ILO – Greece needs to address risk of a prolonged social crisis

Photo: Marina Gioti -Depression Era Greece

Photo: Marina Gioti -Depression Era Greece

Greece faces a prolonged social crisis unless action is taken, warns a new report by the International Labour Organization.

The ILO study entitled “Productive Jobs for Greece” describes the pace of job creation in the country as “anaemic,” and says that more than 70 per cent of the almost 1.3 million unemployed have been out of a job for more than a year. This is the result of one in four jobs being lost since the beginning of the crisis in 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of Greeks at risk of poverty more than doubled in five years, rising from just above 20 per cent in 2008 to over 44 per cent in 2013.

In the longer term, the study advocates the following measures:
  • Broadening the economic base by facilitating the expansion of sustainable enterprises, boosting the linkages between tourism and agro-food, and fostering employment-enhancing investments;
  • Tackling undeclared work and working poverty through a broader tax base and improved incentives for low-paid work while shifting the tax burden away from labour, small firms and consumption of basic needs towards other bases like property. This, along with much-needed mobilisation of the resources of the European Investment Bank, would also widen the policy space for the growth and employment strategy;
  • Ensuring adequate coverage of the social protection system;
  • Enhancing human capital by designing skill programmes in partnership with firms, workers and education providers; leveraging further apprenticeships and work-related experience for youth; and reinforcing public employment services and active labour market programmes;
  • Rebuilding social dialogue between government, employers and workers and addressing fragmentation of collective bargaining and gaps in coverage, so as to nurture a balanced recovery.

see full report—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_319755.pdf

London Financial Times Supports SYRIZA – Yep you read that right

euro-debtYou know the establishment political parties of Europe have gone completely off the rails when the associate editor of the  ultra conservative Financial Times of London says that the people of Europe have only one real choice when it comes to economic policy in the Eurozone – to vote for the radical left parties of SYRIZA in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Die Linke in Germany. Its the equivalent of Maggie Thatcher channeling Arthur Scargill and asking for posthumous membership of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Take it away Wolfgang Munchau, (Associate Editor, Financial Times)

Let us assume that you share the global consensus view on what the eurozone should do right now. Specifically, you want to see more public-sector investment and debt restructuring. Now ask yourself the following question: if you were a citizen of a eurozone country, which political party would you support for that to happen? You may be surprised to see that there is not much choice. In Germany, the only one that comes close to such an agenda is Die Linke, the former Communists. In Greece, it would be Syriza; and in Spain, it would be Podemos, which came out of nowhere and is now leading in the opinion polls.

You may not consider yourself a supporter of the radical left. But if you lived in the eurozone and supported those policies, that would be your only choice.

The tragedy of today’s eurozone is the sense of resignation with which the establishment parties of the centre-left and the centre-right are allowing Europe to drift into the economic equivalent of a nuclear winter. It is a particular tragedy that parties of the hard left are the only ones that support sensible policies such as debt restructuring. The rise of Podemos shows that there is a demand for alternative policy. Unless the established parties shift their position, they will leave a big opening to the likes of Podemos and Syriza.

See full article here

The Polytechnic Uprising and the Story of the Chatziavates

The Dancing Dictator

The Dancing Dictator

The Polytechnic Uprising of students in 1973 is widely credited with helping to bring down the junta government that ruled ruled Greece until 1974. The student uprising has assumed mythical dimensions. But who was there, what were the others doing, and how does it all relate to now? This article in Greek (see here) by the well-known film-director Stelios Kouloglou has been translated (thank you Alex!) for our English readers on this blog. It poses questions about ethics, morality and survival during times of civil crisis.

Further below the story is background information and useful weblinks for readers who are not aware of the history of the Polytechnic Uprising.

Chatziavates and the “Generation of the Polytechnic University”

07:50 | 18 Nov 2014

Stelios Kouloglou

While I was working on a documentary about the dictatorship and a book about the resistance, what caught my undivided attention, in the light of current developments, was the tolerance the vast majority of the population showed during the Greek military junta of 1967-74 also known as “The Regime of Colonels”.

Polytechnic tank 2The latest film archives show crowds of people receiving and cheering the dictators, in all parts of Greece. The resistance began in the early hours, but only by a handful of activists isolated from the population. Manolis Karapiperis, one of the unsung heroes who was cruelly tortured in the hellhole of Boumboulina recounts how when he was taken to the roof-top for “phalanx” torturing (also known as bastinado; beating of one’s bare feet with a rod or cane while being raised from the floor), the neighbours who heard his cries reacted by closing their windows.

The morning of the coup, the journalist George Votsis, following a failed attempt to get the news published in a special edition of the newspaper “AVGI”, sees workers in Omonia Square arriving by bus to go to work, pushes in amongst them and starts shouting slogans: “down with the junta”, “democracy”. No response. Not a soul joins him.

ChatziavatisMonths later when Karapiperis is released,  demoralized by torture, no one speaks to him in the neighbourhood cafe, not even his uncle. “Are these the people I’m fighting for?” he wonders at some point. The majority adopt the role of the greek Karagiozi shadow-puppet theatre character, Chatziavati. He is scared and a coward, a slim-waisted servant ready to flatter, work with or tolerate the powerful.  This attitude answers yet another pointed question which arises while listening and watching the irrational statements and antics of dictators on current affairs: how could such a cruel and ridiculous regime stay in power for seven years?

In this population which was subsequently asked to justify its attitude when the junta collapsed after betraying Cyprus, the uprising of the students on November 17 was the perfect alibi: supposedly, even if they did not join the Polytechnic University uprising during those days, at some stage they passed by. Even if they didn’t come near the university, they had the “courage” to listen to the radio station (or at least have a relative or acquaintance in there). It is true that in the days of the uprising many touching incidents of popular sympathy occurred, as expressed through their offerings to the student activists and the caring of the students after the tanks entered. But all this happens in the sixth year that the economy has entered a crisis. The dictatorship stumbles and is showing signs that it cannot last long and shows its hideous face with carnage and dozens of deaths. As the regime stumbles, the Chatziavates are already looking for another master.

For those who are unable to demonstrate any of the many previous “resistance” credentials, there are the anniversaries of the Polytechnic University: The first grand gatherings act as giant Pool of Siloam or major redemptive opportunity. Suddenly, Greece acquires 9 million resistence fighters. For their own reasons, the Left parties also invest in this uprising and the “generation of the Polytechnic University” acquires mythical proportions. In reality we are talking about 2-3 thousand students across Greece, who were accompanied by tens of thousands of people on Friday, November 17, 1973 and rioted.

The “historical duty” of this generation (the students of the Polytechnic University) was to overthrow the junta, a goal which they contributed to with great success. But this generation never ruled: the restoration of democracy and the course the country is to take is decided by the elected governments. In November 1974, four months after the fall of the junta, Konstantinos Karamanlis wins the election with 54% of the vote. Not one of the “generation of the Polytechnic University” has voted for him. The same in the 1977 elections, in which New Democracy is reelected. In 1981 PASOK wins the election with 48%. Only 5% -10% of the “generation of the Polytechnic” support Andreas Papandreou.- ( “generation of the Polytechnic” here meaning the anti-dictatorship movement of approximately 3000 students within the polytechnic uprising),

In 1974 Karamanlis restores the old guard of ERE (conservative right-wing party, formed in 1955, dissolved 1967 and succeeded by New Democracuy) to power. The fact is however, that in 1981, members of the Polytechnic student movement will join the power system of PASOK, but only as a small minority. The main body of the Papandreou government consists of the pre-dictatorship politicians belonging to the Union Centre or older party officials belonging to previous generations. In the national coalition government of 1990, the prime minister Zolotas is 80 years old and the three political leaders who decide together on the country’s future are over 70. Where is the “generation of the Polytechnic University ‘?

Incidents of corruption did occur  in subsequent years to politicians of the Polytechnic generation, but the collective incrimination of the “Generation of the University” which is allegedly responsible for all the current ills of the country serves multiple purposes.

First and foremost is the extreme right: by undermining the generation of the Polytechnic University, the very uprising is disputed and the junta is justified. There is also an obscure purpose serving the “chatziavatism”: the same groups which were incorporated in the regime of the junta, have passed … seamlessly into the system of the new regime.  They flatter and support the strong, while exchanging allegiance, just like Chatziavatis of Karagiozi, for political favors or an appointment, the pittance that Pangalos will remind us of in his infamous statement “we ate it all together.” Without being able to defend itself, the otherwise non-existent Polytechnic generation is an ideal scapegoat, a new baptismal purification.

The same “chatziavatism” is observed today: it is all those who fear the future, who are afraid to take matters into their own hands, who obey the new TV narrative – that is to say, if they’re not accompanying their children on a reality TV show or watching the archaeological excavation of Amphipolis – bring back images of entertainment during the junta with kitsch adoration of Ancient Greece at the Panathenaic Stadium?

While pretending to be unaware of the ridicule, hypocrisy and exploitation of the ruling authorities, the population ignores the national humiliation of a country ruled by Troika[1] e-mail. In this year’s anniversary it was made clear that the demand “Bread, education and freedom” is more relevant than ever. True, but for it to be achieved one day, Greeks must change from Chatziavates to conscious citizens, with rights and obligations; ensuring their obligations will be fulfilled and at the same time continuing to fight for their rights, without bowing to the blandishments of any power or expecting that everything will be granted to them.

[1] tripartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that organised loans to the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus

Background and weblinks to the Polytechnic Uprising are provided below. Continue reading

Knowing when its time to go…..

ΣΚΟΥΡΙΕΣ  sas ferame nerakia

On Nov 17 there were the usual protests around Greece marking the anniversary of the polytechnic uprising with the usual scuffles that go on.

A bit of  a scandal emerged because one incident was captured with high quality video in the exarcheia district of Athens. Its just the usual police harrassment with loads of motorcycles moving in a threatening way into a hostile neighbourhood. It got coverage because the police raided a small kiosk, pushed the vendor around and stole the poor guy’s water bottles. All captured on video.
One week later, there were rolling battles with police in the Chalkidiki region (a beautiful area on the coast northern Greece) which has been opened up to gold mining with terrible environmental and social consequences. The riot police have been going heavy with the tear gas and laying into people etc.
So some wag left a packet of water bottles and the note in front of the police station –
Stop hitting us. We have brought you little bottles of water. SOS Chalkidiki 
(SOS is the name of the anti-mine campaign)
When a regime bears the brunt of such easy ridicule, you know its time is nearly up.

The Good News ? – after 6 years Greece is halfway through its depression

Economist graphic - projected growth

The European Commission thinks that Greece’s comeback, like its collapse, will be nasty, brutish, and long. The European Commission projects that Greece’s economy will still be 20 percent below its pre-crisis peak by the end of 2016. At that pace, it could take till 2022 or so for Greece to get all the way back to where it was in 2007.

In other words, Greece is only halfway through its Greatest Ever Depression.While the USA quickly boomed out of its depression after a massive stimulus package, the EC projections (one might even argue they are optimistic) are for Greece slowly inch its way out under the most favourable circumstances.

The government calls that its “successs story”.

The utter and abysmal failure of austerity politics writ large and with devastating effect for generations to come.

You wonder what the European policy elites would classify as failure.

See The Economist blog for full report here and a washington Post blog

Golden Dawn got visa and prosecutor problems


As the irony emerged that Golden dawn was having some “visa problems” in entering Australia to peddle its anti-immigrant and anti-black story to a country of …. immigrants and the original black people, news broke of evidence that is said to be part of a prosecutors’ report against dozens of Golden Dawn members.

Golden Dawn recruited a butcher to train its members in the art of using a knife effectively, in order to “neutralize opponents,” a witness has told Greek prosecutors. Party members participated in the mass slaughter of sheep in various farms around the Attica region, which encompasses Athens and its suburbs, to learn the best technique for “striking directly at the jugular.” He’d heard, Witness E said, that the same butcher supplied guns to Golden Dawn members, as well. Other evidence prosecutors uncovered seems to back up his claim: The case file is littered with photos of members in military clothing carrying knives, swords, handguns, rifles, and, in one case, even a bazooka.

All this training was “in preparation to overthrow the Greek government,” Witness E suggested to prosecutors.

The prosecutors’ report  was prepared in advance of the trials of dozens of members of Golden Dawn on charges ranging from assault to human trafficking to murder. On the eve of the first of the trials, slated to start mid-November, the investigation has revealed a group that had bigger, scarier ambitions than even their most cynical enemies imagined — and, despite its revolutionary goals, had far closer ties to the ruling coalition than much of the public realized.

See full report in the magazine Foriegn Policy (FP) here

The sitting government, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has been quick to celebrate its role in saving Greece from the neo-Nazi threat, but in bringing down Golden Dawn, the government has exposed itself to a series of potentially embarrassing revelations about just how close the relationship between New Democracy, the senior coalition member in parliament, and the neo-Nazis had become.

Continue reading