Greece: Refusing illegitimate debt – a struggle that unites
9 August by Eric Toussaint
Nearly two hundred people had gathered at the Dexameni open-air cinema (in the Kolonaki quarter) in Athens on Monday 17 July to hear a talk and see two documents produced in liaison with the CADTM. The activity was organized jointly by the Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt and by the Justice Pour Tous association. An animated video entitled “The Greek debt, a European tragedy” (http://www.cadtm.org/The-Greek-debt-a-European-Tragedy,13733) was screened at the start of the event. The video, co-produced by the Les Productions du Pavé team in Liège and the CADTM, was enthusiastically applauded.
Among the militants that had gathered that evening were a range of figures drawn from a broad spectrum of the Left who are in resistance to the Memoranda: Zoe Konstantopoulou (the former President of the Greek Parliament, who is also founder of the political movement Course of Freedom), three former ministers of the first Tsipras government (Panagiotis Lafazani, Dimitri Stratoulis and Nadia Valavani, all of them members of Popular Unity), the jurist Nikos Konstantopoulos (former president of Syriza, in the early 2000s), Aris Chatzistefanou (maker of the films Debtocracy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKp… ), Catastroika (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZL…), etc. and Director of the Web site Infowar), Leonidas Vatikiotis (co-screenwriter of Debtocracy and Catastroika), Moisis Litsis of the Greek chapter of CADTM, Kostas Bitsani (companion of MEP Sofia Sakorafa, who was unable to leave Brussels that evening), Antonis Ntavanelos (ex-member of Syriza’s political committee) and Sotiris Martiris (both members of DEA and of Popular Unity), Stathis Kouvelakis (ex-member of the Syriza central committee, member of Popular Unity), Diamantis Karanastasis, one of the leaders of Course of Freedom, Marie Laure Coulmin, coordinator of the group work Les Grecs contre l’Austérité, trade-union members and many citizens who are not in the habit of taking part in meetings of the radical Left. It was a real success in a situation where unified action among all those who are in resistance is more vital than ever. Such diversity is rarely seen and it’s important to point out that the struggle against illegitimate debt is a force that can bring about convergence among such a broad spectrum of individuals.
It was not easy to do.
The screening site had not been chosen by chance. The open-air cinema belongs to the public water utility workers’ union, with the Troika and the foreign creditors now pressuring the Greek government to privatise water. Underneath the cinema, located on the side Mount Lykabettos, is Athens’s main water reservoir. After a warmly-received speech by a union leader who explained the struggle against water privatisation, three other speakers were heard – Leonidas Vatikiotis, Nikos Konstantopoulos and myself. In my speech, devoted to the theme Germany/Greece: Who owes what to whom?, I announced that on Wednesday, 19 July a delegation from the German Left would deliver a petition to the Euro Group in Brussels signed by 170,000 people in Germany who are against privatisation of water in Greece. Andrej Hunko, a member of the Bundestag, will be a member of the delegation. Leonidas Vatikiotis condemned the campaign the government and the mainstream press are conducting on the theme “Greece has returned to the financial markets; all is well.” Nikos Konstantopoulos called for a struggle to restore the primacy of human rights over creditors’ rights.
The evening had to be interrupted because it started to rain – an exceptional occurrence in Athens in July. Zoe Konstantopoulou was forced to speak in the cinema’s bar, and the film L’audit de la dette by Maxime Kouvaras was not able to be screened. It will be re-scheduled.
The event on Monday 17 July had been preceded ten days earlier by an international conference organised by the Popular Unity Party (LAE), created in August-September 2015 by Syriza’s left wing, which had protested against the capitulation of July 2015.
The conference took place Friday, 7 July in a working-class quarter of Athens, and the audience numbered more than 200 attentive participants. The title of the conference was “The response of the European Left to the European Union of neoliberalism, austerity and racism.” Speakers included Nikos Chountis, MEP from Popular Unity, former vice-minister in the first Tsipras government; Yannis Albanis, former spokesman for Tsipras before the capitulation, member of the Greek radical Left network; Djordje Kuzmanovic of La France Insoumise; Jesús Romero, Podemos MP, member of Anticapitalistas, Andalusia-Spain; Filipe Teles of the magazine Praxis, Portugal; Constantin Braun, Die Linke, Germany; John Rees, writer and activist, UK; and myself for the CADTM.
The conference was highly interesting. In the hall were Zoe Konstantopoulou, leader of the Course of Freedom movement (who spoke the following day at another conference held as part of the festival organized by Popular Unity), Costas Isychos, former vice-Minister of Defence (January- June 2015), Dimitris Stratoulis, former vice-Minister of Social Security (January-June 2015), Panagiotis Lafazanis, former Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy (January-June 2015), many trade unionists and many more.
The Board of Directors of the Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt met in Athens on 11 July with Zoe Konstantopoulou, Giorgos Kassimatis, Leonidas Vatikiotis, Thanos Contargyris and myself participating.
We assessed the activities the Committee has conducted in Athens in recent months. They included the public meeting held 4 April 2017 (two years after the official start of the Committee’s work within the Greek Parliament) with nearly 150 persons in attendance. 60 people left their contact information and indicated that they want to lend their support to the continuation of the work. The Board of the Committee discussed upcoming activities and the participation of the 60 volunteers, divided into several working groups.
A book in Greek that includes a part of my work on Greece, published by RedMarks, was presented in Athens on 11 July at an event held in the cultural centre The Commune. Some one hundred persons were present. The main room was packed with more than 70 people. Another thirty followed the presentation on screens set up in three other rooms. The alternative medium ThePressProject was streaming the event. Speakers during the presentation included Panos Kosma, Panagiotis Lafazanis (former minister in the first Tsipras government, leader of Popular Unity), Zoe Konstantopoulou (former President Speaker of the Greek Parliament, leader of the Course of Freedom movement) and myself.
To sum up: the struggle to abolish the illegitimate debts being demanded of Greece continues.
Translated by Snake Arbusto