Until May 2010
A quick review of the state of politics in Greece since the restoration of democracy in 1974 clearly shows that in the minds of the people both political parties alternating power are characterized as corrupt and responsible for plundering the country over the past 37 years. Beyond the waste of public money, the economic collapse has been due to: a) massive loans b) an inefficient public sector c) alteration and diversion of development and therefore the economic profile of the country and d) excessive military spending.
Thus, in the autumn of 2009 after the newly elected “socialist” government of George Papandreou got into power by presenting a programme of social policy, he declared his “surprise” at the chaos of the Greek economy inherited from the previous government. So, the government was “forced” to organise the involvement of the International Monetary Fund into the country’s affairs which duly took place 6 months later, with the partnership of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Union, commonly known as the Troika.
Until 25/5, 2011
The loan agreement—that was never ratified by the Greek parliament—set as a top priority the reduction of wages and pensions and a shrinking of the social security and labour system. Dozens of labour laws affecting the public and private sector alike were brushed aside. At the same time, and despite huge injections of cash into the Greek banks, the liquidity valves closed, cutting off hundreds of small businesses from credit.
And unemployment, especially among young people, rose at a pace that the numbers could not capture. And why didn’t people react? In May 2010 more than one million people took to the streets but the effectiveness and the call of the corrupted union heads was very soft compared to the size of the crisis. It was clear that only a ‘socialist’ government would ever dare to go to such extreme measures if they could rely on the silent support of trade unionists.
So, the general feeling was numbness and the surprise of someone who has just been robbed and is left bewildered without the strength to cry for help. And so Greeks learned to live with the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), with the daily raids against the quality of their lives and they seemed to be quiet … It seems that the people were just waiting for a sign to act.
The Greek movement of Outraged
The sign came from Spain “Be quiet, or you’ll wake Greece up.” I guess the creator of the slogan could not imagine the influence and awareness that would cause. From May 25, 2011 to the date of writing this article (07/07/2011) outraged Greeks have camped in Parliament Square and in 35 other cities in Greece giving an answer of unprecedented maturity and social dynamics, showing what we can achieve when the heart and mind come together. The central demands are: withdrawal of the memorandum, exit of the IMF, the repudiation of debt. With an everyday public assembly and with direct-democratic procedures we are managing to move simultaneously in three time directions: a) pressure for not passing the second Memorandum on June 29 & 30 b) exploring ways to prove the illegality of external debt and c) exploring patterns of social organisation that will not allow any “representative” to negotiate their lives away ever again.
On June 29, 155 MPs voted for the so-called medium-term government, amid nightmarish pressures on society, dispelling any notion of representation that was left in Greece. In the second memorandum, the horizon extends the measures up to 2015, lenders and government have gone much further even than the first memorandum. Along with the shrinking packages of income, education and health system, they represent a programme of divestment of public assets for the payment of EUR 50 billion. In this project nearly all public enterprises are being sold (such as energy, water, ports, airports etc.) and a series of “fillets” of thousands of acres are to be sold, putting a heavy burden on any attempt at recovery by the Greek economy.
In the national media the “outraged” functioned initially as an attractive product, believing that this is an innocent and naive movement. They pretty much promoted it but devalued its dynamics and deep targets. So for about 20 days (until 15/6), the movement enjoyed the limelight with extensive reports and headlines. But when, on June 15th more than one million people took to the streets of the capital around Syntagma Square and thousands others across Greece, the political leadership came under pressure from international financial markets and a clear shift of the media became evident.
The movement was most dangerous and came close to forcing the government out which only survived by a last-minute manoeuvring seeking inter-party “unity” and installing as Minister of Economics the until recently political dolphin of Papandreou, E. Venizelos. Ever since June 16, the national media has chosen the path of silence. We stopped seeing headlines and extensive reporting despite the massive involvement of the people. And when on June 29, the police unleashed an unprecedented attack to the people the media attempted to cloak it. Fortunately the internal competition stopped them, and the next day they showed a part of the truth. After these 2 explosive days, the national media turned more to the previous tactics and now “the outraged” are still missing…
On the other hand, the international media have been consistent in a more radical communication policy. First, they never presented the outraged’s real profile, they didn’t present that this is a daily protest with identical characteristics to those of the Spanish revolution with a clear profile of nonviolence, but on the contrary they spoke only about the violent uprisings highlighting the negligible minority of 200 people (out of one million) who decided to become violently involved with the police. It was clear that this picture was very well fitting with the image of the “lazy” Greeks who borrow instead of working and when the time to pay comes they riot. A picture that is not very consistent with the numbers of Eurostat where Greeks are at the top of the list of low paid and the highest number of hours worked per week…
And the riots? Since this is a non-violent movement how did the riots come about?
There has been intense speculation over 30 years that there are those who work with the police to provoke riots. But this was the first time this phenomenon was seriously exposed and discussed even in parliament with the minister of Justice and Public Order declaring that this case needs to be further investigated. Along the way, of course, videos and photographs demonstrating this truth will go slowly into oblivion…
But that means that all the violence was started by police agents? Of course not. A small number of them started the fire and a larger group of anti-authoritarians continued it.
These children, although in their casual conversations they talk about democracy, they fail to understand the way they rape the vast majority of their fellow citizens who are calling for a non-violent struggle.
They fail to understand that violence brings more violence, that repression is the only thing this system can do. They fail to understand that by using violence they help this system immeasurably by giving to it the opportunity: a) to remove peaceful protestors b) to discredit the entire movement morally, and c) to spread fear and panic which holds back many potential protagonists.
June 29. Vote Day of the medium-term programme by the government. The role of the police until then was more or less well-known. They wait for the riots to start and then interfere with a discretionary use of chemicals which along with the “hooded ones” will conveniently remove the rest of the demonstrators as well. In this way they attract the interest of the media and offer them the images they want.
And what changed on June 29? It is the target that changed… Instead of the 200 violent protesters, the police chased the hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators with unprecedented fury. Not so much with their clubs, since nowadays a lot of blood is not so sickening for the profile of the police. But mostly, through a prehistoric chemical war beyond all logic and precedent. In a clear violation of the Geneva Convention the repressive forces of the country proceeded to the throw 2,860 canisters of highly dangerous chemicals through a well executed plan to clear the movement from the square. They even chased people for miles into cafes and restaurants.
But the movement was more determined than ever. People didn’t respond as the system would like. Nor did they leave. They remained there and poisoned their lungs in an historic act of civil disobedience, nonviolent active resistance that corresponds to movements of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. With homemade masks and bathed in malox the movement remained in place to vote against the medium-term programme. The medium- term programme became law of the State, but the State lost its moral standing.
On June 29, Greece lost what was left of the democracy of the system.
On June 29, Greece won the most valuable thing that was missing. Greece gained the unity of its people who responded non-violently, with extreme courage and with the determination to overturn the greatest social injustice in modern European history.
The outcry of society was great. The police union condemned the policy that it was forced to follow. The military union condemned the police violence. And after all these chemicals in the air, the health minister commented that the reports of the abuse of violence are excessive.
When in December 2008, Athens was burning on the occasion of the murder of a 16 year old boy by a police officer, the media turned their interest to Athens with pictures of the looting of the city by thousands of people. But two and a half years later, a massive maturation of Greek consciousness gave one of the most promising signals of the first global non-violent revolution that is already underway in hundreds of cities across the globe through the movement of the “outraged”.
The colour of the revolution is white because it starts from the Light in our consciences.