Monday, February 20, 2012

Declaration for the Defense of Society and Democracy

I reproduce here the text of the Declaration for the Defense of Society and Democracy, organized by a group of progressive Greek intellectuals as an instrument to raise awareness about the predicament Greece is in, but also the dangers that this implies for Europe as a whole... In order to sign this document send an e-mail with your name and organization (optional) to (signatories thus far)

The following declaration (original here) is the product of an initiative undertaken by a group of citizens from different backgrounds who have agreed on the necessity of sounding a coherent and massive critical voice inside Greece as well as internationally. We have agreed that an intervention is necessary, which will forcefully highlight to Greek and European public opinion three major issues, in a conjuncture when the dominant dilemma "austerity or bankruptcy" has given it's place to the absolutely negative sum of "both austerity and bankruptcy":
1. The collapse of the social welfare state and the intensification of social inequalities
2. The subversion of democratic institutions and civil rights
3. The dissolution of the European vision and the decay of European unity
This initiative does not aim to produce yet another petition and a collection of signatories, despite its having originated on that basis. It aims to produce wider concurrences and spread the message everywhere that the "Greek problem" is simply a warning about the danger that fundamental European social and political values are in. Therefore it concerns us all.
It is our goal that everyone who signs this petition involve themselves, if they so wish, into social action, in a potential collaboration with organizations and collective entities who know firsthand, better than all of us, what is really happening in Greece today, and who are interested in working for a social and democratic Europe. In this crisis no one is alone. The answer to exclusion is participation. The answer to defeatism and pessimism is action...

Greek society is suffering both from the crisis and the responses to it, which have reached a dead-end. Major social and political institutions that were created with enormous struggles and sacrifices in post-War Greece – social security, the public health care system, public education, public transport, the natural and urban environment, the right to live a safe existence, and various elemental goods and services that underwrite the very existence of an already curtailed and devalued Greek state – are all being utterly dismantled so that Greek society is now dying of asphyxiation.

These dead-end responses rest on the blackmailing dilemma: austerity or bankruptcy? Yet, this is hardly a dilemma – it is rather a negative aggregate: both austerity and bankruptcy. The tri-monthly threat to expel Greece from the Eurozone constitutes an ethical alienation and an economic catastrophe, precisely because it strengthens the profound recession, turning the whole of Europe into an agent of uncertainty, financial instability, and proliferation of the crisis. It is Europe itself that is producing the conditions that make it impossible for Greece to fulfill its debt obligations.

It is becoming clearer every day that the specific political response to the crisis, which culminated in the parliamentary approval of the Second Memorandum, is not a viable process of overcoming the crisis or alleviating the long term pathologies of the Greek political and economic system, but a catastrophic process that deepens already existing terms of social injustice. The crisis is not experienced by those who exploited the state and public interest for decades, but by the most vulnerable social constituencies. We are confronted with an unprecedented initiative of an upwards redistribution of wealth and power that subverts the European social model by exacerbating the most extreme economic and social inequities, while simultaneously empowering the return of nationalism and the intensification of racism and xenophobia.

The falsified use of the notion of “reform” is indicative of the incapacity to overcome the crisis. Even those who did hope that the crisis would signal the opportunity to clean up or radically renovate existing institutions understand now that such imposed “reforms” destroy what is left of the social fabric. The dominant discourse regarding Greece, both within the country and abroad, is moralistic, guilt-ridden, and punitive. Every sort of disagreement or critique is dismissed as “populism”, “unionism”, or “anti-Europeanism”. After witnessing the stigmatization of the democratizing process following the fall of the Junta in 1974, we now witness the legitimation of the Far Right, which has been invited to participate in the current government. At the same time, we are bombarded with the demand that government be left in the hands of “Sages”, to coalitions of “technocrats” who will “save” the country. These are powerful autocratic and anti-democratic tendencies that employ an extreme populist rhetoric, to exploit the understandable sentiment of people’s fear-ridden disgust with the now rapidly collapsing old political order. We reject this old order as well, but without, however, subscribing to the shallow “ethnically proud” discourse that uncritically opposes the debt agreements without considering or proposing an alternative plan that can be realistically implemented.

Both Greece and Europe are sinking into a co-dependent crisis that demonstrates, not only the institutional weaknesses of the EU but the unacceptable crisis management by conservative national leaderships with neoliberal statutes and projections. No matter how difficult it seems, we owe it to ourselves to work together for a democratic European society that will continue to project its historical and political values, and provide new content to globalization. In any case, no solution can ever be reached at a national level; it must come to terms with the broader circumstances that affect the entire continent and even beyond. Today, Greeks are being humiliated, tomorrow other peoples, in a process of spreading suspicion and hatred among all. We are facing a catastrophic moment in European history. In this respect, solidarity with the Greek people underlines a major political wager for all of progressive Europe.

Against an uncritical class-based discourse, we owe it to ourselves to respond with critical thought drawn from the daily experience of citizens’ needs, especially those who are targeted unjustly by the crisis. We, the undersigned, are declaring our commitment to engage in the formation of a powerful front for the defense of society and democracy. We are forming a broad coalition that will bring together people from a multitude of political domains with the objective to restore the real meaning of words against an abusive language of self-interest, to help produce more creative modes of communication among social spaces and citizens with different affiliations, who share the elemental values of justice, solidarity, and democracy, in other words, the constitutive identities of citizens in a free-thinking and democratic polity.

Rejecting the logic of the “one-way street”, the ahistorical stereotypes that vilify Greek society thus shredding our collective dignity, we take up the task of elucidating, the real consequences of this crisis, both within Greece and abroad. The Greek crisis is part of a broader crisis that is changing the foundations of our current historical times. In this transitional period it becomes essential to understand that the very meaning of society, and certainly the meaning of democracy and of citizenry, are under threat of being dismantled and must be defended at all cost.

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