June 28, 2011

School of Athens: The Greek General Strike Against the Austerity Assault


The School of Athens, by Raphael

As I write this the people of Greece are embarked upon a protest action which the unions optimistically termed a general strike in their call to action. The symbolic goal is to try to encircle the parliament building and prevent a vote on the assault package the Greek branch of kleptocracy (the Greek “government”) wants to inflict. The real goal has to be to muster enough fervor and enough of a consciousness that this government is illegitimate that the Greek people renounce it and its crimes once and for all. In the end, that’s the only worthwhile goal for a general strike.
We’re all familiar to the point of nausea with what’s happening in Greece. The government ran up tremendous debt to fund the extractions of the rich while not having to tax them. It allowed the entire taxation system to be flouted even as it engaged in this spending. Little of the short-term bounty went to the people. But the Greek government seeks to saddle them with the odious debt. Now that the banksters have crashed the European economy and revealed the insolvency of the German and French banks who engaged in this predatory lending, the goal of the “troika” (the ECB, EU, IMF) is to use these debts as the pretext for a disaster capitalist looting binge. The plan is nothing less than to steal all real assets in Greece through privatization while dismantling all remaining public interest spending, and to extend the robbery by raising taxes (and presumably collecting them this time) on the non-rich of Greece.
(We can take it as an axiom of taxation going forward that kleptocracy will never raise taxes on corporations and the rich. Such taxes won’t be nominally imposed, and even if they are, they won’t be collected. Therefore our watchword and the battle line we must hold is, No Taxes on the Non-Rich. We must oppose all regressive taxes (existing or proposed) and not waste our energy calling for more progressive taxation, since this will never be enacted and only plays into the hands of the austerian lie that the government needs to tax at all for the sake of revenue. But taxation has no purpose but social control.)
The process and lies of disaster capitalism are clear. A year ago this bailout was foisted upon the Greeks as the only way to maintain their status within the euro. They were foolish to ever want this in the first place, let alone to continue to want it, but at any rate except for some anarchists and other “fringe” dissidents, the people grumbled but submitted. There would be pain, there would be austerity, but they’d get their bailout and eventually recover. Here we are a year later and, as the dissenters predicted, the blackmail already agreed to isn’t enough. The blackmailers are back demanding far more as the price of continuing on the course already agreed to. (What’s at stake today isn’t a new bailout package, but only a vastly more severe austerity rampage as the price of continuing the bailout already agreed to a year ago. Once again we see the truth of what should be common sense. You can’t appease aggressors. If you pay a blackmailer, he’ll just keep coming back demanding more.)
Today far more Greeks realize what’s happening and what’s at stake. The protests and direct actions are no longer the monopoly of mere “leftists”. Today they increasingly encompass all demographics (except the rich). In particular, the middle classes and non-rich businessmen are increasingly turning against the regime as they see how it plans to liquidate them all at the behest of alien banksters and technocrats. More and more the Greek streets talk about nation and sovereignty. (I’ve tried to talk about those at this blog and elsewhere for a long time now, but I think I’m still far ahead of any America curve there; it’s great to see a nation anywhere starting to become conscious of itself, and of the fact that it’s being destroyed.)
But if the Greeks want to take back their sovereignty, they’ll need to go far beyond what they still articulate as their goals. A two-day general strike, even if the breadth of the action warrants that name, is still mired in the limits it imposes upon itself. The general strike won’t work to drive out the criminals completely until it becomes permanent toward achieving that goal. On the other hand, a general strike toward a limited goal like encouraging parliament to vote down the austerity assault (which is the proclaimed goal of the unions and, so far as I read, is still the consciousness of the streets) has two major flaws.
1. It still wants the people to coexist with kleptocracy, but dreams of “reforming” it. But we know this is impossible.
2. It’s still mired in the mindset of receiving from elites, petitioning elites, waiting upon elites to learn their will and then reacting.
For both these reasons, even if the Greeks temporarily stave off this new assault, that will still leave them where they were a few weeks ago: Vulnerable, ravaged, and waiting for the next blow to fall. It won’t have been a step forward toward liberation, but just holding a line which is politically and spiritually undesirable, and which in the longer run is untenable on a practical level.
So that’s a criticism. But I’m not completely pessimistic. I’ll close on the optimistic note that every action, however insufficient in itself, can help build the movement consciousness so that it becomes ever more intrepid and radical. A two-day general strike toward a limited goal can be a step toward the truly revolutionary general strike. (Especially when the people see how the limited action fails, either immediately as in France last year, or a few months later.)
The only strategic plan worth anything has the goal of taking back our countries and driving out all criminals with a whip. The Greek people can do far more than protest in the streets. They can default from the bottom up, go on a total and permanent tax strike, and through direct action take back all that land that’s been stolen. With any favor from the forces of history, the street action shall be the catalyst toward a structural uprising. Once again we can have the School of Athens, already once so seminal and fruitful for Western history.


  1. Russ, suggesting this blog post and blog in general. Author has been blogging extensively on Fukushima but also on dynamics of Peak Oil in the context of the Greek austerity. Most recent post should be of interest.

    Comment by Ross — June 28, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    • That’s an interesting post. I remember that guy from the Oil Drum. I didn’t know he got his own blog. America’s in the same boat, just not yet so starkly. And in the long run the oil civilization itself will go energy-broke, since all it’s doing is rapidly drawing down an irreplaceable principal.

      He’s right that the predominant phenomenon here is predatory lending, not reckless borrowing. The latter did occur, but was driven by the former. Financialization is supply-side all the way.

      All those cars, soon to be useless…(the weapons were always useless except from the point of view of tyranny). In the end it’s just like lending a junkie money to buy heroin. Not a good credit risk, but whose fault is that? These German and French loansharks are going to get what’s coming to them, sooner or later.

      Comment by Russ — June 28, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  2. Sometimes it’s best to watch a documentary film about Greece, made by Greeks, to get a broader idea of how the country found itself in its present situation. Goldman Sachs is mentioned prominently along with other neoliberals, like the bad guys at Seimens and the defense contractors of France and Germany (yes, Germany):

    Comment by black swan — June 28, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    • Thanks, black swan. I’ll check that out when I get a chance.

      Comment by Russ — June 28, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

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