ATHENS—The social resistance against the policy of the “Memorandum” in Greece, which has been imposed on the country since the beginning of last year by the “Troika”—a kind of committee of the ruling classes of the major countries of the EU and the USA, represented by the Brussels Commission, the ECB and the IMF in conjunction with the “socialist” PASOK government—has now entered a new and potentially decisive phase. The Memorandum has only one meaning: the ruthless plundering of the working population and its unprecedented degradation in favor of saving the exorbitant profits of Greek, German, French, and other banks—with young people, working women, and all other socially disadvantaged groups as particular victims.
This is, however, presented by the governments and the mass media as a “rescue of Greece” through the “generous granting of credits.” At the same time, it is evident that the disastrous bankruptcy of the global banking and credit system in 2008, which was “bailed out “ by the governments of North America and Western Europe with $15 trillion U.S. (a worldwide and historically unprecedented redistribution of wealth from tax revenues to corporate coffers) led to the national debt crisis of the countries of the European periphery: Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and especially Greece.
At stake is the stability and even the existence of the euro, along with the functioning of the financial mechanisms in the EU, and consequently the dollar as well, which currently depends on the overvaluation of the euro.
It is not surprising therefore that at his recent meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, President Obama paid particular attention to the dangers of a possible Greek “national bankruptcy.” This would mean that Greece might be unable, or possibly refuse (!) to pay off its foreign debt. Obama stressed, no doubt rightly, the special role of Germany in the European-international “aid to the initiation of a forward process” that is designed to enable Greece “to grow and to better manage its debt problem.”
The difficulty, though, is that granting international rescue packages to maintain the solvency of Greece is diametrically opposed to maintaining a reasonably decent life for the workers and the huge mass of the Greek population. In other words, the conditions of the troika lead to a relentless bloodletting at the expense of about 85% of the Greek population and a dramatic decline in general living conditions. They do not open up any prospect for the situation in the coming years and decades to improve again. Greece will never be able to repay the interest and compound interest on the loans obtained.
Recognizing that, in fact, they have hardly anything to lose anymore, inspired by the successful first stage of the Egyptian revolution, the events in Tahrir square in Cairo, and finally the occupation of central squares of Madrid and Barcelona by rebellious young people, the massive resistance in Greece has reached a new level with the continuous occupation of Syntagma Square in Athens, directly in front of the Parliament, along with central locations in Thessaloniki and many other Greek cities. There have been multiple attempts to stop the policies of the Memorandum in the last 18 months, including a series of general strikes and many persistent strikes in affected areas, such as public transport. The result is that the reputation of the government trends towards zero.
Harbingers of a new mass radicalization have included months of an outright rebellion in Keratea, a small town southeast of Athens, against the establishment of a landfill site. This rebellion could not be broken even by the mass deployment of special police commandos and their brutal behavior toward the protesters. A successful hunger strike of 300 “illegal” immigrants from North Africa in March and April, even if it remained quite marginalized, was also important since it demonstrated that action is possible even against the dictates of the Memorandum.
It is characteristic of this new form of mass resistance that hundreds of thousands of people who previously were not willing to participate in combat now support the occupations, actively demonstrating their determination to stop the policy of the Memorandum and to force the government to retreat.
For different and at least partially understandable reasons, these layers have not been influenced much by the different parties or alliance formations of the reformist (KKE, SYN/SYRIZA) or anti-capitalist/revolutionary left (mainly ANTARSYA) and, in spite of everything, have taken a rather cautious attitude. The main slogans of the new movement are the replacement of the prevailing pseudo-democracy, or fraudulent democracy, by a true, direct democracy, where the majority of the affected population can put forward and implement their demands and needs.
This distinguishes itself sharply from the practice of the prevailing political model, where power is exercised on behalf of the people but without their consent or participation—not to mention the fact that the polls for the ruling PASOK, but also the right-wing bourgeois New Democracy (ND), always continue to trend downward. Thus, the existing partial legitimacy of bourgeois democracy and its main supporters has collapsed. The so-far limited but unambiguous content of the demands is expressed in the formula, “We owe nothing; we do not sell; we do not pay!”
The movement began with the occupation of Syntagma Square on May 25 and reached its first peak on June 5 with the participation of an estimated 500,000 protesters. The breadth of the movement inevitably creates, at least for the time being, a heterogeneous spectrum of ideological and political views. The participants from the start rejected the appearance of parties, political organizations, and trade unions, insisting on the principle that everyone represents only himself or herself.
This includes a strong mistrust of the party leaderships, including of the two left parties, also of the still-prevailing sectarianism of the left-wing organizations, along with a clear rejection of the hopeless bureaucracy of most trade unions (led in particular by PASOK officials). Some protesters on the “upper” part of the square carry Greek national flags and try, in this way, to express their view of national sovereignty. The upper part is generally the less “politicized,” least affected by the left, and where most protesters obviously participate in such actions for the first time.
The politically “harder core” of the movement has permanently established itself with tents on the lower part of the square and is the real engine of the protests. Every night around 9 o’clock “public meetings” take place. All important issues, claims, content and organizational suggestions, opinions and views are discussed and partially approved by voting. All decisions are posted on a special website. Some 3000 young people, most of them probably students, take part in these meetings. This form of organization is supported both by working groups on various topics—such as unemployment, education, schools and culture—and by public forums and panel discussions as on the debt crisis and possible ways out of it.
There is a general consensus that this is a unique historical opportunity to deal a serious, possibly fatal blow to the policy of the Memorandum, the government, and the terror of the ruling classes. There is also agreement that Greece is close to a social explosion. If we measure this using the criterion formulated by a revolutionary of the last century when he noted that “the rulers cannot govern as before, and the ruled refuse to be governed in the normal way,” then this is an accurate description of the situation that has now arisen in Greece.
Nevertheless, one cannot ignore that the movement has to go through a few more stages if it is to reach its full potential. The fight must be taken into all key areas of social life: into the factories, the offices of public administration, hospitals, schools and universities, which will be most affected by the vile “Midterm Program.” The systematic destruction of jobs, the abolition of collectively-bargained contracts, the cancellation of the gains resulting from a century of struggles conducted by the workers movement, the privatization mania, and the selling off of state property must be stopped.
Primarily, a clear statement of the content and programmatic goals of the movement is needed, which will be possible only in the context of a transitional program designed to overcome the domination of finance and big business. Here the claim for expropriation of the banks under workers control without compensation has to play a key role. All this can emerge only through a combination of the new movement and the rank-and-file trade union movement of the previous 18 months. This combined movement needs a clear anti-capitalist perspective and a strategy to ensure victory.
This article describes the significant rise in mobilizations in Greece in early June. It was written on June 13, two days before the first attempt to encircle the Greek Parliament—which was violently attacked by police. On June 28, Greek workers undertook a two-day general strike. Nevertheless, parliament, led by the “socialist” PASOK party of Premier George Papandreou, approved the EU/IMF-backed “Memorandum.” The new austerity legislation authorizes drastic cutbacks in social services, wages, and pensions; tax hikes; mass lay-offs; and the privatization of many state-owned enterprises.
> The article above was written by Adreas Kloke.