Posts tagged ‘economic crisis’

Waiting for Godot in modern Greece

Greeks are very fond of the theatre. Athens, in this economic crisis, has an incredible number of theaters, most of them doing well.

This last week we are all taking part in a theatre of the absurd performance. We have a non-existing government, it took us three days to find a Prime Minister and, the worst of all is that we know that Mr. Papadimos can do very little for us.

Like Beckett’s heroes we are waiting for a savior that we know will not come. We are waiting for an ex-machina god that we know is not coming and even if he comes the Greek people are certain that it will mean very little for their daily lives. The conversations in the buses, in the shops, in restaurants are all about how we are going to pay this and that tax, how much our pensions/salaries have shrunk, how we can feed our family on European prices and third world salaries.

Greek politicians have lost their credibility. Mr. Papadimos opened his first statement as a Prime Minister with the sentence : “I am no politician”. It was meant to pacify the Greek public and reassure us.

Last night we heard that the new Ministers would be announced today at 14.00. This morning we were told that they will be announced at 16.00. In the end, who cares?

Solidarity and cooperation among the working people, the unemployed, the youth, the student body is the only way out. We are striving to keep our humanity and our common sense intact in difficult times.

Greek crisis:a view from the inside

Today, Friday, I had to go to the center of Athens on business. I had not been downtown for a long time. I detest the center of Athens, end of summer beginning of autumn, when it is still hot enough to sweat, noisy enough to drive you nuts and as dirty as the rest of the year.

This morning I realised why my friends and acquaintances who work downtown look so depressed. There was a strike of the metro, the tram and the suburban train system. The result was a chaos of traffic. The bus system is inadequate and inefficient most of the time so noone is surprised at today’s mess. Add to this explosive cocktail a march that occupied the area between Syntagma and Omonia Squares, trapping cars and trolleys for hours and  adding fuel fumes to the suffocating atmosphere,   and you can understand why the people are so desperate and disappointed with this government as well as with the previous ones. “We Greeks are tired before we reach our place of work!!” , complains a thirty something man.

A young woman is waving frantically at a taxi. She knows she is going to pay an exorbitant amount due to the traffic but has no choice if she wants to get to work on time. “They (her employers) are looking for an excuse to fire people. I cannot afford to give them one”, she says to her friend who argues that taxis are expensive.

I walk from the bus stop to the office where I have to be at ten. It is a depressing fifteen minutes: many old firms have closed and the street is filled with “to let” signs. The number  of melancholy men and women, who seem not to care so much about their looks and are lost in thought have increased. The verbal attacks on immigrants in buses are multiplying and there are charges of physical attacks as well in the seedy side of the metropolis. Racism and xenophobia are invading and eroding Greek society. Extreme right politicians are gaining ground blaming the immigrant influx for the rampant unemployment.

The Social democratic government is trapped in the “markets rule” theory and cannot – or will not? – resist the pressure of the Monetary Fund.

The left, maligned for so long and still bearing the stigma of the  failure of the communist regime, sees its proposals rejected without being heard.

This is the atmosphere in Greece: disappointment with the government’s handling of the situation, despair at the inability of the country to get out of this bottomless debt, insecurity and fear of what may come tomorrow. Naomi Kleine’s “Shock doctrine” comes to mind.

Does Greek society have enough strength and cohesion to withstand this “experiment” and survive? I am no fortune teller but feel that the only way out of this impasse is solidarity and more solidarity, hope and more hope, struggle and more struggle.

The European Left proposals for an exit from the crisis

An important international Conference is taking place in Athens from Thursday to Saturday (10-12 May 2011). The title is :

“PUBLIC DEBT AND AUSTERITY POLICIES IN EUROPE -THE RESPONSE OF THE EUROPEAN LEFT” and you can watch it on line in English or Greek. Visit www.syn.gr and you will find the link. It is better viewed on Firefox, could not get on Internet Explorer.

Organised by the European Left Party and the TRANSFORM! Network it aims to provide answers for an exit from the current economic crisis. Among the speakers prominent left wing politicians from all over Europe, unionists, representatives of the new movements, youth organizations, European Parliament members present their thoughts and proposals about the public debt and the austerity policies  applied in the majority of European countries. f

The Saturday programme is as follows:

10.00-12.30

Resistances by the European Trade-Unions and Movements

Coordinator: Yiannis Bournous, Member of the CPC of Synaspismos, Member of the EL Executive Board – Greece

Nasos Iliopoulos, Secretary of the Central Council of the Youth of Synaspismos – Greece

Alekos Kalivis, Trade-Unionist, Former Alternate President of GSEE – Greece

Jean Paul Lainé, Trade-Unionist – France

Alexandra Strickner, Economist, ATTAC- Austria

Patrick Waine, Representative of the Socialist Party of Ireland – Ireland

12.30-14.30

Debt Crisis and Austerity Policies in the European Countries

Coordinator: Natasa Theodorakopoulou, Economist, Member of the Executive Secretariat of the CPC of Synaspismos, Member of the Secretariat of the EL Executive Board

Tamás Morva, Economist, Member of the Secretariat of the Hungarian Workers Party 2006 – Hungary

Marianna Mortagua, Economist, Bloco de Esquerda– Portugal

Javier Navasques, Professor at the University of Sevilla, Secretary of the Committee of Financial Affairs of the Communist Party of Spain – Spain

Representative of Sinn Fein, Ireland (tbc)

15.30-17.30

For a Progressive Exit from the Crisis (I)

Coordinator: Gabriel Sakellaridis, Economist, Member of the CPC of Synaspismos, Member of the Board of NPI – Greece

Elisabeth Gauthier, Director of Espaces Marx, Member of the Managing Board of Transform! Europe network – France

Nicos Houndis, MEP of SYRIZA and GUE/NGL – Greece

Eric Toussaint, President of the Committee for the Annulment of the Debt of the Countries of the Third World (CADTM) – Belgium

Michalis Tremopoulos, MEP of the Ecologists-Greens, European Greens – Greece

17.30-19.30

For a Progressive Exit from the Crisis (II)

Coordinator: Ruurik Holm, Transform! Coordinator  of Left Forum – Finland

Elmar Altvater, Political Scientist, Member of ATTAC Germany

Kunibert Raffer, Associate Professor at the Dep.of Economics, University of Vienna

Yianis Varoufakis, Economist, Professor at the University of Athens – Greece

Kostas Vergopoulos, Economist, Professor at the University Paris VIII – Greece

20.00-22.00

Public Event

Coordinator: Haris Golemis, Director of the NPI, Member of the Board of Transform! Europe- Greece

20.00-20.15

EL Initiative for a European Development and Solidarity Fund

Francis Wurtz, Former President of GUE/NGL– France

20.15 – 22.00

Exit Strategies from the Crisis. The Proposals of the European Left

Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the French Communist Party, President of the EL – France

Oskar Lafontaine, Former Minister of Finance, Former co-President of DIE LINKE – Germany

Alexis Tsipras, President of Synaspismos, Vice President of the EL – Greece