Greek pensioners protest austerity cuts

Friday Feb 15, 2013

Greek pensioners shout slogans during a march in central Athens to protest against the government’s austerity measures. (file photo)

Greek pensioners have demonstrated in Athens to protest against the government’s harsh austerity measures and highlight the consequences of the program on their life.

On Thursday, hundreds of elderly braved the heavy rain in the capital and marched to the country’s Labor Ministry to express anger at the government’s economic policies and rising unemployment, the Associated Press reported.

“We are not just talking about some problems. They are taking our lives away,” said Dimos Koumbouris, leader of Greece’s main pensioners association.

“We can’t pay our electricity bills, or the emergency taxes. We haven’t enough for our medicines, and it’s putting our lives in danger,” he added. Continue reading

US: After the elections, how will Obama’s liberals grease the “austerity” path?

[Glenn Greenwald, an analyst/journalist of progressive reform politics, reveals the likely path of Democratic/Obama/liberal cuts in major historic social programs such as Social Security and Medicare in the weeks ahead.  Many who supported Obama as the last, best defense against such cuts, will find, now, that the system, which has created the economic and fiscal crisis, has no means or will  to solve the problem it has made. — Frontlines ed.]

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Obama and progressives: what will liberals do with their big election victory?

With fights over social security, Medicare, ongoing war, and other key progressive priorities looming, what will they do with their new power?

guardian.co.uk

Wednesday 7 November 2012
The greatest and most enduring significance of Tuesday night’s election results will likely not be the re-election of Barack Obama, but rather what the outcome reflects about the American electorate. It was not merely Democrats, but liberalism, which was triumphant.

To begin with, it is hard to overstate just how crippled America’s right-wing is. Although it was masked by their aberrational win in 2010, the GOP has now been not merely defeated, but crushed, in three out of the last four elections: in 2006 (when they lost control of the House and Senate), 2008 (when Obama won easily and Democrats expanded their margins of control), and now 2012. The horrendous political legacy of George Bush and Dick Cheney continues to sink the GOP, and demographic realities – how toxic the American Right is to the very groups that are now becoming America’s majority – makes it difficult to envision how this will change any time soon.

Meanwhile, new laws to legalize both same-sex marriage and marijuana use were enacted in multiple states with little controversy, an unthinkable result even a few years ago, while Obama’s late-term embrace of same-sex marriage seems to have resulted only in political benefit with no political harm. Democrats were sent to the Senate by deeply red states such as Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, along with genuinely progressive candidates on domestic issues, including Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. As a cherry on the liberal cake, two of the most loathed right-wing House members – Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois and Allen West of Florida – were removed from office.

So the delirium of liberals this morning is understandable: the night could scarcely have gone better for them. By all rights, they should expect to be a more powerful force in Washington. But what are they going to get from it? Will they wield more political power? Will their political values and agenda command more respect? Unless the disempowering pattern into which they have voluntarily locked themselves changes, the answer to those questions is almost certainly “no”.

Consider the very first controversial issue Obama is likely to manage, even before the glow of his victory dims, literally within the next couple of weeks. It is widely expected – including by liberals – that Obama intends (again) to pursue a so-called “Grand Bargain” with the GOP: a deficit- and debt-cutting agreement whereby the GOP agrees to some very modest tax increases on the rich in exchange for substantial cuts to entitlement programs such as social security and Medicare, the crown legislative jewels of American liberalism. Continue reading

Greek unions protest austerity package

A riot police officer is engulfed by petrol bomb flames thrown by protesters in front of the parliament during clashes in Athens, Wednesday Nov. 7, 2012. Greece’s fragile coalition government faces its toughest test so far when lawmakers vote later Wednesday on new painful austerity measures demanded to keep the country afloat, on the second day of a nationwide general strike. The 13.5 billion euro ($17.3 billion) package is expected to scrape through Parliament, following a hasty one-day debate. But potential defections could severely weaken the conservative-led coalition formed in June with the intention of keeping Greece in the euro. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 7 (UPI) — ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 7 (UPI) — Thousands of Greeks joined protests Wednesday afternoon against a new package of cuts set for a vote in Parliament.

An estimated 70,000 people rallied at the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square in Athens, CNN reported. There were smaller demonstrations elsewhere.Melina Grigoriadou, who works for an export company, said pay cuts and higher taxes have already cost her family about one-third of their income.

“The measures just never stop. Every time, politicians say they are going to be the last measures … they are never the last,” Grigoriadou told CNN at a demonstration in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. “There is no end in this, there’s no solution. The measures are awful — it’s not austerity, it’s something even worse.”

Unions held a second day of strikes, disrupting public transportation and other services in the country. Some mass transit resumed Wednesday in Athens so protesters could get to Syntagma Square.

The strikes were called as Parliament gets ready to consider a bill that would institute a series of painful social and financial reforms, ekathimerini.com reported. Continue reading

As government, creditors near deal on further austerity, Greek unions hold new general strike

A man eats a meal from a soup kitchen organized by the Church of Greece in Athens, on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, which has been designated International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Greece is in the throes of an economic depression that has seen the economy shrink by a fifth over the past five years, while unemployment is at 25 percent, the highest in decades. The crisis has caused a major rise in homelessness, while the number of people depending on soup kitchens for sustenance has rocketed. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

NICHOLAS PAPHITIS,  Associated Press, October 18, 2012

ATHENS, Greece — Labor unions in recession-hobbled Greece are holding another general strike against a new harsh austerity program, as European leaders beset by a deep debt crisis and economic stagnation gather for a summit meeting in Brussels.

Thursday’s strike is set to close down public services and severely hamper most forms of transport — with even taxi drivers joining in for nine hours — while shopkeepers in Athens and other cities are planning to shut down for the day. It is the second general strike in less than a month.

Unions are organizing two separate marches in central Athens. Demonstrators’ ire will focus on the new belt-tightening for 2013-14, demanded by bailout creditors to release a desperately needed new rescue loan payment.

The city has seen hundreds of anti-austerity protests — many violent — over the past three years, since Greece revealed it had been misreporting key deficit figures and sank into an economic gloom so deep it has been likened to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The country is clinging to solvency with the help of two massive international bailouts worth a total €240 billion ($315 billion). To secure them, it committed to drastic spending cuts, tax hikes and reforms, aimed to cure years of profligate government spending.

But while significantly reducing budget deficits, the measures accelerated a recession that after five years is closer to a depression. By the end of next year, the economy is expected to have shrunk by about a quarter from 2008 levels. And with one in four workers out of a job, Greece has the worst unemployment rate in the 27-nation European Union.

“In general, we’re going from bad to worse,” said 85-year-old pensioner Giorgos Ierodimos. “Salaries are being reduced, pensions are being reduced, everything is getting more expensive, from food to health care to hospitals, medicines, everything. So how will people live? How will we live?” Continue reading

Spain prepares more austerity, protesters battle police

A demonstrator struggles with Spanish National Police riot officers outside the the Spanish parliament in Madrid September 25, 2012. Protesters clashed with police in Spain's capital on Tuesday as the government prepares a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget that will be announced on Thursday. REUTERS-Sergio Perez

By Tracy Rucinski and Paul Day, REUTERS

MADRID | Tue Sep 25, 2012

(Reuters) – Protesters clashed with police in Spain’s capital on Tuesday as the government prepared a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced on Thursday.

Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, a few meters from El Prado museum in central Madrid, where they formed a human chain around parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and more than 1,500 police in riot gear.

Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen.

As lawmakers started to leave the parliament shortly after 2100 GMT in official cars or by foot, a few hundred people were still demonstrating in front of the building. Most dispersed shortly afterwards.

The protest, promoted over the Internet by different activist groups, was younger and more rowdy than recent marches called by labor unions. Protesters said they were fed up with cuts to public salaries and health and education.

“My annual salary has dropped by 8,000 euros and if it falls much further I won’t be able to make ends meet,” said Luis Rodriguez, 36, a firefighter who joined the protest. He said he was considering leaving Spain to find a better quality of life. Continue reading

Greece: as politicians trash wages, pensions, jobs, people chant “get out, thieves!”

Greece approves spending cuts as protesters riot

The legislation features about $4 billion in severe budget trims, including 15,000 job reductions this year alone. Furious crowds chant outside Parliament, and several Athens buildings are set on fire

by Anthee Carassava, Los Angeles Times–Reporting from Athens, February 13, 2012

As thousands of protesters took to the streets and violence ripped through central Athens, Greece’s Parliament approved yet another round of punishing spending cuts to secure international rescue funds and ease fears of a calamitous financial collapse, potentially perilous for global markets and Europe‘s single currency.

The legislation, featuring about $4 billion in severe budget trims including steep wage and pension cuts as well as 15,000 job reductions this year alone, was backed by 199 lawmakers of the 300-member Parliament. Five abstained, 22 were absent and 74 lawmakers — including socialist and conservative supporters of the coalition government — voted against the bill that capped a ferocious 11-hour debate ending early Monday.

Throughout the marathon discussion, thousands of Greeks opposed to the austerity package descended on the sprawling grounds of Parliament shouting, “Get out!” and “Thieves!” The crowd swelled into the tens of thousands and their chants echoed across the capital — even renowned music composer Mikis Theodorakis showed up — as mobs of youths clashed with police and set fires to at least 34 buildings. Continue reading

Crisis hitting Eastern Europe, massive protests continue to grow

A woman passes by a fire set up in the middle of the road by protesters at the University Square in Bucharest, January 15, 2012.

Romanian PM warns protesters on fifth day

Monday, January 16, 2012

By Radu Marinas and Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s prime minister warned anti-austerity protesters gathering for a fifth day on Monday that violence would not be tolerated after 59 people were injured in clashes between demonstrators and riot police at the weekend.

The country’s worst unrest for more than a decade has seen riot police using tear gas against protesters throwing bricks, smashing windows and setting fire to newspaper stands and rubbish bins in central Bucharest since it began on Thursday.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered peacefully in central Bucharest and other cities on Monday afternoon, demanding Prime Minister Emil Boc and his close political ally President Traian Basescu resign.

The numbers were expected to rise in the evening and analysts predicted more protests but did not see them affecting the austerity measures passed by the ruling coalition’s small but stable parliamentary majority.

The country had hitherto avoided the kind of violence that has shaken Greece and other indebted European states despite a 25 percent cut in public sector pay and five percentage point increase in VAT imposed in 2010 to maintain an IMF-led bailout. Continue reading

Greece: How do you spell “technocrat”? F-A-S-C-I-S-T

Austerity And Fascism In Greece – The Real 1% Doctrine

By Mark Ames, CounterCurrents.org

"Hammer" in an earlier time

The new Minister of Infrastructure, Makis "Hammer" Voridis in an earlier time

25 November, 2011

See the guy in the photo there, dangling an ax from his left hand? That’s Greece’s new “Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks” Makis Voridis captured back in the 1980s, when he led a fascist student group called “Student Alternative” at the University of Athens law school. It’s 1985, and Minister Voridis, dressed like some Kajagoogoo Nazi, is caught on camera patrolling the campus with his fellow fascists, hunting for suspected leftist students to bash. Voridis was booted out of law school that year, and sued by Greece’s National Association of Students for taking part in violent attacks on non-fascist law students.

With all the propaganda we’ve been fed about Greece’s new “austerity” government being staffed by non-ideological “technocrats,” it may come as a surprise that fascists are now considered “technocrats” to the mainstream media and Western banking interests. Then again, history shows that fascists have always been favored by the 1-percenters to deliver the austerity medicine.

This rather disturbing definition of what counts as “non-ideological” or “technocratic” in 2011 is something most folks are trying hard to ignore, which might explain why there’s been almost nothing about how Greece’s new EU-imposed austerity government includes neo-Nazis from the LAOS Party (LAOS is the acronym for Greece’s fascist political party, not the Southeast Asian paradise).

Which brings me back to the new Minister of Infrastructure, Makis Voridis. Before he was an ax-wielding law student, Voridis led another fascist youth group that supported the jailed leader of Greece’s 1967 military coup. Greece has been down this fascism route before, all under the guise of saving the nation and complaints about alleged parliamentary weakness. In 1967, the military overthrew democracy, imposed a fascist junta, jailed and tortured suspected leftist dissidents, and ran the country into the ground until the junta was overthrown by popular protest in 1974. Continue reading

Greece: workers blockade state electricity sites

(AP)  ATHENS, Greece — Protesting power and municipal workers blockaded several state electricity company buildings around Greece Monday, in protest at an emergency property tax being collected through electricity bills.

Members of an electricity workers’ union cut off power last week to the Health Ministry for four hours, and on Monday blocked the entrance to a site where power disconnection orders are issued.

Pharmacies also closed in greater Athens, demanding that state-assisted health insurers settle growing debts. On Tuesday, transport workers are to hold a four-hour stoppage to protest staff cuts. Continue reading

17 November: Greece braces for large protest rally in Athens

17 November 1973, at the Polytechnic, Athens

16 November 2011, BBC–Greece is bracing for a large rally to mark the anniversary of the student uprising in 1973 that helped bring down the country’s military dictatorship.The march is expected to be joined by protesters against planned austerity measures, which Greece must implement to tackle its growing debt crisis.

Some 7,000 policemen are being deployed in Athens amid fears that the rally may turn violent.

It comes a day after Greece’s interim government won a confidence vote.

The governing coalition of Lucas Papademos had a huge majority – 255 MPs voted in favour, and 38 against.

The technocratic government must approve a new bailout package and commit to reforms in order to secure the next instalment of an international loan. Continue reading

Greece: Strike wave builds toward 48 hours general strike

Greek strike wave grows ahead of austerity vote

ATHENS, Greece, October 17, 2011 – Greek railway workers and journalists joined ferry crews, garbage collectors, tax officials and lawyers on Tuesday in a strike blitz against yet more austerity measures required if the country is to avoid defaulting on its debts.

The protests will lead into a general strike over the coming two days, culminating on Thursday when Parliament holds a crucial vote on the new painful cutbacks that follow nearly two years of austerity. A similar strike before an austerity bill in June was accompanied by large protest marches which degenerated into street battles between rioters and police.

The highly unpopular new measures include further pension and salary cuts, the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants out of a total of more than 750,000 and the suspension of collective labor contracts. Continue reading

Crackdown in Spain

October 10, 2011
Wave of Arrests Sweeps Barcelona
by PETER GELDERLOOS, COUNTERPUNCH

The message went out to a thousand phones on Monday morning, the 3rd of October: the first of the arrests from the Parliament blockade had taken place. Four undercovers snatched him up as he left his house. A protest was called for the same day, at 7 o’clock in the evening, Plaça Catalunya. Two more arrests soon followed. The news quickly spread via telephone, internet, and word of mouth. Several meetings are called to share information and organize the response. By the time people started gathering in the hundreds for the protest, a fourth arrest had occurred.

Back in June, the popular rage that has been growing in Barcelona, in tandem with other parts of the world, coalesced once again as 200,000 people blockaded the Catalan Parliament in an attempt to prevent the passage of the latest austerity laws. These laws cannot accurately be called cutbacks, for in addition to slashing healthcare and education, they augment the ranks and arsenal of the police and continue the urbanization projects that tailor the city to the needs of tourism and social control.

This was not the first round of reforms to hit Catalunya, and in fact the Socialist Party was already voted out of power for inaugurating the crisis measures, so now it’s the conservatives’ turn to continue the same policies. Half of the people never voted for any of them, and an increasing number of these have been taking to the streets to win back control over their lives in an escalating series of strikes, protests, occupations, and popular assemblies that have spread across the Spanish state. The media and the academics have referred to this phenomenon as the movement of “indignados,” the “Real Democracy Now” movement, or the 15M movement, but in reality the feeling on the street is increasingly closer to rage than to simple indignation;  its politics are much more heterogeneous and in large part more anticapitalist than a narrow, naïve call for a “real” democracy, whatever that means; and the activity ascribed to it predates the 15M—or 15th of May—plaza occupations. Threads of the ongoing defiance run continuously back through the joyful Mayday riots in the wealthy neighborhood of Sarrià, the January 27 general strike that was called only by anarcho-syndicalist and far-left minority unions, in an unprecedented move demonstrating a new boldness, the September 29 general strike that reached massive proportions on a countrywide level and in Barcelona erupted in a daylong insurrection, which itself evoked references to and drew on experiences from an entire history of struggle against dictatorship and against the democracy that replaced it, a struggle that not everyone has forgotten.

On June 15, for the first time in much too long, politicians remembered the taste of fear as people blocked their path and harangued them, assailed them with insults, spat on them, threw trash, and in at least one case, attacked them with spraypaint. Many lawmakers had to be flown in by helicopter, and only in the face of undeniable public opposition and with the help of an army of riot police were they able to pass the reforms. For at least one day, the lies of democracy were put in their place, and the curtain masking the reality of social war was parted. Continue reading

Protests turn violent in central Athens

October 6, 2011
More than 30,000 public sector workers demonstrated in Greece in a strike against deeper austerity cuts that closed courts, schools and transport, including air transport.

Police clashed with demonstrators during a protest rally marking a 24-hour general strike on Wednesday in Athens.

By Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star
ATHENS—The menacing black-clad anarchist, who had just hurled rocks at riot squad cops, ducked exploding tear gas canisters and been chased through the streets with a police dog nipping at his heels, lowers the bandana from his face.

He’s 19: Economics student at the University of Athens, son of a taxi driver father and hospital food worker mother, part-time fitness instructor, despondent about his future, furious and frightened.

“My heart is beating so fast, I can hardly breathe.”

The stick in his hands seems such a feeble weapon of rage.

Sticks, stones, chunks of concrete, Molotov cocktails — this is the arsenal that some of Greece’s youth have brought to the barricades against a powerful state. A generation ago, their parents toppled a military junta. Protest is in their bones, a legacy. Continue reading

General strike brings Greece to a standstill as public sector closes down

Protesters flood into streets of Athens

in Athens

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 5 October 2011

Greeks protesting in Athens over the austerity measures. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex Features

Greece edged deeper into chaos as workers brought the country to a standstill with a general strike.

The closure of the entire public sector – from schools to hospitals to government offices – left Athens airport looking like a ghost town and kept museums and archaeological sites shut.

Anger was evident on the faces of the protesters who flooded into the streets. “We have no work, we have no money,” they screamed, denouncing the EU and IMF which have propped up the near-bankrupt Greek economy with rescue funds. “Erase the debt! Let the rich pay. There will, there can, be no more sacrifices.”

Nearly two years after Europe‘s great debt crisis erupted beneath the Acropolis, the people on its frontline have clearly had enough. An austerity programme that has begun to resemble a bad dream of relentless wage cuts, tax increases, price rises and pension drops has crushed the middle class and sent poverty levels soaring.

Wednesday’s demonstrations, the biggest anti-austerity protest since June, were the “beginning of a battle” to eradicate further emergency belt-tightening measures announced last month.

“The government is behaving as if it has a pistol to its head,” said Stathis Anestis, a spokesman for the Confederation of Greek Unions. “It is not just that it is the poor who are forced to carry the burden of this barrage of measures,” he insisted, denouncing the terms of the €110bn (£95bn) bailout Greece received from the EU and IMF in May last year.

“It’s not just that all our hard-earned rights are being peeled away. It is that we wake up every day to another cut, another tax, another pay rise. No one can keep up!” Continue reading

Reuters reports September 3rd peaceful protests against a confident government in Greece

Greek TV, however, showed the police violence against the demonstration

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Reuters: Greek PM rules out snap polls, protesters are back

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS | Sat Sep 3, 2011 9:31pm BST

(Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Saturday ruled out snap elections and said his government would succeed in bringing Greece out of the crisis by the end of his term in 2013.

Thousands of demonstrators returned to the central Athens for the first time after the summer to protest against unpopular austerity measures in exchange for more EU/IMF funds on the day the ruling socialist party met to mark its 37th anniversary.

“Citizens will judge us in 2013,” Papandreou told a party conference. “By then, we will have achieved bringing Greece out of the crisis and will have completed so many and important reforms.”

But three opinion polls published in Sunday newspapers showed the main conservative opposition New Democracy party had widened its lead by 0.6-5.1 percentage points over the Socialist government, which has seen its popularity wane as austerity bites. Continue reading