Monday, February 13, 2012

In Athens, Tahrir

It is estimated that one in six Athenians were protesting today, with the trade union march constituting the largest component of it.  The police, notwithstanding their earlier warnings to the government, fulfilled their purpose well, pro-actively disrupting and blockading the union march by engineering conflicts along the main feeder routes.  But even with superior organisation, weaponry and a politically organised will to engage in physical combat, they could only do so much.  Greeks on Twitter almost uniformly report that people were thronging, out in their thousands, all over the city, not just in Syntagma Square and nearby routes.  

The emblems of news coverage - burning buildings, tear gas, molotov cocktails exploding around the feet of riot police - are but the epiphenomena.  Today represented another fatal breach in the state's civil society buttress.  Once, the bedrock of the state was the petty bourgeoisie in alliance with shipping and banking capital.  This was no small thing when the petty bourgeoisie constituted a vast social class.  But since the fall of the junta, at least, waged labourers have been the majority, and have been among the more radical working classes in Europe.  Now, both the Greek proletariat and petty bourgeoisie have overwhelmingly rejected the programme of austerity, and of the Frankfurt group pushing for its most extreme variant.  The state has no popular base, and the apparatus is increasingly tested as it attempts to contain the anti-austerity struggles.  The Greek ruling class is wholly dependent on, and subservient to, the EU leadership, the ECB and to a lesser extent the IMF.  They rely on the blackmail that the EU's leaders and bankers and bond traders, with their immense material resources, can mobilise - this blackmail, in that supremely mendacious act of mystification, they call by the name of 'the market'.

Today also represents another phase in the disintegration of the bourgeois parties as 15% of MPs refused to vote in favour of the second memorandum outlining the latest wave of austerity measures.  The 'national accord' government failed to hold the support of 65 out of 255 of its MPs.  Expulsions are under way, to accompany the raft of resignations and defections.  The BBC journalist Paul Mason reports a sense of ludicrous resignation among the Greek ruling class.  They know very well that sado-monetarism will not save them - default is inevitable - but feel compelled to play the Euro game.  Their desperate hope, one can only surmise, is that a prolonged and agonised death offers them a chance of redemption, where the instant death of withdrawal from the Eurozone and the radical reconstitution of national politics that this would entail, offers them no hope at all.  If an election were held tomorrow, and one must be held quite soon, the parties currently straddling the parliamentary apparatus would be shown in their true, depleted form.  PASOK's risible vote would make Nick Clegg piss himself.

But this is the least of it.  What is driving these fractures, this sudden rushing of forces under new banners and away from their traditional banners, is the radicalisation of the workers' struggle.  Two general strikes in one week, mass civil unrest, routine protests and riots... and underlying this ferment a series of ongoing industrial actions and occupations, forms of militancy which germinally - only germinally - pose the question of workers' power, of direct democracy.  It is what happens on this account, this side of the balance, that will determine how permanent, how salvageable, the Greek bourgeoisie's crisis is.