As Greece descends into further financial turmoil, stock exchange profiteers are attempting to portray the Greeks as rich loafers sponging off the rest of Europe, but is this truly the case?
Manolis Glezos is 88. He reads without spectacles and he has the handshake of a young athlete. The whole world knows him. It was he who threw a German banner from the Acropolis in 1944. At that time he was a Communist. Today, he is a member of the Greek Coalition of Left Forces. He left the Communist Party in 1968 when it split into Communists and European Communists.
He spent 16 years in prison. Various Greek governments have sentenced him to death five times. Unlike many other inmates and heroes, he hasn’t sold his biography.
How to return police to the people?
Six months ago, a policeman fired a gas rocket into Glezos’ face. All the Greek newspapers published pictures showing how a young policeman attacked an old civilian who lost his senses and falls into the hands of other people.
Both the police and society were shocked by the incident. Police and Interior Ministry bosses sent flowers and written apologies to Glezos. The young policeman himself gathered his courage and brought a flower bouquet with apologies to the hospital. This is part of the Greek mentality, and an ability to beg for forgiveness and to forgive is part of Orthodox culture which the Left and Right in Greece learn at their mother’s knee.
This week Manolis Glezos has been asked to read a lecture to policemen. The theme is: should police protect civilians from criminals or should policemen be part of a police state?
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church has urged the people to preserve unity. Glezos, a veteran fighter for independence, is sure that unity can be achieved only if people have a political understanding of what’s going on around them.
So far the people are sad
Unlike many, Manolis Glezos is in no rush to make forecasts, He has been in politics for 65 years, and he knows that the Greek character is easily appeased.
“When people come to realize that it’s not them who are to blame but the government, then they will try to change the situation. So far the people are very sad. The fact that all politicians are being cursed and even beaten up is a good manifestation of that. They don’t dare to show their noses in the street. But this is wrong! We need a different thing now; we need to understand how the situation is going to change. What’s more important now? Is it new elections or a referendum? The present-day leaders didn’t announce they would resort to these austerity measures when people voted for them. Consequently, the authorities should call for a referendum or new elections.” However, Glezos does not believe that the authorities will have the guts to do that. Therefore, he assumes that people will stage tougher protests against them. “If they don’t act now, the city clashes will increase any normal levels.”
They are already growing out of control. Demonstrations and various protests are held two or three times a week. A general action hasn’t been announced since May 5 when people tried to seize parliament. The ultra-leftist forces and anarchists are staying away from the protests. However, the demonstrations are large even without them. A new general strike is scheduled for May 20.
The Communists took tens of thousands of people to the streets on Saturday. They can do that quite easy; they are second to none in organizing street actions. Anarchists never join the Communists. They are enemies who sometimes clash with each other.
Anarchists’ modest role
Glezos believes that TV channels pay too much attention to anarchists. They appear on the screens immeasurably often, but their role in political struggle is modest.
He clearly divides the anarchists into various groups, what reporters never do, and note their political indifference:
“They have their own philosophy: they are against any power, any parties. These people are not hiding. They don’t wear scarves, they show their faces. They are not a source of danger and they shouldn’t be feared. But there’s another group of people: they hide their faces, resort to extreme measures and have got nothing to do with the popular movement. They smash shop windows and attack policemen and banks. They’ve gone as far as killing three people!”
Shortly before the demonstrations, the police had arrested six militants from the Revolutionary Struggle movement. Two explosions roared in Athens and Thessaloniki last week. One bomb went off near the woman section of a prison where these people are being kept, while the other went off near a court building. There were no casualties or destruction. Journalists believe that the militants sent a message to the Greek Interior Minister that he had arrested the wrong people and should, therefore, fear for his life. However, journalists assume that police have cracked down on the militants who have little strength left.
How to discredit public protests
“We think that they are acting under the influence of external powers, like provocateurs against public movements. Why does the TV show them with Molotov cocktails in hand? To scare people away from those street actions. The media create an unfavorable image of the public movement. It’s very odd that none of them was arrested in action, when they were crushing shop windows. There are many common people among anarchists, young sincere people, but because of provocative activities and lack of political outlook, anarchists play a bad role. They have no restraints, no goals, and they are easy to use,” Glezos says.
His words are confirmed by the fact that, throughout the week, global TV channels featured a burning bank building, but did their best to avoid telling clearly just what those hundreds of thousands of people were protesting against. However, media leverage alone may not be enough for capitalism.
Glezos points out that, on May 5, it was common people, not Molotov-toting anarchists, who seized parliament square: “It is impossible to control all movements. We have 49 leftist organizations, each of which thinks it possesses absolute political freedom. As long as the lefts are not united, such actions will occur.”
Molotov of little use against financial speculators
“Greece’s biggest problem is that of national independence.” The veteran thinks that today, his country is being enslaved not by Germans or British, as it was 65 years ago, but by financial capital, and that is far more serious than just occupants. This enemy cannot be defeated by setting banks on fire or shattering shop windows; those actions can discredit the very idea of fighting. It is not by chance that those calling to ban demonstrations and strikes during crisis have been so active in Greece and outside it recently.
On the other hand, the people of Greece have made Prime Minister Papandreou state that Greece is investigating the activities of American investment banks and planning to sue them for deliberately making the country bankrupt. Had it not been for the pressure, there would have been no such statement.
How to get out of the crisis without throttling the poor
Glezos refutes reproaches that leftists don’t suggest anything, only criticize everything. He thinks that first of all, army spending on weapon procurement should be cut down.
The government, on the other hand, announced that it was cutting the spending by one-third by discharging personnel. The military responded with a demonstration.
Glezos is outraged by the fact that while service people are losing their jobs, the country is buying more and more weapons from Germany and France. A lion’s share of the credit will go towards buying weapons from the creditors, yet the government and the media are reluctant to mention it.
European Parliament deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit published those agreements recently, referring to his conversation with Greek Prime Minister Papandreou. However, authorities and the media steer clear of this subject.
It turns out that the credit is good for major international corporations, while the burden of paying it off falls on the shoulders of pensioners and the poor. In the meanwhile, journalists are going as far as to say that Greek women buying clothes on credit and dentists evading taxes are the ones to blame for the country’s debts.
In the state sector, Glezos also suggests that the highly-paid state officials should be laid off rather than the poor street cleaners and firefighters, but: “How does the Prime Minister find the time to listen to all of his 46 advisors?”
Glezos demands that the government publicize a list of all international foundations stating what they invested in the country’s economy and explaining why they don’t pay taxes in Greece. The number of such funds is great, and their destructive effect is far beyond that of the Greeks’ habit of long coffee breaks and unthrifty shopping behavior.
At last, he reminds that the government could try to borrow money from people instead of cutting down pensions.
“If the government addressed the people directly, a solution would be found.”
Many of the Greek demonstrators share these views, although the global mass media do not say a single word about it. The events are shown either as images of bank buildings ablaze or as accounts of complicated financial matters that are not understandable to common people. In both cases, the Greek people are shown as idlers who get huge sums of money for nothing and want to live for free at the expense of more laborious nations.
This, however, is far from the truth. Just look at the meticulousness with which every patch of land is cultivated there. The Greeks still remain one of the best organized nations who have not lost their skills of collective action.
In early May, Communists came to the Acropolis and held up slogans calling for Europeans to support them in their struggle. The TV did not show them, but tourists recorded it with their phone cameras and sent on to others. This resulted in a wave of demonstrations that rolled across Europe. So, it turns out that the Greeks are giving the whole world an example of how to fight speculators and stockbrokers instead of giving their lives for the safety of their interest rates.
Nadezhda Kevorkova for RT, Athens