Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day tomorrow - A prediction

May Day tomorrow , originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

The Greek government is the process of negotiating an austerity package with the EU and the IMF. The details of which will be announced on Sunday. The choice of day is not a random detail but rather reflects the likely effect of the cuts in public services, wages and jobs on public opinion that are almost certainly part of the deal.

As tomorrow is first of May the country will be holding a series of marches to mark the event. Usually it is marked peacefully and more with a sense of ceremony that any burning revolutionary drive, a secular holiday, especially for those on the Left.

However, tomorrow promises to be different as popular anger over the massive cuts in income and living standards that are likely to be seen in the next few years is looking for an outlet,

Trade unions, public sector workers, members of oppoisition parties plus any number of ordinary citizens will be in the streets on Saturday outraged by the fact that the present political system has brought the country to this impasse

As well as sense of palable rage the government has also added to this explosive mix by giving free rein to the security forces in maintaining of public order. Acutely aware of the fact that the eyes of the financial world are focused on Greece at the moment they are going to try everything in their power to prevent a repeat of the events of December 2008 when the killing of a 15 year old by a police officer sparked off a wave of riots and protests that engulfed Athens and other Greek cities for a month.

On the other hand the riot police, known as the MAT in Greek, are notorious for their lack of discipline and indiscriminate use of both the baton and tear gas, a fact that is likely to inflame matters producing the kinds of images prime minister, Giorgos Papandreou so dearly wishes to avoid.


JB said...

Long comment, so I have to divide it into separate parts...

Laying into the police is the easiest thing in the world. In Greece's case, we're talking about uneducated men with few other prospects, poorly paid, unmotivated, undertrained, poorly resourced and subjected to incessant vilification - so it's not surprising they're not bastions of policing propriety. That doesn't justify the behaviour of rogue officers, but it does explain it. What should seem obvious is that if Greek police have a reputation for arbitrarily lashing out and responding to protests with disproportionate brutality, then it's probably not a good idea to deliberately goad them - and yet that's exactly what certain extreme leftist demonstrators do, march after march after march.

And so it proved, yesterday - as you predicted. Police vs. anarchists? A plague on both their houses. I have no sympathy at all for these self-proclaimed anarchists. There is nothing more pointless than believing in violence for violence's sake. They are nihilists, not anarchists in the true sense; they have nothing positive to offer as an alternative to the system they decry, nothing constructive to say, no Plan B. They just want to destroy. They're nothing more than glorified hooligans, and Greek society should stop pretending otherwise.

(In a sense the KKE lot are nearly as bad, because the system and values they espouse has actually been tried and tested. Funnily enough, though, the fact that half of Europe despised their doctrine and actively rejected it twenty years ago seems to have made no difference at all to their beliefs; obviously the idealism in their sacred texts carries more weight than the reality of its implementation... Perhaps they think that somehow Greece could 'do' communism better. I wonder, though, how many of them have actually been to Cuba or North Korea to see for themselves whether this is really what people want?)

JB said...

Those who protest against the austerity measures and the involvement of the IMF don't seem to get it: Greece does not have a choice. "Yes it does," they reply. "Greece can simply default and go bankrupt." Really? And who is it that rescues bankrupt countries? Oh. The IMF. D'oh!

All the 'revolutionaries' who think they can derail the austerity measures display little understanding of how the world works. Pursue the rich instead, they demand. We all wish! Like it's that easy. Even the world's most developed economies can't manage to make their wealthy pay their full due, let alone a corrupt, dysfunctional country like Greece.

Look, I certainly wouldn't want to see Greece's expressive, politically engaged populace become like the apathetic, dead-eyed consumerbots of the UK, but there comes a point where it's smart to ask yourself, what is the point of this protest? What will it achieve? Does it have a chance of success? When the answers to those questions are, respectively: because it's the only way we know; nothing, in terms of halting the austerity; and, no - then it's senseless to bloody-mindedly plough on regardless.

All these protestors are really achieving is destroying Greece's image and reputation even further. TV footage of skirmishes between extreme leftists, anarchists and police are broadcast around the world as evidence that the wider Greek populace isn't accepting the measures, when in fact (grudging) acceptance has been the majority position. Net result? German newspapers harden their positions on assistance, the German public follows suit, and election-wary Merkel foot-drags even longer. The bond markets upon whom Greece relies (or rather, relied) upon to raise money (whether we like it or not) decides Greece is a busted flush, that people won't accept the debt reduction measures that they think are needed, making it even harder (actually now impossible) to raise money on the bond markets and making it even more likely that the IMF needs to get involved! Seen in this way, it is clear that protests against the IMF become totally counter-productive and achieve the opposite ends to those intended.

This is a complicated, multi-faceted, medusa-headed mess that defies simplistic solutions. People are right to feel anger, shock, despair - but keeping the status quo is neither possible nor desirable. If Greece is to get through this, everyone is going to have to snap out of their old habits and start to get a lot smarter.

The omens aren't promising, though. The BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports today that "the unions hope the rallies will demonstrate to the government, the eurozone, the IMF and the international markets, that they can mobilise enough people to defeat the new austerity programme." Defeat the new austerity programme and DO WHAT instead, exactly? The mind boggles...