CHRISTOS GIOVANNOPOULOS: SOLIDARITY FOR ALL (S4A) – SOLIDARITY IS PEOPLES’ POWER
Published in Solidarity Networks
Christos Giovannopoulos: Solidarity for All (S4A) – solidarity is peoples’ power
Τowards an international solidarity campaign to the Greek people
The process that ended up establishing Solidarity for All, started in the summer of 2012. SYRIZA’s electoral breakthrough at the time gave a new boost to the already emerging self-organised social solidarity structures. It is a solidarity movement that was created by initiative of the Greek people as part of their political struggle against the Troika regime and the effects of the austerity memoranda.
In this context activists of the grassroots solidarity movement met with SYRIZA’s will to support it by creating a solidarity fund where SYRIZA’s MPs donate part of their salary. After discussions and public meetings, among those already active in the solidarity structures but also between many more who wanted to join, Solidarity for All (S4A) was formed as a collective in order to facilitate the development of this movement.
The role and the function of S4A
The role of S4A is, on one hand to create common spaces, tools, initiatives etc. where the solidarity structures can come (work and decide) together, share know-how and resources in order to more effectively meet the needs of the Greek society, and on the other to make this movement recognisable, known and approachable both to those who need it and to those who want to be part of it.
Solidarity for All was introduced at a time when an additional 180-200 self-organised initiatives and solidarity structures were already up and running. The (approximately) 400 that exist today underline the contribution of S4A and the solidarity movement, to multiply the synergies between various self-organised structures and fields of action, whilst developing a new paradigm of cooperation with a decentralized and participatory logic.
Thus S4A, despite having the ability (and it does) to propose and support nationwide or even international solidarity campaigns, does not stand as a “coordinator” of the self-organised solidarity groups. Moreover, while it can financially back those solidarity structures that wish to and ask for financial aid through the Solidarity Fund, it does not create solidarity groups as/or branches of it. Each grassroots solidarity initiative is autonomous and independent, with the only decision making process being its own assembly.
S4 as an autonomous assembly
Similarly S4A itself, while it is affiliated with SYRIZA’s solidarity fund, functions as an autonomous assembly with different working groups. The weekly assembly of everyone active in S4A is where deliberation takes place and decisions are reached. The working groups of S4A correspond to the fields of the solidarity activities, that is: food-solidarity, health-solidarity, social and alternative economy, solidarity against debts and house-foreclosures, legal support, education and culture solidarity, workers’ solidarity, international solidarity.
S4A engages also in solidarity to refugees and immigrants, but the network of antiracist solidarity had been well established before the current crisis, with its own structures and actions. It’s worth noting that many ideas and actions of the self-organised solidarity movement have been first practiced by the antiracist movement in our country. An experience that, unfortunately, became useful, in addition, to millions of jobless people including Greeks without the means to meet their basic needs, who felt like strangers in their own country.
However, instead of giving up, the Greek people took action, resisted and built their own solidarity structures which not only kept hope alive but made the potential for social change more feasible than before. In times of despair for many, people, who turned to the solidarity structures desperately seeking help, have been reactivated and found new courage by organising solidarity activities. It’s something more than giving a solution to an (your) individual problem. Is about becoming part of a resisting community, of people that fight in solidarity to live with dignity.
When the 595 female cleaners were sacked by the ministry of finance in order to meet the civil servants’ layoffs’ score that the Troika memoranda had set up, nobody imagined that they will set up an iconic and determined struggle defending their jobs. When they contacted S4A for support, nobody could imagine that they would decide to camp at the entrance of the ministry of finance and that more than 50 solidarity structures in Athens would cook for them every day, in order to keep them going.
Both in individual and collective terms, solidarity erects a different, more humane world, where tenderness between each other and determination to resist injustice pair together.
A difficult situation
However, it’s not all rosy. On the contrary, the effects of the steep austerity measures, destruction of welfare services, tax-plundering and unemployment still pile up. The number of people who visit local solidarity structures and S4A for support of any kind, multiply day by day. Between February 2013 and September 2014 those supported by food solidarity structures had more than doubled and from March to September 2014 rose by 12%. Similarly the cuts in the state contribution for medicine meant that many of those who still enjoy social security status and access to the public health care system in Greece cannot afford their medication. The situation is so bad that self-organised solidarity pharmacies, based solely on peoples’ donations and volunteering, support public hospitals by supplying them with medicine.
Such pressure and strain of resources is one of the biggest challenges, the solidarity movement faces, on two fronts. First in order to create the conditions for overturning the humanitarian crisis, and prepare, as it is, to cope with the financial blackmails of the former “Troika” institutions. Secondly by developing practices, ways and spaces, which foster the engagement and participation of all for all, setting up a different paradigm of social self-management, while responding to meeting the most immediate needs of the people.
And most recently the solidarity movement and S4A face new, positive hopefully, challenges regarding their new role under a people friendly left-led government. This is an open debate concerning the autonomous character of the movement but also its contribution for structural changes to take place between institutions and society, in favor of more democratic participatory processes.
Solidarity for All is based on 74 Akadimias str. Athens and is open to anyone Monday – Friday 9 am – 6 pm.
We can be reached by phone +30 210 3801 921, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via our website http://www.solidarity4all.gr or our international facebook page (with updates about the solidarity activities in Greece and abroad) https://www.facebook.com/sol4all
Christos Giovannopoulos is an activist, member of Solidarity for All