OXI Means NO

55% youth unemployment
45% of retirees living below poverty line
35% rise in suicides
$2.5 billion in profit made by the IMF on loans to Greece

But the thirst of a leech is unquenchable.

The other day, I broke down sobbing as I was heading into work. Scanning my Twitter feed for updates on Greece as I do on the CTA every morning lately, I looked out the window and saw a man on the sidewalk of Chicago literally on his knees begging for help. As I got off the bus, I stumbled down the street until I found a place where I could curl up into the fetal position and weep.

Why do we allow ourselves to be ruled by leeches?

Later that week, negotiations broke down between the Greek government and its troika of “lenders”. After five months of negotiations with the newly elected Greek government, the troika refused to budge, insisting that Greece sign a new memorandum that was virtually the same as the last, one that would deepen the austerity measures which have driven the country into a deep depression.

But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras refuses to sign and instead calls for a national referendum on the leeches!

Cue the most vicious propaganda campaign of fear-mongering and lies to ever hit airwaves. A VOTE FOR “NO” IS A VOTE TO LEAVE EUROPE! SYRIZA WILL TURN US INTO A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY! IT’S EUROZONE OR ZIMBABWE! (Never hurts to fan the flames of racism while you’re at it). Most polls show the “YES” vote with a narrow lead throughout the week. Banks remain closed, with capital controls restricting withdrawals. The media exaggerate lines at ATMs, using footage from other countries and claiming them to be Greece. “NO” rallies get 1 minute of coverage for every 6 minutes given to “YES.” Newscasters break down in tears on television lamenting the fate that awaits their proud country should the people vote “NO.”

July 5, 2015: Shattering all expectations, scoffing in the face of crocodile tears and poisoned lies, 61% of the people vote OXI! No to leeches and fear!

I cried tears of joy that day. I felt in my bones that day the blood of courage and resistance running through me, passed down from pappoudes who fought against the Nazis, who fought with the partisans, who survived the junta, who chased the American dream, who brought me here today.

Tomorrow, the Greek parliament will vote on a preposterous proposal, a financial coup d’etat aimed at stripping the Greeks of everything they have, from property to pride. The fact that Tsipras has even allowed this proposal to be put to a vote is a defeat in itself, one that had the masses of people who voted OXI last week reeling in the confusion and bitterness of betrayal. Even still, they did not miss a beat. Protests in the streets and a 24-hour general strike will take place tomorrow. Against false leaders and leeches alike.

You see, the thirst of a leech is unquenchable, yes. But its intestines are finite. And we have them outnumbered. And the strength of the human spirit cannot be bled dry. And we will not stop until justice is served. And it is not a threat, it is cause-and-effect, when I say (and you repeat): From Chicago to Greece, no justice no peace!

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Anatomy of a Capitalist Ransom Note

As I follow the “negotiations” between the Greek government and the troika on Twitter, it all just sounds like an elaborate ransom note to me. This is not a negotiation between “equal partners.” It is an entire country of people being held hostage by an international capitalist cartel intent on extracting every last drop of wealth and value from human life and labor, with zero regard for life itself. They speak on endlessly, genuinely content with their circular logic, which uses a sociopathic economic system as its starting and ending point.

If you accept the premise that capitalism is the best or only way to organize society, than it is easy to get caught up in their rhetoric because it generally follows an internally valid line of reasoning. But the fact is that capitalism is NOT the only or best way to organize society. Ultimately, as living beings whose survival depends on the functioning of an intricate ecosystem, it is actually quite illogical to base our society around a system of private profit and endless growth.

But, like parasites, the proponents of capitalism not only leech from us but convince us to love the leeching. In Greece, you can see this in the millions of people who still prefer to stay in the Eurozone at any cost, repeating the lies about their own “lazy” and “corrupt” nature as the source of the economic crisis. You see it, too, in the leaders of SYRIZA, like Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who speaks of these negotiations as a means of creating an “equal partnership” with their “lenders”. A Stockholm Syndrome of epic proportions.

The victory of SYRIZA has in many ways upset the balance of forces in Europe and there are important gains that can be won by this new government, if their feet are kept to the fire. But they are still negotiating with sociopaths, within the framework of a sociopathic system—perhaps asking for a bit less blood loss, a clipping of claws. We can only hope that such gains will be enough to breathe new life into the masses of people and break the parasitic spell. Because freedom will not be found within the rationale of a ransom note.

Anatomy of a Capitalist Ransom Note

“Anatomy of a Capitalist Ransom Note,” by Stavroula Harissis. [Printed paper, newspaper, ink, on manila folder]

My thoughts on the Greek election

I hope that SYRIZA wins today. I have a lot of doubts and reservations about what they will do once in power but I believe their election is a necessary (if imperfect, partial, full of potential pitfalls) step forward. I hope that SYRIZA wins and I hope that the Left and the masses of people are prepared to hold them accountable.

I believe that, ultimately, Greece will need to leave the EU and the Eurozone if they’re ever going to reestablish any real economic or political self-determination, and it disappoints me that SYRIZA (or rather its “leadership”) has removed this from their rhetoric of possibilities, among many other rightward shifts. But that doesn’t mean that the chain of events following a SYRIZA victory might not lead to a Grexit anyway (via expulsion from above or via pressure from below). And of course an exit from the Euro would be merely the beginning of a long process of rebuilding democracy and moving towards revolution, as is true for so many of the decisions that would face a SYRIZA government. In other words, we are along way from where we need to be. The devastation of the past 7 years of “austerity” and economic terrorism on the people of Greece cannot be overstated.

I give SYRIZA my critical, qualified support because I understand that they are the only viable option right now with any intention to ease the suffering of the Greek people and provide an opening for further progress. But this support is qualified, with criticisms, because there is indeed much to criticize and much that could go wrong and the fate of the people of Greece is what truly hangs in the balance. SYRIZA is far from a tried and true tribune of the people. SYRIZA is a necessary and promising experiment in rebuilding the Left, in challenging neo-liberal capitalism, and it is an encouraging development, a positive response to the economic crisis. But the contradictions of the current period are too great to expect that things will go smoothly after a SYRIZA victory. This is a critical juncture in Greece’s history and I believe that no matter what happens tomorrow, there will be a lot of volatility in the coming period.

So I will hold my breath, as I hope for a SYRIZA win and the kind of volatility that precedes a flower bursting from its bud.