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Changes in Greek protests landscape: lost in Pro-Europe and anti-austerity labyrinth

Between May 2010 and January 2015 elections, protests around Greece had a clear identity. They were against austerity, against pensions and wages cuts, in general against everything that had to do with the loan agreements between Greece and its creditors. In short, they were protests against the government/governments that were signing agreements with the lenders and the Troika.

But now, with an anti-austerity left-wing lead government in power, things have come upside-down and protests lost their collective identity.

Nowadays, one sees protesters outside the Greek Parliament supporting the government in defying creditors’ austerity demands.

Banner: “No one step back”

Σύνδεσμος ενσωματωμένης εικόνας

Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou at pro-government, anti-austerity protest on Wednesday.

Among them, are also protesters favoring a Grexit and return to Drachma.

These are the protests still protests against austerity.

But nowadays one can see also protesters outside the Parliament asking for the government to comply with the creditors’ demands. Such a protest took place on Thursday and confused many observers not only abroad but also within the country.

Thursday’s protest run under the slogan “We stay in Europe.” It was understood as a “spontaneous” protest called via the social media (mainly Facebook). It was in fact an anti-government demonstration organized by conservative New Democracy. A fact underlined by the strong presence of many former ministers who had accompanied ex PM Samaras in the two and a half years of governing.

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Banners nicely and orderly printed by the same device: Banner left “Supreme Court grabs our children’s money” – referring to SC decision that pension cut sin 2012 were against the constitution. Banner right “No to unilateral government actions”

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Former ND Minister for Public Order Nikos Dendias who was considering to limit mass protests for disturbing commercial life in downtown Athens.

Of course, also pro-government protests are “spontaneous” and people taking part are mostly SYRIZA-supporters.

Protesters lost in ideological labyrinth

There is nothing wrong with that. But, it turns out wrong when it comes to people who real spontaneous go to downtown Athens to express their opinion.

A characteristically example is this kind of confusion is the case of a friend who went to yesterday’s protest. She is a “pro Europe” and “pro Euro” supporter but also “anti-austerity” in terms of cuts in the private sector, unemployment and recession. She favors real structural reforms that will free the country from the diseases of clientelism and nepotism, the two-class society plague of civil servants with lots of rights and benefits and private sector with minimum to zero rights and very few benefits. She had never jointed any of the protests 2010-2015  but she went to Syntagma to raise her “Pro Europe” voice.

She was embarrassed this morning when we talked on the phone to hear that this was a protest launched by New Democracy. “What??? Now it makes sense. There were so many well-dressed people there,” she told me.

Pro-austerity demonstration after 5 years of austerity?

Some may even wonder how is it possible that there are Greeks supporting austerity policies, after 5 years of horizontal income cuts, the same cuts for those who have and those who have not.

It is interesting that in a blog post of mainstream and not exactly SYRIZA-friendly Proto Thema, a political columnist and journalist described Thursday’s demonstration as “ridiculous and shameful“.

“We saw this too. People demonstrating, many of them for the first time in their lives, with the request that the government accepts a humiliating, degrading, social unjust social and economic dead-end  agreement with the creditors. An agreement that even many abroad – certainly not Syriza supporters – consider as

At the most critical moment, where the government is trying to achieve at least some positive signs for an agreement to break the vicious cycle of crisis …  it is the “Nightmares” opening the path to the lenders – blackmailers.

Rather than protesting against the pressure from lenders, rather than expressing their support to the government seeking to stop austerity, to alleviate debt and provide development funds in the country, they took the side of the creditors.

They took to the streets apparently demanding to have their “peace and quiet”, and do not get bothered by those who resists the loan agreements. It didn’t bother them    that the loan agreements skyrocketed the unemployment or destroyed the society. What it bothers them is that their peace is been disturbed.

Let us not fool ourselves. These same proponents of the approach “we remain in the euro at all costwill be among the first to criticize, ridicule and condemn the government why it did not do a good deal! (full op-ed ProtoThema)

The last paragraph of the op-ed posted here is unfortunately very very true.

Nevertheless, there will be a protest on Sunday afternoon organized by the public sector union ADEDY and several other unions. Be informed that this is an anti-austerity demonstration, where the powerful union will request labor conditions to return into before 2010 conditions.

So how can a government gain or even lose the support of all these people with so many different motives?

At least, the previous governments (and international journalists) knew that all protesters were against the policies they were promoting …

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11 comments

  1. Good article on the issue. I would only say that this kind of shady, ideologically confused, anti-Syriza and pro-austerity/Troika protest was very predictable and its not Greek “particularity” in anyway.
    These kind of former corrupt government parties protests happen wherever and whenever “radical left” governments (or just governments that want to rule for the people and not the oligarchs) come to power and start to, at least threaten, the position of certain privileged sectors of society.

    This happened in Chile in 1973 where, before the bloody coup that overthrow the democratically elected Allende government, there was a series of upper middle class protesters banging pots and pans against the leftist government. There were even strikes called against the government by the bosses!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Salvador_Allende#Crisis

    This happened in Venezuela in 2002-2003, again upper middle class people came out to the streets to demand and prepare a military overthrow of a democratically elected government (in this case there was a coup attempt but it fortunately failed). Than they staged a several months long boss strike (lockout) to overthrow the government, fortunately it also failed.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Venezuelan_coup_d'%C3%A9tat_attempt
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_general_strike_of_2002%E2%80%9303

    This happened in Bolivia after Morales was elected, there was even for a period a separatist movement (the richest regions) that wanted to break away from Bolivia.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_unrest_in_Bolivia

    The list could go on and on… Recently in Brazil there were also protests against the recently democratically elected president, some of the protesters even asked explicitly for a military dictatorship!
    http://www.otempo.com.br/cidades/manifesta%C3%A7%C3%A3o-pede-impeachment-de-dilma-e-interven%C3%A7%C3%A3o-militar-1.941028

    My guess is that in Greece this movement is even more confused and really not that strong… at least for now. But rest assured, if Syriza does move against the Oligarchy or really challenges the IMF/EU get ready for the clash. Because like in all other places before the oligarchs, imperialists and their minions will do all they can to sabotage the Greek people´s efforts for a better life.

  2. There are many people in Venezuela regretting that the coup failed. The real austerity followed Chavez’ mis-rule. Argentina needs a coup right now. Greece can follow Syriza’s siren song all they way until not only medicines but last roll of toilet paper disappears from store shelves. Austerity will be so much more painful then, Stournaras is right.

    • Giaourti Giaourtaki

      Well, the best austerity would be to kick’em all out of Amerika and let’em swim back to Europe – Indian Land For Indian People – Free Amerika

    • Have you been in Venezuela ?
      certainly not !

    • So for you its ok to overthrow with a military coup a democratically elected government?
      I rest my case concerning the ND-Stournaras anti-democratic pro-fascist IMF minion crowd.

  3. “So how can a government gain or even lose the support of all these people with so many different motives?

    At least, the previous governments (and international journalists) knew that all protesters were against the policies they were promoting …”

    LOL!!! Yes, democracy is a pain in the a** 😀

  4. Philhellene Brit

    First of all let me congratulate you on the blog – and invaluable source of information and although you make me sometimes howl with rage, you also make me smile and laugh. I can imagine having a long lunch with you.
    However, this post has stimulated me enough to comment. Politics in Greece you will admit I hope is tribal. There is just as much “spontaneous” protest from the left and right. However I know many people, from the rich and well dressed (surely all Athenians are well dressed?) to normal working people went, possibly and probably unaware of the driving force behind the process. ND, whether you agree with them are not, are a legitimate political movement long established in Greece, and have the connections to inspire a protest. Does that make it debased and should the people that went feel dirty afterwards? I am now applying for residency etc here after many years being an Expat because, owning my own business and living here now for 7 years, I want to make sure I can stay here if Greece finds itself outside the Euro and the EU. I also want the vote, and my voice to be heard. I am a natural centre left voter, and I am as exasperated just as much by the naivety and incompetence of SYRIZA as I was with the veniality and self serving interests of ND and PASOK. I have long supported pro growth policies and find the high handed arrogance of the Troika sometimes breath taking. But… I want Greece to stay in the Euro. How do I express myself? By going to Syntagma and standing there for a while. Does this mean I hate all “leftists”? No. Does this mean that I will be having a private dinner with Dora anytime soon? No. It just means that I think it’s important. And I think you will find that most of the people there, rich or poor, ND supporters or To Potami, wanted to show that no we do not fully endorse the inept tactics of SYRIZA, but want the Euro, and this was the only way to express themselves. Do all people that go to a wedding in a church believe in God? No. They go to celebrate and be witness to something more important – love. Were all the people in Syntagma on Thursday night ND supporters or stupidly duped into going? No. But they went there to bear witness to something more important to them. This is democracy and to belittle them because of who they are, or how it was organised is dangerous to democracy itself. If I get the vote, how will I vote? I don’t know, but I will never agree totally with one party’s policies. I think that is the same of most people there on Thursday too.
    Keep up the good work.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      once GR default, KTG will accept free lunches 🙂

    • “This is democracy and to belittle them because of who they are, or how it was organised is dangerous to democracy itself.”
      Well said, P.Brit. It’s almost getting scary right now how different opinions are being vilified. What’s next? Volkstribunale? 🙁