Greece: Independent Left MP--"The Rulers Are Scared"
Sofia Sakorafa interviewed by the Greek journal Marxist
translated by Christos Kefalis and Afrodity Giannakis for
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
At the October 26, 2011, European summit it was agreed to
slash Greece’s debt on the condition that a new, draconian
austerity package and “memorandum”be carried out by the
Greek government. After the agreement and a mass wave of
protests on October 28, a referendum was announced by
Prime Minister George Papandreou, only to be revoked a few
days later. There then followed an endless series of
negotiations, which led to the formation of a new
coalition government headed by Loukas Papadimos. The new
government was backed by right-wing capitalist party New
Democracy, Papandreou’s social-democratic Pan-Hellenic
Socialist Movement (PASOK) and LAOS, the ultra-right
Sofia Sakorafa, an independent left-wing MP who broke away
from PASOK one and a half years ago, gave the following
interview about the situation in Greece to the Greek
journal Marxist Thought.
Marxist Thought: Sofia, you were one of the personalities
who broke away from the ruling PASOK party with a clear
political rationale of breaking with the dominant policies
of the establishment. Knowing things from within, what do
you think of the latest developments? Papandreou’s
maneuvres with the referendum, the vote of confidence in
the government and the formation of the coalition
Sofia Sakorafa: In May 2010 the government didn’t resort
to the International Monetary Fund to save the country and
avoid bankruptcy for the Greek people. That was the
ruling-class propaganda that accompanied a strategic
choice that was clearly oriented to subjugating the
economy to the Atlantic centres and bailing out the banks
and capital. This strategy was certain, with mathematical
precision and in an absolutely violent way, to lead the
Greek people to ruin.
The Greek people reacted. The long drawn-out disagreement
with the government’s choice created serious cracks in the
political edifice. The spontaneous and massive outpouring
in every city in Greece on October 28 pushed the
government into complete political deadlock. The conflict
between the government’s choice and the people’s needs was
The only serious way to resolve that conflict was to hold
general elections immediately. Yet instead of that
democratic solution to the political stalemate, a tricky
solution was concocted. A small group, headed by the prime
minister and without any legitimacy, played a trick in an
attempt to steal the vote of the Greek people.
The referendum proposal was a desperate trick by the prime
minister to coerce legitimacy from the people. At the same
time, for Europe, it was a first-class opportunity to show
that Greece had become a protectorate, an entity of
limited sovereignty. It was on that basis that Europe
imposed the coalition government solution. Its aim was to
restore political stability in order to impose its
austerity policies more easily.
It is clear that against a worn-out and illegitimate
government, Europe opted for a bourgeois government of
broad consensus and therefore with greater legitimacy.
MT: The tug-of-war over the creation of the new government
was revealing. During those days it was not only the
complete disintegration of the political system that
became evident, but also the role of the media and other
capitalist institutions. How do you assess the prospects
of the “solution” imposed?
SS: The “solution” that was imposed is an anti-democratic
violation of the popular will. The media supported this
enforced solution. The decomposition of the political
system is not only reflected in the “fiasco” of the
government scheme or the ludicrous proceedings that
accompanied its formation. It is mainly reflected in the
fact that bourgeois democracy in Greece has reached the
point of fearing and denying its own statutory authority,
“The rulers got scared they might suffer damage and lose
the spoon together with the broth”1 – so they mobilised
everyone willing to help them to ensure the survival of
MT: On the other hand, within the general decay the
flowers of evil flourish. While the left cannot find
common ground, we see LAOS – and neo-fascism as well –
acquiring legitimacy and gaining direct access to power
SS: It is not the first time in history that bourgeois
forces have joined with the ultra-right and neo-fascist
groups to hold on to power. The axe men2 of the past are
now in the role of “responsible saviours of the nation”.
At the same time, it is a fact also highly indicative of
the decay of capitalist politics that the bourgeois system
needs to regenerate new political formations for a new era
of authoritarian enforcement, crippled democracy and
Of course, this scenario is conditional on the role of
MT: It is common knowledge that the country and the Greek
people are on the brink of ruin. The question is, what can
be done? What do you think about the agreement of October
26? Is it likely, if implemented, to bring any positive
results? If not, what are the conditions for a viable
solution to the crisis?
SS: The agreement of October 26 virtually means a payment
default, but at the lenders’ initiative. To put it simply,
this agreement, in which private creditors are also
involved, includes the best possible conditions for
private lenders. The banks will be released from Greece’s
debt, which they know very well is impossible to repay in
its entirety. They will receive a new debt that will have
better guarantees at 80% of the original one. Not
surprisingly, they will also get better interest rates,
because interest rates on the new debt will be higher on
average than the old ones. The nominal gain for Greece is
minimal, but the price is very heavy for the Greek people,
disgraceful for our national independence and disastrous
for the economy.
The October 26 agreement, however, also points to another
way out, that of payment default. Until now the government
and the bourgeois parties have stressed in all tones that
we will pay to the last penny.
We need this alternative solution. It paves the way to a
default on the borrowers’ terms.
To do this, we need a political balance of forces that can
achieve two conditions. First, a sovereign and independent
state that can negotiate hard and decisively. Second,
popular sovereignty. It’s the Greek people who should
decide what agreements they will make and break and why.
MT: For two years now, the Greek people have been
subjected to huge sacrifices without a glimmer of light on
the horizon. In view of that, what could be the role of
the left in this critical period? Does the left have the
capacity to express and successfully channel the
spontaneous protests of the people, protests that have
SS: If we now fail to set up a political front, the left
will have denied its historical role, with grave
consequences for the Greek people. The historical juncture
is ripe for the urgent formation of a new EAM3.
The left has a historical obligation to listen, make the
best of the objective conditions and subdue any subjective
pathology or weakness.
MT: The cooperation of the left is something everyone
wishes to see. However, on the part of the Communist Party
of Greece (KKE)4 there is a clear, stereotyped, repetitive
denial of the need for left unity. How do you assess and
explain this attitude?
SS: The attitude of the KKE is metaphysical and timid. It
leaves the resolution of all issues to an inevitable
future revolution—the “second coming”. Yet it is a
historically given fact that for the revolutionary process
to get started, the political “subject” itself raises
specific issues. Around these issues develop political
responses, as well as political options which are based on
specific power relations and also create new dynamics. The
revolution doesn’t take place timelessly nor through
subjects who, acting in a chemically pure political
context, magically acquire revolutionary consciousness.
The revolution is realised in real time and by subjects
who, through their involvement in the movement, shape
revolutionary consciousness and at the same time change
It is known that Tsirimokos5 was one of the founders of
the EAM. Consider the disaster if the left had not united
in the EAM because Tsirimokos had helped found the EAM,
for fear that Tsirimokos would “contaminate” the EAM.
MT: Of course the risk of “contamination” is always there,
but we cannot avoid it by being shut away in our houses,
sealing and sterilising all rooms. Such preventive
“medicine” would be reminiscent of medieval recipes:
quarantine, prayer and a witch hunt …
SS: It reminds me of something more dangerous. It’s a
recipe for failure. I mean that those who see their
involvement in the movement as a possible source of
contamination, and thus, to protect themselves from it, do
not participate in the most essential and necessary
political processes, the struggles to shift political
consciousness, to change the political balance and to work
out and formulate proposals of revolutionary content.
These processes do not take place in a soundproof room,
behind closed doors and outside the movement.
If your strategic objective is revolution, your
revolutionary tactic must be to constantly radicalise the
consciousness of the movement, so that the steps that are
made now will at a later time turn into leaps.
The relationship of the communist with the movement should
not correspond to the logic of “a fly in the milk”, but to
“a fish in the water”. Otherwise you pray patiently,
quarantine anyone who is different to you, call them an
“Ephialtes”6 and instead of turning this life into
paradise, you identify with metaphysical doctrines of
paradise in another life.
MT: Given the refusal so far of the Communist Party to
collaborate, what can be done with the other left forces,
SYRIZA, ANTARSYA and personalities from PASOK7? What would
be the terms of reliable cooperation between them?
SS: First we should not give all weight to the form and
forget the content. Cooperation should not be a pretext,
or invoke a general and abstract unity, but should have a
substantial political content.
Some non-parliamentary left forces think that the
political proposal for simply an “anti-memorandum front”
represents a lower point of convergence than is necessary
and imperative today. These left forces think an
“anti-memorandum front” is based on a lowest common
denominator. This way of thinking is quite reasonable. The
memorandum and the debt are components and consequences of
the system itself, therefore, the front should have a
clear anti-capitalist orientation.
Of course, I don’t disagree at all with this rationale,
but I do not set it as a prerequisite for cooperation, but
as the ultimate aim of collaboration that will
continuously radicalise mass consciousness, until the
MT: How do you see the overall situation in Europe? After
the crisis in Greece, and its spread to Portugal, Ireland
and Spain, and now to Italy, it is clear that the eurozone
is on the verge of splitting. The markets are so blatant
that they can “resign” their “own” leaders in favour of
someone they consider more appropriate for the present
moment, bypassing any political process. What should be
the orientation of the left in the face of this?
Renegotiation, payment default or something else?
SS: You give me the opportunity through your question to
expand on the answer above. The system is regrouping its
forces, sacrificing those considered expendable for its
survival. If we do not break the processes of this
regroupment, we will be talking about another historical
If we do not break what the Communist Party itself calls a
“black front”, a designation with which I totally agree,
we will have to answer to history and to our people.
The first objective, the key objective, is not to allow
the system to turn this disaster into an opportunity for
reformation. Renegotiation, payment default or the
drachma-euro dilemma are not in themselves a political
position. They are the necessary and dynamic tools of a
political position aimed primarily against the memorandum.
The ultimate aim of this position would be breaking with
capitalism. This goal, however, cannot be a condition for
cooperation with other political forces. Goals should be
set and formulated by society itself.
MT: Our time is characterised not only by the onslaught of
neoliberal reaction, but also by the rise of large
movements, uprisings in the Arab world, the indignant
citizens’ movements in Spain, Greece and now Occupy Wall
Street in the USA. How can we sum it up so far? What can
we say about the future, especially the critical dimension
of international coordination of these movements?
SS: In the West, and even more so in the Arab region,
societies imagined that institutions and policy production
were external to society. They imagined that policies were
formed above and beyond society itself. As a result, they
believed that this world could not change. That is
The “movement of the squares” in the West and the East has
laid a serious foundation for autonomy, which is also the
prerequisite for political and social emancipation.
A second very important conclusion is that the spontaneous
element at times and under certain processes can become
conscious and, moreover, on a scale of quality and
quantity that any “conscious element” would be jealous of.
How many times has this great “conscious element” been
able to raise so many questions of such an ideological
nature and to have a powerful and dynamic response by so
many millions of people in the East and the West?
A third conclusion based on the two above is that once the
participants become politically conscious, have faith in
their capabilities and assume a vanguard role, a movement
to overthrow the system becomes possible.
In terms of the coordination of movements, it is an
objective possibility in Ireland and Portugal, Spain and
Italy, that is, of the whole European periphery.
MT: The Audit Commission on Greek Public Debt (ELE)8 is an
interesting unifying initiative in Greece, in which you
have played a leading role. In view of the danger of the
country’s bankruptcy, the relevance of the commission is
clearly increased. Are further initiatives planned?
SS: First, ELE is being strengthened for two very obvious
reasons. First, because the core goal of the debt audit is
payment default, but on the part of the borrower. Second,
because the need for payment default is not only something
specific to Greece, but is taking on a European dimension.
On this basis we are “running” two things simultaneously.
First, coordination with the audit commissions of the
European region; second, the founding of a national
network of the Greek commission. The latter will be
discussed and organised at a conference to be held in
[This interview with Sofia Sakorafa first appeared in
Greek in Marxist Thought, volume 4, pp. 47-52. Sofia
Sakorafa is an independent left MP in Greece’s
1. Words of a Greek popular song.
2. A reference to Makis Voridis, a neo-fascist LAOS member
and current minister of infrastructure, transport and
networks. He was seen – and photographed – holding an axe
in public in 1985. See
real-1-doctrine/ for details.
3. The EAM, the National Liberation Front, was an alliance
that led the Greek resistance during the Nazi occupation
of the country in the Second World War.
4. The Communist Party (KKE), led by Aleka Papariga, is a
Stalinist party. It has a sectarian policy, refusing any
cooperation with other left forces. It has recently fully
rehabilitated its Stalinist general secretary during the
1940s and 1950s, Nikos Zahariadis. It also adopted
resolutions defending Stalin and the Moscow trials, while
proclaiming Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders “Gestapo
5. Ilias Tsirimokos (1907-68), a Greek bourgeois
politician, took part in the resistance movement, but in
later years moved increasingly to the right.
6. Ephialtes was a traitor during the battle of
Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persians in 480
BC. The Spartans suffered a crushing defeat after he
betrayed them to the Persian army.
7. SYRIZA is the second biggest Greek left organisation
(an alliance of left-wing groups), partly similar to
Germany’s Die Linke. A number of quite different forces
and organisations are taking part in it. ANTARSYA is an
alliance formed in March 2009 by forces of the far left,
uniting various activist groups, but without much
political influence as yet. A number of personalities have
left PASOK during the last two years, some of them
professing more or less left positions.
8. The Audit Commission on Greek Public Debt (ELE) is an
initiative by Greek left personalities, economists and
others for establishing an audit commission to examine the
Greek debt. For further information, see
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