“War in Ukraine and tasks of the Left” – Andros Payiatsos’ interview in PRIN

The following is a translation of an interview of comrade Andros Payiatsos, published in the weekly newspaper “PRIN” on May 8. “PRIN” is the official journal of the “New Left Current” (NAR) which is the main constituent of the anticapitalist left alliance, ANTARSYA. 

Q: What tasks does the war in Ukraine and the threat of its expansion pose to the Left?

A: The first task is to have a correct political approach. The war, in its essence, is a conflict between two imperialist blocs, NATO on the one hand and Russia with its allies on the other, taking place on the territory of Ukraine. The Left should not take a position in favour of either of the two imperialist camps. It must take a stand against both Putin and NATO, and in favour of the workers and youth, who are paying for this massacre with their blood, both in Ukraine and in Russia. At the same time, the Left must take a position in support of the rights of the Russian-speaking populations in Eastern Ukraine, upholding their right to self-determination (which practically means independence). For the revolutionary Marxist Left the classic position is: the enemy is within the country, we fight for the transformation of the imperialist war into an internal class confrontation aimed at overthrowing the policies, practices and power of the capitalists. This is true for the Russians and the Ukrainian Marxists, it is also true for us in Greece and the EU. It is with this political approach that we must seek to develop anti-war movements in our country and internationally. 

Q: However, we see forces of the Left lining up behind the axis of Western imperialism or supporting Russia. How do you comment on this?

A: Unfortunately, the problems within the Left, internally, are very big and persisting – and this is of course an international phenomenon. The ex-reformist so-called “left” is essentially pro-NATO, even if it does not state this explicitly; this is to be expected because of its organic links with the ruling class and the system. In the anti-capitalist Left in Greece, we see a significant section of it actually taking a pro-Russian stance. The explanation for this lies in the undeniable fact that NATO is the strongest and most dangerous imperialist formation in the present epoch, while at the same time the peoples in our wider region (Southern Europe, Middle East) have historically experienced the crimes and barbarism of the West and NATO. As a result of this objective situation, we have a pro-Russian attitude among sections of the population and the anti-capitalist Left. 

But understanding the reasons behind the pro-Russian attitude does not mean justifying it – Marxists should not support one imperialism against another on the basis of one being weaker than the other. 

Q: The joint anti-war declaration of nine left-wing organisations[*] was published some days ago, creating a positive impact. What is the significance of this initiative?

A: It is important. Precisely because it answered the above questions by sending quite a loud message that it is not a matter of supporting either the one or the other belligerents in this war; but that the Left must take an independent, “third”, class position, against both imperialist formations. And precisely because it came from a significant number of different organisations.  

Q: Workers in Greece face not only the dangers that stem from the government’s involvement in NATO’s plans in its conflict with Russia, but also from the antagonism between the ruling classes of Greece and Turkey, with the price being already paid through the arms race. How do we respond?

A: We have only one choice, to do everything in our power to build bridges of solidarity with the Turkish labour movement and youth. Only the workers in Greece and Turkey (and Cyprus, which can be an important bridge) can end nationalist antagonisms and the present mad arms race. For this to happen, we need to take initiatives to build mass movements against national antagonisms and the danger of war, but also and above all, we need to succeed in our efforts to build mass organisations of the revolutionary Left in our countries. As long as capitalism exists, nationalist antagonism and the danger of a new war will be there. 

Q; As the New Democracy government is rapidly losing ground, solutions to “save” the people through elections are again presented- for example a “progressive government” by Syriza etc. What could be the alternative proposal of the anti-capitalist Left? 

A: The organisations of the anti-capitalist Left must try to find ways of working together and aim to present a political alternative to the working-class masses. Objectively the potential is there. On an international level we have the example of Argentina which offers useful lessons to the anticapitalist Left internationally. We need a political formation that brings together the forces of the anti-capitalist Left, with their differences, and this is something that requires concessions and compromises from all sides, respect for diversity and a culture of synthesis.

Q: The wider space of the anti-capitalist Left appears fragmented. Is another course possible and how can we go there? 

A: The potential is there, as has already been mentioned. The way to move forward is to start by intervening together on key issues which concern the working class and the youth. The key point here is that sectarianism and what we call “messianism” (the notion that “we alone are the real revolutionaries”) must be abandoned. 

On the level of social movements and the general population, the anti-capitalist left must act in unity and be open towards all pro-working-class political currents, despite ideological and political differences, in order to build mass resistance. 

On the political level, cooperation must be sought on the basis of a political programme of rupture with the capitalist system; at the same time, it must emphatically raise the issue of the united front. All forces involved should be willing to make concessions and compromises in order to achieve a united front, at the same time as retaining their political and organizational independence. 

There should be no attempts of a micro-political management or of hidden agendas, otherwise the attempt will be doomed. And it must not be just an occasional pre-election rallying call – the tasks ahead are very big and long-term and this is what must determine our future steps. It is positive that a dialogue in this direction has started among a number of organisations and we hope that the outcome will be positive.

* Nine organisations of the anti-capitalist Left in Greece published a joint statement against the war in Ukraine. You can read it in Greek here  

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