Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be Greek for the Rest of Your Life #NoJusticeGr

Imagine becoming poor overnight. Since May 2010, when the government decided to get a loan from the IMF, EU and ECB, most people in the country have lost at least one third of their annual income. For those who still have a job, the value of their labour has fallen dramatically; many people now work full-time for €500 – €600 a month.

Helping to keep the value of labour so low is unemployment, which is more than 18% overall (below 10% in 2009), and an estimated 50% among young people, not counting the ones who work under precarious and ‘flexible’ conditions.

In order to repay the enormous debts, taxes are also on the increase. An emergency tax was recently implemented to everyone who owns a house; a very effective measure given that private ownership of houses in Greece is widespread and even people with relatively low income often own their own home. This property tax was attached to electricity bills, so if you don’t pay it – as is common under circumstances where some must choose between buying food and paying it – your power is cut.

Since the EU and IMF instructed structural adjustment of the Greek economy that accompanied the May 2010 loan, the suicide rate in Greece has doubled. Reports of desperate people ending their lives are published daily in a country that, until 2009, had the lowest suicide rate in Europe. Research published in a recent issue of Lancet shows that the crisis has already had a significant negative impact on the general health of the Greek population.

Now imagine further. Imagine your country gets a new kind of experimental government that eliminates social provisions and represses any social movement that dares rise up against this new regime. Two weeks ago a new government was appointed with the former vice-president of the European Central Bank (ECB) – who gave that huge loan to Greece – as the PM.

Moreover, MPs who are members of the extreme-right-wing party LAOS were included in the new Greek government, along with social democrats and conservatives. Italy has also appointed an unelected government. During a crisis, whatever it takes to enforce the sustainability of capitalism is permitted – even appointing unelected governments.

The actual people undertaking each role matter little, however. The example of Greece is pretty straightforward: governments of the last few decades (elected or non-elected, Left or Right) are working towards a common goal: the creation of an authoritarian and ruthless neoliberal capitalist regime, which may be spun as democracy from time to time, but never really is.

But perhaps you people of Britain don’t need to use your imaginations so much? Across Europe, several countries are already experiencing a ‘light’ version of what is happening in Greece. The full fat recipe is already being prepared for Ireland and Portugal – who both took similar loans from IMF/EU/ECB troika soon after Greece – while Italy has now taken its place at the table.

Yet this type of governance isn’t unique to countries that have received loans from the global bankers. Even here in the UK, benefits and higher education teaching budgets have been cut, while the end of free healthcare looms. Simultaneously, activists and protestors over the last year have been given a taste of what a police state looks like.

In Greece, the resistance to this new type of governance has been huge. Among other social reactions, this summer saw one of the biggest manifestations of the Occupy Movement in Syntagma Square. Soon after Egypt and Spain, people in Greece occupied the square located just across from the House of Parliament in Athens – along with other squares around the country.

Two 48-hour general strikes were called in June during the occupation of the square; the second took place on the 28th and 29th – when the House of Parliament had scheduled to vote for a new austerity package. The majority of strikers in Athens chose Syntagma Square and the movement that had grown there as the focal and spatial-political reference point.

The state used unprecedented police violence to control the rally, leading to a long battle over territorial control, but strikers and demonstrators risked their lives defending the square containing the protesters’ camp, daily assembly and everything else the square symbolised. More than 500 demonstrators were hospitalised or injured by the police during the second general strike alone.

Greece is not the only place today where the dominant political-economic system manifests the limits of its ‘democratic’ mask. The Occupy movement all around the world sees profound levels of repression. Tunisia, Egypt, USA and Spain are just a few of the countries where the authorities have tried to smash the local versions of the Occupy movement, with various parts of the establishment (e.g. corporate media) playing their parts in these attempts. If nothing else, these attacks make explicit the political significance and the potential of the Occupy Movement, especially when combined with more traditional means of struggle such as strikes and marches.

If it were not so dangerous for the global economic and political establishment, they would not attack to the Occupy Movement so aggressively, and when the establishment is so rotten, posing danger feels great.


Dimitris Dalakoglou is co-editor of ‘Revolt and Crisis in Greece’ (with A. Vradis) and a member of Occupied London Collective which maintains the blog From the Greek Streets. He works as a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. Many Thanks to Antonis Vradis for his comments on an earlier version of this text.

Originally posted @the occupied times London

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