in his important, moving new book, An Empty Seat in Class:
The astonishing electoral victory in Greece by SYRIZA brought to mind the dazzling friends we met from PODEMOS in Espana when we were there a few months ago. A popular movement, wide-spread discontent with the establishment and the traditional parties, a deep sense that the bankers have fully seized and killed the normal political process, an awakening to the great injustices inherent in the system and a statement that there is some shit we will not eat, a feeling that another world is possible if we can mobilize and unite and rise up to storm the heavens—something new and bold is in the air.
I don’t know much and I’m running to catch up. Below find the program of Syriza (Nationalize the banks! Close all foreign military bases in Greece and leave NATO! Support Palestine!—WOW!!! Who can disagree?) followed by a couple of commentaries, one from an email from my friend and comrade Petros in Cyprus:
Due to enormous demand Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is reposting the official program of the Greek coalition of the radical left, SYRIZA. The following was translated from the daily bulletin of Italy’s Communist Refoundation Party. The text was first translated by and posted at The Greanville Post.
1. Audit of the public debt and renegotiation of interest due and suspension of payments until the economy has revived and growth and employment return.
2. Demand the European Union to change the role of the European Central Bank so that it finances states and programs of public investment.
3. Raise income tax to 75% for all incomes over 500,000 euros.
4. Change the election laws to a proportional system.
5. Increase taxes on big companies to that of the European average.
6. Adoption of a tax on financial transactions and a special tax on luxury goods.
7. Prohibition of speculative financial derivatives.
8. Abolition of financial privileges for the Church and shipbuilding industry.
9. Combat the banks’ secret [measures] and the flight of capital abroad.
10. Cut drastically military expenditures.
11. Raise minimum salary to the pre-cut level, 750 euros per month.
12. Use buildings of the government, banks and the Church for the homeless.
13. Open dining rooms in public schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to children.
14. Free health benefits to the unemployed, homeless and those with low salaries.
15. Subvention up to 30% of mortgage payments for poor families who cannot meet payments.
16. Increase of subsidies for the unemployed. Increase social protection for one-parent families, the aged, disabled, and families with no income.
17. Fiscal reductions for goods of primary necessity.
18. Nationalisation of banks.
19. Nationalisation of ex-public (service & utilities) companies in strategic sectors for the growth of the country (railroads, airports, mail, water).
20. Preference for renewable energy and defence of the environment.
21. Equal salaries for men and women.
22. Limitation of precarious hiring and support for contracts for indeterminate time.
23. Extension of the protection of labour and salaries of part-time workers.
24. Recovery of collective (labour) contracts.
25. Increase inspections of labour and requirements for companies making bids for public contracts.
26. Constitutional reforms to guarantee separation of church and state and protection of the right to education, health care and the environment.
27. Referendums on treaties and other accords with Europe.
28. Abolition of privileges for parliamentary deputies. Removal of special juridical protection for ministers and permission for the courts to proceed against members of the government.
29. Demilitarisation of the Coast Guard and anti-insurrectional special troops. Prohibition for police to wear masks or use fire arms during demonstrations. Change training courses for police so as to underline social themes such as immigration, drugs and social factors.
30. Guarantee human rights in immigrant detention centres.
31. Facilitate the reunion of immigrant families.
32. Depenalisation of consumption of drugs in favor of battle against drug traffic. Increase funding for drug rehab centres.
33. Regulate the right of conscientious objection in draft laws.
34. Increase funding for public health up to the average European level.(The European average is 6% of GDP; in Greece 3%.)
35. Elimination of payments by citizens for national health services.
36. Nationalisation of private hospitals. Elimination of private participation in the national health system.
37. Withdrawal of Greek troops from Afghanistan and the Balkans. No Greek soldiers beyond our own borders.
38. Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
39. Negotiation of a stable accord with Turkey.
40. Closure of all foreign bases in Greece and withdrawal from NATO.
The exit from the crisis is on the left
1. Creation of a shield to protect society against the crisis:
Not a single citizen without a guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benefit, medical care, social protection, housing, and access to all services of public utilities.
Protection of and relief measures for indebted households.
Price controls and price reductions, VAT reduction, and abolition of VAT on basic-need goods.
2. Disposal of the debt burden:
The national debt is first and foremost a product of class relations, and is inhumane in its very essence. It is produced by the tax evasion of the wealthy, the looting of public funds, and the exorbitant procurement of military weapons and equipment.
We are asking immediately for:
A moratorium on debt servicing.
Negotiations for debt cancellation, with provisions for the protection of social insurance funds and small savers. This will be pursued by exploiting any available means, such as audit control and suspension of payments.
Regulation of the remaining debt to include provisions for economic development and employment.
European regulations on the debt of European states.
Radical changes to the European Central Bank’s role.
Prohibition of speculative banking products.
A pan-European tax on wealth, financial transactions, and profits.
3. Income redistribution, taxation of wealth, and elimination of unnecessary expenses:
Reorganization and consolidation of tax collection mechanisms.
Taxation of fortunes over 1-million euros and large-scale revenues.
Gradual increase, up to 45%, of the tax on the distributed profits of corporations (SA).
Taxation of financial transactions.
Special taxation on consumption of luxury goods.
Removal of tax exemptions for ship owners and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Lifting of confidentiality for banking and merchant transactions, and pursuit of those who evade taxes and social insurance contributions.
Banning of transactions carried out through offshore companies.
Pursuit of new financial resources through efficient absorption of European funds, through claims on the payment of German World War II reparations and occupation loan, and finally via steep reductions in military expenses.
4. Productive social and environmental reconstruction:
Nationalization/socialization of banks, and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers’ control, in order to serve developmental purposes. The scandalous recapitalization of the banks must stop immediately.
Nationalization of all public enterprises of strategic importance that have been privatized so far. Administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control, and democratic planning. Support for the provision of Public Goods.
Protection and consolidation of co-operatives and SMEs in the social sector.
Ecological transformation in development of energy production, manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture. These reforms will prioritize nutritional abundance and fulfillment of social needs.
Development of scientific research and productive specialization.
5. Stable employment with decent wages and social insurance:
The constant degradation of labour rights, coupled with embarrassing wage levels, does not attract investment, development, or employment.
Instead, we are calling for:
Well-paid, well-regulated, and insured employment.
Immediate reconstitution of the minimum wage, and reconstitution of real wages within three years.
Immediate reconstitution of collective labour agreements.
Instigation of powerful control mechanisms that will protect employment.
Systematic opposition of lay-offs and the deregulation of labour relations.
6. Deepening Democracy: democratic political and social rights for all:
There is a democratic deficit in the country. Greece is gradually being transformed into an authoritarian police state.
We are calling for:
The restoration of popular sovereignty and an upgrade of parliamentary power within the political system:
Creation of a proportional electoral system
Separation of powers
Revocation of ministerial immunity
Abolishment of economic privileges for MPs
Real decentralization to create local government with sound resources and expanded jurisdiction.
The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of self-management under workers’ and social control at all levels.
Measures against political and economic corruption.
The solidification of democratic, political, and trade union rights.
The enhancement of women’s and youths’ rights in the family, in employment, and in public administration.
Speeding up the asylum process
Abolition of Dublin II regulations and granting of travel papers to immigrants
Social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection
Democratic reforms to public administration with the active participation of civil servants.
The demilitarization and democratization of the Police and the Coast Guard. Disbandment of special forces.
7. Restoration of a strong welfare state:
Anti-insurance laws, the shutdown of social services, and the steep fall in social expenditures under the Memorandum have turned Greece into a country where social injustice reigns.
We are in need of:
An immediate rescue of the pension system, to include tripartite financing and the gradual consolidation of separate pension fund portfolios into one public, universal system of social insurance.
A raise in unemployment benefits until the substitution rate reaches 80% of the wage. No unemployed person is to be left without unemployment benefits.
The introduction of a guaranteed minimum income.
A unified system of comprehensive social protection covering the vulnerable social strata.
8. Health is a Public Good and a social right:
Health care is to be provided for free and will be financed through a Public Health System. Immediate measures include:
Support and upgrades for hospitals. Upgrade of health infrastructures of the Social Insurance Institute (IKA). Development of an integrated system of first-level medical care.
Covering the needs of medical treatment in both personnel and equipment, in part by stopping lay-offs.
Open and cost-free access to medical treatment for all residents in the country.
Free pharmaceutical treatment and medical examinations for low-income pensioners, the unemployed, students, and those suffering from chronic diseases.
9. Protection of public education, research, culture, and sports from the Memorandum’s policies:
With regards to education, we are calling for:
Consolidation of universal, public, and free education, including coverage of its urgent needs in infrastructure and personnel at all three levels.
Compulsory 14-year unified education.
Revocation of the Diamantopoulou Law.
Assurance of self-government for Universities.
Preservation of the academic and public character of Universities.
10. An independent foreign policy committed to the promotion of peace:
The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country’s independence, peace, and security.
A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.
Furthermore, on the basis of international law and the principle of peaceful conflict resolution, we will pursue improvements in Greek-Turkish relations, a solution to the problem of FYROM’s official name, and the specification of Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The incumbent economic and social system has failed and we must overthrow it!
The economic crisis that is rocking global capitalism has shattered the illusions. More and more, people understand that capitalist speculation is an inhuman organizational principle for modern society. It is also widely acknowledged that the private banks function only for the benefit of the bankers, harming the rest of the people. Big business and bankers absorb billions of euros from health care, education, and pensions.
An exit from the crisis requires bold measures that will prevent those who created the crisis from continuing their destructive work. We are endorsing a new model for the production and distribution of wealth, one that will include society in its totality. In this respect, the large capitalist property is to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.
We are changing the future; we are pushing them into the past!
We can prevail by forging unity and creating a new coalition for power with the Left as a cornerstone. Our strength in this endeavour is the alliance of the People: the inspiration, the creative effort, and the struggle of the working people. With these, we will shape the lives and the future of a self-governed people.
Now the vote is in the hands of the People! Now the People have the power!
In this new election, the Greek people can and must vote against the regime of the Memoranda and the Troika, thus turning over a new page of hope and optimism for the future.
For Greece and for Europe, the solution is with the Left!
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” –Nineteenth century Nēhilawē (Cree) proverb
Germans Are in Shock As New Greek Leader Starts With A Bang
January 28, 2015
The assumption in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s entourage before Sunday’s Greek election was that Tsipras, the charismatic leader of the far-left Syriza party, would eke out a narrow victory and shift quickly from confrontation to compromise mode. Instead, after cruising to victory and clinching a fast-track coalition deal with the right-wing Independent Greeks party, he has signalled in his first days in office that he has no intention of backing down.
Newly appointed Greek prime minister and winner of the Greek parliamentary elections, Alexis Tsipras, waves as he arrives for a swearing in ceremony by members of his cabinet at the presidential palace in Athens, Jan. 27, 2015., Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters,
In his first act as prime minister on Monday, Alexis Tsipras visited the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944.
The move did not go unnoticed in Berlin. Nor did Tsipras’s decision hours later to receive the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official.
Then came the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to “fiscal waterboarding,” would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticizing an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.
The assumption in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s entourage before Sunday’s Greek election was that Tsipras, the charismatic leader of the far-left Syriza party, would eke out a narrow victory, struggle to form a coalition, and if he managed to do so, shift quickly from confrontation to compromise mode.
Instead, after cruising to victory and clinching a fast-track coalition deal with the right-wing Independent Greeks party, he has signalled in his first days in office that he has no intention of backing down, unsettling officials in Berlin, some of whom admit to shock at the 40-year-old’s fiery start.
“No doubt about it, we were surprised by the size of the Syriza victory and the speed with which Tsipras clinched a coalition,” said one senior German official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Another said Tsipras’s choice of coalition partner and finance minister were “not good signs,” while a third admitted to being “stunned” by the Greek leader’s first days in office.
Officials close to Merkel say they still believe Tsipras will ultimately change course, dropping his more radical election pledges and signing up to the economic reforms that Berlin and its European partners have insisted on as a condition for handing over more aid that Athens desperately needs by next month to service its debt.
But the past days have sown doubts about this hypothesis.
Even as Greek stocks plunged and bond yields soared on Wednesday, Tsipras continued to promise “radical” change.
Over the past 24 hours, his government has put two big privatizations, of Piraeus port and Greece’s biggest utility, on ice, and his ministers have pledged to raise pensions and rehire fired public sector workers.
In response, German economy minister and deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized Athens on Wednesday in unusually stark terms for halting the privatizations without consulting, and he issued a warning to Tsipras that the eurozone could survive without Greece.
“We no longer have to worry like we did back then,” Gabriel said, when asked about contagion if Greece were to exit the single currency bloc.
Marcel Fratzscher, head of the DIW economic institute in Berlin and a former official at the European Central Bank, said Tsipras was playing a “very dangerous game” by coming out with all guns blazing.
“If people start to believe that he is really serious, you could have massive capital flight and a bank run,” Fratzscher said. “You are quickly at a point where a euro exit becomes more possible.”
Officials point to a Brussels summit of European Union leaders on Feb. 12-13 as a first key test of Tsipras.
The other major area of concern for Germany is a new Greek government’s stance on Russia.
Tsipras’ meeting on Monday with the Russian ambassador, who handed over a personal letter of congratulations from Vladimir Putin, and the new Greek leader’s howls of protest at the EU statement on Ukraine, have raised questions about whether the bloc’s fragile consensus towards Moscow can hold.
Even before Tsipras took power, officials in Berlin were worried about keeping countries like Italy on board for Russia sanctions, which must be renewed in mid-2015.
Now the fear is that Tsipras, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and skeptical Eastern European countries like Slovakia and Hungary, could band together against an extension, and a ratcheting-up of sanctions in response to a new advance by pro-Russian rebels on the strategic Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
Prying Tsipras away from his European partners on the Ukraine issue would be a coup for Putin. Some officials fear the Russian president could go so far as to offer Greece the financial support it needs to meet its debt obligations as a carrot.
One senior German official described Tsipras as part of a brash new generation of European leaders, including Italy’s Renzi, who weren’t afraid to stand up to Merkel and challenge the assumptions that have shaped policy in the eurozone and Ukraine crises in recent years.
“He doesn’t come from the establishment, he’s unvarnished, confident and capable of rallying the public behind his course,” the official said. “It’s clearly not going to be easy with him.”
No one can say the signs weren’t there in the run-up to the election.
Only days before the vote, Tsipras told thousands of people at a campaign rally in Athens: “On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad.”
In the background loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”
(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller in Berlin, Deepa Babington in Athens; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Peter Graff)
This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.
I’m hoping the letter finds you and Bernardine and all your loved ones
well, in good health and in good spirits.
The situation with Syriza is a mixed one, and many of us are almost
holding our breath to see which way it’s going to evolve. The truth
is… it’s impossible to trust the leadership of this party, for various
reasons, but we are investing honest hope in the possibility that they
will actually move beyond rhetoric and toward actualizing what they
So far, the only positive thing about them is that they include some
real freedom fighters like Manolis Glezos, who is someone we can trust;
not only because he is a hero, but also because he has shown in practice
his commitment to direct democracy and community-driven politics (ie.
embodying not only post-capitalist but also post-socialist values,
principles and perceptions). But there are many opportunists, assholes
and outright traitors in the party, even pretty high up on the
hierarchy. Like Vasiliki Katrivanou, a Syriza Member of Parliament, who
supports the Apartheid-style “final solution” to the Cyprus conflict
that has come to be known by various names, notable among them “the
Annan Plan”, and “the Bizonal Solution”. That plan is being actively
promoted by the global Empire (and especially the US/UK Axis of Evil);
we live and breathe in daily horror as the machinations unfold that are
aimed at enforcing that system of Apartheid on us. If it becomes
enforced on us it will finish off the Turkish Cypriots by absorption
into Turkey and finish of the Greek Cypriots by ethnic cleansing.
In this moment that is urgently pregnant with the “what next?” question,
there are I think three important parameters:
1. The party is going to have to prove quickly – with actions – whether
all of its slogans were for real, or if they were just posturing. So
far, the new Prime Minister is very popular, but many of us worry that
it might just be because he might be a good actor. We hope to be proven
wrong! We want the Syriza promise to be a real one!
2. The fact that so many millions voted for Syriza is a lot more
important as a symbol, as a statement, than the new Government itself
is. It shows that the people are ready to embrace the Left again, even
if it’s now being represented by leadership that has not proven itself
in the struggle. And it shows that the people are really desiring
policies that are anti-austerity; against Big Capital; for national
a) The elections reflect how correct Lenin was when he spoke about what
the people (as a “mass”) tend to support (I forget where it was he wrote
When the project of the Left (its organizations, its actions, its
momentum) is intuitively perceived by the people to be unready to hold
(or seize) power, the people withhold their support and give it to the
Right. Which is what the majority in Greece voted for in the previous
elections; even while the majority where for the Left and against the
austerity measures they could see that the Left was in shambles and
simply left it alone. When the Left was perceived (or appeared) as
having been re-organized and became more functional, the people gave it
b) But we live in Times of Deception; in the Era of the Spectacle. So,
Syriza appears to the people to be functional and ready to administer
the country according to some Leftist (even some Socialist) principles.
“Appears” is the key word. But is it the truth? Is it ready? Is it even
willing to do that? We hope so, but don’t know yet. Syriza got elected
more because the right-wing leaders of the European Union such as Merkel
openly and publicly expressed (or feigned) a “concern”, even a “fear”
and supposed “hostility” at the possibility of Syriza getting elected to
power. This gave the people more assurance about the party than the
party itself did.
3. Actualizing the program.
This is the crux of the matter. I don’t think that anyone is discussing
yet (certainly not the party, nor its supporters) that the political
program of the Left CAN NOT be actualized without active mobilization
and physical-emotional participation of the people, without a hands-on
tangible involvement of the population in the process. There’s the
illusion that the goals of the political program can be achieved by
declarations and by legislation.
No one is talking about organizing the farming brigades and worker’s
brigades that will be required to re-vitalize the country’s ability to
feed and clothe itself; ie. to create a self-sustaining economy for the
country. It seems that both the party and its supporters are assuming
that all that can achieved by conventional “investment and development”
procedures (State-directed investment by the banks; in other words a
humane management of capitalism). No one is talking about the need to
mobilize people for occupations and seizures of productive units (idle
factories, housing units, hospitals, etc). No one is talking about
mobilizing the reserve soldiers into the self-organized defense teams
(some sort of militia) that will be required to protect the country from
Turkey’s military aggression or from resistance to the popular
mobilizations mentioned above that might be thrown up by the fascist
elements of the Police.
Socialism can not be “proclaimed”; it can only be achieved by active
participation of the multitude: the Syriza program is entirely devoid of
any such references. It seems to imply that its radical goals (such as
to “Use buildings of the government, banks and the Church for the
homeless”; “Open dining rooms in public schools to offer free breakfast
and lunch to children”) can be actualized by Government proclamation.
Also some items in the program are totally wrong. This one stands out:
“Cut drastically military expenditures”. It will be an act of national
suicide to move in that direction; every single day Turkey’s air force
violates the airspace of Greece and Cyprus threatening the population
with mock bombing runs and engaging in electronic dog-fights with the
air force of Greece. In the face of such aggression, to cut military
expenditures is criminal.
One of their program items is “No Greek soldiers beyond our own
borders.” But the survival of Cyprus depends on the presence of soldiers
from Greece in Cyprus. If they are removed, and if we do not undergo a
radical reorganization of defense in Cyprus (create a People’s Army), we
are finished. Turkey will eat us up. And then other Greek islands will
be next, as well as northeastern Greece.
Even with all the reservations and concerns I delineated above, we are
hopeful that Syriza will DO the right thing, even if what they have done
so far is mostly TALK the right things (plus some wrong things).
Above all, beyond what the new Government intends to do or not, what we
hope for is a rejuvenation of the peoples’ mobilizations that might be
able to actualize the party program with direct action, in a spirit of
Please feel free to publish this or share it with anyone you think is
appropriate – thanks!
Top Fund-Raisers in 2014
1. Harvard U. $1.16 billion
2. Stanford U. $929 million
3. U. of Southern California $732 million
4. Northwestern U. $616 million
5. Johns Hopkins U. $615 million
6. Cornell U. $546 million
7. U. of Texas at Austin $529 million
8. U. of Pennsylvania $484 million
9. U. of Washington $478 million
10. Columbia U. $470 million
11. New York U. $456 million
12. U. of California at San Francisco $445 million
13. Duke U. $437 million
14. U. of Michigan $433 million
15. Yale U. $430.31 million
16. U. of California at Los Angeles $430.28 million
17. U. of Chicago $405 million
18. U of California at Berkeley $390 million
19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $375 million
20. Indiana U. $341 million
Speaking of teaching, check out this 2005 comment by the late great George Carlin:
“…the big wealthy business interests that control everything…don’t want…a population of citizens capable of critical thinking.
They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people…who are smart enough to figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.”
FIGHT the POWER!!! TEACH FREEDOM!
The lessons of a liberating education: You are a precious and valuable person. You are thrust into life, and now you must choose what to make out of what you’ve been made. You are swirling through a dynamic history, and what you do (or fail to do) makes a difference. You need no one’s permission to interrogate the world. Open your eyes; be astonished; act; doubt. Repeat for a lifetime.
If you’re from Chicago, get to the polls–early voting begins February 9.
If you’re not living in Chicago, why aren’t you?
The delusional narcissism of self-regarding and self-described deep thinking “intellectual” of the far Right, Dinesh D’Souza, knows no bounds—here is today’s tweet comparing himself to MLK: