– More than half a million people took to the streets in Athens recently against the austerity measures of the government imposed by the EU and IMF. What are their main demands?
– The number of people who went out in the streets, reached half a million on June 15 and tenths of thousands have been on the streets and the squares for more than three weeks in Greece. The main demands can be summarised by the slogan: WE DO NOT OWE – WE DO NOT SELL – WE DO NOT PAY.
In a recent opinion poll 47.5 percent of respondents said they want parliament to reject the reform package. The vast majority of the demonstrators agrees with the debt write-off, that the the troika should go. Moreover, over the last days, more and more people question the country’s membership in the EU.
– There are many similarities to the protests in Spain, however it seems that in Greece the whole population is involved, not only the youth. Is this a correct observation?
– Yes, not only young people participate but, also, older ones who offer all kinds of help; from making photocopies to preparing food. They are trying to balance the enthusiasm of the younger ones and convey their own experience from the struggles of the Greek people, under the guidance of the Communist Party, in the ranks of the National Liberation Front during the Second World War, the Greek Democratic Army and, later, the United Democratic Left. However, it is the youth that is in the first line. Everybody wants the youth to lead and there is hope in them. The movement has a great potential to spread even more.
– Would you say that the situation has led to a radicalization within the trade union movement, or is it still being controlled by reformist and revisionist bureaucracy?
– The trade union movement is still under the control of social-democrats and reformists. But it is the first time that the local trade unions pressed the reformist leaderships to call a 48-hour strike – the first in decades – and joint rallies around the risen squares.
– The Greek public opinion used to be in favour of the Euro and the EU. Now this has changed. Do you believe it possible that Greece might leave the EU and reinstate the Drachma?
A majority of Greek citizens now want to quit the Euro and return to the Drachma.
– From the middle of the last decade, due to constant price rises, the request to return back to the Drachma (the former Greek currency) was maturing. Now the request is supported by the majority of Greek citizens. Also, shortly before the outbreak of the demonstrations, polls showed that 27 per cent of the people questioned the abidance of Greece in the EU. Through these demonstrations and the discussions that have developed, this demand also is gaining momentum. Already in recent resolutions of the squares the EU is clearly disputed.
– In Greece you have a strong party posing as "communist", even "orthodox communist", the KKE. What role does this party play in the protests, and does it support withdrawal from the EU?
– This party immediately distanced itself from the protests. Not only did it not support them, but leading KKE cadres spoke with derogatory words about the movement; they said, for example, that it is not politically mature, that it does not pose a threat to the political system etc. KKE does not support withdrawal from the EU, even if sometimes they claim the opposite in foreign media, because it has totally accepted the strategic decision of the Greek capital to keep the country within this imperialist union. The KKE General Secretary, A. Papariga recently stated that: "A solution outside the Euro and return to the drachma in the present circumstances would be catastrophic” (Rizospastis 31/5/2011, p.6., can also be found here).
– How about the other leftist forces?
– Most of the left forces do not seem to grasp the political importance of the developing popular movement. Some of them take an openly hostile attitude to it, others try to undermine it using various means and others don’t do anything essential to support it. No left political organisation agitates for the withdrawal of Greece from EU and Euro. There are forces such as SYN/Syriza sowing illusions about transforming EU into an institution that supports peoples’ interests. Others, like the Maoist revisionist parties relegate the question of the country’s withdrawal from the EU into the future. We are the only left political organization that has put forward the slogan “IMMEDIATE EXIT FROM EU-EMU-EURO”.
– Until 1974 Greece was a military NATO-dictatorship and the reactionary forces are still active. Do you see any danger coming from the right and the fascist elements?
– It is important to point out that, during the last decades, there has been a process of fascist transformation of the Greek society, promoted by the state through all possible means and tolerated, or even, supported by the bourgeois and revisionist parties. This process has made certain progress because of the absence of massive popular movements. It is impossible that the people demonstrating in the squares have not been affected. Significant parts of the population are influenced by racist views. In the beginning, some worried that fascist-racist views will prevail in the rallies. But the people’s meetings adopted the clear-cut position that the fascists and the racists do not have any place in the squares. Now and then, small groups of fascists make their appearance, but they are immediately excluded from the crowd. Anyway, it is quite difficult for them to gain any ground in the rallies because the Nazi-fascist party, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), of the parliament has voted for the Memorandum which abolishes the country’s national sovereignty.
– Is there any way the working class and progressive forces elsewhere in Europe could support the current struggle of the working people of Greece?
– Yes. Initially, they must make clear that the demonstrations in Greece are against the anti-popular measures the government puts forward. In addition, they need to organise campaigns to inform the other peoples that the money given to Greece has been returned to their countries many times and that the terms and debt imposed on the country threaten its sovereignty and its prospects for economic development. Finally, all people have to realise that if the new measures pass and the loan treaty is not annulled, they will face a two-fold threat:
- The fall of the living standards and the drop of the wages in Greece will definitely result in similar harsh austerity policies in their own countries.
- There will be the legal precedent of the bankers abolishing national sovereignty that can be used to do the same in other countries.
A more detailed analysis of the Greek situation and the positions of the Marxist-Leninists can be found here.