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Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece

The black day 13th July 2015 Greece can claim a single historical precedent: August 4th, 1914, when the German Social-Democratic Party in the Berlin Reichstag spelled the beginning of the tragedy of the twentieth century, a tragedy whose consequences are still being felt even today.

And yet today, as then, the whole catastrophe had been preceded by dozens if not hundreds of oaths of loyalty to the values of socialism and implacable opposition to the blackmail from the right, capital and the bourgeois. “Never again war”, they promised then; “I will never be another Papademos,” they told us yesterday. [Papademos was the banker and caretaker prime minister who replaced Papandreou in 2011.]

But, alas, our fine bureaucrats soon caved in to the pressure; they voted then for the war credits, and they consented today to the transformation of Greece into a debt colony – naturally, still affirming that they had “avoided the worst” and still promising to return soon to the right path.

Of course, we know that the course of events is different. Not only have they not returned to their socialist past, they have distanced themselves further and further from their roots, to reach a final crossing of the class Rubicon and turn themselves into good loyal managers of the capitalist system and its barbarism.

However, be careful. The march of the bureaucrats towards their total degradation and their utter betrayal of their youthful aspirations has, and continues to have, its own implacable logic. To arrive at its eventual infamy, the Social-Democracy had not only to purge from its ranks the unrepentant champions of the “red lines” of its past, but also to exterminate them! In fact, it was a leading minister – the bloodhound Noske – who bombarded the working-class living quarters of the German cities, drowned in blood the revolt of the Spartakus League, assassinated Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and set the stage for the emergence and the final triumph of the Nazi monster.

And now? Can it be that all this is just ancient history with no relevance to our own “postmodern” epoch? When you look at all that has been happening since the infamous Brussels Accord was signed, no one can dare say that history isn’t repeating itself. The heads of Zoe and Lafazanis [Zoe Kanstantinou, speaker of the Greek parliament, and Panayotis Lafazanis, leader of SYRIZA’s Left Platform – both “betes noires” in the eyes of Greek reaction] are no longer demanded just by their habitual class enemies, but also and above all by their own comrades of yesterday. And unfortunately it is these latter who are distinguishing themselves today by the same ferocious hatred as has been shown over the last hundred years by the likes of the various Noskes who fill the history of the Social-Democracy.

So let’s take care lest history repeat itself yet again, not necessarily as farce but also again as tragedy. Just like then, so too today things can happen, and have already happened, which yesterday seemed impossible, inconceivable: things which are beyond human understanding, such as their comrades of yesterday making common cause with their class enemies to suppress those “unrepentant romantics” who persist in denying that “pigs can fly”! And, worst of all, we’re already catching sight of a number of bureaucratic mediocrities within the government and SYRIZA who already seem busy preparing their credentials for the role of modern clones of Noske the bloodhound.

We know that most of the left find themselves in all good faith unable to explain what is happening or digest from day to day the “treachery” of their comrades. Their confusion is quite justified and understandable. After all, wasn’t it Lenin himself who, for several days after the black day of 4th August 1914, refused to believe reports that his good friend Kautsky and his party had voted for the war credits, and continued to regard as forgeries by the German General Staff copies of the SPD daily newspaper praising the Social-Democrats’ participation in the “sacred union” and the slaughter of the First World War?

However, today as then the stakes are of such vital historic importance that we have a duty to put aside as fast as possible our current bewilderment and confusion – before it is too late, not just for our fellow citizens and the Greek left, but also for the sake of the workers and the left throughout Europe. That is because SYRIZA, which has been often idealised, was until yesterday a point of reference and of hope for millions of people all over our old continent, and this unconditional surrender by its leadership threatens catastrophic long-term consequences well beyond the borders of Greece.

In other words, now is the time for big decisions, because it is urgent for each one of us – in Greece and throughout Europe – to choose who to part company with and who to accompany all the way! Yes, sure, this choice is neither easy nor insignificant, especially at a moment when the left and the social movements are hardly at the top of their form. However, it is imposed upon us by the terrible dangers of our times, by the black clouds of the neo-fascist menace that are gathering over Europe, by the current arrogance and boundless insolence of triumphalist capitalism which can promise nothing but disaster to humanity.

A century ago, the beginning of the necessary rebuilding and recomposition had as its starting-point something called Zimmerwald. What could be the Zimmerwald of our difficult and dangerous times?

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Yorgos Mitralias is a founding member of the Greek Committee Against the Debt, which is affiliated to the international network of CADTM.

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