Greece: Suffering, Crisis, and a REVOLUTIONARY WAY OUT

July 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor's note: As we go to press, it appears that SYRIZA and the Greek government have proposed an austerity program as cruel and draconian as the one voters rejected. We will continue to report on developments in Greece, but the following article remains a basic analysis of the situation.


"Imperialism means huge monopolies and financial institutions controlling the economies and the political systems—and the lives of people—not just in one country but all over the world. Imperialism means parasitic exploiters who oppress hundreds of millions of people and condemn them to untold misery; parasitic financiers who can cause millions to starve just by pressing a computer key and thereby shifting vast amounts of wealth from one place to another. Imperialism means war—war to put down the resistance and rebellion of the oppressed, and war between rival imperialist states—it means the leaders of these states can condemn humanity to unbelievable devastation, perhaps even total annihilation, with the push of a button.

"Imperialism is capitalism at the stage where its basic contradictions have been raised to tremendously explosive levels. But imperialism also means that there will be revolution—the oppressed rising up to overthrow their exploiters and tormentors—and that this revolution will be a worldwide struggle to sweep away the global monster, imperialism."

BAsics 1:6

That global monster—imperialism—has created a hellish crisis in Greece. And that crisis, in turn, poses a huge question: Is there another way the world can be?

A series of economic measures imposed by global imperialist institutions have created terrible suffering in Greece. Above, in 2011, protests against austerity measures in front of the Greek parliament in Athens. In Greek society, this hand gesture expresses extreme outrage and anger. Photo: AP

The answer is YES. But the answer lies outside the existing system, and instead in a REAL liberating revolution.


Greece is a small Mediterranean country of about 11 million people, located in the fairly poor southeast corner of Europe. It is a gateway into the wealthier parts of Europe for hundreds of thousands of desperate immigrants fleeing deep poverty, instability, or war in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South Asia.

On Sunday, July 5, with the gun of national bankruptcy pointed at their heads, millions of Greeks went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly to reject a new program of cruel austerity that the European Union (EU) wanted to impose on them. The overwhelming and angry “no” vote reflected the amount of suffering that the Greek people have already experienced and their unwillingness to sign on for even more. It reflected their willingness to sail into the storm, to oppose this in the only way that appeared to be open to them, rather than accept being broken and humiliated by the dictates of imperialist capital.

But at the same time, in this “referendum,” both choices came down to debating the terms for the scourging and bleeding of the Greek people in the interests of capital, with the only difference being the pace and severity.

A Hellish Crisis and the Rise of SYRIZA

June 2015, Syrian migrants, stranded for days in the northeastern Greek island of Lesvos, demonstrate, demanding better living conditions and travel documents from Greek authorities. During the first five months of 2015, 40,297 migrants arrived in Greece. Photo: AP

A series of economic measures imposed by global imperialist institutions have created terrible suffering in Greece. Cuts to pensions and wages, layoffs and business closings have come in wave after wave. This in turn led to economic contraction and thus a drop in government revenues (from taxes, etc.), leading to even deeper debt… and more cuts.

People are sleeping in the streets of Athens (the capital). In Thessaloniki a 13-year-old girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the wood-burning stove her mother used to heat the home after their power was cut off; last winter the city was covered in a blanket of smoke because thousands were burning wood for heat. Life for the elderly is even more bitter as pensions have been cut by 40 percent. In April 2005, a 77-year-old man shot himself in front of the Parliament. He left a note: “[the] government has annihilated all traces for my survival… And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance.” The unemployment rate for youth is over 50 percent. And the suicide rate in Greece almost doubled just in the first three years of the economic crisis.

Since December 2008, Greece has been swept by repeated outbreaks of fierce rebellion. At different times hundreds of thousands marched in Athens and other cities demanding the government resign; general strikes shut down all public transportation into and out of Greece, and within it; street barricades were set up and people battled police with rocks and bottles; banks and government buildings were attacked and sometimes set afire. Youth who demand a future and a life worth living have been in the forefront, indicting and refusing to accept the world they’ve been handed. At the same time, ugly, fascist forces have also grown, with support from elements of the police and military, as well as from some mainstream political forces, with reactionary Greek nationalism, vicious racism, and anti-immigrant attacks at the core.

Protesters attempt to bring down police barrier at the parliament in Athens, October, 2012 during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the city. Hundreds of thousands have marched in Athens and other cities demanding the government resign; general strikes shut down all public transportation into and out of Greece, and within it; street barricades were set up and people battled police with rocks and bottles; banks and government buildings were attacked and sometimes set afire. Photo: AP

It is out of this seething cauldron that “SYRIZA” (a Greek acronym for “Coalition of the Radical Left”) emerged as a major political factor, challenging and contending with the main traditional bourgeois parties who had lost all credibility, to lead the Greek state through this crisis. In January 2015, elections were held that brought SYRIZA to power. But SYRIZA’s basic demand of the EU is for better terms in the bailout: writing off some of Greece’s debt, slowing down the rate of payment, allowing for some money to go into capitalist investment to “stimulate the economy,” as well as funneling money into emergency social services. This is something the major European powers cannot accept because of the precedent it would set. And it is no solution, either to the immediate crisis or the horrors that permeate Greek society, including the utter lack of a future for youth, and the vicious persecution of immigrants. The problem is not that SYRIZA “sold out.” It is that the logic and leaders of SYRIZA cannot even conceive of breaking out of, let alone lead people to break out of the chains of global capitalism-imperialism.

Many progressives and even “radicals” hail the SYRIZA experience as a glorious example of the democracy they say we need. But regardless of the intentions or illusions of anyone, democracy can only function on the economic, social, and political foundation that already exists, and under capitalism, democracy always comes down to picking your poison… and at the same time abandoning the possibility of real change.

A Revolutionary Alternative Is Possible… Revolutionary Leadership Is Crucially Needed

There is no solution to the crisis in Greece, or the whole global setup it is an expression of, within the current world order. That world order condemns millions of children to die of preventable diseases; it enslaves women; it drives millions from their homes and persecutes them where they flee; and its dog-eat-dog “morality” flows from and serves the soulless nature of capitalism.

But there IS a revolutionary way out. There is the basis in the world today for revolution aimed at ending ALL exploitation and oppression. What is missing, in Greece and in most of the world, is a revolutionary force that can lead people to bring that into being.

The perpetrators of the greatest crimes in history have decreed that capitalism in one form or another is the best humanity can do, that attempts at communist revolution were a totalitarian disaster. But why should anyone look to them for answers and a scientific understanding of that overwhelmingly positive experience and how to do even much better next time around?

Bob Avakian (quoted at the beginning of this article) has developed the vision, and is providing leadership for a new stage of communist revolution—a radically liberating world. Find out more about, and get into the work and leadership of Bob Avakian and the movement for communist revolution at



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