Thursday, July 12, 2012

The situation in Greece after the June election

Political change is never the result simply of objective ‘social trends’, but of the actions and practices of collective subjects engaged in their struggle for survival and emancipation.
Panagiotis Sotiris

This piece on the situation in Greece after the recent elections was written by Panagiotis Sotiris and posted on the Facebook site of Tad Tieze who also blogs here at Left Flank.

I have posted before on Tad Tieze's writing and thinking which also appears on the ABC Drum e and Overland

Panagiotis's article was originally written for the English section of ThePressPRoject.

Political change is never a ‘ripe fruit’

Panagiotis Sotiris

After the June 17 election, a certain way of thinking has prevailed in large segments of the Greek Left. According to this, the Left is simply a government in waiting, since the new Greek government is weak, unstable, and unable to outlast its mandate, since it will soon face anger and rage over its policies.

There is certainly some amount of truth in this conception. It is true that the Samaras government is a three party government with internal divides along party lines, something that makes it inherently unstable. It is rapidly breaking any pre-election promises about ‘renegotiating’ austerity and changing some of the more aggressive aspects of the loan agreement. Instead, it will impose even harsher austerity, under the demands of the representatives of the EU-IMF-ECB ‘Troika’. It is also true that one can expect that the current deterioration of the social situation in Greece, a country stuck in a vicious circle of austerity, recession and unemployment, will only lead, sooner or later, to all forms of social explosion and bring the new government in confrontation with large segments of society. Either from a loss of legitimacy even among its own electorate or the intensification of conflict within the three party coalition this government can indeed prove to be short-lived.

However, there is also another side to this. The new government has the support of both Greek capital and big media, a support it can strengthen by offering easier access to bank credit for business and a faster rate of absorption of EU funds. It can try to negotiate minor amendments to the rhythm of austerity measures and calm some of the anxiety in society. Above all, it can invest in the feeling of disappointment, helplessness and individual fight for survival in all those people that hoped for a change in June. It can also cynically use the fascists to channel desperation in a right wing direction. In light of this, it is obvious that however unstable and weak the new government is, it still has the potential to impose austerity, inflict social devastation, and attempt certain irreversible institutional changes. Time will then work in favor of systemic forces.

That is why it is would be wrong to treat the question of government as a ‘ripe fruit’ that will eventually fall into the Left’s hands. Moreover, to think in such terms would suggest a misreading of all the reasons behind the impressive changes in the Greek political landscape in the past two years. The tremendous increase in the vote for the Left that brought forward the unthought-of before possibility of a left-wing government was not a simple result of deteriorating social conditions, increased unemployment and austerity. It was mainly the result of a an almost insurrectionary cycle of struggle and social contention, of a sequence of struggles resembling something close to a ‘protracted people’s war’, of strikes, occupations, massive demonstrations, of all forms of solidarity and democracy from below. It was through this process that hundreds of thousands of people not only protested or expressed their anger and frustration, but also felt that they had the power to collectively change things and dare to resist the policies of social devastation. It was this feeling of collective confidence in the ability to change things that led to the left-wing turn and radicalization that fuelled the electoral success of the Left.

Moreover, those people that suffered from austerity, but did not take part in collective practices or struggles and experienced the burden of austerity in various forms of individualized desperation, fear and insecurity, instead of solidarity, hope and struggle, were exactly those people that tended more to vote for the Right or even the fascists.

That is why the quick fall of the new government will not be possible without a new round of social struggles, without an escalation of political and social confrontation, without extended networks of solidarity and self-organization. It was an impressive movement, all those manifestations of a society in struggle, that made political change possible, and we will still need an even stronger movement to bring about this change. That is why it would be a mistake for the Left simply to think in terms of a government in waiting, ‘responsible’ opposition, preparing for office, instead of helping a new wave of struggle against the Greek government’s obvious capitulation to the demands of the EU and the IMF for a new round of austerity, wage reductions and privatizations.

Political change is never the result simply of objective ‘social trends’, but of the actions and practices of collective subjects engaged in their struggle for survival and emancipation.

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