[Marxism] Self-organized workers press SYRIZA to keep its promises

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Sat Apr 18 00:23:12 MDT 2015

Self-organized workers press SYRIZA to keep its promises
by Marina Sitrin
ROAR magazine
April 16, 2015

Workers’ movements and their supporters from throughout Greece
embarked on a caravan to Athens earlier this month to speak with and
make demands on the new SYRIZA government. They are asking for
concrete support for their struggles, each of which is based on
self-organization and horizontality. Saturday, April 4 marked the
first day of a caravan that traveled to various towns throughout
Greece, meeting with and gathering other workers in struggle in each
location, who then all made their way to Athens.

The struggles range from the Thessaloniki-based recuperated factory
Vio.Me and the self-managed television and radio station ERT, who
together are spearheading the caravan, to workers occupying their
workplaces and resisting permanent layoffs in a variety of ways in
other parts of the country. The caravan culminated in Athens with 500
women cleaners who are in negotiations with SYRIZA for what they hope
will be their fair rehiring.

What all of the participants have in common is that they organize in
assemblies, where each person has equal decision-making power, and
attempt to break down hierarchies and power structures. They are
petitioning the new SYRIZA government for a variety of things, the
core of which is that they are able to maintain their horizontality
and self-organization, which some want to see codified in law.

Almost everyone involved in the movements here in Greece would agree
that it was through their struggle and support that SYRIZA was able to
come to power. In some cases, SYRIZA members were and are movement
participants, and in others the party actively supported and agreed to
continue to support the movements’ activities and demands in the

Now, a few months after SYRIZA’s electoral victory, some movement
participants are beginning to question whether the party will make
good on its promises of support. These movements range from those
opposing the mining project in Chalkidiki, the struggle for refugee
and migrant rights, those opposing anti-terrorism laws, and many other
struggles — from workers and students to autonomous health clinics.

Many people with whom I spoke believe that there are active
negotiations taking place within the new government and that change
will indeed come; others have already lost any confidence that the
government will make the promised changes — and then quite a few fall
somewhere in between, believing that there are good faith negotiations
taking place, but that if there is no pressure from below, the
government may not act on what they promised. The workers’ caravan to
Athens comprises each of these perspectives, and thus they want to
both speak to, and make demands on, the government.

Over the past few years, the two most important workers’ struggles in
Greece based on self-organization and around the principles of
autonomy and horizontality have been those of Vio.Me (a former
producer of construction materials) and ERT (the occupied national
public television). Vio.Me was occupied in 2012 and after numerous
assemblies the workers decided to not only occupy, but put the
workplace back into production, without bosses or hierarchy —
recuperating it — intentionally using the same language as the
movements in Argentina.

The case of ERT began in June of 2013, when the former government laid
off all of the national television worker in the country. Both the
Athens and Thessaloniki broadcasting agencies held assemblies and
immediately decided to occupy the stations and continue to broadcast.
While in Athens many workers eventually went back to work due to a
combination of a violent police eviction and rehiring offers by the
government, in Thessaloniki the ERT remained occupied and has been
running and broadcasting news without hierarchies or bosses since June

In both Vio.Me and ERT, the workers describe what they are doing as
something beyond just keeping production going, and explain how they
are creating new relationships — both in how they are working together
and with the concept of what the job is they are doing. As ERT
describes, they are creating a different sort of news and they are
doing so in an entirely different way. Similarly, Vio.Me has decided
to produce ecological over toxic products. Both workplaces are also
operating in innovative new ways with regard to consultation and
communication to and with the broader community.

I spoke with Theo Karyotis from the Open Initiative of Solidarity with
the Struggle of the Workers of Vio.Me (Solidarity Initiative) and
Stavros Panousis from ERT — two of the main organizing groups of the
caravan. The Solidarity Initiative is an assembly-based community
group that works together with the workers from Vio.Me to help defend,
spread and deepen their struggle. Theo explains the purpose and
composition of the Solidarity Initiative below:

"Self-management is an idea that brings together different ideologies
from the left, so within the Solidarity Initiative we have people from
different backgrounds — we have anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists,
Trotskyists, autonomist organizations and individual activists.
. . ."
. . .
The way people involved in the caravan describe their relationship to
the government and their intentions range from a sort of meeting with
allies, to reminding SYRIZA officials of the struggles to which they
are committed and who their real base is — to those who see the
caravan as a direct expression of workers’ power and as an ultimatum
to the new government. The caravan is thus both a reminder and a

As with so many people from the movements with whom I have spoken over
the past weeks in Greece, they see the victory of SYRIZA as a possible
opening for movements to gain more support for in the work they are
doing — but everyone stresses that this can and will happen only if
the movements stay organized, maintain autonomy and exert pressure on
the new government from below to remind them of the base from which
they arose.
. . .

Marina Sitrin is a writer, lawyer, teacher, organizer, militant and
dreamer. She is the editor of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power
in Argentina (2006, AK Press); the author of Everyday Revolutions:
Horizontalism & Autonomy in Argentina (2012, Zed Books); and
co-author, together with Dario Azzellini, of They Can’t Represent Us!
Reinventing Democracy From Greece to Occupy (2014, Verso Books).

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