Europe Recent Politics

Precursors and Roots

The global youth revolts of the early 20th century, the late 1960s (university students in Berkeley, Rangoon, Mexico City, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, and European cities were joined by high school students), and the current post-crisis neoliberal era have three characteristics in common, according to Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock in Youth Uprising?[i] The authors believe the recent movements share exaggerated claims of youth power as the vanguard of revolution and public surprise over youth activism after a period when they were accused of being apathetic. These claims of youth leadership ignore the roles of adults and adult-led organizations for youth and focusing on uprisings as a generational issue obscures the foundational economic problems. The authors suggest that neoliberal interests manipulate this interest in youth to deflect from systemic problems of inequality. They point out the difference in the geography of the demonstrations from organized and formal youth movements of the early 20th century, to university demonstrations in the 1960s, and recently to occupations of public squares with rejection of nationalism and organized political parties. Tactics changed to direct action and civil disobedience as learned from Gandhi and the US Civil Rights movement and the action shifted to the global South. Sukarieh and Tannock suggest that all these youth movements had limited results due to youth’s lack of power.[ii]

The revolutionary uprisings of 1848 that began in Paris are compared to the university student movements of the 1960s that started off with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and spread globally. Previously, the Young Europe movement of the early 20th century aimed for nationalist independence led by groups called Youth Germany and Young Italy, with similar groups in Africa and Asia like Young Egypt, Young Turks, and Young Java. More recent precedents were the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, the Global Justice Movement of 1999 to 2002, the Serbian Revolution in 2000, protests against European participation in the Iraq war of 2003, Iceland’s anti-bank protests in 2008 that toppled the government and banking systems and the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009.

In 2005 and 2006 youthful immigrants living in French ghettos rose up in violent protests against their lack of opportunity, leading to thousands of arrests. (A French documentary features immigrants who are learning French in a middle-school class; School of Babel, 2014.) Soon after the immigrant riots, French university students protested changes in laws about employing youth under age 26 and were joined by millions of protesters. Student protests against budget cuts and tuition increase occurred in many European countries in 2005 and 2006, and the UK in 2010.

Protests against neoliberal reforms of higher education sparked student movements throughout Europe, occupying universities in reaction to the Bologna Process of 1999 and tuition hikes that followed. The Bologna Process aimed to unify academic standards throughout Europe to set common standards for obtaining degrees. Students rallied against tuition increases in Italy, Spain, France, the UK, etc. (also in Chile, the US and Quebec), setting the stage for mobilizations in 2010 and 2011. The new student precariat lost their previous elite status as they acquired large debts to pay for increasing tuition fees.

Students joined the International Student Movement (ISM), seen on their Facebook page, to work for free education. In their demonstrations students utilized music, art, dance, flashmobs, graffiti, consensus decision-making and horizontalism. ISM’s first major event organized protests in over 25 countries in 2008 in an “International Day of Action Against the Commercialization of Education.” Massive demonstrations followed to advocate more student input into education policies, especially large in Spain, Germany, Croatia and the US.

Uprisings against recession and austerity programs occurred in Athens in 2008 led by students and less educated urban youth, followed by Madrid and other European capitals in 2009. They followed the economic recession of 2008, beginning in Greece, spreading to Spain and on to the Arab world. The countries most harmed by the crisis had the largest uprisings: Iceland was followed by Spain and Greece. Millions of people went to the streets in France to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2010 austerity “reforms.” Students went on strike in about 400 French high schools, building barricades to prevent other students from going to class in October. Further budget cuts sparked student protests in 2011, beginning in Austria in November and spreading to German universities.

Large anti-austerity demonstrations broke out in England in August 2011; France in 2012, Sweden in May 2013, and Turkey (and Brazil) in June 2013. Criticism of German-led EU austerity programs increased in 2014 when the French leader of the European Confederation of Trade Unions, Bernadette gol said, “Europe’s disastrous response to the crisis—austerity—has led Europe to a social crisis and to within sight of a political crisis. Europe does not need more austerity; it needs new policies.”[iii] About 100,000 students, teachers, union members and other supporters demonstrated in Brussels against government austerity programs in November 2014, the largest labor demonstrations since World War II. Young Canadian activist Andrew Gavin Marshall described the European protests as the “Age of Rage” in response to devastating global economic system.[iv]

 

Ireland

Ireland had smaller protests, including an occupation in front of the Irish Central Bank and a horse-drawn hearse with the words “Austerity Kills.” Threats of new university fees evoked student and teacher demonstrations in 2008 and the largest protest in 2010 organized by the Union of Students in Ireland. The recession drew 100,000 demonstrators to Dublin in 2009. Occupy camps were set up in October 2011 in various cities and continued into the next year. Dublin Occupy lasted longer than many others. In November 2011 students and their families marched to protest fee increases. Student leaders occupied a government office with a banner on the roof stating their goal of “Free Education Nothing Less.” Anti-austerity protests continued despite the lack of a large leftist electorate and “Irish respectability, normality, and avoidance of conflict built on mechanisms of repression….” [v] Lawrence Cox observed that Irish protesters don’t like to stand out in a crowd.

 

Spain

Spaniards experienced long years of fascist dictatorship and conservative party rule in the 20th century, alternating with socialist governments. The socialist party that governed from 1931 to 1936 lost out to fascist General Francisco Franco who won the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, with the help of his allies Hitler and Mussolini. Fascist youth groups supported Franco who ruled for 36 years. Under his regime, critics were jailed and strikers beat up, girls had to go to convent schools to get an education, and Catholicism was taught in all schools. The sale of contraceptives was banned until 1978. Similar to present-day Saudi Arabia, a wife couldn’t work, own property, or travel without her husband’s consent.

Democracy was restored after Franco died in 1975 and a parliamentary monarchy was established under King Juan Carlos; he turned the monarchy over to his son in 2014. Spain quickly modernized; almost one-quarter of women were employed and most Spaniards didn’t regularly attend mass. Conservatives remained in power until 1982 when the social democratic Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party took over and governed for 22 years. The Socialists developed a welfare state and expansion of higher education like other European countries, but they struggled with corruption and scandals. Conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, elected in 1996, moved the country back towards the right requiring religious instruction in schools, deregulation of finance, and supporting the US “war on terror.”

Anarchist collectives of the 1930s continued their influence on the labor union CNT and Madrid neighborhood associations formed in the 1960s. In 1991 a utopian farm village was established in Marinaleda in the region of Andalucia.[vi] “Otro Mundo es Possible” is written on a metal arch over the main street where everyone has a house and a job. Profits from the village farms go back to the village and build houses. No foreclosures occur in this town but some youth leave to find non-agricultural work.

More recent predecessors to 15M were thousands protested the war in Iraq in 2003 in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and in 2004 protests opposed the government’s efforts to blame Basque nationalists for the Madrid train bombings by terrorists. It attracted over 11 million demonstrators.[vii] Young people joined with other European students in protesting the Bologna Process that aimed to unify European university standards for degrees, which students feared would reduce government funding for universities. Thousands of students marched in March 2011 to protest an increase in tuition fees and precariousness. Youth Without Future‘s slogan was “homeless, jobless, pensionless, fearless.” They asked the Guinness Book of World Records to win the world biggest screaming contest but were turned down as “too weird.”

Young people demonstrated in the V de Vivienda (H for Housing) protests starting in 2006 against rising housing costs.[viii] The housing bubble burst. In 2007 in reaction to the housing collapse a slogan shouted by huge crowds in various plazas and posted on viral Internet videos was, “You will not have a home in your whole fucking life!” The real estate bubble burst and corporations got government support, as in the US. Austerity cuts were severe yet EU military spending remained high including in Greece and Spain–194 billion euros in 2010. Despite these economic problems, Spanish political culture was considered apolitical and apathetic, especially among young people. Laura, a young filmmaker in Madrid explained, “We are apolitical because we think nothing can be done. We don’t trust politicians…We see how our leaders all end up the same way, chasing money. My generation was raised to work hard, but there’s a crisis of values and of what life means.”[ix] Due to the high unemployment rate, Spaniards had time to organize. The youth unemployment rate peaked at nearly 56% in 2013, falling slightly three years later.

Housing problems generated youth activism. A movement to prevent home evictions called Platform of People Affected by Mortgages in Spain (PAH) was formed in 2009, inspired by consensus decision making of indigenous people in Latin America. One of its members reported in 2014 that they had stopped over 1,000 evictions and relocated the same number of displaced people in their Obra Social program. PAH uses a weekly organizing assembly that rotates tasks such as taking minutes and moderating. A large majority of organizers are women. PAH is organizing alliances with similar housing groups in the UK, the US, and Brazil. A documentary about PAH is called Seven Days with the PAH (2014).[x]

Socialist Jose Zapatero (age 26 when he was first elected to parliament) replaced Aznar as Prime Minister in 2004, promising to tackle unemployment and make other social investments, and break with Bush and Blair’s foreign policies. But in March 2011 he disappointed youth when he acquiesced to neoliberal austerity demands to reform labor laws, cut pay for public employees, raise retirement age, and cut funding for education and health. Zapatero was in charge during the uprisings, leaving office in December of 2011, replaced by conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. For this reason activists say when socialists get in power, they’re no different than other political parties.

2013 to 2016

Part of international governments’ crackdowns on peaceful protests, in 2013 conservative Prime Minister Rajoy proposed a new “Citizens’ Security Law” that imposed huge fines (up to 300,000 euros) on “unlawful” demonstrations, banned them near state buildings and banned video recordings of police. It’s called the anti-15M law and could impose large fines and up to five years in prison for insulting a politician or protesting outside parliament without a permit. In response, thousands protested in front of the Congress building on December 14, but the law passed. When police tried to disperse protesters, they threw bottles and bricks and smashed police cars. In 2014, demonstrators protested against proposed new limits on abortion and health care cuts, as well as corruption scandals. The proposed law would allow abortion only if the pregnancy was the result of a rape or would endanger the mother’s health. Pilar Gomez, a health care center administrator, bemoaned the fact that, “After all the advances that we had made, we’re now being taken right back to the days of Franco.”

As in Greece, protest fatigue led to unions again assuming leadership in initiating protests. Blogger Oscar ten Houten quoted a 2014 report from a Spanish comrade who said there’s no unity in 15M but lots of activity, including a new site listed in the endnote:

 

15M is pretty dead. But certain neighbourhood assemblies remain active. What you do have now is a myriad of small, well organized groups all over the place: working groups on housing (the Asamblea de Vivienda de Madrid unites them all), the citizen waves, Yo Si Sanidad Universal (people without medical insurance, assisted by doctors who practice civil disobedience), new occupations to house people who have been evicted (30-odd buildings throughout the country), groups who organize themselves to attack the reform of the Citizen Security Law (aimed to punish people with stratosferic fines for demonstrating), feminist groups for free abortion. . . .[xi]

 

Professor Cristina Flesher Fominaya observed that both the main parties, the conservative Popular Party—the winner of the November 2011 elections, and the Socialist Party, acted as if the people had never taken to the streets.[xii] The Popular Party leaders called protesters “terrorist” and “Nazis.” Perhaps due to “protest fatigue,” and discouragement about lack of progress, and despite wide spread awareness of corruption, few people turn out for street demonstrations. Not many even met to protest the government accepting money to change the name of Puerta del Sol to Vodafone Sol. In 2014, the conservative government rolled back abortion access, suppressed the Youth Council as a network for youth organizations, the Ministry of Equality closed the 30-year-old Institute for Women, withdrew Spain from UN Women, and didn’t approve an Equality Plan as mandated by the Equality Act of 2007.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards traveled to Madrid from all over the country in a 2014 March of Dignity against austerity cuts, continued high unemployment of 25%, and housing eviction of nearly half a million families.[xiii]

 

Greece

Precursors to the May 2011 Uprising

Youth groups occupied government buildings and universities in the 80s and 90s. Protests continued almost without interruption since 2008. Large youth protests flared in 2008 after two Athens policemen shot Alexis Grigoropoulos, a 14-year-old boy, referred to as a “youth rebellion.” Outrage manifested in large demonstrations and riots, the largest since the fall of the military junta in 1974. Thousands of hooded youths fought with police and occupied universities, and took over parts of the city where police were afraid to enter. Kontakos reported that central Athens almost burned down. She had never seen such genuine outrage and passion shown by Greek youth, and she hoped they would organize politically. Solitary demonstrations with Greek youth were held in more than 70 cities around the world and videos of clashes were posted on indymedia.org.

Protests to commemorate Alexis’ murder continued, with about 6,000 demonstrators on the street to mark the sixth anniversary, including youth in black hoodies and masks. Banners read, “When the state murders, resistance is demanded.” Alexis died in the arms of his best friend **Nikos Romanos who became a cause celebre in 2014 when he went on a hunger strike to protest not being allowed prisoners’ rights to attend university. Police tortured Romanos, 21, an anarchist, after his arrest. To show support, more than 10,000 people marched in Athens in December 2014 and SYRIZA’s youth wing called on the government to comply or be toppled.

Youth frustration with the economic crisis, rising unemployment rates, the decline of the middle-class and government corruption fueled the 2008 Rebels who wrote on a wall, “Merry crisis and a happy new fear!” Other graffiti read, “We are an image from the future.” The **Exarcheia neighborhood where Alexis was killed when he visited friends there is an anarchist stronghold where battles with police continued as young men throw Molotov cocktails from rooftops. The anti-authoritarian communist group called “Children of the Gallery” (Ta Paidia Tis Galarias, TPTG) in Athens reported “people’s assemblies” appeared in December 2008, often connected with occupation of public buildings.[xiv] However, the assemblies were fragmented between anarchists, leftists, and neighborhood members who just wanted to cope with their local issues and many died out.

Demonstrations and general strikes to protest austerity cuts continued since the first round in December 2009. Greece’s debt instability spread to shaky economies in Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Italy. Critics feared that power is shifting from elected national governments to international financial institutions. Their enemy was the Troika of EU financial institutions backing austerity measures to pay back loans. Protests surged with the signing of the First Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika in 2010 (a ROAR video explains the Greek debt crisis[xv]). Protests declined that year after three **Marfin Bank workers in their 30s (two women and a man) died from asphyziation from the smoke in a fire thought to be started by three Black Bloc firebombs, but demonstrations surged again in December. Unprecedented police brutality escalated violent incidents around Athens, while the government was collapsing. The police had long been viewed of being affiliated with right-wing politics including the Golden Dawn nationalist party.[xvi] In the five years following the 2010 agreement with the Troika the economy declined by 25% and youth unemployment rose to 60%. Immigrants were blamed for the troubles and attacked by nationalists like Golden Dawn. Frequent strikes continued but weren’t taken seriously they happened so often.

 

Fascist GD created its own civil society with food and legal aid and health care—for ethnic Greeks only of course (as the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt). After a popular young hip-hop musician named Pavlos Fyssas (34) was stabbed to death by GD thugs in September 2013 because of his anti-fascist songs, the government cracked down on GD leaders for violent acts against immigrants. Six GD members of parliament were arrested on charges of running a criminal organization. About half of police officers are suspected of working with GD and ignoring attacks on immigrants, homosexuals and antifascists such as Fyssas. Tens of thousands of antifa protesters marched on the GD headquarters in Athens to protest Fyssas’ murder.

On November 10, 2013, another call to assemble in Syntagma Square was made, organized by SYRIZA. It wanted support for a confidence vote against the government that had no chance of passing so the turnout was small. Reporter Leonidas Oikonomakis regretted the ascendency of a political party in 2013 as the main force of resistance, without horizontal assemblies. He participated in the 2011 occupation and was co-producer of the documentary film Utopia on the Horizon.[xvii] He pointed to the leftist governments in Latin America where leftist parties that gained power marginalized the radical movements that brought them to the capitals in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Oikonomakis worried that the same process will happen in Greece with the rise of SYRIZA.

Public sector workers went on strike against further budget cuts and layoffs when unemployment was 28% and youth unemployment rose to 60%, higher than in the US during the Great Depression. This was one of over 30 general strikes organized since the crisis began. In October 2013 students took command of over 100 high schools in support of their striking teachers to protest education cuts and layoffs. When the government shut down the public TV station ERT in Athens in June 2013, the workers occupied the building and continued news coverage until police stormed the building at 4 AM in November. One of the broadcasters told BBC he hoped to sneak back in and broadcast, “Because it’s for democracy. We feel like we are Robin Hood. We are the voice of the people.” They continued broadcasting in front of the lines of riot police who surrounded the building. Independent journalism continued online as at www.thepressproject.gr, including English translation.

Writing in December 2013, BBC reporter Mark Lowen said Greek unemployment was down slightly, tax evasion was no longer accepted, the public sector is reduced, and the government is more optimistic.[xviii] Despite the fact that hospitals and schools can’t afford basic equipment, and suicides rates remain high, protest movements have diminished with almost no violence. Lowen pointed to lack of unity between communists, unionists, anarchists and “the weary middle class.”

In order to receive 86 billion euro bailout, the Greek parliament agreed to new tax increases, raised the retirement age and greater competition in the economy. Left Platform members opposed the bailout deal, including Zoe Konstantopoulou, the speaker of Parliament. They included about a quarter of the party’s parliamentary members led by Panagiotis Lafazanis who called for giving up the euro and a return to the drachma. They formed the new Popular Unity party that didn’t poll enough votes to enter parliament. Tsipras therefore called for a vote in September for the people to decide if he should be returned to power. SYRIZA got the most votes with 35%, followed by the center-right party New Democracy. Almost half of the voters didn’t turn out, exhausted by the crisis. In November, 25,000 protesters went to the streets to protest continued austerity cuts and some young men threw Molotov cocktails at police.

Rising political star Tsipras (born in 1974), the young leader of the SYRIZA, was elected prime minister in 2015. Referred to ironically as the most dangerous man in Europe, he wanted to cancel the €240 billion bailout agreement with the Troika and stop cuts to social programs. He stated in 2012, “The rotten and reliant establishment is making its last stand. Their dominance is ending after they looted the country and saddled it with debt.”[xix] He explained, “Our political plan is to effect alternative policies that will efficiently address the crisis and kickstart the economy by supporting the weak, creating new employment and supporting basic incomes. Greece’s reconstruction will come from a fresh developmental plan, one that is aimed at income redistribution, decent jobs and the enhancement of public goods.”[xx]However, he didn’t succeed leading Greeks I talked with in June 2016 to view him as weak, even some feared he was incapacitated by an evil spell

As a 16-year-old high school student, Tsipras led student protests against education reforms, appearing on TV as a spokesman. He was a student member of Communist Youth where he met his partner and mother of his sons, but after he became prime minister a leftist journalist said, “The guy with the Che Guevara T-shirt, we lost him.”[xxi] A photo of Che Guevara was on his office wall. Unlike many other Greek politicians he isn’t a member of an elite family and is rarely seen wearing a tie. He campaigned to be head of the European Commission in 2014, causing some leftist philosophers who usually opposed participating in meaningless elections to support Tsipras. Italian philosophers Antonio Negri and Sandro Mezzadra explained essential issues can “only be addressed at a European level. Outside of this sphere there is no such thing as political realism.”[xxii] While French philosopher Alain Badiou denigrated the uprisings in Egypt and Greece as “communist invariants,” Negri believes It’s possible to create a “new political grammar” by working with European organizations. A Greek activist, Markos Vogiatzoglou, criticized Greeks and other Europeans for not establishing networks to exchange information and experience in a “set of horizontally interlinked nodes operating in a common trajectory.”[xxiii] Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis attempted to do this in 2016, described below.

On a Global Uprisings panel, Pablos, an activist from Athens, was not hopeful about youth uprisings: “Although the last four years has shaken the world, we are not winning.” He faulted the persistence of beliefs in John Maynard Keynes’ economic theories that government spending can create prosperity, although neither austerity cuts nor stimulus plans solve the problems created by capitalism. The situation in Greece certainly is grim, with many youth’s only hope to leave the city or the country. Strikes and anti-austerity demonstrations occur almost daily, with 28% unemployment and rising poverty and diminishing services. When I arrived in Athens, the metro and bus drivers were all on strike, something people were used to experiencing.

Bailout loans continued in 2014, but Alexandra reported from Athens in September, “The tourist industry has really increased this year leading to expansion in all areas of commerce. Plus, there are more enterprises springing up, though not much looks very different yet. They extended the metro lines, a very good thing, and the sentiment is more hopeful. I think the worst has passed.” In 2016 she was less optimistic, concerned about the lack of Greeks “networking or cooperating with their peers for the most part–strange and sad and time for a change!” Increasingly citizen groups turn to the courts to challenge firing public workers to pay back loans and the new property tax imposed in 2011. Some are winning their cases, similar to such cases in Portugal.

Greece needed another bailout, in addition to the $325 billion granted by the Troika since 2010.[xxiv] An avenue to express despair about the 27% unemployment rate and a blighted future is graffiti seen in a slide show.[xxv] In 2016 Alexandra reported, “The refugee crisis is unbelievable and economy at a near standstill. Somehow, most Greeks continue to be very gracious. I saw Big Short; it tells the story of Greece and the banking system so well. Banks are amping up again offering loans now. So, so wrong!” because they lend to ignorant people.” She said the situation is very bad and that Tsipras, a weak leader, caved to the Troika.

Large student demonstrations broke out again in November and December 2014. Students occupied hundreds of schools and university students joined the protest against the shortage of teachers and the 60% youth unemployment rate. When hundreds of riot police turned out in large numbers to block the planned occupation of the Athens Law School, as usual the police galvanized more protesters to turn out. Thousands of students demonstrated that evening. A Greek friend told me, “Don’t take it too seriously. This happens frequently and it looks worse on video than in reality. Yes, schools closed, but sadly, that’s nothing unusual these days.”

 

2015

By 2015 the government reduced public jobs and social programs and raised taxes, but public debt remained high and half the young people were unemployed. One in four Greeks live below the poverty line, over a quarter are unemployed, three million are without health insurance, infant mortality rates and adult suicides are rising, over 60% of youth are unemployed and a brain drain continues as educated people sought jobs elsewhere. SYRIZA won on an anti-austerity platform, when Tsipras promised to end five years of humiliation and pain. “Hope has made history,” he said. The Financial Times compared him to Chavez in Venezuela and Lula in Brazil. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said SYRIZA encourages self-help groups rather than relying on representative democracy. He resigned after only five months in office because he couldn’t convince Tsipras to reject the deal with the Troika. Varoufakis said that Tsipras “folded” in July 2015, even though by the previous year almost half of Greek families had no employed adult. They butted heads with German leaders who insisted that loans depended on continued austerity measures. The conflict led to fears that Greece would default on their loans and drop out of the Eurozone and EU. Varoufakis compared the Troika austerity cuts to “fiscal waterboarding” but said in 2016 that although the EU crushed the Athens Spring, it raised awareness of the formerly silent majority about Europe’s “crumbling power structures.” [xxvi]

In July Tsipras signed a new bailout plant that included austerity measures he spent months fighting. He said, “Our European partners and Germany were very, very tough” and the EU is “the kingdom of bureaucracy.”[xxvii] He resigned the next month, to be re-elected in September. FinanceThe new government wanted to freeze privatization of national resources, reinstitute a monthly 751-euro minimum wage, cancel public employee layoffs, and provide immigrant children citizenship. Among the new government’s first acts was to take down police barriers in front of parliament and remove riot police from Exarchia, the anarchist neighborhood of Athens. SYRIZA aimed to end home seizures by banks, raise the minimum wage starting with young workers, change tax laws so the rich pay more than the poor on their homes, improve the quality of education, provide better treatment of immigrants and shut down their detention camps, and demand World War II occupation reparation payments by Germany.[xxviii] However, a Greek IT worker told me, “Except the second generation immigrant children citizenship bill, which was actually voted in May 2015, the continued and hardened, the austerity policies of their predecessors after July 2015.” A leader of SYRIZA, Antonis Markopoulos explained, “We are talking not only about the reorganization of Government, but of society as a whole.” He looks to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland to join Greece in in creating a more equitable Europe.

Jerome Roos, a Dutch graduate student in Athens, reported that he sees ordinary people sleeping on the streets like stray dogs, thousands of “for rent” signs on apartment walls, immigrants afraid to go out of their homes for fear of being attacked, and smog over the city as people who can’t afford electricity burn wood and plastic.[xxix] I saw a few people sleeping in doorways but not more than I see in my hometown in Northern California.

In February the government negotiated a loan extension, but defaulted on the IMF loan in June, causing a run on the Greek banks followed by bank closures. The country was 323 billion euros in debt by July 2015 leading to talk of a “grexit,” from the EU. SYRIZA asked the people to vote in a referendum on whether to accept austerity plans and thereby stay in the Eurozone, asking them to vote No. The government didn’t have the funds to pay public sector wages and pensions, dependent on foreign financing. The no vote won, supported by a greater percent of youth than other age groups. A spokesperson for the SYRIZA youth wing said, “Both SYRIZA and the young wing are more radical, at least in their positions, than the government is,” lobbying to address problems of privatization, human rights of prisoners, immigration, and LGBT issues.[xxx] Many youth wanted Greece to do what Iceland did when it rejected austerity measures, defaulted on loans, and nationalized banks. Professor Juan Cole observed, “What is clear is that Greece has rejected the austerity policies of the old in favor of the risk-taking of the young” in voting no.

In order to receive 86 billion euro bailout, the Greek parliament agreed to new tax increases, raised the retirement age and greater competition in the economy. Left Platform members opposed the bailout deal, including Zoe Konstantopoulou, the speaker of Parliament. They included about a quarter of the party’s parliamentary members led by Panagiotis Lafazanis who called for giving up the euro and a return to the drachma. They formed the new Popular Unity party that didn’t poll enough votes to enter parliament. Tsipras therefore called for a vote in September for the people to decide if he should be returned to power. SYRIZA got the most votes with 35%, followed by the center-right party New Democracy. Almost half of the voters didn’t turn out, exhausted by the crisis. In November, 25,000 protesters went to the streets to protest continued austerity cuts and some young men threw Molotov cocktails at police.

Alexandra emailed from Athens in February,

 

The farmers have been blocking roads on and off for weeks now and have been on strike so produce has been sparse. They can’t pay the new taxes that are imposed on them and they are substantial. On the other hand, they have NEVER paid taxes and have received enormous subsidies over the last 15 years to improve their farms, even on land that did not exist or claiming neighboring properties for greater subsidies. Many of them bought fancy cars, very fancy houses and hired Albanians and other foreigners to meagerly work their fields. Now they are freaking out because they can’t make ends meet without the subsidies or reap the goods from the poor management of their farms. But they need to work them! Government and common folk are both at fault as everyone turned a blind eye–all too frequently the story here. 

Another hot issue is pensions and insurance. There are so many unemployed and pensioners whom the government cannot support. They are asking the middle and upper class to pay more so the poor and retired folks can continue to receive some meager funds. But, like many things Greek, there have been such incredible abuses in the pension system. For decades people have been collecting pensions for dead folks or recording false information. Furthermore, if you have a parent who once upon a time served in public office, and you are an unmarried female, you can collect a pension for the remainder of you life.

 

The Greeks are short of funds but are opening refugee centers in military camps, a hotel, a castle, and the Olympic Park in Athens. Nearly 57,000 refugees were stranded in Greece. However, the SYRIZA government shut down three squats for refugees in Thessaloniki, July 2016, generating protests around the country and occupation of the local university. The worker-run Vio.Me factory provided a warehouse to store supplies for the refugees and locals and refugees managed the centers together in horizontal assemblies. The Deputy Minister of Civil Protection who thinks of himself as a left said about the eviction, “We don’t need the autonomous actions of a bunch of kids; we want a mass popular movement, we should turn the youth towards the parties of the left.”[xxxi]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, p. 83.

[ii] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, p. 99.

[iii] Alison Smale and Liz Alderman, “Germany’s Insistence on Austerity Meets with Revolt in the Eurozone,” New York Times, October 7, 2014.

[iv] Andrew Marahall, “The Age of Rage: Welcome to the World Revolution,” ROAR Magazine, August 10, 2012.

http://roarmag.org/2012/08/the-age-of-rage-welcome-to-the-world-revolution/

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall. The Global Economic Crisis. Global Research Publishers, 2010.

[v] Laurence Cox, “Why are the Irish not Resisting Austerity?,” Open Democracy, October 11, 2013.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/laurence-cox/why-are-irish-not-resisting-austerity

[vi] Dan Hancox. The Village Against the World. Verso, 2013.

[vii] Neil Hughes, “’Young People Took to the Streets and all of a Sudden all of the Political Parties Get Old’: The 15M Movement in Spain,” Social Movement Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4, p. 408, November 2011.

DOI.org/10.1080/14742837.2011.6141098

[viii] http://creativetimereports.org/2012/11/30/spain-the-nameless-force-behind-the-protests/

[ix] Robert Marquand, “Occupy Europe: How a Generation Went from Indifferent to Indignant,” Christian Science Monitor, October 3, 2011.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2011/1029/Occupy-Europe-How-a-generation-went-from-indifferent-to-indignant

[x] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caD17RKJfbc

[xi] Revolução, January 2014.

http://spanishrevolution11.wordpress.com/

http://disopress.com

[xii] Helen Schols, et al., “Social Movements and the European Crisis,” Interface, Vol. 5, No. 2, November 2013.

http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Interface-5-2-TNI.pdf

[xiii] http://roarmag.org/2014/03/22m-madrid-march-austerity/

[xiv] Iskra, “Interview with TPTG: Class struggles in Greece,” lib.com, May 29, 2012.

http://libcom.org/library/interview-tptg-class-struggles-greece

[xv] Utopia on the Horizon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAnGxynPxL4

[xvi] Aris Chatzistefanou, “Golden Dawn Has Infiltrated Greek Police, Claims Officer,” The Guardian, October 26, 2012.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/26/golden-dawn-infiltrated-greek-police-claims

[xvii] Leonidas Oikonomakis, “Greece: The Rise of the Party, Demise of the Movement,” ROAR Magazine, November 25, 2013.

http://ROARmag.org/author/leonidas/

[xviii] Mark Lowen, “Glimmers of Hope for Greek Future,” BBC News Magazine, December 22, 2013.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25431288

[xix] “Meet Alexis Tsipras,” Business Insider, June 11, 2012.

http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-alexis-tsipras-the-youthful-greek-leader-who-terrifies-the-european-financial-elite-2012-6

[xx] Lynn Stuart Parramore, “Exclusive Interview: Meet Alexis Tsipras,” AlterNet, February 12, 2013.

http://www.alternet.org/world/exclusive-interview-meet-alexis-tsipras-most-dangerous-man-europe?page=0%2C2

[xxi] Quote by Aris Chatzistefanou in Suzanne Daley, “Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister, Sheds His Identity as a Radical,” New York Times, July 21, 2015.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/…/alexis-tsipras…greek-bailout-terms.html

[xxii] Srecko Horvat, “President Alexis Tsipras: Is that a Joke?” The Guardian, January 21, 2014.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/21/alexis-tsipras-european-commission-president-syriza

[xxiii] Helen Schols, et al., “Social Movements and the European Crisis,” Interface, Vol. 5, No. 2, November 2013.

http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Interface-5-2-TNI.pdf

[xxiv] Niki Kitsantonis, “Greece Wars with Courts Over Ways to Slash Budget,” New York Times, June 12, 2014.

[xxv] Liz Alderman, “Across Athens, Graffiti Worth a Thousand Words,” New York Times, April 15, 2014.

[xxvi] Yanis Varoufakis, “DiEM and the Movements,” blog, January 17, 2016.

DiEM and the movements – Reply to Open Letter by John Malamatinas

[xxvii] Jim Yardley, “Has Europe Reached the Breaking Point?,” New York Times, December 15, 2015.

[xxviii] Antonis Markopoulos and Chris Spannos, “Interview: Greece’s New ‘Government of the People’,“ TeleSUR, March 21, 2015.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Interview-Greeces-New-Government-of-the-Whole-People-20150321-0021.html

[xxix] Jerome Roos, “Everyday Communism and the ‘Spirit of Christmas,’” ROAR Magazine, December 25, 2013.

http://ROARmag.org/2013/12/everyday-communism-christmas-dickens/

[xxx] Juan Cole, “Is Greece’s ‘No’ on Debt Referendum Another Youth Revolution?,” Informed Consent, July 6, 2015.

http://www.juancole.com/2015/07/greeces-referendum-revolution.html

[xxxi] Theodoros Karyotis, “Criminalizing solidarity: Syriz’s War on the Movements,” ROAR Magazine, July 31, 2016.

https://roarmag.org/essays/criminalizing-solidarity-movement-refugees-greece/

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