Greece: The EU-ECB-IMF austerity package and the challenge for the Left

by Panagiotis Sotiris*


During the past months Greece has been the most dramatic example of the current sovereign debt crisis and the first to be forced to introduce an extensive set of policy changes. The package of measures negotiated by the Greek government with the EU, the ECB, and the IMF represent the most aggressive attempt in Europe to violently and rapidly implement ‘structural reforms’ that the forces of capital have been trying for decades to introduce. This has led to an impressive wave of social unrest, that will not be easily subdued especially if we consider that the full impact of the measures has yet to be felt. That is why both the crisis and the measures have acted as a litmus test for the Greek Left and its ability to act as the leading force of social protest and resistance.

Fiscal crisis and class strategies

So far the Greek fiscal crisis has been presented as a result of sloppy public finance, cooked up national accounts, bad state management and a lack of productivity due to a certain ‘Mediterranean’ laziness. Greece is presented to be in need of structural reforms that would bring both its public finances and its labour practices in line with current capitalist norms. However, this is a rather schematic image that cannot bring forward what is really at stake in terms of class relations and strategies.

With the Greek economy entering recession, it was natural to expect higher public deficits and consequently a rise in the cost of public borrowing. This follows a more general trend of increased sovereign debt after the burst of the financial bubble and the recession that followed, when states had to face increased borrowing requirements and aggressive money markets. In the Greek case this was reinforced by the revelation that public deficit was at a much higher rate that initially suspected and the decision by credit rating agencies to lower the rating of Greek bonds.

Moreover the Greek fiscal crisis brought forward all the contradictions of Greek capitalism. Big public deficits are not only the outcome of the decreased ability to collect taxes during a recession. They are also the result of a conscious policy, especially by the conservative government of New Democracy (2004-2009), to tolerate tax evasion and avoidance of employers social security contributions as a means of strengthening a social alliance especially with small and medium businesses and segments of the ‘professional middle class’. Deficits also reflect the pressure on Greek governments to accommodate for big business, both national and international: lower taxes for capital, overpriced public works, extremely high cost of medical supplies and of course high military spending – a large part of it openly politically motivated with the Greek government buying US fighter planes, French frigates and German inoperable submarines amidst a recession. So it is obvious that any attempt to scale down public spending would result to conflicts with important segments of capital and international alliances.

The recession of the Greek economy is not a simple local manifestation of the global capitalist crisis. It also reflects a deeper crisis of the whole ‘developmental paradigm’ of Greek capitalism that was based upon low labour cost, the exploitation of immigrant labour, the use of European funds and increased household consumption fuelled by debt. Although, Greece went through a phase of deep capitalist restructuring during the past two decades it seems as if there is no growth dynamic left. The dependence of important sectors of the Greek economy (construction, tourism, and shipping) from the tendencies of the economic cycle and the global economic conjuncture only makes things worse. As a result Greek capitalism, after a period of constant growth is facing the possibility of a prolonged downturn.

Eurozone blues

At the same time the Greek case brings forward the structural contradictions of the Eurozone and the whole financial and monetary architecture of the European Monetary Union. The introduction of the euro as a common currency accentuated the problems caused by the differences in competitiveness and productivity in European social formations. The traditional justification for this structure was the need to avoid inflationary pressures, in an attempt to guarantee the role of the euro as world money, but in terms of the social balance of forces it has mainly functioned as a constant pressure for capitalist restructuring. The euro practically meant currency devaluation for higher productivity and competitiveness export countries and a currency overvaluation for lower productivity import countries, making even more obvious the differences in productivity and competitiveness. In periods of relative growth this structural imbalance could be tolerated or even endorsed and enhanced because it could act as a pressure for capitalist restructuring, since it could be seen as a something like an ‘iron cage’ of capitalist modernization. This can explain why the bourgeoisies of countries such as Greece could accept such a strategy of extended pressure upon their productive base. However, in a period of recession all the contradictions of this strategy are intensified. Therefore we can say that although this partial concession of national monetary sovereignty could act, in times of growth, as a way to force capitalist restructuring (at the same time ideologically using the reference to Europe as legitimization), in time of crises and recession pressures can pass the limit of restructuring and lead to the destruction both of productive forces and social alliances. The absence of any mechanism of redistribution and compensation in the eurozone and the reluctance of Germany to consider any such mechanism (especially since German capital has been a benefactor of the imbalances within the EMU) means that the competitive pressure on lower productivity and competitiveness countries can become destabilizing. In this sense the financial and monetary structure of the eurozone seems like an economic straightjacket, offering no other way out than an open attack on worker’s wages and rights, even at the cost of endangering social cohesion.

In a period of an open crisis of neoliberal strategy the EU remains fixed to neoliberal orthodoxy suggesting that ‘structural reforms’ such as mass lay-offs, flexible labour relations, lowering of labour costs can not only lead to growth but also to a solution of the fiscal problems, although it is obvious that at least in the short term these measures will intensify recessionary tendencies and public deficits. The reason for this strategy is the way the current capitalist crisis is perceived. Despite the ambitious targets set in the ‘Lisbon Strategy’ back in 2000 it is obvious that European capitalisms did not manage leaps in productivity and are facing elements of a profitability crisis. With aspects of the European ‘social model’ still in place and signs of growing militantism and even radicalism they opt for a deepening of recession in order to take advantage of its disciplinary aspects. They can accept a prolongation of economic recession and a delay in recovery if this can help them take advantage of the situation and enforce a change in the balance of forces against labour. The fact that austerity measures are being introduced all over Europe regardless of actual deficit problems highlights the assumption that we are not dealing with contingent extreme measures, but with strategic choices from the part of the European bourgeoisies. This can also explain the different strategies expressed at the G20 summit. The fact that in the US the defeat of the labour movement was almost total in past decades, something that can account for the absence of a ‘Welfare State’ in the US in the sense that it has in Europe, can explain why now facing a structural capitalist crisis the US elites are ready to introduce some form of mild income redistribution as a stimulus to the economy or why the extent of counter-cyclical state intervention has been so big. On the contrary one can discern a strategic unease from the part of European elites and the absence of clear bourgeois strategy for the exit from the economic crisis, especially since a whole set of strategic assumptions based upon the ability of the market to act as a means of rationalization has been challenged by the failure of the markets and their inherent irrationalism The attack on workers’ rights can change the balance of forces and offer capitalists some room to move, but it does not address the roots of a structural crisis of over-accumulation. This would need a new social and technological paradigm. But it is obvious that capitalists and their political representatives tend, at least for the time being, to turn back on attacking workers rights, than tackle questions of strategy. Without a plausible strategy for a new wave of restructuring and technological innovation that will lead to a leap in productivity the lowering of labour costs, labour market flexibility and further liberalization seem as the only way out for the ‘European Project’, inducing a ‘race to the bottom’ in what concerns the condition of labour.

The Greek experiment

The violence of the austerity package dictated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF has also to do with the particular relation of social forces in Greece. Increased labour militancy in the public sector, a long tradition of radical student and youth movements, increased legitimization of radical forms of protest show that despite the reforms and restructurings of the past decades the ‘modernization’ of Greek society is an ‘unfinished project’. The New Democracy government suffered in September 2009 a humiliating defeat after announcing a much milder austerity package than the one being implemented now. The December 2008 social explosion of the Greek youth brought forward the possibility of social discontent going out of control and threatening the core of the neoliberal policies. Especially important has been the possibility that such explosions can act as a paradigm of social and political action and become ‘contagious’ to the rest of Europe. These considerations led to a double fear. On the one hand the Greek bourgeoisie feared that they might not be able to impose a rapid deterioration of working conditions and a sharp decrease in labour costs. On the other hand, European elites feared that Greece, especially because of the social relation of forces, would be the ‘weak link’ in the European edifice and therefore be unable to pass he whole cost of the crisis to the workers. Therefore the strategic calculation behind the austerity package is not only fiscal but also political. It aims at imposing humiliating defeat upon the working classes and permanently changing the balance of forces in favour of capital. What is at stake is not just an emergency package of austerity measures but a profound change of social paradigm, the unleashing of systemic capitalist social violence against the forces of labour, the reversal of whatever is left of workers’ gains in the 20th century. Greece is becoming a testing ground for a more general strategy of radically deteriorating the position of workers.  It is a test of the ability to radically impose a ‘shock therapy’ of structural reforms in advanced capitalist social formations with long traditions of social struggle. If the ‘Greek experiment’ is successful one can expect similar attacks on labour in other European countries, beginning with countries of the European South. Therefore a defeat of labour in Greece will affect the balance of forces between capital and labour all over Europe.

The measures introduced by the Greek government as a part of the agreement with the IMF and the EU exemplify this attempt at a change of social paradigm. Measures that until recently were aspects of ‘wishful thinking’ for the forces of capital are being rapidly introduced in a ‘shock and awe’ tactic of consecutive legislative coups. Moreover the whole mechanism of EU-ECB-IMF ‘supervision’, in reality something close to economic and financial occupation, means that new waves of measures are to be expected. Wages in the public sector have been sharply decreased and the there has been extreme pressure for a wage freeze in the private sector. The reform of the pension system will lead to dramatic increases in pension age limits and decreases in pensions and, more importantly, to the change from a redistributive system based on the solidarity of generations (current workers’ contributions pay for pensioners) to a system where pensions will be determined by the level of contributions introduced during the whole work-life. The changes in the system of collective bargaining and the abolition of the right of trade unions to unilaterally seek arbitration will mean that extensive parts of the workforce will be left with no collective contract whatsoever. The easing of the restrictions to mass redundancies and reduction in redundancy compensations will reinforce workplace despotism. The rise of the VAT and other indirect taxes combined with constant increases in the prices of most goods means a further attack on the income of working families. The attempt to decrease the number of public sector employees, beginning with the mass lay off of those in limited term contracts, will only aggravate the problem of mass unemployment and intensify the problem of workplace precariousness, at the same time severely deteriorating the quality of services provided (hospitals are already in critical condition). A new wave of privatizations will increase commercialization of the access to basic goods and services. The new initiatives by the Ministry of education will intensify the move toward a more ‘entrepreneurial’ Higher Education.

The whole process of the implementation of the measures has also been an attack on national sovereignty and democratic process. The Greek government is treating the standing agreement with the EU and the IMF as something above even the Greek constitution, the supervising EU –ECB – IMF ‘troika’ can always demand extra measures and important policy changes that have been included in the agreement, are going to be implemented by simple ministerial decrees.

The roots of social unrest

Greek society is going to face social tensions never seen before. For the first time, large segments of the population are facing, in the next months, a rapid deterioration of their working and living conditions. It is also important to note that the crisis of the 1970s coincided with the rise in popular militancy after the fall of the dictatorship and we had to wait until 1985 for the first austerity measures, with the period form 1974-1984 being that of the most significant gains for workers. Greek society in the past also avoided the more catastrophic exemplifications of economic crises mainly through the family acting as mechanism of solidarity and cohesion and through practices such as saving. Now with families already in debt (during the 2000s relatively cheap loans were used to fuel private consumption and a housing boom and were in fact part of a strategy of gaining consent for the strategy of capitalist restructuring) the capacity to counter the results of the crisis is diminished especially if there is a sharp increase in unemployment. We are also going to face even higher rates of youth unemployment and in general a deterioration of employment prospects for youth, something that could also lead to rising social tensions (one should not forget that the deterioration of employment prospects one of the main reasons behind the explosion of the Greek youth in December 2008). Social inequality and class polarization, already relatively high in Greece, will increase. As result one can expect a growing sense of social discontent and the possibility of large scale social explosions.

There is no doubt that the coalition of forces around the ‘Stability Program’ is a strong one. Apart from the open blackmail from the EU, the IMF and the international rating agencies, there is the political consensus of the Greek political and media elite and the open support of all the segments of the bourgeoisie, who see these measures as a unique opportunity to lower labour costs and radically alter the balance of forces in the workplace – something that in the absence of a viable developmental strategy seems as the only possible solution. On the other hand the hegemonic efficacy of this strategy is minimal, in the sense of an inability to actually gain some form of consent from the part of the popular classes. After more than two decades of attempts to capitalist restructuring and demands for temporary sacrifices in the name of future prosperity, the workers are being told that they will have to endure austerity without end. Instead of the appeal to modernization and ‘becoming part of Europe’ as ‘national goals’, which was the axis of the ruling ideology in the past decades, what is being projected is more an attempt towards collective guilt in sharp contrast to what most people perceive as a sharp deterioration of their living conditions. This ‘thin’ basis of legitimization, this reliance only on a ‘passive’ form of hegemony, is something that can turn into a more profound crisis of hegemony. And this can explain the extent of protest and anger in Greek society. It can also account for the extremely high rates of disapproval for the measures and a general disillusionment with the political system. And it can also account for the fact that for the first time since the 1980s PASOK’s deep roots in the popular classes and its ability to forge relations of social representation are being put into question, with important segments of the social basis of PASOK rebelling against the policies of their own party.

The challenge for the Left

That is why this crisis poses a huge challenge for the forces of the Left. Will the Left manage to articulate the demands of the working classes into political goals, help organize the movement and inspire confidence in the ability of collective struggle to actually impose radical changes in policies? Or after the first wave of unrest subdues we will simply wait for the contingent eruption of social anger and discontent, hoping the Left might transform it into a movement and not a ‘blind’ social explosion.

One should not forget that the basic problem for the Greek Left has been that after its subsequent defeats in the last decades, first by the fact that PASOK managed in the 1970s and 1980s to become the leading representative of labour strata and then by the subsequent waves of capitalist restructuring and neoliberal reforms, it has not managed to offer a strategic alternative. For the most part it has contributed to student and workplace militantism, with varieties of success, it has acted as electoral outlet of protest, and it has offered some form of ideological defence of socialism. The actual political relation of forces meant that it was not under any pressure to offer those concrete political answers that would transform it into a counter-hegemonic force. However this is exactly what is currently required: a Left that can address the whole of society and offer an alternative to ‘actually existing capitalism’. This means offering those concrete answers that have to with economic and fiscal policy, ownership, foreign relations, the ways to integrate or not in the international system, in short the question of power. At the same time the crisis of the trade union movement, as a result of both the extensive capitalist restructurings of the past years and the role played by the mainly socialist trade union bureaucracy, makes urgent a new thinking about how to organize collective struggle and resistance.

Therefore the challenge for the forces of labour and the Left is twofold. On the one hand it is necessary not only to try and organize forms of social resistance and struggle, but also to contribute to a social mobilization of such scale that would undermine important aspects of the hegemonic strategy, induce sharp breaks in the relations of representation, especially those that attach large parts of the popular clashes to the socialists of PASOK, and create conditions of social unrest that would make the implementation of the Stability Program unbearable for the ruling classes. On the other hand, this requires the articulation of a concrete programme of radical political goals that will offer an alternative.

And these challenges are more urgent if we take into account the unevenness of the movement so far. The May 5 strikes marked a turning point in recent labour history not only by the fact that we witnessed the biggest labour demonstrations since the 1980s but also by the way anger of the demonstrators was turned against political power itself, epitomized in the attempt to climb the stairs towards the Parliament, something without precedent. However it was not followed by an escalation of the struggle. The attempt to impose a collective guilt over the 3 workers that were trapped in a burning bank branch and the reluctance of the trade union bureaucracy to choose more radical forms of struggle surely contributed to this, but they are neither the sole nor the main reason. The main problem facing the movement today is that most people —however angry or disillusioned they might be—do not feel that there is an alternative to the austerity package. And this epitomizes the strategic crisis of the Left: its inability to actually go beyond simply articulating discontent towards building confidence to the existence of a radical alternative.

The contradictions of the Greek Left

A closer look at the politics and tactics of the Greek Left can illuminate these points.

First we have the communist party (KKE). It is the strongest force of the Greek Left with roots in the working class, but also to traditional petty bourgeois strata. Its main strategic conception has been that in the absence of an international revolutionary centre – such as the USSR – we cannot have an actual change in the balance of forces in favour of workers, nor can we have real gains and an improvement in social conditions unless the question of political power is not dealt with. What we can do is to build the party, redefine revolutionary strategy (beginning with a rereading of the history of socialist constructions that insists on post-Stalin pro-market reforms as the main reason for the defeat of socialism) and educate workers, The result is an obsessively leftist rhetoric full of anticapitalist maxims and demands combined with a rather defeatist insistence in the inability of current struggles to have tangible results.

Regarding the debt crisis the position of the KKE has been a mixture of simply demanding that the government take back the ‘package’ and at the same time offering their alternative of a people’s economy in conditions of people’s power, a sort of a blueprint for socialism. However welcome this defence of socialism this could be, one cannot help but noticing that this strategy shies away from answering more pressing questions such as what to do with the debt or whether Greece should remain within the Eurozone. This is not simply the result of leftist maximalism (a ‘why talk about annulling the dept, when we are talking about people’s power’ attitude). It is also the result of political calculation. The KKE thinks that by doing this it avoids clashing with deep-rooted prejudices, especially in traditional petty bourgeois strata, that the exit from the euro, the re-introduction of national currency and debt annulment might endanger savings.

It is true that in sectors of the trade union movement where the KKE has deep roots it has opted for a militant stance. This is exemplified by strikes in the shipping industry where unions controlled by KKE have blocked daily transport to the Aegean Islands in days of strikes, despite court injunctions against these strikes, but also by various forms of activism such hanging huge banners from the Acropolis. This has led to vicious attacks by members of the Greek government, especially the ferociously anti-communist vice-president of the government Th. Pagalos, and by media pundits. However, this is combined with an openly sectarian tactic in the movement with complete refusal to cooperate with other forces of the Left at the expense of the escalation of strikes, organizing different meetings and demonstrations during strikes, creating separatist pro-KKE unions in sectors where other forcers have the majority.

In what concerns the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), a political alliance that comprises Synaspismos and various groups of the radical Left, the current conjuncture brought forward all the contradictions of this alliance. Although SYRIZA took from the beginning a clear stance against the austerity package it had great difficulty in articulating a more comprehensive alternative regarding questions such as public debt and especially Greece’s relation to the EU. Especially in large segments of Synaspismos there is a deeply rooted belief that Greece’s participation in the EU is essentially progressive, and this has been reinforced by a whole attitude of viewing any demands of ‘de-linking’ from the process of European integration as inherently nationalistic, a belief shared by both right wing eurocommunists and more radical tendencies. This left-wing ‘Europeanism’ along with an insistence on the possibility of some sort of ‘left governance’ mark the political limits of Synaspismos and consequently of SYRIZA as a political project. On the other hand there have been tendencies both within Synaspismos and within SYRIZA that have taken more radical positions insisting on the need to annul the debt, to break away from the Eurozone and to reconsider Greece’s relation to the EU. The same ambivalence is evident in SYRIZA’s stance within the trade union movement, where on the hand SYRIZA supports attempts at coordinating grassroots unions as an alternative point of reference and on the other Synaspismos’ trade unionists refuse to severe all ties with the trade union bureaucracy dominated by PASOK cadres.

The anticapitalist Left and especially ANTARSYA a front in which most organizations participate has taken a clearer stance. It has insisted upon a set of concrete goals that offer the possibility of a plausible radical alternative: Full repeal of all the measures related with the Greek government – EU – ECB – IMF agreement. Anullement of Debt. Immediate exit from the Eurozone. Insistence on the need to think the possibility of an exit of Greece from the EU. Redistriibution of income in favour of workers.  However, the hesitation in what concerns collaboration with other forces of the Left in the movement persists and the same goes for the tendency to fall back into an anticapitalist verbalism that has little to do with the actual exigencies of the struggle.

In light of the above attempts to create forms of cooperation between militants with different political backgrounds and to advance a United Front tactic have been more than welcome. The coordination of grassroots unions has offered the possibility of trade unionists from the radical Left and Syriza to work together and to present an alternative point of reference to the trade union bureaucracy. A network of economists and academics has offered a powerful defence of the need to annul the debt and to exit from the Eurozone, shifting the debate within the Left. An appeal from intellectuals, trade unionists and prominent figures of the political and social Left for unity in action of the forces of the Left has gained momentum.

Unity in action and anticapitalist strategy

The attack on both the working class and large segments of petty bourgeois strata, the extent of the restructurings and the undermining of social alliances and of any legitimization basis for aggressive neoliberal policies, entail the possibility of a crisis of hegemony. However if the working class suffers such a big defeat, this would mean the erosion of the ability of the Left to represent popular strata, and then there would be no sense in talking about the recomposition of the Left.

That is why the most urgent exigency for the Greek Left is victory in the struggle against the EU-ECB-IMF austerity package. This requires an escalation of social struggles, in the form of a combination of prolonged strikes in sectors of high union density and a tradition of struggle (public sector, publicly owned companies, Banks), of various forms of activism, of new forms of disrupting aspects of economic and social activity, of large rallies, networks of solidarity. Also needed is a new and original conception of ways to organize and coordinate this movement. Neither traditional party politics nor traditional forms of trade unionism can represent this movement; a new united militant point of reference is necessary that could coordinate trade unions, student assemblies and the popular action committees that are being formed in various neighbourhoods.

This cannot be accomplished without a united front of struggle through the unity in action of the Left and of those segments of the social basis of the Socialist Party the rebel against the austerity package. This would mean for the forces of the Communist Party to abandon their sectarian practises, for the forces of SYRIZA to break away from their ties with the union bureaucracy and for the Anticapitalist Left to avoid acting as a ‘Left opposition’ to the reformist left. At the same time that we need the independence of the Anticapitalist Left as a political project, unity in struggle is necessary in order to overcome the obstacles raised by the union bureaucracy and to create networks of coordination and solidarity.

But a simple reference to the need for effective collective resistance is not enough. What is needed is a more comprehensive anticapitalist strategy that must include political demands that articulate a left-wing alternative and a counter-hegemonic ideological intervention that could deconstruct the ruling discourse on the crisis and the need for ‘special measures’.

First, this requires a clear position on the question of debt. Since the whole mechanism of debt has been used as a means to impose systemic social violence against Greek society it is clear that it presents an unbearable burden. Trying to find a way to finance it can only lead to a vicious circle of more austerity and at the same time greater indebtedness. That is why it is necessary to fight for debt annulment.

Secondly, a clear position on the question of debt can support the demand for a complete repeal of the Greek government’s agreement with the EU, the ECB and the IMF and of all the measures associated with this agreement.

Thirdly, the whole relation of Greece to the project of European Unification must be put into question. Contrary to a tendency to view European Unification as a neutral or natural tendency, it must be viewed as the materialization of a class strategy and as a mechanism for the strengthening of capitalist modernization. De-linking Greece and other European countries from these processes and reclaiming aspects of national sovereignty in fiscal and monetary policy, is not a form of ‘economic nationalism’ or ‘protectionism’ (in Greece all segments of the ruling classes and the all the political establishment, including the Far Right are pro-European) but the only defence against the systemic social violence of the internationalization of capital. The very architecture of both the EU and the Eurozone implies that it is not possible to have European – wide processes of income redistribution or compensations for regional inequalities or any other aspect of a ‘progressive monetary union’. On the contrary one must expect from the part of the EU an insistence on neoliberal orthodoxy. Today any possible solution of the Greek crisis in favour of labour requires the immediate exit from the eurozone, the re-introduction of national currency and radical policy changes: introduction of capital controls, nationalization of the banking system and public control of crucial sectors of the economy. It also means the insistence that radical social change requires full withdrawal from the European Union. Contrary to a tendency of a great part of the European Left to take European Union for granted what is needed is struggle against the EU. Creating obstacles to the process of European integration and de-linking social formations from this process is an internationalist position.

Fourthly, we must insist that this radical challenge to the Eurozone and this demand for the radical dismantling of its political, financial and monetary architecture can be at the benefit of workers both in ‘peripheral’ countries such as Greece and in ‘core’ countries such as Germany. Contrary to the prevailing image that the danger is for German workers to have to pay for the problems of the Greek economy, the European Monetary Union means that both German and Greek workers are facing a worsening of wages and working conditions: the core economies need this in order to keep their competitive advantage and the peripheral economies in order to sustain the pressure exerted by more competitive core economies.

Fifthly, against the ‘fuite en avant’ tactic of the bourgeoisie on a pan-european level, the Left must insist on the necessity and possibility of an anticapitalist alternative. The violence of the attack against workers, the capitalist crisis as also a crisis of neoliberalism and ‘actually existing capitalism’, the realization of the deeper irrationality of the ‘markets’, all these can make this alternative much more plausible and convincing. Radical demands such the imposition of a ban on mass lay-offs, the nationalization of the banking system, the decrease of military spending the increase on wages and pensions and in general the redistribution of income toward the popular classes, are now more urgent than ever.

But this also means the opening up of the discussion of what socialism and a renewal of communist strategy might mean in the 21st century. What is needed is a collective effort to rethink the possibility of a non-capitalist organization of social life, beginning from those ‘traces of communism’ in actual struggles, demands and practices of solidarity: the refusal of the commodification of social goods and services, the resistance to the various forms of ‘enclosures’, the egalitarian demands of social security and decent living for all, the various forms of ‘direct democracy of struggle’, the demand to create social spaces free of the violence of capital. Although this rethinking of strategic questions might seem as a luxury in times of a full-scale attack on labour, we should never forget that unless large masses of workers regain their confidence in the possibility of radical social change, the forces of capital will retain a strategic advantage.

During the past months Greek society has been described as an annoying exception in European affairs. Let’s hope that the evolution of the struggle against the EU-ECB-IMF austerity package will justify this. It will be for the benefit of workers all over Europe.

*Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean,

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