Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greek elections

excerpts from


Syriza and its allies propose to fight back against the humanitarian crisis, to restore collective agreements and labour rights, to create a fair tax system and to democratise the political system. A Syriza government will make Greece a credible player and will make the survival of the country and the people a precondition at the outset of any negotiations. The government will commit the country to a new path, rejecting corruption and patronage, opting instead for a new type of development in the interests of all. It will propose a European Conference on Debt to partially cancel the debt. The reimbursement modalities for the remaining part can facilitate an economic recovery through a large public investment programme – which should not be included in the Stability and Growth Pact – and a response to urgent social needs. At European level, it will propose a “European New Deal” for human development and environmental transition. Throughout Europe, we need to break with the rationale which is destroying Europe’s collective social gains and fuelling the rise of nationalism and right-wing populism. We need a new project, based on inclusive development, cooperation and democracy.

Throughout Europe, we believe that such a change in Greece will not affect the future of the Greek people alone. A victory for Syriza will allow Greece to escape from the current catastrophic situation but it will also represent green shoots of change for Europe. Breaking with austerity policies would be a signal, a source of hope for those who want to stand tall. At the same time, if Syriza is voted into power, its government will need massive support from the people of Europe in the face of the pressures from the financial markets and political forces which fear any departure from the obsolete framework of capitalist globalisation.

Across society, from wide political and social forces, from many organisations and walks of life: we do not accept the pressure brought to bear to prevent the Greek people from exercising their free choice. Those exerting this pressure today share responsibility for the perpetuation of harmful ‘shock therapy’ at all costs.
Throughout Europe, we are assuming our responsibilities, supporting those engaged in struggle, changing the balance of power, waging the battle of ideas and uniting all those who want to build – alongside the Greek people – a social, environmental and democratic Europe. We stand with the Greek people because their battle is also ours.


excerpts from:

Srećko Horvat

[T]here is a growing pan-European left power that is able to subvert and potentially disrupt the existing state of affairs. Negri and Mezzadra argue that the European elections in May 2014 are essential: "The issue of wages and the issue of income, the definition of rights and dimensions of welfare, the topic of constitutional transformations related to single countries and to the European constituent issue can, today, only be addressed at a European level. Outside of this sphere there is no such thing as political realism."

While the French philosopher Alain Badiou so persistently insists on "subtraction" from the state, for Negri it is clear that the forthcoming elections create a space for the imposition of a new "political grammar". And that is why Badiou, his sharp text published in Radical Philosophy, was wrong when speaking about the left's "contemporary impotence".

Badiou first accuses Costas Douzinas of "avowed optimism", arguing that there is nothing new in what Douzinas, in his book Philosophy and Resistance in Crisis, called a "new political subject". For Badiou, the demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo and Athens' Syntagma Square are nothing but "the communist invariants". Here, there is no point going into Badiou's critique, it is simply enough to press Ctrl+F and find what is missing throughout his text: the word Syriza. Badiou does not ever mention the great political success of Alexis Tsipras's radical left party that leads all opinion polls in Greece.

Our contemporary impotence lies not so much in the fact that all these "communist invariants" failed to change the balance of power, but that one part of the left is not willing to accept the risk of engaging in institutional struggle, even at the cost of failure or defeat.


"Our contemporary impotence" comes exactly from this: on the one hand, we find the old left melancholy when it comes to waging concrete struggles in the existing institutions and in the streets and squares, and on the other hand, there is the masturbation on a utopia that will never come true.

Here we should use Badiou's own words and the lesson of his master [maître], Mao Zedong, who used to say: "No investigation, no right to speak!" In other words, to investigate a problem is, indeed, to try to solve it. The European elections offer an opportunity not only to new political parties but also to popular movements who can have their direct representatives in the existing institutions, with the goal to deliver at least minimum demands for social justice and effectively confront the policies of the Troika.

What we need today is a combination of the old Gramscian difference between the "war of position" and the "war of manoeuvre". It is becoming more and more clear that a movement without a party is impotent, and that a party without a movement can only repeat the failures of the past. We need both.


excerpts from
‘For five years Greece has been like a patient slowly bleeding’

Helena Smith


“Unless they are stupid, or rich, no Greek has children anymore,” snarled Mavros who has been forced into the taxi driving business to make ends meet. “My predicament has denied me having the second child I always wanted.”

It has also brought him face to face with the unravelling of a country that, five anguished years later, is torn between the agonising choice of yet more austerity, or voting in young insurgents who could put it on a devastating collision course with the EU and IMF, the creditors keeping it afloat.

The Greek crisis has come in and out of view since it exploded, seemingly out of nowhere, in late 2009. Like passengers on a runaway train, Greeks have held on for dear life as the locomotive has jolted this way and that, sometimes picking up speed, sometimes slowing down, but never enough to stop in its tracks.


Hope lies in defiance. And it is not coming. It has already arrived. On Tuesday, Tsipras’s exotic alliance of Marxists, socialists, Maoists, Trotskyists and greens posted its biggest lead yet, with a poll released by the University of Macedonia putting it 6.5 percentage points ahead of Samaras’ centre right New Democracy party. Other polls in recent weeks have put the party consistently ahead.


At street level what is sure is that Greeks have reached tipping point. The measures that have been the “blood price” of aid worth €240bn have sucked them dry.
There are quite a few people now who can no longer afford to give their relatives a dignified funeral

The rich may have got off scot-free – cocooned in their villas in the leafy suburbs of northern Athens they may even have had a good crisis – but for the vast majority this has been a war of attrition. The middle class, the glue of any society, has been decimated, sapped by a barrage of taxes and pay cuts enforced at the request of foreign lenders. The family network, the backbone of support in the absence of a working welfare state, is struggling not to disappear with it. Charities are overstretched. But, so too, are the soup kitchens and mobile clinics battling to assist the more than one million who are uninsured. “There are quite a few people now who can no longer afford to give their relatives a dignified funeral,” says Costas Fountas, sipping a frappe coffee in his wood-panelled undertaker’s office. “We had a lawyer in recently who had been able to put on a good service for his father, before the crisis, but when his mother died could barely pay the €300 municipal fees for the burial rights. I’d say of the 15 funerals we have a month at least nine end up owing us.”

The withering effects of such tumult cannot be underestimated. With unemployment rates unlikely to drop soon and 3 million living on, or below, the poverty line, there are few families who do not engage in some form of existential conversation about how they will survive.

Drama in the form of a daily staple of bad news has drained them. Prognostications of eurozone exit have unnerved them. And global focus has humiliated them. The loss of honour and curse of shame is such that those who do seek help – or address their plight in public – also seek the carapace of anonymity - including the photographer Antonis, who did not want us to use his full name. Politicians are visibly drained, but so are newscasters and entrepreneurs, shopkeepers and officials – indeed everyone on the Greek crisis train.


In their perilous neighbourhood, opposite Turkey and only hours away from the Middle East, more than 75% Greeks want to remain in the EU. Membership of the euro is seen as the pier to which that ship is anchored.

But Kalatzis, who spends his day in his Athenian workshop threading bracelets and necklaces, bangles and beads is right: a great many of those who will vote for Syriza will be motivated by protest. The formerly marginal Marxists have become the best way of expressing distaste for the mainstream politicians whose foolhardy policies over the past 40 years – exacted by New Democracy and the once mighty centre left Pasok – have brought Greece to its knees. That the international rescue programme was meant to put the country back on its feet by 2012, but has instead sent it into an austerity-driven death spiral, has reinforced the conviction that Athens is desperately in need of a change of direction. Unemployment was supposed to peak at 16% that year; instead it grew to 25% while gross domestic product nosedived to Depression-era levels. Lost time, policy U-turns and conflicting messages from Berlin – Europe’s paymaster and in Athens’s case provider of the bulk of rescue funds – has exacerbated the uncertainty.

Increasingly, a sense of hope remains elusive. The prospect of yet more belt-tightening – in exchange for yet more support – is on the horizon: next year Greece is faced with €27bn in maturing debt that without help it will be unable to pay.

In Tsipras Greeks detect that they may get a more robust defence of their interests when stalled negotiations resume with creditors. “He offers the hope of hope,” says Fotini Tsalikoglou, professor of psychology at Panteion University. “For five years Greece has been like a patient that has been slowly bleeding. There has been too much loss of hope and no one can live for long without hope.”

But Tsalikoglou also worries about the rise of hate and violence Greeks are expressing towards one another – and themselves. In an atmosphere made shrill by the high-octane rhetoric of politicians now polarised between old and new, left and right, pro-and-anti bailout camps, society has been coarsened and bruised. For many the journey has been visceral and dark. Suicide rates have skyrocketed – with helplines continuing to report a surge in people taking their own lives – but these days they are rarely mentioned. “It’s all so bad that the news has been de-dramatised,” says Tsalikoglou. “I fret about the violence and hate that persists in nurturing the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn. My great fear is that the hope [embodied by Syriza] is not betrayed.”


Corruption and cronyism and patronage politics are, more than ever, identified with a system that has brought about the near death of Greece. The country has changed inexorably – for worse and for better – and in the soul-searching sparked by the crisis everyone knows that they now have to move on.

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