Appeal to support the resisting Greek people and its Truth Commission on Public Debt

 

APPEAL TO SUPPORT THE RESISTING GREEK PEOPLE and its TRUTH COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DEBT

FOR THE PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO AUDIT PUBLIC DEBT 

 To the people of Europe and the whole world!

To all the men and women who reject the politics of austerity and are not willing to pay a public debt which is strangling us and which was agreed to behind our backs and against our interests.

We signatories to this appeal stand by the Greek people who, through their vote at the election of 25th January 2015, became the first population in Europe and in the Northern hemisphere to have rejected the politics of austerity imposed to pay an alleged public debt which was negotiated by those on top without the people and against the people.  At the same time we consider that the setting up of the Greek Public Debt Truth Commission at the initiative of the president of the Greek Parliament constitutes a historic event, of crucial importance not only for the Greek people but also for the people of Europe and the whole world!

Indeed, the Truth Commission of the Greek Parliament, composed of volunteer citizens from across the globe, is destined to be emulated in other countries. First, because the debt problem is a scourge that plagues most of Europe and the world, and secondly because there are millions and millions of citizens who are rightly posing basic and fundamental questions about this debt:

“What happened to the money that made up this loan? What were the conditions attached to it? How much interest has been paid, at what rate? How much capital has been repaid? How was the debt allowed to accumulate without benefiting the people? Where did the capital go? What was it used for? How much was diverted, by whom, and how was this done?

“And also: Who took out this loan and in whose name? Who granted the loan and what was their role? How did the state become involved? By what decision, taken with what authorisation? How did private debts become ‘public’? Who set up such inappropriate schemes, who pushed in this direction, who profited from them? Were offences or crimes committed with this money? Why has penal civil, criminal and administrative responsibility not been established?”

All these questions will be subjected to rigorous analysis by the commission, which has an official mandate to “gather all information relevant to the emergence and disproportionate increase in public debt, and to subject the data to scientific scrutiny in order to determine what part of that debt can be identified as illegitimate and illegal, odious or unsustainable, during the period of the Memoranda, from May 2010 to January 2015 as well as in the preceding years. It must also publish precise information – which must be accessible to all citizens, provide the evidence to back up public declarations, raise awareness among the Greek population, the international community and international public opinion, and finally draw up arguments and demands calling for cancellation of the debt.

We consider that it is the most basic democratic right of every citizen to demand clear and precise answers to these questions. We also consider that refusal to reply constitutes a denial of democracy and transparency on the part of those at the top who invented and use the “debt-system” to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. And even worse: we consider that by jealously keeping for themselves the monopoly right to decide the fate of society, those at the top deprive the overwhelming majority of citizens not only of their right to make decisions but above all of the right to take their destiny and the fate of humanity into their hands!

This is why we are launching the following urgent appeal to all citizens, social movements, ecological and feminist networks and movements, trade unions and political organizations that reject this ever less democratic and humane neo-liberal Europe: Show your solidarity with the Greek resistance by supporting in action the Greek Public Debt Truth Commission and its work in identifying that part of the Greek public debt which is illegal, illegitimate, odious and/or unsustainable.

Defend it against the outrageous attacks it has been subjected to from all those forces in Greece and the rest of the world who have an interest in keeping the truth about the “debt-system” hidden from view.

Actively take part in the citizen debt audits that are being developed throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Share your support and solidarity on your social networks, since this support and international solidarity is the only way to thwart the ruling powers’ plan to suffocate Greece and the people who are fighting against our common enemy: the politics of austerity and the debt that is strangling us!

We are confronted by an experienced adversary, united, well-coordinated, armed with extraordinary powers and absolutely determined to pursue its offensive against every one of us to the bitter end: we who constitute the overwhelming majority of our societies. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of resisting separately, each in his own corner. So let us unite our forces in a vast movement of solidarity with the Greek resistance and support for the Truth Commission of the Greek Parliament, multiplying such debt audit commissions everywhere where that is possible. Because the struggle of the Greek people is our struggle and their victory will be our victory. Our unity is our only strength

United we stand; divided we fall!

Click here GreekDebtTruthCommission.org to sign this Appeal

 

(Image Credit: Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt)

 

A new beginning for Greece and for Europe starts today!

 

In Greece, the new government is bringing optimism to many. I talked with Sofia Tzitzikou the vice president of UNICEF Greece and a dedicated activist for health rights. As a pharmacist she became one of the key volunteers to run a community clinic in Athens that has served the population made destitute after the scandal of the speculative coup on Greece. The Troika was sent with no legitimacy to implement neoliberal structural adjustment program renamed austerity measures.

Sofia first said that the election of Syriza gave her a sentiment of optimism, although she was aware of external and internal powerful pressures from Capital, represented by investors and speculators of all sorts who participated to the destruction of Greece.

She described the reaction in Athens after the election as full of emotion rather than pure joy. “They could not believe what happened,” she said. The evening of the election some in the streets asked, “Is it a dream?” The crowd was not jubilant as for a soccer game. Instead of honking, there was a great lucidity that there will be no magic to recovery. Sofia senses that a new solidarity has been formed through the suffering of the past years. Actually today, 70% of Greeks are convinced that the new prime minister and his team will succeed.

Certainly the women cleaners of the finance minister were aware of this new solidarity. They resisted the pressure of the establishment and challenged the previous government of Antonis Samaras that envisioned privatization and complete removal of labor protection as the future for Greece. The Supreme Court was supposed to decide their case. Instead the new government of Alexis Tsipras re-employed them immediately. It also reestablished electricity to the 300 000 households who could not afford it and raised the minimum wage to the level it was before.

People have been unified in the darkness of unemployment and attacks against unions. In this context the health care system erased about 40 % of the population from the system, immediately depriving them of medical care. Women were not guaranteed any sexual or reproductive health. To the scandal of some, women not able to deliver their babies in a safe manner.

According to Sofia, the country is in ruins and needs to rebuild.

The new government’s first symbolic action was to remove the anti riot barricades that were placed in front of the parliament to block the anti austerity demonstrators. Another immediate measure was to stop the privatization of the public domains such as the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki and the electricity services. They also eliminated the co-pay in public hospitals. Then, the new government declared the end of “Xenia Zeus” a program reported by Human Rights Watch as an abusive crack down on migrants. These symbolic and people-oriented decisions brought confidence needed in order to continue the necessary changes.

Sofia’s only regret is that women don’t hold any of the key ministries of new government: “That is a handicap, I don’t want to be against but it would have been more positive.” Still, Tasia Christodoulopoulou, the new Migration Minister, wants to grant Greek citizenship to all children born in Greece to end this state of no rights for migrants’ children born in Greece.

Sofia recognized that to see Zoé Konstantopoulou becoming the youngest president of the parliament elected with the greatest number of votes in the history of Greece compensated a little for the minimal women’s representation in the government. Zoé Konstantopoulou has been active on every front since her first election at the parliament. She testified in the documentary “Canaries in the Coal Mine.”

As the president of the parliament she pledged to combat corruption. She wants to reopen judicial affairs that have been unlawfully forgotten. This would end the privileges that have degraded parliament over the past years. One example of this degradation is the armaments scandal, involving German companies, occurring while pension and salaries were being amputated. Konstantopoulou is calling for transparency and participation of the social actors and the removal of the formal elite that hold no parliamentary positions. She also will reconstitute the commission on the Nazi war reparations and German debt to Greece. Her program is ambitious but she has proven in the past that she pursues what she believes to be the best for the country.

Sofia expressed confidence but warned, “The feminist movement has even more responsibility now that it can organize. It is the right time to present propositions based on solidarity.” She recognized that solidarity in Europe is crucial against neoliberal powers. Greece is showing the rest of Europe that civil society is still alive and democratic and there is an alternative to the austerity measures and the rule of the market and its oligarchs.

Sofia explained that the urgency is the questions of women’s rights and protection as they have been the first victims of the austerity measures. This is why they are joining the European Caravan of the World March of Women that is “working to build a feminist, solidarity-based economy, one that alters existing patterns of production and reproduction, distribution and consumption”. Sofia Tzitzikou concluded, “Ca commence maintenant” (“It starts today!”)

 

(Photo Credit: Lefteris Piatarakis/AP)

The experiment continues, and we are all still canaries in the coal mine

When Greek public debt exploded in 2010 some started asking, “Why Greece why now?”

The documentary “Les canaries dans la mine” (the Canaries in the Coal Mine), initially released in French in 2013, incorporates many voices from unionists, community health center managers, students, to journalists and politicians and more. They all conclude that what happened to Greece is an experiment to dismantle public services and democratic ideals. As Zoe says in the documentary: “Greece is a laboratory for those who think that human rights, human existence can be subjected to experiments.”

I recently talked with Sophia Tzitzikou on the occasion of the release of the documentary in English (with English subtitles). She runs a health community center in Athens and was interviewed in the documentary. I asked how the situation has evolved since the filming of the documentary: “It is worse.” As a result of the inhuman austerity measures that have destroyed public services and employment, poverty in on the rise. “There are no policies in favor of the poor, and public hospitals continue to be shut down.” The situation is especially dire for psychiatric hospitals: “Three of them were recently closed in Athens. The patients were simply sent to the streets.”

As a member of Greece’s UNICEF delegation, Sophia emphasized, “36% off Greek children now live in poverty, with 340 000 of them in conditions of social exclusion.” Her tone expressed her anger, as she added that the abortion rate has never been so high. Sophia explained, “Women simply don’t want to bring life into this misery.” Not to forget that in Greece giving birth used to be covered within a decent public health care system that has been taken apart by austerity measures imposed by The Troika, the financiers of Europe.

Even these numbers hardly describe the new reality. As Sophia said, “We have the feeling that our lives don’t belong to us anymore. Human rights are violated everyday, rights to work, rights to health, rights to have children, rights to live. We are now removed from all of that.”

The experiment continues. Puerto Rico is one of the last casualties of this neoliberal attack on the public and its services. This time, the order to enforce austerity measures on the US territory came directly from Wall Street with no shame. The credit-rating agencies like Standard & Poor set the tone as they “downgraded” the territory. Then, using the same tools as the Troika did in Greece, the remedy was made self-evident: cut public budgets, close public schools and reduce public services. The US financial markets have their grip on the island. Again, unions have been equally targeted. We see the same tools being used to discard public services over and over.

Watch the Canaries in the Coal Mine, it will inform you about these neoliberal attacks on workers, women and the public at large…us. We are all still canaries in the coal mine.

 

(Video Credit: YouTube/Yannick Bovy)

Cleaners: A handful of women show the way!

 

Following 11 months of relentless hard struggle, 595 public sector cleaners have become the embodiment, the symbol, the soul, the life itself of the most determined resistance against the politics of austerity in Greece. These women have become “political subjects” and the leadership of the current resistance movement in its entirety, having the guts to face up to such powerful enemies as the Greek government, the Central European Bank, the European Commission and the IMF.

For 11 months of struggle, these cleaners have set themselves against the government and the TROIKA and become their main enemy, having short-circuited the implementation of the austerity measures and having a constant presence on the political scene through the mass media. Meanwhile, the opponents of the politics of austerity still treat these fighting cleaners as though they are not political subjects.

From the moment the Troika-imposed austerity measures appeared, the women came out en mass onto the streets, and their resistance displays its own dynamic, with its own specificit rich in political lessons.

In the four years of austerity politics which have transformed Greece into a pile of social, economic and above all human ruins, few amongst us have spoken of the lives of the women and even less about their struggles against the diktats of the TROIKA. It was therefore to be expected that public opinion would be shocked by this exemplary fight, executed exclusively by women. But is this fight really so shocking?

Women have participated en mass in the 26 general strikes. In the “movement of the indignant” they occupied city squares, set out camps, demonstrated. They mobilised at the front line for the occupation and the independent running of ERT. Acting in an exemplary manner, they became the soul of the strike committees of the universities’ admin staff against the “reserve pool” policy, (ie those to be sacked after 8 months, at 75% of their normal salary). 25 000 public servants, majority women, will be the victims of staff cuts in the public services. Women alos form the vast majority of the volunteers in the Solidarity Movement and the self-managed solidarity health structures that are trying to deal with the human crisis and the collapse of health services.

The mass participation of women in the resistance movements against the demolition of the welfare state and against the politics of austerity is not surprising, and it did not happen by accident. First of all, women find themselves at the eye of the austerity storm. The dismantling of the welfare state and of its public services is damaging their lives; forming the majority of the civil servants and of the main users of public services, women are doubly hit by all cuts. They have therefore one thousand reasons not to accept this historic deterioration of their living standards, akin to a return to the 19th century.

It is true that at the beginning women were not differentiated as “women – political subjects”, participating as they were in the same demands and the same forms of action with the men within the various movements. They were simply participating in large numbers.

However, already within the framework of the pioneering struggle against gold extraction at SCOURIES in Chalkidiki, taking on the Canadian multi-national ELDORADO GOLD, the women were rapidly being differentiated through their specific forms of action and their radicalism. The press and popular perceptions ignored the significance of their gender identity in the way they were fighting, but not the police did. Quite the opposite, the MATs (Greece’s special riot control police units) targeted mainly women, using savage and selective measures in order to terrorise the whole population through them and eradicate any form of disobedience and any resistance movement.

Women were imprisoned, legally persecuted, and subjected to violence and humiliation, even “sexual” degradations specifically adjusted to their bodies and their gender.

In the following year women took more initiatives and developed their own forms of action.

It all started when, in order to implement the harshest part of the austerity program and comply with the terms imposed on it by the “lenders”, the government targeted, in advance of anybody else, the cleaners at the Ministry of Economic Development, the Inland Revenue and the Customs offices. It placed them on “reserve lists” since last August (which means that for 8 months they would be paid only three-quarters of their salary of 550 Euros per month, and then be sacked).

The government followed the same tactics as in SCOURIES. It started by targeting the weakest and those with the least chance of getting support, ie the cleaners, to be followed by the bulk of the employees, the 25,000 civil servants to be made redundant. And it was timed at the moment when the resistance movement was getting exhausted after the relentless austerity measures, with many activists getting demoralised, depleted and forced to try and solve their own problems individually.

The government believed that, with this group of workers, ie poor women, of “lower class”, pay levels around 500 euros per month and, as they assumed, not very intelligent (which explains the origin of the cleaners’ slogan “we are cleaners, not idiots”), they could sort them out quickly and squash them like worms.

The target was to privatise cleaning work as a gift to the private cleaning contractors. These mafia-like contractors, known as tax-evasion champions, would then re-employ them at c200euros per month (ie 2 Euros an hour), with almost non-existent security and no employment protection rights, practically equivalent to slave labour.

These women, sacked from their jobs, sacrificed to the man-eating tendencies of the TROIKA, these women of 45 to 57 years of age, many mothers in single parent households, divorcees, widows, over-indebted, with children, unemployed husbands, or caring for disabled dependants, with no access to “early” pensions after 20 years, and without a chance of finding another job, decided not to give in. They decided to take control of their lives in their own hands.

And so we’ve got a handful of women who decided to change the established forms of action adopted by the traditional trade unions. Some have taken the initiative and organised themselves for themselves, with a group of cleaners at their core, who had already fought battles 10 years ago and won significant victories. They have worked hard and they have woven a web that has acquired national dimensions.

 

(Photo Credit: CADTM.org)

In Greece, austerity builds its own gulag

Korydallos Prison Hospital ward

Austerity loves prisons. From the United States, where debtors prisons are seeing a return, to Australia and the United Kingdom, where immigration prisons choke with people and atrocities, austerity loves its prisons. In Greece, austerity has built its very own gulag, out of prison hospitals, immigration prisons, prisons within prisons, and the free floating fear of going to prison for indebtedness, inability, or any of the other `failings’ that are part and parcel of being human.

But this year, the State may have to start paying its debts, not to multinational agencies and stock brokers but rather to ordinary human beings.

The Korydallos Prison Complex is Greece’s main prison. The Korydallos Prison hospital is the only prison hospital in Greece. In February, hospital inmates went on a hunger strike, which included refusing medications. The vast majority of the Korydallos hospital prisoners are HIV positive. Their complaint was simple: inhuman overcrowding. Korydallos prison hospital is meant to have no more than 60. It currently houses over 200. Prisoners’ testimony, and leaked photographs and videos, describe the place as a hellhole. They’re right. People come in and get lost in the crowd and often die there: “There’s a 23-year-old who’s already been here for a month without getting a check-up. We enter the hospital with a medical condition or a disability and leave with a chronic illness. Do you know why you don’t hear of deaths in prisons? Because when someone is near death, they move him to a public hospital. That’s where his death is recorded.”

Many of those in the hospital are awaiting trial. Many others are in for minor offences, and many others are in for survival economic offenses: “We’re human beings. Many of us are in prison for financial crimes; we haven’t done anything violent. We don’t understand why we’re being treated like this.” Austerity loves prisons, and Greek austerity loves a good gulag.

On June 26, the European Court of Human Rights decided that Greece had violated the rights of Mariana de los Santos and Angela de la Cruz, two women from the Dominican Republic who had been arrested as undocumented residents. The two lodged a complaint concerning the conditions of their imprisonment in Thessaloniki and in Athens. In Thessaloniki, the cell was overcrowded, and the amount of money allocated was insufficient to purchase a meal. In Athens, along with overcrowding, “they described numerous sanitary and hygiene problems, particularly the fact that there had been only a single shower and a single toilet for all of the female detainees.” Overcrowding, hunger, debt, and no facilities: austerity loves its immigration prisons.

On June 23, prisoners across Greece started a hunger strike that went on for over ten consecutive days. Along with overcrowding and the general architecture of despair, the prisoners were, and are, protesting new laws that create a new kind of maximum-security prison, called type-C prison. These are designed to house the `most dangerous of the dangerous,’ but that’s a fluid concept. It includes “terrorists”, who more often than not are young militant anarchists; members of “criminal organizations”, such as the Golden Dawn, and “prisoners who lead mutinies or hunger strikes like the one under way at the moment.”

Prisoners call C-type prisons the Greek Guantanamo: “a Greek ‘Guantanamo Bay’, a prison within a prison, without leaves, without visits, without tomorrow”. The gulag is national and global: “We start a mass hunger strike in all prisons across Greece. We claim our rights, and we fight to remain humans, instead of human shadows locked up and forgotten into despair.”

Prison guards are also on strike because of overcrowding. According to the guards, the current average on any given shift is one guard to 500 prisoners. Austerity hates workers, loves prisons.

From the cleaning women of the Greek Ministry of Finance to the Kordyallos Prison hospital to the immigrant detention prisons to all the prisons, the cry is the same: “We claim our rights, and we fight to remain humans, instead of human shadows locked up and forgotten into despair.”

 

(Photo Credit: http://greece.greekreporter.com)

Solidarity with Greek women cleaners against austerity!

The women cleaners of the Ministry of finance in Athens have been demonstrating that the fight for life and dignity should know no rest. Since being laid off eleven months ago, thanks to austerity measures, they have been in front of the Ministry, standing there to show that life cannot be neither brushed aside nor contracted.

First, they turned to the court of justice, as labor rights must be defended by all means. The District court of Athens rule in their favor. The minister did not budge. A month ago, a court decision in Athens vindicated them and ordered their immediate reinstatement. The government responded with what the neoliberalist dogma orders: demanding submission and dependency and going after the women cleaners. The government dismissed the judgment and bypassed the court of appeal, going straight to the higher court Areios Pagos.

At the same time, the conservative press, media, politicians have broadcast negative images of the cleaners, calling them shirkers, accusing them of receiving undue privileges.

Meanwhile, the women cleaners who lost their meager salary (around $1000/month) are regularly physically assaulted by riot police, and suffer injuries requiring hospitalization.

Why is the government in Greece going after the women cleaners with such rage? Why do the State despise their lives and livelihood so much? Isn’t the state responsible for the well being of all its members including low wage women?

Who is the government serving?

In the late 70s, when the dollar was `floated’, the market system encompassed the idea of floating currency in relation to the idea of floating work value. As a result, the value of work as well as the value of life became increasingly indeterminate. The goal became the promotion of indeterminacy as a way of life, going against all efforts to create a socially responsible state. Austerity measures, and structural adjustment programs implemented in the South, opened the way to establishing a contracted work force by erasing the notion of public services and public responsibility. Austerity and structural adjustment `liberated’ public funds to the indeterminate market system.

Women are more dependent on public services and related jobs and comprise the vast majority of the growing underpaid and unemployed population in Greece. The government has argued that the termination of their work was for the public interest, intentionally confusing reduction of public sector with public interest. The State claims that the decision should be made in an administrative court, which would to make it a permanent labor rule.

The fact that the women cleaners were no fiscal burden, and their replacement by contracting businesses is more costly and less effective does not matter. The issue is not the way work is done but rather the profit making market system that thrives on the floating value of work. This is a legal issue and justice should protect life and way of life.

The fight of the women cleaners and their determination, despite their increasingly precarious situation as the result of no pay, is an example for all of us who understand that the threat is global and broad.

In building solidarity with the women cleaners there is a chance to direct the focus to respect for life that can override the ruthless neoliberal attack on human dignity.

Solidarity is the people’s weapon!

 

(Photo Credit: Greecesolidarity.org)

Greek cleaning women demand an end to austerity

In Greece, women are leading the popular struggles against austerity. In Athens, women cleaners have been camping out in front of the Finance Ministry for months. And they’re winning, slowly but winning.

Konstantina Kouneva, a Bulgarian immigrant to Greece, has been working as a janitor since 2001. She is also a trade unionist. In 2008, she was the victim of an acid attack. She sued the company she works for, for its lax approach to workers’ security, and won. She has kept on winning, and next month she will join the European Parliament, representing SYRIZA, workers, women workers, and social economic justice.

Women cleaners were fired, months ago, from the Finance Ministry and have been protesting, camping out, occupying, and suing. They have repeatedly won in court, and look forward to more such victories. The Supreme Court was supposed to decide on Thursday, but delayed its decision until September. The struggle continues.

The women continue the struggle. Despite police brutality which sent women to the hospital, the women continue their encampment in the space in front of the Finance Ministry. As Despina Kostopoulou explained, “They’re bigger than us, but we’re angrier.” Despina Kostopoulou is in many ways typical of the women cleaners. She’s in her 50s, she’s been working for the ministry for decades. She thinks the labor and time she has invested in the ministry counts. She’s right. That’s why the State is trying to rob her and the other women every which way every second of every day.

The women have traded, temporarily, the labor of cleaning for the labor of justice. “Protesting wasn’t hard for us, really. We had no choice. If you make a living with a mop in your hand, you’re already fighting to make ends meet anyway,” explains 57-year-old Evangelia Alexaki. What is the cumulative value of a life of labor, and especially if the laborers are women?

The struggle will not end with the re-instatement of hundreds of cleaner women. First of all, re-instatement under austerity is a tricky business, literally. The `returning’ workers will be offered half of their original salaries. Many will be told they have no insurance. And they will all remain vulnerable to the predations of austerity. That’s how `recovery’ works these days.

Women cleaners, mops and buckets in hand, are leading the charge. Don’t fix austerity. Throw it out. People are valuable, workers are valuable, women are valuable, women workers are valuable. Nobody should be treated like trash. Instead, take the program that treats women like so much garbage and throw it away. They are bigger, but we are angrier. Stay angry.

 

(Photo Credit: Uniglobalunion.org)

The people do not celebrate Greece’s return to the debt market

On April 11 2014, Angela Merkel was welcomed by the Greek Prime Minister to celebrate the return of Greece to the official speculative bond market, which means to the free market of debt. “Capitalism is all about borrowing so psychologically and symbolically our return to the markets has been hugely important” declared a professor of economics in Greece. Whose psychological well being is he talking about?

Angela Merkel did not stay long in Greece, not even seven hours, understandably since about 7000 police officers were needed for her not to see any of the faces demonstrating because they have suffered and are still suffering from the austerity measures imposed to achieve the Greek return to the debt market.

Angela Merkel benevolently recognized, “I want to say that the government’s policies have led to many people suffering, and were very hard for the government to implement, but now we can see Greece keeping its promises, fulfilling its obligations, and the budget situation is better than we could have wished for or expected.” How does the psychological affect of the investors and gamblers in the debt economy connect with the suffering of an entire population? These policies have led to death and abject deprivation. Moreover, they triggered the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn, which has murdered fellow Greek citizens, and, sometimes working with police, has targeted immigrants who themselves were escaping violence or impoverishment.

The Greek prisons have been filled with many who were directly impacted by the austerity measures. The conditions of detention are dreadful. Certainly, sending a 90- year-old woman who has Alzheimer to jail for few thousand Euros is a great aid to the debt market economy. The country’s real debt has been the impoverishment of over 600 000 children, but who cares about children? Words seem to have different meanings whether we talk about the future of children or the future of investors.

Inserted in the neoliberal logic of a debt economy Merkel affirmed, “I firmly believe that after a very, very tough phase, this country harbors boundless possibilities still to be exploited.” Ask the cleaning women who have been fighting for their rights. They know who is going to be exploited because they already are. They understood that the “so called” labor market has been deregulated thanks to this tough phase that allowed employers to force them to sign blank contracts. They know the Greek State has organized its own defection and is now subservient to private enterprise.

Angela Merkel took the time to meet with Greek entrepreneurs but did not visit the hospitals or the schools. For example, she could have visited a social community clinic run by Sophia who would have told her, “The philosophy [of our work] is not to subsidize the state, this is not our job.” She would have explained that in Greece today there is no democracy, “Democracy is for people to live better isn’t it? With dignity, with hope for the future. That does not exist anymore!”

Why weren’t these principles of democracy praised by Angela Merkel while she was on Greek soil?

Greeks have organized, and new sites for European solidarity are being formed. New political forces are also rising and elections may change the course of the well orchestrated debt economy. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the growing Greek leftist party Syriza, has long voiced other views about the debt. In 2012, he explained, “The European citizens should know, however, that loans to Greece are paid into an `escrow’ account and are used exclusively to repay the loans and to re-capitalize near bankrupt private banks. The money cannot be used to pay salaries and pensions, or to buy basic medicine for hospitals and milk for schools … If there is a risk for taxpayers losing their money, it is created by austerity.”

The money other European nations loaned to Greece never went to the Greek people. It was just a displacement of wealth for the advancement of neoliberal finance and power. However, populations are also lost when facing this capitalist delirium. This is part of the program, and it allows policies to continue with their brutal devastation. The efforts that many in Europe thought to be made for a better future have produced misery. Greece’s unemployment is at a record high 28%. More women are unemployed than men, and women and youth make up the bulk of unemployment. The public debt is still at 177% of the GDP. 23.7% of Greeks, and 30.4% of children, are under poverty line. As Greece’s social cohesion has been swiftly ripped apart, the goals of these policies have become clear.

For many including some economists, the solution is also clear. The European Central Bank should take social responsibility and buy back the debt. It is time for the people through struggle to reclaim politics in Europe and elsewhere and thereby create the conditions for a radical transformation. Instead of falling into the trap of a standard of debt that Angela Merkel wants to celebrate with the Greek neoliberal establishment, we must celebrate our social cohesion, our community, and the promise of democracy.

 

(Photo Credit: YouTube.com / en.enikos.gr in English)

In Athens, women cleaners reject austerity’s mess

595 cleaning women of the Greek Ministry of Finance have organized against austerity measures. They were there when Goldman Sachs coached the Greek authorities to hide the deficit with neoliberal “financial innovations” and then bet on it to make outrageous profits. They were there when the Greek authorities admitted that these “financial innovations” did not work and had to be paid for by the Greek population. They were also there when the Troika came to give the prescription of austerity measures. They cleaned the mess and emptied the trashcans.

One day they learned that their already meager salary was going to be amputated of 75% of its value. Without warning one morning they learned that they would have only 325.88 Euros to take care of their families, as many of them are single mothers and over 50 years old. Then they learned that they were to be replaced by contracted workers. For women, losing a job under these conditions means losing access to pension, health care, social protection. It means becoming part of the 62.8% unemployed women in Greece.

The women refused. They organized and showed the power of solidarity. Every day, they stand in front of the ministry and shout at the Troika personnel, at the government and all the financial puppets that come and go. They protest that they cannot be dismissed. They shout that they have rights that shouldn’t be wiped out just to serve their markets and their private interests. The Troika, the State and the stooges know that the cleaners’ meager salaries are not going to solve the Greek deficit. They remind everyone that the ministries and other public spaces are not in danger of not being cleaned anymore. Once again in the neoliberal order of things, public money will be transferred to private hands through contracted work. Ordinarily contracted cleaning work costs more, but women workers’ wages are lower since they either have no contracts or have to sign blank `contracts’ that make them vulnerable to total exploitation.

In 2009, Kostantina Kouvena, an immigrant cleaning woman who was a trade unionist for cleaning women union, was attacked with vitriolic acid because she was exposing these abuses. Her employer was a politician from the Social Democrat party, Pasok, who had created a service company. Making contracted work the norm is central to neoliberal labor policies, to the point that killing the resistance to this move is accepted.

The cleaning women haven’t stop fighting, and their tenacity has become an example for many in Greece, especially women who are more likely to be employed in the public sector.

Last March, the repression was even more violent as they were still demonstrating in front of the Ministry. Their solidarity has been an example that has inspired a larger European and international movement.

Over fifty thousand people from twenty-one countries went to Brussels this past Friday to demonstrate against austerity.  The message from the European Trade Union Confederation was clear: these policies are wrong and do more harm than good. Austerity measures don’t serve the people, they serve the financial markets that thrive on volatility and make victims, like the Greek population, pay the price of their gameThe cleaning women of Athens keep watch for us on the comings and goings of the virtuosi of austerity rhetoric. They tell them that they know who they are. They know that underpaid contracted cleaning/janitor works are the signs of the marginalization of women in a low wage debt economy and a sign of the rise of submissive policies that annihilate the public voice. And to that, the cleaning women of Athens say, “No!”

 

(Photo Credit: Autostraddle.com)

In Greece, from debt to prison to death

Once upon a time, in 2010, a crisis was discovered in Greece. It was called a public debt crisis. Actually, it was orchestrated by very private interests, including a few American hedge funds and some German interests. The list of financial sector beneficiaries is very long.

Anyway, the Neoliberalists of the European Union sent the Troika to the rescue. The Troika established a dictatorial rule of austerity measures that indebted the population itself. Workers and small business owners suddenly had to pay the exorbitant interest rates established by the market. Actually, there were no structural problems in Greece, but the European leaders closed their eyes on the arrangements made by the Greek ruling class with the help of Goldman Sachs … as long as they produced profitable returns for the investors.

In 2013, the Greek government of Antonis Samaras passed a series of laws to make the population pay into a new, “modernized” tax system. For instance, previously had had no local taxes. The law changed all that. The net result of the new laws was to criminalize anyone who owed at least 5 000 € ($6 890) to the State.

Waves of new inmates hit the already overpopulated prisons. A recent video filmed by a prisoner at the Aglos Pavlos Prison Hospital, in the notorious Korydallos Prison, unveiled the revolting conditions. For instance, the camera is directed at a man lying on a bed, he shows his gangrenous legs; and the voice says: “They will cut off both of his legs. He comes for 8 months here because he owes some money to the government. He cannot walk. He came with two feet and he will go out with no feet.”

This video made the news and drew the attention of Liliane Maury Pasquier (Switzerland, SOC), the rapporteur on “Equal access to health care” for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE. She expressed grave concerns, noting that 200 sick inmates, many with highly contagious diseases, lived in a place made for 60 people. She added: “In such conditions, it is impossible to ensure that prisoners receive appropriate treatment, not to mention the fact that overcrowding obviously contributes to the spreading of contagious diseases, thereby endangering the lives of all prisoners in the hospital.”

In 2013 the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 1946 (2013), “Equal access to health care.” The Resolution states that inequalities in access to care particularly affect vulnerable groups, including the poor and those in detention. As the video demonstrates, the Troika has continued to apply its austerity measures with dire, and fatal, consequences for the population, and especially prisoners.

The cynical and methodical process of dehumanization in Greece is also orchestrated by the state. A 90 years old woman with Alzheimer left her home and became disoriented. Policemen found her and took her to the police station in order to help her find her family. Instead of her family, they found that she was registered on the computer as owing 5,000€ to the tax administration. They transferred her to jail where she went into a state of panic and became more disoriented. Finally, her niece was informed of her whereabouts. However, she was not released, thanks to other laws that labeled her a criminal. Moreover, the overload of work has kept her in detention. She suffered from various injuries for falling from her cell’s bed. Her mental condition meant nothing to the State. This is not an isolated case. Another elderly woman was recently arrested for owing money she didn’t even know she owed.

Who are the real criminals? Impoverishment is normalized. Prison is used to fragment Greek civil society and to eliminate all kinds of opposition to the growing inequalities.

The origin of this destruction is erased as the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, recently declared that the “sacrifices” of the Greeks “open the gate to a better future for themselves.”  He should read the report of Lilliane Maury Pasquier who requested “immediate improvements” in hospital facilities in prison. After visiting Greece she decried the negative impact of austerity measures on access to health care in general.

Once again, prisons contribute to the fabric of inequality and dehumanization in a debt economy. They are brutal tools of power.

 

(Video Credit: Les Observateurs France 24 / YouTube)