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The News Line: Feature LEON TROTSKY’S ‘WHITHER FRANCE’ TODAY Part 2: Neither ‘austerity’ nor ‘growth’ – get rid of capitalism!
A Syriza mass demonstration in Athens – the mass movement has emerged suddenly out of the crisis and is posed with becoming the government – its leader Tsipras (below) is however opposed to the Greek working class taking power
AFTER governments across Europe either took over debt-laden banks, or the debts of the banks, in 2008 they demanded ‘austerity measures’ to repay the debts.

Right-wing capitalist governments and parties are imposing draconian ‘austerity measures’ in all the states of the EU.

bail-outs for small EU states, like Greece, Ireland and Portugal, EU leaders have demanded unprecedented budget cuts and wholesale privatisation of state assets.

It is clear that Europe is the key to the international situation.

For workers to have a future, that is not dominated by poverty, repression and war, they must put an end to capitalism and the bankers’ and monopolists’ EU, and go forward to a Socialist United States of Europe.

The class struggle has escalated with a growing class polarisation over the past three years.

There have been scores of general strikes in Greece, general strikes in opposition to austerity measures in Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, and mass strikes in Britain and France against attacks on pensions.

Eleven governments have been removed in the EU since 2008.

Some have been replaced by unelected representatives of finance capital, like Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former head of the Bank of Greece and Vice President of the European Central Bank. He took office in November 2011.

Mario Monte, the Italian Prime Minister, who also took over in November 2011, comes from the European Commission (1995-2004) where he was in charge of the Internal Market.

In both cases this has meant dispensing with the ‘norms’ of bourgeois parliamentary democracy and appointing someone who nobody elected.

However, at the same time the election results from May 6th in Greece and France show that the working class will use every opportunity to fight against paying for the capitalist crisis.

In Greece the two main bourgeois parties, the right-wing New Democracy and the reformist PASOK Social Democrats, which support the IMF-EU-ECB Troika’s austerity measures, saw their vote halved.

PASOK was beaten into third place by Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), a bloc of ‘Left’ reformist, former Euro-Stalinists and the Antarsya grouping of revisionists, which includes the ‘state capitalist’ group like the British SWP.

Syriza called for the scrapping of the Troika’s Accord of draconian austerity measures.

In France the Socialist Party’s Presidential candidate Francois Hollande declared he would create a tax on financial transactions.

Hollande promised to reduce the numbers of young people who leave schools in France without qualifications by employing 60,000 more teachers. The Socialist Party called for ‘growth’ rather than austerity.

There have also been calls for ‘growth’ from Labour leader Ed Miliband in Britain. At the beginning of May he said the economy was no longer working for working people and the government needed to provide answers, not excuses, on growth.

The May 6th election results created a governmental crisis in Athens and Sarkozy lost to Hollande in the French Presidential election.

Clearly a revolutionary situation has developed in a number of countries across the EU.

It was the mobilisation of the fascists forcing a change of government in France on February 6th 1934 and the largely spontaneous general strike by the working class in response to this on February 12, with which Trotsky began his analysis of the situation in Whither France? (November 1934)

This was a clear manifestation of the polarisation of class forces into ‘two extreme camps’, much as is the situation in Greece today with the emergence of the New Dawn fascist movement and Syriza. (p7 Whither France? published by New Park Publications 1974)

Trotsky examined the role of the Radical Socialist Party, a bourgeois party supported by the middle classes. The new Bonapartist regime of Gaston Doumergue rested on the support of the fascists on the right and the Radical Party on the left.

Both the reformist Socialist Party (SFIO) and the Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF) sought an alliance with the Radical Party in a ‘People’s Front’. It was elected to office in 1936.

Trotsky counterposed to this alliance with the imperialist bourgeoisie through the People’s Front, a United Front of workers’ parties to struggle for a Socialist-Communist government and workers’ power. (p33-34)

In March 1935 Trotsky produced his most substantial article in the series entitled Once Again, Whither France?

He examined the very ‘Left’ statement from the leadership of the Socialist Party, which called for ‘a programme of struggle for power, the destruction of the mechanism of the bourgeois state, the setting up of workers’ and peasants’ democracy, the expropriation of the banks and heavy industry’.

Of course, it did nothing to realise this!

Meanwhile the Stalinists declared: ‘The situation is not revolutionary.’ (p39)

Today we know that the counter-revolutionary reformist Socialist Party in France is not proclaiming such a ‘Left’ policy.

All Hollande calls for is ‘growth’ as a means of defending French imperialism against the angry movement of the working class.

Syriza in Greece proclaims a ‘Left’ policy, but supports continued membership of the bankers’ and monopolists’ EU and the eurozone.

Its leader Alexis Tsipras is calling for the renegotiation of the Troika’s Accords, as if these dictates are from choice rather than the necessity of halting the disintegration of the EU and the eurozone.

Both the Stalinist Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the revisionists in Antarsya maintain that the present capitalist crisis is cyclical rather than a manifestation of its death agony, requiring its revolutionary overthrow.

The Greek Stalinists repeat what their French counterparts said in the 1930s: ‘The situation is not revolutionary.’

Trotsky answered such counter-revolutionary treachery when he wrote: ‘We submit: the diagnosis of the Comintern is entirely false.

‘The situation is revolutionary, as revolutionary as it can be, granted the non-revolutionary policies of the working-class parties.

‘More exactly, the situation is pre-revolutionary. In order to bring the situation to its full maturity, there must be an immediate, vigorous, unremitting mobilization of the masses, under the slogan of the conquest of power in the name of socialism.

‘This is the only way through which the pre-revolutionary situation will be changed into a revolutionary situation.

‘On the other hand, if we continue to mark time, the pre-revolutionary situation will inevitably be changed into one of counter-revolution, and will bring on the victory of Fascism.

‘At the present time, all that the pious mouthings of the phrase “non-revolutionary situation” can do is to crush the minds of the workers, paralyse their will and hand them over to the class enemy.

‘Under the cover of such phrases, conservatism, indolence, stupidity and cowardice take possession of the leadership of the proletariat, and the ground is laid, as it was in Germany, for catastrophe.’ (p40)

Trotsky also answered the Keynesians of his day who were calling for growth and public works. (p54)
In A Programme of Action, which Trotsky wrote in June 1934, he took on those who were calling for austerity measures and anti-austerity measures within the framework of capitalism.

He wrote: ‘To try to emerge from the chaos in which it has plunged the country, the French bourgeoisie must first resolve the monetary problem.

‘One section wants to do this by inflation, i.e., the issuing of paper money, the depreciation of wages, the raising of the cost of living, the expropriation of the petty bourgeoisie; the other by deflation, i.e., retrenchment on the backs of the workers (lowering salaries and wages), extension of unemployment, ruin of the small peasant producers and petty bourgeoisie of the towns.

‘Either alternative means increased misery for the exploited. To choose between these two capitalist methods would be to choose between two instruments with which the exploiters are preparing to cut the throats of the workers.’ (p146)

This statement, prepared for the Communist League of France and published in its newspaper La Verité, concluded: ‘To attain your strength, to defend your right to live, to work no more for the enrichment of a minority of shameless exploiters – prepare your revolution, join the action of the Communist League!’ (p158)

• Continued tomorrow


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