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Zaps - 05-10
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Greece: The Curse of Three Generations of Papandreous
Turning back the tide of revolutionary change
In each of the three decisive moments of recent history, Greece has been pulled backwards from a chance for social transformation, political independence, and freedom from external tutelage by one or another of the Papandreou family. The three periods promising new vistas for Greek popular movements include:
The period (1944-1945) following the defeat of the Nazi occupation army and its collaborator puppet regime by the Greek partisan resistance, backed by the liberation army (ELAS-EAM) and civilian allies.
The decisive electoral defeat of the right-wing New Democratic Party in 1981. The majoritarian vote resulted in the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), together with the Communist Party, controlling nearly two-thirds of Parliament. Inheriting a "broken and bankrupt and non-viable" capitalist economy from a discredited and crushed right wing, PASOK received a popular mandate to socialize the economy.
The world capitalist crises of 2007-2010 and, in particular, the bankrupt and highly indebted Greek capitalist state, which led to the election of George Papandreou (the grandson) in 2009 on a platform of "social change" and increased social welfare. He attracted working class and trade union support on the basis of creating a modern and more just society.
George Papandreou: Between Revolution & Reaction
In the wake of one of Europe's greatest anti-fascist partisan-led victories, the Greek resistance movement, backed by over two million partisans, advanced toward the liberation of the capital city of Athens in October 1944. With scant support inside the country, George Papandreou was propped up by imperial British warplanes and tanks and the right-wing monarchy in exile. Acting as prime minister, he ordered the disarmament of the Resistance and backed the British military assault on tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators in Constitution Square in Athens, killing and wounding hundreds of Greek freedom fighters. Papandreou presided over the military recruitment of numerous ex-Nazi collaborators and monarchists, financed, armed, and commanded by British—later U.S.—generals. He served as a cabinet minister in subsequent regimes, which launched a vicious assault on mass leftist popular movements. They turned what was a joyful moment of liberation into the beginning of a squalid period of savage repression and the restoration of the upper class from pre-war Greece, along with their pro-Nazi collaborator colleagues. Greece was turned into a client state of the U.S., ruled by a series of externally subsidized police states, which retained their rule by inflating a patronage-based bureaucracy, divorced from modern industry.
Andreas Papandreou and the Demise of the Right
After the demise of the military junta (1967-1974), the Greek right wing came to power, retaining much of the old state apparatus and propping up a wealthy but dysfunctional ruling class living off monetary transfers from the European Economic Community (EEC). The pillage of state resources, the bankruptcy of most of the private sector firms, the backwardness of the agricultural sector, the closed and authoritarian nature of public and private institutions led the vast majority of the working class, students, farmers, and unemployed to provide a massive electoral victory for Andreas Papandreou in 1981. The combined vote of the Socialist and Communist Parties was over 60 percent and provided a clear majority to legally transform the society and economy. Moreover, Andreas Papandreou's program promised to "socialize the economy," modernize the countryside, and break from imperial domination. In particular, he promised to terminate membership in NATO and the U.S. military base agreement.
Given the fragmentation and decadence of the right wing, political opposition to a socialist advance was at a minimum. Because of the private sectors' high indebtedness to state banks, the Papandreou government did not even need legislation to expropriate the firms: it could ask for loan repayments or the keys to the firm. However, the "socialist" Papandreou rejected the option of transforming the moribund capitalist system and instead offered new loans, forgave debts, and intervened to restore private ownership by auctioning the firms off to new, private (foreign) owners. At the time, I was an economic adviser to Papandreou. When I asked him why he didn't socialize the indebted firms, he answered, "because of the crises, it is not the time to transform the economy; it would have to wait till the economy got on its feet." When I reminded him that he was elected to change the system precisely because of the crises and, if capitalism was restored, the political and economic opposition would be more formidable, he replied "that the 'economy' is too weak to sustain a socialist regime." He added that "the working class is only interested in consumption, not investing to modernize the economy." In practical terms, Papandreou restored capitalism, increasing the public debt in the process.
During his first term in office, over 80 percent of Greek public opinion was in favor of closing the U.S. military bases and their intelligence operations in Greece. Through false promises to act "in the future," Papandreou maintained the bases. Similarly, Papandreou repudiated the vast majority of voters who elected him to withdraw from NATO. Worse still, Papandreou stayed in the EEC, accepting transfers and loans in exchange for lowering trade barriers. Papandreou used EEC transfers to buy votes via subsidies to farmers, short-term wage gains to workers, and huge tax write offs and loans to business elites. Deficits and debts grew, while the productive apparatus to sustain consumption withered. Patronage was Papandreou's "alternative" to social transformation. The EEC, in turn, was willing to finance Papandreou and put up with his dysfunctional economic policies because he was undermining the potentially revolutionary social movements for change that originally brought him to power.
While Andreas Papandreou was denouncing NATO in front of mass meetings, he was holding weekly consultations with the U.S. ambassador confirming his loyalty to the military alliance. During the first years of his government (1982-1984), when I directed the Center for Mediterranean Studies and was an unofficial advisor to Papandreou, I would be leaving by the back door of his house in Kastri while the U.S. ambassador was entering through the front door. Eventually, I realized that he borrowed left-wing critiques to justify right-wing policies—a practice in which he became a virtuoso. More recently, a State Department official commented to me that he preferred George Papandreou the younger over his father (Andreas) because he had "the same conformist policies without the demagogy." Over the years, Andreas's empty rhetoric and pro-NATO practice converted an entire generation of militant socialists into cynical opportunists and social climbers, who sacrificed class solidarity for patronage. The post-junta generation, the student idealists from the Polytechnic struggle, became the corpulent functionaries of the NATO state.
George Papandreou, Jr. and History as Farce (Three Times Over)
Like his family predecessors, George Papandreou was elected in October 2009 in the midst of crisis—this time, the most profound world capitalist crisis since the 1930s. The economy was in a free fall, the public treasury was empty, capitalism was literally bankrupt, and the right wing parties were disgraced and discredited.
During his electoral campaign, Papandreou promised a modern social welfare state with a priority for social investments in public health, education, and ameliorating poverty. Once in office, true to the Papandreou tradition, he did an about face. Striking an indignant posture, he claimed to "discover" that the Greek treasury was empty, the country was over-indebted, and the only solution was to slash living standards by reducing salaries and savaging wages, social programs, and pensions in order to pay the foreign bankers. As with his predecessors, no effort was made to collect back taxes from the rich or embargo the secret foreign accounts of the bankers, corporate executives, ship owners, stock speculators, consultants, and investment brokers who swindled Greek taxpayers and pensioners of billions of euros. No effort was made to recover the debts owed by the private sector to the state financial institutions. On the contrary, Papandreou turned to Wall Street swindlers, such as Goldman Sachs (who, in 2001, facilitated the pillage of public loans for private gain), for advice and support.
Like his grandfather, when faced with mass unrest, he turned to the imperial powers for guidance and direction. In effect, Papandreou surrendered Greek sovereignty and economic policymaking to Merkle, Sarkozy, Obama, and the IMF. They formulated the most draconian, class-based austerity program in recent European history. EU and U.S. policymakers, finding a most docile and submissive client in Papandreou, insisted on many rounds of cuts in living standards over a four month period (December 2009-March 2010), reducing Greek living standards below the levels of the early 1980s. The socialist trade union leaders' initial, weak protests encouraged Papandreou and his economic and finance ministers to push for greater concessions, hoping to satisfy "the market"—a euphemism for financiers and speculators.
After 30 years of right-wing and PASOK patronage politics, tax-free rides for their business clients, and lending to dysfunctional investors, Papandreou escalated the repression of social movements and trade unions. At the same time, he flew to Paris, Berlin, and Washington, promising more cuts in social budgets and begging for financing to bail out the corrupt state and Greece's decadent ruling class.
George Junior's election in October 2009 has turned into a political nightmare. The Papandreou regime went far beyond even the previous right-wing regimes as it handed over the design, direction, and enforcement of the retrograde socio-economic policy to the EU and Washington. Papandreou's policy is to "save the economy" by destroying it. In the midst of a deepening recession, his regime is reducing spending and incomes and increasing regressive consumption taxes, a sure formula to turn a recession into a chronic depression.
The historic mission of the Papandreou regimes have been to embrace the empire to save the rich, no matter how many dead anti-fascists, disenchanted workers, or immiserated pensioners have to pay the price. The political history of the Papandreou family is a Greek tragic-farce which manifests as the tragedy of a people who fought the good fight against the Nazis and their collaborators only to be savaged by the rising new Anglo-American rulers. The heroic Polytechnic University student struggle (1973) against the U.S.-backed military dictatorship ended with the rise of a pseudo-populist demagogue (Andreas Papandreou) who promised democratic socialism, but ended up socializing the private debts of capitalist thieves. And now, the last (hopefully) in the line of imperial sycophants, who promised progressive changes, but instead imposed regressive policies, is handing over the keys to power to imperial overseers. Beyond the political idiosyncrasies of Greece, the history of social democratic regimes illustrate their role as the saviors of capitalism in crisis. They are allowed by the foreign and domestic elites to come to power because they have the popular backing to implement harsh reactionary policies. In embracing and enforcing their unpopular and retrograde polices, the social democrats—profoundly alienating their working class and lower middle class supporters—commit political suicide. But the Papandreous of Europe serve their purpose: they turn back the tide of radical or revolutionary change. They sacrifice their regimes, but save the capitalist State.
The most hopeful and promising change today is that the Papandreou/PASOK mystique has evaporated. Even the most loyal socialist trade union officials dare not raise their hand to stay the movement. So the levels of popular anger will keep rising and the resistance will continue.
Hundreds of thousands of Greeks demonstrate in early March against proposed "structural adjustment" cuts—photo from athens.indymedia.org
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.