Earlier this week, the massive bailout program that Greece entered eight years ago officially came to an end. But as Patrick Strickland writes in The Nation, hardship for Greeks is far from over, with employment at 20 percent and much of the country mired in poverty. Amidst the relentless austerity, however, Strickland finds workers who have taken over the management of their factory, and citizens from all walks of life engaged in the unofficial “solidarity economy.” It is a model, suggests Strickland, for an economy beyond the predatory capitalism that devastated Greece in the first place. Here’s an excerpt:
Today, the Greek government, currently led by the left-wing Syriza party, is celebrating what it calls the end of the economic crisis. On August 20, the country will officially exit the European bailout program, but the working class, which has been devastated by a decade of crippling austerity measures—including pension cuts, shrunken wages, and tax hikes—has little cause for rejoicing. Unemployment still hovers around 20 percent, part-time work is on the rise, and the minimum wage has decreased by about one-fifth since the beginning of the crisis. Against that backdrop, workers across the country, including those at Vio.Me, fear their own crisis is far from over.
Vio.Me’s history is one of a gradual evolution from a desperate response to impending layoffs to a radical experiment in self-management. And the 23 remaining workers say they have created a model that can help struggling workers fight back in the face of yet more hardships.
Drawing inspiration from factory occupations in Argentina in the early 2000s, they abolished hierarchy, creating a structure based on the idea that all workers are equal. Unlike many cooperatives, which maintain a hierarchical structure, Vio.Me’s staff now share responsibilities such as cleaning and guarding the premises, and each employee makes the same hourly wage. A general assembly has replaced bosses.
Image: A collectively run factory in Greece. Via The Nation.