January 29, 2015. Three years ago, an eternity.
Three years ago I published right here on my website the following articles, often contradictory, with an attempt to understand and predict the situation in Greece (and Europe), and to support radical left organizations there. I will be posting shortly a similar debate taking place today within the Left, following the progressive coalition party — Syriza’s — winning of a plurality of seats (and control of the government) in last Sunday’s elections in Greece, based largely on its anti-austerity promises.
* * *
Over the last few years, Leftist resistance in Europe has been growing by leaps and bounds against back-breaking austerity measures forced on the working class in a number of countries by the German (and American) banks, who are calling the shots. These measures have been acquiesced to and implemented by the in-name-only “Socialist” parties in power in such places as Greece and Spain, and in other countries such as Italy and Iceland.
The banks are squeezing the working class dry in order to break the advances won by workers over decades of struggle, argues NYC College of Technology professor (Sociology) Costas Panayotakis in several radio interviews on “Steal This Radio” over the last three years.
Costas Panayotakis has since seen his new book “Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy — The Future of World Capitalism,” published by Pluto Press to critical acclaim.
Here, in the first radio interview (January 2009), Costas Panayotakis is joined by French legislator Olivier Beaubillard (from the French Communist Party) and biologist Cendra Agulhon. They discuss the role of the Left in the current struggles. (In the first segment, Mitchel Cohen reports on and dissects the assassination of Michael Connell, Karl Rove’s elections “fixer”. How quickly we forget!) Steal This Radio #66
A year later (March 23, 2010), Costas returns, along with Neni Panouryia (Dept. of Anthropology, Columbia University); Poulikos Poulikakos (previously at the left newspaper PRIN (“before”)); and Ingo Bader (Technical University, Berlin), who all discuss the current capitalist crisis in Europe, the shortcomings of the organized Left, and — among other things — the pressure of European banks upon Greece to sell-off the 2,500-year-old Parthenon — the most famous surviving building from Greece’s golden age — to corporate investors (no doubt to build a McDonald’s beneath the famous columns!). Listen Here: Steal This Radio #105
And then we shift to Italy. On Steal This Radio #110 (April 30, 2010) following an interview with actress Karin de la Penha, who at the time was appearing in “The Fly in the Fridge,” Mitchel and Karin engage in a very interesting conversation with fast-talking young Italian radical activists Chiarra and MariaTeresa of the Italian Autonomist Movement, about what’s happening with organizing Italy’s youth. (Their project’s website is:
http://www.globalproject.info and http://www.uniriot.org)
All of these interviews shed much light on the crisis in global capitalism and how it’s affecting social movements and everyday life in Europe, with special focus on debates in the resistance movements that few in the United States get to hear, but in some ways which are reminiscent of the debates in the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland movements these past few weeks.
Here’s what my favorite Marxist, Bertell Ollman, says about Costas Panayotakis’ new book:
“Capitalist-produced scarcity proves to be an extraordinarily enlightening vantage point from which to analyze both capitalism and its socialist alternatives. Panayotakis’s book provides an extremely scholarly, insightful and well-argued contribution — with ecology and feminism given the attention often denied them — to this crucially important literature. Highly Recommended!”
- Bertell Ollman, Department of Politics, New York University, author of Dance of the Dialectic: Marx’s Method
Some recent history (lest we forget) from 2012:
by Savas Michael-Matsas
The worst fears of the ruling classes of Greece and Europe are becoming true: an uncontrollable social explosion is under way in Greece.
When these lines are written, late in the night on February 12-13, 2012, the violent clashes and street fights between demonstrators and the riot police, in the center of Athens and in other cities all over the country, still continue. The phony “majority” that just voted in Parliament the new package of measures of social cannibalism imposed by the troika of the EU, the European Central Bank, and the IMF cannot and will not stop the Greek social wild fire to expand in the country and spread beyond Greece, all over Europe and internationally.
The popular rally in Syntagma Square Sunday, February 12 was literally gigantic: nearly a million people converged in the Square in front of the Parliament from all the neighborhoods of the Greek capital,
in a mass mobilization that superseded in magnitude and fighting spirit every previous one, including the huge rallies during the General Strikes of June and October 2011.
Last week, already two General Strikes had taken place, on February 7 and on February 10-11 but many factors — lack of preparation, bureaucratic opposition to a real mass mobilization, extremely bad weather conditions — although significant, they had nothing in common with what happened on February 12, when the masses flooded the streets in Athens and nearly all other cities giving a nearly insurrectionary character to the mobilization.
The riot police, with a prepared plan, attacked the people in Syntagma from the early moments of the rally, at 5.15 pm. When the well known composer Theodorakis and the hero of the anti-Nazi resistance Manolis Glezos, both nearly 90 years old, advanced to enter the Parliament to make a joint statement of protest, the riot police attacked them and all the demonstrators in the Square with tons of chemicals. From that moment the center of Athens was transformed into a battlefield, while people continued to come en masse from all directions. In front of the Parliament itself, they have resisted and remained until 10.30 pm some contingents from the EEK, ANTARSYA, and the youth of SYRIZA. But all the streets and avenues from Omonia to Syntagma and even around Acropolis were packed by people resisting the savage police brutality until late after midnight.
Barricades were erected in some of the streets. Banks, big shops, cinemas etc., about 40 buildings, were set on fire. The police station in Exarchia was attacked. A hundred citizens from all age groups were injured, some of them seriously and brought to the hospital. Another hundred were arrested, including the demonstrators who had occupied the Town Hall of Athens. The center of Athens looks today like a bombarded city.
It is noteworthy the fact that the Stalinist KKE one more time held its own independent rally in Omonia Square (they claim to have assembled 50 thousand people) but they avoided to join the many hundreds of thousands of people in and around Syntagma Square because of the clashes of the demonstrators with the police, and they remained far way from the battle, finally dispersing peacefully their contingents. According to the Stalinist mantra every violent clash with police forces, and any form of direct action is “a State provocation”.
The popular rebellion is not limited to Athens. In other cities, all over Greece, from Corfu in the North West and Thessalonica in the North to Patras in the West and Creta in the South, were and are taking place mobilizations, demonstrations, occupations of public buildings, town halls, prefectures etc. Attacks by angry demonstrators against the political offices of bourgeois members of parliament took place: in Corfu (North West, Ionian Sea), Agrinion (Western Greece), Iraklion (Creta, South Aegean Sea) the offices of all local deputies were destroyed.
The fury of the rapidly impoverished and ruined people was reflected even in the Parliament, blowing up the bourgeois parliamentary political system as it used to be the last 38 years, after the fall of the dictatorship. Although, a two thirds majority of deputies voted for the barbaric Memorandum imposed by the troika and the current Papadimos government, the negative vote of an unprecedented large number of deputies was followed by massive expulsions from the ruling parties supporting Papadimos — 46 deputies, including founding members or parliamentary spokesmen of their respective parties, ministers etc., were expelled in the middle of the night from the neo-liberal “socialist” PASOK, the right wing New Democracy and the far right LAOS. Now in Parliament the second in numbers party is the “Party of the Expelled,” 63 deputies from the beginning of the crisis (PASOK now has 130 deputies from the initial figure of 158, and the New Democracy 62. The total number of the deputies is 300). The far right LAOS, seeing its influence shrink dramatically in the polls, voted against the new bail out, expelling two of its leading members who remained in the government as ministers and voted in favor.
Nevertheless the Fuhrer of the LAOS, Karatzaferis, said that he will continue to support the Papadimos government to “save the fatherland from communism!”
A similar statement was made by the leader of the right wing New Democracy, Antonis Samaras saying that his Party is the last rampart against “mob rule” — by “mob” meaning the rebelled masses that lean more and more to the left.
The political personnel of the bourgeoisie is decimated. Many attempts were made in these last months to create new bourgeois political parties — and more attempts certainly will come in the next period with so many bourgeois politicians becoming homeless” after their expulsion — but they had no success at all so far, disappearing nearly after their first public appearance.
The political challenge comes to the Left. But the Stalinist KKE continues its self-centered policy focusing mainly to its own electoral and organizationally strengthening and keeping the slogan for a workers people’s power” a vague slogan for a very distant future; the Synaspismos, main force in SYRIZA, looks to the remnants of the excluded from PASOK to build a kind of “popular front” coalition with governmental ambitions; and the “Democratic Left,” the right wing split from Synaspismos, thanks to its good results in the polls, becomes a pole of attraction for all refugees from the right wing of PASOK, hoping to become a junior partner in a future bourgeois coalition government, replacing perhaps the far right LAOS.
The lack of any real radical alternative to the collapsing system from the parliamentary and from the centrist extra-parliamentary Left, makes the re-groupment of the vanguard fighters, particularly from the young generation, in a revolutionary internationalist Party of the proletariat the main challenge and urgent task for our own Party, the EEK.
As the social-political explosion is under the way, we keep fighting with even more determination for an indefinite General Political Strike to overthrow the government, to break with the dictatorship of the EU and the IMF, to cancel the debt to the international usurers and to re-organize the entire economy on new, socialist bases, under workers power. Our hopes are focused in our class brothers and sisters in Europe and all over the world to join us in revolutionary struggle as well as in a revolutionary International needed now more than ever before.
- Athens, 13 February 2012
RESPONSE BY PETROS EVDOKAS
Well, it might be a prelude to revolution but it’s not yet even a prelude to a revolution within Greece itself.
Popular leaders like Glezos and Theodorakis are the visible part of a humongous majority of activist-oriented millions of people in the country who have been organizing (and recently calling openly) for an uprising. The majority of people are behind this sentiment and support it, BUT, also the majority of people have the political maturity to desire an uprising that is as peaceful and mindful as possible.
The arson attacks against more than forty buildings on Sunday that burned down a large number of shops and buildings that have NOTHING to do with the regime of Corporate and State oppressors, took place against the wishes of the people-in-rebellion. They are actions of conscious and unconscious agents of the regime. If you think this claim is too extreme, please see the top photo of the new Cyprus IndyMedia article titled “This is who burned down Athens” – it’s all in the boots.
There is nothing “revolutionary” about burning down classical architecture buildings that people love and identify with, cafes and movie theaters that constitute some of the last remaining humane parts of the City’s downtown.
At this time, the debate among true and honest revolutionary networks has not yet concluded on what is the best way to revolution in THIS juncture. Strikes are more and more organized and well attended, but takeover strikes (occupations) are only now, in this last year beginning to appear, and only on a very small scale. Armed response teams capable of delivering meaningful blows to the regime (meaningful in the political sense), or capable of defending strikes, occupations, and protests from the regime, or capable of enforcing direct actions such as liberation and distribution of food in the cities or the countryside have not yet been formed because the people still do not support such a move. It might come to that, but popular awareness, desire and willingness to engage in the revolution is the one and most important factor that we need to be in tune with. The only ones engaged in armed actions in the last few years are the same fake anarchists and regime provocateurs who repeatedly pull off highly destructive (and sometimes lethal) actions that erode the peoples’ morale.
Nobody wants to be part of a revolution that kills workers, attacks leftist demonstrators and firebombs small shops, and the people have repeatedly in the last few years immediately responded to these actions by pulling away from mass mobilizations. That is EXACTLY the reason why the regime seeks to instigate such actions, with the help of a few hundred brainless idiots who think that such behaviour is “revolutionary”.
YET ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
by Afrodity Giannakis Thessaloniki via Green Left
February 12, 2012
Greek unions launched a two-day general strike on February 10 against new extreme austerity measures the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union is seeking to impose on the southern European nation. The deal will give Greece a new “bail-out” worth 130 billion euros (A$161 billion) in return for fresh spending cuts.
Amid ongoing street protests and building occupations, the Greek cabinet approved the deal on February 10. Six cabinet members resigned in protest. Greek parliament was scheduled to vote on the deal on the evening of February 12.
[The vote was 199 in favor and 74 opposed, with 27 abstentions or blank ballots. - Portside]
Below, Afrodity Giannakis writes from Thessaloniki on the impact of the austerity on Greek society.
I work as a permanent English teacher in a Greek village, where I drive every day from my home in Thessaloniki.
A few days ago, I was looking for a magazine in my neighbourhood at about 9am before going to work. I found that all the shops in the block had put up the shutters, except for one closer to my home, which did not have the magazine, anyway.
Shops closing down is a common occurrence in neoliberal capitalist Greece, but the situation has rapidly deteriorated since May 2010. That was the time of the first memorandum, imposed on Greece by the “troika” (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – IMF) and the Greek Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) government.
Shop owners are forced to close because of the steep plunge in consumption, combined with higher government fees and other expenses.
I drove along the national road to go to work, about 45 kilometres from Thessaloniki. Until recently I worked 80km away from home. Last year I worked 700km away and it is highly uncertain where I will be placed next school year.
Far-away placements have been commonplace for Greek teachers for a long time. What is new is the rising casualisation, intensification of work and overall job insecurity.
Now, it is going to be almost impossible for teachers to make ends meet if they have to move away from home.
Having a job at all is also highly uncertain.
The reason is that the troika, in close collaboration with the unelected Greek government imposed by the troika, has decided on more public sector sackings.
The plans are part of the second memorandum agreement between the troika and the Greek government.
This memorandum includes cuts of 14.3 billion euros between 2012 and 2015, starting with 3.3 billion euros this year.
With 11 million Greek people, these sums come up to a high amount per head. This is all the more shocking if we consider that a huge proportion of Greek people live in extreme poverty.
The number of Greek people living at or below the poverty line is more than 3 million and rising.
The new agreement includes 150,000 public sector sackings to be be carried out by 2015. As a start, 15,000 public servants will lose their jobs this year.
Immediate sackings of 22,500 temporary and casual teachers has also been raised.
The troika has persistently pushed immediate cuts to military personnel numbers. This may be cause for concern in the light of recent official statements that anything is possible in Greece.
From the first memorandum on, measures first raised years ago have finally been implemented. The attacks on the Greek people seem to be part of a well thought-out plan.
For example, the capitalists and their political representatives have long demanded an end to public service job permanency. They have also aimed to do away with collective agreements.
Furthermore, ex-Pasok prime minister George Papandreou had arranged to hand Greece over to the IMF before his party won the 2009 elections.
The measures against the Greek people are unprecedented. People are in a constant state of stress, not knowing what is coming next.
My friends, colleagues, comrades – most people I come across – don’t seem to smile in the way they used to. They seem thoughtful, less happy, lost, even depressed.
The immediate effects of the public sector sackings will be higher unemployment (the official figure is now 20.9%) and deepened recession.
In my job, after the sackings of temporary and casual teachers, face-to-face teaching hours will rise for those remaining. Needless to say, there will not be an accompanying salary rise.
These austerity measures are taking place against a background of deteriorating conditions for students and teachers.
There is a shocking shortage in school books, about 2000 schools closed down in the last school year, class sizes have risen and funding for education has dropped to 2.75% of the gross national product.
Schools do not have enough funding for photocopying paper or central heating. In this year’s freezing winter, students and teachers have had lessons with their coats on. Schools have been forced to shut down due to inadequate heating.
The recession will be worsened by the 22% cut in the minimum wage (32% for workers under 25). The minimum wage will fall to 600 euros (A$741) gross a month (473 euros clear, less for young people) from the 739 euros gross specified in the National General Collective Agreement.
The estimated loss is three months wages per year. This comes on top of the huge wage cuts since 2010.
The unemployment benefit, pensions and bonuses will be also be affected. The dole will go down to 369 euros a month from 461 euros.
The minimum wage cut will trickle down to all wage brackets.
Pensions are also going to be slashed. Pensions in public enterprises such as the Greek electricity company, as well as salaries and job permanency, are set to be worst affected. The explanation given is to make these enterprises more “competitive” before privatisation.
Driving to work costs me almost 300 euros a month, while my salary has gone down to 800 euros a month clear, from over 1200 before the first memorandum.
Public service salaries have been cut by about 40% since the first memorandum. The most recent cuts, of up to 50%, were made last October. Another big salary cut is planned for later this year.
I am still managing to hold on to my car; using public transport for work would be very inconvenient.
Many people have given up their cars due to financial hardship. Soaring petrol prices, as well as rises in car registration and car insurance fees, have compounded the problem.
About 160,000 number plates were handed in to the taxation department at the end of the 2010 financial year. Last year, the number exceeded 250,000.
Not surprisingly, petrol consumption dropped by 22% last year, causing more than 1500 petrol stations to close in the past two years. Thousands of jobs were lost as a result.
Driving to work, I took a detour to avoid paying the predatory road tolls. On top of the high car registration rates and high petrol consumption tax, Greek people have to pay costly road tolls to private companies.
I kept looking for the magazine as I drove slowly through three villages. The sense of devastation wasn’t as pronounced as in bigger towns or cities, but a lot of shops seemed to have closed down recently, with shop and merchandise signs still on them.
I finally found a kiosk still in operation, in the last and biggest village. I finally bought my magazine.
On the same day, during my break, I was unable to find a National Bank of Greece branch in the village where I work. I spotted a branch office in the central square. It seemed to be under renovation, but it turned out the branch had closed down.
I had similar experiences looking for a doner kebab place, a particular petrol station, a particular bank where I used to pay my natural gas bills and a big cosmetics store I used.
All shut down, empty and dusty, with some of the signs still on and the windows serving as billboards.
A huge number of homeless people can be seen living in open-air spaces. There are 25,000 homeless people in Athens alone, driven out of unused public spaces by the Pasok-affiliated mayor.
Many homeless people are dying during this year’s extremely harsh winter.
Public welfare services, as well as schools and hospitals, are all but demolished.
People are driven to sordid poverty and despair, as working rights are abolished and public enterprises and resources are sold off. At the same time, rising taxes, along with relentless price rises, are unbearable.
Tens of thousands of households and small businesses have had their electricity cut off due to unpaid bills.
Many children faint in schools after they go hungry for days because their parents can’t afford to buy food. There has been a huge rise in the number of children sent to orphanages.
In many areas, the church or neighbourhood groups give out mess to paupers. People scavenging rubbish bins for food is now a common sight in Greece.
The Greek ministry of health reports psychological problems and suicide rates have risen dramatically.
In an attempt to deceive the people, Greek ministers have claimed they negotiated hard with the troika before signing the agreement. They put on a big show of trying to stop further bonus cuts, which were supposedly finally stopped.
Government officials are also talking about economic growth. On February 4, after a lengthy talk with the troika, the Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, called on all Greek people to stay united and do their bit “to save the country”.
By implementing more and more austerity measures, the government deepens the recession and devastates the lives of the overwhelming majority of the people.
Last November, the head of the European Commission Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach, said that Greece was not ready for investment, as it hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. You don’t need a major in politics or economics to see what’s in store for the Greek people.
The people are angry at the pro-memorandum political forces. Pasok is polling 7-9.5% (coming fifth), the other major party, the conservative New Democracy has about 19% and far right Popular Orthodox Alert (LAOS) has dropped to 4%.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) are polling about 9% each.
The left must take advantage of this historical opportunity, join forces and help the Greek people reclaim their lives. They have to show the way forward, instead of passively waiting for elections.
We must thwart the capitalists’ plans. This nightmare has to stop and the capitalists will not stop unless we stop them.
BY GREG PALAST
In These Times – November 5, 2011
Here’s what we’re told:
Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.
I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”
I’ll cut to the indictment: Greece is a crime scene. The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam. And –– cover the children’s ears when I say this –– a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.
This is an adaptation of an excerpt from Vultures’ Picnic, Greg Palast’s new book, out next week, an investigator’s pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance fraudsters. Read the first chapter or just get the book here.
In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up €2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.
Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.
Is Goldman that stupid?
Goldman is stupid — like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction. Why?
Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then. Their game: to conceal a massive budget deficit. Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.
Goldman would get repayment of its “loss” from the government at loan-shark rates.
The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.
Cool. Fraudulent but cool.
But flim-flam isn’t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.
When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out. Investors went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.
Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt. The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof. Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance? Goldman.
And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?
That’s Goldman’s specialty. In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a “net short” position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.
But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed. Blamed and soaked for the cost of it. The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to — get ready for this –– $14,000 per family per year.
Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection
Why did the Greek government throw its nation’s fate into Goldman’s greasy hands? What the heck was in the “RESTRICTED” document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw it down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn’t bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the grateful President of Ecuador?
To give you all the answers would require me to write a book. I have: Vultures’ Picnic –– in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters.
It’s really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now. That’s a funny statement, I suppose, from an author. But if you’ve been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports on BBC Newsnight, you’ve gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a full picture of The Beasts. The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers. And besides, it’s enormous fun when it’s not scary as sh*t.
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