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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

In the Absence of Care: Building Solidarity in Athens

The third Panhellenic assembly of solidarity clinics and pharmacies took place in November 2013 in the auditorium of the occupied “Elpis” General Public Hospital of Athens. Holding the assembly at Elpis was a symbolic and political act of solidarity: The hospital’s medical staff was at the time on strike, protesting the “catastrophic effects of the austerity policies” on the operation of health care infrastructure. Representatives and participants from all over the country had gathered to draft the “10-Point Charter of Constitution of Solidarity Clinics and Pharmacies.” Acting as a strategy document, the Charter of Constitution outlined the codes and ethics of a “network of social protection built to counteract any form of state violence that was reproduced and exacerbated through austerity.” The ultimate aim, as described in the charter’s introduction, was to build “an archive of resistance.” Intent on registering the social movements around health care in Greece, the archive would record and collect testimonials from activists engaged in the struggle against mass deprivation—a struggle that continues to transform and retransform the city.

Solidarity clinics and pharmacies formed in Athens as a way to serve the 33 percent of Greece’s population without insurance and the hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and refugees excluded from the national health care system. Emerging in response to the global financial crisis of 2008 and out of the subsequent wave of “commoning” projects devised to contest the brutality and the social and economic asymmetries of austerity, solidarity clinics and pharmacies have moved to occupy the infrastructural gaps and welfare architectures vacated by the state. As mutual aid projects delivering primary medical care and pharmaceutical access to those continually marginalized, they are a powerful example of “health solidarity”: “the willingness of ordinary people, activists, and unemployed medical staff to build structures of solidarity to cope with the devastating and dangerous consequences of austerity and the liquidation of the public welfare system.”

Read the rest at The Avery Review

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