This is a dispatch from Greece from revolutionary journalist and Kasama Project member Eric Ribellarsi.
06/14/12 VERNAVAS, GREECE – It’s our first day in Greece, and the sun will soon set. We’ve come to a small and historically conservative rural village in Vernavas, where posters of SYRIZA and the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) appear throughout the town.
This is a lush, green village with old stone architecture. Just like in Athens, the situation is fluid and hyper politicized. Election propaganda is everywhere, with hard left political posters overwhelming the campaigns of the pro-Troika parties (the Troika is the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank). And the red flags and images of the people in resistance are so much more attractive than boring mainstream posters depicting stodgy, old technocratic toads in their suits and ties.
The Squares Movement of Greece (Greece’s precursor to the #occupy movement in the U.S) and an electoral crisis has thrown the legitimacy of the ruling parties into question. Communists have come to this village to start a new organization.
This small village, where everyone knows one another, has historically supported the New Democracy party, Greece’s equivalent of the Republican Party, and Golden Dawn (a neo-Nazi party also has a significant base in this village). But suddenly, what was unquestionable has started to shake. Even here, people have taken bold steps to organize a program of communists and SYRIZA. All that is solid is melting.
In contrast to other rural areas that continue to support New Democracy, this village was affected by the “we won’t pay” movement. Locals are required to use a freeway in order to conduct their daily affairs and were economically devastated by the massive increase in tolls. Their response was a refusal to pay. The comrade who drove us to the village, Yani, illustrated this method as our car flew through the toll booth setting off the alarm. “WE DON’T PAY!”, he shouted with a grin.
Yani explains to us, “In areas such as this one, poor villages are expected to pay dozens of Euros every single day to even drive their children to school. It is impossible, so we have made clear that we will not pay. In response, they have started stationing the police at every toll booth and are impounding our cars for two weeks at a time.” KOE and SYRIZA rose to prominence in this area based on campaigns and movements such as this one that speaking to the needs among the people.
We arrive to preparations of a public assembly being organized by KOE and SYRIZA, featuring members of the local community and SYRIZA. The local platetia (square), surrounded by tavernas (bar-type cafes), is adorned with SYRIZA and KOE banners and a sound system. We learn that the local elementary school is having a ceremony and the assembly is delayed to accommodate their graduation. The two local SYRIZA MPs speak along with a member of KOE from Athens.
According to the organizers, such an event would not have been possible even two years ago—the locals would have called them crazy. Initially, there are many empty seats but by the end the entire square becomes full. Many are sitting in the surrounding tavernas, ignoring the Euro 2012 football match (they even went and turned off the TVs) and are listening attentively.
There are three speakers. The first, a local SYRIZA MP who was a well-known comedian in the 1970s, realized in the 1990s that PASOK (Greece’s social-democratic party, playing the role of a massive force of cooptation of resistance movements, similar to the Democratic Party in the U.S.) was a moribund political organization and joined SYRIZA. He speaks very eloquently about the assault launched against SYRIZA in the pro-Troika mass media. SYRIZA has become implicated as the cause of every social ill in the country.
After the event, we head to the taverna that supplied chairs and equipment for the event.
They serve us course after course of delicious Greek food, from salads to some amazing lamb. New found comrades and local people with many questions are talking about the program. Over and over, people ask us about Occupy and communism in the U.S. Across the table, one man from a nearby village says to us “we despise the U.S.’s role in the world, but people like you give us hope.”
As it comes time for us to leave, we notice that back in the center of the village, KOE’s posters have been ripped down and torn up. “Ah, courtesy of Golden Dawn,” Yani says to us.