This has already happened in Greece. The national broadcaster ERT has been closed down by the Greek government. But just imagine if it was not Greece…
BBC CEASES OPERATIONS
By Government order, at 12.00 midnight on Wednesday morning, the BBC suspended all its national and international operations. All television, national and local radio stations ceased broadcasting. All other BBC media operations including web services, publishing and printing, production of programmes, archiving and planning have also ceased. All permanent BBC staff have been suspended from their work and banned from accessing their workplace. All companies contracted to produce BBC programmes have had their contracts terminated.
The Government order was published a few hours before the close-down. Senior managers and trustees of the BBC were not consulted.
There has been world-wide and local anger at the Governments’ decision based, it is believed, on the alleged inefficiencies and outdated working practices of the Corporation. It has also been suggested that the closure of the Corporation will send a positive message to the markets and reverse recent falls in the price of government bonds and pressures on the pound.
‘Even Hitler could not manage such a feat and such vandalism’ was the initial and the typical response of governments around the world. The US President has called the closure ‘an attack on journalism, balance and on democracy’. He went on to say that ‘if men who are elected to rule for just a few years can twist democracy to create such evil and cultural destruction, then all people in all free nations must voice, now, their determination to preserve what their ancestors fought so hard to create and pass on. They must be unsparing, pitiless, in their criticism of unjust and undemocratic governments’.
The Independent Television and Radio companies have announced a general and indefinite walkout by their staff from this Thursday. The leading National Newspapers have made a similar announcement. From this Thursday there will be no national or local television or newspapers.
Internet services will be disrupted from Thursday, the Government has announced. This is to prevent the use of social media to challenge Government decrees by disaffected employees…
This News Has Been Brought To You By The Resistance In You
This has already happened in Greece. The national broadcaster ERT has been closed down by the Greek government. But just imagine if it was not Greece…
BBC CEASES OPERATIONS
By Government order, at 12.00 midnight on Wednesday morning, the BBC suspended all its national and international operations. All television, national and local radio stations ceased broadcasting. All other BBC media operations including web services, publishing and printing, production of programmes, archiving and planning have also ceased.
This image encapsulates well a view of the Euro area as seen by many people in the European Union. It is that of a ‘disconnect’ between South and North.
There is a growing negative correlation between the Eurocrats’ attempts to shore up Europe’s monetary system and the democratic and security needs of all the citizens of Europe. The more the Eurocrats succeed – if indeed, they can be said to be succeeding – to manage the flows and volatility of money, the more they set back the original European dream of economic progress intimately linked to a common domestic security and political freedom. Their actions are causing economic decline in several Southern European nations and they are evincing no pragmatic understanding of the inevitable repercussions of economic decline – even in terms of achieving good public relations. They are exploiting the questionable solutions of a, now, questioned academic discipline – certainly at the macro level – by using freshly contrived ‘solutions’ to problems they have yet to adequately and consistently define.
Right now, each step forward taken to resolve the economic problems of Europe is leading to a step backwards in maintaining the sum of European happiness and leading to deep and widespread loss in faith. This is a wrong approach as, in many ways, the dream of a united Europe was almost religious in its nature – it could never be proven, but ‘Europe’ meant a better life. Right now it no longer means that. More ominously, it is certain that people and politicians in the UK have been watching events and concluding that the whole thing is no longer worth it. If the UK leaves, then we will be left with just a Central European Grouping.
It is very important now, that democratically motivated national politicians across the Union reassert themselves against the politically disconnected Eurocrats and reassert the ‘Union’ aspect of Europe. This has to be done very quickly because right now, the whole project is creating, what will become, deeply embedded emotions of powerlessness, anomie and resentment. People are awakening from the dream to discover the interests of the few take precedence over the interests of the many.
“All parties without exception, when they seek for power, are varieties of absolutism.”
– Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)
Torture in Greece
Konstantinos Poulis 13 February 2013
With reports emerging of antifascist protesters being tortured by the Greek police, a new line has been crossed in the progressive adoption of ideas and methods inspired by Golden Dawn in all layers of Greek society. What can save Greece now?
Within the din of current Greek events, a cauldron where violence and injustice mix, there is one issue that stands out because it constitutes the most extreme human experience: torture.
The government had the good grace to comment on the issue only when the image of our country abroad was thoroughly tarnished, i.e. when the Guardian published an article on the topic, after 15 antifascist protesters said they were tortured after their arrest by the police.
What did the government do faced by these allegations? First, it placed the blame onto the shoulders of Syriza: replying to the accusations of torture by saying that Syriza’s collusion with the hooded Anarchists is a “monument of insolence.” Next, it threatened the Guardian with a defamation lawsuit, to teach them a lesson. The government’s rebuffal tactics are the exactly the same in tone and substance as that of the neo-nazi party, Golden Dawn: you ask “Why are you glorifying Hitler?” and they answer “What about politicians: why are they corrupt?”
We toss the ball to the other side, pretending not to hear. It is interesting to see what our government’s next move will be, now that the fifteen alleged victims of police abuse have filed lawsuits, containing some devastating evidence. To this list we must now add the photos of the four people arrested in the city of Kozani, who say they also underwent torture – the police published their photos, after digitally altering them to remove all marks of physical violence. The Greek minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection admitted that this was done, averring that this was done so that the suspects could be recognized by the public, despite the bruises!
What shocked me most in the Guardian‘s article was a quote from one of the detainees, who said that, “If you don’t write about this, no one in Greece will.”
It brought to my mind the testimonials of the first Greeks who testified to the Council of Europe when the military Junta was still in power in Greece. Kitti Arseni, followed by others, exposed the marks of torture on their bodies to experts, in order to dispute Pattakos, one of the leaders of the Junta, who declared to the international media that, “all these are lies.”
Democracy has since then been restored, but the infamous alleged torturer of the junta, Mallios, was provocatively acquitted (he sneered at the torture victims in court). Later he was assassinated by the Marxist urban guerrilla group “17 November.” Few would claim Mallios was mourned by the Greek public following his murder – with some exceptions, of course: Nikos Michaloliakos, now General Secretary of Golden Dawn, assaulted journalists during Mallios’ funeral.
Those who experienced on their very bodies the Colonels’ junta are the first to deter us from drawing too many analogies with the present situation. Indeed, their accounts are more terrifying. And, if we go further back, we will find even more gruesome accounts. If comparison is what we want, in El Salvador they used to leave the corpses of those tortured on roadsides, their skulls pierced by electric drills, to intimidate the rest of the population.
But the art of torture is constantly evolving. Whoever is interested in finding out whether sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation constitute torture can study the American school and its accomplishments in this sector. Still, what is most important is not to compare, but to understand what is happening in our country today.
Our government, through its paid intellectuals and publishers, embraces the rhetoric of two belligerent extremes that equally threaten the bliss of our peaceful political centre-ground. In reality, the government pets the far-right extreme night and day: it favours all its idiotic medieval rampages, be it against a young man who satirised the supposed miracles of a contemporary ‘saint’, or against a “Corpus Christi” performance that depicted Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay; it handed over to them lists of names of the babies of immigrants in public nursery schools, etc.
When forced to engage in some sort of crackdown, the police amicably escort the armed storm troops of Golden Dawn criminals, forgetting all about the “preventive detentions” so commonly used against anti-austerity demonstrators, as if the lads with the bats were out for a picnic. The police follow and protect them. It lets them attack and slaughter immigrants, while if an immigrant wants to press charges for a racist attack, he’d better be accompanied by a visible activist lawyer such as I. Kurdovic, or he has had it.
Cherry on the cake: when an antifascist motor march took place, i.e. when people protest against Nazism, the police attacked them and then tortured those arrested along with their comrades who gathered the next day in solidarity. Greece has had twelve trials and only one (!) conviction for police violence in the last fourteen years. Even the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, recently stated that, “Impunity for the rising number of racist crimes in Greece has to end”. (Click here for more detailed information on the police violence situation in Greece).
There are still some who think that letting the political agenda revolve around Golden Dawn creates a distraction from the more serious problems. Well, pardon me, but I fear that a firework can be described as a distraction, not torture. A distraction is something that diverts the discussion from what is important to what is not. This is not our situation.
When the police so blatantly take the side of the fascists (both through words and actions), I have one question for all the peace-loving citizens of the political centre, that I ask with sincere anguish. If the police protects the fascists, the other side will either stay put and get beaten up or they will also get their bats out, right? Thus, my question is, what should prevent the other side from taking up their sticks in self-defence? Loyalty towards democratic legitimacy? Or, in other words, the belief that the police will undertake the protection of immigrants, homosexuals, gypsies, left-wingers, anarchists and all those who are targeted by Golden Dawn?
This borders on comedy: the underhand fallacy of the ‘two extremes’ theory is that it places the state in a neutral centre, an assumption which sounds more and more like a bitter joke every day. It is anarchists who the police – a component of the state – are arresting and torturing, not the “extremes” in general. This is a key reason forcing our society to rapid and violent polarisation. As much as I can read the conjuncture, I fear the situation is as grave as that.
Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis
The EU’s own poverty standards show that Greece is in crisis. But member states won’t admit their ‘bailout’ was to blame
‘The number of homeless people has risen to unprecedented levels for a European country: unofficial estimates put them at 40,000.’ Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
European societies typically assume that humanitarian crises only take place in the aftermath of natural disasters, epidemics, wars or civil conflicts.That such a crisis could happen in a European country, especially one that is a member of the European Union, seems out of the question to many of us.
And yet a number of experts would maintain that Greece is currently in the centre of a humanitarian crisis. The head of Médecins du Monde, Nikitas Kanakis, the largest and most prominent NGO in Greece, was among the first to declare it openly. The port area of Perama, near Athens, in particular, is in the midst of a humanitarian disaster. The Medical Society of Athens, the largest professional body of its kind, has even sent a formal letter to the UN asking for intervention.
If this humanitarian crisis has so far been little talked about, there are political reasons why. By acknowledging the severity of the situation, the Greek government and the EU would also have admitted that the current state of affairs has been brought about by the so-called economic “rescue” of Greece. So the authorities have chosen to keep quiet.
It is true that there is no general agreement on what constitutes a humanitarian crisis. But the definition used by those with experience in the field is practical and straightforward. A humanitarian crisis is usually marked by rising poverty, heightened inequality in education and social protection, and lack of access to social welfare services. Particularly important indicators are loss of access to primary health services, medical examinations, hospitalisation and medication. In other words: when you see a crisis, you will not mistake it for anything else.
Greece never imagined that it could face a humanitarian crisis. According to the UN Human Development Index, in 2008 Greece was ranked 18th in the world. No one in the country really thought that this could change so dramatically.
It was false security offered by the institutions and mechanisms of the EU. Member states had to pay for this imaginary security by meeting demanding economic and political criteria. The paradox is that even the EU, the supposed guarantor of the security and prosperity of member states, has well-defined ways of measuring poverty, both absolute and relative, which show that a humanitarian crisis exists in Greece.
On the basis of the criteria and the data of the EU, Greece is a country in serious poverty. In 2011, 31.4% of the population, or 3.4 million people, lived on an income below 60% of the national median disposable income. At the same time, 27.3% of the population, or 1.3 million people, were at risk of poverty. There is no data yet for 2012, though things have certainly got worse.
Using further EU indicators, a large proportion of Greek households currently live in conditions of “material deprivation”. A little more than 11% actually live in “extreme material deprivation”, which means without enough heating, electricity, and use of either a car or a telephone. It also means having a poor diet, devoid of meat or fish on a weekly basis, as well as total or partial inability to meet emergency expenses or payments for rent and bills.
The ineffectiveness of European programmes for reintegrating the unemployed into the labour market and the lack of national social protection programmes have pushed Greece even further down the ranks of poverty. The adult unemployment rate stood at 26.8% in October 2012. This level, although huge in comparison to the recent past, still does not give the whole picture.
It misses, for instance, unemployment resulting from the failure of thousands of small businesses. To the unemployed should be added the working poor, ie, workers with such low wages that they cannot meet basic needs. At 13% of the workforce they represent the highest proportion of the working poor in the eurozone.
There are three more indicators that point to a humanitarian crisis. First, the number of homeless people has risen to unprecedented levels for a European country: unofficial estimates put them at 40,000. Second, the proportion of Greek beneficiaries of NGO medical services in some urban centres was recorded at 60% of the total in 2012. This would have been unthinkable even three years ago, since such services were typically provided to immigrants, not Greeks.
Third, there has been explosive growth in soup kitchens and general food distribution. The levels are not officially recorded, but the Church of Greece distributes approximately 250,000 daily rations, while there are unknown numbers of rations distributed by municipal authorities and NGOs. By recent government order, municipal rations will be expanded further because of rising incidence of children fainting at school due to low calorie intake. There will also be light meals provided to young students.
The evidence of poverty, inequality, and inability to access primary services confirms the increasingly desperate statements by people at the frontline. The country has become a field of humanitarian action, and should be treated as such. It is shameful for the Greek government and the EU to turn a blind eye to it. The international humanitarian community should respond with urgency.
Another blow for local government’s biggest outsourcing project as Boris Johnson’s former aide calls for it to be scrapped.
And so it goes on. After the recent political bloodletting over mega-outsourcing of public services in Cornwall, the spotlight has shifted back to the biggest proposed local government privatisation of them all: the £1bn One Barnet scheme. Next Tuesday Richard Cornelius, the leader of Barnet, the London council, faces a vote of no-confidence over One Barnet. Just as in Cornwall, the outsourcing plan is publicly unpopular. As in Cornwall, where the deputy leader quit in protest at the scheme, a senior Tory councillor has come out calling for the scheme to be scrapped.
In a scathing piece published in the Barnet Press this week, councillor Brian Coleman, the chair of the council’s budget and overview committee, describes One Barnet as “a flawed scheme” and a “turkey”.
Of course, it is now all falling apart – the whole crazy scheme. I can only hope now, that Barnet Council’s plans to transfer its huge vehicle depot to the neighbouring borough of Haringey thus, despoiling a huge area of parkland there, also fall apart. Barnet Council’s plans for One Barnet are unworkable because they are yesterday’s capitalism – markets running wild in the hope that maybe, just maybe, something will work and the new industrial and market revolution will be seen to have started in Barnet! Strange beliefs or what?
In the meanwhile, lest this is seen as casting doubts on the mental agility of the stalwart Tory Councillors of leafy Barnet, only just a few yards across the border an equally intellectually challenged group of, this time, Capitalist inclined Stalinist Haringey Councillors are planning to choke the leafy part of their own borough (where the rich live, you understand) by encouraging the North London Waste Authority to build the largest waste recycling plant in Europe. Is this a good way of ridding themselves of non-Labour voting nimby families? Oh and of course, a good bit of business by Barnet Council that sold this bit of land to the Waste Authority!
I leave it to you as to which Council has the least grey matter. Maybe it’s the air in North London or even the water we all drink in these parts.
Independent – London 23 August 2012
After some weeks of relative quiet, the euro is approaching yet another crunch point. This time, the spotlight is back on Athens. Antonis Samaras, the centre-right prime minister, is asking for some “breathing space”, an extra year or two for Greece to meet the deficit-reduction targets imposed by international lenders in return for €230bn in bailouts.
Yesterday, Mr Samaras took his plea to Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of eurozone finance ministers; on Friday he will meet the German chancellor, on Saturday the French president. He is adamant that Greece is not after more money. His government has – he says – put together the package of extra spending cuts needed to secure the next €31.5bn instalment of much-needed bailout funds. But it needs more time to meet the longer-term targets, thanks to the delays of the general election that brought him to power in June.
Mr Samaras’ proposal will be difficult to sell to his creditors and their voters, particularly in Germany. Although Angela Merkel has remained characteristically tight-lipped so far, senior figures across the political spectrum, not least finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, have made outspoken calls for Greece to stick to the letter of its agreement or face the consequences. Public opinion, by and large, agrees.
It is reasonable enough that northern eurozone taxpayers are concerned to ensure that Greece fulfils its side of the deal. But if Athens’ commitment can be shown to be sincere, an extension to the deficit-reduction timetable is the right course. True, progress has been slow. Privatisation plans have all but stalled and both tax reforms and state job cuts are behind schedule. But there are signs that Mr Samaras’ newly installed government is more serious about tackling Greece’s problem than its predecessor was, and it is both more realistic economics and also sounder politics to give him a chance to prove it.
Why? Because the Greek economy is in freefall, shrunk by as much as a fifth over five consecutive years of recession and facing another sharp contraction in 2012. The situation is so dire, and the impact on tax receipts so calamitous, that the austerity required by Greece’s lenders is creating an inescapable downward spiral. Take the next round of cuts: they are required to reach €11.5bn net, but will actually need to be nearer €13.5bn, to make up for falling government income.
Nor is the problem Greece’s alone. With ordinary Greeks already struggling to cope, ever more retrenchment will swiftly become politically untenable, either forcing the current government to abandon the euro, or precipitating an election with the same outcome. And for all the glib talk of a “Grexit” as the neatest solution, it remains the least attractive option, one that would wreak havoc in Greece, punch a hole in the European banking system, and send shockwaves – political and economic – worldwide.
Even for those who downplay such complications, the immediate contagion to Portugal, Spain and Italy, as investors’ worst fears are realised, should give pause for thought. Until the upgraded eurozone firewall is in place – which depends largely on a decision from Germany’s constitutional court next month – Europe simply cannot afford to cut Greece loose.
For once, the fact that there is not likely to be a swift decision is good news. But if the assessment of Greece’s progress and the viability of its latest cuts proposals due from the “troika” of lenders next month judges Athens’ plans to be credible, the case for giving Greece more time becomes compelling. There never has been, and never will be, either a single solution to the euro crisis or a single moment at which it can be saved. There are, however, any number of moments at which it may be lost. We are fast approaching one of them.