Europe is being torn apart by a titanic clash between (a) the unstoppable popular rage against misanthropic austerity policies and (b) our elites’ immovable commitment to more austerity. Precisely how this clash will play out no one knows, except of course that the odds do not seem to be on the side of the good. While at the mercies of this crushing uncertainty, it is perhaps useful to take a…short quiz. So, dear reader, will you please read the following ten quotations and, while so doing, try to imagine who uttered or wrote these words? [take the quiz]
Last spring, I was invited to give a handful of talks in Athens and Thessaloniki on the Occupy movement. Not long after I returned to New York City, it was revealed that the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn - now the country’s third-largest, with the electoral backing of half the country’s police force - had established something of a diplomatic mission, setting up offices in Montreal, Sydney and smack in my backyard in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria. A swift organizing effort kicked off in response, and Golden Dawn backers were promptly stripped of their office space in a local Greek community center, but not before they managed to solicit donations of money and clothing from local businesses “for struggling Greek families.” So I returned to Athens to check in with anti-fascist organizers about the work happening in Astoria, and to get feedback about how to better synchronize our efforts.
Even more cartoonish than Golden Dawn’s well-publicized, thuggish petulance (both in and outside of parliament) are its attempts to position itself as a salve to Greece’s austerity woes at the grassroots level. Free food distribution has been set up in parks à la Food Not Bombs, with the caveat of being “for Greeks only.” Despite little evidence of support or participation from medical practitioners (indeed, doctors have collectively refused to withhold treatment from immigrants), the party recently announced its own health project: the laughably titled Doctors With Borders. However little substance there may be to these projects, and however cynical, the public relations effect is real. Golden Dawn markets the notion that its opposition to austerity extends beyond merely scapegoating immigrants, homosexuals and others; the party presents itself as a tangible antidote to the country’s suffering and the government’s seeming determination to worsen it at the behest of international lenders.
Students of post-WWI Germany likely see little new in Golden Dawn’s strategy. Fascism has historically emerged from the splintered beams of economic wreckage and failed states, mobilizing widespread anxieties, circulating a currency of idealized national identity as a buffer against shame and defeat. What’s less well-understood in Greece’s case is that Golden Dawn has set about this process, in part, by aping efforts on the other end of the political spectrum, dating back to the winter of 2008, when the police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos sparked riots across the country.
“On the first day of the uprising, we smashed the police stations,” an anarchist in Thessaloniki told me last spring. “On the second, we smashed the banks. On the third, there was nothing left to smash, and we were suddenly faced with the fact that we didn’t really know what to do.” It seems to have been a widespread frustration. The occupations of academic and political institutions that occurred amidst the uprising gave way to what are called Popular Assemblies in some 70 neighborhoods across Athens. About half of these are still operating, composed of an often unlikely spectrum of participants. Anarchists, local workers, even municipal employees and officeholders all collaborate off the political grid in democratically administering needs, redistributing available resources and bolstering existing struggles - against both austerity and the steady creep of fascism. [continue]
After 5 years of negative growth, record-high unemployment and savage cuts to essential safety-net programs, Greek society is beginning to buckle. Diabetics cannot afford their insulin, suicides and anti-depressant usage is off-the-chart, tuberculosis and HIV rates are soaring, and desperate pensioners in Athens have been reduced to dumpster diving outside grocery stores for a few scraps of food to feed themselves and their families. The shocking devolution of a modern nation into a failed state did not happen overnight or without the help of EU bureaucrats and financial potentates who dictate economic policy from Brussels, Frankfort and Berlin. These so-called “managers” have steered the 17-member eurozone into the biggest slump since the Great Depression, imposing belt tightening measures that have choked off growth, sent unemployment skyrocketing, and incited protest and street violence across the continent. Greece has been particularly hard hit. Poverty and destitution are now widespread. The country is a basketcase. [continue]
When we heard that the Nobel Prize for peace will be given to the European Union, we first thought it was a joke, especially because this comes in days when mainly the peoples of South Europe are living with the results of a financial war, and their countries are turning to colonies of debt with deprived citizens and looted national wealth. For example, in my country, the [recession] of the last three years will be over 30 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate is now 26 percent, reaching 58 percent for the youth. One-third of the society in Greece is below or at the edge of poverty. Is it ever possible that the initiators of this situation are given awards? Mrs. Merkel is going to receive the prize. Instead of peace prize, she should be awarded the prize of neoliberal fundamentalism. Mr. Samaras, the prime minister of Greece, should take the prize of the best student of Mrs. Merkel. And in reality, if a prize should be given to someone, these are the struggling peoples in South Europe, in North Africa and in the Middle East, who are fighting for peace, dignity, justice, democracy and independence.
After nearly three years of repeated income cuts and tax hikes, Greeks have little stomach for more. On Monday, doctors launched a three-day strike that will leave state hospitals functioning on emergency staff, while taxi-drivers started rolling 24-hour strikes. There were no news broadcasts and newspapers will not be published Tuesday due to a journalists’ strike, while Athens urban rail and tram drivers walked off the job.
During the general strike Tuesday and Wednesday, schools, tax offices and public administration will shut down, while there will be no train or ferry services across the country. Flights will be disrupted for three hours Tuesday.
FYI: The rest of the article is scare-mongering nonsense.
“For Peace, Freedom and Democracy. Never Again Fascism. Millions of Dead Remind Us”. Those are the words carved into a memorial stone underneath the Austrian house where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889. “Never Again”. Thus was the uniform slogan resounding across Europe after the full scale of Nazi horror became known in the wake of WWII. The cosmopolitan project of European integration was founded upon this promise. Never again would fascists and warmongers be allowed to tear the Old Continent and its people apart.
One day it may therefore be considered one of history’s greatest ironies that, as EU leaders were busy deciding who would collect its Nobel Prize for “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights,” those same leaders remained woefully silent when a recent survey indicated that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party now polls third in Greece, at 14 percent — a showing comparable to that of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1930, three years before rising to power and setting the world on course for WWII.
For clarity’s sake: the comparison made between National Socialism and Golden Dawn is by no means an exaggeration. We are talking about an extreme-right organization whose emblem deliberately resembles a swastika; whose leader publicly gave the Nazi salute upon his election to Parliament; whose magazine regularly features articles and pictures of the Führer himself; whose spokesman recently assaulted two female rivals on a live TV show; whose manifesto pledges to raid all immigrants out of hospitals and all non-Greek children out of kindergartens; and whose MPs actively participate in racist pogroms against Greece’s immigrant population. (Oh, and by the way, Golden Dawn’s favourite band is called Pogrom, known for such hits as “Auschwitz” and “Speak Greek Or Die”. Incidentally, its former bassist is now one of Golden Dawn’s 18 MPs.)
No surprise, then, that even the mild-mannered BBC is now making eerie comparisons with the early days of the austerity-stricken Weimar Republic. It is happening again. Fascism is once again on the rise in Europe. And what do EU leaders have to say about this? Nothing, it seems. As neo-Nazi militia run amok in the streets of Athens, Brussels and Berlin remain forever shrouded in a deafening silence. The only thing European leaders seem to care about is that Greece repays its debts. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law have all been relegated to secondary concerns — to serve financial interests, even a strong flavor of fascism now appears to be tolerable. [continue]
Tonight is the opening of the Golden Dawn office in Megara, a once prosperous farming town between Athens and Corinth. The Greek national socialist party polled more than 15% here – double the national average – in the June election, when it won 18 seats in parliament. (One was taken up by the former bassist with Pogrom, whose hits include Auschwitz and Speak Greek Or Die.) Legitimised by democracy and by the media, Golden Dawn is opening branches in towns all over Greece and regularly coming third in national opinion polls. Its black-shirted vigilantes have been beating up immigrants for more than three years, unmolested by the police; lately they’ve taken to attacking Greeks they suspect of being gay or on the left. MPs participate proudly in the violence. In September, three of them led gangs of black-shirted heavies through street fairs in the towns of Rafina and Messolonghi, smashing up immigrant traders’ stalls with Greek flags on thick poles.Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right
Fifteen anti-fascist protesters arrested in Athens during a clash with supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn have said they were tortured in the Attica General Police Directorate (GADA) – the Athens equivalent of Scotland Yard – and subjected to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humiliation.
Members of a second group of 25 who were arrested after demonstrating in support of their fellow anti-fascists the next day said they were beaten and made to strip naked and bend over in front of officers and other protesters inside the same police station.
Several of the protesters arrested after the first demonstration on Sunday 30 September told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police officer while five or six others watched, were spat on and “used as ashtrays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torches and lasers being shone in their eyes.
Some said they were burned on the arms with a cigarette lighter, and they said police officers videoed them on their mobile phones and threatened to post the pictures on the internet and give their home addresses to Golden Dawn, which has a track record of political violence.
As Angela Merkel visits Athens on Tuesday, she will find a Greece in its fifth consecutive year of recession. In 2008 and 2009, the recession was a spillover from the global financial crisis. Since then it has been caused and deepened by the austerity policies imposed on Greece by the troika – of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the European Central Bank – and the Greek government.
These policies are devastating the Greek people, especially workers, pensioners, small businessmen and women, and of course young people. The Greek economy has contracted by more than 22%, workers and pensioners have lost 32% of their income, and unemployment has reached an unprecedented 24% with youth unemployment at 55%. Austerity policies have led to cuts in benefits, the deregulation of the labour market and the further deterioration of the limited welfare state that had survived a neoliberal onslaught.
The government argues that only the austerity agenda can make the Greek public debt viable again. But the opposite is true. Austerity policies prevent the economy from returning to growth. Austerity creates a vicious spiral of recession and an increase in debt that in turn leads both Greece and its lenders to calamity.
All this is known to the European and Greek policymakers and elites, including Merkel, who aim to implement similar programmes in all European countries facing debt problems, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. Why do they insist so dogmatically on this disastrous political and economic path? We believe that their aim is not to solve the debt crisis but to create a new regulatory framework throughout Europe that is based on cheap labour, deregulation of the labour market, low public spending and tax exemptions for capital. To succeed, this strategy uses a form of political and financial blackmail that aims to convince or coerce Europeans to accept austerity packages without resistance. The politics of fear and blackmail used in Greece is the best illustration of this strategy.
The Greek state is falling apart. It is fragmenting, unable to perform its normal functions. It cannot exercise control of the territory or the population. The governing parties are barely cohesive, parliament isn’t really functional. The policies imposed by the ‘troika’ can’t be implemented, and the attempt to implement them will not be rewarded by the EU bosses. This is creating chaos. There is no alternative popular democratic structure, no working class structures of self-government to make up for the sudden collapse of capacity, the sudden devastating loss of services amid five years of deep recession.
Some of the apparatuses are increasingly attracted to the neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn. Half of the Athens police force voted for the Nazis. Now police departments are sending crime victims to Golden Dawn “protectors”.
The Nazis are positioning themselves to appropriate certain state functions in other ways, for example staging propaganda exercises distributing free food to people provided they are ‘indigenous’. These are not yet serious charitable efforts. However, historically, the propaganda component of Nazi charity organisations is complementary to the material incentive - it provides a framework through which their ideological claims can be implemented and demonstrated. It reinforces a conception of public (national, racial) need over private (‘Jewish’, ‘foreign’) greed, and permits welfare to be extricated from ideas of universal entitlement and equality and instead linked to other thematics such as eugenics, patriarchy, militarism, Christian brotherhood, and so on.
The neoliberal bourgeoisie responds to the Nazis with the usual half-hearted criticism and complicity.
The media coddles the Nazis while their leader, a former commando reservist, openly advertises what the party is - an armed Nazi movement out to murder opponents and crush democracy. Every day, it almost seems, one hears of another immigrant or leftist beaten or killed by the Golden Dawn. This is how they are building their organisation, generating internal cohesion and gaining popular support, with the complicity of a section of the state and of the bourgeoisie. So far, the dominant trend is still for the Left’s support to increase. But the terror isn’t reducing Golden Dawn’s support. They feed off the chaos which they contribute to. They are presently the third most popular party in Greece. They aren’t yet on the verge of taking power, but remember that they won’t need a majority to do so. And remember that if they do, these people are to the right of most of Europe’s fascist parties, to the right of the old Greek dictatorship, literally ready to physically obliterate immigrants, the Left, intellectuals, and other ‘traitors’. That’s what is being aroused in Greece, and it will take a Herculean effort to kill it.
If Greece was the problem child of Europe, Portugal was the poster child. It has a relatively clean and efficient government, and it volunteered for austerity. “We did everything they asked of us, and we even went beyond their demands,” former Cabinet Minister Elisa Ferreira told me.
Portugal intensified privatization, raised taxes, cut spending, and reduced pensions. Portugal has a system where salaried workers are paid wages in 14 monthly installments, so they get seasonal bonus checks before Christmas and in the summer. It’s part of their regular pay. As part of the austerity package, the Christmas check and the summer check were eliminated—a 14 percent pay cut.
The Troika showered Portugal with praise … but guess what? Austerity didn’t work any better as a recovery strategy in Portugal than it did in Greece.
Unemployment has risen to 15 percent. The Portuguese economy will shrink by 3.3 percent this year, one of the worst downward spirals in Europe. Reduced wages and idled workers, of course, reduce revenue collections. The debt ratio is still rising. Portugal still cannot access money markets to roll over its bonds, absent IMF support.
In a departure from other mass protests, members of the police force, army, navy and judicial system joined public and private sector employees on the streets. One police officer, who preferred not to give his name, said the Greek state “should feel deep shame” at imposing cuts on the very people whose protection it sought.Hundreds of thousands of Greeks march against austerity
Since the outbreak of Europe’s debt crisis in Athens in late 2009, ordinary Greeks, worst hit by repeated rounds of austerity, have seen their purchasing power drop by as much as 50% as poverty and joblessness has reached record levels.
After a heated summer of tortuous wrangling with lenders, the alliance led by the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, is expected to finally give the package the go-ahead on Thursday. Time is of the essence, say officials, if the Greek economy is to receive a bumper rescue loan of €31.5bn, put on hold by the troika since July. The injection is now vital to “warming up” the cash-starved real economy. Creditors have made clear that without the controversial measures, there can be no money – a scenario that would see Greece defaulting on its debt, being forced to declare bankruptcy and leaving the eurozone.
“The cuts have to happen because we are at war, an economic war,” the country’s defence minister, Panos Panagiotopoulos, said this week.
Once endorsed, the package will be sent to the parliament for ratification, probably next week. But the government’s highwire act of trying to placate lenders while ensuring that the nation is not pushed over the edge will not be easy. Polls have shown the vast majority of Greeks see the measures as deeply unfair and antisocial. Highlighting fears that the recession-inducing policies have pushed Greece into an economic death spiral, the ratings agency Fitch declared on Wednesday that far from being reduced, Athens’s debt mountain was growing, with the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio set to increase from its current 164.9% to 180.2% in 2014.
“Once the Greek people learn exactly what the measures are there will be uproar,” Iliopoulos, the trade unionist, told the Guardian. “Parliament will see mass protests. And it won’t be nice.”