Austerity Europe: The cynicism of Greece’s elites
21 October 2011
After two days of massive strikes and street battles, Greece seems to be edging ever closer to the brink. As European leaders gather this Sunday in a last ditch bid to save the euro, a Greek author condemns the national elites that have brought his country to this juncture.
The workers in a small bakery in central Athens announced this week that, while they would not close because they serve many vulnerable people, they were joining the two-day general strike by charging all products at cost. An unexpected surprise in these hard times for their customers, but an ordinary story of the life of resistance and kindness in the Greek capital. At the same time, no minister or MP can appear in public without being heckled or "yoghurted" (the Greek-style "pieing").
Greece is split in two. On one side are politicians, bankers, tax evaders and media barons supporting the most class-driven, violent social and cultural restructuring western Europe has seen. The "other" Greece includes the overwhelming majority of the population. It was in evidence yesterday when up to 500,000 people took to the streets; the largest demonstration in living memory. The attempt to divide civil servants (ritually presented as lazy and corrupt) from private sector employees (the "tax evading" plumbers) has misfired. The only success the Papandreou government can boast is the abolition of the old right-left division – replaced by a divide between the elites and the people.
Europe will soon decide how to deal with the debt, with the Greek government a sad observer. But once the only business Europe cares for has been settled, the political endgame will start in Athens. At that point, the "other" Greece will formulate history's indictment. The political elites will stand accused of fostering the lawlessness – the term freely used against those who resist. Two dynastic parties have alternately ruled the country over the last 40 years, creating the inflated, ineffective public sector they now attack. They turned a blind eye to tax evasion and created a generous system of tax avoidance. They ran up debt even after the problems became clear, eventually leading to the European intervention.
Yet a representative of that "troika" of lenders – the IMF, EU and European Central Bank – told a Greek newspaper that they did not demand the abolition of collective bargaining in the private sector, the one measure that has led to some opposition in the ruling party. Nor did the troika demand the wholesale change in university law. It is as if the Greek elites desired the debt to orchestrate the wholesale destruction of the welfare state and transfer of public assets to private hands. Read full article in The Guardian...