First of all we would like to thank Mouvement Communiste (M.C.) who invited us and organized this meeting and we hope that we are going to have an interesting conversation.
We are members of SKYA (“Assembly for the Circulation of Struggles”), a collective of around 20 people, based in Athens, who focus and participate on the social struggles that emerge in the places they work and live into (private, public sector, neighborhoods, universities, etc.). We forward theory and practices on creating «communities of struggle» wherever we participate, in order to confront the bosses’ attack we face and deepen their crisis. Especially, nowadays that the general strike, in the Greek context, has shown its limitations as a practice, we believe that active support on the communities of struggle is a strategic choice to made, with or without the Left in the government. For instance, we participate in day-to-day activities and projects, such as an assembly for workfare programs, in struggles starting from neighborhood initiatives, in an assembly in a health center, in a multi-language assembly with immigrants, etc.
Today, however, we are going to talk more as individuals rather than as a collective, even if many of the topics of today’s agenda have been collectively discussed and addressed. This happens for time efficiency in order for our assembly to keep up with the projects we collectively run this period.
MC proposed us to elaborate on the following topics:
- An overview of what’s happening in Greece since 2008
- Some points on the struggles and general strikes of the period and their inability (or low effectiveness) in blocking the governmental measures.
- The rise of Golden Dawn
- Points on what is the current situation (in general and on ground floor level) and what can be done
Brief outlook since 2008
Before reaching to 2008, we have to make some remarks on the economic situation of the last decades in Greece.
In Greece there is a chronic, long-lasting fiscal recession since 1980s, which turned into a fiscal crisis in 2008. Fiscal crisis means public debt crisis. According to our view public debt is not an economic issue, in the sense of the residue of public spending minus revenues, but social relations. So, public debt crisis means crisis in these social relations. More accurately in the Greek context the root cause of this crisis is the single fact that no class has been able for years, decades actually, to impose its interests totally upon the others classes.
For example workers manage to increase their wages in decades in relation with the increase of productivity of labor. At the same time, a special extremely wide social group of small enterprises owners, free lancers, farmers, etc, which has been created in Greece for historic reasons, never paid taxes. The same happens with big bosses, like ship-owners. This group enjoys 56 legal tax facilitations. Such social relations had as a result for public debt to be maintained at 100% of GNP since 1990.
After Greece became member of Eurozone, a huge amount of money, which could not be invested in Northern Countries had gone to greek financial and credit system. This led to easy credit policy and a high rates development based on domestic demand. Afterwards, for several reasons, the productivity growth started to decline. After 2004 when Olympics games finished, for many reasons, the productivity growth and the rate of development begun to fall. At 2007, when global crisis broke up, greek state as all the others, chose to support banks, so banks problem escalated public debt problem. The international shortage of credit, forced capital and state to understand that the time to attack in the social relations that create public debt, has reached. That means to attack to exploited, to us. For this reason greek state connected economy with IMF and ESFS and
We called the policies of the years following 2008 “public debt management politics” which the government implements as follows:
1) Establishment of state of emergency in order to impose all these reforms which shift balance of forces to the side of capital.
2) Attack to the public sector workers: crop the 13th and 14th salary, remove working allowances, increase the limits for retiring.
3) Attack to reproduction ability of workers: increase in oil, spending cuts in health and education, public transportation fares increase. The same with all social expenses.
4) At first attack to negotiation power of private sector workers: Abolition of collective bargaining agreements and transferring the weight of trading in an increasingly low level: from the collective – in general area, then to the operational, and finally to the individual, where reigns the employing and managing arbitrariness. Abolition of the institution of arbitrationincrease in the limit of lay-offs. At the second time, reduction in minimum wage at 22%.
5) Attack to micro-bourgeoisie: liberation of closed professions: taxi drivers, pharmacists, transport companies, etc. Changes in taxation policy, intensification of tax controls.
6) Increase in taxes for all workers, increase of indirect taxation, massive lay-offs in the public sector, , privatizations of public services like Corporation of gas management, closure of 1056 schools and many secondary care hospitals and all the primary care clinics of institution of social insurance (IKA).
All above have as result
Unemployment from 7,8% in 2008 to 28% in November 2013
Total depression 23,6% of GNP
Level of poverty over 40%
Public debt 176% of GNP
Inability to block the government mesuares from workers albeit numerus general strikes
First of all we believe that there was important resistance against politics of management of public debt until February 2012. Even more, before crisis has broken up, December rebellion persuaded rulling classes that it was necessary to impose a special condition in order to overcome crisis for bosses. For this reason they imposed state of emergency two years later when they declared first memorandum. Although the politics of management of public debt continues to destruct exploited, if there was not such a resistance, the process of distruction would be fullfilled. But there isn’t untill now.
Second this resistance expressed mainly in demonstrations called by third level syndicates during general strikes and in the days of June 2011 during mobilizations of squeares. There were a lot millestones: 5 Mai 2010, 15 December 2010, 15 June 2011 when government changed, 19 Octomber 2011 when up to 500000 demonstrators took part and a minority conflict with police and 12 February 2012, when parliament voted for second memorandum and the reduction of minimum wage, when up to 500000 demonstrators took part and at least 100.000 conflict with police for several hours. This was the last battle. 3 months later a national unity coalition took the power and Golden Dawn took nearly 7% of votes. From then, the wider movement has a feeling of defeat. The vast majority of the people wait for a left government to solve their problems.
The interesting question posed of comrades of MC was why we could not manage to oppose government measures, albeit so many general strikes and other forms of resistance.
In order to answer we have to accept that general strikes are a very problematic form of resistance for objective and subjective reasons.
First of all: due to special social structure of Greece, as we have already referred, the vast majority of enterprises, about 96% has 4 or less employees. In these conditions the word strike is be heard as a joke.
Second. We don’t know many things about the process of decision and organization of general strikes in France and elsewhere in Europe, but in Greece, the decision for general strike doesn’t take place in a grassroots level. On the contrary. The representatives of third level syndicates of public and private sector decide for general strike via an absolutely bureaucratic process. The only syndicate that decides for strike in a grassroots level is that of high school teachers.
Third. The vast majority of syndicates second or first level, are parts of government parties mechanism. In private sector the syndicates usually don’t participate in general strikes, except after a dealing with bosses. For these reasons workers have no confidence to syndicates.
Fourth. In Greece there is a special condition called PAME. PAME is not syndicate. It is the syndicate front of Communist Party that it doesn’t take part in third level syndicates and some times, calls for strikes in sectors or in federations that has the majority of representatives. PAME represents mainly workers of private sector and calls for separated demonstrations.
Thinking all of them, we can conclude some things.
General strikes are strikes of workers in public sector. Only a small number of workers of private sector took part, except from the syndicates leading by PAME and except from certain specials conditions. A fraction of them who strike, go to demonstrations, and only a small part of them, in any case, take part in conflicts.
The most times general strikes act as a tension management system.
Many unemployed, students, retired and especially the days of June 2011, many free lancers took also part in demonstrations called the days of general strikes.
Most of first level syndicates leading by extra-parliamentary left are pure “stamps” and nothing else and they don’t represent real social relations. Grassroots syndicates have a short history in Greece, less than a decade. They are less than 10, and there are no so strong, although they are very militant in some cases. Also there are some workers assemblies in workplaces mainly in professional level, for example health workers in hospitalites of Thessaloniki, assembly of squat of press syndicate, etc Antiauthoritarian movement that enforce these efforts is very young in Greece, with little experience in this field.
After December rebellion and much more after mobilizations of squares many local assemblies, or neighborhood assemblies, were created. 100 bis 150 people watched some of them, for some time. In Athens, 44 of them tried to make an assembly of assemblies in the end of 2011, but this effort was not successful, due to different character of these assemblies, to lack of culture of dialogue in our movement, to domination of political identity in processes, etc. Today there is an assembly of about 20 neighborhood assemblies, resulted mainly from a few members of these collectivities.
Generally speaking, not only no one conflict organized by syndicates, but syndicates didn’t’ organize anything about strikes (We mean action programme, legal assistance, etc). Conflicts organized in a first level by neighborhood assemblies, grassroots syndicates and workers assemblies leading by antiauthoritarian movement, anarchic groups and a diffuse social subject of hooligans etc. Obviously some leftist or simple members of syndicates participate in conflicts. PAME called for peaceful and separated marches.
What we succeeded with general strikes:
a. a delaying in implementation of government measures
b. an aggravation of boss crisis.
Why couldn’t we, as movement of social antagonism, stop the attack of bosses: Because of insufficiency of social relations that could do that.
The rise of Golden Dawn
We are going to discuss on the topic of the rise of Golden Dawn, based on the following points.
Society’s acceptance of fascism and the Rise of GD. What internets does GD express?
GD found field on racist views of Greek society, such as the ones built from long-term immigrants’ exploitation, but mostly on the crisis of political representation as expressed within the crisis context.
GD represents a traditional part of extreme right (~7% of EPEN, i.e. Junta’s support party), part of social groups such as petty-bourgeoisie that where economically destroyed by the crisis (e.g. it has a party on taxi drivers, it is strongly represented on transport’s union, the fish port), deep state (police, military), mainly the crime economy and a part of unemployed youth and pupils.
In contrast to the 400k votes GD received in the elections, it is consisted of around 1000 (or less) active party members in the whole country and this amount has probably declined after Pavlos Fyssas murder and the execution of two of its members outside a local office last autumn. The state’s institutional restrictions (i.e. it leader and many GD’s parliamentary members are now behind bars) has also contributed in its weakening.
What systemic need does GD cover and what is the relationship with the state up to now?
GD rises after February 2012 as an active response to the antagonistic movement’s growth. GD is systemically supported by state institutions (50% of cops votes for them and military, or other “deep state” institutions), Media, part of the capital (e.g. capital responsible for nightlife, black economy, some shipowners, etc.). GD rejected the squares’ movement and no practical participation in it either.
GD depicts a dynamic, nationalistic vision against immigrants in favor of a national bourgeoisie class (e.g. nationalistic capital) without clear governmental plan. The state wants to have the control of immigration flows and GD satisfies this operation.
State against GD and inter-systemic contradictions.
State didn’t created GD, but made use of it. GD is in a state of autonomy in respect to the classical model of parastate (deep state) and as such the state and the parties have conflicting interests. The 15% on opinion polls and the international factor (EU) wanted to put a stop on this momentum.
Even if there were tendencies within the government that believed they could control GD, the event with Fyssas proved that they could not control it as they thought to. If there was continuity to murder Greek citizens then there would be a shift to an uncontrollable situation.
When state turns against GD:
State is brought forward as the only safety guarantor and expresses the violence monopoly.
State can use the “two extremes” theory in order to amplify governmental power and equate social struggles with GD
New Democracy party to gain votes from GD
Punisher-state that deals with whoever goes outside the legal regulatory context. There is the opportunity for a “serious GD” though.
Time context and struggles in education (students, professors, pupils)
Antifa movement limits and other impediments.
Antifa movement drives an important task on creating “free space” in neighborhoods against fascists: it is of significant importance on being able to share leaflets or perform poster campaigns without the fear of being stabbed by fascists. However, there are some limitations on it:
Antifa acts in a separated fashion and on a single-agenda activities
Antifa approaches the problem of fascism from an ideological standing point and doesn’t try to satisfy common needs that locals have with the immigrants and, thus, creating a new paradigm on antifa struggles.
The creation and support of common communities with the immigrants. For instance, http://immigrants-asoee-en.espivblogs.net/ and an assembly near Patissia (a neighborhood near to GD action field).
Since February 2012 and forth, we have a movement’s retreat, the political procedures have decreased and lessen, the initiatives are not that many, the political subjects are driven to introversion and political structures (e.g. occupations) have wildly attacked by the state.
It is an elections’ period, on which the Left has possibilities to win and people have hopes on a left government program.
Currently a portion of 9bn is in parley in order to be disbursed and mass layoffs are under negotiation, too.