Greek workers resist economic free fall

ATHENS—The Memorandum No. 2 became reality by a vote in the Greek Parliament on Feb. 12. One hundred ninety-nine MPs, mainly of the ruling parties, PASOK and “New Democracy” (ND), decided to completely sell out the interests of the Greek population, working people and young people, and especially of future generations, to the dictatorship of the Troika—i.e, the international banks and finance capital.

The Greek ruling class and their stooges in government and Parliament hope in this way to assert their role as junior partners in the EU and the euro-zone and to make their position permanent and secure through the subjugation and impoverishment of the proletariat and the current so-called middle classes. Their policies are based on the fact that social resistance and the workers’ movement has not yet been able to broaden and to centralize significantly their actions directed against government, capital, and Troika. This is despite the series of general strikes and mobilizations of the past two years, with the highlights being the occupation of Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament in June and the two-day strike on Oct. 19-20, 2011—with some 500,000 demonstrators in Athens alone.
Among the main factors that have made possible the disaster of the Memorandum policies of the past two years are the bureaucratization of the unions under PASOK direction, which has prevailed for decades; the division of the movement through the profoundly reformist Communist Party (KKE), which constantly acts in an extremely sectarian manner; the ongoing parliamentary fixation of KKE and the other reformist Left Alliance, SYRIZA; and the continued fragmentation of the anti-capitalist and revolutionary forces, despite some efforts of their most important alliance (ANTARSYA)—as well as an often helpless, violent activism on the streets.
The Memorandum No. 2 will bring an unprecedented slump in the general living conditions and the de facto dissolution of Greek society, as it has evolved in recent decades. The unemployment rate is already above 20%, and in absolute numbers over one million.
The Troika sweeps off the table any perspective of temporarily weakening the systematic impoverishment, or any tiny hope of economic recovery. The country is being sacrificed to the alleged stability of the euro and the sacrosanct banking profits. The fate of human beings does not matter any longer in today’s EU and euro zone; Mammon reigns unchecked and goes literally over corpses.
What is being imposed on Greece is the beginning of the general attack of big business on living conditions and workers’ rights in all EU countries, which were gained through over a century of struggle.
The resistance of Feb. 12
On Sunday, Feb. 2, the day of voting and the sell-off, hundreds of thousands—the estimates vary between 500,000 and one million—gathered in downtown Athens to protest against their degradation, and the destruction of their life perspectives and of the most minimal requirements of a public welfare-oriented society.
The police, as usual, brutally attacked the demonstrators, shooting chemical projectiles at the demonstrators at Syntagma Square. They tried to clear the square before most of the demonstrators arrived at the center. But the heroism of the demonstrators holding out in front of Parliament prevented this intention, and the rage of a considerable part of the Athenian people expressed itself for hours.
As usual, groups of black-clad and masked protesters fought skirmishes with the police, with Molotov cocktails, etc., at various points in the city center. When most of the demonstrators were pushed back by police, creating “empty zones,” groups of masked men suddenly appeared and set some, partly historical, buildings on fire. It remains unclear whether this occurred due to actions of police troublemakers or authentically autonomous groups.
Two PAME contingents, under KKE leadership, as always strictly separated from the other demonstrators, positioned themselves at a safe distance from the focal points in front of the parliament, continuing their tradition to never clash with the police. This is PAME’s usual ceremony, but it still amazes everybody with its legalism and its consistent rejection of any common action.
It is not easy to answer the question of how the resistance might continue to try to reach its goals. The call for an indefinite general strike might be necessary, but at this stage it might not ensure unified action. It is clear, however, that the economic, political, and social crisis is moving toward the boiling point, and that a solution does not lie within the framework of the capitalist exploitation system or the rules of the totally discredited parliamentary democracy and their governments. The solution can only be found through the self-organization of working people at their workplaces and in the neighborhoods, and ultimately through the creation of a different type of democracy at the national level, according to the principles of workers’ councils.
The Greek and international mass media did everything possible to hush up the massiveness of the demonstration in downtown Athens. Instead, they focused as much as possible on reports about the fires and devastation. They systematically obscured, in particular, the fact that the policy leading to the first Memorandum (May 5, 2010) and the second Memorandum is equivalent to a coup, which simply annuls the previously known form of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.
The memoranda policies of the Papandreou and now the Papadimos governments lack any democratic legitimacy. Their main support is that of the police club, their only “argument” the threat of national bankruptcy—which is the reality anyway and whose size and hopelessness are increasing more and more by the continuation of the dominant policies. The objective of remaining in the euro zone has also lost all meaning as it focuses solely on the security of bank profits, whereas the impoverishment of the population is rapidly proceeding.
The role of Germany
Any reporting about Greece is incomplete if it does not include the role of Germany. The German politicians and ministers of the federal government play a nefarious role in the looting and destruction of Greek society. The politicians not only refuse to recognize the war reparations and debt payments, which at a formal level would amount to some hundred billion euro, thus displaying a shameful historical ignorance and arrogance; they also dictate the rules of dismantling Greece in an intolerable way. These include, for instance, German or EU-related control of the accounts on which Greece will have to pay. The German minister of finance, Mr. Schäuble, wants also to prescribe when and under what circumstances the Greek population should or should not vote.
Another indication of how mad the prevailing policy actually is—which could lead all Europe into the catastrophe—is showed in a press release by the German Spiegel-Online, Feb. 15, about the assets of the Germans: “8.5 trillion euros [in German possession] could pay off debts in the euro zone. While governments scrape together every penny in the crisis, the Germans have amassed a huge fortune. Less of their own debt, they have about 8.5 trillion euro. That is enough money to completely pay off the debt of all euro countries. Tangible assets such as cars, furniture, jewelry and art collections are not included.”
How long will it still be possible to lead entire nations of Europe into bankruptcy, while there is enough social wealth to enable all people to live without unemployment, poverty, and agonizing struggle for survival, even on a world scale?
The solidarity of the people in Germany, and particularly of those who are still able to use theirs brains despite the massive and deliberate fraud, the evil propaganda of the mass media, is one of the most important keys to reversing the hopeless situation that Greece and almost the entire European periphery are facing, which is also threatening the European center in the clearly foreseeable future.
> The article above was written by Andreas Kloke, and is reprinted from the March 2012 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.