Posts Tagged ‘neoliberal’
On May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, 2010, 200,000 people took to the streets in Athens in a general strike.
First, the background, then the May 5th update…
After the Greek Riots
A few bullets fired by a cop and a kid lying dead on the street. Cities burn for weeks. For the spectacle-hungry media machine, the story begins and ends here. All else, before and after, is void.
Follow the corporate media and the Greek revolt died a long, long time ago. What’s happening in Greece at the moment? What’s the revolt’s legacy, where did all that energy go? Why should you care, screams the media machine, haven’t you heard? The revolt has died. And, even more importantly, The King is dead!
Back on the ground, of course, the revolt is far from dead. Its legacy is very much alive, getting inscribed deeper day after day. The police, having ridden itself from the burden of neutrality, can openly cooperate with fascist thugs, who feel confident enough to throw molotov cocktails against demonstrators in solidarity with undocumented migrants (Athens, July 8). Undocumented migrants, in turn, are explicitly the aim of the most recent wave of state repression: “First we’ll go for the migrants, then for the anarchists”, as the minister of public order so eloquently put it. Even he seems to be unable to catch up with the events: the only December demonstrator still in prison is held (still without trial) precisely because he is an anarchist and therefore consists “a threat to democracy” (wording of the court of misdemeanours, Athens, July 8).
The greek state seems conscious in that it cannot take another revolt of the size of December’s – and determined in not allowing this to happen.
Under this wave of repression, solidarity links are more important than ever. Armed with the experience of December, with the certainty that the return to normality is not option. Armed with a belief in a more just world – and not much else. Democracy has chosen its enemies: The migrants, the anarchists, all the outsiders unable or unwilling to fall back in line.
Having reported on December’s revolt and its immediate aftermath, this blog will now go on to cover everyday life in Greece as it is today. Expect eye-witness reports from everyday struggles, from the demonstrations in Athens (mostly) and in other cities across the country. Reports on the hunger strike of Thodoros Iliopoulos, the last prisoner of the revolt.
Please don’t expect any “impartial” reports (as if these could ever exist). This is an anarchist take on the situation in the country. A democracy that wages war on migrants and anarchists; a democracy armed with fascist thugs, with molotov cocktails and hand grenades; a democracy producing the silent death of the concentration camp (a silence reproduced and amplified by the media machine) is a democracy worth fighting against. Let’s make some noise.
(below is the “about” section of this blog as it went live on December 8, 2008 – two days after Alexis’ assassination).
On the night of December 6th, police shot 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in cold blood in the Eksarhia district of Athens. Since that night, Athens and tens of other greek cities have been burning.
On the same night, up to 10,000 people took the streets of Athens on a spontaneous demonstration, burning and smashing banks, ministries and multinational shops. Ever since, tension has been increasingly escalating: universities are occupied, as are most of the high schools in the country. Barricades are being put up around Athens; clashes with the police are constant.
On Tuesday, 9.12, the funeral of Alexandros is taking place and a general strike is called for Wednesday the 10th – a day both sides are building up for.
The purpose of this blog is to provide up-to-date information on the Greek riots, directly from the streets. Authors are contributing from the Greek cities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras.
The updates will be irregular and as frequent as permitted, given the circumstances. The updates will be mostly text-based. Confirmed reports will be presented as such – and so will rumours. We are not journalists and we are not objective; we chose sides in the social war a while ago.
In memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
The struggle of humanity against authority, as always, continues.
May 6, 2010 update
The statement below was issued a few hours ago by the anarchist squat of Skaramanga and Patision in Athens.
The murderers “mourn” their victims
(Regarding today’s tragic death of 3 people)
The enormous strike demonstration which took place today, 5th of May turned into a social outflow of rage. At least 200,000 people of all ages took to the streets (employees and unemployed, in the public and private sector, locals and migrants) attempting, over many hours and in consecutive waves, to surround and to take over the Parliament. The forces of repression came out in full force, to play their familiar role – that is, of the protection of the political and financial authorities. The clashes were hours long and extensive. The political system and its institutions reached a nadir.
However, in the midst of all this, a tragic event that no words can possibly describe took place: 3 people died from infusions at the branch of Marfin Bank on Stadiou Avenue, which was set ablaze.
The state and the entire journalistic riff-raff, without any shame toward the dead or their close ones, spoke from the very first moment about some “murderer-hooded up youths”, trying to take advantage of the event, in order to calm the wave of social rage that had erupted and to recover their authority that had been torn apart; to impose once again a police occupation of the streets, to wipe out sources of social resistance and disobedience against state terrorism and capitalist barbarity. For this reason, during the last few hours the police forces have been marching through the center of Athens, they have conducted hundreds of detentions and they raided – with shootings and stun-grenades – the anarchist occupation “space of united multiform action” on Zaimi street and the “migrant haunt” on Tsamadou Street, causing extensive damage (both these places are in the Exarcheia neighbourhood of Athens). At the same time the threat of a violent police eviction is hanging over the rest of the self-organised spaces (occupations and haunts) after the Prime-ministerial speech which referred to soon-to-come raids for the arrest of the “murderers”.
The governors, governmental officials, their political personnel, the TV-mouthpieces and the salaried hack writers attempt in this way to purify their regime and the criminalise the anarchists and every unpatronised voice of struggle. As if there would ever be the slightest of chances that whoever attacked the bank (provided the official scenario stands) would possibly know there were people inside, and that they would torch it alight regardless. They seem to confuse the people in struggle for themselves: them who without any hesitation hand over the entire society to the deepest pillage and enslaving, who order their praetorians to attack without hesitation and to aim and shoot to kill, them who have lead three people to suicide in the past week alone, due to financial debts. [NOTE: THIS IS AN IMPORTANT POINT. Politicos and corporate CEOs think everyone is like they are: willing to kill for an agenda…. Theirs is the lowest motive possible: avarice. They simply cannot imagine anyone risking their lives or livelihoods for an altruistic goal, such as peace or justice].
The truth is that the real murderer, the real instigator of today’s tragic death of 3 people is “mister” Vgenopoulos, who used the usual employers’ blackmailing (the threat of sacking) and forced his employees to work in the branches of his bank during a day of strike – and even in a branch like the one of Stadiou Avenue, where the strike’s demonstration would pass through. Such blackmailing is known only too well by anyone experiencing the terrorism of salaried slavery on an everyday level. We are awaiting to see what excuses Vgenopoulos will come up with for the relatives of the victims and for the society as a whole – this ultra-capitalist now hinted by some centers of power as the next prime minister in a future “national unity government” that could follow the expected, complete collapse of the political system.
If an unprecedented strike can ever be a murderer…
If an unprecedented demonstration, in an unprecedented crisis, can ever be a murderer…
If open social spaces that are alive and public can ever be murderers…
If the state can impose a curfew and attack demonstrators under the pretext of arresting murderers…
If Vgenopoulos can detain his employees inside a bank – that is, a primary social enemy and target for demonstrators…
…it is because authority, this serial murderer, wants to slaughter upon its birth a revolt which questions the supposed solution of an even harsher attack on society, of an even larger pillage by capital, of an even thirstier sucking of our blood.
…it is because the future of the revolt does not include politicians and bosses, police and mass media.
… it is because behind their much-advertised “only” solution, there is a solution that does not speak of development rates and unemployment but rather, it speaks of solidarity, self-organising and human relationships.
When asking who are the murderers of life, of freedom, of dignity, the ferments of authority and capital, they and their tuft hunters only need to take a look at their own selves. Today and every day.
HANDS OFF FREE SOCIAL SPACES
IT IS THE STATE AND THE CAPITALISTS WHO ARE THE MURDERERS, TERRORISTS AND CRIMINALS
EVERYONE TO THE STREETS
from the open assembly of the evening of 5/5/2010
______________________ China Rose’s Comment _____________________
No one involved in the general strike action wanted to kill bystanders. The purpose of anarchism is to take actions to save lives by fighting for social change. The bank management knew that. They also knew that the bank should have been shut down, and that if their employees got hurt, anarchists would be blamed. Can anyone doubt that they are capable of deliberately putting their employees in harm’s way, of being willing to sacrifice their employees lives? Particularly for a political message? EMPLOYERS do this EVERY DAY. This is the nature of capitalism.
Two examples: Look at Massey Energy and BP in the US.
Massey Energy was cited for mine safety violations continuously. They sneered at the regulations, and refused to put safety controls in place. They didn’t give a DAMN about the lives of their faithful employees. Now, over 30 miners are dead, suffocated or burned to death underground.
BP operated an offshore drilling rig without adhering to safety standards or preparing for the possibility of an oil spill. When the rig blew up, their employees were blown to bits. People’s lives throughout the entire Gulf region have been ruined, along with a precious ecosystem and all its animals. The suffering caused by this massive oil spill is beyond measure.
These corporations — and ALL corporations — refuse to even protect their own employees. They are victimizing entire regions for ugly profit. Every day. They lie, cheat, connive, manipulate, steal and kill — for profit. They are the world’s greatest criminal syndicates, and banks enable them to thrive. Banks are parasites that feed off the work and sweat of everyday people. They will do anything to stop journalists, whistleblowers or activists who are becoming too effective. They murder with impunity — regularly. That is what corporations DO. That’s what the state does.
The state’s job is to protect and defend corporations. They’ll dispatch police and military by the tens of thousands to enforce corporate rape and plunder. They’ll rob and kill their owns citizens to perpetuate corporate dominance and murder innocent people in other countries by the millions to expand their empires.
BANKS AND CORPORATIONS — and their GOVERNMENT FLUNKIES AND WHORES KILLED THOSE 3 BANK EMPLOYEES. They will continue to kill UNLESS STOPPED.
Haiti: A Creditor, Not a Debtor
By Naomi Klein, The Nation, February 11, 2010
If we are to believe the G-7 finance ministers, Haiti is on its way to getting something it has deserved for a very long time: full “forgiveness” of its foreign debt. In Port-au-Prince, Haitian economist Camille Chalmers has been watching these developments with cautious optimism. Debt cancellation is a good start, he told Al Jazeera English, but “It’s time to go much further. We have to talk about reparations and restitution for the devastating consequences of debt.” In this telling, the whole idea that Haiti is a debtor needs to be abandoned. Haiti, he argues, is a creditor—and it is we, in the West, who are deeply in arrears.
Our debt to Haiti stems from four main sources: slavery, the US occupation, dictatorship and climate change. These claims are not fantastical, nor are they merely rhetorical. They rest on multiple violations of legal norms and agreements. Here, far too briefly, are highlights of the Haiti case.
§ The Slavery Debt. When Haitians won their independence from France in 1804, they would have had every right to claim reparations from the powers that had profited from three centuries of stolen labor. France, however, was convinced that it was Haitians who had stolen the property of slave owners by refusing to work for free. So in 1825, with a flotilla of war ships stationed off the Haitian coast threatening to re-enslave the former colony, King Charles X came to collect: 90 million gold francs–ten times Haiti’s annual revenue at the time. With no way to refuse, and no way to pay, the young nation was shackled to a debt that would take 122 years to pay off.
In 2003, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, facing a crippling economic embargo, announced that Haiti would sue the French government over that long-ago heist. “Our argument,” Aristide’s former lawyer Ira Kurzban told me, “was that the contract was an invalid agreement because it was based on the threat of re-enslavement at a time when the international community regarded slavery as an evil.” The French government was sufficiently concerned that it sent a mediator to Port-au-Prince to keep the case out of court. In the end, however, its problem was eliminated: while trial preparations were under way, Aristide was toppled from power. The lawsuit disappeared, but for many Haitians the reparations claim lives on.
§ The Dictatorship Debt. From 1957 to 1986, Haiti was ruled by the defiantly kleptocratic Duvalier regime. Unlike the French debt, the case against the Duvaliers made it into several courts, which traced Haitian funds to an elaborate network of Swiss bank accounts and lavish properties. In 1988 Kurzban won a landmark suit against Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier when a US District Court in Miami found that the deposed ruler had “misappropriated more than $504,000,000 from public monies.”
Haitians, of course, are still waiting for their payback–but that was only the beginning of their losses. For more than two decades, the country’s creditors insisted that Haitians honor the huge debts incurred by the Duvaliers, estimated at $844 million, much of it owed to institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. In debt service alone, Haitians have paid out tens of millions every year.
Was it legal for foreign lenders to collect on the Duvalier debts when so much of it was never spent in Haiti? Very likely not. As Cephas Lumina, the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt, put it to me, “the case of Haiti is one of the best examples of odious debt in the world. On that basis alone the debt should be unconditionally canceled.”
But even if Haiti does see full debt cancellation (a big if), that does not extinguish its right to be compensated for illegal debts already collected.
§ The Climate Debt. Championed by several developing countries at the climate summit in Copenhagen, the case for climate debt is straightforward. Wealthy countries that have so spectacularly failed to address the climate crisis they caused owe a debt to the developing countries that have done little to cause the crisis but are disproportionately facing its effects. In short: the polluter pays. Haiti has a particularly compelling claim. Its contribution to climate change has been negligible; Haiti’s per capita CO2 emissions are just 1 percent of US emissions. Yet Haiti is among the hardest hit countries—according to one index, only Somalia is more vulnerable to climate change.
Haiti’s vulnerability to climate change is not only—or even mostly—because of geography. Yes, it faces increasingly heavy storms. But it is Haiti’s weak infrastructure that turns challenges into disasters and disasters into full-fledged catastrophes. The earthquake, though not linked to climate change, is a prime example. And this is where all those illegal debt payments may yet extract their most devastating cost. Each payment to a foreign creditor was money not spent on a road, a school, an electrical line. And that same illegitimate debt empowered the IMF and World Bank to attach onerous conditions to each new loan, requiring Haiti to deregulate its economy and slash its public sector still further. Failure to comply was met with a punishing aid embargo from 2001 to ’04, the death knell to Haiti’s public sphere.
This history needs to be confronted now, because it threatens to repeat itself. Haiti’s creditors are already using the desperate need for earthquake aid to push for a fivefold increase in garment-sector production, some of the most exploitative jobs in the country. Haitians have no status in these talks, because they are regarded as passive recipients of aid, not full and dignified participants in a process of redress and restitution.
A reckoning with the debts the world owes to Haiti would radically change this poisonous dynamic. This is where the real road to repair begins: by recognizing the right of Haitians to reparations.
[And we’re not even mentioning HAARP here…]
Haiti: The Politics of Rebuilding
18 January 2010
The Obama administration has announced that former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will head the fundraising for relief efforts in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. In his radio speech Saturday, Obama declared: “These two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and the world. In a moment of need, the United States stands united.”
The message of the Clinton-Bush appointment is indeed significant, but hardly what the White House and the American media have suggested. In selecting his two immediate predecessors, those who have set US policy in the Caribbean since 1993, Obama demonstrates that the devastating human tragedy in Haiti will not bring any alteration in the rapacious role of US imperialism in that impoverished semi-colonial country.
For eight years apiece, Clinton and Bush were directly and deeply involved in a series of political machinations and military interventions that have played a major role in perpetuating the poverty, backwardness and repression in Haiti that have vastly compounded by the disaster that struck that country last Tuesday. Both men have the blood of Haitian workers and peasants on their hands.
Clinton took office in the immediate aftermath of the military coup which ousted Haiti’s first democratically elected president, the populist cleric Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That coup was backed by the administration of Bush’s father, who saw Aristide as an unwanted and potentially dangerous radical.
The new Democratic Party administration undertook a tactical shift in policy. Clinton imposed economic sanctions on the Haitian junta, which destroyed Haiti’s fledgling export industries, then dispatched the Marines to Haiti—for the third time in the 20th century—to compel Gen. Raoul Cedras, the junta leader, to depart. The US restored Aristide to the presidency, after he had given assurances that he would do nothing to challenge the domination of either Washington or the native Haitian elite, and that he would leave office in 1996 without seeking reelection.
After Aristide obediently left office on schedule, he was succeeded by René Préval, who served the first of his two terms as president from 1996 to 2001, carrying out the dictates of an International Monetary Fund “structural adjustment” program that slashed employment, cut public services, and ruined domestic rice farmers.
When Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party won a clear victory in May 2000 legislative elections, the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress refused to accept the election and cut off US aid. Aristide himself returned to the presidency after winning a landslide election victory in November 2000, only to face an implacable enemy in the incoming Bush administration.
For three years, Haiti was systematically starved by the US aid cutoff and measures taken by the Bush administration to block international aid and isolate the Aristide government. Finally, in February 2004, amid protests fomented by the Haitian ruling elite with covert American backing, the US military again intervened in the country, seizing Aristide and shipping him out of the country to exile.
The Marines turned over effective control of the country to a United Nations peacekeeping force, with Brazil providing the biggest troop contingent, propping up a series of unelected Haitian prime ministers until elections in 2006, from which candidates of Fanmi Lavalas were largely excluded. René Préval was elected president for the second time, in a term scheduled to end late this year. Once a supporter and professed political “twin” of Aristide, Préval has long since made his peace with both Washington and the Haitian ruling elite, and his second term has been characterized by slavish subservience to the economic prescriptions of Wall Street and the International Monetary Fund.
Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, US demands for adherence to IMF austerity policies were combined with a vicious program of repression against Haitians fleeing the country of their birth to seek refuge and a better life in the United States. In his first campaign for the presidency, in 1992, Clinton criticized the persecution and forced repatriation of Haitian refugees, only to reverse himself and continue those policies unaltered. For the next 17 years—and continuing with no change from Obama—hundreds of refugees have died in small boats seeking to evade the US Coast Guard blockade.
Most recently, Clinton has been the official UN envoy for Haiti, backing the corrupt Préval regime and seeking to develop Haiti as a base for a profitable US-run garment industry founded on near-starvation wages. Food riots swept the country in April 2008, but that did not stop Préval from blocking legislation that would have raised the minimum wage of $1.72 a day for workers in the garment factories.
As for George W. Bush, his selection as co-leader of a supposed humanitarian campaign is an insult to the people of both Haiti and the United States. His appointment by Obama is in keeping with the Democratic president’s unflagging efforts since his election, the result of popular hatred of Bush and his party, to rehabilitate the Republicans.
An unapologetic war criminal who is responsible for the slaughter of a million Iraqis, Bush’s signature domestic “achievement” was the abject failure of the US government either to prevent the devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in Hurricane Katrina, or to mount an effective relief and recovery effort afterwards.
This is the record of the two men whom Barack Obama has selected as the public face of the latest US initiative in Haiti. Bush and Clinton made a series of media appearances over the weekend, including interviews on all five Sunday television news programs, during which they emphasized the need to restore “stability” to Haiti, and the important role that the United States would have to play in that effort.
Bush and Clinton personify the pernicious and reactionary role that American imperialism has played in Haiti for the last century. It is no exaggeration to say that the policies of their administrations have caused as much death and devastation in that country as last Tuesday’s earthquake.