Parallels Between Greece and California

Greece has been featured heavily in the news lately because of its ‘dire’ economic situation and the steps the European Union has taken to ‘bail it out’. Here is our comrade Sycorax’s analysis of why the economic situation in Greece actually shares some similarities with what’s going on in California.

Here’s the first post on the parallels:

Parallels between Greece and California: Understanding the Budget Cuts Means Understanding the Way our Global Economic System Works

Greek Farmers Blockading the Border Between Greece and Bulgaria

There’s also some coverage of the General Strikes that have been going on in Greece, which are also very applicable to the situation in California. Greece has had serious austerity measures placed on it, and there is tremendous pressure from the entire EU being put on Greece to cut its government spending.

In response, Greek public sector workers are not backing down. Their declaration? We did not make the crisis and we will not pay for it. This is a war on workers and we will respond with war.

Greek Public Workers on Strike

Check it out: Greek Public Workers on Strike!

So, what do ya’ll think? Parallels between Greece and California, is the comparison valid or not? What can we learn from both the crisis and the resistance to it, here and abroad?

Something to marinate on.

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5 responses to “Parallels Between Greece and California

  1. Here’s an account from earlier today of the General Strike in Greece that includes both public and private sector workers. It’s what March 4th could look like if we didn’t have so many obstacles from the bureaucratic and narrowly self-interested sectarian left, but mostly the conservatism of “labor statesmen” in the central labor councils, most of whom are in bed with the Democratic Party.

    Yet this is the goal we should strive for as we engage in the class struggle on March 4th and beyond.

    ALL POWER TO THE GREEK WORKERS!

    Hieronymous

    ( http://libcom.org/news/general-strike-greece-clashes-athens-24022010 )

    General Strike in Greece, Clashes in Athens

    The general strike in both private and public sectors has seen mass protest marches across the country and extended clashes in Athens with dozens of shops and banks destroyed and one man arrested.

    The first general strike as a response to the austerity measures in Greece has met with huge success as the country has been immobilised by the strike with no boats airplanes buses or trains moving within or from and into the country. The media strike which is part of the general strike means there are no news broadcasts or newspapers which limits the extent of our information gathering on the strike and its protest marches

    In Athens the protest march is expected to have gathered around 40,000 people and had a very dynamic character. The first incident occurred when a plain clothed policeman was stopped and beaten by protesters. Later riot police tries to side the numerous anarchist block but was deterred by large numbers of protesters. Before reaching Syntagma square several corporate shops and banks were smashed by protesters. In sytnagma square extended clashes between protesters and riot police forces unfolded with use of tear gas on the part of the cops and rocks and molotov cocktails by the protesters. During the clashes Giannis Bardakos, a member of a socialist opposition party DIKKI, was arrested. DIKKI has published a communique condemning the arrest and the “policy of occupation forces’ imposed poverty and underdeveloped applied by the State of oppression and violence” adding that “anti-people’s terrorism will not pass”. The encircling methods of the police at the corner of Phillelinon street however failed, two workers who the cops had arrested were rescued and the two riot police squads were encircled by protesters and heavily beaten with many riot shield broken. The clashes continues across Panepistimiou street where the posh Zonars cafe was invaded by large numbers of enraged workers and teachers who smashed it. The protesters then moved towards the Polytechnic which is under occupation by students in response to the breach of campus asylum in Zografou a few days ago, with many shops across Patision avenue destroyed. The general feeling is one of great success with the forces of repression humiliated and the working class having proved its will to struggle against the state onslaught.

    The protest march in Salonica gathered around 5,000 people under rain. Despite small skirmishes no clashes ensued until protesters returning to the Universities moved to destroy car control medal bars at its entrance and came under police attack. The police with utter disregard to the constitution moved its forces into the university asylum and led the protesters to barricade themselves in the rectorial headquarters which are now under occupation in protest to the renewed breach of the asylum.

    Protest marches took place in many other towns with mass participation: in Heraklion Crete the marches numbers more than a thousands, while in Volos 500 marchers broke away from the march to break the security cordon of the METKA factory and hold an assembly in the premises.

    As far as the antifascist counterdemo planned for today afternoon in Amerikis Square, both the fascist gathering and the antifascist counterdemo were declared banned by the district attorney. As a result, antifascist marches were prevented to reach the square by strong riot police forces and marched instead in the streets of Kypseli chanting antiracist and proletarian solidarity slogans. The fascist scum never even appeared for their advertised bigotry stunt at the square.

  2. This is from a Greek American comrade (who made a presentation at the LA Anarchist Bookfair last January about the Greek Rebellion), as a kind of scorecard.

    Hieronymous

    ***************************

    […]people are fed up with an entire system of systemic corruption involving the entire spectrum of political parties from LAOS (fascist party gaining power) to New Democracy (conservatives) to PASOK to KKE (Greeks think they are anarchronistic and useless [they are the Communist Party, which is the “last unreconstructed Stalinist Party” in Europe]) even though they organize many of the main protests which are usually impotent and purely symbolic to Syriza (which is a radical coalition of the left) but is all too eager to make comprimises for reforms with the current government.

    The word from my relatives (who are mostly professionals and support KKE or PASOK) is that mainstream Greeks are pissed but will wait it out for a year to help Papandreou try to enact some of his reforms but after this the heat will really turn up and you could see general strikes called more often. The main word I keep hearing is things are falling into utter chaos. Also, many mainstream Greeks are actually scared of the anarchists but tacitly support them (they are the educated sons of daughters of the older anti-junta generation- and some even come from rich familes!) and usually when they partake in activities you can hear a grandmother or shopkeeper says, “good job kid, serves ’em right!” Also, recently I went to a known film production company in Athens to inquire about filming in Exarchia and they were quite nervous and mentioned that you have to get acceptance to film in this area. They said without it they will smash your camera! When I was there the police appeared nervous and absolutely frightened. It was a sight to see!

    Also, the GSEE and other unions are tied to the Ministry of Labor and they have a vested interest to control the level for obvious reasons. There are instances of many workerists or radical unionists breaking away – but not as intense as many would have liked.

    Unfortunately, most of the protesting is coming from the usual sectors and suspects (Greece is known to have 2 seasons – protest season and summer season [vacations]) but the expectation is that it will grow if these reforms make life tougher for the average Greek. Protesting and political violence is no big deal there. It’s an acceptable part of the landscape.

    Also, the typical Greek has a tremendous inferiority complex about having their perceived sovereignty controlled and/or owned by another country or entity. After 400 years of Ottoman domination, various foreign Kings, A Nazi collaborationist government, tacit British control, dictatorships via US and later the neo-liberal empire – the average Greek does not like to take his marching orders from anyone at anytime. Communist guerilla general Markos Vafiades was famous in Greece during the Civil War in the mid 40s for fighting to free Greece from both British and Soviet control (was anti-KKE).

    Giorgos Lambrakis – doctor, MP, leftist and anti-nuclear war activist murdered before the Greek dictactorship and memorialized in the movie Z wanted the US bases out of Greece and did not want the country in NATO. Andreas Papandreou (father of PASOK party) was loathed by the US Government because of his anti-West populist rhetoric (wanted to lead a secular Arab World). Although his actual policies favored the US and the West his high public spending and tough talk of independence resonated with the average Greek.

    So during tough times or elections it’s always normal for every political group to play this nationalist card – including the KKE (who proclaimed that protesters during Dec 2008 uprising were “foreign agents of the CIA”) and LAOS who sees a Zionist plot to control Greece to PASOK who views the speculators and Goldman Sachs infiltration as a means for Greece to be owned by Wall Street. Now, the comment from a German Minister of Greeks being lazy and liking to have a good time and never working just struck a serious nerve and has infuriated the country as the greatest insult. They don’t want the Anglo culture of work, self-repression and toil imposed onto their country.

    Also, many are concerned or believe that the country will eventually be owned and controlled by German bankers – which is a MAJOR issue for the typical Greek because of the prior Nazi Occupation at its roots with the current and historic hatred against the police. And the retaliations have already started. In the Greek press the other day the Government was pushing Germany to finish paying reparations for WW2 (as they caused a mass famine and hunger within the country). This was purely a way of getting back at them.

    Now granted all of this is completely and utterly reactionary and is/can be used by all pro-capitalist forces to divide and conquer. However, the good news is that radicals who are attempting to internationalize the attack on the austerity measures by linking to other workers throughout Europe are starting to become sucessful as actions are now happening in France and Spain.

    Greeks are now against everything.

    In Greece, many of these anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian protests/strikes/actions are resonating with the youth and young workers and now everyday wage earners who are slowly waking up for they see the entire political establishment from left to right as completely and utterly bankrupt and broken. However, I think at this time they need to expose the dangers and dead end of “nationalist thinking.”

    Historically the Greeks have tight family units, many extended kids live in the same apartment and/or home as their parents (with their wives and kdis) and they completely distrust the government. They see all politicans as corrupt crooks controlled by outside forces and they do not like to pay taxes (from left to right wing – and I would include radicals who see it always as illegitimate). There is a huge culture of bribery and a flourishing black market there.

    Greeks have a patronage system – whereby jobs and public funds are showered down to people who show party loyalty (from right to left). Also this is combined with the promise of public sector contracts to economic elites in the private sector. It is a structure of patron-client relations which links the heads of the major parties to the humblest villager and is the lifeblood of modern Greek politics.

    A comrade in Greece said:

    “Much of the country’s infrastructure is divided into a patchwork of competing fiefdoms that have formed as a result of the present political setup. Each participant owes their position and continued economic well being to maintaining the right connections with those above and below them in the hierarchy. In such a system qualifications, skill, effectiveness and ability play second fiddle to being able to stay in with those who are in a position to advance your career. Another by – product is chronic inefficiency and confusion as its duty of every fiefdom to ensure that it gets the maximum amount of resources in order to guarantee its survival. Co-operation and cost cutting mean giving up exactly those resources one needs to make sure that money and influence continues to flow to those whose support you need. The effects of this system also affect the private sectors as the companies competing for contracts with the public sector, a huge player in the Greek economy, do so on the basis of political, personal and family connections. In some cases this takes the form of outright bribery but many others there is the mutual understanding that favours given must at some point be returned. It is no coincidence that many of the country’s richest men have media wings attached to their business conglomerations which can be used to promote or attack parties and politicians. The upshoot of this unholy alliance is that crony capitalism and “licence Rajs” dominate the economy. There is little incentive to cut the cost of your product or improve the quality of your service in such a system. As a result Greek companies that dominant nationally rarely have the expertise to break into developed markets where transparency means that methods used at home cannot be employed.Whilst foreign observers often point the finger of blame at Greece’s powerful public sector unions for lack of competiveness and low productivity the reality is that pay in the private sector has remained stagnant for years and that much critised worker protection laws are rarely applied to non-public sector businesses. Despite a pool of cheap, educated labour (now called the “700 Euro generation”) which can be hired and fired at will the private sector has done little to prepare for the demands of a modern globalised economy and instead reaped the benefits of European Union’s lowest wage while raising prices far beyond the rate of inflation.”

    So we must ask – do these strikes and protests in fact have a true revolutionary potential or are they a mass movement to update/upgrade the capitalist relations in the country which has been until now tightly controlled by a plutocracy?

  3. Here is something I just made to assist in the struggle. People can post a list of ideas for embracing conflict on autonomous levels… Offer ideas for micro insurrections. Etc.

  4. Pingback: Rank-and-File Marxist Theory: The Sojourner Truth Organization Workplace Papers « Advance the Struggle

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