Party politics offer no solution for the Greeks
“I just received two blows from the tax office. Eight hundred euros for something called ‘solidarity tax’ and another hundred euros for ‘business activity’ – they mean the shop I have rented out to a hairdresser. Not to mention the property tax I am expecting any moment. He is trying to scare us so that we pay, [saying that we will] otherwise become like Argentina. But Kirchner told them: ‘Get lost. We are not paying,’” my 80-year-old aunt screamed to me on the other end of the line. She was referring to the comments by Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek economy minister, that if Greeks did not implement the tough measures imposed on them by their creditors, i.e., the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank, Greece would end up like Argentina did in the late 1990s.
A relatively well-off widow with a high pension from her engineer husband and a relatively comfortable life, she is now seeing her household budget turned upside down. Once an active member of the feminist movement consisting of housewives and professional women in the early 1980s in Greece, my aunt is now experiencing shock from the collapse of many of the rights she fought for in the early socialist years of the original PASOK, the party of Andreas Papandreou, the father of Greece’s present prime minister.
Not that she was ever a voter of his party. Performing an impressive ideological shift characteristic of many of her generation, she abandoned her ultra-conservative views inherited from her father to follow her leftist husband into the ideological pirouettes of the pro-European Greek left which broke away from the traditional communist Greek left in the 1980s. She has remained in her new ideological home since then and has even brought in her two daughters.
My aunt, like the majority of pensioners in Greece, is facing the real prospect of not being able to cope under the new dire financial circumstances. The avalanche of new taxes, reductions in salaries and pensions has brought society to a near psychological paralysis. The figures are nightmarish. In spite of the efforts by the Greek government to control the slide of the economy and put its house in order, according to a memorandum signed with the IMF, state revenues fell from 32.8 billion euros to 31 billion euros at the beginning of the year. State expenses rose from 43.5 billion euros in 2010 to 47.9 billion euros this year, while the state deficit also jumped from 15.7 billion euros last year to 18.6 so far this year.
Registered unemployment is approaching 1 million people in a country of approximately 10 million while employees in the public and private sector will have to sacrifice one or two salaries to pay their new taxes, let alone having to deal with unemployment, which is hanging like the Sword of Damocles above both. According to figures published Monday, 600,000 people are trying to refinance their loans while 11-12 percent of loans are not being serviced. A 50 percent drop in family income is expected this winter.
One would have thought that such a picture would have been the bread and butter of the Greek left, which has a long history of social struggle and a relatively clean past. But the latest polls show that even in this destitute state, the Greeks do not see the leftist rhetoric as an answer to their problems. Now broken into at least three pieces, the traditional communist KKE (8 percent), SYRIZA (5 percent) and the Democratic Left (2.5 percent), the Greek left is still unable to articulate a convincing proposal to get Greece out of this crisis. This becomes even more striking when 30 percent of the respondents in Monday’s polls cannot decide which party to vote for.
My aunt, as well as many others, blames the leader of the KKE for blocking the historical opportunity for the Greek left to reunite and put up resistance to the neoliberal plans to destroy the working class. The KKE predicts a complete catastrophe in the Western world and keeps on repeating “We told you so,” but does not want to mix with the others of the same camp. Once again, the people on the street cannot look up to their country’s politicians – event to those parties whose ideologies seemingly supported the people’s interest.
More than ever, the average Greek feels alone and weak in the face of an imminent storm