A landslide “no” to EU austerity in Greece

Supporters of the No vote in Thessaloniki celebrate the referendum results (AP)

Supporters of the No vote in Thessaloniki celebrate the referendum results (AP)

6 July 2015

The landslide “no” vote in yesterday’s referendum on austerity in Greece is an overwhelming popular repudiation of the European Union and the austerity agenda it has pursued across Europe since the 2008 economic crisis.

The vote is an extraordinary act of political courage, defying threats and intimidation from the European Union, the US government and the Greek ruling class. Together with last Friday’s massive anti-EU austerity demonstration in Athens, the overwhelming “no” vote on Sunday has once again revealed the social force that can put an end to austerity and political reaction—the working class.

Berlin led the campaign for a “yes” vote in support of the EU’s last set of austerity demands. German government officials made it clear that their intention was to use such a vote to push for the ouster of Greece’s Syriza-led government.

In advance of the referendum, Berlin warned that the EU would respond to a “no” vote by cutting off credit to Greece’s financial system and bankrupting the country. This would be followed by the expulsion of Greece from the euro zone.

The Greek media campaigned relentlessly for a “yes” vote. Retired Greek army officers intervened publicly on the eve of the referendum to attack Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and demand that the Greek people back the EU’s austerity demands. This was a blatant act of political intimidation, which, in a country still traumatized by the seven-year dictatorship of the Greek colonels, carried an implied threat of military coup.

Fully 61.3 percent of the Greek people, drawn largely from the working class and poorer layers of the population, responded by voting “no.” This landslide, coming after media polls had predicted a close vote, stunned the political establishment in Greece, Europe and the United States.

The “no” camp won decisively in all 13 of Greece’s administrative regions, according to Interior Ministry figures. Greek youth, over half of whom are unemployed due to the collapse of the economy under the impact of EU policies, voted “no” by fully two to one.

The “no” vote exposed the fact that the policies of the EU under the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel have no popular support or democratic legitimacy.

Since 2009, the major powers have sought to rescue European capitalism from the impact of the global economic crisis by effectively seizing hundreds of billions of euros from the European population—€65 billion in Greece alone, or over €17,000 for each of Greece’s 3.7 million households.

With Sunday’s vote, articulating the opposition to EU austerity of the working class throughout Europe, the Greek masses are demanding not minor modifications to the austerity agenda, but its overturn.

Disavowed not once but twice by the Greek people—once in January when Syriza was elected based on its pledges to end EU austerity, and again in yesterday’s referendum—the European Union stands exposed as a ruthless instrument of finance capital, working in league with Greece’s ruling elite to ride roughshod over the sentiments of the Greek people and impose a policy of economic devastation.

The “no” vote has further exposed the cowardice and bankruptcy of Syriza. Prime Minister Tsipras went on national television Sunday night to stress that Greek negotiators would return to austerity talks with the EU, insisting that “the mandate you give me is not one of rupture with Europe.”

No one was more terrified than Tsipras by the outpouring of popular opposition to EU austerity, seen first in Friday’s “no” demonstration in Athens and then in Sunday’s vote. Since coming to power last January, he and his government have sought to contain and dissipate social opposition to the European Union and tie the working class to austerity and capitalism.

The actions of the Syriza-led government during the referendum campaign were cowardly and two-faced. Top government officials, including Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, indicated that they would resign in response to a “yes” vote and help their successors impose EU austerity measures. As for their response to a “no” vote, Tsipras said last Wednesday that he would seek to negotiate a settlement with the EU based on a Greek offer that accepted virtually all the social cuts demanded by Brussels.

Syriza’s referendum maneuver, a barely disguised attempt to engineer a vote of no-confidence in its own government, exploded in its face. Tsipras and company were as stunned by the “no” vote as Merkel. Their negotiators headed as fast as they could for Brussels. Varoufakis and Syriza spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis predicted that a deal for a new financial aid package in exchange for further austerity measures could be reached in 24 to 48 hours.

In the aftermath of the referendum, the question facing the Greek working class is: what next? How is the fight against austerity to be carried forward? There should be no illusions that Syriza or the EU will modify their policies in response to the “no” vote.

Whatever divisions may emerge within the EU on how to respond to the setback it has suffered in the referendum—with some factions calling for crushing Greece and expelling it from the euro zone, others for working with Syriza to negotiate a deal—they will not change the class policy of ruthless austerity against the workers. EU Parliament head Martin Schulz indicated this weekend that the euro will no longer be available as a method of payment for Greece and that Greece should introduce a separate “parallel currency.”

It is critically important to draw the political lessons of this experience. There is enormous opposition in the working class in Greece and internationally to austerity. However, this opposition can be mobilized only if the working class breaks with Syriza and mounts a revolutionary struggle against the EU and the imperialist powers as well as their base of support within Greece itself—the Greek capitalist class.

As he addressed a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Athens last Friday, a shaken Tsipras insisted that the mass demonstration was not a “protest.” He declared, “Regardless of Sunday’s decision, on Monday the Greek people will have absolutely nothing dividing them.”

This is a patent lie. The “no” vote itself has made clear the social chasm separating the working class from the ruling elites of Greece, Europe and America. The referendum result has brought to the fore the enormous class tensions within Europe and above all within Greece itself.

As Syriza repudiates the popular will and seeks to continue its talks with the EU, it will base itself ever more directly on the security forces to deal with internal opposition. Syriza Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis is overseeing planning, code-named Operation Nemesis, for the mass deployment of riot police and army units to crush social unrest.

Such preparations are the clearest warning that the fight against austerity in Greece is a fight against an entire social order. It requires a determined struggle to mobilize the international working class on a revolutionary, socialist perspective against both the imperialist powers and the local agents within Greece of international finance capital—the Greek bourgeoisie and all of its political representatives.

Alex Lantier

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/07/06/pers-j06.html

Resisting the “sharing” economy

Under the guise of “innovation,” capitalism creeps into our personal relationships, networks and community.

He’s helped you a lot in the past and you don’t think twice about saying yes.

When the day comes, you pick him up in your car and drive together, alternating between chatting and singing along, badly, to the radio. You drop him off at the gate, give him a hug and wish him well on his trip. He offers to pay for gas, but you shake your head and say he can cook you dinner when he gets back instead. He smiles and takes his bag into the terminal. You wave and get back into your car.

You come to that dinner a few months later. The smell of food fills his apartment. As you wait for the dish to finish in the oven, he talks about his trip: all the places he went and the people he met. He said that a friend of someone he met there has been backpacking in this area and will be staying on his couch for a week or two. It was the least he could do, he said, after they treated him so well when he was there. A timer goes off and your friend goes to the oven to remove dinner. About an hour later, you’re both stuffed and, looking at what’s left, realize that he probably made way too much food. A conversation about food waste bubbles up and soon your friend gets an idea.

Your friend knocks on his neighbor’s door while you hold the tin of way-too-many leftovers. The neighbor opens up and your friend explains that he made more food than he could ever eat before it would spoil and so was wondering if she wanted some. She smiles and gets a tupperware that your friend fills up, she asks the two of you to come in for some wine, which you both eagerly accept. It’s tart and strong and refreshing. You stay for about 15 minutes and talk about cooking. After leaving, you and your friend repeat this with more of his neighbors until the leftovers are all gone, though you’re not exactly empty-handed: you have a small pie from one neighbor, a loaned book from another, two bottles of beer from a third, and a bunch of fresh basil from the forth, all given without any prompting or expectations, and accepted not as payment or exchange but as an expression of goodwill reflecting that which your friend sent to them.

What you witnessed that night is technically called “community”, but it’s something so fundamental to the human experience and so foundational to human well-being that even those without the word would recognize it for what it is: social relations for the sake of social relations, the benefits coming not as part of some market mechanism but from simple human connections, the very thing that allowed humans to survive without the teeth and claws that other creatures enjoyed. It’s something that has sustained us before the capitalist economic system was even conceived of.

Because of this, it doesn’t follow the logic of the market, the ruthlessness and greed that give meaning and horror, to the capitalist system. It follows, instead, the logic of solidarity and friendship – it cannot be turned into a stock, it cannot be sold in stores, and it cannot be hawked on an infomercial. Indeed, that is the point. And it is because of this that the capitalist system finds it so threatening and why it works so hard to dismantle it.

While capitalism has always produced alienation, the rise of the so-called “sharing” economy, facilitated through smartphone apps and fueled by mountains of venture capital, is the apotheosis of the system’s war against the non-economic sphere. You can share cars, apartments, even meals with the touch of a button. It promises to take power away from the large corporations and put it into the hands of the individual, turning a top-down command economy into a peer-to-peer networked one. In reality, however, it is nothing more than capitalism rebranding itself. Having studied complaints about it with all the seriousness of a market researcher, it has launched the same old product in a bright, shiny new package, the New Coke of economic systems. Don’t believe it. The end goal is the same as it always was: profit.

The rhetoric surrounding these “services” is nothing more than a cover for capitalism’s direct colonization of our social interactions, our personal relationships becoming nothing more than one more means of production for some far off executive congratulating himself for a job well done. No longer content with monopolizing our physical world, it has now turned to our social relations as well, seeking to reduce something fundamental to who we are into a line item on a balance sheet.

Under this system, getting a ride to the airport, staying at someone’s house when traveling, cooking meals and sharing leftovers, are actions undertaken not in the name of friendship and camaraderie but as an impersonal economic transaction. The “sharing” economy is nothing of the sort – it is a way for companies to get people to do their work without having to deal with things like wages or benefits. It’s a way to build a hotel empire without having to build any actual hotels; it’s how you make money off selling food without making, or even buying any yourself; it’s a fleet of taxis without having to deal with things like fuel costs, liability insurance and licensing (not to mention ornery unions). At best, it should be called a renting economy. The participants take on all the work and all the risk. All the companies do is provide the connections, something that can easily be done for free, and has been for centuries and yet, for some reason, the people who create these services are praised as innovators. It is a parasitic relationship that masquerades as symbiosis.

The tragedy of all this is that it has turned an idea with revolutionary potential into one more manifestation of the dominant economic paradigm, a top-down structure where anything outside the bottom line is, at best, a secondary concern best dealt with after the quarterly earnings report comes out, so as not to spook the investors. It’s like if someone invented the steam engine and the only thing people used it for was to get wrinkles out of shirts, for a hefty price. We shouldn’t really be surprised about this, though. This is what capitalism does: it expands and absorbs anything it touches. It has to grow, or it will die. It constantly needs new things to monetize, to commercialize, to turn into products that it can feed its captive global market, and so when it begins running out of other things to make money off of, why not turn to our social relations? At this rate, nowhere and nothing and no one will be free of its influence, to rise above the status of a commodity.

There is still a chance to preserve this one last bulwark against the hungry market, however, while the “sharing” economy is growing, it has yet to surpass the size of the real sharing economy, the old connections we share and the new ones we make every day. We must discard parasitism disguised as sharing and promote mutual aid and solidarity; networks of people that can sustain themselves and each other outside the ruthless logic of market relations. We must share food, not because we can make some money,but because we care about each other. We must share rooms, not because we have aspirations of becoming some mini-entrepreneur, but because we value our connections. We must open up to new relationships, not because they present more opportunities for monetization, but because we want to reverse the alienation and isolation that has been foisted on us by a cruel and uncaring economic system. We must not allow the last refuge from rapacious market relations to fall to capitalism, turning even our most intimate relationships into something with a calculable dollars-and-cents value that can be bought and sold like a used car.

This battle presents unique opportunities for resistance, because it is one that is largely decoupled from the physical world. They are fighting us on the ground of our personal relationships and it is here that we, not they, have the home field advantage. We can fight and we can win, as long as we have our friends.

— Chris Cunderscoreg is the founder of the blog We Are the 99 Percent.

https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/120/resisting-so-called-sharing-economy.html

Rumbles of military coup as Greek workers demand end to EU austerity

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On eve of referendum

4 July 2015

Just 24 hours before anti-austerity demonstrators flooded the streets of central Athens on Friday, a number of retired Greek military officers publicly called for a “yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum on the European Union’s demands, defying Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s call for a “no” vote.

The contrast between masses of workers denouncing EU austerity and the pronouncements of prominent military figures could not have been starker. Retired General Fragkoulis Fragkos, a former defense minister and one-time head of the Greek army general staff, called for a “loud yes on Sunday.” In 2011, Fragkos was cashiered by then-Prime Minister George Papandreou amid rumors of a coup.

Clearly referring to Tsipras, Fragkos said that “the moral values and principles that have always defined us Greeks are not under negotiation with any clueless and historically ignorant [politician] who is advancing his own party interest.”

A group of 65 retired high-ranking officers issued a statement citing their “oath to the Fatherland and the Flag” and warning, “By choosing isolation, we place the Fatherland and its future in danger.”

The statement continued: “The strength of our country is the most important thing we have, and this is being put in jeopardy. Our exit from Europe will make our country weaker. We will lose allies that have stood by our side. We will lose the strength we gain from associations and groupings to which we belong historically and culturally.”

These declarations constitute an enormous act of political intimidation. Just over 40 years since the CIA-backed colonels’ junta collapsed, well-connected officers are casting aside any pretense of neutrality and announcing their support for the positions of the EU and Washington in opposition to large sections of the population and the current government.

To grasp the significance of the Greek officers’ statements, one must recall the 1967 coup, which, in the midst of a political crisis, brought to power the brutal junta that ruled until 1974. Its goal was to suppress working-class protest and preempt any attempt to shift Greece’s foreign policy toward neutrality between NATO and the Soviet Union. The coup was led by Colonel George Papadopoulos, a top CIA liaison officer, who oversaw the roundup of at least 10,000 political opponents, many of whom were tortured or killed.

This week, senior German officials said that they intended to secure a “yes” vote in the Greek referendum so as to bring down the government led by Tsipras’s Syriza party. Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a warning shot Tsipras’s way by inviting bloodstained Egyptian dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Berlin as Cairo held joint military exercises with the Greek armed forces. Berlin subsequently arrested Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour on trumped-up charges issued by Sisi’s regime.

The statements coming from the Greek military vindicate the warning made by the WSWS after Mansour’s arrest. The WSWS wrote: “It is a calculated signal sent by Berlin that it is ready to publicly collaborate with repressive measures by military dictatorships… One of the intended recipients of this message is doubtless the Greek premier, Alexis Tsipras.”

The EU is emerging ever more openly as a ruthless dictatorship of finance capital. There can be no doubt that the Greek officers intervened in the referendum with the support of Berlin and Brussels. They see the events in Greece as part of a war on the entire European working class, to be waged by means of state violence and repression if necessary. They are out to demonstrate in Greece that they will brook no challenge anywhere to the dictates of the banks and finance houses.

The policy of Berlin and the EU confirms the assessment of Lenin. “Finance capital strives for domination, not freedom,” he observed, adding, “Political reaction all along the line is a characteristic feature of imperialism.”

Imperialism seeks support within the reactionary classes of the targeted countries. So it is with the bourgeoisie and its allies in the upper echelons of the middle class in Greece. The events of the past few days—masses of workers and youth calling for a struggle against austerity and the EU on the one side, wealthy businessmen and professionals, joined by the military, backing the EU onslaught on the other—have laid bare the stark and irrevocable class divide in Greece.

These events expose the bankruptcy of the Tsipras government. Its entire policy has been based on the self-deluded notion that it is possible to reach a compromise with the EU, and that some respite from vicious cuts in jobs, wages, pensions and social services can be secured without a struggle against the social base of support for such policies within Greece itself.

Not only has Syriza refused to take any measures to challenge the economic interests of Greek capital, it has not taken a single step to protect the people against the conspiracies of the state. On the contrary, it has placed far-right forces such as the Independent Greeks (Anel) in key positions of power.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, an Anel leader, all but admitted yesterday that the government is preparing to use the army to crack down on domestic dissent and impose the army’s preferred foreign policy. “The country’s armed forces guarantee stability internally, the defense of national sovereignty, and the country’s territorial integrity and stability in relation to the country’s alliances,” he said during a joint visit with Tsipras to army units.

The Tsipras government doubtless conceived of its referendum as a means of providing political cover for its own retreat and accommodation to both the EU and the Greek bourgeoisie. A “yes” vote would be used to justify total capitulation, while a “no” vote, as Tsipras declared this week, would serve as a pretext to return to the negotiating table in yet another fruitless attempt to obtain a deal for slightly modified austerity measures.

As yesterday’s mass protests showed, however, the referendum call has produced an enormous radicalization of public opinion. Masses of workers who have come onto the street to call for a “no” vote see such a vote as the beginning of a struggle to end austerity policies and break the stranglehold of the EU.

The working class cannot be bound by the policies of Syriza, whose aim is to secure at most token modifications of the austerity program, the better to uphold the EU bankers’ dictatorship and Greek capitalism. It fears nothing so much as a mass movement of the working class, against which it is prepared to unleash the police and military.

What is required is a broad appeal for the active support of the European and international working class in opposition to the EU, combined with the most determined measures within Greece itself to break the power of the local allies of international finance capital.

It is necessary to carry out revolutionary measures in defense of the Greek masses: the nationalization of the banking system and major industries under the control of the working class, the repudiation of the national debt, the dismantling of the military, the arrest of officers involved in military conspiracies against the people, and the establishment of a workers’ government.

Alex Lantier

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/07/04/pers-j04.html

Noam Chomsky: Austerity Is Just Class War

The esteemed scholar offers his views crisis over Greece’s debt problems.

As Greece defaults and faces a referendum this Sunday on a new bailout package, watch Noam Chomsky on Europe’s “savage response” to the pushback against austerity demands. He spoke to Democracy Now! in March.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/blog/2015/7/1/chomsky_greece_s_syriza_spain_s

Click here to watch Monday’s segment, “As Greece Heads for Default, Voters Prepare to Vote in Pivotal Referendum on More Austerity.”

Below is an interview with Chomsky, followed by a transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Syriza in Greece, a movement that started as a grassroots movement. Now they have taken power, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. And then you have Spain right now. We recently spoke to Pablo Iglesias, the secretary general of the group called Podemos, that was founded, what—an anti-austerity party that has rapidly gained popularity. A month after establishing itself last year, they won five seats in the European Parliament, and some polls show they could take the next election, which would mean that Pablo Iglesias, the 36-year-old political science professor and longtime activist, could possibly become the prime minister of Europe’s fifth-largest economy. He came here to New York for just about 72 hours, and I asked him to talk about what austerity measures have meant in Spain.

PABLO IGLESIAS: Austerity means that people is expulsed of their homes. Austerity means that the social services don’t work anymore. Austerity means that public schools have not the elements, the means to develop their activity. Austerity means that the countries have not sovereignty anymore, and we became a colony of the financial powers and a colony of Germany. Austerity probably means the end of democracy. I think if we don’t have democratic control of economy, we don’t have democracy. It’s impossible to separate economy and democracy, in my opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Pablo Iglesias, the head of this new anti-austerity group in Spain called Podemos, which means in English “We can.” The significance of these movements?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very significant. But notice the reaction. The reaction to Syriza was extremely savage. They made a little bit of progress in their negotiations, but not much. The Germans came down very hard on them.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean in dealing with the debt.

NOAM CHOMSKY: In the dealing with them, and sort of forced them to back off from almost all their proposals. What’s going on with the austerity is really class war. As an economic program, austerity, under recession, makes no sense. It just makes the situation worse. So the Greek debt, relative to GDP, has actually gone up during the period of—which is—well, the policies that are supposed to overcome the debt. In the case of Spain, the debt was not a public debt, it was private debt. It was the actions of the banks. And that means also the German banks. Remember, when a bank makes a dangerous, a risky borrowing, somebody is making a risky lending. And the policies that are designed by the troika, you know, are basically paying off the banks, the perpetrators, much like here. The population is suffering. But one of the things that’s happening is that the—you know, the social democratic policies, so-called welfare state, is being eroded. That’s class war. It’s not an economic policy that makes any sense as to end a serious recession. And there is a reaction to it—Greece, Spain and some in Ireland, growing elsewhere, France. But it’s a very dangerous situation, could lead to a right-wing response, very right-wing. The alternative to Syriza might be Golden Dawn, neo-Nazi party.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now! and the co-author of The Silenced Majority.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/noam-chomsky-austerity-just-class-war?akid=13264.265072.Sa2xi5&rd=1&src=newsletter1038752&t=9

No more ‘Yes to all’: time for a proud and dignified ‘NO!’

By Leonidas Oikonomakis On June 29, 2015

Post image for No more ‘Yes to all’: time for a proud and dignified ‘NO!’Finally, the Greek people will be able to say a dignified ‘NO!’ to austerity. We owe it to those who suffered, those who migrated — and those who died.

Image: Anti-austerity protest at Syntagma Square in June 2011.

First Scene: Kastelorizo island, April 2010.

The then-Prime Minister Giorgakis Papandreou (son of Andreas and grandson of Giorgos) appeared on state television to send his televised message to the Greek people from the harbor of Kastelorizo: “Our ship is sinking,” he said, “and we have to turn to our partners, the IMF and the EU, who will provide us with a safe harbor where we can rebuild it.”

As the saying has it: “a ship is safe in harbor — but that’s not what ships are for.” However, this is how Greece’s self-destructive dance with the Troika began. At the time, the country’s public debt was at 120% of GDP, the unemployment rate at 12%, the youth unemployment rate at around 30%, and suicide rates were an unfamiliar concept.

Second Scene: Syntagma Square, June 29, 2011.

All I can remember is my friends’ faces covered in Maalox, teargas grenades and Molotov cocktails all over the place, even inside the Metro, the riot police going on a frenzy and beating up people, and — above all — the repetition of those “Yes to all!” statements on the radio, expressed by the majority of deputies inside the Greek Parliament.

It was the day Parliament would vote on the so-called mid-term agreement, a new round of austerity measures that included the shrinking of the Greek public sector and welfare state and the privatization of key state assets. It was also during the heyday of the  Movement of the Squares, whose activists had called for a 48-hour general strike starting on June 28.

For the day after — the day of the vote — the plan was to “besiege” the Parliament so deputies wouldn’t be able to enter and vote, or if they did so at least they would feel the pressure from outside and vote no. Ambitious plan, you may say, Quixotic even, but that was what the Syntagma Assembly had decided.

It didn’t work.

Yes to all,” the deputies said… gas grenades were falling… Maalox for those affected… chemicals… “Say no, for god’s sake!” … people fainting in the metro… beatings… arrests… the cops in the square destroying the camp… and yet again: “Yes to all…” I think those “Yeses to all” hurt us more than any of the chemicals or the beatings of the cops.

Third Scene: Florence, June 2015.

Like many of my friends, a generation of well-educated young people (owing to the fact that education in Greece is free), I don’t live in the country anymore. Still, I follow the political and economic developments and I try to spread the word of the economic and social destruction Greece is going through as much as I can.

You know, when we were finishing our university studies we were known as the “Generation of 700 euros”: a generation of well-educated young people who were obliged to live on 700 euros per month, the lowest salary in Greece at the time, which was considered far too little for anyone to survive in dignity in Athens, Thessaloniki, or any other of the big cities in the country.

Little did we know back then that, five years later, under the austerity measures dictated by the economists of the Troika and imposed by a series of slavish Greek governments, the lowest salary would have fallen to 500 euros, our parents’ salaries and grandparents’ pensions (which were not that generous either) would have been slashed by 30-40%,  that the unemployment rate would reach 28%, the youth unemployment rate 50%, that suicide rates would quadruple, and that a neo-Nazi party would be in Parliament.

At the same time, the public debt skyrocketed to 180% of GDP,  the rich (who would obviously benefit from the 40% reduction in worker salaries) kept becoming richer, and many of us (200.000, to be more specific, or roughly 2% of the population) would be forced to emigrate as a result of the crisis. The world’s biggest brain drain, as The Guardiancalled it.

None of the above is a coincidence. All of this is the direct result of the social and economic policies imposed by the Troika with the help of Greece’s “Yes to all” governments. Exactly the same policies that they are trying to blackmail Greece into continuing today.

However, this time we are being asked by the government — that of Alexis Tsipras — what we really want it to do. And for once, we will be able to say a proud and dignified ‘NO!’, as we had always wanted the deputies who were supposed to be representing us to say! We owe it to our friends who migrated, our parents and grandparents who saw their salaries and pensions being slashed, our comrades who were beaten up and arrested by the cops, and to our dead: to Pavlos and Shehzad Luqman, who were assassinated by Golden Dawn, and to the thousands who committed suicide over the course of the past five years.

It is a matter of dignity — something that can not be measured and cannot fit into the Troika’s economic statistics, but that can give strength to the humiliated to rise up against those who have humiliated them for so long.

Leonidas Oikonomakis is a PhD researcher in Social Movement Studies at the European University Institute, a rapper with the Greek hip-hop formation Social Waste, and an editor for ROAR Magazine.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/06/greece-referendum-no-vote/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Why the politicians have united to take down the Confederate flag

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By Barry Grey
30 June 2015

The campaign to remove Confederate flags and other symbols of slavery from public places, following the murder of nine African Americans by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina two weeks ago, has accelerated.

Since South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, called June 22 for the removal of the “stars and bars” from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia, state politicians and members of Congress of both parties from across the South have followed with demands that flags and other emblems of the Confederacy be taken down. This push has expanded to include statues of Civil War figures such as Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee. Democrats and Republicans in a number of states have called for a ban on Confederate emblems on specialty license plates.

This sudden rush to take down symbols of racism and slavery that the American political establishment has kept in place for decades is a defensive response to an outpouring of public horror over the Charleston killings and popular hostility to racism. This powerful reaction has taken the political establishment and both parties by surprise, forcing them to reckon with vast changes in popular consciousness of a broadly democratic character, particularly in the South.

They fear this development, particularly as it follows protests across the country against police killings and other signs of social discontent. By removing symbols of slavery and racism, they are seeking to preempt the development of a broader, deeper and more politically conscious movement of the working class.

US Representative Mark Sanford, a former governor of South Carolina, gave an indication of the outpouring of public anger against symbols of the Confederacy, saying last week that legislators’ phones, including his, “had just been blowing up” from constituents demanding that the flag be taken down. “I’ve never seen South Carolina politics move this quickly,” he said.

A Rasmussen poll published June 24 reported that only 21 percent of likely US voters want the Confederate flag to keep flying at the South Carolina capitol, compared with 60 percent who want to see it removed.

These are indications of a vast change in popular consciousness in the United States, in contradiction to the insistence of “left” and liberal purveyors of racial and identity politics that there has been no significant change since the heyday of Jim Crow segregation and that American society is steeped in racism. The South, in particular, has undergone huge demographic changes, with an influx of Asians and other nationalities, a shift from the countryside to the city, and a development of industry and growth of the working class.

The reaction to the Charleston church killings is very different than the popular response in the South to atrocities carried out by segregationist forces half a century ago. When Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, killing four black girls—the fourth such incident in that city in less than a month—nobody was prosecuted and there was little open opposition within the white population.

There was a similar response in the South to the 1964 Klan murder in Mississippi of three civil rights workers: Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.

But despite the rightward lurch of the entire political establishment over the past 40-plus years and its efforts to pollute public consciousness with all forms of social backwardness, xenophobia and militarism, the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s had a lasting impact and racial attitudes in the general population have changed dramatically.

The public response to the Charleston shootings increased the sense within the political establishment of the immense chasm that separates it from the broad mass of the people, and its own isolation. The removal of symbols of slavery and racism is a tactical measure aimed at broadening its support within the population.

At the same time, it is accompanied by renewed efforts to remove the issue of racism from its real social, political and historical context, in order to obscure the fundamental class divisions in society and present racism as something pervasive, ineradicable and deeply embedded in the American psyche.

In his eulogy for slain pastor and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, President Obama continued to spearhead this ideological campaign. Having the previous week called racism part of the DNA of Americans, in Charleston on Friday he spoke of it as America’s “original sin.”

He hailed the removal of the Confederate flag as “one step in an honest accounting of America’s history.” Such an accounting is urgently needed and would be most welcome, but if it were serious, it would produce results very different from what Obama wants.

It might start with an explanation of why the political establishment kept noxious symbols of slavery and racism in place for so many decades. The public display of the Confederate flag is not a relic of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. It was first hoisted above South Carolina’s Capitol in 1962 by Governor Ernest Hollings, a Democrat who later became a US senator, as a demonstration of defiance of Supreme Court rulings against Jim Crow segregation. In Alabama, the display of Confederate flags outside the Capitol in Montgomery dates back to the 1990s.

The political establishment kept the flag flying in the South for definite political reasons. Racism has always been an ideological tool of the ruling class. Under slavery, it was used to justify a socioeconomic system that brutally exploited people of African descent. Later, with the rise of industrial capitalism and the transformation of the United States into an imperialist power, it was used as a weapon to divide the working class and impede the development of socialist consciousness.

The historical and documentary evidence is voluminous and indisputable, and it would take several volumes to outline the history of racism in relation to the struggles of the American working class.

It can be established, however, that the use of racism as a political weapon to defend capitalism against the threat of working-class rebellion goes back to the first mass upsurge of the American working class, the great railway strike of 1877. A study of the strike in the city where it first broke out before spreading across the country, St. Louis, includes the following passage:

At an early strike meeting an eloquent address by a Black speaker asked whether whites were ready to support demands made by Black workers and received a resounding “We will!” in reply. One of the five early Executive Committee members was Black… Integrated crowds were the rule in St. Louis. Just after the strike, a WPUSA (Workingmen’s Party of the United States of America) leader advocated unity of the races behind labor demands and shortly thereafter S. Louis had one of the few Black sections of the Socialist Labor Party in the United States. (“’Not Only the Ruling Classes to Overcome, but Also the So-Called Mob’: Class, Skill and Community in the St. Louis General Strike of 1877,” David Roediger, Journal of Social History, Vol. 19, No. 2, Winter, 1985).

The response of the authorities was to dispatch black troops to attack the strikers.

Henry Ford employed the same tactics in an unsuccessful attempt to break the 1941 United Auto Workers strike for union recognition at his massive Rouge complex in Detroit. Ford imported African-American workers from the South to serve as strikebreakers. Socialist militants within the union had, however, championed the rights of black auto workers and insisted on the need to unite across racial and ethnic lines against the common enemy. This was a major factor in the victory of the strike.

The anticommunist purges and witch-hunts of the post-World War II years were bound up with the defense of Jim Crow segregation in the South and racial discrimination in the North. The government at the national, state and local level identified opposition to segregation with communism, and repeatedly attacked activists in the South who advocated integration as communists and agents of the Soviet Union.

This form of political repression, in its own way, reveals the function of racism as a political weapon of the ruling class against the unification of the working class and its conscious struggle for socialism.

Particularly after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Board of Education) outlawing racially segregated public schools, the anticommunist witch-hunt was expanded in the South, focusing on socialists and leftists who opposed Jim Crow. Show hearings and trials were carried out by Democratic Party officials who controlled the South, with the tacit support of the Republican Eisenhower administration.

According to a 1996 study by Sarah Hart Brown published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly (“Congressional Anti-Communism and the Segregationist South: From New Orleans to Atlanta, 1954-1958,” Vo. 80, No. 4, Winter 1996):

After the Brown decision in 1954, the search for southern subversives intensified. Because the CPUSA (Communist Party USA) had advocated civil rights for black southerners at least since it led the fight for the Scottsboro defendants in the early 1930s, and since many Communists had supported the presidential candidacy of Progressive candidate Henry Wallace, who refused to speak before segregated southern audiences in 1948, identification of integrationists with the Communist Party made sense to many southerners. In addition, most southern politicians found it logical, convincing, and profitable to combine red-baiting with race-baiting…

State and federal grand juries reinstated investigations connecting local Communists to integrationism in Miami and New Orleans just after theBrown decision. In addition, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Georgia and Arkansas all established or strengthened anti-radical laws and investigatory committees of the legislatures between 1954 and 1958.

The article notes that the US Senate Internal Security Subcommittee held three hearings in the South and the US House Un-American Activities Committee held four between 1954 and 1958. It quotes a leading member of the Louisiana legislature as saying: “Communism and integration are inseparable and…integration is the southern expression of the communist movement.”

Racism and anticommunism were used to defeat unionizing drives after World War II and keep most of the South relatively union-free. The CIO and then the AFL-CIO played a critical role, subordinating the working class to the same Democratic Party that controlled the South and upheld the Jim Crow system.

On this basis, the South presided over the most brutal levels of exploitation and poverty wages, so as to create the most favorable conditions for corporations to amass profits. George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, summed up the underlying agenda, declaring: “Private property and the free enterprise system are under attack by the liberal-socialist-communist crowd. It’s not the business of government to tell a businessman how to run his business.”

Socialists have always fought against racism. But they have done so by exposing its roots in a society grounded in the exploitation of the working class, and on the basis of a revolutionary program to unite all sections of workers against their common capitalist oppressors. This must become the basis for the development of a mass movement in defense of the democratic and social rights of the working class today.