GREECE IMPRESSIONS | V. U. Arslan
We were in Athens at the invitation of our Revolutionist Marxist comrades from Greece, OKDE-Spartakos and socialist umbrella organization ANTARSYA. In ANTARSYA’s conference at 15-16 November for centenary of The October Revolution. I was the speechmaker in second day. The subject was “Middle East, Imperialism, and War”. Except for speakers from Turkey, there were socialist speech givers from Palestine, Greece, and France, so the conference has become quite productive for us. On November 17, a grand march took place as it does every year on the anniversary of the Uprising of the Polytechnic University, which initiates the public movement, which overthrew the Colonel Junta in 1973. For socialists of Greece, November 17 is traditionally the most important day and it was a fair amount magnificent like every year. In conclusion, our Greece visiting has become a quite important experience for us. Sharing this was a must.
The Reflections of Crisis
Since 2008, Greece has been ridden a great economic crisis. After the shrinking of around -8% around 2012, after a long time, it increased over zero in 2017, finally. The beginning of the growth is actually misleading because it is not likely that the crisis will end for low-incomers as the labourers that had been paid the price of the crisis. The working class in Greece and even the middle classes have been impoverished around 30% in this process. After great impoverishment about 10 years and deep deterioration, it is normal to achieve 1% growth. After all, recession cannot last forever. On the other hand, capitalists in Greece feels that the worst has left behind, that is a fact. Tourism boom which has been experienced in recent years has been a godsend blessing for capitalists of Greece. Greece took the advantage of the Mediterranean Basin in while Turkey and Egypt experienced a great decline. It is a known fact that Greece capitalism has a basis and an employment area on tourism in addition to ship management and banking business. Tourism’s fundamental by-product has become haphazard settlement. Comrades from Greece expressed that such beautiful Greek islands are covered concrete structures. Observing the influence of tourism in Athens even on November is not difficult. Even in this heavy soakers’ period Athens streets makes much of in a large number of European tourists. In every street, every corner cafés, restaurants, and taverns entertain their clients. Of course, all these clients are not only tourists. Greek people know how to live, as said, and they put a part of their income for entertainment. On the other hand, there are only few automobiles in streets that are younger than 10 years. It can be inferred that investing income in real estate property and automobile is not preferable. Other than that, people’s income is not in great amounts. If you are pay for rent, it is not possible living with minimum wage which is 680 Euros. Most of the students have to work. Too many young that are stressed from unemployment and futurelessness are settling abroad or planning to do it. Due to taxes in high amounts illicit work has increased in a fair amount.
In conclusion, gap in life style difference is closing and it is approaching an average Balkan country life style by regression. Capitalists from Greece and international forces are on the side that takes their wants in this Greek Tragedy. Working class payed the price of the crisis and they impoverished. This price was consequence of the lack of a Revolutionary Marxist leadersip.
During the time we have been there, we have seen how the issue of refugees (and immigrants) is a big problem for Greece. In contrast to refugees’ situation in Turkey, they are not far from the eyes; you run across crowds of young men in the most central parts of the city. Greece is not a terminal for refugees that they want to achieve but passing to Northern Europe is not that much easy. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees are stuck in Greece. Life in the camps in Greece is very difficult. Refugees have neither money nor work. This may be the cause of the young immigrant men are highly criminalized with drug sales and side cuts in the streets of Athens. Even if right wing extremist organizations as Golden Dawn takes advantage of this, Greek peopple is quite tolerant to refugees.
Countries like Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, and Albania are as sources of immigrants. Recently, the number of people who flee from Turkey to Greece has increased. Apart from thousands of people sought in the case of the FETÖ, the number of people passing through Greece from the Kurdish movement has increased considerably. Few of them are planning to stay in Greece. We had a chance to chat in Athens a lot with those who stayed in Greece from the left political exile in 1978 and 1990s. Some of them have been better integrated into the life in Greece and takes part in Marxist organizations there, but some of them feel that they mainly belong to the fight in Turkey and the traditions they come from. It is kind of stay in limbo.
KKE and SYRIZA
Worker class in Greece was the side which pays for the-crisis because they could not band approximately 40 strikes into one continuous general strike. The 24 hours strikes and two 48 hours strikes turned to an act for going cold on, after a while. The trade union bureaucracy impeded a more radical labour movement. Bureaucrats from PASOK and of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) deliberately restricted general strikes. Think about it: Greece is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis, numerous actions and general strikes nearly of 40 are being organised, but KKE which has a thousands of membes and trade union position, cannot be an alternative and hope for the workers. On the contrary it is weakening because KKE is not revolutionary. It is loyal to system. There has been no way for KKE to be an alternative for labourers because of its breaker role-playing and extreme sectarianism. Therefore, when the crisis slammed to Greece with its all power, the conditions for the rise of SYRIZA and Tsipras, the other left actors in the political ladder, were ready. Syriza, formed by those who leave the KKE as a Eurocommunist tendency, is a “reasonable” party in the eye of the masses as it advocates staying in the EU as a left alternative that defends the rights of labourers So, because SYRIZA was not an sectarian force,it absorbed the masses. Tsipras gave up early although he seems as haggler at the beginning of his rule. Syriza turned into a party that is similar to PASOK, under the command of Merkel, applies labour-enemy policies. This was a gain win for the system, because if there were a right-wing party in power, it would have been far more difficult to implement social and economic austerity packages. At the worst time of the crisis, the Greek bourgeoisie drove Golden Dawn that is a Neo-Nazi civil war organization. The situation became that much deplorable. However, “thanks to” SYRIZA and others, when the condition was taken under control, the Golden Dawn was pulled back.
SYRIZA was so winged to the right, as a reaction to this a partisan nationalist part broke off. This power, which gathered a number of small socialist parties around it, received the name of the People’s Union (LAE). LAE, which was called “SYRIZA reloaded” due to its position, could not passed the threshold narrowly with 2.9%. After that it began to fall.
There is no political party in the world on the scale of the KKE, which promotes Orthodox Stalinist tradition. Similarly, another country that anarchist movement has become influential that much is unimaginable. In fact, we can say that these two have beard each other for many years. KKE that has represented left-wing in Greece and has dominated worker movement for 100 years is such statist, bureaucratic, loyal to system, so it is not surprising that KKE shifts to Anarchists in Greece where a strong radical tradition has. There are dozens of different anarchist, anti-authoritarian and autonomous groups in Greece at small and large sizes. These groups have quite different approaches to each other, from pacifist to armed action and robbery, and sometimes there are rivalries between them to turn into violent conflicts.
However, the anarchists did not have a presence in the long-term crisis, which was very painful. Actually, this is not an escapium. Primarily, the power we face is not a force based on or leaning on class movement. Carrying out a policy and specifying the strategy is not the case at Anarchism because of its theoretical framework. Anarchism is not a very useful when masses want an organized power, a clear discouse and concreate political demans in order to achieve class agenda. However, in a revolutionary period, or in a crisis, labourer-based, adopts disciplined decisions that are taken quickly, produces slogans according to the needs of the masses, the current mood and motivation, acts in a centralized manner, using flexible tactics on the basis of certain strategies, a revolutionary party is needed. Anarchism is suspended at such times as it believes in the harm of all this. Eventually, when things get stuck, it becomes inevitable to be backed up with different bourgeois strengths just as it occurred in the Spanish Civil War. Despite the theory of anarchism, which considers voting as a profanity, most anarchists’ voting for SYRIZA in the last election is the first reflection of politics and lack of politics.
The role of anarchists in social struggles in Greece has been to clash with the police at the end of big public meetings. It is obvious that this group of black-worn from top to toe, with motorcycle helmet, who carry big sticks and Molotov cocktails is not very attractive to ordinary labourers. After a public meeting in 2010, The Molotov cocktail attack to a bank that its 3 employees-one of them a pregnant woman- became victim and they lost their life. This has been quite shocking in Greece. Many of the average Athenians we talked to have warned us about the clashes that will take place on November 17th, and we understand that most of the labourers are afraid of the conflicts, so we are strangers to the actions. Of course, it is not possible for the anarchists (most of them) to understand the correlation between the mood of the general labouring masses and the timing of the clashes… What we saw that the anarchists have organized and resided an idiosyncratic ghetto life in the Athens’ district Exarchia. Exarchia, where some of the anarchists have occupied houses, is one of the centres of refugees and narcotics traffics at the same time as the clashes with the police. Rents in the area near the city centre have fallen; the impression of ruined field is formed for these regions. During the SYRIZA’s ruling police has lost its force and it does not interfere Exarchia too much. After all, neither Greece nor Athens is comprised of only Exarciha.
The Difference between ANTARSYA’s Potential and Reality
ANTARSYA is a socialist umbrella organization in which there are also comrades from OKDE-Spartakos. The biggest group was the NAR (New Left Stream) formed by the detachment from KKE to protest its formation a government with the right-wing New Democracy in 1989 and the second strong group was the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party-SEK. ANTARASIA is a party that receives around 1% of the vote. The real power comes from the street movement, because it has a considerable active militant power. It is possible to see this in demonstration and public meetings. For example, ANTARSYA representatives can get 20% votes in the selection of student unions made in universities such as Polytechnic.
On the other hand, we can say that ANTARSYA cannot make the expected breakthrough during the long crisis. The main reason for this is that ANTARSYA cannot act like a real front. In other words, there is no battlefield to attract attention of the labourers, to create agenda in the country, to organize the concrete campaigns together. There is no popular leader or spokesperson that can increase the popularity of ANTARSYA among the masses.ANTARYA is only a name to organize protest and election campaigns. As such, except for the radical left of Greece, ANTARSYA has little influence. So ANTARSYA has serious problems of socialization.
On the left of SYRIZA, however, there is no other left tradition to develop as an alternative. When the disappointment created by SYRIZA is also considered, the potential of ANTARSYA is becoming clearer. On the other hand, despite this potential, we have observed that the components of ANTARSYA are quite disconnected from each other. From Comrades we heard that two Trotskyist organizations SEK and OKDE-Spartakos had a more left stance and this balances the powerful NAR with positions that could be shifted to the right or to the left. Althusserist two organizations (ARAN and ARAS) in favour of LAE, thus losing the right-wing struggle to defeat ANTARSYA’s independent class line. It was told to us that these two groups were seriously lost power in LAE. It was very important for ANTARSY to maintain its own independent class line against both SYRIZA and LAE, but the danger of ANTARSYA’s disintegration was mentioned. Although this danger has been eliminated, the fractional adaptation problem of ANTARSYA’s structures has not been solved.
We can say that the pessimism on the left is dominant where the class action is defeated, the feeling of acceptance develops, ANTARSYA, a possible political alternative to development, is also insufficient.
A Small Anarchist Group Is Sabotaging Polytechnic Memoirs
Anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising is quite important for left wing of Greece. From November 15th, people and left groups come to the school and perform various memorial activities. In the 17th month, a show of force appearance is being prepared. This year was the first time in Greece history. An anarchist group of 30-40 people announced that they would not allow them to memorialize the left-wing groups except for themselves by invading the school from the night. Whereas, hundreds of people hadalready met in front of the school for the activity of ANTARSYA. The elderly people who came to the front of the university’s door saying, “Those who lost their life here are our comrades, how dare you are prevent to memorialise them” are not taken seriously by the other groups behind the bars. “Junkies” (drug addiction) blame for the anarchist group is very usual…
ANTARSYA leadership decided not to attack to seize the university on the grounds that the possibility of it was a provocation. Indeed, having a bloody battle was inevitable with the group that has molotovs, helmets, knives etc. Moreover, this small group of distant anarchist groups could unite against this attack of “Marxists”. Thus, a war that expands through many years could be fired. Therefore, ANTARSYA activity cannot be accepted as a bully of this anarchist group for the youth of the NAR, especially if it is built on the street, outside the school. In front of the door, two laps were crowded and angry. Though thick red sticks with small red flags on the tip of the eye were taken, it was taken care not to encounter any conflicts. Nevertheless, NAR did not hide the anger against the leadership who decides not to attack to armed group. The next day, the occupation of the anarchist group, which betted on the occasion of negotiations and the intervention of other anarchist groups, was moderated to one building in campus. ANTARSYA demonstration and conference could take place with normal routine in the second day.
At this point, it is necessary to mention some general opinions about anarchists in Greece. At the beginning of these topics are the provocative movements of the anarchists and the police’s existence within them. There is common claim in Greece that as such conflicts aftermath of the general strikes and mass meetings are provoked by deep state which is said to be powerful and effective. Large masses are sceptical about anarchists and other actors on the left are fed up with them. Moreover, as in the recent case in the Polytechnic, the accusation about the opposition of theoretical approach and the action that is taking-aggression to ones that are like their own selfs- is very common. It is even possible to ambush the other left group members and engage in serious assault. They even attack the election of student unions under the name of “being against the representative democracy” The castle of the anarchism around the world has a transcript which is full of failures.
Soldiers that Comes to Demonstration in Their Uniforms
The 17 November action for Greece is so important that the socialists, even during their mandatory military duty, they try to find a way- even though it is illegal- to join demonstrations. Moreover, they are wearing military uniform. This is a tradition. There is a crowded red-flagged and sticky protection group with soldiers guarding them. They are protected because if they are taken into custody they may seriously get into trouble. As a matter of fact, we were surprised to see the two soldiers in the ANTARSYA ranks and the protection group around them. But then you can think for a moment being attacked a special operation the meeting when you see soldiers about 30 and crowded guardian that is separated from the meeting that is organized by KKE. But once you realize that they are the KKE’s, you are surprised once again. There was such a tradition of Greek socialist left-wing. It’s really nice to have such a tradition, and I do not think it’s anywhere else in the world. The radical veins of Greece impressed us once more. Imagine, in a revolutionary situation and in the conditions of rebellion, it is already clear which direction the people can move. Greece is really an extraordinary country.