May 6, 2010

So, what *is* going on in Athens?

As you're all quite aware of, Gnome's Lair is a gaming blog and that is the reason why I generally do not discuss politics or -say- books and films here. I try to stick to gaming; really, I do. On the other hand both gaming and gnomes are part of a wider society and, thus, there comes a time when ranting about joysticks, adventures and gamepads feels distinctly out of place. Trying to explain what has been going on in Greece though feels just right. In a nutshell, what's been going on is this:

But why, you ask? Is it because those lazy fat-cats of the public sector are losing some of their privileges? Is it because those over-payed Greeks can't be bothered to work? Is it because people fail to understand the necessity of the IMF intervention and the benevolence of our dear EU/US-backed government? And, above all, why did these three innocent people die?

Well, let's start from the dead. Three young people that were chocked to death inside a burning bank building. They were murdered and nothing I can say or do will change this fact or bring any condolence to their friends and families. So, whose fault is this bit of murderous handiwork? I won't answer, I can't answer, but I will give you some of the facts I can more or less be sure of: a) someone or a small group of people wearing masks broke the glass window of the -admittedly hated- Marfin bank and either threw a petrol bomb or some other form of incendiary material inside, b) people were working inside on a day of a mass general strike against their will, c) those people had been forced to work despite their expressed will, d) said bank is on a street the march was bound to enter, e) said bank was locked and operating without security, fire exits or a fire extinguishing system, f) the workers inside were cut off from the outside world - even their Internet connections were cut off by their bosses, g) the workers inside had been pleading for hours to be allowed to leave, as they were justifiably afraid, h) as soon as the fire started both the police and the protesters tried to break the bank's doors to free everyone inside but failed, i) the fire squad turned up late, j) a mainstream TV station was eager to report that firemen were attacked by demonstrators only to be proven wrong by hundreds of videos and the other channels, k) the police or their collaborators have been know -and shown on TV- to dress up as rioters with covered faces in order to provoke violence, l) this murder was far to convenient for the government and the conservative political forces, and m) there are indeed tiny barbaric groups of rioters with a total disrespect of life.

Now, on to the demonstration. For starters it was huge, possibly even over 300,000 strong and was not solely comprised from civil servants. Far from it. The two major unions of workers were also participating, as were a variety of unions (covering everything from engineers and lawyers to shop owners and small businesses), students and a wide spectrum of political organizations, groups and parties. Secondly, it was angry, confrontational and generally peaceful, but was still drowned in chemicals and attacked by the riot police, who were generally pushed back, only to retaliate in the afternoon by invading homes, shops and political centers and being excessively brutal to ordinary people. How brutal? That brutal (via):

The demonstration, politically fragmented as it was, demanded a variety a things ranging from socialism to the end of police brutality, but ended up agreeing on some crucial key points: we don't really care much for the IMF and its imperialist and socially brutal (devastating actually) policies, and are pretty sure that the mainstream politicians of the two parties that have been governing Greece for the past 35 years are to blame. Them and their big business, publishing, TV-owning friends. We are also not going to wait to get passively and quietly raped. Not this time at least.

But why? Why are so many people so enraged? Why is this latest crisis so radically politicizing the Greek people? Simple really. Greece -well, the popular classes of Greece- has been enduring constant and progressively tightening austerity measures since the mid-80s. We had to accept cuts to salaries, pensions, education, health and the quality of public services, as well as increasing taxes (not for them big corporations or major capitalists of course), rising unemployment, shrinking of our (young) democratic rights and intensifying police brutality in order to achieve grand targets like entering the Eurozone, saving the country or hosting those bloody Olympic games. Now though, it seems that all these were lies. Nothing has been solved and all the sacrifices were in vain. They ask us for more. Much more. And the outcome can't be guaranteed, because -they say- we are all to blame.

Yes, despite the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, despite the fact that the average pension is way lower than the EU-average or that our salaries are quite frankly ridiculous, beside the fact that I personally worked for 30 hours a week in the university for less than 50 euros a month, we're told it's our fault. Years of scandals, billions of military spending on useless junk, thousands of public sector golden boys, untaxable rich and a quasi-colonial way of privatizing public property and, apparently, it still is our fault.

Well, finally, we understood. It isn't.


  1. I actually was expecting you to take voice on what is happening in Greece, because I remembered the last time you did. I kind of looked forward to it, because:

    A) it comes from a regular everyday-man insider, as opposed to official media channels,


    B) you seem to display rather left-winged perspective (at least from what I could tell based on earlier writings), something that is close to my point of view.

    Having said that, what you wrote fits the mental image of current (as in "in recent years") situation in Greece, as described by you and my other Greek friends in these last years. And that image is an ugly one, which is sad.

  2. Always glad to be of informative service dear Barts. And thanks a ton for the trust. Really appreciated that.

  3. WTF? A voice? Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiihhh

    Ah, k thanks!

  4. Thanks for your insights, very well written too.

  5. Thanks for reading Kenny.

  6. I like the left-wing embedded reporting gnome.
    However we are now way past this stage.
    We need to discuss and decide
    (on a world level)

    What is to be done?
    V.I. Lenin
    Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects
    L. Trotsky

  7. Ion you know that the correct answer is -has always been- first a then b. Will you be joining us today?

  8. My Gnomish friend - such serious matters aren't things I am good at. All I can say is that I hope things become more fair for the people in Greece.

    All of the people in Greece.

    My best wishes for a more positive outcome of these matters, my friend, and that nobody else has to suffer as a result of them.

  9. Thank you for your insight, gnome. I'm saddened by what is happening in your country, but glad to hear you're safe.

  10. In the U.S., we had only a lesser version of that same story, blaming corporate greed on the poorer people who went out and bought houses that they could not afford. Failures of airline and auto companies are blamed on workers.

    I'm hardly a Marxist, but heaping the burden of the few in luxury on the backs of the many can't be tolerated for long.

    You have creditors, fearing that Greece might not be able repay loans, who increase the interest rates, making repayment even more difficult.

  11. I'm always shocked by the double standards across class lines.

    Violence (even when defensive or provoked) from protesters of course demonstrates that everyone with the same view can be considered a gibbering nutjob.

    But locking up employees against their will, preventing them from even escaping a fire, well that's perfectly civilised behaviour.

    Although, if the employees had done it to their boss that would have been kidnapping, naturally.

  12. Very interesting. Media coverage over here in the US has been fairly neutral, which is a bit shocking, but I think the general belief is that it's just the Greeks "acting up" again. No media coverage I've read has gone into very much detail about the reasons behind the current situation. Thanks much for keeping us informed. I enjoyed reading your post.

  13. @ Ben 304: Thank you my friend. Actually, everyone here is simultaneously desperate and extremely hopeful. Despite hundreds of businesses shutting down, that is.

    @ Red Bull: Hay, you're back! And you're most welcome too wise wanderer of worlds.

  14. @ Guttertalk: Ahh, but you're describing my friend has always been the ideological dream of capitalists worldwide and for over 200 years. And despite not being a marxist you can apparently understand the key marxian idea. BTW, do give The Capital (ist volume should do nice) a read. Better yet, try this:

    @ Pacian: I fully agree dear Pacian. Then again, you knew I would, wouldn't you? Insightful and political as ever. Thanks!

    @ Ithmeer: Really glad you enjoyed it and found it an interesting read! You're most welcome! And never trust mainstream media... Never!

  15. @guttertalk
    "I'm hardly a Marxist, but heaping the burden of the few in luxury on the backs of the many can't be tolerated for long."

    If you recognize the fact that what is happening now is a struggle of classes ("few in luxury" vs "many" others) and that capitalism is not only lollipops and sunshine ("can't be tolerated for long"), then you pretty much qualify as a Marxist. And I mean that endearingly, because I myself agree with these statements.

    Revolution is more optional, Marx thought it would be inevitable historical outcome, but did not, as far as I know, force anyone to do it.

  16. Let me just add, that even Marx wasn't that certain about the inevitability of a socialist revolution. He was much wiser than this...

    Oh, and Barts definitely has a point there Guttertalk.

  17. I was pretty sure he considered change as "historical inevitability", but then again, I am no expert, so I won't argue that.

  18. Actually he claims it's inevitable in the Manifesto, which being a Manifesto can't be too detailed, but in both Capital and Grundrisse he's way more cautious, and tries to discover the prerequisites (of all kinds) for a revolution.

  19. That's interesting, I might need to do my homework again at some point.

    As for the point "j) a mainstream TV station was eager to report that firemen were attacked by demonstrators", it is same in Poland, mainstream newspapers say firemen were delayed in entering the building due to attacks from angry crowd.

    Could you point me out to "hundreds of videos and the other channels" on the internet, it might be useful in my discussions about the situation in Greece?

  20. Hundreds of videos proving wrong, that is.

  21. Well, you could start here:

    Doesn't show much. ANyway. It's an accepted fact here. Even said TV station changed its news.

  22. Fascinating. Thanks for this.
    I'm ashamed to say that over in Canada we don't hear a lot of what's going on...just rumours and brief mentions on the news.

    It's good to hear the reality of things...

  23. Thanks for the kind words Geosomin. And I wouldn't be ashamed of the Canadian (or any other) media. It's the role being complete bastards after all. Think anyone in Greece knows what's going on in Nepal?

  24. @gnome: I actually have Das Kapital, as well as other Marxist works. I may not agree with it all, but not understanding it is a mistake. (I find some methods of Marxist analysis useful.)

    @barts: I consider myself a critical or liberal capitalist. :) I think class matters, but I don't think it's everything. I think that the individual and the many are equally important, that competition is important but not all there is, and that politics and economics should be ethical (equal treatment of all).

    In a nutshell. :)

    I did a little digging into the Greek economic crisis last night and saw the blame spread around. But I was intrigued by a couple of articles that pointed to Germany as a culprit, making economic life hard for Greece in order to preserve their welfare programs.

  25. Dear Gnome, thank you for the insight. I think I understand your situation. I am with you and with the people of Greece.

    Hi from Italy.

  26. @ guttertalk: It seems you're *this* close to being a proper marxist with a badge. Oh, and I'd say that simply blaming the German government would be an over-simplification of sorts, though not one without some fair points. Merkel gambled hard and is already paying for her mess. Thankfully many Germans stand in solidarity to the Greek workers.

    @ Andrea: Thank you very much Andrea. And cheers for Italy!

  27. Dogs are going on in Athens.

  28. Hahaha! never knew riot-dogs reached the medHahaha! never knew riot-dogs reached the media. Anyway, I'm pretty sure this dog is not Kanellos, as Kanellos -I believe- has already died. Still, he was an amazing dog residing -mostly- in and around the school of architecture. Even got a song dedicated to him.... Ahh, the days of my youth...

  29. Oh, and here's the song for comrade Kanellos:

  30. wow, this place is full of commies o_o

  31. What? Where? Why? They've already invaded us...

  32. @sektor666
    "wow, this place is full of commies o_o"

    If you can't see the difference between marxist and communist, then I'm afraid you need to get back to school.

  33. "If you can't see the difference between marxist and communist, then I'm afraid you need to get back to school."

    What are you trying to say here Barts? Some- but not all, marxists are communists (eg. Marx and Engels were); some- but not all, communists are marxists (eg. anarchist communists). I suggest therefore that your crack about "get[ting] back to school" is well into pot and kettle territory.

    So again I have to ask: what was the purpose of your remark?

  34. "What are you trying to say here Barts?"

    I was trying to point out exactly what you kindly wrote for me:

    "Some- but not all, marxists are communists [...] some- but not all, communists are marxists"

    Putting equal sign between marxism and communism, like that anonymous lad did, is a clear sign of lack of education.

  35. Gotcha Barts. I just thought you were trying to put a not-equals sign in there, hence my confusion. D'oh, I guess. :-)

  36. The fact is that we live in a capitalist world (albeit, not pure capitalism...most countries have varied levels of socialist influence, and even a bit of feudal structure).

    And the fact is that our current system is working the best - compared with every other system out there.

    Rather than talk about violent revolution, killing business owners and general anarchy, I would rather focus on improving what we have. The Greek protestors are doing nothing for their cause other than portraying young people as violent troublemakers. There ARE peaceful means of protest, which are typically far more successful and achieves more than bashing people up, throwing bricks and looting.

    The way I see it, this is an opportunity for the EU to prove its unity by doing everything they can to help Greece. Failing to do so will only splinter the dream of a unified Europe.

  37. Anonymous dear,

    though I can definitely see you mean good and are all for humanity, I'm afraid we'll generally disagree. It's a matter of different analysis/tactics.

    Let me begin by saying that this is 100% capitalism. Capitalism without state intervention had already failed before the dawn of the 20th century. For the time being the state is necessary for the survival of the capitalist system. The feudal remnants, radically laissez-faire regions and the quasi-socialist pockets are insignificant in the wider picture.

    Our current system is of course working horribly. Ask the 4 billion people that have to survive on less than 2$ a day. Or the environment. Or the wartorn areas of the planet. Or the poor in LA and London. Or the homeless in Europe. Or the destitute of Latin America. See what I mean? And of course it's the best system currently in power. It is after all the only one, and will -necessarily- be surpassed by the system that will follow it.

    Oh, and the vast majority of Greek protestors were peacuful -and still are in subsequent marches- but do defend themselves from the police.

    Finally, let me agree on the EU bit. Perhaps this is the chance for it to change from an imperialist trust to the union of the peoples of Europe. I do believe it's far more likely to crumble though.