Greece at the Brink of the Abyss

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

A roundup of news articles and blog posts on the situation in Greece…

Lots of attention to the protests, but also an increasing sense that the bailout so far approved will not be enough for Greece, and that the financial problems may yet extend to other countries in the eurozone. Meanwhile, it is still difficult to find serious, indepth discussions of the austerity measures from the perspective of the average Greek.

A story has also been circulating that the country’s financial problems could be substantially ameliorated by getting tax evaders to pony up their fair share – such as 1000s of swimming pool owners in Athens. But other articles dispute the value of this as a solution.

Regarding the protests, there are the usual responses in the news media – some decrying the violence of anarchists and young people, others dismissing the protests as insignificant. But when the protesters are farmers, civil servants and school teachers, it is clear that this is not just a case of student radicals always ready to leap to the barricades, that something significant is indeed going on. Particularly when the President of the country describes it as “at the brink of the abyss.” But his abyss might be your threshold, a path to a different future.

Hopefully, we will soon see articles from more mainstream but progressive news outlets gaining traction with stories about what is really going on – both with the protests, and with the attempts to rescue the Greek economy. In the meantime…

Video and Tweets From Athens: “Raw video from Greece shows smoke billowing over Athens as Greeks protest austerity measures the government says are necessary to deal with the country’s debt crisis.”

(via NYT > Home Page.)

Three Reported Killed in Greek Protests: “Demonstrators protesting Greek austerity measures set fire to a bank building in central Athens.”

(Via NYT > Home Page.)

War-Zone Athens: three people dead, many buildings burning as general strike march turns into a battle: “Three people have suffocated to death as a result of a fire in Marfin Bank during ongoing battles between anti-measure protesters and police in Athens.

The Athens protest march marking the zenith of the general strike called for the 5th of May was attended by an approximate 200,000 (20,000 which is the foreign broadcast number referring to the PAME march alone), although because of lack of media coverage due to the media participation in the general strike no concrete estimates can be made.”

(via libcom.org.)

Three Reported Killed in Greek Protests – NYTIMES ARTICLE: “ATHENS — Demonstrations against tough new austerity measures in Greece claimed their first fatalities on Wednesday with three people reported to have died inside a bank building set ablaze by protesters. The reports came as workers across Greece went on strike over deep spending cuts and new taxes aimed at staving off economic collapse.
Tear gas billowed across the central Sintagma Square in front of Parliament as demonstrators trying to storm the Parliament building hurled rocks, paving stones and gasoline bombs. Police responded with tear gas canisters that spread a choking pall of smoke. Fire fighters extinguished blazes in two buildings and protesters threw up barricades, setting fire to cars and a fire truck, news reports said.

Tens of thousands of people had converged on the city center as part of a general strike that paralyzed flights, ferries, schools and hospitals.”

(Via Anarchist news dot org – News for anarchists and their friends.)

General strike paralyses Greece: “Greece has been brought to a standstill as angry workers stage a general strike over planned austerity measures.

All flights are grounded and no trains or ferries are running as transport workers join public sector staff who began a 48-hour strike on Tuesday. Thousands have taken part in rallies in Athens and police have clashed with some protesters outside parliament.”

(Via libcom.org.)

Greek Teachers Storm TV Station, Urge Support for General Strike: “From Occupied London
At about 21:45 GMT+2 tonight, while the Nine O’clock News were live on air, dozens of teachers entered the headquarters of the State TV station (ERT) in Athens. After the news the channel had planned an interview with the minister of education. The teachers demanded to be present in the studio during the interview of the minister and to be allowed to talk as well.

While the news were on air suddenly noises and arguments were heard from the background and from that point on the program’s normal flow was stopped for several hours. Police special forces have invaded the building since, beating teachers in the corridors.”

(Via Anarchist news dot org – News for anarchists and their friends.)

Teachers clash with police in Greek State TV Headquarters: “Clashes erupted between teachers and riot police inside the Headquarters of the Greek State TV after the former entered the building trying to interrupt the speech of the Minister of Education

On Monday 4 May evening teachers invaded the Greek State TV (ERT) Headquarters in order to interrupt the interview of the Minister of Education Mrs Diamadopoulou concerning the new educational reform which is expected to lead to a radical devaluation of the greek educational system.”

(Via libcom.org.)

Greece crisis fallout: Will Greeks step up riots over austerity measures?: “After 400 years of Ottoman rule and a recent history spent buffeted by bigger powers, Greeks are sensitive to the suggestion of foreign domination. But with the country on the verge of bankruptcy, leaders have had little choice but to put themselves in the hands of Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

After three months of tense negotiations, Greece’s eurozone partners and the IMF this weekend agreed to a $146 billion bailout to prevent the Greek crisis from crippling economies throughout Europe. But in return, the country’s leaders have been forced to implement a harsh austerity program that will include deep cuts to pensions and civil servant pay, as well as increased taxes.

(via CSMonitor.com.)

Greece fears hit global stock markets: “Global stock markets have fallen sharply on fears that the proposed €110bn (£95bn) rescue package hammered out over the weekend for Greece will not be enough to solve its financial crisis, as well as concern that the problems could spread to other European countries.

Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was forced to deny market rumours his country would ask for €280bn from the European Union, something he described as ‘complete madness’.”

(via guardian.co.uk.)

Greek Workers Protest Austerity Plan: “Hundreds of Greek demonstrators took to the streets on Tuesday, while the euro fell to a new one-year low.”

(via NYT > Home Page.)

Greek protesters storm the Acropolis: “World markets plunge over fears that Greece’s economic crisis will spread to other countries despite austerity measures

In a dramatic escalation of the anger unleashed by the economic crisis engulfing Greece, communist protesters stormed the Acropolis todayas the euro and world markets plunged on concerns about the debt-choked country’s huge bailout from the EU and the IMF.

Irate trade unionists took over Athens’ ancient landmark as fury over an unprecedented package of austerity measures, agreed in return for a multibillion euro aid package from eurozone nations and the IMF, intensified.

By the break of dawn the citadel’s ramparts had been draped with banners proclaiming: ‘Peoples of Europe rise up.'”

(via guardian.co.uk.)

Greek protesters urged to retreat from ‘abyss’: “Greece is “on the brink of the abyss”, President Karolos Papoulias has warned, after three people died during protests over planned austerity measures.
[….]

The austerity measures – which the Greek parliament is due to vote by the end of the week – include wage freezes, pension cuts and tax rises. They aim to achieve fresh budget cuts of 30bn euros over three years, with the goal of cutting Greece’s public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

The general strike is the third to hit Greece in as many months. The protest became violent, with petrol bombs thrown at police who responded with pepper spray and tear gas…”

(via BBC News.)

Greek parliament to vote on cuts: “Greece’s parliament is due to vote on the tough spending cuts and reforms proposed by the government to deal with the financial crisis.” (video)

(via BBC News.)

Merkel warns Greece on EU future: “German leaders issue stark warnings and insist on punitive new regime for euro countries if monetary union is to survive

Europe was threatened with its gravest modern crisis tonight as Germany warned that the EU’s future was on the line in the Greek emergency.

The spiralling tension over Greece’s ballooning debts and Europe’s first ever bailout of a country in the single currency has exposed fundamental questions about the EU and Germany’s pivotal role as the union’s biggest power.

In Berlin, where Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a groundswell of hostility to sending the Greeks a €22bn lifeline next week, leaders issued stark warnings about the prospects for the EU and insisted on a punitive new regime for the 16 euro countries if the monetary union is to survive.

The leaders of the eurozone’s 16 nations are to assemble for an emergency summit on the Greek crisis in Brussels on Friday evening, with the mood bleak and the stakes high.”

(via guardian.co.uk.)

Greek End Game – Paul Krugman: “Many commentators now believe that Greece will end up restructuring its debt — a euphemism for partial repudiation. I agree. But the reasoning seems to stop there, which is wrong. In effect, the consensus that Greece will end up defaulting is probably too optimistic. I’m growing increasingly convinced that Greece will end up leaving the euro, too.

I’ve basically laid out the logic already: even with a debt restructuring, Greece will be in deep trouble, forced to engage in severe austerity — and provoke a deep slump — just to close the primary, non-interest deficit.

(via NYTimes.com.)

Is Greece bail-out a good deal for Europe?: “Three people have died during protests in Greece over planned austerity measures. Will the bail-out work?”

(Via BBC News.)

Greece Gets Help, but Is It Enough?: “The $145 billion rescue package announced on Sunday probably will not defuse the threats to other European countries also suffering from mounting debts.”

(Via NYT > Home Page.)

And now, with a different perspective on the violence in Greece…

With Greece, don’t believe the fights: “Although the pictures of protests look like a revolution is under way, most Greeks actually agree that it’s time to fix the country

Media headlines using words like ‘paralyse, freeze and cripple’ to describe nationwide strikes in Greece and dramatic images and footage of clashes with police may lead people to believe that labour unions wield power and that protests work. But strikes are as common as traffic at rush hour and regarded by residents as annoyances around which lives continue unimpeded.

Naysayers who love an underdog, and are quick to get on the solidarity bandwagon by pledging support with a rousing ‘we are with you’, will be disappointed to learn that there is little to indicate a grassroots uprising beyond the occasional truck with loudspeakers telling citizens ‘it’s time again for revolution’ and protesters draping banners over the Acropolis, saying ‘peoples of Europe, rise up’. Few in Greece appear to be heeding the advice on the banner, as the two-day strike by more than half a million civil servant workers began Tuesday with only 1,000 demonstrators. Not surprising since the number of participants has steadily dwindled with each rally; and without organisation, a clear message and an impassioned leader behind which unions and revolutionaries can unite, all talk of widespread political unrest is just that. Talk.”

(via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

And with a more general perspective on the resistance in Greece as part of a broader struggle against capitalist exploitation…

Organize and fight against the capitalist exploitation!: “At the time of writing, the attacks on the working conditions, pay and jobs are gathering pace across the world. The capitalist crisis that started in 2008 was supposed to be over by now, but yet economic problems continue to escalate with workers having to defend jobs and conditions across the globe. Meanwhile the big capitalist investors and hedge funds continue to gamble with the future of whole nations in the pursuit of ever higher profits.

The United States is in the center of gravity of the crisis, but the media present it as the center is in the European Union. From the end of 2009 and till today the focus has been on the EU and not US, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is asked to intervene concerning Greece. More countries are expected to have serious financial problems. Time will give more information about what has happened, but we will underline some important reasons.”

(via Anarchist news dot org – News for anarchists and their friends.)

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