sense, we can talk, as

Ceé dric Durand et Razmig Keucheyan do, about a ‘bureaucratic cesarism’, ‘a

cesarism that is military but financial and bureaucratic’, 4 that represents the
4Ceé dric Durand and Razmig Keucheyam, ‘Un ceé sarisme bureaucratique’, in Ceé dric Durand (ed.),
En finir avec l’Europe, Paris : La fabrique, 2013.
‘organic crisis’ of bourgeois strategies and of the European project for the simple

reason that the neoliberal bourgeois strategy never managed to construct a

‘historical bloc’. It is equally interesting to underline the observation of Durand

and Keucheyan on the fact that the contemporary hegemony of finance

represents exactly this ‘pseudo-historical bloc’. When the markets become the

dominant form of relations and of cohesion at the European level, the

authoritarian and punitive bureaucratism become the only possible of

governance.

In the context of a growing material discontent of European peoples and the

deterioration of the governability of national state apparatuses, the inability o

the European project to generate consent has led to national and continental

democratic institutions falling into second place, The emergence of bureaucratic

cesarism is the only strategy that the continent’s elites dispose in order to

maintain their domination.5

This process is profoundly and fundamentally authoritarian and antidemocratic.

The declaration by Jean Claude-Juncker that ‘there can be no choice against

European treaties’6 is a manifestation of this anti-democratic cynicism that is

enrooted in the institutional tissue of the process of European integration. 7

Democracy cannot be reduced to ‘deliberation’, or ‘consultation’, or ‘negotiation’,

or the ‘pressure groups’ and the obsessive lobbying (30.000 employees of the

5Op.cit., p. 99.
6http://www.politis.fr/Juncker-dit-non-a-la-Grece-et,29890.html.
7On the antisocial and antidemocratic character of the politics of austerity see Armin Schaë fer and
Wolfgang Streeck (eds.) 2013, Politics in an Age of Austerity, Londres: Polity, 2013.
European Comission in Brussels plus 30.000 lobbyists), that the supposed

democratic aspects of the European construction. Democracy signifies the

capacity of the collective will of the subaltern classes to impose their political and

social exigencies. This possibility is being constantly refused in the European

context. The ‘integrated’ Europe cannot be democratic and the return of

democracy in Greece requires the rupture with the process of European

integration.

3. The euro as capital’s nationalism and the need to recuperate popular

sovereignty.

The rupture with this new European « normal », the rupture with the monetary,

financial and institutional architecture of the Eurozone and the disobedience to

the European treaties become today the necessary condition of a progressive and

democratic exit from the crisis and for the opening of new socialist perspectives

in Europe. If we take the example of the Euro: the exit from the Eurozone is not a

technical question of a choice between monetary options. The advantage of

return to a national currency is not limited to the protection against the

generalised social dumping and the structural inegality of the Eurozone. Above

all it is the recuperation of a democratic control upon economic and social policy

and the necessary liberation from all the constraints and the forms of

intervention inscribed in the framework of the European treaties and regulation

concerning European economic governance.

In this sense, we have to say that today the question of sovereignty becomes a

class stake, a question around which we can see the condensation of antagonistic
class strategies. We do need a democratic and popular sovereignty, as

recuperation of a democratic and social control against the systemic violence of

internationalised capital. We are aware of the problems associated with the

notion of sovereignty, in particular its association with nationalism, racism,

colonialism. I can understand the fear of confusion between a democratic

demand and exigency and the problem, in countries such as France, with the

relation between a form of republican sovereignty and colonialism, as well as the

current racism of the French State. However, I am talking about a form of

sovereignty based upon a different social alliance than that of bourgeois

‘sovereigntism’. I am talking about an alliance of the popular forces, an alliance

based upon the common condition of the subaltern classes, based upon solidarity

and common struggle. As Frederic Lordon has stressed: ‘Democracy, popular

sovereignty: the same idea, which is that of a community mastering its own

destiny’8.

In this sense the recuperation of sovereignty becomes the condition of a

profound change in the relation of forces and represents this collective and

emancipatory effort towards another road, an alternative narrative that points to

the direction of society based upon the potential hegemony of the working

classes.

But what about nationalism? What we can do about nationalism and the historic

identification between sovereignty in the context of the modern nation-state and

nationalism? I would like to insist that we can have a political conception or more

a politically performative conception of the nation. In this sense the nation is not

8Freé deé ric


Lordon, ‘Ce que l’extreê me droite ne nous prendra pas’, 2013,
http://blog.mondediplo.net/2013-07-08-Ce-que-l-extreme-droite-ne-nous-prendra-pas
the ‘imaginary community’ of ‘common blood’; it is the unity in struggle of the

subaltern classes, the unite of those that share the same problems, the same

misery, the same hope, the same struggles. The nation is not a common origin; it

is a common condition and perspective. It is an antagonistic conception of the

nation that also demands a ‘decolonialisation’ of the nation, as recognition of the

consequences of colonialism and state racism, the struggle against all forms of

racism within a potential alliance of the subaltern classes.

Gramsci’s insistence on the importance of elaborating the national-popular will

as element of a strategy for hegemony is in this sense exemplary. For Gramsci,

‘the modern Prince must be and cannot but be the pro claimer and organiser of

an intellectual and moral reform, which also means creating the terrain for a

subsequent development of the national-popular collective will towards the

realisation of a superior, total form of modern civilisation’. 9 In this sense the

elaboration of an alliance of the subaltern classes as a redefinition of the

national-popular element is in reality in opposition to bourgeois nationalism:

Nationalism of the French variety is an anachronistic excrescence in Italian

history, typical of those who turn their heads to look back, like the damned in

Dante. The ‘mission’ of the Italian people lies in taking up once again Roman and

medieval cosmopolitanism, but in its more modern and advanced form. Let it

even be a proletarian nation, as Pascoli wanted: proletarian as a nation since it

has constituted the reserve army for foreign capital, since it, together with the

Slavonic peoples, has given the rest of the world a labour force. Exactly on this

account must it take its place in the modern front of the fight to reorganise the
9 Q13, §1, SPN, pp. 132-3.
world, including the non-Italian world, which through its labour it has

contributed to create, etc.10

Freé deric Lordon has offered a sufficiently provocative description of this

transformative and emancipatory conception of the nation, of what we can call

the new landscape of the nation

Here is the new landscape of nationality : Bernard Arnault ? Not French.

Cahuzac? Not French. Johnny et Depardieu who wander around the world like a

self-service shop for passports ? Not French. The Mamadous and the

Mohammeds that toil in sweatshops, that do the work that no one else wants to

do and pay their taxes are a thousand times more French than this race of

masters. The blue-bloods of tax evasion, out! Passport and welcome to all the

dark-coloured people are dwelling on this territory, those that have contributed

twice, by their labour and their taxes to collective life, a double contribution that

gives its own unique criterion to the belonging to what, yes, continues to be

called a nation!11

I think that we have here the possibility to rethink the question we usually define

as ‘identity’ but also an answer to the institutionalized racism of European states.

And this poses the question of internationalism. I would like to stress that one of

the most important problems, one of the signs of the profound crisis of the

European Left is the fatalist acceptance of European Integration. This fatalist

acceptance of the process of European Integration as an inevitable development

is, in reality, a sign of defeat in face of the neoliberal offensive. The accusation of
10Q19, §5, FS, pp. 253-4.
11Lordon, op. cit.
social-chauvinism against all those that insist on the rupture with the European

project, the stigma attached to any defence of popular sovereignty which is

branded ‘nationalist’, the demonization of any critique of the euro as a single

currency, all point to the same direction: a confusion between workers’

internationalism or popular internationalism and the nationalism of capital.

European Integration is not the perverse form of a cosmopolitanism or

internationalism; it is the actual nationalism of capital. The euro is the

nationalism of capital. It is the recuperation of monetary sovereignty that

represents s form of popular internationalism.

It is by no accident that although the European Union attacks all forms of

sovereignty that could be essential in the defence of social gains, of union rights,

of public services, at the same time it can accommodate itself with all forms of

nationalism, with the mass and murderous exclusion of refugees and migrants,

and with all forms of discriminations at the national level. Within the European

Union the problem is not the ‘democratic deficit’; it is the void of democracy. It is

an ‘authoritarian federalism’ without democratic legitimacy, a neoliberal

constitutionalism without any form of constituent power outside the exigencies

of employers and big capital.

We know that even within the radical left there are partisans of a democratic

federalism in Europe. Toni Negri and Raué l Saé nchez Cedillo have launched an

appeal, some weeks ago. In it they recognise the loss of sovereignty in the

European context and they affirm that the only solution now is a democratic
federalism that would transform Europe into a counter-power against

Atlanticism and neoliberalism12. However, the problem is that from the beginning

of the process of integration, federalism represented exactly the mistrust of

European economic and political elites in regards to popular sovereignty. As

Ceé dric Durand has stressed, it was Hayek himself that considered federalism as a

restriction of the forms of intervention from the popular social strata.

Therefore it is necessary to speak about a new internationalism that begins with

the rupture with the institutions of European Integration. Today, being

internationalist means to wage the collective effort to break with the European

construction, in order to recuperate popular sovereignty, to open a new road,

based upon the collective struggle and intelligence of the subaltern classes. This

process of rupture, represents neither nationalism nor chauvinism, it would be

the return of democracy to Europe, the possibility to rethink international

cooperation and solidarity in terms of mutual benefit.

Capitalist transnational integration, of which the EU is the most advanced

example at a global level, does not exclude social and political antagonism,

political confrontation, imperialist interventions, and war. The important

contribution of classical Marxist theories of imperialism was the insistence on

the fact that the international behaviour of States is determined in the last

instance by social relations within each social formation. Imperialism,

aggression, antagonism are the expression of capitalist relation, in particular in

12Antonio Negri et Raué l Saé nchez Cedillo, “The new left in Europe needs to be radical - and
European”, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/27/new-left-europe-
greece-democratic-capitalism-nato.
conjunctures of capitalist counter-offensive. Therefore, peace and cooperation

depend, in the last instance, upon the relation of force and the social and political

configuration in social formation. Any hit against the EU today, every ‘link’ that

romps with the chain, is a step towards a more democratic Europe.

4. The question of the State

However, everything depends upon the question of power, the question of the

state. In the Marxist theory and politics, there is always a certain ambvalence.

On the one hand we know all the references to the necessity of the destruction of

the state, of a process of withering away of the state, of a conception of

emancipation as liberation from the state. This is a rupture with the entire

tradition of the political philosophy of modernity in which the state is an

‘instance’ that guarantees justice and rationality in the social world.

On the other hand, we also find in the Marxist tradition a taking into account of

the importance of state power in order to begin a process of social change, of a

power that is even despotic as Marx stressed in the Communist Manifesto where

he refers to ‘despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of

bourgeois production’, of the necessity to use the ‘political supremacy’ of the

proletariat in order to ‘ to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of

the State’, even if he defined the state as the ‘the proletariat organised as the

ruling class’.13
13Karl Marx and Frederic Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Peking: Foreign Language
Press, p. 57.
As a solution to this bifurcation between a profound anti-statism and the

necessity use state power, it was Marx himself that insisted on the fact that ‘the

working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield

it for its own purposes’.14 EÉ tienne Balibar has stressed this phrase as a form of

rectification of the Manifesto and as indication of the necessity of a new practice

of politics. For Balibar

1. The first condition is the existence, besides the apparatus of the State, or

political organisations of a new type, of mass political organisations, of political

organisations of workers, which control the apparatus of the state [...]

2. But the second condition is even more important, because it conditions the

previous one: it is the penetration of political practice in the sphere of ‘labour’, of

production. In other terms, the end of the absolute separation, which was

developed by capitalism itself, between ‘politics’ and ‘economy’. Not in the sense

of an ‘economy policy’, which has nothing new, not simply by means of the

transfer of political power to workers, but in order for them to exercise it as

workers [...] the transfer inside the sphere of production of an entire part of

political practice15.

Today, we face a profound transformation, a mutation of state forms within

contemporary capitalism. Despite the ‘anti-state’ discourse of neoliberalism and

the politics of privatization and of deregulation, the amplitude of forms of state

intervention has increased. The emergence of new markets in particular in

energy, infrastructure and public services such as education or health is


14 Op. cit. p. 2.
15 EÉ tienne Balibar, Cinque études de matérialisme historique, Paris : Maspero, p.96.
accompanied by new agencies of regulation, accreditation, regulated

‘competition’, of guarantied revenue for private enterprises. At the same time we

have been able to observe the impressive enhancement of repressive state

apparatuses, with the creation of a parallel state of surveillance and antiterrorist

‘black ops’. However, the change is more profound was the internalisation of

capitalist strategies in the institutional tissue of the State, something already

described by Poulantzas, as an element of a general tendency of displacement

within the state apparatuses which make the executive much more important in

relation to legislative power: this is the primary aspect of what Poulantzas

himself had designed as ‘authoritarian statism’.16 The result is a reinforcement of

these centres of decision against all forms of intervention of popular movements:

‘Authoritarian statism also involves the establishment of an entire institmional

structure serving to prevent a rise in popular struggles’ 17. Consequently:

Popular demands come to have a more and more problematic place in the

elaboration of state policy: not only because the interests of monopoly capital

are furthered by such changes, but also because the administrative apparatus is

materially organized in such a way as to exclude popular needs from its field of

perception. Furthermore, the irrepressible shift in the centre of gravity towards

the state bureaucracy unfailingly involves a considerable restriction of political

liberties, understood as forms of public control over state activity. 18

The process of European Integration can be considered as a high point of this

tendency. The bureaucracy of the European Commission, with its powers of


16Nicos Poulantzas, State Power Socialism, London: Verso, 2000.
17 Ibid, p. 210.
18 Ibid, pp. 226-7.
surveillance, of blockage, of veto, of negating financing, and of intervention, its

relation with autonomous centres within member-states, exemplified in the case

of autonomous Central Banks, or ‘Independent Authorities’, represent exactly this

tendency. We can see this aspect as a manifestation at the European level of what

Poulantzas already had described as the new strategic role of the state

bureaucracy:

Thus placed under the authority of the Executive, the state bureaucracy is

becoming not merely the principal site but also the principle actor in the

elaboration of state policy. No longer is it a question of striking political

compromises on the political arena – that is of publicly elaborating the

hegemonic interests in the form of national interest. The various economic

interests are now directly present as such within the administration. 19

Consequently, it is impossible to simply use the state, the apparatuses of the state

as neutral instrument. The affirmation that the state is not an instrument but the

material condensation of a relation of class forces, an affirmation upon which

Poulantzas insisted, does not signify that a simple change in the relation of

electoral forces can change the role and the function of state apparatuses. We can

also describe the state as a condensation and materialisation of class strategies.

In this sense, we can say that in the case of a government of a party that is not a

‘party of the state, a systemic party, there can be (and this is more probable) a

contradiction and antagonism between political will and its capacity to impose

its choices and the strategy inscribed within state apparatuses. We have seen its
19 Ibid, p. 224.
most aggressive form and also the most tragic has been the case of the Allende

government. But we have also seen the possibility of a ‘coup d’etat’ more quiet,

and more silent which day by day leads to retreats and compromises.

More than 40 years have passed since the last serious debate on the strategy of

the left in regards to the state and government power. In the 1970s, with the

optimism caused by the prospect of governments of the left as the first stage of a

democratic road to socialism this debate was important, even though it remained

incomplete.20 And it was Althusser in that period that insisted upon the excess of

force held by the dominant classes:

The relatively stable resultant (reproduced in its stability by the state) of this

confrontation of forces (balance of forces is an accountant's notion, because it is

static) is that what counts is the dynamic excess of force maintained by the

dominant class in the class struggle. It is this excess of conflictual force, real or

potential, which constitutes energy A, which is subsequently transformed into

power by the state-machine: transformed into right, laws and norms.21

And we can add : into real obstacles against any effort for a radical politics.

Consequently, the question of the transformation of the state in relation to the

exigencies of the new forms of popular sovereignty cannot be conceived as a

‘democratisation’ of the actual state – as Althusser stressed, it ‘is not to add the

20 See Giorgos Kalampokas, Tassos Betzelos et Panagiotis Sotiris, ‘State, Political Power and
Revolution: Althusser, Poulantzas, Balibar and the “Debate on the State”, preé sentation au Congreé s
Historical Materialism London, Novembre 2013.
https://www.academia.edu/5106893/State_political_power_and_revolution_Althusser_Poulantz
as_Balibar_and_the_Debate_on_the_State_%CE%97%CE%9C_2013_paper_
21 Louis Althusser, Philosophy of the Encounter, London: Verso, 2006, p. 109.
adjective ‘democratic’ to each existing state apparatus’. 22 This transformation must

be conceived as the result of a ‘constituent process’ beyond the institutional

configuration of the dominant classes, a process that must appeal, in the process

of elaborating a new constitution to the initiatives and propositions from the

movements. With new forms of democratic participation at all levels, with the

introduction, of new forms of social control, with the recognition of practices of

self-management, with the imposition of limits to the right of property, with new

forms of democratic control and transparency regarding the functioning of

repressive apparatuses.23

That is why we can say that one of the problems Syriza government is exactly this

lack of will to initiate a process of institutional transformation. In contrast, what

we observe is the acceptance, as absolute limit, of the current version of legality,

which includes the European legality and the recycling of political personnel

from systemic parties and in particular PASOK.

Although this profound transformation of the institutional tissue of the state is

indispensable, at the same time it is not enough. Faces with the excess of force of

the dominant classes that is already inscribed in the materiality of the

contemporary state, we need an excess of force from the part of the subaltern

classes. The existence of autonomous radical movements, the refusal of any

‘state-institutionalisation- of the movements, the expansion of autonomous

forms of popular organisation and of ‘counter-institutions’ of people’s

(counter)power, are more necessary when facing a government of the left, even
22 Louis Althusser, 22ème congrès, Paris: Maspero, 1977, p. 54.
23 See Marta Harnecker, Rebuilding the Left, Londres : Zed, 2007.
if, as Poulantzas stressed, this also means an ‘irreducible tension between the

workers’ parties and social movements, as ‘necessary condition of the transition to

democratic socialism’.24 In 1978 Althusser in an interview with Rossana Rossanda

referred to the big debate in the European communist left on the possibility of

left-wing government by stressing that ‘the fact that class struggle (bourgeois and

proletarian) has the state as a stake (here and now) by no means does it mean

that we must define politics in relation to the state.25 It is exactly this new practice

of politics that Althusser referred to, that remains today one of the biggest

challenges for the left. We can also formulate this in the form of a question: what

practice of politics is more suitable to a new form of popular sovereignty? It is

also the question of a new relation between the parties of the left and the state,

what Althusser designated as the position that even if the parties of the left

arrive at governmental power, they cannot be ‘parties of government’26, but must

have ‘an altogether different 'political practice'’ 27 than bourgeois parties.

It is exactly this new practice of politics combined with a program of ruptures, a

radical conception of popular sovereignty and also the unleashing of an

experimentation with a new developmental paradigm (or even a form of ‘de-

growth’), based upon the experiences of collective struggles and the collective

intelligence, accompanied with new forms of mass politicisation, of a new mass

political intellectuality that can transform current dynamic and class alliances

into a new ‘historical bloc’.28


24 Nicos Poulantzas, Repères, Paris: Maspero / Dialectiques, p. 177.
25 Louis Althusser, Solitude de Machiavel, Paris, PUF, 1998, p. 287.
26 Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, London : Verso, 2014, p. 225..
27 Ibid, p. 236
28 On this see Panagiotis Sotiris, « Gramsci et la strateé gie de la gauche contemporaine : le «bloc
historique comme concept strateé gique » », Période, http://revueperiode.net/gramsci-et-la-
Conclusion

Did make this theoretical detour only in order to demonstrate the impossibility

of change in Greece or the incapacity of Syriza to direct, in the sense that Gramsci

used to give to this term, the process of the formation of a new ‘historical bloc’?

No! I speak in the name of the possibility opened by a movement without

precedent, in the name of the potential to transform Greece into the first ‘weak

link in the chain’ of the European Union, in the name of the potentiality of

another road, another paradigm for Greek society. For a strategy of ruptures with

debt, the Eurozone, the EU. For a strong and militant movement. For a dialectic

between government and popular mobilisation. For an attempt to avoid defeat

and humiliation. For an effort to offer an example that is needed by all

movements in Europe and to create, to use Spinozist terminology, new common

notions of effective struggle. For the Greek radical left the challenge is not simple

and not principally to be a ‘left opposition’ to Syriza, although this is useful in a

political landscape where every opposition to Syriza comes from the right. The

challenge is to elaborate a left alternative, to transform the strategy of rupture

and of democratic recuperation of sovereignty into an everyday political practice

and experimentation, by proposing, against the utopia of progressive

management of the contemporary social and political configuration, the necessity

of a new dialectics between radical governance and mass mobilisation.

I started this presentation by speaking about hope. We know that for Spinoza

hope and fear cannot by themselves be good affects. 29 Perhaps this is the road we
strategie-de-la-gauche-contemporaine-le-bloc-historique-comme-concept-strategique/.
29 Ethics, IVp47.
must choose. Beyond hope as a investment in the possibility of having concrete

result by simply appealing to moral exigencies in face of the cynicism of

European elites. But also beyond the fear that the rupture is impossible and

irrational. With the fortitude and the generosity 30, the rationality and the

intelligence of a people in struggle to create a new future!

30 Ethics, Vp41 amd 41s.