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While Greeks Get Ready for the Mass-Protest on Sunday…

“We’ll go tomorrow, will you come?” Anna, 50, tells me on the phone. “We definitely must do something” tells me Maria, 45. “We won’t let lose until they go” tells me my cousin, 40. All middle-class Greeks that “want to do something” tomorrow, Sunday. That is, go downtown, outside the Parliament and raise their voices against the new Memorandum of Understanding. A voting that will start in the afternoon. The mass protest scheduled for 5 pm is expected to be the biggest ever since the anti-austerity demonstrations started in May 2010.

“I will join the protest to show Greece and Europe that these measures bring nothing” says Yianna, 42. “Wages decreases can not bring development, they serve only the employers’  interests. Wages decreases mean less revenues for the insurance funds, less taxes, rising of undeclared employment. These measures bring nothing!”

“What’s the purpose of it? Where’s the end of austerity measures? They said that new will come next June,” says Maria with a trembling voice. She has calculated that her savings will hold her over water for 3 more months. She is without a job for more than a year.

Despite the government propaganda “Memorandum or Disorderly Bankruptcy”, I hear more and more people, saying that “the return to Drachma and a bankruptcy” is the solution to today’s economic misery.

“Let us go bankrupt, our debt will be eliminated, we’ll recover after a couple of years,” says Anna. When I tell her that in such a case her husband will get a pension of maximum 100 Euro, if at all, she asks me “For how long?” I tell her I don’t know exactly and I suggest “for a period of six months?”. After a moment of silence, she asks me “What are we protesting against?”

I hear her husband shouting from the living room. “We protest that there is no present for us and future for our children, with these corrupt politicians seeking only to be on the safe side. They and their friends.” Costas grabs the phone and explains against what he will protest on Sunday “Tax evasion? That’s the joke of the century. They ‘cut the fingers’ of those not issuing a receipt, but the big tax evaders are out of prison. They owe the state billions, they get caught, and go free.. I heard the state got only €150,000 from all those in handcuffs.” 

Then he tells me the story of a friends’ daughter who got a job at a recently opened cafe-bar: four hours, twice a week. Earnings? 5 euro per hour, 20 euro per day, without insurance. The inspectors from the finance ministry ‘caught’ her during a control. No insurance? The bar owner was fined with 500 euro, the young woman lost the job. She is 26 years old, studied economics and has a post-university degree. She has been looking for a job, any job, since two years.

“Bribes? All cleared!” Costas continues like a waterfall. “Politicians go free due to time limitation status. Everything is tailored for them, the people can just die.” 

“What they [politicians] do with our country is dangerous, dangerous” tells me an angry taxi driver, while I hope he won’t lose control of the car and his frustration turns dangerous for both of us as he drives in rather high speed through a main avenue in Athens.  “They do not care about us, the people, who knows that interests they serve…” He says that he had suffered revenue losses of -40 percent in the last year. He says, he will definitely join the protest on Sunday, because he hardly manage to feed his children anymore. Protest and vote them down, that’s all he can do to express his anger.

My cousin and his two years younger brother will go and demonstrate on Sunday. Together with their wives and children. ” No to austerity, no to new measures, no to corruption and these politicians. They should all go away!” says Markos adding “I won’t go away [from Parliament] until the helicopter comes to take them away!” Markos is a computer engineer working at a multinational company.

 On Saturday night PM Lucas Papademos addressed the nation via a televised message. On the impact of a disorderly bankrupcty on people’s lives. He said more or less what he told the cabinet ministers on Friday evening. However he added “Should Greece disorderly default… the people’s savings will be in danger“. Will this short but powerful sentence scare Sunday’s protesters? Maybe only those who have savings. The rest has nothing to lose anyway.

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23 comments

  1. Great piece KTG!

    “We protest that there is no present for us and future for our children, with these corrupt politicians seeking only to be on the safe side. They and their friends.”

    This sums it up so very well.

  2. thanks- I had more talking and less writing today lol

  3. Go Greece, Go!

  4. Reading between the lines, it seems that you’re not in favor of a return to the drachma, which in essence is a vote in favor of the “memorandum 2.” However, I don’t think the argument or the effects of a return to the old currency are as simple as you make them out to be. This line of thinking also fails to consider that the latest “austerity” measures are by no means guaranteed to be the last ones. We’ve heard “no new measures” over and over again for the past two years and yet the cuts have kept on coming. How do we know the “troika” won’t turn around and ask for more cuts again in a few months? That even a 300-400 Euro pension or salary will be considered “too much”? How do we know that? We don’t, but the recent prior history suggests that the measures will just lead to new measures, which will further cripple the economy. Another thing that I should point out, as counterintuitive and as incredible as it may seem to the depressed, pessimistic masses of Greece, is that young people are having quite a lot of difficulty finding jobs in the “wealthy” countries as well. Just ask my friend with a Masters degree in the sciences, who recently was one of…2,300 applicants for an entry-level retail position. Just ask my friend who is a talented graphic artist and has not found work in that field for one day since graduating several years ago, instead working in a supermarket! Just ask other friends of mine who aren’t even working. I know I’m going to hear a chorus of “yes, buts” – but I don’t care. It’s nice to live life without wearing blinders and being able to notice the problems and corruption everywhere instead of just where the media tell us it is. By the way, the people in countries like Romania, like Iceland, like Argentina, that went outside their parliaments and demanded an end to the IMF madness and the austerity and brought about change…were they foolish to do so? If I was in Greece right now (instead of studying here in the U.S. where I was born (just so I don’t hear stupid comments asking why I “left” Greece), I would be one of the foolish ones in Syntagma too. Just like I was last year on May 25th. Thank you.

  5. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/cost-combined-greek-bailout-just-rose-%E2%82%AC320-billion-secured-debt-or-136-greek-gdp

    Quoting the concluding paragraph:

    Finally ask yourselves this: what would have happened if Greece had been allowed to default in May 2010 and all debts wiped out, and instead of feeding its creditors, the funding sources had provided the country with €320 billion in new debt (as they are anyway, only it is to make its creditors whole). It would mean that, assuming a dollar for dollar equivalency between GDP and debt, Greece would have grown by about 36% more in the past two years compared to where it is now, even with the occasional German submarine purchase. Something tells us the Greek people should have the right to know this.

  6. this post is merely to show some motives of Greek protesters. What I blame both sides (pro-memorandum, pro-euro-exit) is that nobody explains really the pro and contras of these two options and thus in words that average people really understand and decide by themselves. We hear the politicians blackmails and the darkest side of the moon, while families already exprience bankruptcy. People without job, no income, no insurance, no access to medicine or heating oil, no social welfare. We here in Greece are fed up of the government blackmails, we hear them at least once a month. Now on two consequent days. On the other hand, the euro-exit supporters (mostly economists professors) use a language that no normal people can fully understand, except the very simple lines, like “eliminate debt”. And then? everything is OK? I wonder how my parents would survive when they see no pension for a couple of months. Can you tell?

  7. Greeks have the right to know a lot but the machinery is working full speed. Should Greece had default in May 2010, its lenders had not time to secure themselves by getting rid of the Greek bonds they hold.

  8. I’ve interviewed several “euro-exit” supporters on my radio program and despite not having an economics background, I understood their argument quite well. If you’d like, feel free to visit http://www.austinhellenicradio.org and listen to the interviews with Stergios Skaperdas and Greg Palast. Maybe that will clear up some of the arguments.

    As for not having a pension for two months, how do you know that won’t be coming with continued austerity and IMF involvement? And how do you know that the IMF program won’t collapse on its own if it continues long enough? *That’s* something that the “memorandum supporters” should explain to us, because up until now, it’s been nothing but lies. No new taxes, no new cuts, we won’t cut the minimum wage, blah blah blah. Enough with the lies.

    And one more thing: if the average person “doesn’t understand” something (like the arguments in favor of a Euro exit), well then it’s up to them, as active citizens, to go and find out rather than sitting on their couches and listening to the government and bankers and media propaganda machine on television telling them what their opinion should be. Perhaps we should strive to be informed citizens instead of accepting whatever we are given.

  9. Excellent KTG

  10. I wish the Greek people well. You are in a lot of peoples thoughts, here in the UK.

  11. thank you

  12. :)))

  13. By the way, did you know that Greece, for what it’s worth, is now running a primary budget surplus? I bet you Mr. Papademos overlooked that in his little speech. Do you know what that means? It means that the money is there to pay for pensions and salaries. Also, any conversion to the drachma would not happen from one day to the next, so it is not quite the case that the sky would be falling and that the next day people will wake up without salaries and pensions. People WILL wake up without salaries, however, if these insane measures continue and the 150,000 layoffs take place.

  14. Yet another reason why nothing the IMF says should be trusted: “The IMF’s Poul Tomsen, in an interview with Kathimerini in 2010: “A significant feature of this program is that the cuts to salaries and pensions in the public sector are done in a way so that the burden falls on those with high salaries and pensions, and with protection for those who receive the minimum.” – http://www.imf.org/external/np/vc/2010/051610.htm

  15. of course it will take some years to return to drachma. until then, all people with bank savings will take their money abroad. Therefore he puts pressure.

  16. Thanks for the link. Very interesting. Alas, here in the south of Greece the internet is not too fantastic so I just managed to listen to a bit more over half of the interview with professor Skaperdas and his plan to default and go to the Drachma. So one of my main objections might be in the part I missed. And in fact I hope it is.
    Otherwise professor Skaperdas makes a very good case for his proposal. But like so many he is forgetting one little detail. Say we get into the Drachma tomorrow, with no debt left and can start all over again. I am sure there still would be no real growth in the economy. Why not? Because all the state structures are still in place. Laws, enormous Byzantine civil service, crazy regulations, lawlessness and so on. Every new initiative would, like it was before the crisis, be killed off by this system. And we would be back in the same kind of hole before we can say Drachma…
    That is the point where the Troika failed the most. From the beginning they should have seen this coming.

    And nothing in this crisis is black or white. Saying, like many do, that if you are for staying in the euro, you are in fact choosing for this MoU2 is as unjust as saying the opposite. Yes, I am for staying in the euro and I would vote against this MoU2. I was in favour of the old one until the Papandreou government decided to just go for the chapter “Raise Taxes” and did nothing, absolutely nothing about any of the other points in that MoU. Yes laws were made and passed, but never implemented. Just killing of the real economy in the private sector to be able to keep the status quo as long as possible. And that is still the aim. And yes, the people behind the Troika bear a big guild for letting the Greek government getting away with it.
    This MoU2 is just absolutely crazy. It’s consequences will be awful. And I would have had a Greek plan ready by now. They had two years to come up with something. Alex Papachelos, of the Kathimerini was calling more than a year ago for a Greek taskforce that would have prepared negotiations and streamlined the implementations as it was clear that non of the Greek politicians was able to formulate even one coherent plan. And tonight (!) Papandreou comes with the suggestion of a Greek Troika to monitor the Troika!!! *SIGH*
    Things like that make me almost ready to call it a day and ask to put the poor animal out of it’s missery. They shoot horses, don’t they? But that’s not an option at all. Because we are dealing with real people. But they are governed by a total unreal nomenklatura. And they have all but killed Greece off… And I pray there is a God waiting for them when, after a long and healthy life I hope, they will meet him.

  17. IMF had predicted in 2010 development & growth will come in 2011. In 2011 they said 2012, in 2012 said 2013… As long as the mentality of the politicians of this country does not change, with euro or with drachma, only the economically weak classes will come up for the expenses of a certain class.

  18. the HUMAN Factor (stupid taxpayers, clever nomenclatura lol)

  19. Can I ask the KTG moderator why my comments are not posted, yet all the pro-euro posts are allowed? I’ve posted on another thread, I have no doubt that will be refused too.

  20. In general, we don’t allow posts based on pure speculations that target namely politicians, groups of the society etc. We also have an allergy towards insults. We try to ‘edit’ posts, leave the idea and delete the ‘no-no’ sections. Furthemore, an automatical spam-detector can send comments to spam-section. These are deleted without further checking. Sorry. We have to stick to some kind of guidelines…

  21. As stated on another thread, thank you for the reply, appreciated…. My posts aren’t pure speculation, they’re based on much that I’ve read from credible, knowledgeable blogs & other sources. Also if pure speculation for refusal to publish posts is a reason I imagine that all posts would, unless they have first hand knowledge, would be refused. Forgive me here but how on earth can having a go at politicans or groups be pure speculation, they, along with unelected bureaucrats, banksters & big business ARE responsible for the dire mess not only Greece, is in but most of Europe. Though I do at stand amazed at my posts being deleted because of the ‘ allergy towards insults’ and here I know who you believe I insult, though when this same poster I am supposed to insult tends to insult me, which has been done, the posts stand………But it’s your blog, and I think it a good blog, so I’ll stick to your rules and word my posts so they don’t come across as insulting. 🙂

  22. Anon, insults against insults… I have to intervene and cut the discussion. If somebody writes “Politician A got 1 million” without a link to a reliable source , I delete this comment too. Or if someone writes down several ways of extermination. I don’t remember exactly what of your posts have been deleted and why (sorry). Sometimes I also edit out the controversial sentences and leave the rest. It depends on time and mood. Readers are allowed to express their frustation over the politicla system, the bankers, the Troika, Micky Maus or Donald Duck, but please, in an appropriate way.
    Thanks for your understanding and appreciate for reading and commenting on KTG.