Senior Greek Official: 'We May Have an Uprising in the Making'

What if three million protesters poured into the streets of American
cities, and with a general strike shut down all transportation, closing
government offices, and setting banks and office buildings ablaze?

If one takes into account the size of Greece, a proportionate amount
of the Greek population did just that on May 5. Over 100,000 protesters
took took to the streets. But this was not your ordinary European mass
rally. World markets, including Wall Street, felt the tremor from these
demonstrations. The protests are against onerous economic cutbacks in
the wake of a EUR 110 billion Euro ($145 billion) bailout for a
near-bankrupt economy. But a large percentage of the Greek population
doesn't see itself paying for a generation for the corruption of their
own officials, and the economic shock therapy dictated by the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and German bankers.

From the UK Guardian:

"All of us are angry, very, very
angry," bellowed Stella Stamou, a civil servant standing on a street
corner, screaming herself hoarse, a block away from where the bank had
been set alight.

"You write that - angry, angry, angry, angry," she said, after
participating in one of the biggest ever rallies to rock the capital
since the return of democracy in 1974. "Angry with our own politicians,
angry with the IMF, angry with the EU, angry that we have lost income,
angry that we have never been told the truth."

From the Wall Street Journal:

"For 30 years the Greek people have
been held hostage," said Periandros Athanassakis, 48, a garbage
collector in Piraeus, the port near Athens. "Those who stole the money
should pay."

Some officials saw in Wednesday's protests the seeds of broader
discontent. "We may have an uprising in the making," one senior Greek
official said.

The New York Times
focused on the violence, predicting (in their hopeful way) that the
violence would bring about a government reaction, and a backlash of
Greeks "against a growing number of extremists". The Grey Lady intoned,
"Some said they were willing to endure what some economists predict
could be 10 years before the economy bounces back," even while others
were responding differently:

... clustered among the protesters were
subgroups numbering in the hundreds - mostly young and many clad in
black, wearing hoods or masks and carrying helmets, wooden bats or
hammers - that the police and other demonstrators identified broadly as
anarchists. They led efforts to storm the Parliament building, chanting
"thieves, thieves," and hurling rocks and gasoline bombs.

Everyone agrees that the situation in Greece is dire. And Greece is
the proverbial canary in the coalmine, as world financiers look
doubtfully upon Spain's 20% unemployment rate and indebtedness, and
precarious economic conditions from the UK to Italy. The Germans are
the real power behind the EU, and their economy is the one that others
are looking to for a bail out the weaker states - but only at a price.
The Germans are holding firm to the terms of their bailout, even as
German chancellor Angela Merkel said, "Quite simply, Europe's future is at stake."

What's the Bailout Deal?

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has a difficult, maybe
impossible austerity package to sell to the Greek people. The Greek
state has been living on borrowed funds for some time. The bailout deal
proposed by the Germans and IMF demands Greece reduce its national
borrowing rate from 13.4% of national income to 3% within four years.
But where's the money going to come from?

According to another New York Times story:

The new measures include an increase of
two percentage points in the value-added sales tax, which is now 19
percent; a further increase in the fuel tax; increases of 20 percent
for alcohol taxes and 6 percent for cigarette taxes; a new tax on
luxury goods; and a 12 percent cut in supplements to wages for civil
servants, Mr. Petalotis said.

They also include a 30 percent reduction in the bonuses given to
civil servants as holiday pay, which amount to two additional monthly
wages, he said.

The Gerson Lehrman Company describes
how the Greek economy is going to be chopped up and sold to the highest
bidder, many of those foreign. Of course, they are quite sober about it

The government will accelerate
privatizations (EUR 2.5 bill. budgeted for 2010) and may change its mind
regarding majority ownership by strategic (foreign/EU) investors of
types of assets / industries that have been protected under the
existing social /political model, including utility/infrastructure,
transport or special state (monopoly) assets. Examples might include
the railway company, water distribution companies, the electricity grid
or the power company (PPC), as well as the soccer betting company
(OPAP), gambling Casinos and the remaining stake in Hellenic Telecom
(OTE), which will probably be sold to Deutsche Telekom. Other
interesting candidates for privatization might include airports and
seaports and enhanced PPP/PFI models will be considered for
infrastructure investments.

So goodbye living wages, goodbye state-run utilities, transport, and
telecom. As the quote above makes clear, German companies are primed to
sweep up the goodies off the bargain basement floor. This is a bitter
pill for the Greeks, who endured Nazi occupation during World War II,
which they answered with a large bloody resistance. The old hatreds and
resentments still simmer under the surface.

Back in February, Greek Deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos lashed out:

Nazi theft of Greek gold during the
Second World War is to blame for the country's faltering finances,
Athens claimed yesterday....

Greece said the real culprit for its problems were the Nazis, whose occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945....

Germany swiftly rejected the accusation, saying it paid PS50 million
in compensation by 1960 and more to forced labourers of the Nazi regime.

Where is this all headed?

People in the U.S. are used to hearing about European general
strikes. In the popular mind, fostered by a somnolent and ignorant
press, such protests are quaint European customs, artifacts of a past
that is not relevant anymore, especially since the fall of the Soviet
Union. But this is a crisis that is not going to go away. And within
living memory, European states have turned to violent coups and
dictatorships to quell popular dissent, as in Greece and Portugal in
the 1960s and 1970s.

In Italy, U.S./NATO-backed right-wing terrorists, part of the
left-behind armies of Operation Gladio, facilitated the Italian
government's "strategy of tension" during the 1980s in order to keep
the then-popular Italian Communist Party from entering the Italian
government. Philip Willan covered the revelations of this story in the UK Guardian a decade ago:

The 300-page [Italian parliamentary]
report says that the United States was responsible for inspiring a
"strategy of tension" in which indiscriminate bombing of the public and
the threat of a rightwing coup were used to stabilise centre-right
political control of the country.

Those who carried out the attacks were rarely caught, it said,
because "those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been
organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state
institutions and, as has been discovered, by men linked to the
structures of United States intelligence".

The crisis in Greece and the European Union in general is exposing
the deep flaws within the post-Soviet economic and political structure
in Europe. The fires in Athens are a harbinger of a bigger crisis to
come, one that Americans will have to pay attention to. But do not
count on the U.S. press to honestly report what will happen, or the
U.S. government to stand aside in neutrality. The Obama administration
is pushing the Europeans and the IMF to get the bailout deal in place
quickly, even as right-wing Republicans are screaming they will not support the U.S. paying its portion of the IMF bailout funds.

The people of Greece seem determined they will not pay for the orgy
of corruption and double-dealing that has left their economy in
tatters. Whether it was Goldman Sachs
playing funny with derivatives to help the Greek government to hide its
debt, or German companies rushing to buy up newly privatized
industries, or the wide-spread corruption of Greek politicians, they
are saying
something that American workers and middle class might be thinking, and
that has some people afraid: "'let the plutocracy pay'...'Why should we,
the little man, pay for this crisis?'"

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