Restore Democracy! Etienne Balibar and Others Declare Solidarity With Greek Left

Editor's Note: The declaration below was issued by philospher Etienne Balibar and signed by over 170 international public figures in solidarity with the struggle for political and economic democracy in Greece and beyond. Giorgio Agamben, Tariq Ali, Alain Badiou and Judith Butler are among the signers. A shorter version was published in the French periodical Liberation on June 5.

Following on the chain of events that, in just three years have plunged Greece into the abyss, everyone knows that the responsibility of the parties in office ever since 1974 is overwhelming. New Democracy (the Right) and PASOK (the Socialists) have not only maintained the system of corruption and privilege — they have benefitted from it and enabled Greece’s suppliers and creditors to profit considerably from it, while the European Community institutions looked the other way.

In these conditions, it is astonishing that the European leaders and the IMF, posing as paragons of virtue and severity, should busy themselves in trying to restore to office those same bankrupt and discredited parties by denouncing the “red peril” as embodied by SYRIZA (the radical Left coalition) and threatening to cut off food supplies if the new 17 June elections confirm the rejection of the “Memorandum” that was clearly shown on 6 May last.

Not only is this intervention in flagrant contradiction with the most elementary rules of democracy but also its consequences would be terrible for our common future. That alone is a sufficient reason for us, as European citizens, to refuse to allow the will of the Greek people to be stifled. However, the situation is even more serious.

For the last two years, the European Union, in close collaboration with the IMF, has been working to strip the Greek people of their sovereignty. On the grounds of stabilizing public finances and modernizing the economy, they have been imposing a draconian system of austerity that is stifling economic activity, reducing the majority of the population to poverty and demolishing the right to work. This neo-liberal style “rectification” program has ended up by liquidating the instruments of production and creating mass unemployment. Pushing it through needed nothing less than the establishing of a State of Emergency unparalleled in Western Europe since the end of the Second World War.

The State’s Budget dictated by the Troika, the Greek Parliament is reduced to acting as a rubber stamp; the Constitution has been bypassed several times. This stripping away of the principle of people’s sovereignty goes hand in hand with the humiliation of the whole country.

Here, indeed, it has reached its peak — but this does not only apply to Greece. All the peoples of all the member countries of the European Union are considered of no account when it is a matter of imposing a system of austerity that runs counter to all economic rationality, of combining the operations of the IMF and the ECB in support of the banking system and imposing governments of unelected technocrats on them.

The Greeks have, on several occasions, make clear their opposition to this policy that is destroying the country while pretending to save it. Innumerable mass demonstrations, 17 days of general strikes in the course of the last two years, actions of civil disobedience like the movement of the “indignant ones” in Synatagma have shown their rejection of the fate to which they were being doomed, without any consultation. What response could be expected from this cry of despair and revolt? A doubling of the lethal dose and of police repression! It was then, in a context where the government had completely lost all legitimacy, that it was decided that a return to the ballot box seemed the only way of avoiding a social explosion.

However, the situation is now very clear — the results of the 6 May elections leave no doubt about the mass rejection of the policy being imposed by the Troika. Now, faced with the perspective of a SYRIZA victory at the 17 June elections, a campaign of disinformation and intimidation has been launched both inside the country and at European level. It aims at excluding SYRIZA from being considered a trustworthy political representative.

All means are used to disqualify it, starting by labelling it as “extremist” like the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. SYRIZA has been accused of all the vices: swindling, double speech, irresponsible or infantile demands. If we were to believe this hate-filled propaganda, which is taking up a racist stigmatization of the whole Greek people, SYRIZA is endangering freedom, the world economy and the building of Europe. Therefore is it the joint responsibility of the Greek electors and of our leaders to block its way.

Brandishing the threat of an exclusion from the euro and other forms of economic blackmail, a manipulation of the people`s vote is being set up. It is a “shock strategy” whereby the dominant groups are making every effort to turn the vote of the Greek people to serve their interests — that they pretend are also ours.

We, the signatories of this text are unable to stay silent faced with this attempt to deprive a European people of their sovereignty, of which elections are the last resort. This campaign of stigmatizing SYRIZA must cease at once as well as the blackmail of exclusion from the euro zone. It is up to the Greek people to decide their fate, rejecting any diktat, rejecting the poisons that their “saviours” were giving them and committing themselves freely to the forms of cooperation indispensible to overcoming the crisis together with the other European peoples.

We, in turn affirm that: it is time for Europe to understand the signal sent out from Athens on the 6 May last. It is time to abandon a policy that is ruining society and placing the people under ward-ship so as to save the banks. It is most urgent to put an end to the suicidal drift of a political and economic construction that is transferring government to “experts” and institutionalizes the omnipotence of the financial operators. Europe must be the work of its citizens themselves so as to save their own interests.

This new Europe for which we, like the democratic forces that are emerging in Greece, hope and for which we intend to fight is that of all the peoples. In every country, there are two politically and morally antithetical Europes in conflict: that which would dispossess the people to benefit the bankers and that which affirms the right of all to a life worthy of the name and that, collectively, gives itself the means to do so.

Thus, what we want, together with the Greek electors and SYRIZA’s activists and leaders, is neither the disappearance of Europe but its refoundation. It is ultra-liberalism that provokes the rise of nationalisms and of the extreme right. The real saviours of the European idea are the supporters of openness, and of the participation of the citizens, the defenders of a Europe where popular sovereignty is not abolished but extended and shared.

Yes — Athens is indeed the future of democracy in Europe and it is the fate of Europe that is at stake. By a strange irony of history, the Greeks, stigmatized and impoverished are in the front line of our struggle for a common future.

Let us listen to them, support them and defend them! 


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