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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Crisis and the People in Greece; French Solidarity Petition

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Crisis and the People in Greece; French Solidarity Petition

1. Crisis and the People in Greece (Stavros Panagiotidis,
   Nicos Poulantzas Institute)
2. Solidarity with the Greek Resistance! - A Petition

=====

Crisis and the People in Greece
	"They are not frightening us, they are just making
	us  furious!"

by Stavros Panagiotidis, researcher, Nicos Poulantzas
Institute

Transform! - European Network for Alternative Thinking and
Political Dialogue

Newsletter - 02-2012

http://www.transform-network.net/en/home/article/transform-newsletter-022012.html

The so-called negotiations between the Greek Government and
the Troika (European Union - International Monetary Fund -
European Central Bank) have come to the prescribed result. A
cut on the minimum wage of 22% (and up to 40% for the rest),
which means that people in Greece will have to live on a 400
Euro monthly income, combined with a 15% cut on the already
extremely low pensions and the dismissal of 150.000 public
servants, has been decided.

The announcement of the governments' intentions created
waves of rage in Greece and the General Confederation of
Trade Unions called for a 48- hour strike. On Sunday, the
day of the voting procedure, an enormous demonstration took
place. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded all
the streets around the Parliament. The provocative action on
the side of the police forces (along with the propaganda of
dominant media saying that the people gathered were not more
than 20,000!) proved the governments' fear of the people's
reactions and its decision to destroy the demonstration and
terrorize the citizens.

The first task was accomplished when police forces, after
hours of terrorizing attacks against people in the nearby
streets, without any excuse attacked the main body of the
demonstration shooting gas bombs inside the blocks, causing
many people to faint out, get injured or even suffer
suffocation for a few moments. More than 50 demonstrators
went to the hospitals, injured or with respiratory problems
and once again the Internet was flooded with videos showing
the police's illegal actions.

The second task though, was never accomplished. Especially
when Mikis Theodorakis and Manolis Glezos, the two most
prominent figures of contemporary Greek history, tried to
enter the Parliament and suffered being attacked by the
police forces, the demonstrators were furious. Theodorakis
and Glezos finally managed to enter the hall of the
Parliament, as they stated, "in order to look the members of
Parliament straight in the eyes, now that they are preparing
to vote for the death of Greece!"

During last week, officers of the EU were preparing this
outcome with public statements, claiming that the minimum
wage in Greece has to be reduced, since that of Portugal and
Spain was even lower. Apart from the cynical admission that
European workers have to be paid as little as possible, this
statement also offers a great example of a misleading way of
using the data.

Equally crucial for the level of the Greeks' living
standards as the average salary (which in Greece far smaller
than in the countries previously referred to) is the level
of prices in the country, both of goods and services. This
last figure is extremely higher than in almost all countries
of the EU for a variety of reasons, having to do with the
taxes that are imposed on goods and the malfunctions of the
market and the creation of cartels. And in addition to
these, the percentage of people working without insurance
has been increasing tremendously up to 30%, as well as of
those who work for less than the minimum wage.

The idea of the EU's political leaders and bureaucrats is
quite simple and rather old: "divide and rule" is their
unofficial slogan, trying to turn European working classes
against each other. Until now, this was also the case in
Greece. At the beginning of the crisis the government and
major media were stirring up resentment against public
servants, claiming that their wages had to be reduced and a
big percentage of them had to be dismissed. People seemed to
be in favour of the idea because of the fact that a
significant part of the country's public sector has been
staffed not through meritocratic procedures but through a
clientelist system and because of various instances of
inefficient operation of the public sector.

Nevertheless, this has not resulted in a bigger or more
costly public sector than those of most European countries.
Parties of the Left had been warning that this procedure
would not affect only public servants but private sector
workers as well. For the past few months, when the effects
of these policies showed, people did not seem willing to
accept such measures. Even some headlines and paroles of the
dominant media completely changed their stance from
supporting the measures into condemning them.

No one left alone in the crisis

The realization that people share common interests has been
boosted by the appearance of a variety of local initiatives
called social solidarity networks, operating under the
slogan "No one left alone in the crisis". These initiatives
are organized by citizens, sometimes with the participation
of institutions - such as municipalities - both of left and
non-left majorities. People are offering their work in these
structures, not just as a form of charity but also as a way
of helping themselves face the consequences of the crisis.
Gathering food supplies for poor families, homeless people
or even strikers, the creation of time banks, where people
exchange services (for example, a doctor may offer his
services twice a week and in exchange a maths teacher will
offer lessons to his children etc), actions to prevent the
electricity company from cutting the electricity supply from
people who have not paid a new large tax on real property
that was attached to the electricity bill in order to
blackmail people, are just a few examples of the
initiatives' actions.

These procedures are creating a completely new situation in
Greece, teaching people that organizing social structures
and functions, which is the actual meaning of politics,
should not just be considered a responsibility of the
experts, but an everyday task of everyone. And that contrary
to the "divide and rule" of those in power, our own quote
that is applied on our self organizing practices is
"Together we stand".

Upheaval of the political scene

The situation seems to have seriously affected how people
perceive politics. A series of polls indicate that the
political scene in Greece is dramatically changing. All of
them show that the major Social Democratic Party of PASOK is
being torn apart, going down from 44% in the national
elections of 2009, to 10%. The Conservative Party of New
Democracy is topping all polls but with a percentage as low
as 30%, inefficient for an autonomous creation of a
government. The third part of the coalition government, the
populist, anti-immigrant, extreme right party of LAOS, also
suffers the consequences of its decision to participate in
it, having its percentages stuck to 5%. This is also the
result of LAOS being the only example of an extremely
neoliberal European extreme right-wing party, a fact which
makes it incapable of a consistent political representation
of the social strata most affected by the crisis.

Two more factors have to be considered. The first one is the
rise of the extreme right neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which,
according to some polls, could even enter the Parliament.
This is the result of LAOS's neoliberal agenda and the
disappointment it caused to a part of its traditional
voters. It is also a sign indicating that in the context of
the crisis, the radicalization of people could also be of
conservative character.

The second factor is the rise of the Left. SYRIZA seems to
be doubling its percentages, going from 5% to 13%. The
Communist Party is also growing, reaching the same
percentages as SYRIZA. Both are gaining votes from PASOK
and, in a smaller amount, from New Democracy. The new
interesting factor is the presence of the party of the
Democratic Left, created by former members of Synaspismos
and a mix of former members of PASOK, having the same, or in
some polls even bigger, percentages as the rest of the Left.

The official expiration of the mandate of the current
government is October 2013. Parties of the opposition
(hypocritically including New Democracy, which participates
in the government) ask for immediate elections. The proposal
of SYRIZA, expressed constantly by its president, Alexis
Tsipras, is the formation of a left government with a
minimum programme of cancelling the Memorandum deal,
increasing taxes on high incomes and big fortunes,
renegotiating the debt by cancelling a part of it and
imposing a 3-year-moratorium until the Greek economy manages
to have a surplus.

Both the Communist Party and the Democratic Left are
rejecting this proposal. The Communist Party claims that
there is no ground for such cooperation, because SYRIZA does
not support the country's withdrawal from the EU. At the
same time the Democratic Left also rejects the proposal, on
the grounds that SYRIZA is not fully supporting Greece's
participation in the EU! What is true, though, is that a
government of the Left is not part of these parties'
strategy. The Communist Party, which recently adopted Stalin
as its archetypical figure for the construction of
Socialism, is dreaming of a classical type revolution that
will lead to a "dictatorship of the proletariat" and a
oneparty system. The statement of its General Secretary,
that a formation of a left government would only offer to
the bourgeois class a period of time to reconstruct its
political forces and regain power, is absolutely indicative
of the party's stand. The Democratic Left, on the other
hand, is planning to participate in a government with PASOK
or the new parties and groups that may emerge from it, in
case of a split.

Thus, the scenery in Greece is rather complex and very
conflictual at the moment. The only thing that is sure is
that what will follow will depend strongly on peoples'
reactions. Both the actions of the government, as well as
the stand of the parties of the Left after the elections
will be affected by the mobilization of all types of
movements and initiatives. At the same time with the attempt
of the rulers of the political systems to reduce citizens'
ability to effect public policies, even of having a
government formed by elections and not by the force of the
Troika and the bargaining of three parties, public
mobilizations and reaction towards this new authoritarian
decisions is creating new types of opportunities for radical
political outcomes.

The streets of Greece are waiting to host our rage, our
struggles and our hopes, once again. The bonds and visions
that all those who participated in the large demonstration
are now sharing proved to be much stronger than the fear
that this government of the neoliberals, the bankers and the
fascists is trying to impose on us. As one of the main
slogans of the demonstrations was stating, "They are not
frightening us, they are just making us furious!"

===

The Nicos Poulantzas Institute (NPI) was founded in 1997 on
the initiative of the political party Synaspismos. It is
named after the late Greek political sociologist Nicos
Poulantzas. This choice signals the Institute's embrace of
the traditional values of the radical left thought. NPI aims
at fostering the values of the Left, systematically
developing an awareness of contemporary social, ecological,
political and cultural issues and exploring the emerging
changes within society. The Institute's fundamental
functional principles include the commitment to the ideals
of socialism with democracy and freedom, independence from
the expedience of any current political or party
conjuncture, democratic functioning and the maintenance of
the public character of all of its activities.The members of
the Institute belong to the broader Left.

www.poulantzas.gr 
e-mail: [log in to unmask]

==========

Solidarity with the Greek Resistance!
A Petition

Translated Wednesday 15 February 2012, by Isabelle Métral
and reviewed by Henry Crapo

l'Humanite
http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article1974

The Greek people is acting in self-defence against attempts
at imposing insufferable austerity policies upon it. The
successive plans concocted in Brussels or by the European
Council, and presented at increasingly regular intervals as
being the only means to "save" the Greek people from its
excessive debt and to "save" the euro, invariably lead to
failure. Submitting a patient ever more rigorously to the
dictates of financial markets does not cure the disease, it
kills the patient. To carry on in that direction is as
unreasonable as it is dangerous.

What is needed is a solidarity plan for Greece. It is also
the only way to save the euro and Athens' European partners.
The ECB must help stimulate growth and employment in Greece
and everywhere else by financing - at the same rates as the
rates at which it lends money to banks, namely 1%, or even
less - the States and their public services, by permitting
them also to break free from their dependence upon financial
markets and their usurious interest rates.

Growth is now declining everywhere. A new recession is
looming over the euro zone. Democracy is being trampled.
Unelected governments, like the one in Athens, are
appointed. Bureaucratic bodies dictate their law to elected
assemblies. Authoritarian decisions are made to crush
popular resistance against drastic cuts in wages and social
benefits.

The European construction will not survive this blind
headlong rush. The peoples' struggle against austerity is
legitimate. It needs our full support. [1]

We support the idea put forward by economists, social
activists and leftwing forces in France and the European
Union that the European Central Bank should buy public bonds
when they are issued and so finance the States and their
public services directly. This would be the only means to
clamp down on speculative moves against public debts.

The euro zone's various partners must be able to use the
ECB's power to create money in order to finance today's vast
needs (whether social, ecological, energetic, or
sanitary...). The European financial stability fund set up
by the EU must be turned into a European social and
ecological development fund and must be made to pursue those
ends. And the re-capitalization of banks or their
nationalization must be conditional upon a selective loan
policy that should pursue those objectives.

Europe stands at a turning point. The only way out of this
crisis is through emancipation from financial markets and
EU's determined conversion to a mutual social, democratic
and ecological progresssive agenda.

[1] The petition can be signed on line on l'Humanité's
website.
http://www.humanite.fr/politique/grece-signez-la-petition-linitiative-de-lhumanite-490081

==========

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