OXI! Greek women say NO to the Dictatorship of the Debt

For the last five years, Women In and Beyond the Global has maintained a series on Greek women, and women in Greece, during the ongoing `crisis’. These pieces have been written by Brigitte Marti, Sonia Mitralia, Dan Moshenberg. We’ve also provided translation for a video, Canaries in the Coalmine.

Given the weekend’s referendum, we thought it would be a good idea to put those pieces that focus exclusively on Greece together. The struggle continues!

Asylum-seeker Mandana Daneshnia and her daughter haunt democracy. Dan Moshenberg. October 24, 2010. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=710

We are all canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. December 4, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6613

Deprivation in Greece … just an emotional issue??? Brigitte Marti. December 30, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6670

Violence Against Women as a strategic weapon in a time of class war in Greece. Sonia Mitralia. January 3, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6676

Women’s rights, labor rights did not cause the Greek mess. Brigitte Marti. February 2, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=7989

The urgency of an independent women’s movement against debt and austerity measures. Sonia Mitralia. February 4, 2014 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=8146

In Greece, from debt to prison to death. Brigitte Marti. March 30, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11293

In Athens, women cleaners reject austerity’s mess. Brigitte Marti. April 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11785

The people do not celebrate Greece’s return to the debt market. Brigitte Marti. April 21, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=12642

Greek cleaning women demand an end to austerity. Dan Moshenberg. June 14 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15727

Solidarity with Greek women cleaners against austerity! Brigitte Marti. July 7, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15768

In Greece, austerity builds its own gulag. Dan Moshenberg. July 8, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15772

Cleaners: A handful of women show the way! Sonia Mitralia. August 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15831

The experiment continues, and we are all still canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. November 19, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=16064

A new beginning for Greece and for Europe starts today! Brigitte Marti. February 18, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18325

Appeal to support the resisting Greek people and its Truth Commission on Public Debt. Sonia Mitralia. May 27, 2015 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18751

Across Europe women campaign against the Dictatorship of the Debt. Brigitte Marti. June 15, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18866

In Greece, the women cleaners show the way! Brigitte Marti. June 25, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18914

#OXI! #GreeceIsTheWord!


(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andreas Solaro) (Photo Credit: Getty Images / Christopher Furlong)

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


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)

Violence Against Women as a strategic weapon in a time of class war in Greece

We already knew that violence against women is often used as a weapon in times of war to punish, humiliate and dehumanize, but especially to repress and annihilate by all possible means the population to which they belong. This violence has often been seen as a means of domination rather than as a tool of destruction.

In the period of deep crisis shaking Greece, violence against women is becoming a weapon in the hands of the rulers. Such violence has been increasingly widespread in Greece. Here are four emblematic cases.

The most recent case occurred at the beginning of November 2013 when Greek police special forces (MAT) tried to prevent two Members of Parliament from entering the building of ERT, the public radio and television station, which had been occupied by the police. Police pushed opposition MPs Zoe Konstandopoulou of Syriza and Rachel Makris of the Independent Greeks party against the entrance gates and roughly handled them. Zoe Konstandopoulou, who nearly died from asphyxiation, is now taking legal action against her agressors for attempted murder. The two MPs were simply trying to exercise their constitutional right to enter the ERT building to prevent the police destroying equipment to frame the workers who had been fighting for the station to remain in public hands.

The morning following the incident at the ERT building, the pro-government daily newspaper TA-NEA, launched a campaign against the two MPs, publishing a cartoon on its front page showing them as strippers pole-dancing in front of a male audience. The caption, a conversation of a male client in the audience, to the cartoon read, “Rachel is on the right and Zoe on the left. Do they do anything else? I heard that they are taking legal action. But we should ask the waiter”.

The second case involved a television campaign against HIV-positive, some of whom are sex workers. In the middle of the election campaign, two social-democratic ministers, notorious for their role in repressing demonstrations against the Troika and in the destruction of the health service, called publicly for the arrest of those who, according to these ministers, “constituted a heath time-bomb”, “are polluting society with their contagious diseases” and are killing, with the AIDS virus, “Greek family fathers”.

The third case involved dozens of women, including some grandmothers, in Skouries in the north of Greece. These women were opposing the Canadian company Eldorado and its gold mining project. For months, special police forces under instructions of the minister have been targeting the women of the villages with a ferocious and massive repression. Some have been sent to prison. This unprecedented repression, carried out in the background of a state of emergency in a region inhabited by peasants, is exemplary, according to those who gave the orders to prevent the repetition of such acts of “civil disobedience”. As always, “exemplary repression” targeted women first and foremost.

Finally, Kassidiaris, an MP from the neo-nazi Golden Dawn, struck two female MPs on the face, while live on television during the election campaign last spring. Instead of rousing indignation and reprobation, this act of violence led to a wave of popular sympathy and contributed to the electoral success of Golden Dawn.

What is going on?

This violence against women reminds us of that committed during wars of ethnic cleansing. The rape of women by enemy forces should not be explained as the result of some “uncontrollable” male impulse but as that of a strategy of war during which women represent symbolically and biologically the integrity of the ethnic group or nation, which must be destroyed. In Greece today, we are not faced with nationalist violence pursuing ethnic cleansing. We face a different type of conflict, another sort of war, a class war.

Humiliate women MPs by comparing them to strippers sends the message that politics is first and foremost the exclusive domain of men. In that world, women are to be always available for sex and to be the property of men.

The public denunciation of HIV-positive women criminalizes and demonizes their sexuality and presents them as a “menace” to law and order, which must reign in our society. This “menace” has been denounced for the last two centuries as coming from the “dangerous” classes.

To make misogyny a weapon of war in the hands of the ruling elites comes as no surprise. The Troika aims to turn the clock back to the worst moments of the savage and barbaric capitalism of the 19th century. The Troika yearns for the time when women had no rights.

We are witnessing a frontal assault, a war of historic proportions, against the immense majority of citizens (the waged, poor, unemployed, pensioners, youth, the “different”, the immigrants and minorities). The transformation of violence against women into a weapon increasingly used by the ruling powers is an integral part of that war. Just like in the case of mass rape in nationalist/ethnic wars, violence against women used by the ruling class in a time of class war has the same objectives: to break the morale and social fabric, to force not just women but all victims, including men, into submission and acceptance of their inhuman neoliberal policies.

(This first appeared in a different form here: http://leftunity.org/violence-against-women-a-strategic-weapon-in-the-hands-of-the-rulers-in-a-time-of-class-war-in-greece/)