The Greece-tuc-meeting, TUC Congress House was packed on Monday night to celebrate the remarkable victory for OXI/NO in Sunday’s referendum in Greece.
The Greece Solidarity Campaign’s rally was sponsored by the TUC and supported by the Jubilee Debt Campaign. You can find some of the speeches and messages below
The speech by Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, can be found here: Greece after the referendum
07 Jul 2015, By Frances O’Grady
I was pleased to be able to sponsor and speak at the Greece Solidarity Campaign/Jubilee Debt Campaign rally in solidarity with Greece at Congress House last night. Here’s what I said:
Greece is the cradle of democracy. It is where a simple, yet profoundly powerful, idea took hold. That not kings, not bankers, not bureaucrats – but citizens who should have the right to control their own destiny.
And yesterday the people of Greece delivered a clear, democratic message to the unelected Troika. No to blackmail. No to poverty. And no to austerity.
Greece – indeed the whole of Europe – now stands at a crossroads. And what happens in the coming days and weeks will shape our continent’s future for generations to come.
I was proud to join union leaders, MPs and debt relief campaigners in signing a letter to the Guardian last week. In it, we called for a radically different approach to the management of Greek debt. For UN rules to protect people’s livelihoods and rights during debt crises. And for action against the speculators who got us into this mess in the first place.
Our aim is simple. To save the people of Greece from cuts, unemployment and destitution. To give Greece the space it needs to restore growth and prosperity for the many, not the few. And to ditch the absurd notion that by making workers poorer we can make any nation richer.
Austerity wrecks lives. It stops growth in its tracks. And makes debt problems worse not better.
Here in Britain, we’ve got our own problems. We’ve seen the damage caused by ideologically driven austerity. We’re going to have our work cut out as the Tories plan another £12 billion of cuts to welfare.
But in Greece, the impact of spending cuts is quite literally a matter of life and death.
We’ve seen clinics shut and medicines run out. Wages in freefall and pensions slashed. Unemployment, especially among the young, at crisis levels. And public services on the brink of collapse.
To cap it all, before the election of the new government, trade unions in Greece saw their collective bargaining rights stripped away, in direct contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and core ILO standards.
Enough is enough. Even the IMF now seems to recognise, Greece needs a fresh start.
It was greed and corruption at the top that got Greece into this mess. Ordinary Greeks must not be made to pay the price. Why should they have to suffer the tax-dodging antics of a super rich and corporate elite who for decades have failed to make a fair contribution to Greek society? They shouldn’t.
To its credit, the Greek government is trying to restore union rights, protect pensioners and give hope to young people. And our movement must continue to extend the hand of friendship to Greek workers and their unions. The need for practical support and solidarity remains overwhelming.
Not just medical aid, vital though that is. Nor just political support, imperative as that may be. But solidarity – borne of the knowledge that as workers and as trade unionists, across borders and frontiers, our fortunes will always rise and fall as one. Make no mistake, more austerity in Greece means more austerity in Spain, Ireland, Britain and right across Europe.
So let’s send a simple message to Greek workers. That their struggle is our struggle. When it comes to fighting austerity and the power of finance capital, we are all in it together.
Now is the time for change. We need a European Union that puts its people before markets. That remembers that markets are here to serve us, not the other way around. That the Troika don’t get to pick and choose who runs a country; it has no right to punish people for the way they vote; that the very essence of democracy means that it is we the people who decide.
No one knows for certain what the future may hold. But if we remain true to our values of equality, justice and solidarity. If we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Greek people. If we fight for a fairer, stronger Europe. Then together we will surely win.
Caroline Lucas MP sent the following solidarity message:
I have one message for the Troika tonight: take a good look at Greece, because this is what democracy looks like.
The Troika’s intransigence on Greece to date amounts to nothing short of an attempted coup.
Greece is a country besieged by tragedy. People in Greece are suffering. Over 40% of children are living in Poverty, up from 23% in 2008. A quarter of the workforce is unemployed and over half of young people don’t have a job.
But they have not given into the bullying they have faced.
We have a democratically elected Government backed in a corner by the servants of capital, and yet the people have refused to be cowed. They have had their say and that must be respected. Greece is the birthplace of modern democracy, and all of us who believe in the EU as a body which should uphold human rights, value solidarity and respect the people’s right to govern themselves are united in urging the Troika to change course.
This weekend’s resounding victory for hope is underpinned by the failure of austerity in economic terms. The vast majority of the money lent by the Troika was used to bailout banks, pay off the private sector to accept restructuring, and repay old debts and interest from reckless lending. Less than 10% of the money has actually reached the people who need it most.
If this was a natural disaster we’d be doing all we could to assist Greeks in their time of need. But, because solutions to this economic disaster fly in the face of our Government’s obsession with stripping down the state, no help is at hand.
A growing number of voices have been calling for a conference of European countries to come together – much as they did for Germany in 1953 – and allow Greece to cancel debts, and begin the process of stabilisation.
That’s the kind of action we want from our EU.
That’s the kind of vision and solidarity on offer from the trade union movement and other social movements, all around the world and to which the Greek people have responded in kind, keen to share with all of us the lessons they have learned about fighting for alternatives to austerity, for democracy, for a genuine voice.
Sunday’s referendum gave the Greek people a choice – but it also placed them at the barrel of a gun. They stood firm. Were brave and bold. Europe’s leaders now needs to be equally brave and bold, by casting their discredited ideology aside and instead offering the Greeks a deal which allows their country to be rebuilt.
Paul Mackney and Cherry Sewell from the Greece Solidarity Campaign sent the following greetings:
The victory of the Greek people has signaled the beginning of the end of austerity not just in Greece but across Europe. We send solidarity greetings from the OXI BAR on Kalogria beach, in the Mani, Greece. Unfortunately we cannot be at the political meeting of the decade because we have to see through our stint in Greece. Solidarity Tourism is tough but someone has to do it. We hope many of you will come to Greece either for holidays or on a GSC delegation. It has been a tremendous week, seeing the Greek people swing first to the right under pressure of lying propaganda and then back to the left after the IMF admitted its mistakes, the demonstrations of support across Europe and a magnificent speech by Tsipras on Friday night. As they say here: mazi tha nikisoume/together we will be victorious. We will rejoin the home battalion soon.
Isidoros Diakides, Co-Chair of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, delivered the opening speech as follows:
“Thank you for being here tonight and thank you for being with us in Trafalgar Square and the other initiatives we took the last few days in support of Greece. I want to briefly set out what the recent events mean and make some suggestions about us and the future.
I’ll start by saying that tonight we should first celebrate and then … start panicking!
But let me start with the celebratory part.
The amazing result in yesterday’s referendum was undoubtedly a major victory for all of us; the Greek people, the people in other countries of Europe, the progressive, democratic voices of Europe.
The scale of the victory was impressive and beyond our wildest expectations, even the Greek government’s own expectations, who throughout the day were quietly optimistic that the NO vote will win, hoping that it would exceed a 5% margin; in the event it was a stunning 23%!!
Our Greek sisters and brothers, the frontline of our war against the dark forces of international neo-liberal interests, despite what they are going though, once more, they did not let us down.
And the significance of this cathartic victory is larger than just strengthening the Greek government’s hand in the endless “negotiations” with the “lenders”; just imagine what the situation today would have been if we had lost this referendum. The Greek government would almost certainly have collapsed and this window of hope and opportunity for all of the people of Europe would have almost certainly closed. The stakes were that high.
Some of the immediate gains from this victory are:
• Since the referendum was announced, the IMF has taken a clear position that the Greek debt is unsustainable and that debt restructuring, including moratoria in repayments and write-offs, is an essential part of any future deal. EU leaders have made announcements about the need to invest in rebuilding the Greek economy and others about the need to address the immediate humanitarian crisis involved, as part of the negotiations.
None of these things were on the negotiating table before the decision to call the referendum, but they are now. I am not holding my breath that we will get these things without a lot more struggle. The interests behind the belligerent stance of the TROICA against Greece, are almost certainly the same interests that are prepared to bomb countries and kill hundreds of thousands; they are not likely to back down just because of the referendum. But we have survived until now, still fighting and we have made some small progress.
• The position of the government within Greece has been strengthened no end;
The leader of the main opposition party has already been unceremoniously ditched by his party, leaving his office in the middle of the night without even the traditional good-bye speech. The other opposition parties are backtracking fast, scared of complete annihilation.
• Equally significant is the complete discrediting and humiliation of the Greek mass media, which for decades has been dominating the political scene and dictating developments. No one today in Greece believes anything all these TV channels and newspapers say, not even the supporters of YES (many of whom blame the same media that by going overboard with their bias, turned in practice people off the very thing they were advocating). This is likely to be irreversible, and Greece for the first time in decades is almost certain to have got rid of this cancer.
Similarly with previously influential private polling organisations, who not only got the result spectacularly wrong, but were also exposed during the last few days, through leaks, as being in blatant cohoots with the conservative party. Again no one in Greece for the foreseeable future would believe these hired hands of the establishment, rendering them useless to their paymasters.
But the result seemed uncertain until very near the end; the victory seems to have been secured in the last 3 days. There were 3 major factors in that :
• The first was Friday’s massive demonstration for the OXI at Syntagma Square, probably the largest in recent history, which, despite being scandalously downplayed by the TV channels, boosted morale and turned the tide.
• The second was Alexis Tsipras’s speech at that rally. Once more impressive, statesmanlike, free of grandiose expressions and arrogance, simply reassuring and perfectly tuned to the mood of the Greek people
• And the third factor was … us! Yes us. Here and in the other European countries, who with our magnificent demonstrations and imaginative initiatives and expressions of solidarity, demonstrated to the Greek people beyond doubt that, despite what they tried to convince them, they were not isolated within Europe, that they had popular support. And this was clearly acknowledged by Tsipras in his post-victory speech.
Your efforts have been effective, you have played a real role in this victory. We, our solidarity campaign, here and in the other EU countries, have become now an essential part of the fighting forces in this war and we will be needed even more in the future.
But please allow me now to briefly turn to the more sobering aspects of yesterday’s events.
Yes it was a magnificent victory, a catharsis of ancient Greek Drama dimensions, but we have not won the war. Nowhere near winning it yet. This was like winning a small battle in a long and complicated war, whose outcome is uncertain to say the least. It is still a massively uneven war, with odds still stack overwhelmingly against us. We have proven that we can fight them despite the odds. We have survived to fight another day and we have secured some small but important tactical gains. We can win, but we are still the underdogs.
The Greek people today, may be relieved that this particular challenge was dealt with, but they are not celebrating. They are worried to death, apprehensive about the future, still fearing the worst.
The tortuous negotiations with the attendant bullying, misinformation, undermining of the economy and what have you, have already restarted. The banks are still closed, the capital controls are still in place asphyxiating the economy and terrorising the poor. The rich have long time ago, well before the arrival of the current government, taken their money out of the country. This is a desperately urgent priority. The powerful interests we are fighting against are not giving up as yet.
Friends we need to redouble our efforts. We are needed in the next few day and weeks more than ever.
I want to address three different groups who are here tonight.
First our Trade Unions. You have been magnificent. You have made until now a massive contribution. You were the first to realise that this is not about Greece, but about all the workers in Europe. That Greece is just the frontline for our war across Europe. Your contribution is well appreciated back in Greece. But we need you even more now than before. We cannot do it without you.
And I want to make a plea to you. Please don’t rely on amateurs like myself to come up with suggestions. You have the real expertise, the experience, the skills, the cunning to decide what is the most effective contribution you can make. Please take the initiative yourselves from now on.
Secondly our politicians across the spectrum. Your role is crucial. Again you have the skills and the knowledge to take the lead. Don’t wait for the rest of us. We have already started building a parliamentary support group. We need now to urgently speed up things. It is crucial that we have a clear voice within the British Parliament, challenging, informing, dispelling myths, scrutinising.
And thirdly the rest of us here. All those who the last few months and especially the last few days came out in solidarity. I hope that the magnificent NO victory felt like a small reward for your efforts. As I said we are now a key battalion in this war and we will be needed now more than ever. Please redouble your efforts, draw more friends and colleagues into the fight. Whether joining the campaign, participating in the events, volunteering, fundraising, writing letters to newspapers and MPs, organising in branches, public meetings, anything you can think of.
And finally a small, but important plea.
Greece in its current state relies on Tourism and agriculture, the two sectors that our “saviours” have been trying to destroy more than anything else in the recent negotiations. This very moment there is a massive campaign to scare potential tourists from going to Greece. Witness tonight’s front page of the Evening Standard, an example of blatant scaremongering.
Please remember that there is nothing to worry about as a tourist, that there has never being such a good time to visit this beautiful and interesting country, with cheap flights, low prices, advantageous exchange rates. Remember that every penny we spent as tourists in Greece goes to local families and through them to small local producers. And that the Greeks in the current climate see every visitor as a supporter of their cause, keen to hear our views as to how we see things abroad, ready to talk and explain their thoughts and aspirations. Please, if you can, visit Greece this summer or autumn. It is one of the best (and most pleasant) ways of expressing solidarity, helping the average Greek people and frustrating the other side’s plans to undermine the Greek economy.
In conclusion, we still have a real and difficult war ahead of us, we are now integrated into this war, we are an essential part of the progressive forces in this war. We can win this war, and I feel confident that we will win it … because we must win it.