On June 5 in Queens, New York, about 30 workers, leftists and young people attended a hastily organized meeting on the Greek elections.
The meeting featured City University of New York professor Costas Panayotakis and Achilles Akrivos from Occupy Astoria and Socialist Alternative. The speakers provided an overview of the economic and political crisis in Greece and the background to the political earthquake of May 6 when SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, increased its vote from 4.6% to almost 17%.
Akrivos spoke about the international context of the crisis, showing that the crisis is not a crisis of “Greece” but a global crisis of capitalism, as demonstrated by the developing crisis in Spain and other countries. The crisis started with the financial collapse and bailouts of banks and big business in 2008, which created the huge deficits. International capitalist governments are now demanding that these debts be paid by ordinary workers and the poor. He went on to explain that developments in Greece - including 16 general strikes, the movements in the squares and mass rallies of the past two years, as well as the upsurge of SYRIZA - are the beginnings of a massive revolt against austerity and budget cuts internationally. This can be seen in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the movements in Wisconsin and the explosion of the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall in the U.S., the general strikes in Portugal and Spain, the massive movement in the public sector in Britain, and the unfolding heroic movement of students in Chile and in Quebec, Canada.
Costas Panayotakis spoke about the crisis that underlies the collapse of support for the two main right-wing parties, New Democracy and PASOK, and the magnitude of the social crisis that has led to mass unemployment, record suicides, soup kitchens and a new mass emigration as a result of the budget cuts and austerity measures imposed on the population by the European Union and the ruling class. Panayotakis highlighted the need for policies to deal with the crisis and the austerity in Europe and internationally; he discusses some steps that SYRIZA is proposing, including a stop to austerity. As a result of the economic crisis and austerity packages, Greece’s GDP, its total output, is estimated to fall 20 percent from its 2008 level by the end of 2012. This is one of the largest ever falls in GDP suffered by any capitalist country since the depression of the 1930s.
Panayotakis highlighted the emergency plan endorsed by the Greek radical left, and in particular SYRIZA, to deal with the crisis, including:
Abolition of the IMF memorandum, of all measures of austerity, and of the counter-reforms of the labor laws that are destroying the country;
Nationalization of the banks, which have been largely paid by government aid;
A moratorium on payment of the debt and an audit that will make it possible to denounce and abolish the illegitimate debt;
Further steps, such as the abolition of state ministers’ immunity from prosecution, and changes of the undemocratic electoral laws.
Several people spoke about the current situation in Greece and the mass propaganda campaign against a possible SYRIZA government, the danger of a “disorderly” exit from the European Union and the eurozone, an end to debt payments to the international banks, a return to a new currency, etc. There was discussion about the need for alternative, socialist economic policies in order to restart the economy and, as SYRIZA quite correctly has pointed out, the need for internationalism, solidarity and common struggle of workers across Europe.
The meeting resolved to send a message of solidarity and support to SYRIZA and to launch a broad left committee, Aristeri Kinisi Neas Yorkis, which will campaign for left-wing ideas in the Greek American community and the broader movement in New York. Aristeri Kinisi will plan public meetings and debates as events unfold and will build solidarity with Greece and links with U.S. workers and young people, the Occupy Wall Street movement, socialist groups, university clubs and progressive radio stations.