Marquis de Vauvenargues once said…

People are willing to help so long as they lack the capability to do so!

Solidarity is our weapon” and “solidarity is the weapon of the peoples” are two of the most used slogans of Greek anarchists and communists. They have been repeatedly reproduced in walls, banners, stickers and brochures. Yet, the determination of those who adopt them remains questionable. Do the “comrades” or do they do not share feelings of comradeship? A straight under exceeds my understanding. Nonetheless, I can verify the high speed with which the blocks of anarchists protesters disperse whenever the so called clashes with police erupt. Those who can claim relevant experience know that as soon as the first tear gas canister is launched the hooded youths are desperately looking for a safe and clear place from where they can swear at the police without the fear of arrest.* Needless to say that under these conditions nobody has time to think, let alone act collectively. I had the “honour” to see this “ritual” with my very eyes during the anti-globalizations rallies of 2003 summer in Salonica. My sources understand that almost nothing has changed since and therefore during the most crucial moments individualist instincts still prevail easily over any collectivist rationale and ethos.

Speaking of 2003, let me remind you that it was this year when the so called “peoples’ killers”** decided to invade Iraq. I can easily recollect an “orthodox” comrade revealing me the readiness of the party (the Communist Party of course) to react as soon as the first bomb exploded in Baghdad.  His words were rather a commitment than a promise and were translated to deeds when the time came. In this respect, the Athenian people showed its solidarity towards the Iraqi brothers by protesting for 3 days in a row outside the US embassy. It seems that we were a bit tired after 72 hours of solidarity and this is how we pacified our consciences and returned to the usual norms. However, and due to an inexplicable (!) reason B-52 lethal operations over Iraq outstayed Athens protests! Smart bombs did not cease bringing smart deaths for weeks in a number of Iraqi cities despite our anti-imperialist fervour. In sum, our so called solidarity was of no practical use. It eventually turned out to be an event for domestic political consumption. It had the least influence on the ground and most Iraqis, as I regrettably found out last year in Damascus, were actually ignoring it. However, no matter how pointless and fake were our solidarity efforts they remained a better option in comparison with utter silence.

But let’s come back to the present. Since October 31 the workers of one of the main steel industries in Greece (there are three in the country) decided to go on strike protesting against a proposal made by the management which asked for 34 dismissals on the one hand and a number salaries cuts on the other. The steadfastness of the steelworkers, who are on strike for more than two months now, has impressed a lot in the country and their struggle was naturally met with a genuine wave of solidarity. Scores of decrees and resolutions by various institutions, unions, parties and communities have been received by the strikers. All of them more or less depict steelworkers’ struggle as a paramount one and stress that a positive outcome will be a victory against the austerity wave which affects everybody in Greece.  But what can a solidarity decree from Kiev really contribute? What difference will make these Edinburgh written lines? You may say that something is always better than nothing. Ok, but still, in every case there are always certain people and institutions whose words and deeds carry a significant weight. This case is not an exception; the tragedy is that (also) here those with the special capabilities and responsibilities have not yet proved active enough. 

The first place in this infamous list hold the colleagues of steelworkers from the regional city of Volos. The industry has two units, one in Aspropirgos (Athens industrial suburb) and one in Volos. When the management of the industrialist Manesis came up with the austerity plan he informed both units. The workers organized two separate general assemblies, one in each unit. The Aspropirgos branch decided to go on strike while Volos’s workers reluctantly accepted the plan. This action can be justified on many grounds. However, it remains rather incomprehensive why Volos workers did not change their attitude in the wake of the universal solidarity their struggling colleagues have been recently receiving. In order to make certain things clear, every week Aspropirgos workers assemble and discuss whether they should or not renew their strike option. Common sense affirms that as long as a strike case remains in stake so does a non-strike one. In other words, I find extremely difficult to understand what sort of impediment forbids Volos’s steelworkers to join the solidarity trend. The poor and ill Marquis du Vauvenargues stresses the difficulty of the action, but this difficulty is making all the difference, for such an action would not just be moral, it could be effectively “dangerous”.  

Of course apart from Volos’s workers there are also the workers of the other two Greek steel industries which are placed in the capital. If the argument of solidarity activists which claims that Manesis functions as a “Trojan Horse” of the industrialists’ syndicate is right, then it is at least unwise for those who will be harmed tomorrow to stay aloof. So far there have been no calls for a general strike in the steel industry. Had activities of this kind taken place the assumed industrialists solidarity would have suffered a severe blow and would have led Manesis to a compromise. In the same context I do not understand why the general federation of Greek workers (GSEE) does not go on the offensive. For many this is explained on the grounds of accusations that this association acts as a government’s puppet. Ok, but what about PAME? The latter is a strong communist backed union with a particular amount of influence among the strikers and which so far has regrettably failed to make the difference. Last but not least, there is the leadership of the official Left. Although the two parliamentary leftist parties have shown a considerable amount of verbal support to the strikers they seem neither to promote nor to learn from the strikers’ struggle. How else can we explain their inability to bridge their differences and despise for each other. It is characteristic that their leaders prefer to visit the strikers in separate occasions

There are plenty of paradigms of fake solidarity today in Greece. For instance employees of a mainstream TV station (Alter Channel) remained unpaid for a year and as soon as they decided to fight for their rights very little support came from their colleagues. A similar situation can be spotted in the public sector where thousands were made redundant and no general action has yet called. Things look really bleak and seem to verify another quote of the marquis. A quote which says that, “as long as a man was born to obey, he will obey even whilst seated on a throne”. However, and in spite of the all the aforementioned inconvenient realities, whenever I witness the panic which has conquered Greece’s bankrupt political rulers I cannot help hoping that something positive will happen and will alter the scene completely. If this something is meant to be the victory of the steel workers’s strike, so be it. And in this respect I express my solidarity (!) to their just and noble cause.   

* However, there will always be some reckless and inexperienced chaps and consequently every now and then Athens indymedia inexorably has to call for solidarity demonstrations outside Athens main court house.

** Mainstream slogan attributed to the USA; it is extensively used by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) which considers itself an orthodox follower of the Marxist thought.

See you again (hopefully) next Monday

Marquis de Vauvenargues

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