|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
The enraged and the workers' movement
Greek trade unions have called the first 48-hour general strike since 1992 (28/29 June). They are under pressure from the movement of the ‘enraged’ and workers’ movement activists for action against the new ‘memorandum’ of austerity measures from the troika (EU, IMF and European Central Bank). This is an edited report of the proposals being raised by Xekinima (CWI Greece).
500,000 DEMONSTRATORS in Syntagma square on Sunday 5 June. More than 200,000 for the one-day general strike on 15 June. A government of crisis hanging by a thread.
A new movement is shaking Greek society while Europe watches. The movement of the enraged raises new hopes and possibilities. It is the first mass movement that is categorically against the bureaucracy of the trade unions and leaderships of the mass left parties, which have never put themselves in the frontline to develop a real mass movement. It can stop the new memorandum and bring down the government. But, it is also possible that, within a few weeks, it might not exist anymore. Didn’t the movement of non-payment on buses and trains and of motorway tolls have some of the same amazing characteristics? Yet it faded away within three months. That is why the next steps are of crucial importance.
The first step is that everybody goes to the squares to turn them into living organisms of resistance and build a mass movement from below. The half a million people who demonstrated on 5 June must become one million. We must set the dates for an escalation of the movement. We must set dates for general strikes, and link the movement of the squares with industrial action by workers and with the neighbourhoods as well. The call for a 48-hour general strike by GSEE and ADEDY [private- and public-sector union confederations] is an important development. In reality, it was in response to the pressure from the squares.
However, this is not enough. There should be further escalation. The leadership of the unions will not take the necessary action. We have to impose it from below. The movement of the enraged can be a catalyst through its decisions. Xekinima proposes that the assemblies of the squares discuss, decide and call for the following: use the 48-hour general strike as an all-out mobilisation of the mass movement. If the new memorandum is passed, there is no option but to prolong the general strike for as long as necessary and remain in Syntagma square until the government falls. The government can survive an occupation of the squares, but not a continual general strike.
There are people who think that the squares do not need nor want the labour movement because trade unionists will ‘patronise’ the movement. Their concerns are understandable but, if the movement of the enraged does not link itself to the workers’ movement and strike mobilisations, there is a big danger that it will subside.
Therefore, we need all the movements to direct themselves towards the squares and occupations. Those who are engaged in struggles - strikes, youth, environmental and social struggles – must go to the squares, set up camps and keep the occupations alive and vibrant. We want the strikers of DEI [electricity company], post offices, OTE [telephone company], temporary council workers, etc, to go there. We want the strikes to escalate into general strikes, not symbolic ones (every two or three months), but substantial ones, repeated and escalated.
The trade union bureaucrats and party apparatuses have sold out struggles time and again. Measures should be taken to ensure the democracy of the movement. Many of the enraged demand that parties do not show up in the squares. Although this is understandable, it does not offer a solution, because various parties are there already. A lot of them hide behind the ‘anonymous’ or ‘party free’ label. This is exactly why they are doubly dangerous.
The danger of bureaucracy does not only come from parties, but also from cliques of people who see the possibility of putting themselves in the spotlight via the movement, creating blogs and spending a lot of time in the squares to establish themselves and gain publicity. It is no coincidence that in Thessaloniki some ‘non-party’ people wanted to impose as the only speaker in a demonstration on 5 June the nationalist right-wing politician, Dimitris Antoniou!
Democracy can be protected only through a series of measures. All decisions should pass through the general assemblies. Parties and organisations that intervene in this movement should do so overtly. Stop the hypocrisy of party members who pretend they are ‘party free’. No trust to any individual or party apparatus, only to the democratic procedures of the movement.
The democracy of the assemblies in Syntagma square or the White Tower [Thessaloniki] must not be confused with the democracy of the movement. Even if we have 3,000 or 5,000 people in the assembly, how can they represent the half-a-million we saw on 5 June? How is it possible for all of them to say what they think or propose an issue to be voted on, given the limited time and number of speakers at every assembly? Therefore, the movement should be extended to all workplaces, workers’ neighbourhoods, universities and schools. Call mass assemblies in these places and elect committees of representatives that are subject to recall at any time.
The Syntagma assembly, once or twice a week, should be an assembly of representatives of the movement from all the corners of Attika [Athens and Peiraus region]. The same goes for the White Tower in Thessaloniki and so on. These assemblies should be responsible for the final central decisions. These representatives should be in constant interaction with the assemblies that have elected them, be accountable to them and subject to recall at any time. Only in this way can the mass movement control how the struggle develops. Anything else, whatever name it may bear, is democracy only in words, neither ‘direct’ nor ‘real’ [a central demand of the enraged movement].
Those participating in the enraged movement now feel the strength of the mass movement and that they can bring down the government. The question that emerges then is what will follow? Bringing down Pasok just to bring back New Democracy, a coalition or government of ‘technocrats and personalities’ is not a solution.
Firstly, it is important that the Pasok government falls. Even if it is unclear who will follow, the next government will live under the constant threat of the movement and of being overthrown.
We should remember Argentina where, during the winter 2001/02, five presidents fell within a few weeks. The movement forced the Argentinean government to pause the payment of the sovereign debt. This represented a great victory. But it could not overthrow the power of the capitalists or free society from poverty. Therefore, we need something more.
If we leave our fate in the hands of a few hundred corrupt individuals in parliament, outside our control, elected for four years on the basis of false promises, then the problem remains. They rely on big-business money to get elected and represent these capitalists and not the people who vote for them. They rob us of the wealth we produce. We want a kind of ‘parliament’ in which those elected are accountable. We want representatives who will be paid as much as the workers, without privileges or connections with business interests. These conditions can be imposed only if representatives are elected through mass assemblies in the workplaces, neighbourhoods, universities, etc, and if these representatives are accountable to those assemblies and subject to recall at any time. Such a ‘parliament’ of the workers and popular masses could proceed to the establishment of real ‘people’s power’, meaning a government of the workers for the workers in the service of society and the working classes.
Is this a difficult prospect? Yes, very difficult. Right now, the movement is limited to central squares and is not expanding through society in an organised way. But, if the movement was able to develop as we have described, the election of those representatives and those who ‘govern’ would develop in the most natural way. They would be individuals who represent the rank-and-file movements in society, not the interests of big business. They would be under constant control from below. Only thus will the words ‘real’ or ‘direct’ democracy acquire true meaning.
We demand that those who caused the crisis should pay for it. This means: refuse to pay the debt they created and which is now reaching €350bn, 150% of GDP. There are €200bn in Greek bank accounts, which is our own savings, as the rich and big capitalists have already taken their money abroad, €60bn last year alone. The bankers use our money against us, to make big profits. The justification is ‘the needs of the markets’. We refuse to accept their logic. We demand that the banks are nationalised, under the ownership of society. From the mid-1990s until 2007, the Greek economy grew by 4-5% per year. Greece was an Eldorado, with profits reaching 20-30% per year. Where is all this money? Why are the profits theirs, and the losses ours? No to the privatisation of DEI and DEKO. Stop the robbery of public wealth. Stop the sell-off of public companies. Put these companies under the control and management of workers and society so as to abolish the corruption of the tops in the civil service and in the trade unions.
With the €350bn that we ‘save’ if we refuse to pay the debt, and the €200bn that exists in the banks, we could transform the situation: create jobs, have decent healthcare, education, pensions and public housing. Those who say ‘this cannot happen’ (or that it is old-fashioned and obsolete) are doing what they have been taught to do very well by the system: they are lying.
We demand a society of justice, equality, freedom and real democracy. We demand a society that will not be a slave to the profits of an insignificant minority, but will plan the economy for our needs. And yes, we should re-establish the real meaning of many words, which have been misused by the ruling elite, as the assemblies of the enraged are already proposing.
Democracy means that we decide and control all decisions, not the liars and thieves in parliament. Justice means that laws serve society, not oppress it. Freedom means to be able to have an opinion and express it freely, not that public opinion is formed by five families controlling the economy and mass media. And socialism means all the things we described above for the economy, politics and society, not what the so-called ‘socialists’, Papandreou and his gang of thieves and liars are pushing.