On Wednesday 4 April a 77 year old pensioner, Dimitris Xristoulas, committed public suicide in Syntagma Square, Athens. He left a militant political note denouncing his “murderers”.
His murderers are those who have robbed the pensions and salaries of Greek workers, who have dismantled and destroyed public services who have indebted Greece until at least 2020 through an austerity program.
Xristoulas' note reads: “The traitors’ government of Tsolakoglou (refering to the first Prime Minister of a Greek collaborationist government, during the Axis Occupation in 1941-1942) has taken away ... my right of a decent pension and a decent survival although I have been paying for my pension during 35 years of hard work.
“My old age does not give me the opportunity of militant resistance (without excluding the fact that if one Greek person was armed with a Kalashnikov I would be the first to join).
“I cannot find another solution apart from giving a decent ending to my life before I was forced to search at the dustbin for my food.
“I believe that the young people with no future one day will arm themselves and will hang at Syntagma Square the nation’s traitors, in the same way that the Italian people hanged Mussolini in 1943.“
The 77 year old pensioner was neither defeated nor intimidated by the barbarism of the capitalist system. He did not overdose in the privacy of his room or jump off his balcony. He chose to put an end to his life at Syntagma square, where last summer masses of people gathered every day defending their right to struggle and to direct participatory democracy.
The response of his daughter confirmed the meaning and symbolic status of Xristoulas' stance: “For the people of his generation … the stubborn kids of the left … during the current political and economic climate, the act of suicide is considered not an act of escapism but as an act to spark and re-invigorate the resistance … it is a cry for everybody to join the struggle and overthrow the coalition government”.
Immediately a spontaneous call to gather at Syntagma square dominated the social media and internet and was passed from mouth to mouth. The gathering quickly became hundreds and thousands as the day went on. The citizens of his neighbourhood community movement called for a demonstration and protest on 7 April, the day of his funeral, with the slogan “Let’s transform our anger into organised collective political struggle”.
But on 7 April the police forces, including riot police, encircled Syntagma square in order to stop the mobilisation.
A heavily-armed force, using as an excuse minor attacks by anarchist forces, suffocated the protesters (among them a lot of elderly people) with gas, injured a female journalist, and arrested at least 10 of the protesters. A murderous attack was made on photographers’ trade union leader, Marios Lolos, bashed on the the back of his head by the police.
The pro-austerity forces can only govern by the power of fear and attempting to silence those who can tell the truth about what they are doing.
The working-class movement needs to confront both the political measures of the government and the state being employed to enforce them; it needs to embolden its struggle and politically annihilate Pasok, New Democracy, and all their acolytes and misleading political “alternatives”.
The mainstream politicians could not hide their frustration about Xristoulas' suicide because it spoiled their electoral plans (set for 6 May).
They excelled themselves in dishonouring his memory by trying to downplay the political character of his act. Pasok spokesman Panos Beglitis made the preposterous statement: “We do not know who has misspent the deceased's money, his kids or the victim himself”. Outraged people in his neighbourhood destroyed Beglitis’ political office. The cynicism of all mainstream politicians is another proof of their detachment from the wants and beliefs of the whole of the Greek society.
The best way to pay tribute to Dimitris Xristoulas’s memory is to respond to his call and make reality the cause for which he has given up his life — the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society.