by Alexander Cockburn, originally posted at counterpunch
Regard the Greek political landscape and how dramatically it has changed from last November. On November 2, 2011, Greek prime minister George Papandreou flew to Cannes before a G20 meeting and received one of the most humiliating rebuffs in European history since Pope Gregory VII left Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV shivering in the snow. (Actually that fracas ended well for Henry, badly for Gregory, which people often forget.)
Papandreou went to Cannes to moot his referendum aimed at coercing the Greeks to back the austerity program being imposed on their country. It was a tactic, not a bad one. Sarkozy and Merkel received Papandreou with insults and derision and sent him and his referendum packing. Papandreou’s colleagues in PASOK picked up the hint, and not long thereafter Papandreou’s political career was over.
Now move forward to May. There were new elections. This time there was a left coalition, Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) filling the void left by the utterly discredited PASOK. It had capable leaders like Alexis Tsipras.
In the election PASOK a party that has been in power longer than any other party in recent Greek history scored 13.20 per cent, its lowest score since 1974. New Democracy – rightist – did not manage to gain from the fall of PASOK, also had its worst electoral result (18.85 per cent) and saw the splinter ‘Independent Greeks’ party reaching more than 10 per cent. The total of all pro-austerity parties was less than 42 per cent, a clear evidence of the rejection of neoliberal policies.
Syriza was in second position with 16.78 per cent (the last time the Left had such a position was in 1958) and total percentage of the Left (Syriza, Communist Party and Anti-capitalist Left) was at almost 27 per cent, which is the largest electoral presence of the Left in modern Greek history.
Author: Costas Douzinas*
Few events in recent European political history have baffled analysts and commentators more than the widespread insurrection or ‘riots’ (according to right-wing commentators) that took place in Greece in December 2008. The catalyst was the unprovoked police killing of the 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6 in the Exarcheia district downtown Athens next to the Polytechnic and the Law School, two Universities associated with student militancy for some 60 years. Within hours of Grigoris’s killing, massive protests, occupations and demonstrations broke out all over Greece. Daily marches to police stations, Parliament and Ministries were accompanied by sit-ins, street happenings, interruption of theatres, the raising of a banner calling for resistance on Acropolis and the burning of the Christmas tree in Syntagma Square. Some early violence against banks and luxury shops was minimised and no casualties. In an unprecedented move, large numbers of secondary school pupils occupied some 800 schools and took to the streets. Half the population supported the protest. Solidarity protests throughout Europe created fears of the protests spreading.
The insurrection led to a plethora of anxious interpretations. Many, often contradictory, causes were put forward: economic (unemployment and neo-liberal economic measures), political (persistent corruption and failure of education), cultural or ideological. But the most prominent reaction of commentators has been incomprehension mixed with incredulity.
Manolis Glezos, second from right, Greek left wing politician and writer, known especially for his participation in the World War II resistance, is attacked by riot police outside the Greek parliament in Athens on March 5. AFP / Getty Images / Aris Messinis
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek parliament approved new spending cuts and taxes Friday aimed at defusing the country’s debt crisis, while protesters opposed to the measures fought with police outside. Prime Minister George Papandreou headed abroad to seek European leaders’ support for his efforts. Riot police used tear gas and baton charges to disperse rioters who chased the ceremonial guards in 19th-century kilts and tasseled garters away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the parliament, while a top trade union leader was roughed up by left-wing protesters. It was the biggest outburst of violence since Greece’s debt crisis escalated late last year. Police say they arrested 5 people, and seven officers were injured. Greece’s financial troubles have shaken the European Union and its shared euro currency, whose rules were supposed to prevent governments from running up too much debt.
by Richard Wolff.
PUBLISHED ON JUNE 4, 2010
Political theater now grips Greece. As with ancient Greek plays, today’s drama also reaches and touches everyone else. We sense Greece’s dilemmas becoming our own.
Her rulers declare that a crisis now threatens Greece. They blame it on the masses. To overcome it, they must impose great suffering on the masses. The rulers’ chorus intones the absolute necessity, the utter unavoidability of that suffering as the only solution. There is, it insists, no other option. The masses waver. Many lean toward resignation, accepting the suffering as punishment for their sins that caused the crisis. For the moment, the rulers exult as their elaborate political theater of blame seems to have successfully shifted the costs of the crisis from them to the masses. And yet, there are also signs of impending oppositional anger from the masses. Huge demonstrations rocked Athens in May. Cathartic moments loom. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Davis
RESPONSES TO AN INTERVIEWER FROM A GREEK DAILY PAPER OF THE LEFT .
I think our societies are supersaturated with unrecognized anger that can suddenly crystallize around a single incident of police abuse or state repression. Although the seeds of revolt have been flagrantly sown, bourgeois society seldom recognizes its own harvest. In Los Angeles in 1992, for example, every teenager on the streets (or, for that matter, every cop on the beat) knew that Armageddon was coming. Read the rest of this entry »
by Alex Callinicos
The price of the so-called “rescue” of Greece is massive austerity for working people. This is coming up against resistance from the most militant working class in Europe.
The general strike on 5 May was very significant. Greece is a country where general strikes happen quite a lot—but this wasn’t just a good general strike. It had qualities of a real workers’ insurgency.
In Constitution Square in the centre of Athens, massive crowds confronted riot police as they tried to get into the parliament.
The struggle is moving beyond the stage where a one-day general strike, or a succession of one-day general strikes, is sufficient to express workers’ anger. Read the rest of this entry »
by Rick Wolff
Clearly, the global capitalist crisis that started in 2007 will be neither short nor shallow. The government rescue of the US financial industry pumped enough extra money into the economy and sufficiently reduced interest rates to give banks and the stock market the heavily hyped “recovery” that started March 2009 and is now over. What is worse, their recovery never reached much of the rest of the economy. Efforts to broaden the recovery or extend it beyond one limp year have failed. That failure cost Washington trillions in borrowed funds from lenders who now demand guarantees that those loans will be repaid to them with interest. Similar demands now confront many other governments who likewise borrowed heavily to cope with the crisis in their countries. Read the rest of this entry »
The political ‘explosion’ that took place in Greece was a symptom of a systemic and deep-rooted legitimation crisis of the Greek state. This essay examines some of the causes of this crisis, how the political space in which this explosion occurred was produced, and possibilities for continued political antagonisms and struggles. Events belie forecasts; to the extent that events are historic, they upset calculations. They may even overturn strategies that provided for their possible occurrence. Because of their conjunctural nature, events upset the structures which made them possible (Lefebvre, 1969: 7).
The dramatic upheavals in Greece, sparked by the December 2008 murder of a ﬁfteen-year-old student by the police, have been the focus of much interest and speculation. This ‘explosion’ has been one of the most acute challenges to the Greek political
establishment since the end of the Greek Civil War. Read the rest of this entry »