Panagiotis Sotiris

At the end of February a series of full page ads appeared in many international newspapers and websites. Their title was “give Greece a chance”. At first sight it looked like an honest attempt to express solidarity with the Greek people, who have been experiencing the full impact of the austerity packages imposed upon Greece by the EU – ECB- IMF troika.

However, a closer look shows a different image. The text of the appeal is full of positive references to the austerity packages. It admits that the measures have had a “dramatic impact” on the lives of ordinary people, but insists that “further hardship is inevitable” in order to create a “modern, productive and creative Greece with a sustainable future”. Consequently, it insists upon the need to implement the necessary “structural reforms”, in line with the dominant discourse that treats workers’ gains and social legislation in Greece as an impediment to growth. The campaign’s website boasts about the sacrifices already made by Greek society, as socially necessary, and is full of positive references to the recovery of competitiveness, to labor market reforms that include the easing of mass lay-offs, to the raising of the age limit for full pensions, and to massive wage cuts for public sector employees.

In this sense it is not an appeal to support Greek People in struggle, a people facing an extreme deterioration of social conditions, but an appeal to support austerity measures. That is why the campaign dismisses the discourse of social movements against austerity as “populism”.

The pro-austerity and pro-business character of the campaign is also made evident by a look at the companies supporting the appeal. They represent the most aggressive sectors of Greek capital and especially the ones openly supporting the attack on labor rights. The corporations supporting “Greece Greece a chance” are the ones that are going to impose wage reductions, take advantage of legislation easing mass lay-offs, and impose the dismantling of collective bargaining, exactly the measures that are causing social unrest and protest in Greece. To give some examples: Aegean Airlines have insisted on breaking down union activity and on deteriorating labor relations. Companies operating at the Athens International Airport have used various forms of union busting. Coca Cola Greece is planning to shut down of two of its production lines, a move that is going to lead to more lay-offs in a period of extreme unemployment. Banks such as Piraeus Bank and Eurobank are going to take advantage of recent legislation enabling them to proceed to mass redundancies and decreased wages. Costa Navarino, a luxury resort developer, will get advantage of new legislation eliminating environmental and archeological restrictions to investments. The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises and the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises have pressed for reduced wages, dismantling of the collective bargaining system, more flexible labor relations.

In this sense it is obvious that the whole “Give Greece a Chance” campaign aims at taking advantage of the wave of sympathy for Greece in order to create not a wave of solidarity but a wave of foreign investments looking for cheap labor and business-friendly environment in Greece and also a new wave of EU funds for corporations that have supported the austerity packages. That is why the whole project has to be denounced and unmasked.

What the Greek people want is not austerity, “structural reforms” and the attempt by the EU and the IMF to turn Greece into a test-site for an extremely aggressive neo-liberalism, but social justice and democracy. They do not need big business support of socially devastating measures, but true expressions of grassroots solidarity and common fight against austerity, neo-liberalism and the policies of the EU and the IMF. The true friends of the Greek people are not corporations but the thousands of people all over the world that have expressed their solidarity and are realizing that what is happening in Greece is a warning sign for all.