Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
At the turn of the 20th century Greeks went on to vote for a new government at a time when the country was preparing on one hand for the Eurozone, and on the other hand for the Olympic Games. On the evening of 9 April in 2000, there was a surreal image in the downtown streets and in the headquarters of the biggest parties, PASOK and New Democracy – shortly after the first electoral results, the voters of the conservative party went out in the streets celebrating, many of them in their vehicles. The most excited collaborators of Costas Karamanlis were in their party kiosk in Syntagma square and were promising jobs to the organised fans of New Democracy, who in previous days were giving out leaflets to passers-by. An hour later it was time for the co-operators of Costas Simitis to celebrate triumphantly, in the streets and on the television until the early hours.
It’s been 12 years since then and the public debt of Greece has doubled, the Golden Olympic games is now a fake memory and the view of the Rio – Antirrio bridge, a so-called miracle of mechanics and aesthetics, still provokes awe, but the roads that it connects, these old asphalt ‘guillotines’, bear more resemblance to The Scream by Edvard Munch. Greek Society in the last two years doesn’t know if it has to scream for its past or its future. The catastrophe that it goes through every day, with bigger and bigger intensity and more and more ruins, with the policies of dead end austerity, is not the best place for electoral celebrations.
The Left, SYRIZA, the biggest winner of the elections on the 6 May 2012 – and is very likely to be again on 17 June – did not throw a party and could not celebrate its success. The trust invested in SYRIZA by the voters leads to greater responsibilities than at any other point in the post-dictatorship period. This was obvious also during the procedure of the exploratory mandate in order to form a coalition government. No other political force would take the responsibility of a government without SYRIZA. This is the most important fact of the new political landscape. The parties that took power after the fall of the dictatorship, New Democracy and PASOK, followed one another in the government, and with their actions and their failures, have led Greece to disaster. The parties that accepted and practiced the Troika policies have demanded that the Left cooperate in a new government.
But the question remains, could Greek society accept such a cooperation? And if so, with which program, which politicians and for what reason? Or will the European partners and lenders accept the continuation of a ruling system that led Greece to the cliff, at the same time leaving corruption unbridled? And why did Alexis Tsipras, who until yesterday was seen as dangerous for the EU, become so necessary for the rescue of Greece and the Eurozone?
In the minds of the Greek people, SYRIZA was established as the most serious opposition force. SYRIZA followed all the possible options for a viable and fair solution on the debt issue and for the reconstruction of society and state, it participated in the mobilisations of social forces and provided a political frame for the initiatives against the Troika insistences.
This has become even clearer since the elections of May. Even though they had not taken the form of a classic solid party organisation, the local organisations of SYRIZA have opened the agenda that the voters made and initiated open debates known as ‘people’s assemblies’. In One week after the elections the president of SYRIZA attended one of these debates, in in Nikaia close to the historic neighborhood of Kokkinia, and the people flooded the square. The same happened also during the next assemblies.
In the new political landscape, SYRIZA overcame any doubts and agreed to reconstruct itself on a new basis, by unifying the local organisations of Synaspismos, the main ‘trunk’ of the coalition, with the other components that have formed SYRIZA back in 2004. Now SYRIZA, broadened with the United Social Front, has a solid party and structural form, so that, in Sunday’s elections, it will take the bonus of 50 parliamentary seats without legal complications and controversies.
Apart from that, this new group cannot be the sum of individual opinions. And in the present situation it could be not just an arithmetical operation without political dynamics. In the last two years, during the governments of Papandreou and Papadimos, it has become clear that the arithmetic operation of social demands leads to automations. For every failure in the tax system, the people that always paid, the beasts of burden, were called to pay again. And the result was negative for the people of labour and the poor, the unemployed, the pensioners, underpaid workers, Greeks and immigrants.
This linear, watertight structure of the political system cannot go any further. This was insisted on by the ‘Aganaktismenoi’ (Resentful) gatherings. These gathering were diffused everywhere, in the Athenian suburbs and in the other cities of Greece, and their overtone is still strong.
However, the demand for democratic participation in the decision making is surely not going to be satisfied in open assemblies. But still, it is another step towards the institutional reconstruction of Greece, the expansion of democracy and the deepening of political social rights. It could be considered as another expression of the dialectics of spontaneity and organisation, in the way that Roza Luxemburg stated it. Or even more simply, by comparison with the description of the Chilean writer and former student leader Luis Sepulveda in his last book, of what happened in the Salvador Allende era, when the economic elite abandoned the country, even though Chile had a democratically elected government. Sepulveda recalls how he and his fellow students took over and reopened an aviary. This was more or less the way that a neighbouring factory, which produced food for birds, begun to operate again. Until the time the production line was organised again, many funny things happened, dozens of eggs were lost and the hens almost revolted. However Chilean society at that time provided many well-developed examples of democratic and economic reconstruction, in the same way as do all countries that face a similar crossroad.
Greek society, in the pursuit of a new democratic and economic organisation, has a crucial advantage – it is located in a democratic environment. And even though many problems and imperfections occur in the European edifice, the societies of European countries can point out those voices that defend the democratic principles of Europe. If there is something putting the EU in danger, it is not the Greek Left and its perspective of becoming a leading political force with the support of the people. The danger exists on the other side, in the fanatics of unbridled markets and the idealists of fear. Or to paraphrase the consideration of Hobbes on the middle ages, the danger comes from the worship of a market, that cannot stand democracy. In these circumstances SYRIZA is the only hope.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control.
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going