In Greece, the presidents, the austerity measures, and the resistance of women

Women's Solidarity House banner

No women alone during the crisis!

While President Francois Hollande was visiting the Greek political elite in Athens and asking the Greek people, whom he would not meet, to make more efforts, the women of the Women’s Solidarity House in Thessaloniki told us what it means to live with making these efforts demanded by the politics of austerity.

They lost their jobs, their pensions, electricity, their way of life, and then they were asked for more money in taxes than they actually received. Meanwhile the Troika refused to tax companies at 12.5% while the VAT was raised to 23%. None of this is Mr. Hollande’s concern. He came to Greece with four ministers, especially his Minister of Finance, and a corporate escort. Entrepreneurial France is the fourth largest investor in Greece, after Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

The third memorandum accepted by Alexis Tsipras required the creation of a privatization fund of 50 Billion Euros. Francois Hollande presented himself as a friend of Greece. As a return on “political” investments, he brought a team to collect the last bargains on the market of privatization of public services and buildings. The politics of friendship can be brutal.

Alexis Tsipras was elected on the promise of opposing the power of the members of the Troika formed by three non-elected entities (the EU Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank), and their prescriptions that have already led to catastrophic recession and the destruction of the social structures of the country. In 2012, the Troika required the elimination of the Greek social housing program as well as housing support programs for low-income families in exchange for additional financial credit to pay the interests of an already odious debt. During the first mandate of Alexis Tsipras the head of the Hellenic parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, mandated The Debt Truth Committee, which has audited the debt with the support of the CADTM. The preliminary report’s results were edifying. This was embarrassing for the European commission that serves creditors. It could have derailed the perfect plan that they had in store for Greece. The coup was the dissolution of the assembly and the reelection of Mr. Tsipras on September 20th. He formed a new government with a new assembly then cleared out “the irritating” branch of his party that had demanded and supported the audit of the public debt.

At the Women’s Solidarity House no one is fooled. One morning, a woman stopped to say hello. To make ends meet, she is now reduced to selling lighters. She is from Veria, known for its cotton and clothing factories. At the end of the 80s with the advent of neoliberal policies of delocalization, the factories were moved to cheaper labor Bulgaria. Then, the debt crisis completed the desolation and now, she said, there is nothing.

At the Women’s Solidarity House women have organized a strong resistance to the austerity measures. As their banner states, “No women alone during the crisis.” Now that the third memorandum, probably the harshest of the three, is going to be implemented, the women’s belief that solidarity is their best weapon has grown even stronger.

Clearly, Mr Hollande did not wander the streets of Athens. He did not want to meet women such as those of the Women’s Solidarity House of Thessaloniki. In response to this financial deterritorialization that brought precarity, these women created a space where collaboration, solidarity, friendship, comfort and joy nourishes their determination to fight against austerity policies and the dictated unacceptable elimination of their rights.

We must challenge the purpose of the debt system that serves a minority and imposes on population the speculative exploitation of all sorts of corruptions and financial games and as a result disassembles social rights gained in the past decades without bringing any economic stability of course. Too bad that Mr. Hollande forgot to invite “experts” on women rights and human rights instead of investors!

Women's Solidarity House meeting

Women’s Solidarity House meeting

 

(Photo Credit: Marie-Hélène Le Ny)

About Brigitte Marti

Brigitte Marti is an organizer researcher who has worked on reproductive rights and women's health initiatives in France and in the European Union and on women prisoners' issues in the United States.