This is the last in a four-part series of articles on austerity in Greece and the response of society. Read part 3 here.
While mass media tirelessly repeat the “there is no alternative” mantra in order to ease the imposition of further neoliberal austerity, southern Europe resists in a surprisingly collectively creative manner towards system change. This creative resistance is the focus of the Festival4sce. Members of the coordination team, active in various initiatives in their respective local areas, all agree that resistance has to be encouraged and strengthened through the participation of larger groups of society. For Emma -member of the Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD) in Spain-, how strong resilience movements are in comparison with movements that work more focused on strategies of political incidence, change and confrontation. There is a tremendous media blockage in "the centre" of what is happening in the European periphery. A painful vast majority of people have not a clue of what is going on in countries like Greece or Spain and this has shocked me profoundly when moving to France. This is a huge challenge we are facing for neoliberalism and austerity has to be confronted on a European scenario. We have to learn how to deal with the different cultural, political and social backgrounds”.
Differences in struggles although remain the main challenge for networking and cooperation among them. As Jeza -member of 15M International- sees it, in Greece “there are many different initiatives and different ways of working. Social clinics that serve uninsured people (one third of the population) are an example of citizen self-organization to solve a problem or to alleviate a situation. Many countries do not know what the situation is in Greece. That clash with the reality of a humanitarian catastrophe can help put them in context: this is also Europe. The Greek initiatives are fighting in very adverse conditions, what often leaves them little time to work on networking and communication. The initiatives of other countries working on safer ground can provide much there, ideas and developments that are not possible at the time being in Greece”. Emma though, sees differences regarding methodologies and practices: “Social movements in Spain have developed and shared with each other practices and knowledge that have become widespread throughout our movements. This makes collaboration between collectives and nodes very effective and smooth. We are highly networked movements and this is a big difference with Greece. On the other hand, we do have very similar political approaches regarding maturity and understanding of the situation Europe is in. This is the feeling I get when I compare my experiences of collaboration with central and northern European countries. But of course, we have been hit first...”
“Greece has much to teach us from their devastating scenario and the common struggle of the people” declares Jeza and Emma agrees: “There is always something to learn from each other, that is the magic of collective intelligence” and continues: “How Greek initiatives are managing to produce solutions under the tremendous situation they are under is very inspiring and admirable. Those of us that are not so badly off in other countries have had the space to develop struggles at a more strategic level and polish our communication battle.” Irini -member of the Votsalo Network- though seems a bit sceptical: “I feel that solidarity initiatives, after a rapid development in recent years, currently seem relatively stagnant. Such initiatives undoubtedly offered valuable experiences to all participants but I’m not sure whether they have influenced society in general. It is very important to see how these initiatives will grow and how they will come together. There are always good things and experiences to share with projects and initiatives from abroad, but I consider much more imperative to work on communication and cooperation among initiatives here”.
On the other hand, Photis -member of the Spithari-Waking Life project-, explains that although “there are very significant initiatives in Greece, their fragmentation does not allow working together in a more structured context. But what the Greek teams have to "teach" foreign initiatives is the subversiveness and radicalism in the sense that they have a clearer "political" but non-partisan character and they aspire towards the creation of a different type of economy. Of course we have also a lot to learn from the experience of foreign initiatives especially regarding networking, communication and decision-making processes”. Whereas Miki -member of 15M International- supports: “without such an authoritarian government, Greek people could develop a new society right now. On the other hand, learning from others is necessary to understand the future situation and replicate ideas that work as solutions for concrete problems. In this sense, we insist in communication, but there are as well occupation strategies, avoiding government pressure, immigrants’ support inside the detention centres, etc. We've all seen the effects of austerity, but not the answers for they are silenced and not recognised. Austerity and the fascist consequent rise will touch more countries in Europe; the earlier we are connected the better we can react”.
Keeping in mind a phrase from Galeano: "This shit world is pregnant of a much better one", the organisers’ message is: Another world is here, be part of it! for they believe that the revolution starts from within us and we can now see the change we want to see in the world.