The stinking wiretapping scandal in Greece – which is now also known as the ‘Greek Watergate’ – has deepened the contradictions and political impasse of the right-wing New Democracy government, and of the capitalist bourgeois establishment at large. This, in turn, reflects the general economic and socio-political impasse of Greek capitalism, and the broader historical crisis of world capitalism.
The latest development was the disclosure of part of the investigation conducted by the Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE). These releases officially confirm a number of wiretaps conducted by the secret services under the supervision of the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The investigations of the ADAE, meanwhile, are ongoing.
The government’s initial reaction was to directly attack the head of the ADAE, judge Christos Rammos, and to issue a panicky announcement through a government spokesperson, Yiannis Economou. This was preceded by systematic attempts to obstruct the ADAE’s investigation. The obstruction culminated in the infamous ‘legal opinion’ of the chief prosecutor, Isidoros Dogiakos, that the ADAE does not have authority to audit telecoms companies to find out who has been surveilled by the intelligence agencies; and accompanying threats to imprison members of the ADAE, including Rammos himself.
This was only the latest openly pro-government, and legally completely baseless and unconstitutional ‘initiative’ by Dogiakos. It has been subjected to a barrage of criticism by legal specialists, including at the European level, with harsh criticisms from the European Parliament’s PEGA committee. The latter, for the umpteenth time, issued strict recommendations to the Greek government, and (among other things) called for the involvement of Europol in the investigations.
In the early days of this scandal, government officials and the openly pro-government media attempted to create artificial distractions: new episodes of the ‘Mitsotakis versus Erdogan’ masquerade, for example, and other manufactured “number one” political issues of the day. Their attempts to ignore the revelations, or else downplay their importance, belie the panic they are experiencing.
The ruling class discreetly distances itself
In light of the revelations, a number of capitalist politicians, journalists, and other prominent representatives of the Greek ruling class have distanced themselves from the government over this issue. Circumstances have naturally forced the PASOK-KINAL leadership to take up a hostile attitude, after its leader Nikos Androulakis was among the first politicians to be revealed to have been wiretapped. But even a number of well-known figures from New Democracy itself, and other politicians and journalists – all representatives of the Greek ruling class – have come out more-or-less openly in criticism of Mitsotakis’ government.
The seriousness of this affair cannot be ignored. Combined with the reactionary policies of the government it is decisively undermining its popularity. The ruling class has thus understood that Mitsotakis’ time as its chief political representative is drawing to an end. It can only hope for a smooth and gradual ‘changing of the guard’ should he manage to win the upcoming elections, or for a more immediate replacement after a possible electoral defeat.
To boost the chances of an electoral victory for the traditional party of the Greek ruling class, to give it the appearance of being less fractured at the top than it actually is, and to mask the tarnished image of its leader seems, criticism of Mitsotakis’ leading group is being kept quite moderate, and the ruling class is trying to distance itself relatively discreetly. Moreover, they fear that an open split at the top of the establishment might encourage the labour movement and the youth to mobilise more decisively, at a time when we see increasing signs that the disillusionment and pessimism that prevailed after the betrayal of the SYRIZA leadership in 2015 are being overcome.
This tightrope performance is reflected in the sober but persistent appeals by the major bourgeois newspaper, Kathimerini, to “shed plenty of light” on the wiretapping affair, so that “no shadow remains” that might “cause political uncertainty”.
The labour movement and youth are the main target
The surveillance of a few dozen, or even a few hundred, important figures from among the establishment is only the tip of an iceberg, which was already known to consist of thousands of ‘legal’ wiretaps by the secret services. As we detailed in our previous article, this number has risen on the back of each major movement of the workers and youth in the last two decades. This confirms who the real targets of the capitalist state are – a state that by its very nature remains hooked on reactionary and intrusive methods like wiretapping. Its main targets are the labour movement and youth activists.
The working class is also the only social force with both an interest and the ability to put an end to this kind of slide towards Bonapartist methods by the Greek ruling class. It alone is capable of defending democratic rights – not just in words, but in practice. No matter how many, or how ‘high-ranking’ the figures from the ruling class being monitored by another section of that class turn out to be, the general interests of their class tend towards the maintenance of these dirty, anti-democratic methods. After all, they are an important pillar of their political rule as a class.
Sections of the bourgeoisie are thus capable of little more than appeals against ‘transgressions’, amidst a system of otherwise perfectly legal and perfectly institutional eavesdropping. As the President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, characteristically stated in her meeting with SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, after the latest revelations: “the authorities have a duty to protect both national security and the rights of citizens, a difficult weighting…”
And as they stated in another article in Kathimerini, titled “Balance”: “the country needs to once more find the balance between security and rights”. Only with the establishment of a higher form of democracy, workers’ democracy, in which political – as well as economic – power will be in the hands of the working majority of society, can security and democratic rights cease to be considered as opposing concepts.