ANEL leader Panos Kammenos arrives for a cabinet meeting. Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty
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The Syriza-ANEL alliance shows the new Greek government has one goal: ending austerity

After a rebuff from the Communist Party of Greece, ANEL became an unlikely coalition partner. But the deal shows Syriza's priorities.

The announcement of the composition of the new, Syriza-led government of Greece was delayed for a few hours yesterday, apparently over a spat between coalition partners Syriza and Independent Greeks (ANEL) regarding the possible appointment of ANEL’s Nikos Nikolopoulos to a cabinet position. Nikolopoulos became famous, or rather infamous, when, in August 2014, he made a homophobic jibe at Luxembourg’s gay Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on social media.

The fact that the two parties now governing Greece could have such a disagreement before the composition of the government was officially announced is highly revealing of the tensions, or even contradictions, inherent to the unholy alliance forged between Syriza and ANEL. In the 25 January 2015 elections, Syriza garnered 149 seats in the Greek parliament, two short of a majority, and therefore had to seek a coalition partner in order to be able to govern. What may seem surprising to many, particularly outside of Greece, is that a radical left-wing government chose to ally itself with a socially conservative, virulently nationalist right-wing party whose leader, Panos Kammenos, espouses xenophobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and who has a particular fondness for the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory. The very existence of such a coalition is in turn highly revealing of the state of utter decay of the Greek political scene – put simply, if Syriza wants to govern at this point and to push forward their anti-austerity agenda, their only possible coalition partner is ANEL.

The rationale behind Syriza’s choice is twofold. The first aspect has to do with the fact that calling for repeat elections to seek an absolute majority in parliament would be an extremely risky political gamble. The fact that, with unemployment nearing 30 per cent, youth unemployment 60 per cent and some 30 per cent of households in or at risk of poverty, Syriza garnered only 36.34 per cent of the vote shows that the party is still struggling to persuade Greek voters. Many perceive Syriza as untested because of its lack of experience in government. Calling for repeat elections does not guarantee that it would gain a larger share of the vote – it could even result in a backlash if the electorate is disappointed with Syriza failing to deliver a modicum of change. Furthermore, the fact that neo-Nazi Golden Dawn is the third largest political force in the newly-elected Greek parliament means that a new election campaign would begin in a toxic atmosphere, as the Greek constitution requires the three largest parties to take turns and seek to form a coalition before parliament is dissolved and new elections are called.

The second aspect of Syriza’s rationale has to do with the composition of the new parliament. The core of Syriza’s electoral platform is rolling back austerity, which rules out coalitions with New Democracy and PASOK but also with To Potami (“the river”), a so-called centrist party founded in February 2014 by journalist Stavros Theodorakis. To Potami has failed so far to present its programme – Theodorakis announced during the campaign that it would be presented on 26 January, i.e. after the elections, and also failed to deliver on that promise – but it is clear that the party considers any policy seeking to revoke the bailout agreements as a threat to Greece’s position in Europe. Furthermore, according to research conducted by investigative magazines HotDoc and UNFOLLOW, To Potami is funded by, and would thus be essentially a front for, Greek oligarchs – another challenge to Syriza’s platform, which includes front and centre the issue of dealing with high-level corruption.

This leaves two parties as possible anti-austerity coalition partners, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn being obviously off the cards. The first and obvious choice for a left-wing coalition would be the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), a well-established party that controls a powerful labour union. Alexis Tsipras stated repeatedly during the elections campaign that he would seek an alliance with them, only to be rebuffed by the KKE general secretary, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, who did not even agree to meet with him on the day after the elections, let alone discuss the possibility of cooperation. The fact that KKE chose to stick to a hard line of ideological purity and rejection of the European project itself meant that Syriza’s only possible choice of a coalition partner became ANEL.

The establishment of a Syriza-ANEL coalition, as awkward as it is, sends a clear message to Greece and Europe alike: the new Greek government has one and only priority, ending austerity. Every other issue will take a back seat to this. The road ahead is bound to be fraught with problems, and it is difficult to see how such a coalition can last for more than a few months, perhaps a year. It is highly likely that there will be new elections in Greece in the near future unless MPs defect from third parties to join Syriza, thus securing for it a straight majority in parliament. However, yesterday’s events ended in a rather unexpected way: a day that started with a spat over the inclusion of a far-rightist in government ended with the formation of what can truly be described as a leftist cabinet. With Panos Kammenos’s flamboyant past, it is obvious that there will be several more hiccups along the way, but there is cause for extremely cautious optimism.  

A longer version of this article first appeared on Theodora is on Twitter @irategreek

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No, single men do not have a “right” to reproduce

The World Health Organisation’s new definition of infertility enshrines a man’s right to do to women what patriarchy has always done to them – own their bodies.

Last year, Katha Pollitt wrote an article for The Nation in which she asked why the left was simultaneously making progress with equal marriage while falling behind on abortion rights. “The media ,” she wrote, “present marriage equality and reproductive rights as ‘culture war’ issues, as if they somehow went together. But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think.”

She highlighted the ways in which the right can afford to cede ground on marriage equality while continuing to deny females bodily autonomy. She is right to do so. While both reproductive choice and gay rights may be classed as gender issues, each has its own very specific relationship to patriarchy.

A woman’s desire to control her reproductive destiny will always be in direct opposition to patriarchy’s desire to exploit female bodies as a reproductive resource. The social institutions that develop to support the latter – such as marriage – may change, but the exploitation can remain in place.

This has, I think, caused great confusion for those of us who like to see ourselves as progressive. We know that the idealisation of the heterosexual nuclear family, coupled with the demonisation of all relationships seen as “other”, has caused harm to countless individuals. We refuse to define marriage as solely for the purpose of procreation, or to insist that a family unit includes one parent of each sex.

We know we are right in thinking that one cannot challenge patriarchy without fundamentally revising our understanding of family structures. Where we have gone wrong is in assuming that a revision of family structures will, in and of itself, challenge patriarchy. On the contrary, it can accommodate it.

This is why all feminists – and indeed anyone serious about tackling patriarchy at the root – should be deeply concerned about the World Health Organisation’s new definition of infertility. Whereas up until now infertility has been defined solely in medical terms (as the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sex), a revised definition will give each individual “a right to reproduce”.

According to Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, this new definition “includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women”:

“It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.”

It sure is. From now on, even single men who want children – but cannot have them solely because they do not have a female partner to impregnate – will be classed as “infertile”. I hope I’m not the only person to see a problem with this.

I am all in favour of different family structures. I’m especially in favour of those that undermine an age-old institution set up to allow men to claim ownership of women’s reproductive labour and offspring.

I am less enthusiastic about preserving a man’s “right” to reproductive labour regardless of whether or not he has a female partner. The safeguarding of such a right marks not so much an end to patriarchy as the introduction of a new, improved, pick ‘n’ mix, no-strings-attached version.

There is nothing in Adamson’s words to suggest he sees a difference between the position of a reproductively healthy single woman and a reproductively healthy single man. Yet the difference seems obvious to me. A woman can impregnate herself using donor sperm; a man must impregnate another human being using his sperm.

In order to exercise his “right” to reproduce, a man requires the cooperation – or failing that, forced labour – of a female person for the duration of nine months. He requires her to take serious health risks, endure permanent physical side-effects and then to supress any bond she may have developed with the growing foetus. A woman requires none of these things from a sperm donor.

This new definition of infertility effectively enshrines a man’s right to do to women what patriarchy has always done to them: appropriate their labour, exploit their bodies and then claim ownership of any resultant human life.

Already it is being suggested that this new definition may lead to a change in UK surrogacy law. And while some may find it reassuring to see Josephine Quintavalle of the conservative pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics complaining about the sidelining of “the biological process and significance of natural intercourse between a man and a woman”, that really isn’t the problem here.

“How long,” asks Quintavalle, “before babies are created and grown on request completely in the lab?” The answer to this is “probably a very long time indeed”. After all, men are hardly on the verge of running out of poor and/or vulnerable women to exploit. As long as there are female people who feel their only remaining resource is a functioning womb, why bother developing complex technology to replace them?

Men do not have a fundamental right to use female bodies, neither for reproduction nor for sex. A man who wants children but has no available partner is no more “infertile” than a man who wants sex but has no available partner is “sexually deprived”.

The WHO’s new definition is symptomatic of men’s ongoing refusal to recognise female boundaries. Our bodies are our own, not a resource to be put at men’s disposal. Until all those who claim to be opposed to patriarchal exploitation recognise this, progress towards gender-based equality will be very one-sided indeed.

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.