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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 August 2015
NEWS 2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 2015 The left’s case for crisis management As Greece’s third bailout agreement comes into force, ANTARSYA party member Petros Constantinou is in Australia, adamant that austerity must be resisted ZOE THOMAÚDOU "Can SYRIZA solve the crisis?" was the central question posed at a debate held last Tuesday in Melbourne. The session, co-hosted by the socialist group Solidarity and the New International Bookshop, featured guest speaker Petros Constantinou. Constantinou is an Athens councillor, a member of the leftist political party ANTARSYA (Antikapitalistiki Aristeri Synergasia gia tin Anatropi), and the national coordinator of the movement against fascism and racism in Greece. In light of the events which led up to the election of the SYRIZA government, Constantinou says we should not fail to see the big picture. "Practically, what happened on 25 January was really a political victory of the workers' movement," he says. "This was the outcome of at least five years of struggle and resistance against austerity measures, against racism, against fascism. In the last five years we've had more than 35 general strikes." Constantinou concludes that the most important thing during this period was the collapse of the two dominant political parties - PASOK and New Democracy. Starting with a mere four per cent, SYRIZA came to power garnering more than 36 per cent of the vote in the last elections. Constantinou says the main reason people voted for SYRIZA was the hope that it would put an end to austerity. Even before the referendum on 5 July, he says, it was quite obvious that the government was moving towards a compromise with the international creditors. Despite the 'NO' vote rejecting the creditors' demands by an overwhelming 61.3 per cent, this came as a shock to the European establishment, but SYRIZA failed to fulfil the mandate. "SYRIZA promised a program of reconstruction of the Greek economy within the EU and the eurozone, respecting the international agreements." And that is where the question of the exit from the eurozone fits in, says Constantinou. "Greece cannot expect to revive in terms of its economy without the revival of the European economy, and the European economy is clearly static. "Without an exit from the EU, without a strategy confronting the banks, you cannot save your jobs, your salaries and pensions. It is that simple." Constantinou stresses that ANTARSYA's perspective is a Petros Constantinou strategy of rupture with the EU and is calling for a united front of workers, both in Greece and Europe. ANTARSYA was formed as an anti-capitalist coalition of leftist movements and political organisations in 2008. "When we argued for the debt to be cancelled in 2009, they said 'you are lunatics'. When we argued for nationalising the banks they said the same. "When we argued against the EU and the euro, only the Communist Party and a very small part of SYRIZA said they agreed on that." According to Constantinou, the referendum result came from pressure imposed to the Greek people that a 'NO' vote translates to an exit from the EU and the eurozone. "Now we are in this situation where the exit from the eurozone has been approved by the mass majority of the population," claims Constantinou. He says that after SYRI- ZA's turnaround, neither the government nor any political power that supported the 'YES' vote is expressing the people’s will, and the solution to the crisis lies in social struggle. "Either we force the government to nationalise by occupying, by striking, by demonstrating, or we lose the case." Commenting on Greece's plight in terms of the tsunami of migrants washing up on Greek shores, Constantinou says: "For those arguing that we cannot accept all these refugees because we are very poor, the answer comes from the people of Greece. "Greece's GNP exceeds €200 billion, so there's enough money for everybody. The real question is who controls the money? Even during this crisis the government spent half a million euros on new ." With 43 MPs either abstaining or voting against the new bailout agreement, Constantinou says that ANTARSYA would welcome the left wing of SYRIZA and any other forces wanting to join them. "ANTARSYA is here for the future," he says. "We believe that a new process will start within the left front and we are very optimistic about the workers' struggle." This weekend Petros Constantinou will be guest speaker the 'Keep Left' 2015 conference being held at the University of Sydney www.solidarity.net. au/keepleft DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Judgment day for Kathy Jackson Whistleblowing ex-union boss found to have used members’ funds to fuel lavish lifestyle Former Health Services Union (HSU) boss Kathy Jackson (nee Koukouvas) has been ordered to pay $1.4 million in compensation to the union for misappropriating funds. The judgment in the Federal Court this week came after damning evidence implicated Jackson in allegations of large-scale theft and misappropriation of HSU funds via cash cheques, a secret slush fund and three union-issued credit cards. The HSU alleged she wrongfully spent $1.4 million, dipping into union funds for years to fund her own lavish lifestyle. Revealed in bank statements subpoenaed by the HSU, Jackson spent $660,000 on clothes at high-end department stores, dinners at Melbourne's top-rated restaurants and flights and accommodation for overseas holidays including to New York, Hong Kong and Europe. The court heard Jackson even used union funds for her home mortgage repayments and more than $50,000 in contributions towards a divorce settlement to ex-husband Jeff Jackson. The most blatant of Jack- son's alleged misappropriation, said the HSU, were regular withdrawals of "vast wads" of cash of up to $9,000 a time - about $250,000 in total - from her union branch's operating funds in Victoria. Almost all of it was allegedly pocketed for her own use. The trial heard last month that evidence existed showing Ms Jackson had withdrawn funds from union accounts while in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington and London. She was also accused of using union funds money to cover business class airfares for her daughter to Europe, shopping at Myer and David Jones and a single $14,000 dinner bill for the exclusive Melbourne restaurant Fenix. Jackson succeeded Craig Thomson as HSU national secretary when he entered federal parliament as Labor MP for the NSW central coast, and famously blew the whistle on his misappropriation of union funds. Last year Jackson tried without success to have the civil trial against her abandoned, telling the court in October she was mentally unfit to defend herself. She did not attend the Federal Court during the hearing and has always claimed her use of union funds was appropriate. The judgment by Justice Richard Tracey is largely symbolic as Jackson declared bankruptcy just before her civil trial began. Kathy Jackson (nee Koukouvas) outside the NSW Federal Court in 2012. PHOTO: AAP/NICHOLAS WELSH.
15 August 2015
29 August 2015