Posted: June 20, 2012 Filed under: Economy, EU, Politics
Originally published at Reuters.com
This is a reproduction
By Michael Stott and Dina Kyriakidou
ATHENS | Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:05pm EDT
(Reuters) – Though it didn’t win last weekend’s election, Greece’s fast-rising radical leftist leader says his party has won the argument against the austerity measures keeping Greece in the eurozone and will inevitably come to power. “What Syriza has been saying all along is that the bailout plan is not viable and cannot go on,” party chief Alexis Tsipras told Reuters in his first interview since last Sunday’s parliamentary election. “Now they all recognize this.”
Indeed, the conservative New Democracy party won the most seats in the new parliament on a promise to push through spending cuts imposed by European authorities. But after the vote, party chief Antonis Samaras said the eurozone’s memorandum of understanding with Greece over its 130-billion-euro bailout should be modified. Tsipras, a charismatic 37-year-old former student communist, predicted that the newly elected Greek government would fail because it was based on “spent political forces”, paving the way for Syriza to assume power. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: June 16, 2012 Filed under: Politics | Tags: Solidarity with Greek Left
We write to express our support for the ideals embodied by the Greek left in advance of the election of June 17th as they articulate the requirements for social and economic democracy under conditions of neo-liberalism. We oppose those forms of international pressure currently brought to bear on the people of Greece to cede their popular sovereignty to a European Union that has, until now, reproduced and strengthened social and economic inequalities throughout Europe and extended forms of intra-European racism through discriminatory economic regulations and austerity measures. We note that the Greek Left (Syriza and the Coalition of the Radical Left) have articulated the rights to work and to education, opposing those neo-liberal economic policies that increase precarity for growing numbers of people, establishing unemployment as a norm, decimating social and health services along with public education, and destroying the very conditions of economic production. We support the efforts of the people of Greece to wrest power from non-elected technocrats, and we oppose the reckless demonization of the current left coalition as unacceptable and malicious propaganda. The accusation currently circulated in the European press that the Left threatens to take Greece out of the Eurozone fails to see that the Left is struggling for a different Europe, one governed by and for the people, committed to the open political participation of all its inhabitants in creating equal conditions for work and for a livable life.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Posted: June 7, 2012 Filed under: EU, International, Politics, Uncategorized
“Greece must be clear that it agreed to this rehabilitation program, there is no alternative, if it wants to remain a member of the Euro-zone,”
- ECB executive board member Jörg Asmussen
Rehabilitation implies a return to health, or to normalcy, of course, and two years after the therapy started, the patient is sicker than ever, undeveloping and suffering societal collapse.
That these fiscal doctors are quacks therefore is indisputable. That they have no ability to learn from their mistakes or, perhaps, that indeed this political butchery is not incidental but purposeful, is evidenced by their persistence on the social and economic disaster being visited by the Frankfurt Consensus (worthy heir to the devastating Washington Consensus) not only on Greece but on country after peripheral country in the EU, a policy cancer that is metastasizing to the EU core – again, perhaps as intended…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: June 7, 2012 Filed under: Activism, Politics
To/Against/For: With the Greek Left for a Democratic Europe!
STAND with the GREEK LEFT for a DEMOCRATIC EUROPE!
For more information please contact:
Vicky Skoumbi, firstname.lastname@example.org or Michel Vakaloulis, email@example.com ;
It is clear that the responsibility for the chain of events that in a mere three years has plunged Greece into the abyss lies overwhelmingly with the parties that have held office since 1974. New Democracy (the Right) and PASOK (the Socialists) have not only maintained the system of corruption and privilege they have benefitted from it and enabled Greece’s suppliers and creditors to profit considerably from this system while the institutions of the European Community looked the other way. Under such conditions, it is astonishing that the leaders of Europe and the IMF,
posing as paragons of virtue and economic rigor, should seek to restore those same bankrupt and discredited parties to office by denouncing the “red peril” supposedly represented by SYRIZA (the radical Left coalition) and by threatening to cut off food supplies if the new round of elections to be held on June 17 confirms the rejection of the “Memorandum” clearly expressed in the elections of 6 May. Not only does this intervention flagrantly contradict the most elementary democratic norms but it would have terrible consequences for our common future. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 28, 2012 Filed under: Politics | Tags: Slavoj Zizek
Slavoj Žižek on Europe and the Greeks
Originaly published at the London Review of Books
Imagine a scene from a dystopian movie that depicts our society in the near future. Uniformed guards patrol half-empty downtown streets at night, on the prowl for immigrants, criminals and vagrants. Those they find are brutalised. What seems like a fanciful Hollywood image is a reality in today’s Greece. At night, black-shirted vigilantes from the Holocaust-denying ne0-fascist Golden Dawn movement – which won 7 per cent of the vote in the last round of elections, and had the support, it’s said, of 50 per cent of the Athenian police – have been patrolling the street and beating up all the immigrants they can find: Afghans, Pakistanis, Algerians. So this is how Europe is defended in the spring of 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 26, 2012 Filed under: Politics | Tags: Syriza
Originaly published at New Left Project | Articles | Syriza’s Rise.
The rise of Syriza, Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, in the May elections and in polls since has changed the political landscape of Europe. Michalis Spourdalakis, professor of political science at Athens University, talked to Alex Doherty about Syriza, the reasons for their success and what the prospects are now for the radical left in Greece and beyond.
Some mainstream commentators have claimed that the rise in support for Syriza is part of a generalised protest vote against the political mainstream rather than an enthusiastic embrace of their political and economic programme. What do you make of that diagnosis?
Indeed a good part of the electoral gain of Syriza was the result of social anger arising from the austerity programs and the Stability Pact. The protest vote was the determinant factor in the elections. However, given the large number of options open to the electorate with the creation of a number of new political formations and parties, one can reasonably assume that the vote for Syriza was not simply a protest vote.
Syriza, a political coalition of the radical left, which was established in 2004, has had a long presence in the social and political struggles of the country. It is in fact a political formation composed of eleven different political parties and groups, in which the Synaspismos (Coalition) of the Left and the Ecology and Social Movements (SYN), accounts for approximately 85%. Its political orientation, strategy and practice is socio-centric. Syriza has been actively involved in the labour movement, both at the level of the conformist Confederations and at the grassroots level of the radical new unions of precarious labour, in the civil and social rights movements, as well as in the European and World Social Forums.
So, given the political profile of Syriza, it would be rather unfair to say that the people who supported it did so simply as a result of anger or mere discontent as it is conditioned by the the current conjuncture. At the same time, on the key axis of current Greek society and politics, i.e., the Memorandum signed with the IMF and EU, one has to stress that Syriza stands clearly in opposition, and not on the grounds of nationalism, as some other opposition parties claim. On the contrary Syriza’s rationale and discourse is based on an analysis that the crisis it is not simply the result of the shortcomings of the Greek political economy, but rather a by product of the global capitalist crisis as articulated and expressed by the EU and the Eurozone. Syriza also sees the political remedies proposed by the government coalition as an offensive of the dominant classes against working people and the traditional petite bourgeoisie. In addition, its program involves the restructuring of the Greek development model, social control of the banks, and the protection of the working class, the unemployed and the poor. Thus, it not as only the popular anger that contributed to Syriza’s electoral gains but a political (though not necessarily ideological) proximity of the population to its policies. In fact the commitment to the latter, was accompanied with a commitment to contribute to the formation of a left wing government in alliance with left political forces.
It is typically claimed that a Greek exit from the eurozone would be catastrophic for the Greek economy, however some leftist commentators point to the example of the Argentine banking crisis and Argentina’s rapid recovery following its default. Which scenario do you find more plausible in the Greek context?
Fiscal and monetary policy are not simply technical issues. Although the technical dimension is important, these issues are primarily social and political in essence. Thus, any technical advice should always give primary consideration to the social (and of course economic) and political balance of power and dynamic. This is a mistake made by all those who make the aforementioned proposal. The Argentinean situation is different from that of Greece. Even if one leaves aside the fact that it has been over a decade since this country’s default, during which we witnessed radical developments in the global economy, the social and economic conditions in Greece today and in Argentina over ten years ago are very different. Greece’s real economy has much less potential than the Argentinean one while the social conditions and mainly the balance of social power is not conducive to the prospect of following the path of Latin American. The unilateral declaration of default would have led to a tremendous backlash for the left.
Alternatively, given that Greece’s problem is very similar to that of the other Eurozone countries and that these problems have revealed the fundamental shortcomings of the Euro and the austerity policies which have been imposed, the radical alternative is to rally the people against the Memorandum. Then, given that a possible exit of Greece from the Eurozone, as all serious economic and mainstream observers and politicians claim, would have devastating results for the world economy, a left wing Greek government can negotiate a new agreement with the Eurozone. Key preconditions for the success of this strategy are: a) not turning this process into a debate among technocrats; b) rallying the people around the idea that staying in the Eurozone is definitely a choice on the grounds of solidarity but this should not be pursued at “all costs” as the right wing and various modernizers claim; and c) the development of a movement of solidarity among the left political forces in and outside the official European institutions. This strategy ensures that in case of failure the people will be informed and mobilized and presumably ready to confront, through solidarity networks, the hardships that will follow the default.
Syriza argues in favour of remaining in the Eurozone but rejecting the present bailout conditions. What do you think the prospects would be for a Syriza led government to renegotiate terms with the European authorities whilst remaining in the zone?
The rationale of my previous comment answers part of this question. However, I would like to underline the fact that Syriza’s proposal is not to renegotiate the so-called bailout agreement but rather is a complete rejection of it. Its proposal is: a) to postpone any payments to the country’s creditors until the economy shows signs of growth (Greece has entered its 5th consecutive year of recession as it holds the world record in GNP contraction with over 20%). This is in fact similar to the plan followed by Germany in 1953; b) to socially control the banks and reorient their activity so they can provide credit for development which will restructure the real economy in the country; c) the abolition of all the anti-labour laws and the reestablishment of all necessary welfare policies which will ameliorate the social calamities caused by the Memorandum (e.g. 30% on or under the poverty line, 22% unemployment, 51% unemployment among the youth).
Aside from its position on the bailout could you outline the most salient aspects of Syriza’s political programme more broadly? To what extent, and in what ways, might they take Greece down an anti-capitalist path?
In the Greek context the most salient aspect of the Syriza’s political programme is its plan to undermine the governmental model, which for the longest time has functioned by ignoring popular, social and working class concerns and demands. It is a model that in the last two years is not just indifferent to societal needs but actively sees society as the “enemy”. Syriza’s programme and most importantly its political practice are based on mobilizing the society, realizing a strategy: “empowering the powerless”. In this context, Syriza’s proposed reforms are radical since in addition to having labour and social reforms at its heart, they realize a bottom up strategy, which aims to the establishment a vision of a “society of needs”.
Why is the KKE, the Greek communist party, being so intransigent in its refusal to work with Syriza?
The KKE is today a rare breed of communist party. Its political coordinates are closer to the Portuguese Communist Party, although the latter is less dogmatic and with much less romantic sentiment towards the glorious past of the 3rdinternational and the Soviet type of regimes. In the last few years its social presence has been organized through the formation of front organizations in various locals (labour, students, local and regional movements), which are exclusively controlled by the Party. Its rhetoric and overall activism is grounded on the analysis that the country’s membership to EU should be terminated and anyone who even critically supports EU membership is seen as pro-capitalist. With this profile and strategy, the KKE has a selective presence in social struggles – mainly in those that it is capable of controlling or even using to expand its recruitment. This strategy seems to be transforming the party from a political organization capable of influencing or capturing governmental power into a mere pressure group. In the last local and regional election (fall 2010) the KKE essentially refused to assume any responsibility at that level although on many occasions it had opportunity to assume governmental responsibilities at least in many of the cities.
Thus, the sectarianism noted before and after the May election is not a surprise. However, after the results of the last election and the significant advancement of Syriza (from 4.6% in 2009 to 16.8%) the party’s rank and file has been challenging the leadership strategy, especially its refusal to even consider its participation in a left wing coalition government. In fact, the post-electoral opinion polls already predict a drop by more than 30% of the electoral support of the party. At that point at no great risk one could predict serious developments within this party following the June election.
The last elections saw significant gains for the neo-fascist party ‘Golden Dawn’ – could you tell us something about the party’s historical roots and its political programme? How serious a threat do you think Golden Dawn is to Greek democracy?
The rise of Golden Dawn to electoral prominence is indeed a very worrisome phenomenon, not just for Greece but for Europe. This party is clearly a militaristic neo-Nazi political formation whose membership is mainly made up of a number of thugs, many of whom have been under judicial investigation for extreme criminal acts against immigrants and left-wing activists. It is a party which has a relatively strong presence in high-schools, especially in working class neighbourhoods as well as in neighbourhoods with a high level of criminality related to poverty and social exclusion. In addition, as recent electoral studies indicate, and this is even more worrisome, members and supporters of this party have penetrated the middle and lower ranks of the police force.
Despite these facts, I believe that the popularity of Golden Dawn in last election does not indicate that there is a strong neo-Nazi current on the Greek political scene. Most of this vote, which reached almost 7%, is simply an apolitical and protest vote. Many of its voters did not know that this party shares ideas with the Nazism of the interwar period. What strengthens this type of politics are the dire social consequences of the stability pact, the lack of any serious immigration policies, the de-democratization of police due to the PASOK government’s neo-authoritarianism and the failure of democratic and progressive citizens to co-ordinate an effective antifascist campaign. In any event, this party is not going to disappear; however, its popular vote will definitely decrease in the next election.
You emphasise the importance of developing and strengthening Europe-wide networks of solidarity. Those reading this, many of whom will be UK-based, may be wondering how such solidarity can best be built. Do you have any advice?
In addition to the obvious solidarity networks already in place (Party of the European Left –PEL and the Confederal Group of the European United Left/ Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament) Syriza is expected to gather support from all of those who rally against the austerity policies imposed by the Stability Pact. As Syriza plans to renegotiate the whole arrangement and the fiscal prerequisites of the Eurozone support can come even from mainstream political forces that see both the impasse of the very foundation of Euro and object to the bypass of the European institutions by the initiatives of the axis of Merkel and Sarkozy.
Posted: May 15, 2012 Filed under: Activism, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas, politics
By Costas Douzinas*
‘Europe used Greece as a guinea pig to test the conditions for resstructuring late capitalism in crisis. what the European and Greek elites did not expect was for the guineapig to occupy the lab kick out the blind scientists and start a new experiment: its own transformation from an object to a politicla suvject. The meaning and limits of democracy are renegotiated in the place it was born.’
When I was writing these lines in the autumn of 2011, many friends told me that I was excessively optimistic or, even worse, that I had lost touch with reality. The squares had emptied, the movement was in abeyance, a new government had been sworn in, the usual left melancholy had returned. Yet the truth was the opposite. 2011 was the year of dreaming fabulously and living dangerously. It was a long year. It started in December 2008, moved to 2010 Tunis and Tahrir Sqaure, 2011 Puerta del Sol, Syntagma, Zucotti Park and St Paul’s London and is now well into 2012 and the first astounding victory of the radical left in Greece. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 12, 2012 Filed under: Economy, Society
By Panagiotis Sotiris from The Press Project *
Social disaster comes in large numbers and small details. On 8 March the Greek Statistical Authority announced that the official unemployment rate reached 21% and that the total number of unemployed exceeded 1 million. A close look offers an even more devastating image of the consequences of the austerity packages imposed upon Greece by the EU – IMF – ECB troika. Not only has youth unemployment reached 51.1%, creating conditions for a ‘lost generation’ and imminent danger of a ‘brain drain’, but also unemployment of those at more productive ages (28.7% for those aged 25-34, 17.9% for those aged 35-44) has already reached levels that can lead to a social crisis. And this is only the official rate of unemployment. The rise of the economically inactive population is also an indication of forms of unemployment that do not fall within the official definition. Read the rest of this entry »