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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill