Τρίτη, 27 Ιανουαρίου 2015

The expat housewives guide to Greek politics, or else an attempt to promote healthier (and livelier!!) tableside conversation

Let me start by saying a big thank you to Min for inadvertedly giving me the idea...
and let me continue, by apologising for not posting more prior to the elections...

Time, and especially political time, is "denser" than ever, more so obviously in Greece, where there has been a change of government, and things are "happening" left, right and center...
I started writing this 'bout 5 days ago, but the news I have to "catch up" with is of a stupendous volume... I think it would be best if I make it in a couple of parts... so here goes part one...:

On Sunday the 25th of January, after one of the shortest pre-election periods ever, Syriza and Alekos Tsipras, won a resounding victory and ousted the right wing coalition government set up after the 2012 elections.

They did this against tremendous odds.

Greece's media, controlled by a rich and corrupt few, did everything it could to create a fear against the Left winning.

As the date came near, we expected to hear that if Syriza won, Godzilla would rise out of the Aegean and trample all over the Akropolis...


In other news today, Akropolis attacked by Godzilla. Elgin Marbles safe in London..

Unless one has a thorough knowledge of 20th century Greek History and politics, it is difficult to realise what a monumentous occasion this is.

For many people, this is or at least we hope it is, a case of the new winning against the old...

Syriza is a left wing party that evolved from a number of smaller Left wing parties gettting together in 2001. Communism and the left have a long, and troubled story, in Greece.

Greece at the beggining of the century was an incredibly "backward" country, compared to the rest of Europe. Under Turkish occupation, there had been no Enlightenment worth talking about, no real Industrial Revolution... The main urban centers were Athens, Thessaloniki, Smyrna and Istanbul. the latter two were Turkish, but had large greek populations.
(My great-grandmother was a big land owner near Smyrna, with about 85 people working for her then. after 1922 though she became one of the 1,500,000 immigrants that flocked to Greece, in order to get away from the genocidal Kurds...because it was they who did the dirty work for the Turks, in the agreement they would get the benefit of the land the greeks left behind...)

Greece was beset with many problems, external and internal. The long occupation by the Turks, had left many marks and they weren't only mousakas, kazan dipi and "greek" coffee... (actually turkish coffee..)

The major part of the population was illiterate, there was not much in the way of infrastructure, and nepotism and corruption, ruled. Large parts of Greece toiled under a kind of feudal system...

In 1918, the first greek Communist party was created. In a land with little if any industry, it struggled to apply the Marxist theory to the greek reality...

Communism never really gained much of a foothold here, until the Second world War. Then the Communists became the Greek resistance.

I should add here a ltiile known fact. There were a couple of Greek fascist parties, and one of them even made an attempt at a coup before the war. In fact even Ioannis Metaxas, who famously said "OXI" to Mussolini's advances and effectively plunged greece into the war, was a dictator himself...

Throughout the german occupation, there were many Greeks who joined with the mainly communist "Liberation Army" and fought the Germans in any way they could. Many would pay for it dearly, with their lives... amongst them 200 executed at the Kaisiariani shooting range, and in many cases whole villages that were burned to the ground in retaliation for resistance attacks.

There were sadly, also many greeks who collaborated extensively with the Germans, many right wing politicians as well.

After the war a terrible thing happened. The Nazi collaborators were initially locked up in order to await trial as many of them had taken part in atrocities and torture. Some of them even fled the country together with the 3rd Reich forces pulling back...

As Athens was liberated, the greek Communist Resistance already had organised a loose form of government to aid reorganisation. Stalin and the allies however had already divided up the world between them.. and Greece was meant to be "Western"... Churchill, fearing the communists would take over and spoil the plan, let the Nazi collaboratoring Greeks free, gave them weapons and set them fighting against the "Liberation army" There ensued a bloody civil war, out of which the winners were the "bad guys"... (with aid by the US and Britain...)

Nazi collaborators were never brought to justice, with few exceptions, and instead they ended up running the country. Almost every government since then has had some ties to them. They were (and are) everywhere...

Thus you might say, there was never any closure in Greece re the war... add to that, there were no damages paid by the germans and also the money/gold they "borrowed" during the war was never returned...

Talk about adding insult to injury...

So when Alekos Tsipras yesterday was sworn in as PM (with a political oath and not a religious one, another break from "tradition") his first visit was to the Kaisariani monument to pay his respects to the 200 comrades who lost their lives there... and he was making a strong point...

Laying a few flowers at the monument


Walking past the names, maybe a little message to Merkel, we have not forgotten our fallen comrades?

And when Mr Samaras in a terrible breach of etiquette refused to show up at the Megaro Maximou and hand over the keys and building to the new left wing Prime minister...he was also showing, just how very very much this hurt... to be the first PM to lose to the Left... (priceless if you ask me... what an absolute jerk, a bad, bad loser)



But what really is Syriza?
Even though I have never been a member I've voted for them in the past and in this election. Many of us are afraid there are too many ex-PASOK members to do any good, for one thing...  Syriza has a Communist background, but the KKE (the greek Stalinist/Communist party wants nothing to do them) I believe Syriza is a more european version of the Left... a more people orientated party.
At the very least Syriza is a break with the old...that is what we hope. Younger Greeks would like to see a distinct separation of church and State, an end to corruption, a state centered around the good of the people and not the chosen few...

Are we certain this will happen? Not by far. But many of us are more than willing to chip in FOR it to happen, and many woke up on Monday feeling distinctly more optimistic. Many of the people who make up Syriza' ranks are people we know, people we trust, people we like. Many of the people who make up Syriza's ranks are exactly that.

People.

These girls lost their jobs to be replaced by contractors. But they can still smile worth a million bucks...


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