Three Articles on Greece from International Viewpoint
The current situation in Greece is critical. It is affecting the global capitalist economy and all of world politics. The general strike of October 19–20, described below in an article by Andreas Kloke and Pantelis Afthinos, was a giant mobilization of the Greek working class and its allies against the austerity program being imposed by the pro-capitalist government of Papandreou.
Giorgios Papandreou is head of the reformist social democratic party PASOK. After the general strike, Papandreou seemed for a moment to give in to the mass protest movement. He announced a public referendum on the austerity program being imposed through his own government, but actually by the banks and corporations of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
What an idea—that the people themselves should vote on whether or not to be gouged further for the greater enrichment of the banks and corporations. The news caused stock markets in Europe and all over the world to plummet. How vividly this shows the incompatibility of capitalism and democracy!
Papandreou was quickly given a good talking-to by the German and French governments. They threatened Greece with expulsion from the “euro zone” if the referendum went ahead. So Papandreou backed down. The referendum was canceled. And prices on the stock markets rose again. The sordid truth of the undemocratic nature of capitalist rule was again revealed for all to see.
One cartoonist gave a vivid illustration of the real—and anything but democratic—power relations behind the latest “agreement” for dealing with Greece’s huge foreign debt. On the left in the cartoon is Merkel, head of the German government; on the right, Sarkozy, head of the French government; and in the middle, Papandreou representing Greece. The heading in small type says: “Credit Default Swap.”
A comment is necessary about the three articles below (from International Viewpoint ). It is simply that they provide some indication of how Greek revolutionary socialists are intervening in the present critical situation.
—George Saunders, co-managing editor, Labor Standard
The Greek General Strike of 19 and 20 October
by Andreas Kloke and Pantelis Afthinos
Andreas Kloke is a leading member of OKDE-Spartakos, the Greek section of the Fourth International. He has been a regular contributor to International Viewpoint and Inprekorr since 2000. Pantelis Afthinos is a member of OKDE-Spartakos, Greek section of the Fourth International.
The 48-hour political strike of 19 and 20 October was another highlight of the class struggle, clearly expressing the intention of the workers and the middle classes to overthrow the government. On Wednesday, October 19, about 400–500,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Athens and a total of around one million in Greece as a whole. The demonstrations were the largest since the fall of the junta in 1974 and unambiguously demonstrate the enormity of social discontent, along with the determination of the working masses to fight against and overturn the barbaric capitalist policies of the government, the bankers, and the luminaries of the Troika. The general strike had been prepared in the best manner by strikes in various industries and by the occupations of ministries, town halls and other public buildings.
This made it difficult for the Government to maintain "normal" economic life and state administration. It was quite obvious how sharp the conscious breach expressed by the protesters with the prevailing policy had become, how deep the pent-up anger that erupted. From the square occupations in June the strikers turned to occupations of public administration buildings, thus indicating a qualitatively new situation. However, there was no occupation of firms and workplaces. The mass meeting the next day, October 20, at Syntagma Square was also enormous, with some 100,000 striking workers. Still, it was not sufficient to prevent Parliament from approving the 41 articles in the new bill. This list of measures will have a severe and intolerable impact on the lives of millions of workers, pensioners, and unemployed.
Once again the protests were met with a brutal police crackdown. All the militants of the movement should offer their warmest condolences to the family and comrades of Dimitris Kotsaridis who was assassinated by police repression at a demonstration, organized against the government of social cannibalism and blind obedience in the service of national and international capitalism. The overthrow of the existing system and the victory of the workers will be the only effective retaliation for the loss of this fighter, and it will honor his memory.
The leaderships of the two leftist parties represented in Parliament contributed decisively to the inability of the strike mobilizations to keep the aggressive policy of the capitalists from proceeding. The Chairman of the left-reformist alliance SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, denounced the conspiracy of silence on the part of government with which they covered their policy. However, he limited his oppositional stance to the call for elections. Thus, he was not only far behind the needs of the huge majority of the working class, but also behind their willingness to be involved in a radical social upheaval.
Nevertheless, it is beyond doubt that the KPG (KKE) and its trade union front PAME took the worst and most negative political stance during these events. On the day of the planned encirclement of Parliament the leadership of PAME seized the opportunity to make sure its contingent in the demonstration marched in front of Parliament and “encircled” it in such a way that the back of the demonstrators was turned toward the Parliament building. This was intended to protect Parliament from any possible radical and confrontational attitude on the part of other protesters. This goal was clear, though PAME was in contact with the other parts of the movement—unions, associations and political and social organizations—for the first time after many years. This has to be stressed since the PAME contingent is usually kept away from all other demonstrators in a completely sectarian manner. In fact, however, the contact in this particular case was meant to create a buffer, a guarantee for the normal functioning of parliamentary procedures. The KKE and PAME contingents, whose members appeared in full uniform, prevented all of the others from lining up in front of Parliament. Militants of the PAME used physical force and beat up members of several other contingents whom they considered "dangerous." And not satisfied simply with this, KKE and PAME went on to distort the facts in order to accuse those they physically assaulted of being “police agents” in the well-known Stalinist style.
It’s undeniable that at this crucial moment the KKE followed its own logic and belief, as if there is no movement except its own. Therefore, everybody who does not support the party is an enemy. At the same time the party gained badges of honor, due to its willingness to compromise and to its loyalty to the government and to the system as a whole. It did everything in its power to ensure that the encirclement of the Parliament was not a real siege, limiting the mobilization to an admittedly massive, but still peaceful—and ultimately, therefore, harmless and ineffective—protest based on traditional patterns. The KKE leadership is entirely fixated on the rules of the parliamentary system and is preparing the party forces for expected developments. It is not unlikely that in the coming weeks elections will be announced. If this is what happens, KKE would like to appear as the responsible party of the Left and as a reliable opposition that consistently refuses subversive and confrontational practices. This attitude will continue regardless of what government is ultimately created, the government organized by single party or a government of “national unity.”
Because of such practices, PAME was denounced by thousands of activists who were involved in the mobilization. Nevertheless it has to be emphasized that this legitimate and basically correct political criticism of PAME cannot in any way justify the attack on the PAME contingent which was carried through with stones, boards, smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails by members of some groups that define themselves within the anti-authoritarian and anarchist spectrum. Anything that promotes the use of force within the working class movement is not acceptable, because it is not directed against the forces of repression. It has a destructive impact on the development of the movement itself. The result of these practices was, in fact, that an extraordinary manifestation of workers’ anger dissipated inconclusively. The bourgeois propagandists took the opportunity to talk about a kind of civil war, and this deters some workers who are participating in such protests and demonstrations for the first time.
Some groups of the autonomous-anarchist current referred in their statements to the Stalinism of the KKE and tried to justify the violent attacks as a kind of public anger against the logic of PAME that attempts to hegemonize the entire movement. But these accusations can and should convince no one. In reality, these groups follow a similar logic when they commit acts of violence at every demonstration in a wholly arbitrary and uncontrolled fashion. In this way they inhibit the organized mass contingents from implementing their own plans. On the other hand, it is not correct to hastily denounce these groups as a camouflaged part of the security state apparatus, etc. It is undeniable that the anonymity of the autonomous-anarchist spectrum and the wearing of “hoods” on the street make them more susceptible to infiltration by police agents. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable to simply dismiss all these groups as police agents and quasi-governmental mechanisms. Furthermore, the block of people who started the attack on PAME was totally disorganized, without banners, and therefore its composition is unknown. The explanation presented by KKE and PAME, that disguised police provocateurs had planned the attack beforehand and then carried it out, is insufficient and does not lead to relevant political conclusions.
The real background to the emergence of such behaviors is a fetishism of violence as a means of resolving political conflicts. This fetishism finds fertile soil in a certain milieu, especially among the youth. It is a kind of fixation on violent behavior that is, in the final analysis, far from any political and organized forms of protest that could be really dangerous to the system. The fire of the Marfin Bank on 5 May 2010, when three bank employees were killed, is characteristic in this respect. Just the day before there was an attack on a teachers’ contingent and on the following day attacks on KKE members and on district offices of the party in the style of a mafia feud. All this has nothing to do with anticapitalist struggle; quite the opposite.
Regardless of the media reports regarding who should be blamed for the physical altercations at Syntagma Square, there is no question that the logic of the KKE—to organize “reasonable” and “peaceful” demonstrations without any prospect of an escalation, which is clearly against a mood in the movement that is prepared for a massive collision—is deeply flawed. Equally, however, the tactic of uncontrolled violence must be condemned since it amounts to meaningless and purposeless destruction and pushes in a direction which is contrary to the goals of the workers’ and popular movement. Even an explicit understanding of the police-style function that the PAME leadership exercised within the movement does not in any way justify the attacks with Molotov cocktails on striking PAME protesters. Such practices can only provoke disgust and outrage. The answer to the tactics of the KKE and PAME must be given by the movement itself in a political way, not by anonymous groups that claim to reflect the popular mood. However, it must also be noted that the orientation of the Communist Party to take over primary responsibility for the defense of civil institutions can only be destructive to the labor movement, in both the short and long term.
Despite all, and for various reasons, there was a lack of mass sentiment that would have seriously projected a storming of the Parliament or its actual encirclement during the two strike days. This was crucial, and ultimately made clear that the decisive spark did not exist. On Wednesday the strikers approached the fence and tore it down, but no large crowds were involved. On Thursday, more radical forms of struggle could barely be noticed. Nevertheless, only through such a radicalization of the mass mood can the logic of PAME, or of some of the anti-authoritarian autonomous groups that want to represent the movement as a whole, be overcome. What is needed in the coming weeks is a continuation of the massive occupation of public buildings (town halls, ministries, etc.) and the escalation of long-term strikes and mobilizations aimed at paralyzing production by a political general strike calling for the overthrow of the government.
In this sense, neither PAME nor any other group can claim the right to position itself “in the vanguard in front of the Parliament.” Any serious proposal for the movement, its stance and tactics, must be based on political criteria and objectives, not on journalistic commentary from the outside. It will be of paramount importance to all anti-capitalist revolutionary forces in the near future to develop a current within the labor movement that attempts to promote the workers united front, attempting to become dominant during the next wave of strikes, demonstrations and occupations. This current will come into an irreconcilable conflict with the miserable policy of compromise and capitulation of the union bureaucracy, the logic of the military-police-in-the-movement as represented by PAME, and the fetishism of violence that characterizes certain groups from the autonomous-anarchist spectrum. What we need is a political workers’ movement that will send the government, the bankers, the EU and the IMF to the trash heap, which will eventually overthrow bourgeois society paving the way for the socialist transformation of relations.
Unfortunately the ANTARSYA statement shows a certain lack of understanding regarding the real objectives of the KKE leadership. The united action and the united front of workers’ movement must not be formed under conditions projected by PAME. The fighting that preceded the general strike has shown that this united front can and must emerge out of the essential qualitative development of the mass movement itself. The statement of the ANTARSYA Central Coordination Committee, in contrast, represents a retreat in the face of the policy pursued by the KKE leadership, and is therefore inadequate.
Athens, October 29th, 2011
Call by Antarsya for a demonstration on Friday 4 November
Klafthmonos Sq., 19h
[The situation in Greece is changing rapidly. This call by the radical anti-capitalist left coalition Antarsya for a demonstration on Friday, November 4, was made on the morning of Thursday, November 3.—International Viewpoint]
The explosive interference of the people’s struggle at the forefront of the political developments is shocking both the government of the Memorandum and the Troika and the entire political system. This fact leads the government to an open crisis, to the collapse and to the need to look for “lifebelts” for their survival. With the choice of the Vote of Confidence in the parliament and the proclamation of the Referendum, the government is hoping to intimidate the consensus of the people to the “social massacre” that they are preparing along with the EU and the IMF. We say that in any case the anger and the social disapproval should be at the forefront, the big NO to the misery should be heard, and new paths of social rupture and anticapitalist struggle should be opened.
On Friday the collapsing government of the Memorandum will try to stay in power and gain the Vote of confidence. Don’t let them stay in power; they should be brought down by the pressure of popular mobilization. The Parliament should be, once again, encircled by the people’s anger.
The demonstration outside the Parliament on Friday should be united, militant, and disobedient. In such a struggle neither the proprietary logics are welcome nor the strictly protected party contingents. What we need is that Syntagma Square should be flooded by the people in struggle, by the workers and the young people, by the trade unions and the students’ unions, by the peoples’ assemblies and the various committees of struggle, by the parties and the organizations of the Left in a big demonstration.
As Antarsya we insist on the path of the militant front for breaking and overthrowing the current system, as well as on the radical united action of the Left. We fight for the escalation of the struggles through longtime stirkes, occupations and militant demonstrations; for the self-organization of the masses and the peoples’ solidarity; for overthrowing the “massacre” of the government-EU-IMF and every potential administrator of the same policy, for getting rid of the dictatorship of the markets and the bankers.
We call on the workers and the young people, the trade unions and the students’ unions, the assemblies and the committees of struggle to support the demonstration that is organized by the Co-ordination of the rank-and-file trade unions on Friday 4 November, 19h, in Klafthmonos Square and then to march up to the Parliament.
No to the 50% haircut, no to the new occupation. Cessation of payments and debt audit!
Greek Auditing Commission of the Public Debt
[In the early hours of the October 27, the Eurozone leaders reached a decision marking the tightening of the public debt’s grip over the Greek people. The proposed haircut of the public debt held by the private sector will not resolve Greece’s debt problem, whilst instead it brings new burdens. The reasons are plenty: ]
- The haircut will be accompanied by new loans, worth EUR 130bn, leading to a less than promised debt reduction.
- The debt reduction is small and unequally distributed, given that the Ôroika’s bailout loans (worth EUR 65 bn), as well as the bonds held by the ECB (worth EUR 55 bn), are exempt.
- Pension funds will suffer a blow worth EUR 11.5 bn, which implies that debt restructuring actually means a reduction of pensions and social provisions.
- The new, guaranteed bonds that will replace the old ones will not be contracted under Greek law, resulting in a more favorable position for our creditors.
- The haircut will be accompanied by new austerity packages, reductions in wages and mass dismissal of public sector workers, which will push the Greek people further into poverty.
- As a guarantee, Germany and the EU essentially demand that Greece operate under reduced national sovereignty and in practice impose a new Occupation, following the appointment of a Gauleiter in each important ministry and department.
- The agreement itself is stillborn and far from complete, given that the expected agreement with the banks is not guaranteed, similarly to the agreement of the 21st of July, which the governments hailed as a great success.
- The results are highly questionable since, contrary to the government and EU proclamations, the reduction of debt to 120% of GDP by 2020 will not make it sustainable. If this level were sustainable, then why is Italy, whose debt today is equally high, being called to reduce it? Any why was Greece in 2009, with a debt ratio significantly lower than that, forced to accept the bailout package?
For all of the above reasons, the decision of the Eurozone’s leaders is unacceptable, and must be overturned through the Greek people’s struggle. The selective haircut, which leaves the illegal loans of the troika untouched while it leads the pension funds to catastrophe, shows how necessary are the cessation of payments to our creditors and a democratic, worker-led debt audit. This audit will show which part of the debt is illegal, illegitimate, and unconstitutional, and thus it will prompt its cancellation. Debt cancellation is based on the sovereignty of the Greek people, who will force creditors to accept its terms.
On Friday 28th October the Greek people celebrated their resistance to the Axis powers in 1940. The majestic and determined actions of the people, which marked this anniversary, show the way to rid ourselves of the creditors’ shackles and end the new Occupation that they attempt today. The Debt Audit Campaign’s conference planned for the near future, aims to be a step in our society’s struggle to cancel the illegal, illegitimate, and unconstitutional debt!