Call for the Defense of Society and Democracy in Greece
We are a group of citizens who have come together from a variety of political backgrounds with a common purpose: the pressing need to articulate a coherent and persuasive critical voice that will be heard loudly both inside and outside Greece. In the context of a contemporary moment in which the central dilemma “austerity or bankruptcy” has given way to the entirely nihilistic formula “austerity and bankruptcy”, our initiative aims to make a powerful intervention in Greek and European public opinion, highlighting three major issues:
1. The collapse of the welfare state and the intensification of social inequalities
2. The undermining of democratic institutions and civil rights
3. The waning of the European vision and the dismantling of European unity
The goal of this initiative is not just to produce another statement about the ‘crisis’ or to collect signatures for an online petition, even though it started that way. We plan to form a broad network to spread the message everywhere that the so-called ‘Greek problem’ merely presages the dangers at stake for fundamental European social and political values. Therefore the ‘Greek problem’ concerns us all.
Our hope is that all who choose to sign this petition will become involved, if they so desire, in social action, ideally in collaboration with other groups who know firsthand what is going on in Greece today and who are interested in working together for a social and democratic Europe. In a time of crisis, no one is alone. Participation is our response to exclusion. Action is our answer to defeatism and pessimism.
Α CATASTROPHIC MOMENT IN EUROPEAN HISTORY
Greek society is suffering both from the crisis and from the responses to it, which have reached a dead end. Major social and political institutions that were created with enormous struggles and sacrifices in post-war Greece – collective bargaining agreements, social security, the public health system, public education, public transport, the natural and urban environment, the right to live a safe existence – are being destroyed. The welfare state is being dismantled and public services are disintegrating due to lack of funding and personnel cuts. According to Eurostat, almost one third of the population are at the risk of poverty and numbers are increasing rapidly. Essential public goods are no longer available. Households are going bankrupt one after the other. Society is being led to suffocation.
The people are being blackmailed: they face the dilemma of austerity or bankruptcy? Yet, this is hardly a dilemma – it is rather a negative aggregate: austerity and bankruptcy. Instead of saving the country and correcting the chronic illnesses of the Greek political and economic system, the policies that are being implemented are plunging Greece into recession and increasing its debt. All predictions by the EU, the IMF and of the Greek government have been proven blatantly wrong. In 2011, the recession reached -6.8% of GDP (compared to the original prediction of -2.6%!). The tri-monthly threat of Greece’s expulsion from the eurozone is economically catastrophic, as it strengthens the recessionary dynamic, transforming Europe into a central factor of instability and deepening the crisis. The EU itself shapes the conditions so that Greece is not able to fulfil its debt-related obligations.
Those who had hoped that the crisis would be an opportunity for rationalization and institutional renewal have by now realized that the “reforms” help contribute to the dismantling of an already inefficient state and, at the same time, lead to the disintegration of society. The crisis does not affect those who have exploited the state and public interest for decades, but the wage and salary earners (who always paid their taxes) and the most vulnerable social strata. We are confronted with an unprecedented process of upward redistribution of wealth and power that undermines the European social model by exacerbating the most extreme economic and social inequalities. The dominant discourse, both in Greece and in Europe, is moralistic, guilt-ridden and punitive. This strengthens nationalism, racism and xenophobia.
Both Greece and Europe are sinking into a co-dependent crisis which illustrates not only the institutional weaknesses of the EU, but also the dead end of neoliberal recipes. The continuation of failed policies is not in the interest either of Greek society or of the EU and the European taxpayers. It is only in the interest of financial capital and of the speculators, Greek or foreign. Without growth, the repayment of the public debt (or, at least, of its largest part) is simply impossible. The combination of new loan packages and violent austerity is the same as throwing money into a bottomless pit. It will lead to a disorderly default which will affect the low and middle classes in Greece (the rich have already sent their money abroad) as well as the European taxpayers (who will be expected to pay the bill of resulting destabilization of the European bank system). The rescue operation has proven to be a farce. It is becoming a crime.
Greece and Europe are caught up in a vicious economic circle. Policy change is necessary in order to exit it. No matter how difficult, we must work towards a social and democratic Europe, a Europe that will reconfirm its best historic and political values, and give a new orientation to globalization. The solution today cannot be at the national level, but must correspond to the scale of our continent. The Greeks are humiliated today, and perhaps tomorrow this will be the case for other peoples; already mistrust and hatred threaten the process of the creation of a common European identity. This is a catastrophic moment in European history.
The Greek crisis has significant Greek causes. Yet, it is part of a broader crisis that is changing the foundations of the historic epoch we live in. In this period of historical juncture the ideas of social justice, of democracy and of human rights are at stake. The undersigned Greek citizens invite you to join us in the creation of a strong common front for the defense of society and of democracy. Solidarity with Greece is a political challenge for the whole of Europe.