Sunday, August 23, 2015

Greece at the Crossroads: Part I


A view of the  OXI rally of July 3.

The week of the Referendum

by Alex Steiner

On Friday, August 14, after a marathon session that lasted  more than 24 hours, the Greek Parliament voted to approve the Third Memorandum Agreement, a 400 page document that specifies in excruciating detail the austerity measures to be imposed on the population in exchange for an 86 billion dollar bailout loan from the EU.  It thus marks the final chapter in the ignominious surrender of the Syriza-led government and the betrayal of their election promises.  Tsipras’s governing coalition has collapsed with the vote of 44 Syriza deputies against the agreement. 

Tsipras resigned on August 20th, the day that the terms of the “bailout” kicked in, and new elections are certain to follow in September.  The Left Platform deputies have made their split with Tsipras official by forming a new political party which currently has the 3rd largest representation in Parliament, after Syriza and New Democracy. The previous reluctance of some Left Platform members to break with Tsipras has been overtaken by events. 
 
And although Tsipras retains wide popularity despite his betrayal of the mandate he was given on July  5 to say NO to austerity, it is by no means certain he will be the winner in the coming election.  The betrayal of the July 5 mandate was a huge shock to the working class who had invested so much hope in Tsipras.  At the moment Tsipras still commands a great deal of support based largely on a wave of sympathy for what is perceived to be his victimization by the EU mafia.  Tsipas and his supporters in Syriza have deliberately nurtured this fairy tale as a way of absolving him of any responsibility for his decision to capitulate to the demands of the EU.  We can confidently predict that this wave of undeserved sympathy will soon wear off as millions of workers and youth are confronted in their daily life with the horrendous consequences of Tsipras’ betrayal.   We can expect a new round of struggles against the austerity regime- whoever may be its spokesman in the future. 

Now that we are at the end of this most dramatic chapter of the struggle of the Greek working class against the barbarous austerity regime that has been imposed on them by the troika with the complicity of both a Center Left Government (Pasok), a Center Right Government (New Democracy), and now a Left Reformist Government (Syriza), we can review the events of the last few weeks with greater clarity.  The beginning of this last phase of the crisis of Greek and European capitalism has a precise date and time – Friday June 26 at midnight, when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras abruptly left the negotiating table in Brussels and announced that a referendum would be held on the latest proposals from the troika, allowing the citizens of Greece to express their will as to the future of their country and of Europe. 

I had the privilege of being present in Greece for three weeks at the height of these events and participating in a number of political activities during my stay.  I think I can truly say that this period marked the highest point of the class struggle in Greece since the fall of the Dictatorship in 1974 and in many ways went beyond even those heady days.  For then the question was democracy or dictatorship. Today that question is still very much at the forefront for it is now clear that Greece’s continued membership in the European Union is incompatible with any notion of democracy.  But at the same time the issue of capitalism or socialism is also posed directly in a way that was not possible in 1974.

I landed in Greece a day after Tsipras’ announcement of the referendum, on Saturday, June 27.  I arrived in time to see a bit of the debate on the referendum in Parliament on Greek television.  The opposition parties, New Democracy, PASOK and To Potami, were apoplectic over Tsipras call for the referendum,  as was the Communist Party (KKE). Needless to say so were the representatives of the European Union and their associated institutions. Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, was particularly vituperative, using language rarely heard in diplomatic circles, accusing the Greek government of destroying the “credibility of the European project”.  Even stronger language was used by Sigmar Gabriel the Social Democratic Deputy Chancellor in Germany’s coalition government, who said that the Syriza government was placing their interests “at the expense of others”.

By Sunday, the campaign for the referendum was in full gear.  While heading into Athens from the working class suburb of Nikaia on the back of a motor bike, I could see signs of the campaign for the referendum everywhere. Prominent at most intersections were posters calling for a NO vote in the referendum, as well as those calling for a YES vote.  There was even some political graffiti calling for a NO vote and denouncing the austerity regime.  Political graffiti is ubiquitous in Athens but I did not expect to see so much of it on this particular issue so soon after the referendum was announced.

An "official" OXI poster.


Greece is a country where, unlike the U.S., most people take politics seriously and follow the ups and downs of the political scene very carefully.  I was last in Greece previously during the Christmas holiday period just when the New Democracy government fell and new elections were called.  I thus had already witnessed the palpable excitement of many during the election campaign at the prospect of a Syriza victory.  It was a time when few conversations, even of the most casual at restaurants or in taxis, were about anything other than the coming election.   Returning now in late June, some 5 months after the election, I sensed a different kind of engagement with politics on the part of many ordinary people. Nearly everyone I spoke to understood that the referendum would be an opportunity not simply to pick out the players in Parliament until the next election cycle, but now what was at stake was the very future of the country, perhaps for several generations.

During the fateful week of the referendum campaign, virtually everyone I spoke
EEK OXI poster
to said they would vote “NO”. I suspect some of those who said that were actually planning to vote YES, but the fact they did not wish to admit that says something about the mood of the masses during those days. I did run into one person who very loudly proclaimed that she would vote “YES”.  This was on a bus going to Piraeus. An elderly woman boarded the bus at one of the stops and very soon started yelling out that her life is over, she cannot afford to pay her rent or buy food with the reduced Social Security checks she is now getting and she blamed it all on Tsipras.   She was one of the many victims of the horrendous austerity measures that had been imposed on Greece for the past 5 years.  Perhaps she was also suffering from psychological problems, which have escalated dramatically among those sections of the working class hardest hit by the cuts.  Given the depth of the deterioration of social conditions in Greece, it is a wonder that more people are not freaking out.  But the immediate cause of her panic was the right wing media blitz that was then going on in which every television news channel and almost the entire print media painted Tsipras and Finance Minister Varoufakis as mad men who were leading Greece to disaster.

On Monday the banks closed.  They would remain closed for the next 3 weeks.  The banks were forced to close when the European Central Bank (ECB) refused to extend any further credits to insure their liquidity. Having run out of reserves, the government was forced to close the banks to avoid a complete financial meltdown. It was hardly a coincidence that the ECB cut off further liquidity loans to the banks immediately after Tsipras announced the referendum.  This open act of blackmail from the Euro Group failed miserably in achieving its goal, the intimidation of the Greek electorate in the upcoming referendum.  That was not however immediately evident at the time.  People were anxious when the banks closed, especially since no one knew when they would reopen and if depositors would be forced to take a drastic “haircut” as happened in Cyprus.  Only ATM’s were available if you needed any cash but they were restricted to allowing a depositor to withdraw a maximum of 60 Euros a day.  Even that amount was largely fictitious given that many ATM’s ran out of cash quickly and were not functional.  One ATM that was functional that I tried still would not give out the 60 Euros I requested with no explanation.  I later learned that the reason was a shortage of 20 Euro notes.  Had I requested 50 Euros I could have gotten it.  For me as a traveler from abroad, this was just an inconvenience.  But for many people who did not have access to credit cards or to extra cash on hand it was a major personal and family crisis.  Many businesses were hurt, particularly if they needed to order supplies from abroad.  With the banks closed this was impossible.

That evening saw a massive rally for the NO vote at Syntagma Square in which about 200,000 people participated.  Unfortunately I learned about the rally too late to attend. But even hearing about it second hand and looking at photos on the Internet – it had little coverage in the mainstream media - made it clear that what we were witnessing was nothing at all like parliamentary politics as usual but a mobilization of workers and youth with immediately revolutionary implications.  At the same time the right wing opposition was also trying to rally their troops.  They were consciously trying to recreate on Greek soil the kind of middle class revolt that took over the Euromaidan demonstrations with the assistance of the CIA and native fascists and unseated the government of the Ukraine in 2014, replacing it with the extreme right wing regime in Kiev. This was an especially ominous development in Greece given its history of Civil War and military dictatorship and the ever present collusion of right wing politicians with the military.
Monday's OXI rally

The first polls did not give the NO camp reason for optimism.  They predicted a victory for the YES by a comfortable margin.  And in the first two or three days after the referendum was announced, everything seemed to be headed for a repudiation of the campaign for the NO vote.  Suddenly the political establishment, including even some prominent members of Syriza, were warning of the dangers of this “reckless” referendum and tried to create a drumbeat to cancel it.  And if you formed your opinion by watching the television news programs, you would have thought that the defeat of the government by a YES vote in the referendum was all but inevitable.   SKAI tv, ANT and the other channels, all of whom are owned by right wing oligarchs, kept showing the same images of the pensioners unable to get their checks or households running low on food and other essentials.  This was juxtaposed with pictures of Tsipras and Varoufakis being upbraided for their irresponsible behavior by various European leaders.  The message was clear and not very subtle - if you want things to get better the Syriiza government must go.  The only TV stations that tried to report the news with any degree of objectivity were the public stations of ERT.

The effects of the bank closure, essentially a lockout by the capitalists against the working class – was evident when walking through the streets of Piraeus.  The famous port city in the suburbs of Athens is known as the place where one catches a ferry to the Aegean Islands.  It is a hub of the tourist industry in Greece.  What is less well known is that in addition to the foreign tourists who stop at the ferry terminal on their way to Santorini, Piraeus is also a destination for many locals who want to take in its beaches, seaside cafes and restaurants and its chic boutique stores.  But that week the boutique store business was completely dead. No one was buying expensive jewelry or the latest smart watches.  Those type of high end stores were empty.  By way of contrast, a local supermarket I passed was packed.  This was in the middle of the afternoon on a workday, a time when traffic in supermarkets is generally light.  The customers were stocking up on food and other essential items anticipating possible shortages. The press was already reporting shortages of certain medications. Greece imports virtually 100% of its pharmaceuticals and the supply chain was already broken, a direct consequence of the ECB decision to pull the plug on the lifeline that kept the Greek banks afloat. Domestic stocks were running perilously low in certain parts of the country.  All in all the atmosphere in those days was that of preparations for war time conditions.

Tuesday was the day that Greece failed to make its payment of 1.5 billion Euros to the International Monetary Fund, thereby making it the first country in the “developed” world to default on an IMF loan.  Thus a certain barrier had been crossed and there began to be felt a sense of inevitability that regardless of the outcome of the referendum, there was no turning back from a collision.  Also on Tuesday the right wing organized their  own  ‘YES’ rally in Syntagma Square, one day after the massive rally for the NO vote.  All reports show a large turnout for that rally, but not nearly as large as the previous day’s rally.  Savas states, in his diary of the week of the referendum [which we have published at  http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2015/07/the-battle-for-refendum-in-greece-days.html ],  that many of the workers in attendance at the ‘YES’  rally were blackmailed into going by their bosses,  and this was confirmed by other observers.  In any case even with such tactics, the ‘YES’ rally was not impressive compared to yesterday’s ‘NO’ rally.  The television news stations and the press tried to make the best of it, presenting pictures from the rally from different angles to make it look bigger than it was.  They also called attention to the fact that it rained during the rally, providing an excuse for its depressed numbers.

I think that one cab driver I spoke to during that week expressed the mood of the working class nicely.  When I asked him how he intended to vote in the referendum, he unhesitatingly said he would vote ‘NO’.  But when I asked him the further question of what he thought would happen if the ‘NO’ vote won, his answer was very interesting.  He did not express any confidence that a ‘NO’ vote would somehow make possible a compromise in the negotiations with the EU – the position that Tsipras and Syriza was pushing.  Rather he said he did not know what would happen but that it was important to say ‘NO’ because right now there is no future for young people in Greece.  His attitude was that it was necessary to take a stand regardless of the consequences as there was really nothing left to lose.

On Wednesday evening I attended the rally organized by the Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK).  The venue was in front of the Old University building on Panepistimiou  Street,  a short walk from Syntagma. Savas spoke for about an hour.  He has already summarized the substance of his remarks at the rally in his diary so I will not repeat them here.[ http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2015/07/the-battle-for-referendum-in-greece.html ] After the rally a bunch of us walked over to the Locomotiva café for more political discussions.

Savas Michael-Matsas at the EEK rally

Friday was full of anticipation and excitement.   A rally for the NO vote was planned for that evening in Syntagma Square and Tsipras himself would be the main speaker.  On the way to the rally I was witness to a visible lesson in the stupidity of sectarianism.  Outside the subway station that we were entering to go to Syntagma, the Communist Party  (KKE) was holding its own rally.  There was a crowd assembled of perhaps 200 or 300 people, many of them holding up red flags, listening to a KKE spokesperson. Out of curiosity I walked over to get a better view and as I did so a young lady gave me a flyer.  She was accompanied by another young lady giving out flyers to anyone who was exiting the subway station. I assumed these were KKE flyers but when I took a look I realized the flyers were from the Greek followers of the Spartacist League.  It all made sense because the Spartacist League,  one of the worst sectarian outfits on the planet, has a position that in Greece the only genuine working class party is the KKE and have given the KKE its “critical” support in the last election. But the Spartcists were calling for a NO vote in the referendum and were doubtless upset that the KKE was now telling their supporters to boycott the referendum.  But regardless of the immediate reasons for the rift between Spartacist and the KKE, looking at this scene from a larger perspective was telling.  Here we are on the eve of what promises to be the biggest rally of the working class in Greece for years and instead of participating in that rally and trying to win support for their program among the masses, the KKE was content with having its own little rally while the Spartacists were leading a parasitical existence, nourishing themselves on the periphery of the KKE.

When we disembarked at the Syntagma subway stop, the place was so packed that it took us a full 15 minutes to walk up the stairs and exit. In the meantime the crowd was repeatedly chanting «ΟΧΙ, ΟΧΙΟΧΙ». That was impressive enough but when we finally got outside it was just wall to wall people in every direction. I don't think I ever saw a crowd like this, even during the great demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Washington.  My Greek comrades told me that there has been nothing like it since the demonstrations in 1974 when the dictatorship fell.  And the crowd in Syntagma was VERY militant.  

Tsipras's speech, was a strong defense of his decision to call a referendum. The substance of it was that the act of voting in the referendum is an exercise in democracy.  It was the speech of a clever politician for he managed to present himself as a militant voice standing against the EU and the Greek bourgeoisie while committing himself to nothing. He called on Greeks to repudiate the campaign of fear that was being spread by the right wing media as well some voices among the European elite who have told voters that NO vote will result in a catastrophic economic situation for Greece. Tsipras said that by voting Greeks are saying no to blackmail and humiliation and affirming their dignity.  It was an unusual speech for a head of state as one doesn’t usually hear such blunt language when referring to the activities of high officials in neighboring countries.  But at the same time Tsipras kept his cards close to his vest. 

What he did not say is what happens the day after a NO vote wins.  He had suggested that a NO vote would allow him to return to the negotiating table with the very same European institutions who have been working for the past week to bring about regime change in Greece. That was hardly a credible scenario and I have my doubts whether many of the people voting NO really believed it would be possible to get a better bargain from the European institutions.  Rather the real message of most NO voters was simply NO to austerity.  Tsipras speech ended with the thought that no matter how the referendum goes on Sunday, Greece will be a united country on Monday.  That was as likely to happen as the Biblical lion lying down with the lamb. What possibility was there for unity between the oligarchs and politicians who have been working with the bankers of Europe to impose a regime of austerity unprecedented in modern history except during war time, with the people who have suffered as a result? What possibility was there for unity between the pensioners who are forced to somehow eke out an existence on 120 euros a month or even less, with the billionaire oligarchs and their stooges who have dominated Greek politics since the end of World War II until the election of Syriza in January?  Tsipras speech, with its message of conciliation and class compromise was sharply at odds with the mood of the million plus who attended the rally.

But by calling this referendum Tsipras unleashed a tidal wave in spite of himself.  Despite the various maneuvers throughout that fateful week to sabotage the referendum, and despite the fact that the Syriza government had no plans in the event of a NO vote other than to go back to the table and try to get a better bargain with the troika - perhaps with a reshuffling of some government portfolios - and despite the fact that Syriza did little on the ground mobilization for the rally, it was a historic event and perhaps a turning point in European history!  


Scenes of the historic OXI rally on Friday July 3.

Saturday was a kind of recess in the campaign for the referendum.  According to Greek law and custom, all formal campaigning is supposed to end the day before a referendum to give the voters a chance to quietly reflect on the issues without being distracted by campaign rhetoric.  This did not prevent the television stations from a further barrage of right wing propaganda.  The one demonstration I heard about that day was called by some of the far left groups to protest the one sided coverage at the offices of one of the television stations.

Sunday, the day of the referendum finally came.  By then, following the gigantic rally of July 3, most polls were predicting a victory for the NO. But they were still projecting a narrow victory, giving the NO vote a lead of 3% or 4% at most. It was clear that the Right was demoralized by the failure of their campaign of intimidation, but they were still hoping that a close vote would rob the Syriza government of any claim to have a mandate.

That morning I accompanied my companion and her mother to the polling station in a working class suburb of Athens. It was in a school house situated on the top of a steep hill. I saw several KKE posters on the street as we walked up that hill, urging voters to hand in a KKE ballot in place of the official ballot.  The polling place was similar in many ways to what you would find in a small town election in the U.S. There was one police guard and several volunteers who verified your address and instructed you which voting booth to enter. It was not a huge turnout when we arrived, perhaps because it was still early in the day and the steep climb may have discouraged some elderly people.
Voting on Referendum Day

Once the results of the voting started coming in, it quickly became clear that the NO vote was headed for a landslide victory, something none of the official pundits expected. But anyone who witnessed the July 3rd rally should not have been so surprised. It was also clear from the results that this was entirely a class vote. The 62% overall in favor of the NO only tell part of the story.  In working class neighborhoods the margin was more like 75-80% in favor of a NO vote.  In one of Athens wealthy suburbs, Kifisia, where pool parties were held not long ago lamenting the possibility of exiting the Euro, the vote was 87% in favor of ‘YES’.

It was a political thunderstorm and there was that evening a spontaneous gathering in Syntagma to celebrate the victory of the NO.  There was also a much smaller official celebration sponsored by Syriza at another square nearby. Needless to say the gathering at Syntagma was far larger.


I managed to make the celebration at Syntagma, though we arrived quite late, after the bulk of the crowd had left.  There were still two or three thousand people gathered.  And to everyone’s surprise, the Chair of the Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, made an appearance.  She was immediately surrounded by an adoring group of young people.  As one of the most consistent and militant voices against austerity from Syriza, she has gained their trust and veneration.  She was positively beaming with delight in the results of the referendum.  She undoubtedly had no idea that the reaction of the Prime Minister that same evening was one of dread.  By the next morning the political landscape of Greece and of Europe would change decisively.


Zoe Konstantopolou, Chair of the Hellenic Parliament, celebrating the victory of the NO.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Third Euro-Mediterranean Conference - Final Resolution

Some of the participants at the Third Euro-Mediterranean Conference
Note: I am publishing the Communiqué of the Organizing Committee of the Third Euro-Mediterranean Conference and the Final Resolution on Greece and the crisis of capitalism. I attended the conference and actively participated in the discussions.   The conference could  not have happened at a more auspicious moment, coming days after the historic "NO" vote in the Referendum followed by the betrayal of that mandate by the Tsipras government.  Coincidentally,  another Conference was convening in Athens on the same weekend, the "Democracy Rising" Conference.  In his diary from Athens, one of the participants at that conference, Tariq Ali, wryly noted the ironical character of the name of the conference. 
And indeed it was a strange time, when days after the Referendum and its clear expression of the will of the people,  the Tsipras government demonstrated its contempt for  democracy by accepting the demands of the troika for Greece to become a vassal of German imperialism.  But as the Conference resolution makes clear, the last word has not yet been spoken.  
A.S.
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Third Euro-Mediterranean Conference


                     Communiqué of the Organizing Committee

     The 3rd   Euro-Mediterranean Conference  concluded successfully in Athens, Greece, on July 18-20 2015, under extraordinary conditions  of  the on-going political crisis in this country and in Europe.

            It was organized by the Balkan Socialist Center  “Christian Rakovsky” and the RedMed network, and it was hosted by the EEK.

            The interest expressed and the attraction manifested towards the Conference   certainly reflects the enormous interest produced by the Greek/Eurozone crisis. At the same time, it reflects the political authority of the main organizer and host of the Conference, the EEK,  which is in ascendancy at home and abroad,  both previously and after  the  on-going crisis.
 
        Participating in the work of the Conference, were  Parties, organizations, and activists  from Greece, Turkey, Italy, Finland,   Denmark,  UK,  Portugal, Austria, Poland,   Macedonia, Bulgaria, Cyprus,  Kurdistan,  Ukraine, Russia, United States, South Africa,  India, and Brazil - a total of 19 countries.  In this  list should be added  comrades from  three other countries, Iran, Tunisia, and Bosnia who could not participate for reasons  independent of  their will ( including   problems posed on visas). Nevertheless, the comrades of Iran and Bosnia have sent written contributions to the Conference.

         From Greece, apart from  the EEK, the Conference  was addressed by NAR and OKDE-Spartakos, both members of the coalition of left organizations  Antarsya,  as well as by the  workers Caravan of Struggle  and Solidarity  formed by the workers  of the occupied factory of VIOME and the occupied  National Radio-Television ERT 3 both under workers control and workers management.

         From Turkey, the DIP ( Revolutionary Workers Party) participated actively as co-organizer. The Conference was also addressed  by the SDP (Socialist Democracy Party affiliated to the HDP, the Kurdish led  Coalition, who recently  had an important electoral victory  and became the main target  of the terrorist attacks by the ISIL and the Erdogan regime). The Committee for Solidarity to the Political prisoners in Turkey and Kurdistan  was also present bringing greetings as well as other activists from all parts of  Kurdistan.
   
      From Italy, there was a delegation by the Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori  (PCL)

          From the Balkan region,  apart  from the Greek and Turkish comrades, reports  were presented by comrades of  the Autonomous Workers Union , from Bulgaria,  the Movement “Lenka” from Macedonia,  and  a  document was sent by the workers of the DITA factory  in Tuzla, Bosnia.  An activist from Cyprus also participated in the works.   

       From the Russian Federation, delegates participated from the RPK ( Russian Party of Communists), the RKP-KPSS ( Russian Communist Party-CPSU) , the OKP ( Unified Communist Party), and the social movement Alternativi.   
    
        From   Ukraine, the Conference was addressed  by the organizations  “ Against the Current”,  Borotba, the Communist Party of the People's Republic of Donetsk, the Union  for the Political Prisoners,  and the  Union of the Political Refugees, from Donbass via a Skype connection.  

         From Poland, an activist of the anti-capitalist Left.  

         From Finland, a delegation of the MTL (Marxist Workers' League)

         From Denmark,   an independent Trotskyist and activist.

    From the United Kingdom, Hillel Ticktin, editor of the Marxist Journal  Critique.

          From Portugal, Raquel Varela in a personal capacity from  Rumbra.

   From Austria, a representative of the international organization RCIT                        ( Revolutionary Communist International Tendency ).  

  From the United States,  Alex Steiner, editor of the web site  permanent-revolution.org

        From South Africa,  Latief Parker,  member of the Editorial Board of Critique.
       
      There were also observers  in a personal capacity from India and Brazil ( most of them  from the PSTU).
  
        A message of greetings was sent and read to the Conference from the Partido de los Trabajadores (PT) de Uruguay.

      The last day of the Conference, Monday,  July 20,  special Commissions  prepared and presented to the Conference a Final Resolution and special statements on the  Suruç massacre by the Isil , on the Middle East, on the Balkans, on Ukraine.

       The Final Resolution was voted unanimously by those present. ( To the comrades who had to leave Sunday evening, the document will be sent to them for their consideration). Unanimously also were voted the statements on the Middle East, the  Suruç massacre, and the Balkans.

      The resolution on Ukraine provoked, as in the 2nd  Euro-Mediterranean Conference, an intense debate and  finally, after amending it, was  supported  by  a large  majority with two abstentions (PCL, H. Ticktin), and no one against.

      All materials will be published in all the respective languages of the participants and widely distributed.
             
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3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference, Athens, Greece, 18-20 July 2015

Solidarity to the people of Greece!
Down with the troika of the EU/ECB/IMF!
The capitalists should pay for the crisis of their system!
Break with the Tsipras leadership and its co-thinkers everywhere!
For an internationalist revolutionary solution to the crisis!

Final resolution

    We, participants in the 3rd  Euro-Mediterranean Conference, convened in Athens, Greece by the Balkan Socialist Center “Christian Rakovsky” and the RedMed network on July 18-20, 2015, call the international working class and all the oppressed  all over the world to mobilize and express in action their solidarity with the Greek workers and popular masses under  continuous and escalating attack by the hated  imperialist troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

      We denounce the new barbaric “bailout program” of social cannibalism imposed on Greece by the troika  led by the CDU/SPD German government of Merkel/ Schäuble/Gabriel with the complicity of all the other European capitalist governments.

    We salute the on-going heroic resistance of the Greek workers and poor, particularly of the young generation, manifested powerfully in the mass mobilization of July the 3rd and the triumph of the NO by 62 per cent of the vote in the Referendum against the blackmail of the imperialist “institutions” and the unprecedented campaign of intimidation by all media, nationally and internationally, and the closure of the Greek banks by the ECB.

     We condemn unequivocally the betrayal of the popular will expressed in the victory of NO/OXI and the capitulation of the Tsipras coalition government of Syriza and ANEL by signing an even worse “austerity program”, condemned, politically and economically, to fail.

       We stand by all the working class and popular forces, within and outside Syriza, in their rejection of the shameful pact of surrender to the gangsters of global capital turning Greece into a protectorate of the EU ruled by a government of the “willing” purged from all left opposition, undemocratic and hostage to the forces of bourgeois reaction, at home and abroad.

        The dramatic escalation of the political and economic crisis in the Eurozone   centered on Greece marks a new stage in the global crisis of capitalism that erupted in 2007/08.

       The feverish shifts of the situation and the sharp zigzags, right and left, manifest the abrupt deterioration of the crisis and the rapid acceleration of the confrontation between irreconcilable class forces. What we have experienced over the last month (and it is still continuing) is a total class war, ferociously waged by the imperialist EU, the ECB and the IMF against the impoverished Greek popular masses, as the first battle  against peoples all over Europe, east and west.

        This political-financial coup d'Etat manifests clearly the imperialistic nature of the European Union and deepens the process of disintegration of the EU itself as well as of the declining bourgeois democracy.

     Even the protagonist of this European counter-revolution, imperialist Germany, with the demonstration of all its extreme political and social sadism cannot be satisfied by or feel secure as a result of its Pyrrhic victory. Crushing a weak Greek prime minister ready to surrender is not the same as breaking the potential of social resistance or the fighting spirit of an oppressed but still proud, defiant and brave people, who quite recently humiliated the troika and the ruling classes in Greece and in Europe.

      The head of the European Council Donald Tusk has summarized perfectly all the fears of the German and European bourgeoisie:

  “The febrile rhetoric from far-left leaders, coupled with high youth unemployment in several countries, could be an explosive combination.
“For me, the atmosphere is a little similar to the time after 1968 in Europe,” he said.
  “I can feel, maybe not a revolutionary mood, but something like widespread impatience. When impatience becomes not an individual but a social experience of feeling, this is the introduction for revolutions.” (Financial Times 17July 2015)

        Signing a treaty of  capitulation by Tsipras, which is characterized  even by the German magazine Der Spiegel  as “a list of horrors” cannot be celebrated as  the “end of history”, particularly as we live  now  the end of the late “end of History” proclaimed by imperialism in 1991.  New and unexpected surprises are on the road.

      The German bourgeoisie fully supported by Social Democracy “succeeded” to sharpen all the inter-imperialist rivalries within and outside Europe.

        Outside Europe, it was expressed by, but not limited to the sharp conflict between the IMF and the EU-- actually between the US and Germany-- on the unsustainable Greek debt and the need for “debt relief”, although the IMF was, and is, even more than the EU, demanding the most draconian  austerity  in Greece. The Obama Administration has not hidden its fears for the “global systemic risk” (Jack Lew, US Secretary of the Treasury) involved in a Grexit, particularly with a US economy still struggling with crisis and preparing for a possible rise of its interest rates.

       The updated report of the IMF, on July 14, after the forced “agreement” reached in Brussels, blowing it up actually by rejecting it as likely to increase the Greek debt to 200 per cent of GDP in 2018 and demanding a “30-year moratorium of payments to make it sustainable”, is a tremendous manifestation of the sharp conflict between Europe and America.

        Within Europe, the hypocritical protests by Matteo Renzi in the Euro-Summit manifest the anxiety of over-indebted capitalist Italy to be the next target of Berlin.

     The same applies, in a different form, to imperialist France. The old French-German axis of European capitalist integration based on the Maastricht Treaty of 1991, was broken long ago by the post-2008 crisis, as France has plunged into over-indebtedness, de-industrialization, and generalized social discontent. Although François Hollande and his (anti-)“socialist” neoliberal government have functioned as another instrument of imperialist pressure and blackmail on Greece, despite the illusions nurtured by Tsipras and Syriza, they had to take their distances at a certain point of the torture of the Greek delegation imposed by Schäuble, demanding a “temporary Grexit”.  

         The Euro as a common currency was from the beginning a project  advanced by the French bourgeoisie and Germany accepted it only reluctantly on the basis of its re-unification, taking advantage of a free-trade zone absolutely necessary to a basically export economy.   Now, the French saw Schäuble advancing aggressively a “Grexit” as a first step to the dismantling of monetary union itself, while keeping the EU as a free trade zone. Apparently, under the shocks of the world crisis and a new wave of world recession, Germany is going back to Schäuble's old plan for “a Europe of multiple speeds” around a hard core on the north of the Alps-- a German Europe unacceptable to its imperialist rivals. In such conditions, French government circles have spoken of the most  brutal clash in the last Euro-group and Euro-Summit meetings between French and German interests  for decades, namely since 1991, when Germany had promoted  the unilateral  separation of Croatia and Slovenia from Yugoslavia, opening the Pandora’s box.

     Even the incident of Schäuble shouting at Mario Draghi of the ECB shows that tensions are rapidly building up and centrifugal forces are tearing apart the entire EU project. Wolfgang Münchau quite aptly titled his commentary in the Financial Times (3/7/15) “Greece's brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project”.

      Actually, it is the entire EU project that is facing the dynamics of dissolution. This project, after the epochal event of the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, had as its strategic goal expansion into Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the re-colonization of the entire former Soviet space, and thus the capitalist integration of Europe around the French-German axis to make the EU able to fight for hegemony in the chaotic post-Cold War world. Monetary unification of countries with very different and unequal social economic national structures was a necessary instrument of this strategy.

          The implosion of finance capital globalization in 2007-2008 has brought to the surface all of the accumulated internal contradictions within this project and historical space, including all the flaws of the architecture of the Euro reflecting, in the last instance, the fundamental contradiction between the internationalization of the economy and the Nation-States, insoluble on capitalist bases.

         In the Southern part of the EU and on its Eastern border, the Greek and Ukrainian tragedies are signaling the shipwreck of the grandiose project of European imperialism.
     
         In every aspect, situated within the global picture, the Greek crisis reaching its climax now is the manifestation of a new stage that the world capitalist crisis is entering.

       What next? What should the working class and the pauperized masses in Greece and in Europe do immediately in the escalating social warfare? That is the crucial question.

        Overcoming the initial shock, confusion, and overwhelming feelings of betrayal by their leaders, feelings even of despair, the most combative contingents of the proletariat in Greece should take the lead, but not alone: what is  more than ever needed  and  vital is the active  support and participation in a united  struggle of all sectors destroyed by the crisis and austerity in Greece and all over Europe, east and west, as well as in the wider region, first of all in the Balkans, former Soviet Union  countries, and the Middle East.  This is the message of this 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference.
        
     The lessons of Greece have to be learned by the entire international workers and revolutionary movement, by all popular movements of the planet fighting for emancipation from imperialist capitalist barbarism.

       To avoid defeat and capitulation, it becomes crystal clear that there is no reformist road to changing the imperialist European Union and its institutions. This iron cage of capital, this prison of the peoples has to be smashed by the mass mobilization of all the oppressed and it needs to be replaced by a real, socialist unification of the continent from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

         To avoid defeat, to advance towards victory and social emancipation, it is clear that today there is no possibility for a class compromise with capital in crisis to “humanize capitalism”; there is no national, peaceful, parliamentary, reformist road for a way out of the social cannibalism of “austerity”- the only road forward is a united class front of the oppressed, organizing, social revolution, workers’ power without bureaucrats, and international Socialism.

         We appeal to all those fighters against imperialism and capitalism, coming from different political traditions but uncompromising in their struggle against the exploiters and oppressors, all those who refuse to follow an accommodating Left sinking into hollow verbalism, abstract propagandism, electoralism, sectarian self-proclamation, or apolitical syndicalism: let us join ranks in a common international struggle to open a revolutionary way out of social disaster feeding despair but also strengthening state authoritarianism and brutality, the threat of  fascism, xenophobia, and all forms of racism.  

         We have to collectively elaborate a program of social liberation and a plan of action to organize and implement it. For our part, now more than ever, we passionately propose the following main lines:

  • The people have to tear to pieces all treaties of surrender to permanent “austerity” to save the banks and global capital

  • For unilateral abolition of the debt!

  • Against the terrorism of the banks - nationalization of the banking system under workers’ control into a public bank independent from Draghi's ECB!

  • Expropriate the expropriators! The capitalists and oligarchs have to pay for the crisis of their system. All production in the hands of the workers!

  • Down with all capitalist governments of the EU, the instruments of the troika! Down with the bourgeois government of capitulators in Greece! Down with the Renzi, Hollande/Vals, Rajoy, Coelho, Cameron etc. governments! Break the police state machine and all repression apparatuses - all political power to the workers based on workers and people's councils and assemblies!

  • Down with “Fortress Europe” exterminating the migrants that its wars and starvation policies produce, down with all forms of racism, far right populism and fascism! Exploited and oppressed of all the world unite and fight for freedom and justice!

  • Down with the US /EU imperialists, NATO, and imperialist wars! For bread, jobs, peace and freedom!

  • Build revolutionary organizations among the masses, independent of all bureaucrats and reformist class collaborationists!
  • Let’s solve the crisis of the left at the European scale by winning over the vanguard to the task of building a revolutionary party in each country and a revolutionary international!
  • Build a real, revolutionary, combat International of the workers and all oppressed!

Forward to world Socialism, for universal human emancipation, humanity without exploitation, oppression, humiliation of human beings by other human beings!
              

                                                                                                July 20, 2015