Alle 8 di mattina a Syntagma, la piazza del parlamento greco ad Atene, hanno cominciato a riunirsi i manifestanti, l’afflusso è cresciuto in maniera esponenziale per tutta la giornata e sono diventati migliaia ,tutti riuniti di fronte al Parlamento per cercare di impedire l’ingresso dei deputati e la discussione delle misure capestro richieste dal governo.
Alle dieci di sera, la protesta coinvolgeva circa 30.000 persone, uomini e donne di tutte le età disposti a tutto per salvare il loro futuro. La piazza non ha vissuto in tutta la giornata un secondo di tregua, ma nonostante i numerosi scontri pesanti che si sono succeduti e nonostante un lancio di lacrimogeni a tappeto che sarà difficile da dimenticare sono rimasti lì, perché la lotta per la vita è l’unica che non conosce paura.
Il popolo greco, sebbene piegato e stremato, dimostra di avere delle energie che noi ci sogniamo e non intende piegarsi più.
Sono più di due anni che il movimento greco si struttura e si estende: dal 6 dicembre 2008, giorno dell’assassinio del quindicenne Alexis Grigoropoulos, il livello di consapevolezza, di organizzazione e di scontro s’è alzato vertiginosamente.
Dalle proteste radicali di studenti e migranti, che per un mese hanno bruciato Atene e Salonicco, le lotte operaie e dei portuali, così come di molte altre categorie hanno insegnato alla popolazione greca cosa significa riappropriarsi (almeno) della propria dignità.
Rabbia e determinazione non si sono fermate neppure davanti alla repressione più dura. Anche ieri (come succede sempre ad Atene) gli apparati della repressione hanno reagito con violenza inaudita: normali reparti celere affiancati ai M.A.T., ma soprattutto al gruppo DIAS/DELTA, gli scagnozzi in motocicletta, hanno bastonato e caricato in continuazione e la risposta è stata notevole ed efficace (“ne hanno prese tante” leggo nei comunicati dei compagni greci).
La piazza è stata territorio di guerra per molte ore, tanto che anche dentro la fermata della metropolitana sono stati lanciati moltissimi lacrimogeni e ancora non si riesce ad avere idea del numero di feriti. Ma la voce della rivolta non si è mai abbassata e potente urlava : “PANE, EDUCAZIONE, LIBERTA’: LA GIUNTA NON E’ FINITA NEL 1973″, e ancora “MPATSI, GOURUNIA, DOLOFONI" (GUARDIE MAIALI ASSASSINI),lo slogan che dal giorno della morte di Alexis non ha mai smesso di echeggiare per le strade greche.
Le notizie sono ancora poche e frammentarie, ma una cosa appare ormai chiara e fuor di dubbio: il popolo greco ha voglia di cambiare, ha voglia di prendere in mano il proprio futuro, ha voglia di parlare di RIVOLUZIONE.
Il popolo greco ci sta indicando inequivocabilmente la via: una mobilitazione popolare straordinaria, che unifichi il mondo del lavoro e della scuola, i giovani i lavoratori ed i pensionati, indigeni e migranti che unifichi insomma l’intera umanità oppressa dai killer della finanza globale e dell’imperialismo in generale, in una lotta di massa continuativa e radicale: che assedi i palazzi del potere sino alla caduta del governo. Una lotta che dovrà nascere in ogni nazione per diventare internazionale , tesa ad una prospettiva di classe e di alternativa vera: che rovesci la dittatura del profitto e costruisca un altro ordine sociale.
From Syntagma to Puerta del Sol and back to Syntagma
By Savas Michael-Matsas *
As the preparations for the celebrations of Christmas were well under way, in December 2008, in Syntagma (Constitution) Square, at the center of Athens, in front of the National Parliament, the huge Christmas Tree erected by the right wing Mayor of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis- who boasted that this monument of kitsch was the tallest Christmas Tree in Europe- was “burning bright in the forest of the night”, put in fire by the young rebels during the mass upsurge of that unforgettable month. It was one of the most spectacular and emblematic actions of the Greek December Revolt.
In May 2011, another unexpected event erupts in the same place: from May 25 onwards, every day, tens of thousands and, latter on, over a hundred thousands of people, assemble in Syntagma( as well as in most central squares of the cities all over the country) against the new wave of measures of social cannibalism that the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF, the infamous “troika”, want to impose through the PASOK government on the Greek people; the May 2010 bail out of Greece totally has failed to prevent a default, despite the extremely savage cuts imposed on wages, pensions, jobs and living conditions of the vast majority, and the specter of a catastrophe is hovering not solely over Greece but also all over Europe and beyond…
The Greek “movement of the squares” or Movement for “ Direct Democracy Now” was inspired by the Spanish indignados, the M15 (May 15) Movement demanding “real democracy now” against the existing political system and its anti-popular measures, and occupying the Puerta del Sol, the central square in Madrid, as well as the squares in Barcelona and other major cities in Spain. The Spanish (and Greek) mobilizations followed the example and the organizational methods of Tahrir Square in Cairo, the center of the Egyptian Revolution that has overthrown the dictatorship of |Mubarak. The worst fears of the ruling classes in Europe, and the predictions of revolutionary Marxists, including of the EEK, start to materialize: the revolution is moving from the Southern coast of the Mediterranean to its Northern coast.
When the tallest “Christmas Tree in Europe” was burning in Syntagma Square during the December 2008 Revolt, the writing in the wall of the Athens university appeared with the season greetings of the revolutionary youth to the ruling classes of the world: Merry Crisis and a Happy New Fear!
The December Revolt in Greece, in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the meltdown of the global financial system, was rightly characterized by the head of the IMF at that time (and now ingloriously fallen)Dominique Strauss-Kahn as “the first political explosion of the current world economic crisis”.
The international finance capital, and particularly the capitalist leadership of the core countries of the European Union, knew very well that Greece’s economy was the “weakest link” in the chain of the Euro-zone, and its darkened future threatened, in conditions of the global crisis, the future of the entire European capitalism, first of all of the over-exposed German and French banks in the hard core of the EU. The evidence that EU authorities knew already the real situation many months, if not years, before the newly elected “socialist” Papandreou government announced late in 2009 the “creative accounting” of the previous right wing Karamanlis government and the danger of a default of the country’s economy. When the December Revolt was ending, in February 2009, the German Finance Minister, at that time, and SPD member Steinbrück had communicated all the evidence of the dire condition of the Greek economy to his “comrade” George Papandreou, then leader of the Official Opposition party, PASOK. As this secret discussion took place as the last battles of the December Revolt were ending, it is obvious that the German and EU leaders, as the total inability of the Karamanlis government to control an emergency situation has been proved in action, were worrying about the dangers from a new explosion, produced by an imminent Greek financial disaster; so, they had to prepare an alternative government, more acceptable to the people to manage the coming crisis, and the best available candidate was Papandreou’s PASOK.
In July 2009, EU’s Almunia and EU Commissioner Olli Ren, in September 2009, on the eve of the October parliamentary elections in Greece, they had discussions with Papandreou warning about the huge deficit and debt problems of the country. Papandreou knew well the real situation when he pretended, during the electoral campaign that brought him to power that “there is a lot of money” to finance Keynesian type of measures in favor of the popular strata. He continued this secret diplomacy with his masters in the EU and the IMF to implement their orders, while lying to the people, before and after the eruption of the debt crisis, up to now.
In May 2010, it was introduced the 110 billions Euros bail-out of Greece by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, sealed by the infamous “Memorandum” with the Papandreou government with draconian measures against the wages, pensions, jobs, social services labor conditions. The Memorandum spread misery to the people but failed itself miserably to its pretended goal, the rescue of |Greece from State bankruptcy. Anyway, the architects of this monstrosity knew very well that the Greek debt is unsustainable, and the deep recession produced in this economy tied with the euro by the forced “internal devaluation” would make far worse an already desperate situation.
The May 2010 bail-out had as aim not to avoid the Greek default as such but to save the European banking system, in the first place, the French and German banks overexposed to Greek debt, and to create a “fire zone” protecting from contagion the European periphery and the entire Euro-zone. When in November 2010, Ireland had to ask urgently for a bail-out, it was already obvious (and our analysis, at that time, in the EEK spelled it out loud and clear) that the preventing operation with the Greek bail-out had failed, and the Euro-zone debt crisis re-emerged more vigorous than ever. Portugal’s bail-out followed, and Greece insolvency came again to the center.
“In May 2010” Aline van Duyn writes in the Financial Times “the euro-zone debt crisis exploded and markets plunged. A default by Greece, Portugal, Ireland and even Spain on their government bonds was feared […] indeed the impact on the post-2008 recovery was so severe and global that the Federal Reserve decided to spend an extra $600 billion to prop up the US economy. Is this happening again in May 2011?”(FT 25 May 2011, p.16)
What is happening is the failure of the unprecedented interventions by governments and central banks, after the Lehman Brothers collapse and the global financial meltdown, injecting trillion of dollars, a flood of liquidity with “stimulus packages”, “rescue packages”, “quantitative easing” etc to stop and reverse the fall of the system to the abyss. All the attempts were not only futile but they turned into boomerangs.
The holding operation by transforming private debt to public debt produced gigantic deficits and an unprecedented sovereign debt crisis both in Europe and America. Greece is the microcosm of what happens to global capitalism. The flood of liquidity failed to produce any sustainable recovery of the US and world economy. On the contrary, the latest evidence shows that unemployment continues to grow in the US and Europe, a slowdown of the American economy is under way while China intensifies fiscal tightening to fight inflation and a hard landing of its growth.
The massive State intervention were ineffective to re-invigorate a capitalist economy in an over-accumulation crisis; it has mainly produced more speculative bubbles both in the North and especially in the global South, where inflationary pressures exacerbated the social contradictions leading to the explosion of social revolution in North Africa and the Middle East- a new phase of the world revolution, which already changes dramatically the geopolitics of the most strategic region in the planet, and it reaches now the northern, European shores of the Mediterranean .
\ Greece became again the starting point of a new phase of the European and global crisis, raising the specter of a new Lehman Brothers world-wide financial catastrophe. A year after the first Greek bail-out, all the fiscal targets of the Memorandum had failed to be met, the debt to GDP ratio jumped from 110 percent into near 160 percent, the economy, plunged in a deep recession, dying from asphyxia, and the Greek government had to ask for a new bail-out to avoid an imminent forced default. A sum of 60-70 billion (according to Fitch about 100 billion) euros is needed until the end of 2013, half of it to be collected by a vast privatization program of the state assets and half from the EU and the IMF.
The renewed and aggravated Greek and Euro-zone debt crisis revealed both the global dimensions of the problem as well as the deep divisions existing between the EU and the IMF, between the European Central Bank and the European political leaders, particularly of Germany, among the EU ruling classes and within the Greek bourgeoisie itself. One section of the capitalist class in the EU, in the Anglo-Saxon countries among those who betted on Greece’s default, and in Greece is demanding a restructuring, an orderly default combined with a break from the Euro and a return to the drachma, apparently with the aim to break the vicious circle of debt and deficit by raising Greek competitiveness and exports- a rather dubious aim in today’s bleak conditions of falling demand in the world market. Another section headed by the ECB opposes any idea of restructuring fearing that any form of default will spill over into a contagion in the other bail-outed countries, Portugal and Ireland, but above all in Spain, the fourth biggest economy in the EU and even Italy, the third biggest economy, recently downgraded from AAA into “negative outlook” by Standards & Poors, giving a tremendous blow to the fragile European banking system and to the core countries, Germany and France.
Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, ECB board member and its future President warned: “a debt restructuring or exiting the euro would be like the death penalty […] the destabilizing effect could be dramatic. Economists who imagine the impact would be containable are like those who in mid-September 2008 were saying the markets had been fully prepared for the failure of Lehman Brothers.” (FT 30 May, 2011, p.3)
It is undoubtedly the EU that faces most dramatic consequences of the renewed debt crisis. “Events in Greece have brought the euro area to a crossroads” Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president and European Central Bank governing council member, said in Hamburg on May 20 ( Financial Times, May 25, 2011 p. 9) “the future character of European monetary union will be determined by the way in which this situation is handled”.
The choices are “intolerable” as Martin Wolf wrote: “The euro-zone confronts a choice between two intolerable options: either default and partial dissolution or open ended official support [of Greece and other defaulting Euro-zone members]” (FT June 1, 2011 p.9).
Wolfgang Münchau put it bluntly: “Either the EU/IMF continues to bankroll Greece for as long as it takes, or Greece will be forced into a hard default. […] The price for continued support from the EU and the IMF is quasi loss of economic sovereignty on the part of Greece […] The real choice boils down to a reduction of the eurozone to its Germanic core or a political union” (FT May 30, 2011 p.9) The first option is suicidal, not solely for the entire EU project, but also for Germany itself, which will lose its export advantage; the second has been proven, during all the post-2008 crisis, as a reactionary Utopia.
A Vienna-style agreement (as it was earlier the agreement reached in the Austrian capital for the Eastern European debt crisis) to rollover the Greek debt, replacing maturing securities without reneging on commitments to investors, is apparently the compromise to be taken for the time being to avoid a Greek default next July.
But the new “rescue package” is accompanied with “an unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatization of state assets” (FT 30 May, 2011 p.1). Any kind of sovereignty becomes a mockery and Greece is downgraded openly into the position of a protectorate under the direct rule of the EU and the IMF, in conditions far worst than what happened under the hated troika so far.
But this easier to say than to materialize: the most important factor is the intervention of the masses in the arena determining their fate.
… to the upsurge of the masses
The December 2008 Revolt was just the prelude. Before and during a year of implementation of the IMF/ECB/European Commission Memorandum with the PASOK government in 2010-2011 the combativity of the working class was demonstrated – but also restrained – by a dozen of 24 hours protest General Strikes organized by the trade union bureaucracies of the PASOK-led GSEE and ADEDY. Frustration was increasing among the people as illusions faded that a simple demonstration of strength could be victorious as in previous times, for example with the one day General Strike of 2001 that defeated the previous attempted attack on pension rights. The separate, sectarian, bureaucratically controlled but fruitless mobilizations by PAME, the trade union faction of the Stalinist KKE (the Communist Party of Greece) added to the popular frustration, and the Stalinist public rallies started to be depleted, as it became very apparent in March 2011. Blind violence by isolated elements, as in the tragic events of the May 5, 2010 General Striker when three employees were suffocated in the Marfin Bank after a cocktail Molotov was thrown or in the attack on popular market in Kallidromiou Street, in Exarchia, early May, led the anarchist movement to paralysis.
State repression escalated from General Strike to General Strike reaching its climax in the orgy of the riot police violence on May 11, 2011, when a young man was nearly killed, dozens were sent to hospitals with serious injuries, and the center of Athens was transformed again into a gas chamber by the massive use by the police of huge quantities of tear gas. At the same time, the neo-Nazi group of “Golden Dawn”, under police protection, launched a real Kristallnacht on May 12, attacking the immigrant communities and their shops, killing a Bangladeshi immigrant worker and lynching many other immigrants, especially “colored” or “black”, in Omonia Square, at the center of Athens.
The first two weeks of May 2011, State terror and State protected fascist gangs dominated the scene, while most of the people remained plunged in a deep social despair and anger.
Suddenly, unpredictably, as in the Arab countries or in Spain, the entire political landscape dramatically changed in the last weeks of May and early June, with the powerful emergence of the “movement of the squares”, following the example of the May 15 movement in Puerta del Sol and other Spanish squares.
Tens and later hundreds of thousands of people assembled, many of them for the first time in their life, in Syntagma and the other central squares of the main Greek cities, in Thessalonica, Patras, Volos, Khalkis, Lamia, Preveza, the Cretan cities and all over the country. For the first time from December 2008 such a mass movement- but with very different characteristics from the previous youth revolt- emerged on a national scale.
In December 2008 it was a young generation without future, working in precarious labor or unemployed and under constant police harassment that revolted. It was a revolt of those pushed to the margins of social life by a social system in decline and crisis, the rebellion of “outsiders”- not of an isolated minority: without mass popular support by a majority in growing social economic difficulties and increasing conflict with the right wing government’s policies, the rebelled youth could not continue its revolt for many weeks, even months, all over Greece, attacking policed stations and banks.
But in May 2011, it is not the “outsiders” of the ruling social order who rebel but the so-called “mainstream”, most of them from the middle classes that mobilize en masse, peacefully, independently or even in open hostility to all political or trade union organizations, using the Internet, the Facebook and other means of social networking to assemble in squares, following the examples of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and of the Arab Spring.
The bourgeois mass media, the right wing Opposition, the ultra-conservative and chauvinistic Church, various nationalist groups in the area of the far right, even the PASOK government itself initially tried to highjack this movement by praising its “national”, “non violent”, and above all anti-Party and anti-trade union stand: the first day of the mobilization, on May 25, when the workers strikers of DEH, the national company of electricity now under privatization, came to Syntagma, the assembled “|Indignant Citizens” , shouting against the “new arrivals”, they repelled them from the square).
The ruling circles and their media deliberate tried to counter-pose the peaceful May 2011 to the “violent December 2008”, in the same way as the French bourgeoisie had counter-posed the “ugly revolution” of the Paris proletariat in June 1848 to the “nice revolution” of February 1848, when all the classes, the bourgeois and petty bourgeois democrats and the working class were united against the old regime.
But the “nice” May 2011 turns more and more to become “uglier” according to bourgeois standards. As more and more people have started to join the Indignant Citizens, and the rally in Syntagma became permanent day and night, the on-going radicalization of the entire movement became more and more pronounced. It was expressed particularly in the self-organization of the people in the Syntagma Square as well as in the proceedings of the open and massive General Assembly that takes place from 9 pm to 2 am in early morning with thousands of participants.
The anti-trade union slogans were dropped, actions of solidarity to workers in strike ( for ex. for the Dockers in the harbor of Piraeus under privatization) or in occupations( for ex. in the Post bank) are decided by an overwhelming majority, racist anti-immigrant or far right elements are booed and rejected by the assembled Indignant Citizens. The slogan and banner for an indefinite General Political Strike to overthrow the government and kick out the “troika” of the IMF/ECB/EU was voted by a vast majority in the General Assembly.
The repudiation of all the foreign debt as central objective of the movement of the Indignant was accepted by an overwhelming majority, defeating the proposal by the reformist “left economists” for a repudiation only of the so-called “illegal” part of the debt, following the Ecuadorian example.
A crucial vote was taken to have as a main slogan “Real Democracy Now”, as in Puerta del Sol, or ‘Direct Democracy, now”. The majority voted for Direct Democracy, and even a non negligible minority (not only the EEK supporters) demanded “workers power”.
Despite the fact that Party banners or press are still banned from Syntagma, it is ludicrous to call this mass movement “non political” as the Stalinist KKE claims. The most politicized people assemble in the lower level of Syntagma, in front of the exit of the metro, in the space of the permanent General Assembly while the less directly political section and the nationalists with Greek flags and slogans are assembled on the higher level of the square, in front of the Parliament. There is a contrast and osmosis, in other words a dialectic between people in the two levels, a process of common radicalization and unification, particularly in direct actions (when, for ex. the exit of the Parliament was blocked and the MPs had to escape from another door through the National Garden!)
It has to not be forgotten that in every genuine popular movement, the masses enter the battlefield with all their prejudices and superstitions. Not everyone with a Greek flag in his or her hands is a nationalist right winger. Without capitulating to obscurantism and reactionary chauvinistic prejudices, we have to grasp the contradictions driving this unprecedented mass movement. International finance capital and its institutions (IMF, ECB, and EU) are turning the country into a subservient protectorate and they debase the Greek people into a nation of destitutes. There is a difference between a nationalist, anti-immigrant pogromist of the far right with a Greek flag, and a pauperized petty bourgeois or worker raising the same flag while seeing that his personal disaster is combined with the loss of any dignity for the Greek people imposed by the foreign usurers and their local collaborators as during the Nazi Occupation of the country in the 1940s.
The “anti-Party” stand is not solely “conservative and a-political”, as Papariga, the general secretary of the KKE said in an interview. We have to grasp the contradiction in it. From the one side, there is no politics, of course, without the open debate and conflict between various political programs, different political perspectives, and inescapably between opposed or allied political collectivities, organizations, parties, including the revolutionary party regrouping the most combative and conscious elements of the vanguard of the proletariat. From the other side, “parties” in mass social consciousness today are identified with the corrupt party political system responsible for the destruction of their lives as well as the political failure of the official bureaucratic Left, tied to the parliamentary system and responsible for many tragic defeats in the past, to present a plausible alternative. A real workers revolutionary Party is not a self-appointed leadership of the class, worst imposed on the class, but a party which, as Trotsky had said in his articles on Germany, fights among the masses, not to substitute them in their historical emancipatory role, but to prove in practice every moment and convince the masses for its right to lead them in a revolutionary road.
The measures of social cannibalism introduced by the ‘Socialist” government with the open support of the far right LAOS, and, despite the populist demagogy, with the support by the right wing New Democracy of Samaras, destroy the jobs and the lives of millions, both in the middle classes and in the working class. The generalized destruction of the vast majority of the people, with the open complicity of the corrupt bourgeois parliamentary system, of the bourgeois parties alternating in power for decades, with the complicity of the trade union bureaucracy, with a reformist and/or a Stalinist Left alienated from the majority of the people appearing rightly as a part of the problem, not its solution, creates the conditions for the present Great Refusal.
The nature of the global crisis, the impasse and bankruptcy of capitalism is the source of this generalized attack of “those above” and of the generalized mass refusal of “those below”, both petty bourgeois and proletarians. This prevents the rulers to find a mass basis in the middle classes against the proletariat, as it was the case with Thatcher or initially with Pinochet. Not only this PASOK government but any bourgeois government like those that the ruling class discuss as alternatives (a national unity government, a coalition PASOK-New Democracy government, a government of technocrats, even a “government of popular unity” that remains on a capitalist basis) cannot be a stable government, precisely because of the capitalist bankruptcy preventing to make any substantial concession to a sizeable section of the population.
This weakness of bourgeois rule is paradoxically but dialectically its strong point too. The heterogeneous popular mass revolting against the rulers cannot open a socialist way out from the current impasse without working class hegemony, armed with a transitional program and an internationalist communist perspective. It would be disastrous if the proletariat and its vanguard dismiss the petty bourgeois masses, their social demands and democratic sensitivities; the working, unemployed and precarious proletariat as a “universal class” raising itself above all sectional limitations has to become the political leadership of the nation of destitutes fighting for social justice, freedom and dignity, putting “universal human emancipation as precondition for any partial emancipation” according to the immortal first definition of the Permanent Revolution by Karl Marx.
To achieve this workers hegemony, we cannot bypass party politics and the struggle to clarify the political objectives of the mass movement. Despite the legitimate anger of the Indignant Citizens against the existing party system, a Party of the Permanent revolution is needed not as a self-appointed “savior” and future dictator but as an instrument of the socialist revolution, an ideological laboratory of the liberating movement. Direct democracy has a future only through social revolution. It needs as its instrument a combat Party of world permanent revolution built among the masses, by the masses, for the self-emancipation of the masses. This is the goal and raison d’ être of the Trotskyist EEK and of the Fourth International.
There is no electoral solution to the current crisis as the reformist SYN/SYRIZA of Tsipras demands. Even the insistence on the demand for direct democracy reveals the exhaustion of bourgeois parliamentarianism. The perspective of the seizure of power by the working class supported by the pauperized masses of the cities and the countryside cannot be postponed to the indefinite future, to the Greek Calendae, as the Stalinist KKE does. Both parties of the official left but also the centrist coalition of ANTARSYA is tied to electoralist perspectives, considering elections as “the central political scene”.
As these lines are written, news coming from Athens say that today, May 6, more than 200 thousand people converges in Syntagma Square probably in the biggest demonstration after the fall of the military dictatorship 1974. A pre-revolutionary situation has emerged in Greece. The indignant proletarian and popular masses, with the youth up front, are already on march, in different speed, all over the Old Continent. As we had written elsewhere (see our article on The Arab Spring now under press in the journal Critique), the Simoun, the wind of the Arab deserts, is now blowing in the squares of the European Metropolis.
The old specter of social revolution, exorcized by capitalists and bureaucrats, has come back. It spreads fear to all the rulers and hope to all those deprived from any hope. The old battle cry of the European Revolution of 1848 becomes today more actual than ever: Revolution in permanence!
4-5 June 2011
*(direzione del EEK – partito rivoluzionario dei lavoratori greco)