Translated by act for freedom now
This is and interview that S.R.I made with Kostas Gournas, a comrade of
Revolutionary Struggle locked up in the prison of Koridallo, Athens:
1) What can you tell us about the current situation in Greece?
Greece is experiencing the biggest crisis in times of peace, a crisis
composed of multiple aspects. The turmoil that has been unfolding in the
country for 5 and a half years is something that one would expect only
in times of war. The global financial crisis of 2008 drove Greece to the
frontline of the debt crisis in Europe and led to the adoption of a
selective insolvency model in order to enforce extreme austerity
measures in the Eurozone.
In no other country has ‘shock treatment’ of these proportions been imposed in such a short time, and this treatment
has produced disastrous effects on society, even worse than those
brought about in Latin America during the first experiments of the
neoliberal school. Austerity measures have devastated the country’s
economy, destroyed 25% of its gross national product, created about 2
million unemployed and forced the majority of the population into a life
below the level of survival.
Greek society is suffering a double form of insolvency. The financial
one, the huge fiscal deficit of the government-inflated state bonds
differentials to 10 years, and the Greek state was unable to cover the
debt. The Troika (IMF, EU and EIT)’s diktats on the control of the
economy, not only that of the country, made the debt grow to a point of
unsustainability. Through a process of debt restructuring (Private
Sector Involvement), the exposure of foreign banks was substituted by
Greek bonds, whose costs were subsequently inflicted on those who had
incurred mortgages via transnational institutes such as the European
Financial Stability Fund and the European Stability Mechanism, that is
to say State-savings funds.
The other form of insolvency is political. By the second half of 2008
the political system of the country was giving signs of collapse. The
two-party system that had governed the country for 35 years was nearing
the end of its life cycle. The plundering of social wealth by the Greek
economic elites strictly linked to political power through totally
corrupt functionaries, led the credibility of the ruling class to its
lowest point. After the elections in 2012, for the first time a majority
government failed to emerge and traditional powers remained in charge
even if they had lost a high percentage of their electorate. At the same
time both the institutional left and the nazi extreme right-wing party
Golden Dawn gained votes.
The government that emerged from the 2012 elections had its majority
force in the right-wing party New Democracy. Subjected to the Troika’s
diktats, which have been increasingly contributing to the destruction of
the country, the government introduced heavy right-wing measures and a
ferocious attack on social struggles, workers and the political groups
that resisted the neo-liberal assault. The government’s programme aimed
at securing a smooth realization of the Memorandum agreement while
relying on violent repression and terrorism so as to maintain an extreme
right-wing profile, destabilize the monopoly of the nazi party, thus
distracting its voters, and push those who oppose power on the left
(SYRIZA) to adopt more conservative policies.
In the last six months, as Greece chaired the EU Committee, great
emphasis was given to the elections of 18th May and 25th May. The
government was forced to take a step back and temporarily abandon its
rhetorical and right-wing initiatives against political prisoners; this
happened when its direct links with the nazi party became obvious. So
the government concentrated on the promotion of the improvement of the
economy, for which it intended to take merit. Through a coordinated
electoral strategy, the EU boasted about the positive impact of the
programmes imposed on Greece and issued annual bonds covered by the
market. This development aimed at making the government appear as the
only reliable option for the Greek people.
As one of the effects of the crisis is the psychological breakdown of
society, a state of stagnation is gaining ground. Desperation and
pessimism have cut down all possibilities of a political and social move
from below. The undergoing profound transformations produced a
particular ‘limbo situation’. Any hope of a leftist regime being able to
change things is bound to disappear before time, and this is now
acknowledged by all.
The part of society that is hoping for a leftist
government only wants to avoid the worst rather than improve the quality
of their lives. In the meantime the extreme right seems to be becoming
significantly stronger, even if the leaders of the nazi party are being
persecuted by the government, it once again demonstrates how
historically society takes a conservative turn in times of crisis.
The wider radical movement seems to be incapable of understanding the
depth of the crisis and the social turmoil surrounding it. Having lost
important traditional instruments of struggle owing to repression, it is
trying to discover its political identity and find its position in this
time of transformation. It’s a time when we have to rediscover
everything from the beginning and devise new instruments of struggle,
which along with the old ones will help overturn the social relations
that are unfavourable to us.
2) What’s the wider context of the ‘Guantanamo’ project?
The bill for the introduction of maximum security prisons and the
exacerbation of prison conditions is part of the state of emergency,
which was imposed on society through the Troika’s control. The constant
effort by the State of creating a situation of exception against
political prisoners must be seen in this context, exactly according to
the government extreme right policies. At the heart of the bill is the
extermination of political prisoners to be carried out as soon as urban
guerrilla war starts again.
There was an attempt to impose the same situation in 2002, following the
arrest of members of the ‘17th November’ group, and also after that, at
the end of the trial against the militants of the group, when the latter
were transferred to a special unit of solitary confinement. The measure
was implemented for several months and lifted after hunger strike
protests and solidarity from the movement. No social consensus would
have legitimized this programme ten years ago. Greece had no space for
‘white cells’. The huge wave of protests against their adoption was very
important, and it did stop it with militant actions.
3) This is not the first attempt at imposing maximum security prisons; why didn’t they manage to do it the first time?
The struggle against the prison reform bill was first promoted by
political prisoners with the participation of other prisoners in many
jails of the country over the last two months. From the announcement of
the bill to the present time, when the legislative process slowed down
owing to the elections, a sort of trench warfare started off in
anticipation of what could follow. Certainly we’ll need a decisive and
long campaign made by prisoners and solidarity groups in order to
prevent the enforcement of the bill, which is a strategic choice of the
4) Resistance is starting off … what are the plans in this respect?
Greece has a long and important tradition concerning armed struggle.
This phenomenon continues to animate those who resist in the European
continent and has much to do with the social support it can enjoy. On
the one hand there are reasons that produce expressions of resistance,
especially in the current time of crisis; on the other there’s no sign
of the Greek people disagreeing with these expressions.
5) How can international solidarity become a weapon in this struggle?
The Greek crisis has contributed to imposing a regime of isolation on
political prisoners, already present in many European countries. In
order to terrorize other member states, EU leaders want to present the
Greek people as model citizens faithful to neo-liberal austerity
policies. That is why this can be a challenge for the Greek movement and
people, to organize resistance against this form of violence.
International revolutionary solidarity is an essential part of the
struggle against the prison reform bill. It is important to make this
struggle known as much as possible, and to put pressure on the Greek
State. At the moment what happens in Greece is still a matter of world
prominence because it can jeopardize the future of the Eurozone. A
possibility is offered to revolutionaries all over the world: to take
advantage of the changing situation in our country and strengthen their