Τρίτη, 30 Ιουνίου 2015

Referendum time!

I don't profess to be some know-it-all of economics or politics but rather, just like in other aspects of my life, a bit of a jack-of-all-trades...

When I was in Lykeio, second grade, at the beggining of the year, one day the classroom door opened and in came this young man, who looked distinctly like my kinda guy...

He didn't look anything like this, but I'm trying to protect his identity...

Dressed in jeans and a plain black tee-shirt with a peace symbol on a thin leather cord round his neck, he walked in that peculiar kind of lope that seemed to be the standard with persons of the revolutionary persuasion... he walked not only with his legs but with his whole body... lurching forwards with every step...

I decided immediately we would become friends. He was in Corfu, because his father worked for OTE, the telephone company, as a "problemsolver" and was sent all over Greece to sort out technical telecommunications stuff.

We quickly became very close. Our musical tastes for one were the same. He also opened my eyes up to a lot of other things, mostly political...

He was an anarchist. Now unfortunately this is a word with a lot of negative connotations especially in England but also in most of the world... most people would have you believe an anarchist is someone who firebombs policemen, breaks windows and stuff and generally runs riot...

However that is not true. There are quite a few varieties of anarchism, mostly radical Left, and many of them are anarchopacifists. Essentially anarchists reject the state as evil, but I digress..

This was 1984, 3 years after PASOK had won a landslide electoral victory and "toppled" the right wing government that had been going since the colonels left in 1974. I will close this little "story" by telling about the priceless moment, when my father asked over lunch, what my political "leanings" were, and I answered, in all my newly found fervour, "I'm an anarchist!!". My mother, bless her, almost choked. I'm certain visions of future generations burning my effigy in town squares, for trying to blow up something,  flashed before her eyes...


Back in those "primitive" times, with no internet and two television channels both state controlled, it was impossible to get "all" the news unless you knew someone to call and tell you. Athens was then, as it is today, a large part of Greece, almost half the population was and is there. And, unfortunately, pretty much everything is happening there, and we rarely got to find out about it...

For example the area of Athens known as Exarcheia, has always been a hive of left-wing, anarchist and generally "out there" activity... Often there were occupations of buildings for months or even years and attacks by riot police, tear gas, mass arrests...

And, as I found out from my friend, various forms of torture famous from the colonel's times, still continued to be applied by the police then... in a supposed "socialist" and "for the people" state...

Did anything ever really change in Greece?

I read an interesting article in the Guardian recently about what happened in Greece after the 2nd World War. It put another piece of the puzzle in place...
(unfortunately, as I now know, history is always written to justify the exisiting situation, so there was no mention of all this in our school history books...)

As the war finished, the begginning of the struggle between the US and the Communist bloc began..a struggle for world domination..on another level. Greece already had a strong Communist party, and what was "worse" (for the Western powers) was that the Communists having been in charge of the main resistance against the Germans , had already begun to create a form of loosely run state and were keen to start rebuilding Greece. As far as the Western powers were concerned they needed to be stopped before Greece joined the Eastern bloc... they needed help. Who did they enlist? The Nazi collaborators...

So the Nazi collaborators in Greece were never punished, instead they were given arms and the Civil War begun...

A Civil war which was won by them! Because of course they had America and England on their side...

You might wonder what has this to do with today... Well, did you know that a lot of our political persons in Greece are directly linked to families who were Nazi collaborators? And that a major part of the strong animosity between the Left and the Right in Greece has to do with that part of History...?

Nazi collaborators are called dosilogoi (δωσίλογοι) in Greek. Loosely translated it means those who did not do good on their word.

Samaras and the New Democracy Party are closely tied to extreme  right wing ideas and many of the party members are direct descendants of Nazi collaborators and pro-King right wingers. The small party called LAOS, had a member running for MP, who was the son of an infamous Nazi collaborator called Yosmas, who was so "succesful" in his role as "Captain Parmenion" he followed the Nazi troops when they left... he was tried in absence and convicted to death, but upon his return to Greece in 1947, his sentence was converted to 20 years in prison. Three years later he was let go and 1961 found him as the head of a school board in Thessaloniki. Soon he would be implicated in the murder of Grigoris Lambrakis, a well known left wing MP and pacifist... Xenophon Yosmas, as was his full name was also known as "Von Yosmas"...

There is a common "cheer" or "slogan" which is shouted at rallies about "the junta not having finished in 1973..." . This is very true.. The powers that be, could see that the colonels were making a mess of it, and were fast losing any small backing they had from the Greek people (to this day there are people who will answer to any disagreement "what you need is a junta..."

So what did they do? They arranged for a so called "liberation"... hahaha... and called it the Metapolitefsi...

A political government was quickly put into place, fronted by Kostas Karamanlis (the elder...uncle of the more recent PM of Greece, talk about nepotism...) Kostas Karamanlis who had been PM when Lambrakis was brutally killed...

You could say, in a way, that for many Greeks, the war never finished... The Nazi collaborators were never punished, instead they were given arms and power to fight against the perceived red threat. The Civil war tore apart villages, families...

And continues to do so even today. In a weird parallel to the years of the war, it is the Germans yet again, who appear to have their "sights" set on Greece... it may not be actually like that but it sure seems like it...

George Papandreou junior, his finance minister Mr. Papakonstantinou, Meimarakis from ND, and a number of MPs, all have grandfathers who were Nazi collaborators. These people saw to it that budgets and numbers were fiddled and Greece found itself under IMF-Troika rule...
Playing the German game? who knows...

you don't need to be a financial whizkid, to understand that Greece should never have joined the Eurozone. Balance sheets were seriously fiddled to make that happen... in fact many bonds and financial fiddling "ghosts" have come back to haunt Greece in the past years...

Europe's banks poured money into Greece, most of it into shady subsidy deals, and banks and through them to yet more shady businesses and deals.. and.. let's not forget a good many politicians pockets, both greek and European...

Germany's and Europe's heavy industry stood to make a good profit out of all this... Greece filled up with luxury German cars, Siemens got all the best deals to equip Greece with telecommunications equipment and anything else they made.. Pharmaceutical companies made excellent sales, often of completely useless items at exorbitant prices, stuff that would languish in halfbuilt hospitals for years slowly rusting away... (this happened in our hospital here in Corfu.)
For many of us this readily available funding was a Godsend.. after years of very high interest rates, suddenly it was cheap and easy to start or expand a business... But they did not stop there. You could get a loan for practically any reason..
Money, and debt, was deified.
There was even a song that said " Oi oreoi echoun chreoi" (The good looking guys have debts)

The bubble burst years ago...
I remember reading the first and second memorandum, the terrible "Mnemonia" that everyone talks about.. To be honest a lot of what they required as far as legislation and rules, was quite correct...the problem was, and is, that it was being applied (or not applied) by the same bunch of corrupt, good for nothing, politicians as before...
During the last 5 years, when Greece was supposedly changing for the better, and suffering for it too, nothing has really been done. The same people have still been looking after their own and their cronies interests... in fact, worse than before because they used the pressure of the troika's presence to pass law after law, taking away hard earned workers rights and running the health and education system into the ground, along the way.

On the 25th of January 2015, a Left wing party, SYRIZA won the greek elections for the first time ever. SYRIZA had always been a coalition, and is well known for incorporating many "currents" or "revmata" as they are called in Greek. There are more or less "radical" elements, often disagreeing with each other. Unfortunately, in order to have a shot at winning the elections, they had to broaden their views even more, accepting into their party, a number of ex-Pasok memebers and a variety of "weirdos"

(I know that my article is supposed to be informative and characterizations like "weirdo" are not really on... but believe me, they are...)

After five months as government and endless negotiations that were very obviously going nowhere, we now have a referendum scheduled for next Sunday...
The question that is being posed to us, is: "Do you want us to accept the agreement that is being offered/imposed by the Europeans?

Capital controls have been imposed and people are, sort of, panicking... no one really knows how this is going to work out...
I am, a businessman too, and things have certainly become a tad more difficult to say the least..but for now we are managing...

I don't know enough about global economics and how it all works to be able to have an "absolute" opinion on how things are or how they could be made better.

I confess that my opinions on all that goes on, are often more to do with "feelings" rather than some "absolute knowledge"...

But, to defend my position, is there anyone out there who can profess to be in possesion of some "absolute knowledge" as regards how the the "world" cookie crumbles?

We say that Europe is attempting to put its foot down... and frighten Greece's new government into going back on its electoral promises... otherwise they will derail "the program"...get with the program or else, is what they seem to be saying... but is it really the European governments or the big business lobbies behind them?

The idea of a unified Europe s great, hell the idea of unified anything is great.. I am the first to say that we are all brothers and sisters...

But i have to confess that the concept only ever made sense to me when travelling from luxembourg to Belgium to France, where the only sign that you were crossing the border was the sexy voice emanating from the GPS "You are now in Belgium..."

Still I believe Greece must remain a part of Europe... IS a part of Europe!

But not a Europe where money is God, not a Europe who looks after the interests of speculators and banks at the expense of its citizens.. not a Europe who turns its back on immigrants, not a Europe that does not CARE.

I'm voting NO to all that.