The new phenonemon represented by the SYRIZA/ANEL (Independent Greeks) coalition has not been theorised by the left as yet. The question of the coalition with the Independent Greeks is something of crucial importance, which has to be addressed theoretically and programatically.
My strong suspicion is that even those who are most enthusiastic about the politics of SYRIZA are uneasy about it. Various people have expressed real reservations about it, saying it is a bad sign, that it will not last long, etc, and they may well prove to be right about that. But no one has offered a theorisation of what is going on here.
Lets be very clear. This is a popular front government, and the situation is very dangerous. It could be just as dangerous as the Chilean Popular Unity experience for the working class. Though that is not certain; there are some complexities and differences also.
One important difference is that Popular Fronts in the past have tended to be with liberal bourgeois parties. Not always, of course – you can think of the WWII UK Labour-Tory coalition led by Churchill as something of an exception.
But generally, when a bourgeois workers party enters a popular front, and particularly when it is the main component, then the coalition has generally been with smaller liberal bourgeois parties. I think that SYRIZA can be considered to be a new bourgeois workers party in the Greek context (it is doubtful if PASOK actually was a creation of the working class as such, but SYRIZA certainly is)
This is a slightly different thing: a popular front of a new bourgeois workers party with a right-wing nationalist party. This may be only feasible because Greece is not an imperialist country and therefore the right-wing nationalist party has only migrants that it can possibly oppress. Obviously it that is a real danger and must be combated. Whether such a thing could be stomached by equivalent sections of the left in an imperialist country, which oppresses other countries around the globe, is more doubtful.
The other point is that because of the national antagonisms created by the economically irrational operation of the Euro, it may be that this class-collaborationist government may have some staying power. From the point of view of part of Greek capital, it may be that exit from the Euro could be seen as the only short term solution to being crucified by unpayable debts and an overvalued currency within the Euro. Therefore it is feasible that such a nationalist wing of the bourgeoisie will, for a significant period, see SYRIZA as useful bloc partners to achieve that objective, and not just shills to head off a revolution (which is not on the immediate agenda since the growth of SYRIZA has meant precisely a renaissance of reformist illusions).
This whole idea, of a bloc with nationalist bourgeois parties to reassert ‘soveriegnty’ in a country that feels itself oppressed by the internationalisation of capitalism, is not new in theory, but it is new as a practical reality.
No doubt this will cause a degree of pain to many, particularly on the more socially liberal wing of the West European far left who are particularly inspired by SYRIZA, but it does have some commonality with things that have happened in Russia, with the coalition between various Stalinists and right-wing Russian nationalists, more recently with the support of people who are opponents of Stalinism such as Boris Kagarlitsky.
It also has something in common with the perspective put forward by the eccentric Russian-Israeli ex-Jewish Christian-Stalinist, Israel Shamir, advising the left to try to counter the influence of Zionist reactionaries in particularly American politics, by making a bloc with old-fashioned anti-Jewish reactionaries, in the hope that the two antagonistic reactionary trends will cancel each other out.
It is no accident that Shamir is connected with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. This novel form of popular frontism is of course an extreme form of degeneration, a wiping away of the internationalism that is supposed to characterise the communist movement. It is however, still recognisably a form of popular frontism, in extremis.
In my view, the class nature of this new kind of popular front, which I could call a ‘red-brown’ popular front, is still in basic class terms the same thing as the old fashioned type of popular front with the liberal bourgeoisie. It might appear different in ‘moral’ terms, but in terms of sober Marxist class analysis, it is still of the popular front ‘species’.
Political support, no! Defence, maybe…
Socialists cannot politically support such a coalition government. As with the classic popular front, we must demand that the working class parties concerned break with their non-working-class coalition partners and act independently of the enemy class. We seek to replace such reformist strategies with a new, politically strengthened, 21st century internationalist communism, and create the basis for a genuine workers revolution.
But we must still defend these governments against extra-constitutional attempts to overthrow them from more powerful bourgeois/neo-liberal forces, particularly when they, even on a nationalist basis, take actions that in some way defend or ameliorate attacks on social gains of the working class, which is entirely feasible.
And given the semi-colonial or near semi-colonial nature of some of the poorer countries in Europe that are worst hit by austerity and economic decline, imposed by the main imperialist states of Europe, there may be measures taken by such governments that impinge on such things that it will be our duty to defend. Just as it was our duty to defend, for instance, Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez canal. This is not an exact analogy, and I am not suggesting that Greece is the same as Nasser’s Egypt, but nevertheless there may be parallels, and parallel duties also.