About a year after the writing of the text below, which was distributed mainly on the internet, what has changed isn’t the value of the written theses which we estimate that remain unchanged. What, on that first period, we couldn’t realise was the effect that SYRIZA-as-a-grassroots-movement whould have to the so-called “social antagonism”, the lack of accounts of the latter, and the extent of the enlisting produced -by the grassroots- with the tactical maneuvers of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition goverment against the representatives of the regionalised capitalist zone which is called EU.
Therefore, we aren’t among those who perceive the the passage of the pension reform as a “crash test” for the renewed coalition goverment of SYRIZA-ANEL because, in the meantime from the summer of 2015 to the general elections of September 2015 and up to the present moment, the support to the bipolar goverment remains stable, whereas in the minds of those involved, the memories of the fear of what everyday life in capitalism would mean without the ability to take out a loan are still fresh.
In other words, the dominant position of credit, of the financial capital in the capital accumulation circuit, doesn’t seem to be ruptured, but is rather affirmed, alongside the emergence of the state as a bipolar denationalised state. We hope to be disproofed.
or reproducing capital through political crisis
On the 25th May 2015, at a squat in the centre-north of Athens, we organized a public discussion with the title: “The SYRIZA-ANEL Government and its Relation to the Previous Cycle of Struggles: contemporary perspectives of resistance against neoliberal management”. The starting point of this discussion was the fact that, for the first time in the history of the Greek capitalist social formation, a government enjoys (fragile) support from the whole political spectrum ranging from (organized) anarchists up to (organized) fascists. Moreover, the aim of the discussion was to insert the State in the canvas of the concepts we need to analyse how the previous movements of the period 2008-2012 gradually faded away and quasi-transformed themselves to the present coalition government through the “converters” of antifascism and of antimemorandumism. Without underestimating the importance of the debt as an instrument of analysis of the current crisis, we tried to underline the importance of discerning the way with which the contradiction between the State and the society is reproduced inside the movements and, in this manner, to help the emergence of the political as a way of socializing, separate but not independent from, related but not identified with, value. In other words, the State remains the political form of the capitalist relation, but at the same time, it can impose its own logic in order to stabilize a social formation in crisis; in any case, the capitalist social relation cannot be identified with the capitalist social formation.
What follows is a personal account and commenting occasioned by this discussion.
The 3.5-hour discussion was preceded by a 35-minute video interview of Aristeidis Baltas, the current Minister of Education and head of the committee that composed the political program of SYRIZA. At this interview, given at the end of 2012, Baltas describes which were the social forces that gave a boost to SYRIZA after the general elections of May-June 2012, which was the profile and the internal structure of the SYRIZA party constituted by a dozen separate organizations/parties (the so-called “components”) leaded by Synaspismos [the dominant component-party of the SYRIZA party], he talks about the contemporary concept of socialism in one country (sic) and draws the outline of the way SYRIZA was going to treat social movements in the process of becoming a socialist government.
Introducing the conversation, we proposed that anyone should take Baltas seriously, in the sense that after the elections of the 25th of January 2015, after five consecutive years of austerity and crisis, SYRIZA believed that implementing a kind of transitional program and coming to terms with the “institutions” (ECB, EU, IMF) were both possible; at least as leaders of a socialist government. From the beginning, though, the question of dealing with the so-called “humanitarian crisis” and adopting socialist measures is inextricably connected with the question of the current regionalization of capital – i.e., of choosing which capitalist block proves more appropriate for this task and whether leaving the Eurozone would promote this project. Even inside SYRIZA, there have been deep disagreements about this prospect that now (beginning of June 2015) come hastily to the fore. The shift of the contradictions to the political level, the continuing and rising importance of the dilemma “inside or outside the EU” have not produced mass polarizations on the street level yet, but one thing is certain though: any possible pro-EU public demo will have to face the strong opposition of the “road-specialists”, the pro-Russian far-left and the anarchist “avant-gardes”. Now that has become crystal clear to everyone that the Greek State cannot fulfill its mains functions without external financial help, it remains crucial to figure out what kind of social aggregations will be produced as the very few isolated strikes during May do not seem able to act as a social catalyst to any direction. This is why, after the introduction, we explicitly posed the question of which would be the possible social reactions against signing a new (third) Memorandum, and what forms they could adopt. It remains to be seen whether the process of denationalizing certain components of the Greek State apparatus can be reversed in favour of a back-to-our-full-national-sovereignty program; a process which to our eyes needs far more than “innocently” arousing national sentiments.
Answering this last question is inextricably linked with how one considers the relation between SYRIZA and the previous cycle of struggles: movements do not produce themselves ex nihilo. During the discussion, it became clear that some serious disagreements did exist, not only because some comrades do not consider SYRIZA to be any kind of social-democratic party, old or new, but strictly a neoliberal one, but also because they try to approach SYRIZA’s rise to state power through the dipole of SYRIZA as the “victory/defeat of the movements”. For us, it is quite misleading to use these notions, for SYRIZA as such had no serious relations with the movements of the period 2008-2012 apart from the square movement and only after the elections of 2012 it tried to mediate the interests of large sections of the public sector; workers in the private sector are left to their own fate for very many years now.
Although almost four years is a non-negligible time span, the main part of the discussion was focused on the Indignados, the occupation of the Syntagma square and the multiplication of the local assemblies in the suburbs of Athens; thus implicitly admitting that this is the most probable prospect of a future reappearance of the movements. Many comrades talked again about the occupation of the Syntagma square, the way they participated in it and for quite a long time a revival of the debate around whether the revolutionaries should intervene in such cases or not. Some pointed out that we, as the “communist milieu”, haven’t really discussed the reasons why the squares’ movement was defeated and made a comparison between the way the Bolsheviks arrogated the movement of the soviets and the way SYRIZA members tried to present themselves as the real expression of the squares’ movement.
The discussion stood for a while and treated the way SYRIZA as a capitalist party needs to balance between the needs of capital and the needs of the working class; and in a sense it is trapped in this situation. To this we should add that SYRIZA was the only party that stood, verbally most of the time, in favour of almost any social struggle. From there, perhaps, emerges the need to explain which are the contemporary foundations of the State as a mechanism that imposes equilibrium in a context of a crisis that first necessarily appeared as economic, but then acquired an important political dimension. For more than four months, SYRIZA uses the propaganda card of the “hard negotiation with the institutions” as the requisite soldering material, simultaneously emitting a strong wave of national unity. Moreover, in the same line of thought, SYRIZA has neither increased its own party membership in the last three years nor stabilized its party mechanism after incorporating many local branches of the mutilated PASOK party both in neighbourhoods and in the public sector where, let’s stress it, it offers the promise of a concrete parliamentary way of dealing with workplace issues.
Concluding, we made some remarks that pertain not only to the specific discussion but try to generalize dealing with the present conjuncture:
- The way SYRIZA’s radio station “Kokkino” tried to turn the permanent women cleaners of the Ministry of Economics against the temporary ones, hired by a subcontractor, accompanied by the proposition to hire unemployed workers carrying cameras in order to record illegal and tax-evading transactions in restaurants reveal that SYRIZA excels at applied neoliberal tactics.
- At the beginning of February 2012, a demo organized by anarchists against the imposed state of emergency took place and at least 3,000 people attended. Right after the elections of 25th of January 2015, and of course until this very moment we are writing all this, only a 200-people anarchist anti-state demo has taken place in Athens, in the organization of which almost no organized group had participated, each one for its own reasons.
- At the theoretical origins of operaismo and of the French ultra-left, back in the ’60s and the ’70s, and perhaps apart from some very few exceptions, we can find no trace of a specific theory of the State. Possibly, this points to the inefficiency of our theoretical tools that could help us deal with the squares’ movements and the Arab Spring. Only Negri tried to historicise and periodise not only the workers’ subject, but also the state form itself.
- Contrary to what happened to Tahrir square, Gezi Park and even Maidan, no womens’ group was formed during the occupation of the Syntagma square, let alone the presence of any immigrants.
- The centrality of the workers’ subject has been clearly challenged during the squares’ movement and, more generally, to almost all the demonstrations in the big Greek cities, and beyond. When not openly conflictual, the co-existence and parallel presence of several social groups at the same historical ground is a strong indicator of the lasting utility of the theoretical schema of the “non-subject”, treated by Woland and Blaumachen which of course failed to provide an analysis of the state as a centripetal factor and, more generally, to deal seriously with the reality of the stratification of the squares’ movements. Any attempts to discredit it because of Woland’s defection is useless and for internal consumption only.
- The political position, promoted by some comrades here, according to which only the struggles of the native working class can pull upwards the rest of the class is a remnant of the old days during which (native) workers’ identity was still recognized by the state; not to mention that it clearly underestimates the real stake of re-introducing conflict inside the possible future squares’ movement itself. Beyond this point, would a squares’ movement that could quickly spread to many cities and involve all the proletarians -irrespective of their country of origin, gender or race- resemble to the recent one? Wouldn’t the self-affirmation of the (native) working class become a real obstacle for the struggle itself?
Below, with a few mainly stylistic corrections, we include an internal text written some months ago, which is somehow influenced by the generalised pro-SYRIZA sentiments after the elections. In it, the reader can find some more elements about the relation of the SYRIZA party to the struggles of the previous years together with the elaboration of the thesis that, however the consequences, SYRIZA’s leadership together with the majority of its party members will finally reach an agreement with the foreign creditors of the country; and this has to do with the place of Greece inside the European division of labour concerning the management of proletarian immigrant flows. If, on the contrary, no agreement is reached and Greece is forced to leave the Eurozone (perhaps the EU as well) this factor –which is often disregarded for the sake of more intellectual and prestigious theoretical analysis– will definitely show its full weight in influencing the present and future conditions of capitalist accumulation, black or white; and, above all, the state-form.
JE NE SUIS PAS SYRIZA
After the demonstrations in Athens and few other Greek cities on 15th February 2015 that had nothing to demand from the newly elected government of SYRIZA-ANEL, being the complete historical reversal of the December 2008 rebellion which also demanded nothing but criticized everything, it is important to underline the way that SYRIZA party found its way to parliament luxury through the movements of the previous period and pretended that it is possible to “bring the air of the revolution” to the current capitalist state apparatus in crisis. In this respect, analyzing, as deep as possible, the dialectics of the Statification of those same movements, at least to some extent, would be more disenchanting about the expectations which should accompany the “coming hope”.
In a more sophisticated terminology, you are allowed to call what follows a first attempt for the productive conceptual mediation of a possible opposition movement to the new regime, provided that you are not a pro-Syriza academic. In this case, beware: our prescription lists are the very image of Sulla’s prototype…
To some comrades here in Athens, many of the arguments expressed here may sound more than familiar. This is not a coincidence, but the explicit tactics of writing a polemical text synthesizing crucial remarks and accurate perceptions from different on-going discussions which do not necessarily take place in the same rooms, journals or mailing lists; it’s like many threads entering a single loom. Individual signature does not mean blurring the limits of “who says what”, but to designate the indisputable collective character of the positions that follow.
“The Greek State has continuity, the self-feeding crisis of the last years will not.”
Greek Finance Minister, Yannis Varoufakis,
at his speech during the inauguration ceremony,
28 January 2015.
“The movement of capital in the world market, which just cannot be controlled by the state, is always beyond the politics of the national state; more precisely, the increase of state regulation is exactly a consequence of the global generalisation of capital relation and of the operation of the law of value on a global scale which is associated with it. State penetration of the context of social reproduction and full assertion of the capital relation form a unity. “Statification” is exactly the vehicle through which capital maintains itself and through which the effects of the context of value are socially concretised. This is why state appears … ideally as the moment in terms of which –in the context of the social process of restructuring and powered by the competition in the world market– the law of value realises itself internally: through devaluation of capital regulated by the state, structural adjustments, corrections of the social division of labour etc. It is indisputable that by this the imposition of the law of value is “politically” modified in a specific way. Only a “pure” operation of the law of value cannot exist and has never existed; it has always been “modified” through political structures and power relations. The thesis about the suspension of the law of value through state intervention overlooks the fact that state, in its own form, is an integral part of the capitalist context of reproduction and labour; capitalist laws –in a specifically mediated guise–become active straight through the state and in terms of its activity.”
Joachim Hirsch, Der Sicherheitsstaat: Das “Modell Deutschland”,
seine Krise und die neuen soziale Bewegungen
One should definitely pay attention to the vedettes of the spectacle: not only to laugh at their ridiculousness as the bosses’ lackeys, but also because, in one way or another, they represent the current contradictions in a condensed bodily form. In a single phrase, the concluding remark of his first speech just three days after the elections, the Greek Finance Minister admits that despite the crisis, some things must remain continuous. But how can they be? Wasn’t the Greek capitalist social formation and the State that corresponds to it riddle with contradictions all these years, the setback of the last years included? How can the capitalist state, despite its crisis both as capitalist and as state, can ever be claimed to have remained continuous, that is: intact? One should abstain from calling it naiveté of a newly appointed ambitious dummy, but should uncompromisingly call it by its real name: reassurance of all the parties involved in the extraction of surplus value in this geographical part of the planet that the new government will follow the steps of its precursors as far as the reproduction of the capital, as a social relation, and the stability of the social formation are concerned. Those who cover this up under the slogans “Return of hope”, “Respect for people’s dignity”, “Need to breath” etc., are simply hypocrites.
Immediately after the December 2008 riots, many pictured the State as a gang of cops. This reflects the empirically felt way the (mostly young) proletarians that took the streets perceived the qualitative leap of repression that imposed itself due to the graveness of the multinational social explosion. But the state cannot, and must not, be equated with repression, however sophisticated or backed by meticulous judges it may be: we do not live in the 1920s. The breakthrough of the police as an indispensable function of the state, and its future development as the fundamental mediation of almost every social confrontation –an unequivocal attribute of the security-state of the contemporary period– in order to be fully grasped, necessitate the exact knowledge of what mediations the state had developed over time, why they had become weak and why it had been necessary for the police to substitute for them. What were the disadvantages and the flaws of the then existing political parties, trade unions, school institutional framework, immigrant policies, municipal management etc? Why were they not proactive enough in order to prevent an insurgence of this kind? Why the Greek State had proved to be far below the standards of prevention that contemporary capitalism demands? These fundamental questions –that were to weigh heavily on the future political strategies of reforming the capital relation and its state amidst the eruption of crisis the following years– did not only puzzle the contemporary state functionaries but also lay at the roots of the strategies of rebirth of that part of the “responsible left” that some naive(?) politicos still falsely consider to be “the only party that did not condemn the riots” –when specific examples not only of their absence but also of their hostility towards the expansion of the riots themselves do abandon– namely SYRIZA.
Undoubtedly, though, some members of SYRIZA, mostly young, were present in the streets those days and formed a marginal but non-negligible, judging retrospectively, part of the general encounter that was produced these days between sections of the multinational proletariat. These ambitious new politicians reflected seriously upon the December revolt and thought that concentrating their efforts at reorganising their party-as-a-movement it was a bet worth taking. But, although it led to a somehow significant change to the party apparatus, it was completely insufficient regarding a possible increase to the electoral percentages: the only thing that matters for any left party worth of its name. Tsipras’s first participation to the 2009 elections as the president of SYRIZA –the spectacular consummation of the previous process and a clear pointering of those strategy-designing cadres– did not bring the predictable results: youth could not vote massively for the party, at least at that specific time. SYRIZA’s still today “youthful air of rejuvenation” has been a remnant of that electoral tactics that has been kept alive by the image makers of the party-as-mechanism. The political emphasis on the “700 euro generation” of native proletarians that, supposedly, was the main agent of the December revolt could not have an institutional correspondence, could not be reformulated in an institutional terminology. The December revolt had no demands: that was certainly a conclusion, however provisional it might be.
The state, considered here as the collective capitalist, understood better than anybody else that the real threat of the revolt had not been the smashed windows of the banks themselves, but the possibility of the mutual recognition of a common fate between native and immigrant proletarians that descended to the streets of Athens. This could not be allowed to take place, especially in the prospect of a continuous increase of the surplus population. The social counterinsurgency strategy, launched immediately after the first acts of the revolt in the form of anti-demonstrations in certain Greek cities, had been exemplified in the case of Agios Panteleimonas, a poor district in the centre of Athens, where a real state of exception for immigrant proletarians started to unfold from the beginning of 2009 and gradually revealed all its possible uses and practicalities. Thus, state and civil society in the form of racist resident committees established their own dialectics long before the squares’ movement, in the direction of the elimination of a considerable section of the proletariat from the public space. From now on, and under the threat of state sanctions, this elimination was going to be the only axis around which respectable politics must evolve, left politics included.
Any reference to the form and the content of state repression inevitably entails a perception of not only what the role of the state represents in the present conjuncture, but also where its necessary existence in a capitalist society can be derived from. Βefore Spring 2010 and the official entrance of the Greek capitalist social formation under the Memorandum tailored by IMF, ECB, EU and the greek capitalists, the attitude of the state towards social movements was mainly registered under the label of “zero tolerance’: in Summer 2008, police could kill a 43-year-old woman in Corfu during clashes with local people against the prospect of manufacturing an appropriate space for handling garbage; in summer 2009, police could fiercely attack local people in Grammatiko, Attica, for the same reason. That is, before and after the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos. For SYRIZA, it was impossible to capitalize these struggles politically, at least in the same way as it did with the December revolt. When, in 7/7/2009, the police, together with fascists who threw molotov cocktails behind police ranks, attacked the anarchist/antiauthoritarian demo heading to Agios Panteleimonas, no member of SYRIZA was there, because no SYRIZA presence could be tolerated.
Though theoretically pertinent, the concept of “zero tolerance” is seen most of the times as a consequence of the prevalence of the security doctrine and subjects one to the impression that the state apparatus is fully militarised and thus impermeable to class struggle and social contradictions in general. After the adoption of the Memorandum in May 2010 and the resulting rise of the social thermometer since then, the Greek capitalist social formation enters a period where capital relation will be reproduced through political crisis.
Embracing a more dialectical approach, as far the relation between state and forms of class struggle is concerned, it could be said that one of the main features of what prevailed to be called “state of emergency” is to define (and be defined by) the surplus population. Disaffiliation, segmentation, stigmatisation, classification, marginalisation, exclusion, repression of who is suitable for capitalist utilization and who is not constitute its main functions. These attributes should not be considered as abstract ideas lying in a vacuum; expressed in heavier theoretical terms, the state of emergency has a necessary biopolitical dimension under the conditions of real subsumption not only of labour but also of the entire social formation under capital.
On March 31st 2009, 150 members of SYRIZA, with Tsipras at their ranks, occupied for an hour the headquarters of the National Bank of Greece, the biggest Greek bank, at Stadiou street and then they leave the scene with a lot more inspiration and self-confidence; on February 14th 2013, the cops mercilessly beat members of SYRIZA youth that attempt to occupy the office of the General Secretary of the Finance Ministry which is located a few hundred metres away on the same street. The same pattern applies to the attempt to reoccupy Skaramagka squat –occupied immediately after the December rebellion– in the center of Athens, in July 2011 and in January 2013 respectively. What lies in between these two moments? The answer lies to the very same contradictory movement that was historically produced roughly in the biennium 2010-2012 which did not only provoke the autocratic twist of the state, but simultaneously increased steadily the appeal of SYRIZA as a self-proclaimed party-movement not only to the working class but more generally to those who “were hit by the Memorandum”.
With the risk of simplifying a complex and absolutely not homogenous movement, it is possible to concretise this process in a preferential manner, if one focuses on the way state repression dealt with occupations as a central form of struggle. Qualitatively speaking, a great variety of targets were chosen by the “anti-Memorandum” subjects whose class composition was anything but fixed, albeit with an indisputable working class and medium class/petty bourgeois flavour: at Nea Eukarpia, residents together with the municipality authorities occupied the Garbage Handling Station; POE-OTA, the union of the municipal workers, performed several occupations of town halls; GENOP-DEI, the union of the workers of the public electricity enterprise, occupied the Computerization Centre in Cholargos, Athens; a political initiative called “Den Plirono” [“I don’t pay”] occupied the public offices of DEI [the public electricity enterprise] in Kallithea, Athens; the Ministry of Health was occupied by its own civil servants; the Enginners’ Insurance Fund was occupied by its own employees; contract workers of the municipality occupied the town hall of Athens; the occupation of the logistics centre of Gerolymatos enterprise in the Oinofyta industrial area protested for unpaid wages; military pensioners tried to invade the headquarters of the army in Athens, protesting against the deterioration of their income; local people blocked the entrance to the port of Igoumenitsa, protesting against the presence of immigrants in the city; a mix of military reservist officers, left politicos, a minority of football hooligans and “ordinary” Indignados invaded the official military parade in Thessaloniki protesting against the “corrupted politicians” etc. If one takes into account that this “occupation subject” was never fully present in the squares of the big Greek cities, where politicos and students were overrepresented, then one can perhaps grasp the dualism out of which SYRIZA and ANEL –respectively, the political embodiment of the lower and the upper part of the Syntagma square in Athens– emerge: by succeeding in locating themselves at the centre of the squares, they became the political representatives of a movement that no one else was there to represent.
It would be critically inadvertent to consider the form and the content of these occupations to be without theoretical consequences; instead, it is the very fact of the occupation of a public building or a part of public space that needs to be interpreted. Beyond the crucial recognition that sectors of the native proletariat challenged the ongoing restructuring by claiming at least part of the ownership of the so-called “public wealth”, the fact that several others social groups and sections of the proletariat also chose occupations as a means of exerting pressure towards the state reveals first of all the centrality of the ground rent in the greek capitalist social formation which determines the relation of each individual to the state. More specifically, this relation is defined by the high percentage of home-ownership, but also by the culture of the permanency in the public sector which is connected both to the extraction of political rent in the public sector and to a widespread militant attitude heavily influenced by left cultural domination. The contemporary occupation movement has to be explained under the light of the retreat of the state from the reproduction of the labour power and the simultaneous questioning of the political weight of the petty bourgeois strata inside the state structure. The successive coalition governments of Nea Dimokratia and PASOK did their best to deepen the separation between state and this civil society, SYRIZA came to power in 2015 by promising their reconciliation. And the important immigrant occupation movement that culminated in the “hunger strike of the 300 immigrants” –who occupied the Law School in Athens for a couple of days in order to defy the status of invisibility to which the immigrants are condemned– was already thrown to the dustbin of history.
No essential discussion can be made about the electoral success of SYRIZA, and the possible future class struggles, if one does not take seriously into account the historical particularity of the local assemblies that were formed right after the squares’ movement in Summer 2011. While one can recall several examples of local mobilisations in urban areas all these years, these always took place promoting specific demands which usually concerned the quality of life at the neighbourhood or the suburb: against environmental pollution and degradation, activisms for free public spaces etc. The same point goes for local mobilisations in non-urban areas where hard confrontations occur between local people and the cops when the former protest against a usually big capitalist project; in these occasions, though, no structured and permanent assemblies are typically created by the participants. In the case of the local assemblies that ensued from Syntagma square, we are talking about assemblies organised around the suburbs that demand from the state the withdrawal of the Memorandum. It should be apparent by now that, compared with the specific demands around the quality of life, the very level of articulation of demands has shifted and has become more directly political.
It is well known that the first demand that was put forward by the neighbourhood assemblies, and the one that appealed to the “people” more than any other, was the withdrawal of “charatsi”, the newly imposed housing tax. But it is not enough for somebody to claim the continuity between the neighbourhood movements of the past and the contemporary ones by solely pointing to the permanent centrality of the ground rent, in spite of the fact that the Greek families have always considered home owning as sacrosanct. Yet, this point of view misses the transformation of the structure of demanding. In the case of charatsi, the assemblies direct the demand straight to the state administration without the interference or mediation of the local municipal authorities. In this way, circumventing and avoiding the confrontation with the state institutions in the local level helps create the myth that the state presence there is not a threat to the autonomy of the movement; and, worse, that there can be a cooperation between the assemblies and the (left) local authorities. This direct politicisation of the demands created the ground for the future electoral success of SYRIZA in the municipal elections of 2014 precisely at the suburbs where active local assemblies had been present. Some anarchists, that formed the majority of the initiators of these assemblies, still wonder how this could have ever happened because at that time SYRIZA members were not even present to the assemblies…
This shift at the level of demanding, and hence at the form and content of the so-called “local action”, should be not considered as the direct consequence of the new form of organizing itself, because it cannot explain how, for example, it became possible for a local assembly to enter the the local offices of the Public Electricity Enterprise (DEI) and directly threaten the manager to stop executing electricity cuts. Still, bypassing existing mediations –no party or union was able to intervene at this level and perform its traditional role of mediating the struggle– is not identical with producing their weakening from scratch.
Speaking about the conditions that enabled urban movements to develop in Athens, which until recently have not been favourable at all, the sociologist Constantinos Kavoulakos says:
“The conditions, that prevailed generally in the Greek society and more specifically in the city of Athens, inhibited the growth of urban movements. The hypertrophy of the political, the domination of the political life and the public sphere by the parties, the low level of growth of civil society and clientelism constituted, and to a certain degree still constitute, a negative framework for the growth of movements. At the same time, the pattern of development of the city of Athens favoured individual-family strategies and limited the possibility of the rise of collective conscience and action. Urban struggles that developed over time did not acquire a central political character and were not substantially supported by the central political agents of the country. In some cases, they were ‘vindicated’ through fragmentary regulations or through the politics of tolerance by the state resulting to the reinforcement of the paternalistic role of the state and of the dependency of the citizens by the clientelist networks.”
In this sense, the emergence and evolution of the local neighbourhood assemblies can in no way be interpreted in terms of continuity of the previous phase of urban movements; past atrophy cannot be a cause by itself. The discontinuity between past and present forms of urban movements was firstly produced during the December rebellion of 2008 and then, at a more general level, during the Indignados movement in 2011; that is, through a confrontational framework of crisis.
The shift at the structure of demand is an historical product of the discontinuity produced inside the crisis and one can fully grasp its full implications if, and only if, one takes into account some of the fundamental reversals that have occurred since Kavoulakos is writing (2008):
- The domination of political life and public sphere by the parties and the unions has been undergoing a deep crisis.
- Social networks and, more generally, the internet have established a particularly new public sphere and “civil society”.
- Recession has severely shaken pre-existing individual and social strategies of survival in non-negligible parts of the working class and middle class population.
- The state has shed off its paternalistic role since any demand around the reproduction of labour power has been thoroughly delegitimized.
- Last, but not least, the enormous impact of the social movements insufficiently labelled under the term “Arab Spring”.
Among other things, the other face of the summing up of these reversals –which constituted historical contradictions in the broadest sense and produced the emergence of the local neighbourhood assemblies– was denoting the municipal authorities as the weak link of the state apparatus. And in this sense it is nothing but accidental that a certain part of the restructuring of the public sector provisioned by the implementation of the Memorandum did affect the “local state” at that time. But, in order to correctly assess SYRIZA as the new mediation produced by this movement, one has to denote the double character of this movement. In other words, the state was reformed and rationalised both from above and from below: supporting the provision of free lessons for school students by volunteers unemployed teachers and reformulating the management of unemployment are the two sides of the same coin.
“Men [and women] make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.”
Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
If one can find any traces of continuity with the recent past, these are certainly to be detected in the so-called “hypertrophy of the political”, namely that the capitalist state is the only possible expression, and guarantor, of the collective interest and, in this sense, of democracy (direct one included) as the only possible horizon of collective action. Polarization between “left” and “right” has weighed more than heavily in the history of politicizing and neutralizing class struggles in Greece. Demanding from the state to cancel the housing tax or the Memorandum had not only been a reflection of the interclass composition of the first and, much bigger in numbers, local assemblies, but also a verification of the fact that even defending the interests of private property can still happen under the auspices of the left. In the minds of the animators of the local assemblies –of whom, let’s say it again, a majority part was comprised of anarchists and antiauthoritarians and of people not belonging to a specific party– evolution of social movements is irreducibly connected to a left attitude of struggle connected to a left cultural domination. SYRIZA has been the clear expression of this attitude in the central political level. But let’s not forget that, apart from the violent confrontations around the Syntagma square in Summer 2011, the most violent reactions against the imposition of the Memorandum had been: those of the taxi drivers that not only clashed with the police in the streets near the parliament but also blocked ports and airports in coordinated actions all over the country; those of the truck drivers that did not refrain even from shooting real bullets to the scubs; and above all the struggle in Keratea that, after violent clashes for several months, had proved to be the only social movement that resisted the scheduled plans of building a Garbage Handling Station. SYRIZA cannot claim any relation to the evolution of these movements directed by the interests of small property owners; as far as the right is concerned, it has never had a clear historical connection with a mass movement in Greece. The absence of a clear expression of a right political sign –a leftover of the civil war and the fact that the right and the state have always been inextricably connected– has led to the myth that all movements can be mediated and represented by the left. And of course that was creating the illusion –promoted by several hundred left academics around the world whose professional career is still intertwined with this “cultural hegemony of the left”– that SYRIZA’s electoral success in 2015 elections was the political expression of the anti-memorandum movements in general.
Indispensably, saying that the left is the left of capital goes through designating its identification with the state both as an apparatus and as a relation; saying that the left is the left of the state. Unquestioning glorifiers of the assembly movements usually forget the fact that the local assemblies were created after the central assembly at the lower part of Syntagma square “decreed” the expansion of the movement to the neighbourhoods of Athens; the very few pre-existing neighbourhood assemblies, already implying a more diffused pattern, were not able to orientate the movement as did the miniature hybrid state structure of Syntagma square. The statification of a movement is a process that commences already internally by the formation of the distinction between political representation and rank-and-file long before it reaches parliament seats. Beyond this new first grassroots step towards the identification of the left with the state, the most overt relations of the assembly movement with SYRIZA rarely come to the fore: apart from the 2014 municipal elections mentioned earlier, wasn’t the May 2012 parliamentary elections as the new battle to be fought, that caused the abrupt decline of the assembly project? What really caused the abandonment of the central coordination of the neighbourhood assemblies held in Panteion University of Athens in January 2012, with more than 45 assemblies as members and more than 500 attendants, if not the prospect of an electoral success of SYRIZA?
At any rate, the state and its mechanisms felt the pressure of the mobilisations against the housing tax and tried to absorb the interclass jolts with several tactics of repression. In a certain way, one could identify the ongoing restructuring of the state amidst crisis, what has been labelled as “state of emergency”, as the reaction of capital to this kind of interclass movements. The unprecedented level of violence against the local population in Skouries and Keratea, where a solid local interclassist block of social forces faced the police of capital, should add to the specific gravity of this question and help focus on the necessity of the current restructuring of the capital relation; restructuring that contains destruction if necessary, evaluation, transformation and recreation of the total set of social relations of which the new regime of accumulation will be comprised. But if one is to act inside an interclassist movement, the intensification of what kind of class contradictions is more closely linked to the prospect of revolution if not the one between workers and bosses? The huge and multiform involvement of SYRIZA members, and MP’s of course after 2012 elections had been held, in the Skouries movement from 2011 onwards had been the real ground where answers to these questions started to be given. But they were not pro-worker ones. SYRIZA could emerge as a political defendant of interclassist movements only over the dead body of the workers’ identity: the very same body that the gold miners –who, together with the police, attacked simple residents of the area, leftists and anarchists showing solidarity and bosses of the local tourist industry in order to defend “their” working places– kicked once again at the head.
Surely, and within certain limits, this contradiction between interclassist composition and the need for a class orientation was played at the internal procedures of the local assemblies in more or less strained way. Precisely because they were rooted in the urban environment of the metropolis of Athens and not to the completely different social environment of the Greek countryside –where relations of ground and blood are prevalent and where social hierarchies are much more intense– the neighbourhood assemblies were forced to quickly extend their list of activities and pose the necessity of meeting the needs of the workers and the unemployed. Posing, though, proletarian needs at the forefront and starting to organize exchange bazaars, time banks, service exchanges, collective cuisines etc. –and, simultaneously, having to face the direct antagonism of the church, the media and certain initiatives promoted by some mayors, as far as the “relief of those hit by crisis” is concerned– proved to be the triggering event for the gradual waning of the assemblies movement; because the above mentioned contradiction could not find room to move. Only political parties can claim to meet everybody’s needs. This is why SYRIZA, after failing to set up its own neighbourhood assemblies, chose to back social groceries selling agricultural products without the mediation of wholesale sellers, before intervening directly to support soup kitchens for the unemployed. In September 2011, right after the emergence of the Indignados movement in Greece, the very same state that had been accused for heavy repression passed the 4019/2011 law introducing the basis of the legislation concerning social economy and social entrepreneurship; the necessary framework for the legal management of all self-organizing activities. This far-reaching plan to deal with the newly emerged movements, however limitedly implemented, is expected to be expanded by the present SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government, in order to counter the continuation of austerity measures after the recent provisional agreement with EU, IMF and ECB in February 2015. And of course, all the uncritical proponents of “existing self-management” from all the left political spectrum, anarchists included –those very same that some years ago organised entire alternative festivals for “solidary and cooperative economy”– failed to celebrate it at that time as a victory of the movement of self-organisation; it is necessary for the theories expounding self-management as the preferential way to the revolution to deal with money and the State as things, and not as ways of relating people to each other, namely as forms of socialisation.
On the 29th of May 2011, and concurrently with one of the biggest demonstrations in front of the Greek parliament, another racist pogrom against immigrants takes place less than a kilometre away, around Omonoia square. Nazis of the Golden Dawn, politically excluded by the indignated democracy, passed through police lines and made another effort to impose their agenda concerning the future of the centre of Athens and beyond. If there is one serious reason why the squares’ movement cannot be claimed to form a part of the legacy of the December rebellion is that in no way permitted to the socially excluded, immigrants at most, to be integrated – apart from selling water, caps and green lasers. Needless, perhaps, to say that exclusions have never been a stumbling block to democratic procedures, however “revolutionary” they claimed to be.
The criticism raised against the Indignados movement as an essential expression of the contemporary national unity usually fails to indicate which were its specific aspects that indicate this; just spotting and counting Greek flags in a picture or video on your computer screen is nothing more than a game for bored politicos. What needs to be explained is why Syntagma square had to be divided to an upper and a lower part; a polarisation that exceeds the right-left demarcation mentioned before. Divided in this way and viewed as a whole, Syntagma square claimed temporarily to be the mediation of all mediations, i.e. a state in an elusive form, in the sense that it revealed the hidden polarisation, the hidden organisational core of all the mediations that had collapsed at that moment. Specifically speaking, it is the total collapse of the old social democratic party of PASOK that enabled the massive presence of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets in several occasions and for a long time; and consequently it best summarizes the above mentioned organisational polarisation: recognition of the native working class identity in and by the state means being pro-nationalist and pro-socialist at the same time. Crisis accelerated the process of parcelisation of the working class occurring for decades and, in this way, pushed the individual workers, and the political mediations claiming to represent the interests of the people in general, to be reproduced at Syntagma square. That’s why the new SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government is not only the one formed by the parties that benefited mostly by the Syntagma square movement, but also the one that, for the moment, stands poised between state and society, state and movement, because as a unity it cannot talk politics in any other way.
“Greece is the country of the European Union with the biggest percentage of unemployment and illegal immigration… there exist as many unemployed as illegal immigrants and this cannot go on any more”.
Antonis Samaras, ex-prime minister of Greece during his visit to Malta, 21/10/13.
For the time being, the Greek state has been trapped in a fundamental contradiction: while during the past decades it has been constituted on the basis of “exporting contradictions”; that is, when the proletarian population confined by the borders of the Greek social formation was more than necessary or too “restless” to fit to the needs of capitalist accumulation, emigration had always been a key mechanism of weakening the class struggle through the dissociation between significant sections of the population. Today, this solution cannot be pursued, not only because global recession provides a way-out to foreign labour markets solely to a small part of the native skilled working class, but also because chronic exploitation of several hundreds of thousands, if not a couple of millions, “unskilled” immigrant workers have been deeply rooted in the cycle of valorisation of very many small- and medium- sized capitals; and as a result, no one can seriously pose the question of mass deportations of “illegal immigrants”. Not even the ex-prime minister. If one adds to this structural weakness of the Greek state the enormous increase of the demands put forward by the European Union for more “effective” border policing –special services to the European capital for which the Greek state has been receiving a lot of money– due to the war in Syria and the general upheavals in Northern Africa after the Arab Spring, then maybe it has become more clear why the position of Greece inside the European division of labour will not change drastically and only an extreme state of affairs will lead to the much speculated Grexit. In order to implement a coherent strategy of capitalist accumulation, a state must first determine the profile of the working population, the biggest of all productive forces, inside the social formation under its rule. It is important that the Greek state does not abandon the fundamental function of policing the borders of the European Union no matter how many more years a “serious” strategy of endogenous capitalist accumulation will asphyxiate. This importance is inversely stressed by the fact that no one mentioned it during at the theatre of the recent negotiations in the Eurogroup.
The murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a nazi thug at Keratsini on 17th September 2013 constituted a real turning point to the way the state would redefine the internal enemy. According to certain opinion polls at that time, Golden Dawn –since 2009, heavily promoted by mainstream media and the active back-up by the police in the streets in order to carry out the “informal” part of the counter-insurgency strategy– was considered to win a two-digit percentage of the votes: a clear ascending course after the respectable 6,92% on the June 2012 general elections; the same elections where, among other uptight leftists, many anarchists openly supported and voted for the “comrades” of SYRIZA with the excuse that “someone should counterbalance the increasing influence of the Golden Dawn”. Even the prospect of a coalition government between Nea Dimokratia and a “serious” Golden Dawn was being a subject of discussion in certain circles of highly ranked Greek capitalists. But suddenly everything changed: the leading team of the nazi party were jailed, gradually all its MP’s followed the same course, the subsidization received from the state was blocked, many party offices were shut down and the financial assets of some capitalists that supported the party were blocked. Today those who are still in love with the USSR, the Greek National Liberation Front during the Second World War and the stalinists of the Communist Party of the time that supposedly form THE greek revolutionary tradition –it’s irrelevant if they call themselves anarchists or not– do not recognise to its full extent the fact that no political party, organisation or milieu has ever undergone such a level of repression after the junta of the colonels.
As the state turned anti-nazi and de facto met a central demand of the antifascist movement of the previous two years at least –the very same state under the rule of which detention camps for the “illegal” immigrants had proliferated, immigrants had been arrested and beaten for fun in the centre of Athens, HIV-positive sex workers and anarchist-antiauthoritarian squats had been humiliated by the media as a “sanitary bomb” and “locuses of lawlessness” respectively and Roma had undergone a series of brutal police invasions in their camps– the usual talk of the 80’s about “integration”, “assimilation” etc. simply did not take place. Having the social carpet pulled under your feet, the then really strong sense that another social field of action was left to be regulated by the law was soon replaced by the tactical assumption that having the state to act on your behalf could ever considered to be “a victory of the movement”; this is the reason why no real encounter was produced between the antifascist movement and the fierce struggles of particular historical significance that immigrants in Manolada, Amygdaleza and Skala Lakonias began. This extrovert sentiment that “the state can be ours” and at the same time a sincere genuflection to the strategic link between antifascism and the revolutionary tactics of the left, the only historically consistent one, was an important path for the legitimization of SYRIZA as the new Popular Front despite the fact that its members have never confronted fascists in the streets. When in 31stof January 2015 the first demonstration after the elections took place in the centre of Athens, organised by some anarchist and communist groups with the antifascist intention to block the annual gathering of the nazis of Golden Dawn, it was no surprise that the presence of SYRIZA youth was more than tolerated, thereby accepting that the state could be present at both sides of the barricade.
Piece by piece, Golden Dawn promoted its political agenda and asserted itself from the street level to the parliamentary level and, with the undeniable support of the cops, challenged the never-conceded affiliation, which reached the level of objective coalition in Skouries for example, between SYRIZA and the anarchist/antiauthoritarian milieu as the parliamentary and street section respectively of a “single” party. But it is no coincidence that the state decided to treat Golden Dawn as a criminal organisation only when it became an agent of destabilization that the democratic forces had to confront in order to eliminate every obstacle to the capitalist restructuring. Retrospectively, Golden Dawn had contributed to the increase of social tension without any specific utility for the ruling regime: one need just remember the war of declarations between the nazi party and the AEK and PAOK, two of the biggest football fan clubs after some anti-nazi attacks. But the very fact that after the murder of Fyssas the nazis made public that a brutal civil war is under way, especially about a month after the death of a young proletarian in Peristeri after a fight with a ticket collector, suffices for the state to attack its former partner.
Antinazism became the dominant ideology of the state not simply because an important part of the voters should be deterred from voting again for the Nazis: any political agent that claims to be a more genuine representative of the national sentiment and in this way to challenge the monopoly of the definition of the nation, i.e the people, by the state undermines the very definition of the nation-state and points to the ongoing denationalisation of the state in the era of the domination of finance capital; and, as a corollary, to impair the ability of the government to mobilise the population in the name of the national interest. The management of the PEGIDA movement in Germany and the Charlie demonstration at Champs Élysées both point to the same stake: the state needs to promote the ideology of tolerance, of multiculturalism, of citizenship for the purpose of safeguarding from unpredictable grassroots mobilizations inspired by the right side of the political spectrum; that the only valid interpretation of the national interest is the interest of the capitalist regime of accumulation. When most of the smaller capitalists, together with broad sections of the middle class and of course important segments of the working class are unable to enact the preconditions for the new regime of capitalist accumulation which will include individual capitals, the expectations for social step-up and a better life –all these patched together in an interclassist block– and the state is considered to align with specific interests, then civil society becomes autonomised; in the lack of revolutionary process, there ensues the necessity for the emergence of social movements that tend to reproduce the bonds between state and civil society; movements that themselves are state and civil society together. This is the reason why the possible participation of the far right, openly racist and homophobic party of ANEL in a future SYRIZA-led government was announced almost a year ago and is not cosmetic or an “unavoidable compromise” of the last minute so as to form a government at all costs. Times change: in 2007, an anarchist, more of a politico and less of a precarious worker, dressed in costume could very well deceive the personal security guards and beat up the future president of ANEL under the pretext that he personified the far right and the deep state itself –let’s not forget that Kammenos was directly involved in the secret transfer of Otsalan in Kenya before the Greek state handed him up to the Turkish secret services; in 2015, an anarchist more of a precarious worker and less of a politico, could opt for “realism” and, after several years of recession and the untamed pressure of survival, vote for SYRIZA, expect a slight improvement of his/her life and shrug off about the presence of Kammenos in the government.
In 2012, during the nine-month strike and shutting down of the steel factory of Helliniki Halyvourgia, no minister bothered to pay a visit to the strikers before sending the police forces; inversely, in 2013, the then Minister of Public Order immediately travelled to Manolada to talk to the immigrant farm workers at the strawberry fields that had been on strike –leaving aside the fact that the demands around the wage were not satisfied in any of these cases. In a discomforting analogy for the international fan club of Varoufakis, Tsipras and co, the SYRIZA-backed Minister of Labour postponed until the end of 2016 the fulfilling of the promise given during the electoral campaign to increase the minimum wage to 751 euros discussing exclusively with the small bosses’ organisation; a few days earlier, the new SYRIZA-backed Μinister of Justice immediately paid a visit to Amygdaleza detention camp, where immigrants had set some containers on fire after one of them committed suicide. The illegitimacy of the wage demands needs to find its expression at the form of the state, in this case its accompanied by the non-elasticity of the re-structuring and the continuation of the dual State.
During the hunger strike of the anarchist prisoner Nikos Romanos between the end of November 2014 and the beginning of December 2014, perhaps the dominant catchphrase had been that Romanos should be given permitted absence for educational reasons because “he needs to breathe”. During the governmental demonstration in front of the parliament on 15th of February 2015, as during all these weeks that the theatre of the negotiations with the EU has been taking place, the main slogan was that “the Greek people need a breath of dignity”. One should not just laugh at the readiness of the propaganda bureau of the government to adopt any symbolic message available; incorporating to your communicative strategy signifiers from any usable circulation of ideas, sentiments, passions etc. is not a sign of political strength, but of social weakness. Today, it was the anarchists, but what about tomorrow? Causing panic to the Athens stock exchange market, whose index continued to rise for two consecutive days after the 25th January 2015 elections before decreasing a little the third day and, presumably, only after the fierce anti-troika and anti-German declarations of certain high-level cadres of SYRIZA, is not a tactics that can truly have a medium term usefulness: the appearance of financial capital in the form of credit does not mean that it cannot provide itself with certain mechanisms of accurate assessment of the instability and the risk of specific social situation; and, what’s more, it surely does not lack in solid social support. But the die has been cast: the new government led by SYRIZA will find it very hard to disenchant the mass of its anti-memorandum voters selling them the results of the present negotiation, and thus to cut down that quickly the cords of the social elevator which lifted it up to the salons of the world capitalist management. Playing with the dialectics of the movement has never been risk-free.
“La formation des deux faces d’une médaille – d’une part le régime du refus de droits à l’égard de certains réfugiés, d’autre part la nouvelle alliance au niveau de l’Etat et de la société – fait penser à l’évolution qui a conduit à „ l’Etat double “. C’est par ce terme qu’Ernst Fraenkel a caractérisé en 1941 la division de l’Allemagne – au début des années 30 – en un „Etat des mesures d’urgence“ (« Maßnahmenstaat ») et un „Etat des normes“ (« Normenstaat »). „L’Etat des mesures d’urgence“, Fraenkel l’a vu se constituer dans les décrets d’urgence, dans le recours renforcé à la „détention préventive“, dans les mesures arbitraires, à base politique, contre les opposants et les émigrés juifs venus de l’Est. En accentuant „l’Etat des mesures d’urgence“, le national-socialisme a, aux yeux de Fraenkel, adopté la voie de l’arbitraire et de la radicalisation. „L’Etat des normes“, en revanche, était, selon Fraenkel, le visage que le national-socialisme naissant montrait à la population non persécutée. Vis-à-vis de cette partie de la population, l’Etat de droit avait fait place à la garantie de la normalité, garantie permettant à la société, au travail et à la sécurité sociale de fonctionner comme auparavant. „L’Etat des mesures d’urgence“ et „l’Etat des normes“ auraient, selon Fraenkel, évolué en symbiose.”
Helmut Dietrich, Le territoire de l’action humanitaire. La frontière extérieure de l’espace Schengen
It’s important to remind that almost all the parties that, in one way or another, supported the successive Memoranda imposed by the International of capital faced up disaster and ruin: the traditional social-democratic party of PASOK was the first to undergo almost complete dissolution; Nea Dimokratia still holds a respectable hard core of voters, but it has clearly diminished in size and social influence as its electoral basis is the most aged of all; far-right LAOS disappeared from the political map together with centre-left DIMAR that dared to take LAOS’s place in the coalition government of Nea Dimokratia-PASOK after the June 2012 elections, and then quitted after some months. It is legitimate to question the ability of both present governmental parties to resist social pressure in the medium or long run, especially after the failure of the theatre for multiple roles that took place in Brussels, since none of the two can soberly claim to administer and absorb social reaction to the new-coming austerity measures; especially now that the full evaluation of the previous memorandum procedures, including the necessity of restructuring the state mechanism itself, are ante portas. The “anarchists against the EU” and the trotskyists of EEK [Workers’ Revolutionary Party], who both were registered for the first time to attend the anti-Merkel governmental demonstrations at Syntagma square on 15th February, together with the leftists of ANTARSYA must have more than a sense of humour to really believe that they could lead social discontent towards the present government; the illusion that one can really play at will with the material reality of national preference has proved to be contagious across the political spectrum and bloody disastrous in the end. But who else remains to deal with a possible disenchanted interclassist block? The proponents of the prospect of a future intervention by the army truly underestimate both the social durability of neoliberal imperatives after almost four decades of existence and the centrality of the class composition of the proletariat while addressing the problem of the form of the state of exception: military juntas have been imposed only where the working class has been, more or less, nationally homogenous and they have conjoined their survival with escalating economic growth. This is clearly not the case in Greece where not only it is impossible to establish a developmental dictatorship –reducing the cost of labour power even lower to overcome the crisis of profitability does not necessitate such a departure from parliamentary democracy: Bulgaria and the Balkans are very close to be forgotten– but also more than a million immigrants are present, and here exist strong mafia circuits that gain huge profits from trafficking. Perhaps, the internal stability of capitalist social formations where neoliberal imperatives are prevalent is, among other things, more dependent on strengthening the divisions inside the multinational proletariat than simply unifying it under a dictatorial regime which could risk treating all the workers the same. The recent election of the right hand of a well-known mafia shipowner as the mayor of Piraeus, the biggest Greek port, and the partial privatisation of state authority that it implies, may provide a more productive solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, we are still prolos…
1. Back in 1989, when the working class was still recognized as a partner inside the state, and in the capital relation in general, and the unions and the left parties still retained much of their ideological aura as bearers of the workers’ revolution, the newly formed party coalition of Synaspismos (whose one of the founding members was the then Communist Party of Greece) faced a huge internal political crisis when collaborating with the right party of Nea Dimokratia to make a coalition government –the first “government of national unity” after the fall of the junta in 1974 and the first ever to include a left party– pushed a large part of its members to the exit. The effects of the dipolism between “left” and “right”, so characteristic of the Greek political environment in all its dimensions, was still strong. Now, twenty-six years after, and with the obvious retreat of the workers’ identity, it seems natural to support a left & far-right coalition government. In our opinion, the only safe measure of the historical distance between these two moments has been the extensive restructuring of the relations of production and the very important change of the composition of the labour force since then.
2. Those who want to find out more about this interview, which unfortunately cannot be fully reproduced here, can check the following link (unfortunately, it’s only available in Greek language):
3. This point is important because it gives another sense to the struggles that only now come to the fore, however weakly, and demand something from the government. Considering SYRIZA as a neoliberal party excludes ab initio the possibility that the ruling party could pursue the integration/assimilation of the struggles as motivational for the agenda of a newly appointed government despite the current impossibility of such a task. The evidence from the first four months shows the contrary: SYRIZA really tries to establish a dialectics between the party and the movements, however fragmented and individualized they may appear; the latter fact is reflected in its own structure as a party and to the cadres it chose for sensitive and qualified governmental positions, Woland included. For example, after the death of four workers during maintenance works at “Hellenic Petroleum” a few weeks ago -one of the biggest Greek enterprises which is co-owned by the Greek state and Latsis (who is #782 at the Forbes list) and where SYRIZA has recently established close relations with the local union- SYRIZA not only tolerates some symbolic attacks made by anarchists at the headquarters of “Hellenic Petroleum”, at Latsis’s residence and at a Latsis’s charity foundation, but its members with party banners officially joined the demo against “Hellenic Petroleum” in Thessaloniki. One of the arguments in favour of grasping SYRIZA as a neoliberal party underlines the mix of repression and dividing tactics SYRIZA uses from the moment of assuming governmental positions and the unavoidable need to channel and even break any social resistance to austerity even if it comes from strong vested interests of petty bourgeois strata and/or the middle class.
The lack of a massive (workers’) subject doesn’t mean that the prospect of a new, however unstable, social democracy has become obsolete once and for all. But we have to take into account that the question of regionalisation penetrates and moves to different level the distinction between neoliberalism and social democracy.
4. Of course, to the very large working class appeal of SYRIZA especially after the 2015 elections, one should add the votes of also very large sections of the traditional petty-bourgeoisie and the farmers.
5. At this point, we should note that some comrades don’t really believe that SYRIZA members that took part to the struggles of 2010-2012 really had in mind that conquering state power was in any way imminent; SYRIZA’s percentage in the 2012 elections was a total surprise for them. Parallel to this, other comrades object the fact that those who went down to the streets massively voted for SYRIZA reminding of the historical precedent of May ’68 in France when, right after the huge wave of strikes, De Gaulle won the elections.
6. For more about this, check the following link:
7. Even the schema of the “era of riots” should not be completely abandoned in the face of the recurrence of the recent riots in the US.
8. TPTG (Ta Paidia Tis Galarias) is a typical example of this.
9. cf. Κάρολος Ιωσήφ Καβουλάκος, Προστασία και διεκδίκηση δημοσίων χώρων: Ένα κίνημα της πόλης στην Αθήνα του 21ου αιώνα, 2008 (unfortunately, the book is only in Greek language).