Τρίτη, 30 Ιουνίου 2015

We are not dead yet. And we do not, and never will, deserve this./ Letter of support for Greece





And let me get started on the poltics, for once.
I'm not a person who learns everything about the political scenery. I am not an expert. I am not a political cartoonist. I am not the one you should ask to explain the exact political situation in Greece.
However.
I've been living in this country all my life. I've grown up here, and played, and studied, and made friends and family and travelled and came back again. This country is in my heart and in my veins. I have seen it thrive, and I've seen it thrown to the seventh pit of hell. And now, they're pushing us even further down, and I'm here to see that too.
My question is for the non-Greek people, hence my choice to write in English. How on Earth, how do you look at a country that's suffering, that's asking for help and for mercy and for understanding, how do you look at the people asking for a piece for bread in the streets, the children fainting when they get to school because of hunger, the 50% of unemployed people under 30, the seniors who are still working full-time for literally the monthly salary equal to the amount of money people in England make in minimum wage in four days, how do you look at those people who are doing their best, and say
"we should beat them harder"?
"it's their own fault"?
"they deserve it"?
Look a child born today in the eyes and tell them they deserve to be in 30k euros of debt from the moment they were born. Look at the people commiting suicide daily because they couldn't afford medication for the depression the financial instability has caused them, and tell them to their face that they deserve to be punished for not giving away every single cent of the few that they were given, for a debt that can't be cleared even if every single member of their extended family sold their kidneys. Look at the mother working two jobs, trying to raise three children and a 50-year-old husband who was just fired and won't be rehired anywhere, and tell her that because a bunch of politicians she didn't vote for ten years ago stole money that belonged to her, she and her family deserve to starve. Look at the millennials leaving their country to go and work abroad because they have no other choice, and tell them that they deserve to be exiled because someone they have only heard about didn't read the terms and conditions of a decision that would affect the country forty years ago.

"Greece" is not our politicians. It's not the human pieces of garbage that brought this country to hell and then left it to rot while they enjoy their fruits of betrayal. Greece is the land that bears the olive and the people who pick it up. Greece is the sea and the mountains and the ancient rocks on the hills. Greece is the beggar in the train, and the shop owner that's closing down, and the child that's taken halfway across the world because there's no future here, and the teacher that's staying to give the future a chance. It's the student that leaves and swears to come back, and the grandmother in the village on the mountain that lives on bad rice the whole month because she sends all her money to her son who was just fired and can't find a job, it's the people that still meet up and bring a smile to their faces and give the last coins to the man in the tavern so his business still goes on, and they toast to their children's happiness and the end of their troubles.
So when you say that Greece deserves what it's getting, pay attention. Because you are not condemning an abstract concept - you are condemning an idea and eleven million people with eleven million stories.
We are not dead yet, you fucker. And we do not, and never will, deserve this.


Letter of support for Greece

Signed by Etienne BalibarCostas Douzinas, Barbara Spinelli, Rowan Williams, Immanuel WallersteinSlavoj Zizek, Michael Mansfield,Judith ButlerChantal Mouffe, Homi Bhabha, Wendy Brown, Eric Fassin, and Tariq Ali



Over the past five years, the EU and the IMF have imposed unprecedented austerity on Greece. It has failed badly. The economy has shrunk by 26%, unemployment has risen to 27%, youth unemployment to 60% and, the debt-to-GDP ratio jumped from 120% to 180%. The economic catastrophe has led to a humanitarian crisis, with more than 3 million people on or below the poverty line.

Against this background, the Greek people elected the Syriza-led government on 25 January with a clear mandate to put an end to austerity. In the ensuing negotiations, the government made it clear that the future of Greece is in the Eurozone and the EU. The lenders, however, insisted on the continuation of their failed recipe, refused to discuss a write down of the debt – which the IMF is on record as considering unviable – and finally, on 26 June, issued an ultimatum to Greece by means of a non-negotiable package that would entrench austerity. This was followed by a suspension of liquidity to the Greek banks and the imposition of capital controls.

In this situation, the government has asked the Greek people to decide the future of the country in a referendum to be held next Sunday. We believe that this ultimatum to the Greek people and democracy should be rejected. The Greek referendum gives the European Union a chance to restate its commitment to the values of the enlightenment – equality, justice, solidarity – and to the principles of democracy on which its legitimacy rests. The place where democracy was born gives Europe the opportunity to recommit to its ideals in the 21st century.

Etienne Balibar

Costas Douzinas

Barbara Spinelli

Rowan Williams

Immanuel Wallerstein

Slavoj Zizek

Michael Mansfield

Judith Butler

Chantal Mouffe

Homi Bhabha

Wendy Brown

Eric Fassin

Tariq Ali



Originally published in the Guardian.

the right to democratic dissent


Athena Athanasiou

One of the normative impulses of Eurozone orthodoxy has been to forestall the element of dissent, and to establish an uncritical and authoritarian doctrine: namely, that neoliberal austerity is the only possible “game in town”. 

For five years, the peoples of Greece and other countries of the European South have been experiencing the implications of a compulsory economization of the political terrain: rampant inequalities, dispossession of public space, dismissal of social rights. The role of EU and Eurozone bureaucracies, but also of the states and state institutions, has been reduced to safeguarding the pervasive functions of the market. The antagonistic spirit of corporate capitalism has taken precedence over democratic agonism. 
The effacement of people’s sovereignty, but also of politics tout court, is crucial to the project of neoliberal governmentality. Regimes of governing through crisis management have hailed us as subjects of competitive economic struggle for survival; dispensable and disposable; exposed to the injuries of poverty, shrinkage of public spaces and services, demoralization, and racism. In examining challenges for democracy generated by austerity politics, Wendy Brown argues in her latest book that the values of democracy are undermined today not only by the unfettered power of finance capital and by extreme economic inequality, but also by a normative economic mode of reason and governance that “undoes” the constituent terms of democracy—freedom, equality, and popular sovereignty. 1

The SYRIZA government unsettled the neoliberal hegemony by working to end austerity and the “bailout” cycle, and by enacting new democratic configurations of political power. Its political agenda included, significantly, resisting and debunking the assumptions that underlie the neoconservative manufacture of consent around the narrative of austerity.
No critical agency can be ever deemed to be situated in exteriority to the existing state of affairs and workings of power. But critical agency pertains to the question of how subjects, through our embodiedness and embeddedness, might contest with others the injurious terms of our subjectivation. An alternative economy of bodies emerged and made space for enacting a mode of politics that involves insisting on the possibilities of critical agency in the face of its impossibility. This has been the wager of anti-neoliberal movements, public assemblies, uprisings, and solidarity collectivities. And this is SYRIZA’s unwavering political commitment: to mobilize the potentiality of transforming such unjust and injurious interpellations, in the direction of a new Europe of justice, equality, and solidarity. The point of such political actualities has been to make way, again and again, for new social and political potentials, spaces, and visions for equality, justice and democracy in Greece and in Europe at large. 
For five months the SYRIZA government negotiated with the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) institutions amidst harsh attacks from the conservative political and economic establishment, leading figures, neoliberal technocrats and various elites within EU. The government mobilized what is deemed anathema in current EU orthodoxy: namely, the element of disagreement and critical agonism. It did so in the name of those who suffered the most by the politics of austerity and state abandonment. 
During the past few days, every time the Greek government made a compromise, or even a concession, in the direction of coming to a viable agreement, the institutions relentlessly came up with new onerous, punitive demands, including demands for additional cuts in the social security and pension system. Eager to confirm the “there is no alternative” neoliberal doctrine, they sought to defeat and humiliate the Greek government, the first left-wing government ever elected in a EU member state, by forcing it to comply with the axioms of neoliberal governmentality.
During the Euro summit of last Thursday evening (25.6.2015), Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, declared that “the game is over”. “A million and a half unemployed, three million poor and thousands of families without income is not a game” responded the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras.” After Tsipras called a referendum, Yanis Varoufakis, the Finance Minister of Greece, was not invited to participate in the second part of the Eurozone Finance Ministers emergency meeting on June 27, 2015. A couple of days before that emergency meeting, the Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde had reportedly said at a press briefing: “The key emergency is to restore the dialogue with adults in the room.” 

The SYRIZA call for a referendum for July 5 over the EU-ECB-IMF non-negotiable final demands was a democratic government’s only possible response, ethically and politically, to the international creditors’ impudent ultimatum. 
Upon the announcement of the decision, all local and international power centres, elites, and establishments deployed their weapons of fearmongering and blackmailing to delegitimize the very possibility of holding a referendum. Understandably so, as the decision for the referendum seemed to unsettle their plans. Holding the gun of a bank run to the head of the SYRIZA government, Europe’s mainstream forces had presumed that this government too would capitulate at the end, and the old guard of neoliberal, right-wing, former social-democratic and other forces of the “extreme center” would come back to power. 
With its reactions to the call for a referendum, the configuration of advanced capitalist power that has subsumed all politics under the “unmarked universal” of market economy, demonstrated nothing less than a sheer antidemocratic cynicism. As a response to the announcement of the referendum, today’s (28.6.2015) decision of the ECB to cap emergency liquidity to Greek banks is meant to put huge pressure on the Greek banking sector, but also on the government itself. 
However, blackmailing and ultimatums are not what Europe is, or what it should be about. The Greek government’s decision to trust the people to determine their own future offers the European Union a unique chance of critical self-reflection; a chance to resume its proclaimed pluralist and egalitarian legacies. 
The call for a referendum, ratified by the Greek Parliament, figures a break with the logics and logistics of austerity and authoritarianism in Europe. It figures also an opening to the performative potential of people’s sovereignty and a Europe that trusts the power of the plural, inclusionary, and non-essentialized demos, which is the guiding and animating force of democracy. 

As Étienne Balibar has argued, a democratic Europe can only come from citizens’ initiatives of protest and sustained revolt in the face of this neoliberal crisis. On one important proviso: “that this protest won’t itself drift into a state of majoritarian nationalist victimhood and that it proves able to suggest alternatives that make sense to the majority of the citizens across the continent.” 2
The Greek government’s call for a referendum on the EU-ECB-IMF non-negotiable final demands depicts a democratic ethos which involves an alternative redistribution not only of goods and services but also of political power. It points to a democratic political power and political subjectivity to be construed in non-authoritarian and not-totalizable ways, with no underlying principle of homogeneity and authenticity. It seeks to activate a democracy with a plural demos within, despite and against the orthodoxy of post-democratic capital management. Above all, it signals how democracy is made possible and what democracy makes possible in terms of hitherto unavailable potentials.

NOTES:
1. Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Zone Books, 2015.
2. Étienne Balibar, “A new Europe can only come from the bottom up”, Open Democracy, May 6, 2013.





DO NOT BLINK, GREECE

Alex Andreou . London and Athens . 27 June 2015
Do Not Blink, Greece
The international game of chicken, being played out for the last five years, is reaching its climax. Alexis Tsipras has played a very bad hand extremely well, despite what doomsayers suggest

Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, seemed to take the world by surprise last night when he announced that he would move to give a referendum to the Greek people on the debt deal currently on offer by the EU/IMF, so that they could have their say. He made it clear that he was unhappy with the offer, which he described as "unbearable" and "humiliating", and minded to reject it.
Opposition parties in Greece have moved swiftly to condemn the move. These are largely the same people who have been, for weeks, criticising Tsipras for making too many concessions during negotiations and moving towards a deal that they said was terrible.
Some international commentators have, however, noted that Eurogroup discussions are in fact continuing today and that the "team Greece" has suddenly found itself in a position of pulling a rather large ace from its sleeve which nobody thought it had.
What is the truth?
As always, it is somewhere between those two positions. Earlier in the year, I wrote that the EU and especially the IMF had overreached. For shock doctrine to function, one has to leave a majority with something to lose. A tipping point can be reached and, I believe, has in Greece where the vast majority of people sneer at the threat of things like capital controls and savings being wiped out. Quite simply because they have no capital or savings. When that happens, a nation's reaction to humiliation can be unpredictable.
It is true that the referendum leaves Greek people with the choice of types of extreme misery. Will it be an externally imposed misery or a self-determined type? But it is utterly unfair to suggest that this is a position to which Syriza has brought us. It is a position to which forty years of corruption and incompetent government and five years of economically illiterate IMF hegemony have brought us. Faced with the choice of an ever-expanding abyss of austerity, of death by a thousand paper cuts, Tsipras has opted to act as a catalyst and bring things to a quick and decisive end.
There is no doubt in my mind that in twenty years Greece will still exist and most likely be thriving. I do not say this because of glories of the past and "cradle of democracy" arguments. I abhor romanticised nationalism. All that is in our distant past. I look instead at our present.




 I look at the solidarity grassroots movements, which have sprung up to provide medical care for people who can no longer afford it or shelter for the thousands of Syrian refugees coming through our borders. I look at the cooperative factories and restaurants which have been born to provide people with jobs. I look at how families have pulled together and at how relatively firm the fabric of our society has held in the face of five years of onslaught. These achievements are why I am hopeful about the future - not ancient history.
The real question is: Will the European Union survive? This depends on their handling of the situation over the next few days. Greeks are not alone among populations increasingly uncomfortable with micromanagement by unelected supranational bodies. The time has come for the Union to redefine itself as one which actively seeks to strike a balance between harmonisation and sovereignty or one which tries to bully its way to federalisation at the risk of perishing.


There has been much talk of this being an abdication of responsibility by the Greek government. I see it very differently. The brief which Tsipras was handed in January was a difficult one from the start. His mandate was clear: Greek people wanted a. an end to austerity; and b. to remain part of the Euro. There was always a chance, depending on how hard the stance of our partners was, that those two aims would be incompatible. Tsipras is a leader honestly saying: "It turns out that, despite our best efforts, we cannot deliver both a and b. So, we are coming back for further instructions."
It seems extraordinary how averse we have become to democracy. How alien an honest leader, who is unwilling to sell the country out in exchange for continuing power, appears. Take a breath. Allow your eyes to adjust. Tsipras is what all leaders should actually be like. We have simply become so accustomed to seeing things through the warped prism of political expedience, that democracy as it should be appears twisted.
I don't know what the people's answer to the referendum, if it goes ahead, will be. I marvel at the hysteria of opposition voices at even having a referendum. If you feel like that, vote "yes" and convince others to vote that way too. Tsipras has given you the power to do so. I do know that the question of whether we reclaim self-determination or are happy to be, in fact, governed by unelected, extraneous powers which feel they can dictate what the VAT rate on milk and bread should be, is a question which concerns all of us.



Note from Byline: Alex Andreou is crowdfunding his ongoing coverage of the Greek Crisis. Please consider contributing a few pounds here 


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