On the Eve of the Greek Referendum—
For a Massive NO Vote, and Mass Mobilization in the Streets
by George Shriver, co-managing editor, Labor Standard
July 3, 2015—The crucial struggle right now is for a massive NO vote on July 5, and mass mobilization in the streets to encourage the working class and its allies to intervene directly in this crisis, asserting their own demands and directly acting in their own class interests.
Many reports indicate that the healthy, vital, combative elements of the Left are engaging in a united-front effort precisely for a massive NO vote and a mass mobilization of the workers and their allies, such as the many active movements for social change. Only sectarian elements such as the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) are standing aside. We post here an edited version of a June 28 statement from the web site of OKDE-Spartakos, the Greek section of the Fourth International, indicating their participation in the mass mobilization for a NO vote.
Vote NO! No agreement — End the negotiations
Decision of the CC of OKDE-SPARTAKOS 28.06.2015
The Greek government [of SYRIZA], despite its persistent efforts, failed to win the confidence of the institutions (EU, IMF) and the favor of the hegemonic bourgeois classes of Europe. The vows of loyalty to the repayment of the debt “fully and timely” and the renunciation of unilateral actions, as well as of any measure which would be contrary to the capitalist normality, weren’t enough. SYRIZA adopted ever more measures and reforms in full accordance with the memoranda (privatizations, retirement age increases, de facto reductions in wages and pensions, increasing VAT [sales tax] on mass consumption products etc.). The EU and the IMF, however, along with their domestic partners in Greece, don’t want just harsh measures, but they also want to destroy any hope (and illusion) reflected in the election of a government that was elected with the slogan of terminating the memoranda, even if this slogan was withdrawn the very first day after the elections.
Thus, the leadership of SYRIZA was at a dead end. Unable to sign its political death sentence, that is to say, an agreement so shameful that it would lead the party to the fate of the Social Democratic PASOK of George Papandreou, and under the pressure of the demands of the workers’ movement, the government launched a referendum. We have no illusions about the intentions or the ability of SYRIZA to conflict with the interests of capital and the capitalist institutions. However, voting NO to the proposals of the troika, may open, under appropriate conditions, a new round of political crisis of the system that exploits and oppresses us.
In the following days, the traditional parties of capital, ND and PASOK, together with the ultra-neoliberal POTAMI, which altogether react fiercely to any taxation of corporate profits and of large incomes and demand even lower wages, will start ranting, in any way possible, about the alleged disaster that a rejection of the proposal of the institutions will bring. They will blackmail bluntly, brandishing the alleged disaster of an exit from the euro-zone. The working class, however, has already experienced the real disaster: austerity and capitalist aggressions. The working class cannot and should not be terrified, because they have nothing substantial to lose by capital controls or by a general crisis in the euro-zone. On the contrary, when capitalism, the system that exploits us, shakes, we are preparing for battle. What will give us a rupture with the EU and the IMF is confidence and will for struggle, not despair and fear.
This rupture cannot be made merely by voting. Neither could the elections have been the magic solution to get rid of austerity, nor can the referendum be. The next few days should find us in the streets, so as to confront the reactionary, pro-capitalist gatherings like “We stay in Europe”, but also so as to ensure that there is real rupture, and that the referendum will not be just a negotiating maneuver of Tsipras and the leadership of SYRIZA. Besides, let’s not have any illusions: if it weren’t for the mass mobilizations, not only the recent ones but, mainly, those of all previous years, there would be no jam with the institutions and the memoranda would proceed normally.
Our NO to the proposals of the troika is in no way a vote of confidence to the government of SYRIZA – ANEL. Besides, their own proposals, the text of the 47 pages and the amendments made afterwards, are also totally unacceptable and represent a new memorandum, maybe a little bit more mild, but including new cuts and privatizations. Actually, on certain issues, the proposals of the government are even more reactionary than those of the institutions: [such as] defending armaments programs, preservation of the tax breaks for shipowners. We will say NO to these proposals as well, with our struggles.
On Sunday, July 5 we vote NO.
NO: so as to open the rift, and not to begin a new round of negotiations
NO: in the streets and not only with the ballot
NO: to this and to every agreement
NO: overall to the euro-zone, the EU, and the IMF, and not just to their proposals
NO: to the Troika, but also to any other administrator of the same system
One report on the Internet mentioned “the attempt to build rank-and-file neighborhood committees for a NO vote, bringing together different sections of the Left. Interestingly, ANTARSYA (Anti-capitalist Left Alliance) which traditionally has a sectarian approach towards the rest of the Left and SYRIZA in particular, is now energetically involved in this action. Unfortunately this is not the case with the KKE (Greek communist party) which has taken an absolutely sectarian approach, calling on voters to spoil their ballots (abstain). Given that the KKE still commands significant support amongst workers, this could help pave the way to a ‘Yes’ majority if the vote is close. A Yes victory would probably see the SYRIZA government fall and a new right wing-dominated coalition emerge that would be willing to make a brutal austerity deal with the Troika.”
Along these lines, we post here an article by Stathis Kouvelaks, a leader of the Left Platform inside Syriza, who describes his campaigning in Athens for a massive NO vote. Kouvelakis mentions specifically a “united-front” effort by many different socialist and radical groups for a mass mobilization to win the NO vote campaign.
A Moment of Great Decisions
Despite media misinformation and EU blackmail, anti-austerity forces in Greece remain strong ahead of Sunday’s referendum.
by Stathis Kouvelakis
Jacobin magazine, July 1
My “uncharacteristic silence” of the last few days, as someone described it on my Facebook page, is simply due to the fact that, since I arrived in Athens for the No campaign on Sunday, I have slept very little and worked a lot. Today I spoke at two gatherings at workplaces (the central railway station in Athens and the central building of the subway). A great experience. My schedule for tomorrow includes talks at various gatherings in the industrial zone of Moschato and a public meeting in Petroupoli, in the western suburbs of Athens.
Workers feel the pressure of the situation created by the media hysteria and the closure of the banks. They are rather critical of the concessions made by the government during those exhausting “negotiations,” but in general they are confident in the victory of No. They expect this to be a new start for the Syriza government, with more of its program implemented.
I would urge all those who follow what is going on in Greece with the typical mixture of anxiety and hope to keep as cool a head as possible. The Greek media are in a hysterical state, and the Western media are not that different. One of their favorite themes, on top of the apocalyptic atmosphere they are propagating, is that the referendum will not take place, that the government has actually accepted the Juncker plan and will cancel the referendum and so on. Beware of such misinformation.
It is true that some initiatives of the government are, to say the least, ambiguous and debatable. This is particularly true of yesterday’s proposal for a new loan from the European Stability Mechanism and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s letter to the Eurogroup disclosed today. Their aim is to display goodwill and give credit to the position that what will take place next week, following a potential victory of No, is a new cycle of “negotiations.” But everyone knows that (a) this is very unlikely to happen and (b) that in any case there aren’t any proper negotiations going on now: Merkel made it clear that absolutely no talks are conceivable before Sunday.
So there is a dimension of posturing on both sides and of tactical maneuvering on the side of Syriza, but it is also true that this is a reflection of contradictions within the government and Syriza. Its “realist” wing (lead by Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis) is trying to put forward the idea that the referendum is just an unpleasant (and brief) conflictual parenthesis and that the negotiations will start anew on the basis of the very serious concessions the government had accepted just before the break of the talks. The official position, however, is that the negotiations will start from a “zero basis,” which means that all the previous Greek proposals have to now be considered obsolete.
Tsipras’s speech today [July 1] was well-received and widely seen as defiant, thus succeeding in overcoming the demobilizing impact of the latest proposals. But of course, the best ally of the No camp is the uncompromising and hubristic attitude of the lenders, leaving no room for “compromise,” even of the worst kind.
According to opinion polls published today, “no” is ahead by eleven to thirteen points, but the gap has narrowed significantly since Monday due to the closure of banks, the restrictions on cash withdrawals, and the problem pensioners have had receiving their payments.
This has inevitably created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, and that was exactly what the Eurogroup leaders had in mind when they decided to stop any liquidity provision. However, it is also unsurprising that it is only among pensioners and housewives that “yes” leads or is close to majority support. Everywhere else, including among small-business owners, “no” leads.
A lot will depend on the capacity of each camp to mobilize, but particularly the No side. Tuesday’s gathering of Yes voters was big and well-planned, but almost exclusively upper middle-class, and that was probably the peak of what they can do in terms of mobilization. Taking into account that it was highly improvised, Monday’s No rally was a successful start. The campaign on the ground started today, and it will be almost entirely monopolized by the No camp. The mood in Greek society is one of increasing polarization — along clear class lines in the urban centers, more diffused in the countryside and in the small cities.
Qualitatively speaking Syriza’s branches are galvanized, and there is an excellent relation with the comrades of Antarsya. Other forces, from the social movements and various campaigns, are also joining. A “united front” type of campaign [!] is taking form, which is excellent news.
But the big setback here is the attitude of the Communist Party, which can only be qualified as a “betrayal.” (In general I don’t like this term but in this case it seems justified.) They will present their own ballot paper, affirming a “double no” (to the troïka plan and to the government, both seen as “two sides of the same coin”), a ballot paper that of course will be invalid. Presumably they will do their own counting and then announce the result as some kind of “success” of their line.
If No wins — which seems likely but not certain — and if it wins a clear majority, which also remains to be seen, it’s almost inevitable that the confrontation with the European Union and the domestic dominant class will escalate. Greece has already refused to pay the International Monetary Fund in June, and formal default will be declared in thirty days. The liquidity and currency weapons will be used even more heavily, with the European Central Bank and the European Financial Stability Facility asking for their loans to be repaid immediately. The moment of “great decisions” for Syriza will then inevitably come.
A victory for the No camp would galvanize popular forces. But this outcome should not under any circumstances be considered a given. It is the object of the amazing battle that is taking place now.
Here, as another example, of the popular mobilizations before the referendum is a link to a short video of scenes from a mass No-vote demonstration in Athens on the evening of July 2 --http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/02/european-democracy-greece_n_7717658.html
And readers can see the huge NO vote crowd addressed by Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras on July 3 by going to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aidRyCAbAao
Solidarity from Anti-Austerity Movements Outside Greece
We post here a statement by Podemos, the Spanish anti-austerity party, expressing its firm solidarity with the Greek people on the eve of the July 5 referendum.
Podemos: “We stand firm on the side of democracy. We stand firm with the Greek people.”
In view of the situation in Greece, and following the breakdown in the negotiations [provoked] by the Eurogroup, Podemos wishes to communicate the following:
- Last Monday, the Greek government presented a proposal to the Eurogroup which included important concessions and was unanimously welcomed by the lenders as being reasonable and viable. In the following days, however, the international creditors led by the IMF did not accept the Greek government’s proposal to tax the wealthiest sectors of society, restructure the debt, and launch an investment plan to revive the economy. Instead, they demanded to raise [the sales tax] VAT on basic services and food and required further cuts on pensions and wages. In their effort to demonstrate that there is no alternative to austerity, the creditors only seem to accept the money of the poor, and insist on imposing the same logic and measures that led the country into a humanitarian disaster. The Greek economy is asphyxiated. To keep strangling it is the precise opposite of what must be done.
- Facing such blackmail and extortion, the Greek government has reacted to the ultimatum in an exemplary manner: by calling on the people to decide their own future in a democratic and sovereign way. Unlike the Spanish governments of 2011 and 2012, the Greek government has refused to violate the popular mandate derived from the January election. All the attempts at coercing, intimidating and influencing this vote by unelected powers, especially by the European Central Bank -which is willing to suffocate the Greek financial system to influence the outcome of the referendum-, constitute a flagrant and unacceptable violation of the democratic principle. We say that Europe without democracy is not Europe: all democrats should join their voices in denouncing these intolerable interferences and pressures. Democracy is incompatible with letting unelected powers govern and decide for us. It is democracy that is at stake.With their intransigence, the creditors have demonstrated that they have no interest at all in solving the Greek debt crisis; their aim is rather to subject and overthrow a democratically elected government so as to prove that there is no alternative to the politics of austerity. Their blindness is such that they are willing to put at risk the integrity and the stability of the financial system and the European project itself, exposing them to speculative attacks whose price will ultimately be paid also by the citizens of other countries. We will say it once and again: they will be the ones to blame, they will be responsible for the consequences of this disaster.
- Syriza did not create the tremendous economic crisis that affects Greece. It was the governments of New Democracy and PASOK, the friends of our PP and PSOE, who falsified data and accounts, surrendered the sovereignty of the country to the Troika, and handed Syriza an economic and social catastrophe that is necessary and urgent to reverse.
- Many international actors have already distanced themselves from the dogmatism of the creditors. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world have expressed their solidarity with the Greek people in their defense of the democratic principle. We demand that the Spanish Government and the European institutions respect the sovereignty and dignity of the Greek people, and that they consequently guarantee that the referendum takes place in conditions of freedom and complete normality. The democratic will and the fundamental rights of the Greek people, which have been systematically attacked during the long years of austerity, must be respected.
There are two contradictory fields in Europe: austerity and democracy, the government of the people or the government of the market and its unelected powers. We stand firm on the side of democracy. We stand firm with the Greek people.
Hopefully, Podemos accompanied its statement with mass mobilizations in the streets in solidarity with the working people of Greece. Recently there have been mass anti-austerity mobilizations in Ireland and Britain, based on the working classes in those countries. An article below by Alan Thornett of the British Fourth Internationalist organization, Socialist Resistance, cites demonstrations of solidarity with the Greek workers scheduled for the eve or the day of the July 5 referendum. A massive NO vote and mass mobilization in Greece needs solidarity and support all over Europe--and the world!
Solidarity with a Greek No Vote on Sunday
by Alan Thornett
We are two days away from the Greek referendum. The Banks and the European elites are straining every nerve not only to win a Yes vote on Sunday but to destroy Syriza, the government it leads and the anti-austerity alternative that it represents.
It is like the Scottish independence referendum writ large. As soon at the referendum was announced – which was a momentous challenge to the EU’s neoliberal agenda—the banks went into action. The European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it was turning off all support mechanisms to the Greek banks forcing them to close down. Cash withdrawals for the ATMs were limited to €60. The message was that if you really want to challenge the European elites and their austerity agenda this is what is going to happen. There will be complete chaos and it will be the end of civilisation as we know it.
Widespread disinformation was spread designed to discredit the Syriza government and undermine confidence in its leadership.
The EU elites threatened Greece with expulsion from the Euro, and even the EU, in the event of a No vote. They know that a majority of the population are worried about an exit from the Euro and they are exploiting it to the full – even though a Grexit would seriously damage the EU and is a nightmare scenario as far as their own interests are concerned.
As a result of all this the No vote is under pressure. Although the Tsipras government remains hugely popular even some of its supports are beginning to say “my heart says vote No but my pocket say vote Yes.”
This is a dangerous situation. Whether Tsipras and the Syriza leadership have done enough to prepare for this kind of assault is a discussion we can have in the future. The task now is maximum solidarity with the struggle of the Greek people since a defeat for Syriza would be a serious defeat for the whole of the European movement.
This means that every nerve has to be strained to support the No campaign between now and Sunday. The No vote is there to be won. The Greek government is calling for it and we have to do everything we can in their support.
Solidarity is an issue for the whole of the European workers movement. The elates not only want to smash Syriza in Greece they want to strike a blow against Podemos in Spain — and against anyone else who dares to challenge their neo-liberal agenda. In Britain the Greek Solidarity Campaign (GSC) has done a remarkable job in mobilising solidarity, including the excellent protest in Trafalgar Square has Tuesday.
It has called now another protest for tomorrow afternoon in Trafalgar Square (with protests in other parts of the country).
This is crucially important in order to give a final solidarity boost to the No campaign. The left needs to take this very seriously to ensure a maximum turnout.
The details are as follows:
SATURDAY 4 JULY — 2pm Trafalgar Square
Solidarity with Greece — London votes no to austerity.
There will also be a post referendum rally on MONDAY EVENING (July 6th):
Greece on the brink—no to austerity, yes to democracy. 6.30pm at the TUC Congress House, Great Russell Street. It is sponsored by Greece Solidarity Campaign, the TUC, and Jubilee Debt Campaign.
For further information see http://greecesolidarity.org/
Transitional Measures Moving Toward Social Ownership Are Also Needed
On July 3, in his speech to a huge crowd in Syntagma Square in front of the Greek government building in Athens, Alexis Tsiprss emphasized the fight for democracy and the dignity of the Greek people against the blackmail and ultimatums of the international creditor “institutions.”
And certainly it is right to emphasize the fight for democracy against unelected capitalist power. After all, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 talked about the need for the working class to “win the battle of democracy”—that is, to form a workers’ government that would begin to make inroads against the rule of capital based on private ownership of the means of production and exploitation of the wage workers who produce surplus value, which is then appropriated by the capitalist owners.
However, the fight must go beyond capitalism. Transitional measures can be taken immediately by the Syriza government. For example, the government can continue the capital controls it imposed on the Greek banks on Monday, June 29. Let the government run the banks in the public interest and under workers control.
Among the hundreds of Internet reports about the Greek crisis which I have glanced through fleetingly during the past week is one I vividly remember, but I can’t locate it again. As I recall, a reporter close to and familiar with the Syriza government leaders was describing the difficulties created by the European Central Bank. Shortly after the announcement of the July 5 referendum, with the Syriza leaders calling on the Greek people to vote “NO” to the international creditors’ latest blackmailing and humiliating proposal, the ECB suddenly stopped providing funds to Greek banks--funds that had been provided on a regular basis to maintain “liquidity.” This was clearly an attempt by international finance capital to create difficulties for the Greek government, to scare the Greek public, and thus disrupt the voting before July 5.
The report described bank workers coming to talk to Syriza government officials to tell them what was happening on the scene inside the banks, to make suggestions and offer help as the Syriza government instituted capital controls and temporarily shut down the banks. (If any reader remembers this report and can help find it on the Internet, that would be greatly appreciated.)
At any rate, the logic of the situation seems obvious to me, flowing naturally out of critical situation. Here’s what I mean. Let the Syriza government continue its capital controls and go further, take full control of the banks and run them in the public interest with the active participation of the organized bank workers and the support of the working class as a whole. After all, it was the majority of workers of all categories who elected Syriza on January 25 of this year.