by David Peel
Outside the Finance Ministry in Athens is the Camp of Struggle, where cleaners sacked from their jobs by the previous government of Greece, as part of its EU-imposed austerity regime, demand their jobs back.
We are now months into the anti-austerity Coalition, led by Syriza, and the cleaners have not got their jobs back, despite promises from Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis. Syriza pledged to introduce legislation to rehire them, alongside thousands of others. It hasn’t. The cleaners have said that if Syriza does not deliver, they will turn their protest against the new popular government. And for now, polls continue to show Syriza has popular support, and would win another election, but the fragile unanimity in its own ranks is fracturing.
We are now months into the anti-austerity Coalition, led by Syriza, and the cleaners have not got their jobs back, despite promises from Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis.
Those in Syriza who went to the people on a genuine promise to end austerity now say their leadership is attempting the impossible — trying to keep Greece in the Euro. The EU, and its currency, cannot be compromised just because people from a small bankrupt nation within its jurisdiction elected a new Government.
And anyway, a popular mandate for or against anything is meaningless to modern western European politicians — including our own in Britain — because as a rule, they ignore their own people. So to go cap in hand to a hard-faced autocrat like Angela Merkel and pray in aid victory in your elections as a reason for why you must be listened to, is politically naïve. It is certainly not a ‘negotiation strategy’. Varoufakis found that out to his, and the Greek nation’s cost.
Syriza needs money to save Greek capitalism, and to stop the bleeding out of capital from its banks and economy. It has pledged to end austerity, but the strings attached to saving capitalism in Greece are that austerity is kept, and implemented in full. Bluntly, Greece had no money and no options when Varoufakis walked into the first talks.
Bluntly, Greece had no money and no options when Varoufakis walked into the first talks.
His trousers were round his ankles. The banks were about to close and catastrophe loomed. We had the same ‘bull’ here in Britain from Labour Ministers, also trying to save capitalism: the banks are too big to fail. Syriza is now back in talks, but I see little evidence of a new strategy so the Greeks should expect little movement from the EU. The crisis is set to deepen.
I would suggest two ways forward. At Government level, Syriza should negotiate its exit from the Euro — the Grexit — re-denominate its currency, introduce capital controls and nationalise the banks putting staff unions in charge. Greek debt should be written off. Syriza should implement its policy pledges and stop all privatisations, increase the minimum wage, end the evictions and homelessness and rehire public officials. It needs to feed the people as a matter of urgency. However, that is Syriza, and Syriza is not the Greek people.
However, that is Syriza, and Syriza is not the Greek people.
The people — including anarchists, socialists, communists and non-aligned activists — have begun a social revolution. To advance, their social revolution requires the stripping of assets of large companies and multinationals, and the eventual abolition of the banking system. This is where Syriza could help, if it wanted to. That means all personal debts wiped, with the banks handing back all the possessions they seized. It also means the socialisation of production, industry and ports, communication, transportation, utilities, hospitals, schools and universities, with staff unions running them. This is where Syriza could assist if it wanted to, but it doesn’t.
Eventually, parliament and the politicians will become irrelevant, being replaced with already up and running local peoples’ assemblies and workers’ councils, feeding into a confederal National People’s Assembly. These national assembly delegates will be immediately recallable by local assemblies and workers’ councils and will earn no more than the national average wage. As for the police and army, the defence of communities will be organised by communities themselves. This is the social revolution Syriza fears.
What might be the soil for its prospective growth? I suggest the suffering millions as a start. Five million people living in poverty, 2.5 million in absolute destitution, 700,000 children who do not even have the basics and are undernourished, the disabled, those suffering mental illness, those who lost their home to the banks, those without electricity or even water, those who are migrants. Let’s not forget the 4,000 who took their own lives because they were financially ruined, by austerity.
In Greece, the people see it as we do. To avoid bankruptcy and pay off the debt — in our case the ‘deficit’ — there must be a bloody war against the vulnerable and public services. That means ‘social euthanasia’, ‘social cleansing’, ‘housing apartheid’, ‘a eugenics of the poor and disabled’. It’s a class war.
Just over a year ago in Athens, on April 10th 2014, the urban guerrilla group Revolutionary Struggle exploded a car bomb outside the offices of the Bank of Greece, the IMF and other finance institutions. It was a minimal response to a murderous austerity — a full blown EU imposed and directed humanitarian crisis, including thousands of deaths and millions more suffering, in a nation ruined.
The even wilder Conspiracy of Fire Cells have kept up a string of attacks and their hunger strikes have drawn popular support. The anarchist movement is big and respected in Greece and is not confined to car bombs. The Greek people don’t see this as ‘terrorism’.
However the Greek people should now focus on finishing what they have started. The social revolution belongs to them and with it freedom, a full belly, control over their own lives, the chance to live and to love instead of just survive, good health, social justice and equality, and a liberated education. This is not the time to despair, become desperate or worse, hand over the future to yet another political class trying to save this suffocating economic system in collapse.
I know it ill befits me to urge on the courageous and visionary Greeks, but in truth I am only echoing what some in Greece are already saying. And what is the alternative to social revolution? Our continuing slavery.