The Greek Authorities Try to Terrorize, But They are Terrified
Those who gather in Syntagma are being treated brutally by the enforcers of a government that fears the free-thinking on display
Greek people are currently in an open and real war with a monster that in ancient mythology was known as the Lernaean Hydra. Today, the monster is called neoliberalism. Unfortunately, for us, not only has it many heads, but many long hands as well ... and unfortunately for us is not a myth but a reality.
My personal experience of this week's riots in the streets of Athens was this: after we were sprayed with hundreds of chemicals in Syntagma Square, we were pushed away towards the surrounding streets. Everywhere we went, we immediately found ourselves surrounded by heavily armored members of the police's Delta force, who tried to scare us by pointing fingers, throwing stones and shouting abuse. A friend got injured by a stone thrown at his head. Just a few more millimeters, and the stone might well have killed him.
As we were trying to escape, I suddenly noticed that the police had caught a young guy and were starting to beat him up. I turned around and shouted at them to stop. When they saw me, four cops rounded in on me, threw me to the floor and started kicking me and beating me with batons. A friend eventually came to my rescue, but not without being beaten up in the process. While they were beating us, I screamed: "What are you doing?" They responded: "Shut up, slut." I did not feel fear then, and I do not feel fear now. I feel anger that innocent people became victims of overt and unnecessary violence.
If my experience this week shows me one thing, it is that the authorities are afraid of what has happened in Syntagma Square and in other Greek neighborhoods over the last 35 days. They do not like the fact that people gather and talk about democracy and the economy, issues that are currently under their control. They don't want us to share opinions, instead of just accepting the media propaganda. They do not like the fact that in spite of their aggressive efforts, the demonstrators are showing no signs of intimidation.
The Greek people will not give up until the government, IMF and ECB leave their country. Less than 12 hours after we were beaten by the police, we reoccupied Syntagma Square. By 6am the young people who hold the fort there had cleaned the square and put everything back in place. They resumed their work, and by the evening the biggest rally of the week was in full swing.
Over the past 40 days the meetings at Syntagma Square have developed specific requests about the Greek economy, the state system and more generally about the future of our country. Our economics division has recently distributed a three-page brochure that informs people about what the new austerity plan means in terms of privatization, additional taxes etc. Also, it has prepared a glossary, explaining economic concepts such as "default", so that people can be fully and properly informed in order to not be misled by the media and the government propaganda.
Much of the discussion centers on the euro, and – more so than before – people view the euro as something that has exploited rather than benefited them. The common currency is a divisive issue in a heated debate, but the consensus here is that the status of the eurozone and the euro is rapidly waning, with frequent demands to quit the euro and tell Angela Merkel to get lost.
This is a form of resistance against the terror exercised by the government. It is also noteworthy that each group often invites academics to come to the general meeting in order to inform people about the economic crisis and then answer questions from the audience.
So far no general mobilizations of unions have been announced. However, it is likely that there will be drastic reactions when the Application Act comes into effect on 1 August. Also, it is still unclear how the employees of the public companies will respond to privatization. Right now the employees of the Public Power Corporation, the Postal Savings Bank and other public companies are in turmoil.
As for the impact of the new austerity plan on everyday life: people are most concerned about the cuts in wages; the increase in indirect and direct taxes; the property taxes that even owners of smaller properties will have to pay (many people in Greece have a small private residence in town and a house in the village); and the abolition of collective labor agreements, removing the negotiating power of workers.
© 2011 Foula Farmakides