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REPORT: GOLDEN DAWN, 1980-2012. THE NEONAZIS’ ROAD TO PARLIAMENT

by Augustine Zenakos on October 25, 2012

original here

425.000 Greek voters sided with a neonazi political party in the last election. Though Golden Dawn is implicated in a surge of violent attacks, and while its views range from the ridiculous to the downright racist, its popularity is rising by the day. What exactly is Golden Dawn, where does it come from, what is its true nature? What is the extent of their relationship to the police? And who are the people that vote for them?

Golden Dawn storm troopers in the city of Corinth

“The political party of the crisis par excellence”. This is how Golden Dawn is described by Efthymis Papavlassopoulos, a political scientist and pollster.  And Christophoros Vernardakis, another political scientist and pollster, says: “It is the only political party that is clearly rising in popularity”.[1]

In response to this rising popularity, the principals of Golden Dawn have made some effort recently to disguise the nature of their party. Especially after their electoral successes, they have attempted through a series of public statements to pass their organization off as a “nationalist” party that is honestly interested in the well being of Greek citizens and has taken up the struggle against the austerity policies imposed by the Greek governments at the behest of the troika.

They are not being truthful in the least: Golden Dawn is a neonazi organization, upgraded to a crowd-pleasing political party by riding on the wave of popular discontent with the established political system. Like their original source of inspiration –the German nazis– the neonazis of Golden Dawn have held views as varied as they are laughable, including mystical beliefs in the ancient Greek god Pan and other gods of Mount Olympus, as well as satanist beliefs dressed up in the theatrics of Black Metal music. They have also subscribed to wildly irrational or conspiratorial views, such as that the once no2 in the German nazi party Rudolph Hess was of Greek descent, or that Adolph Hitler roamed the streets of Berlin for forty days after his apparent suicide, only to ascend to the heavens at the end.

Unfortunately, again like their source of inspiration, they can by no means be dismissed as plain charlatans, though charlatans they certainly are. In addition, however, Golden Dawn is responsible for a web of intimidation and fear that is ever intensifying, and its members have been repeatedly connected –though few of them convicted– with assaults, racial violence, beatings, extortion, and attempted murder.

TIES TO THE COLONEL’S JUNTA

Nikos Michaloliakos giving the nazi salute at Golden Dawn youth rally

The magazine Golden Dawn was first published by Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s General Secretary, in 1980. Its publication was suspended briefly in 1983 and resumed in 1984. Even long before that, however, the views of the publisher were hardly unknown: in 1973, at the age of 16, Nikos Michaloliakos became a member of the “August 4th” political party, named after the August 4th 1936 coup that established the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas. The August 4th party had been founded in 1969 by the neonazi “theorist” Konstantinos Plevris, known for literary feats such as Jews: The Whole Truth. In 1976 Nikos Michaloliakos was arrested for assaulting journalists who were covering the funeral of Evangelos Mallios, a notorious torturer of the Colonels’ junta, assassinated by terrorist group “17th November”. He was also arrested in 1978 and sentenced to a year in prison for being a member of an extremist Far-Right group and for possession of explosives.

In 1984, Nikos Michaloliakos became leader of the youth organization of EPEN (National Political Union), another fascist party, this one openly nostalgic of the dictators that governed Greece between 1967 and 1974, known as the “Colonels”.[2] Michaloliakos himself has expressed his pride in the fact that he was appointed to this position on the order of the leader of the Colonels himself, Giorgos Papadopoulos, who by then had been sentenced to life in prison.

The “National Popular Movement Golden Dawn” (later, “Popular Association Golden Dawn”) was founded in 1985, but its exploits intensified after 1993, when it began organizing protests over the issue of Macedonia, aka the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Nikos Michaloliakos bears the title of General Secretary, though members refer to him as the “leader”.

In December 2005, the “leader” announced that Golden Dawn would cease operating autonomously, and would form part of the nationalist Patriotic Alliance party, which he founded. It was a first effort at blurring the organization’s neonazi character. It didn’t work. In March 2007, Golden Dawn withdrew its support, and Patriotic Alliance faded out of the picture. Golden Dawn’s 6th political convention took place in the same month.

AN UNPRECEDENTED RISE

In the Athens municipal elections in 2010, Nikos Michaloliakos is elected in the municipal council. If there was ever doubt as to whether his organization had abandoned its neonazi views, they quickly disappear: at the end of a council session, the Golden Dawn leader gives everyone the nazi salute.

Despite this, the Greek mainstream Media are not eager to delve into Michaloliakos’s murky past, even when a document surfaces, in which the leader of Golden Dawn appears to have been on the clandestine payroll of KYP (State Service of Intelligence, later EYP, “National”, the Greek Intelligence Service) in 1981. According to the document, his monthly salary was 120.000 drachmas. Michaloliakos has denied this and has claimed the document to be a fake.

Golden Dawn appears in national polling in November 2011 at 1% nationwide. The followning spring, according to political scientist Efthymis Papavlassopoulos there comes a crucial moment: Illegal immigration is focused on by the Media, which present it as the first and foremost threat that Greece is faced with.

Golden Dawn rally at Thermopylae

In the beginning of 2012, Golden Dawn begins to be presented by the Media as a counterpoint to SYRIZA, the left coalition party, which at the time is also rising in popularity. Golden Dawn seizes the opportunity and steps up its rhetoric condemning the governments pro-austerity policies. But, in contrast to SYRIZA, it also has a vehemently racist anti-immigrant side to its rhetoric. The government responds by stepping up its anti-immigrant police action, even opening concentration camps for illegal immigrants. But Golden Dawn still offers up the more “authentic” version: it speaks of Greece as a place for those with “Greek blood”. In the following months it will give out food to the poor, but only if they can prove their “Greekness”, and it will set up a blood bank, with “Greek blood only”.

In the national elections of June 2012, Golden Dawn gets an uprecedented 6,92% of the vote, and secures 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek Parliament.

Golden Dawn poses as “anti-systemic”, but its party program does not bear this out. There is no concrete opposition to the dominant paradigm: the party is certainly not anti-capitalist. Its rhetoric is vague, full of attacks on “thieves”, “banks”, and “corrupt politicians”, and exclamations about Greece’s “huge strategic depth”, through which the country can acquire “inexhaustible power and international influence”. The party’s proposal for economic recovery is drilling for oil. About the only concrete thing in the party program is what to do with immigration, a subject where proposals do take on a ghastly specificity: Golden Dawn proposes to reinstall the anti-personnel landmine fields on the Greek borders – a criminal weapon, banned by the Ottawa Treaty, which Greece has of course signed.[3]

OLYMPIAN GREATNESS

Golden Dawn magazine covers, May-June 2007 and July 2006

Browsing through Golden Dawn magazine, it is difficult to keep a straight face. In its pages, one finds gems such as: “Is the great god Pan dead? The racial soul answers: NO”…[4] The text is signed by the “leader” Nikos Michaloliakos himself, who also asserts that “the Renaissance of Hellenism means a return to the Models of the Olympian Gods, with which our ancestors achieved greatness”.

There other great finds also, such as the story of Rudolf Hess’s Greek ancestry or the story of the resurrected Hitler roaming around Berlin for 40 days. But nostalgia for Hitler and nazism is not all in the sphere of naive metaphysics. There are titles such as: “May 1945 – May 2005. We have nothing to celebrate”.[5] On the contrary, one reads, in a text bemoaning the defeat of the Nazis in World War 2, the “[real] winner is the young fighter of the Hitlerjugend, who fell fighting in destroyed Berlin. The soldier of the Wermacht and the Waffen SS, against the forces of nature and the forces of the enemy”.

TIES TO INTERNATIONAL FASCISM

Nikos Michaloliakos speaks at Forza Nuova rally

Golden Dawn has paraded its neonazi beliefs in other ways: In May 2005, for instance, it joined the German neonazi party NPD in Berlin in a ceremony paying respect to Hitler, on the anniversary of the defeat of nazism. And in 2010, Nikos Michaloliakos addressed the audience in a gathering of the Italian neofascist party Forza Nuova.

It is curious, of course, how a Greek political party that claims to be “patriotic” can at the same time be nostalgic of Hitler and mingle with Italian neofascists, given that in Greece Italy’s defeat by the Greek Army in the Albanian front, as well as fierce resistance to the nazis throughout the occupation, remain a major source of national pride. Coupled with the aforementioned views on the Olympian Gods, such beliefs might tempt one to dismiss these people as buffoons and turn away laughing; but their laughter would be cut short.

“WE, THE STRONG, WILL CRUSH YOU LIKE WORMS”

“We want to create”, Nikos Michaloliakos has said, “a fighting guard that will punish traitors at the crucial time”. And Yiorgos Mastoras, a member of the organization, has put it in even clearer terms: “It is time for you to understand that the streets now belong completely to us, without a hint of retreat. You can change your mind and walk on our path, on the road of Nature, Power, and Human History. Do it, or else vanish from our sight, because WE, the Strong, will crush you like worms”.

They mean every word: “[The accused Antonis Androutsopoulos or Periandros is unanimously pronounced guilty of the following:] That on 16.6.1998 and at approximately 5.15pm in Athens […], acting with approximately another nine persons, members like himself of the organization Golden Dawn […], having resolved to commit the felony of premeditated murder, attempted an act that involved at least the initiation of this crime, that is having decided to kill Dimitrios Kousouris, […] did attack him with wooden clubs held by the accused and the other accomplices, and inflicted with terrifying violence and savagery multiple blows mainly on his head and on the rest of his body […]. They did not however succeed and did not complete their murderous purpose, due to causes external and independently of their own volition”.

Golden Dawn’s Periandros (left) & student Dimitris Kousouris after the attack

The above is the Supreme Court of Greece’s final ruling, upholding the conviction of Antonis Androutsopoulos, known by the nickname “Periandros”, for the attempted murder of student Dimitris Kousouris. Androutsopoulos was second in command of Golden Dawn at the time, Nikos Michaloliakos’s right-hand man. The incident that nearly cost Dimitris Kousouris his life began when members of Golden Dawn gathered at the Athens Courthouse, on June 16th 1998, to demonstrate their support for other members, who were to stand trial, and found themselves face to face with union workers and leftist students, who were there to support their own arrestees. Both groups started shouting at each other.

According to Androutsopoulos’s indictement, a little later he and other members of Golden Dawn spotted Dimitris Kousouris sitting with two of his comrades at a cafe, near the courthouse. They broke off the wooden fencing of a small park nearby, and armed with a wooden club each, they attacked them without warning. Kousouris, who was the most savagely hit, survided by sheer luck. They thought they had killed him.

Androutsopoulos has since been released from prison and has accused his former leader of lack of support, as well as betraying the ideals of the organization.

This, however, is only the most notorious incident among many. In January 1998, Alex Kalofolias, a member of Last Drive, a rock band, was attacked by three people. He was struck with an iron rod, and when he fell, they proceeded to smash his head on the sidewalk. Bystanders saw the attackers fleeing into Golden Dawn’s nearby party offices.

Attacks have never stopped, but are becoming almost a daily occurence, particularly in Athens.

THE MEDIA’S “SEXY” NEONAZI

The place of Antonis Androutsopoulos as the leader’s right hand man was filled in the last few years by Ilias Kasidiaris, who serves as the party’s spokesman and is a member of Parliament since last June. He achieved nationwide notoriety when he attacked two other members of Parliament – throwing a glass of water on Rena Dourou, an MP for SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), and striking Liana Kanneli, an MP for KKE (Greek Communist Party), in the face, while on a panel discussion on live TV. He was not arrested.

In what has become a trademark misinformation act by Golden Dawn, Kasidiaris has stated in a speech in Parliament, on September 20th: “Let everyone know that they should not speak of neonazism. For us, this is hubris. And criminal defamation”.

Ilias Kasidiaris lends his charm to an advert for White Aryan Resistance, in Golden Dawn’s youth magazine (July-August 2004)

Facts prove him less than truthful. Very recently, while Kasidiaris was already Golden Dawn’s spokesman, he wrote an article in Golden Dawn newspaper, on the occasion of the anniversary of Adolph Hitler’s birthday. Hitler, he wrote, was “a great social reformer and an organizer of a model state”. And this member of the Greek Parliament goes on to ask: What would have happened if “democracies”, by which he means “the Jews”, had not “broken the rejuvenating course of National Socialism”? His answer: “Romanticism as a spiritual movement and classicism would have overcome the decadent subculture that has eroded the white man”…[6]

However, despite Golden Dawn’s recent electoral success, not that many people read its paper. A great many people, on the other hand, read the mainstream newspapers, particularly the “yellower” ones, watch the gossipy TV shows, and listen to popular radio. And these Media’s attitude towards Golden Dawn’s number two man is, to say the least, peculiar: he has become the new “golden boy” of lifestyle shows and populist tabloids, which go on about whether women find him “sexy”, the fact that he still lives with his parents “because they are a close family”, whether he is romantically involved with a triple-jumber, who was disqualified in the Olympics due to a racist joke she made on twitter, whether or not he has paid 800 euros to get rid of his body hair, or he has done botox on his face, or why he abandoned tango, which was his first love before politics.

It will suffice to say that this type of “laundering” through Media banality does a lot more to blur the public’s perception of Golden Dawn’s criminal actions, than strenuous denials of neonazi beliefs in Parliament.

BATTLES FOR THE DOMINATION OF THE SIDEWALK

Ilias Kasidiaris sporting a t-shirt with Waffen SS insignia

But what of Ilias Kasidiaris’s true “lifestyle”? He has faithfully served Golden Dawn for over ten years, and he has repeatedly been linked with violent actions, what his leader Michaloliakos has termed “battles for the domination of the sidewalk”.

Born in Piraeus, he grew up in the Athens district of Aigaleo, where there have been immigrant communities, particularly of Iraqui refugees, since the early 1990s. A few years later, these communities become the target of systematic attacks by Far-Right racist extremists, with repeated beatings and arson.

Locals who grew up in the area have told us that they knew Ilias Kasidiaris at the time, and linked him to the attacks. They also said that on at least one occasion, some in these immigrant communities decided to resist, and Kasidiaris was badly beaten. They partly attribute his hatred of immigrants to this period in his past. And it is indeed tempting to connect this to another piece of information: that on the night of the national elections of May 6th, one of the ways for Golden Dawn to celebrate success was for an “order” to be given out for gangs to attack immigrants in the area of Aigaleo.

In October 2002, a band of Golden Dawn members were handing out flyers in the Technical University of Athens, when they saw some antifascist posters, and started tearing them up. Some students protested, and the Golden Dawn gang attacked them and stabbed one of them. Sources that were there at the time have told us that Ilias Kasidiaris was present.

His crowning achievement, for the moment, is that he is charged as an accessory to robbery, grievous bodily harm, and carrying and using an illegal weapon. According to what eyewitnesses say, his car was used as a getaway vehicle after an attack on a doctoral student in the Athens University campus. The attackers, after they beat up with clubs and stabbed the student, threw Golden Dawn flyers all around. Ilias Kasidiaris has said he was elsewhere at the time of the attack, and he has witnesses to prove it. The trial has been postponed several times.

“THEY KILLED ME. THEN GOD INTERVENED.”

Though attacks were taking place for decades, Golden Dawn began stepping up its violent anti-immigrant activity in 2011. In the beginning, its members started posing as “concerned residents” in areas with a high percentage of immigrants, such as Aghios Panteleimonas and Plateia Attikis, in Athens. These invariably are some of the most neglected areas, where crime rate is also high. The combination gave rise to “spontaneous” anti-immigrant demonstrations, highly orchestrated by Golden Dawn.

The usual set-up would be as follows: Golden Dawn would hand out Greek flags, and banners with slogans like “Say no to the Islamization of Greece”. These would be held by hand-picked locals, while Golden Dawn “troopers” would stand guard all around. These “protests” never gathered more than a hundred or so people. But they provided sufficient apparent legitimacy for “concerned residents” to become “indignant residents” and start meting out “justice” as they meant it…

Ali, an immigrant from Pakistan, who resides and works legally in Greece, spoke to us about Golden Dawn’s idea of “justice”: “We went to get gas. We were standing at the bus stop, when a car stopped. They asked us: ‘Where are you from?’ I said: ‘Pakistan’. Immediately they started beating us and stabbing us. They stabbed me just above the heart”. We asked him if he thought he would die. “But they did kill me”, he said. “God intervened and saved me”.

Racially motivated attacks, such as the one on Ali, are reported almost daily in most major cities, especially in Athens, systematic data however is scant. The Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, a UN sponsored survey, has recorded 63 occurrences of racially motivated violent attacks in just three months, between October 1st and December 31st 2011.[7]

Between January 1st and September 30th 2012, the same Network has interviewed victims of 87 racially motivated attacks against political refugees and immigrants. 83 of these attacks took place in public, 73 were in Athens, 3 in Piraeus, and 5 in the city of Patra. Victims were 85 men and 2 women, mostly between 18 and 35 years of age, mainly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Guinea, Pakistan and Somalia.

In 84 out of 87 incidents, victims report that the reason they were attacked is that they are foreigners, and that they were targeted because of their “color”, or other factor revealing they were not natives, a fact they were made to understand through prolonged racial humiliation. In the case of women, both believe they were targeted because they were wearing head scarves.

According to 48 of the victims, the perpetrators are connected to extremist groups. They are described to be moving in bands (in 85 out of 87 incidents, victims were attacked by more than on person), dressed in black, occasionally wearing camouflage trousers, motorcycle helmets or masks. A widely reported practice is for the attackers to be “patrolling” an area on motorbikes, as self-styled “militias”. They stop people who look like they could be immigrants, ask them where they are from, and then attack them. In some cases, victims reported that attackers were connected to Golden Dawn either because they were wearing the organization’s insignia or because they had been seen in Golden Dawn’s rallies in the area of the attack. Commonly used weapons in these attacks are wooden clubs, iron rods, folding batons, chains, knives and broken bottles.[8]

“IMPAIRED PEOPLE SHOULD BE STERILIZED”

“On August 22nd 2012, at dawn, we were walking around with friends in Zappeio [a popular area of Athens for gays], when we were attacked by about 20 people, one woman among them… They were dressed in the telltale Golden Dawn t-shirts, they sweared and screamed, while the policemen that were only a few meters away just stood there…”, says 39 year-old Thodoris Dallas.

This incident, selected among others documented by a popular free-press newspaper, show that Golden Dawn is clearly also turning against the LGBT community.[9] In an eerie echo of the Third Reich’s pronouncements, the organization has even suggested that Gay Pride parades should be banned “for a thousand years”.

It would therefore be wrong to think that the intensification of violence against immigrants means that they are Golden Dawn’s exclusive target. The organization’s own literature bears this out: “Impaired persons, like those who are paranoid, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, epileptic, carriers of mutant genes, incurable alcoholics, heavy drug-addicts and others, should be subjected to sterilization”, maintains an article published by the “Green Wing”, Golden Dawn’s “ecology” branch.

And though it might be tempting for some to think that even if immigrants are not the exclusive target, still there are “clear rules” to determine who should be afraid and who shouldn’t, according to which a “true Greek” (meaning, e.g. a “white heterosexual non-epileptic Greek without any mutant genes”) has nothing to fear, they couldn’t be more wrong.

One night in the middle of September, a little after midnight, a young white man is walking in central Athens. He has a camera swung round his shoulder, but he is not taking pictures. As soon as he turns a corner into a narrow lane, two heavy-set men block his path. He tries to swerve, but it is too late.

“I’ll stick that camera up your ass”, says one of them.

He pretends not to hear and carries on.

They run after him. Another three guys join them. All young, none over 25, one of them wears a t-shirt that reads: “Golden Dawn”.

They did not stick the camera up his ass. He got off with ten stitches in his mouth.

This young man –a white Greek, as it happens– is a friend.

He can hardly speak to us through his swollen mouth. As we talk, he looks at his bruised face in the mirror.

“I can see their hands on my face. I feel sick. Do you understand?”

“FUCKING ALBANIAN ASSHOLES”

In the last few years, Golden Dawn has attempted to forge ties with the Greek Orthodox church. Its leader has proudly proclaimed that in Athos Mount, the venerated monastic community in Northern Greece, most of the monks support his organization.

Ludicrous though it might sound for an organization that believes “that the Renaissance of Hellenism means a return to the Models of the Olympian Gods” to want to appear supportive of Christianity, the approach seems to be working.

A few weeks ago, a performance of Corpus Christi, a play by Terence MacNally exploring themes of gay sexuality in Christianity, was due to open in Hytirio, an Athens theater. The Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim filed a lawsuit for “blasphemy” against the company. He appeared in Omonoia police station to file it accompanied by four Golden Dawn MPs, the parliamentary spokesman Christos Pappas among them. They declared their support for the suit.

On the opening night of the play, Golden Dawn supporters teamed up with Christian fundamentalist groups and violently prevented the performance from taking place. In a piece of footage from the evening that has gained notoriety, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayiotaros is heard expressing his Christian emotions about “fucking faggots” being “fucked by Pakistanis”, and calling the theater company “fucking Albanian assholes”.

Not all priests, of course, are supportive of Golden Dawn. The Metropolitan of Siatista Pavlos issued a statement saying: “It is sad that some ‘Christian fighters’ have identified with Golden Dawn to defend Jesus. Jesus who is persecuted by Golden Dawn, offended and humiliated daily in the persons of refugees, immigrants, even children”.

Pavlos has since claimed he has received threats on his life by Golden Dawn.

“THE POLICE IS NOT ON TRIAL”

Golden Dawn thugs among Riot Police (photo via episkiasis.wordpress.com)

On October 12th 2012, Hamed A., an Egyptian student, fell victim to a racist attack in Plateia Attikis. As reported by the Network for Political and Social Rights, a group of three attacked him with iron rods, as he was getting off the bus. He lay bleeding on the ground and they then set their dogs on him. The attackers withdrew only when a crowd started gathering around. A police car arrived, as well as a policeman on a motorbike. They did not call an ambulance. Hamed made it to the Aghios Panteleimonas police station, assisted by compatriots of his who arrived at the scene.

The police officer on duty insisted that the motive for the attack was robbery, despite Hamed’s protests, who pointed out that the attackers had not attempted to take anything from him, and repeated the racist humiliation (“black punk” etc) that accompanied the beating. The officer on duty did not allow Hamed to file a lawsuit against his attackers, insisting that he should first go to hospital. Hamed did go to hospital. He was so badly beaten up in the face, he lost his eye.

A couple of weeks before, on the night of September 25th, the offices of the Community of Tanzania, in the downtown area of Kypseli, were attacked. According to a report by the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, the attackers were a group of about 80 Golden Dawn members.

The next day, responding to an invitation by members of the Tanzanian Community, Yianna Kourtovic, a well-known lawyer, went to Aghios Pandeleimonas police station, where an investigation into the previous night’s attack had begun. Members of Golden Dawn were also present, including Member of Parliament Ilias Panayiotaros. The Network for Political and Social Rights has accused the officers of the police station that on this and other similar occasions, they are the ones who give a “heads-up” to Golden Dawn.

According to the report by the Network, what followed was that the police started pressuring the immigrants not to identify those detained for the attack. When one immigrant insisted to identify his attackers, and filed a lawsuit despite the police officers’ discouragement, he was arrested, while the attacker was allowed to walk around freely. The immigrant was pressured for hours by the police to withdraw his statements and the lawsuit, which he was in the end forced to do. The other immigrants were likewise “persuaded” not to make any statement incriminating the attackers.

While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station. More of them gathered outside the station and started shouting and threatening. Platoons of riot police then arrived, but stood around chatting with the Golden Dawn members. When the lawyer, Ms Kourtovic, tried to leave the police station, she was attacked in front of the riot police.

Golden Dawn often uses the slogan “Against Everyone”, trying to convince of its anti-system program. It has become quite obvious that this does not include the police, who have in numerous occasions been found to be doing Golden Dawn’s bidding. This has been widely reported for many years, yet no steps have been taken to investigate the reports.

After the attack on student Dimitris Kousouris in 1998, described earlier, the main perpetrator Antonis Androutsopoulos, Golden Dawn’s then no2 man, who was later convicted of attempted murder, was a fugitive for six years. Michalis Chrysochoidis, who was then Minister of Public Order, formed a special police team in spring 1998 with the mission of capturing Androutsopoulos, a task in which EYP (the Greek Intelligence Service) was also involved. None of this produced results. A report, six years later, revealed that the investigation was “sabotaged from within”.[10]

Despite the report, the Minister said: “I do not believe the police acted intentionally. […] I never had any such evidence”.

Androutsopoulos surrendered to the police on his own in 2005. When witnesses at his trial mentioned the reported police involvement in delaying his arrest, the court quipped: “The police is not on trial”.

In the same report, classified documents were revealed that showed that the police was supplying Golden Dawn with radios and batons during popular demonstrations, in order for them to strike against “leftists and anarchists”. The same documents revealed also that members of Golden Dawn were carrying illegal firearms, which were supplied to them by Members of Parliament (according to the documents, members for the New Democracy party, which currently heads Greece’s coalition government).

In a notorious incident, Golden Dawn members attacked an anti-racist demonstration, in 2008, stabbing protesters, and then fled behind the lines of MAT, Greece’s infamous riot police, who protected them. The Golden Dawn gang was heard shouting to the police: “Why don’t you also do something?”

The collusion between Golden Dawn and the police has been confirmed even by the Vice-President of Police Employees Union of Attica, Nikos Karadimas, who stated, after reports that riot police had provided shelter for Far-Right extremists, during a demonstration in 2011, by herding them into the grounds of the Greek Parliament, that “it is true that in the Police Force there are many who sympathize with the Far-Right. In some units they may be up to 20%”.

Media coverage after the summer national elections brought the percentage of Golden Dawn voters in the police up to 50%.

And former Minister of Public Order –dubbed, during his last term in office, “Minister for the Protection of the Citizen”– Michalis Chrysochoidis said in an interview in UNFOLLOW magazine: “I don’t know whether it is 50% or 60%. But they are many. Even if it is 40%, they are too many”. When asked to comment on the fact that so many in the police seem to vote for a neonazi party, he said that they are “misguided” and are seeking “political warmth”. Asked in a follow-up question why the Greek police seem to be sympathetic to neonazi tactics, he replied: “I do not believe this to be true”.

“NO TOLERANCE FOR STORM-TROOPERS”

Very recently, the Greek Parliament revoked the immunity from prosecution for one Golden Dawn MP, Yiorgos Barbaroussis, who has been videoed attacking immigrant street vendors. A few days later, it also revoked immunity for MPs Yiorgos Germenis and Panayiotis Iliopoulos, for a similar attack on street vendors, and for Ilias Kasidiaris, so he can stand trial for the charges of accessory to robbery, grievous bodily harm, and carrying and using an illegal weapon. Compared to the magnitude of evidence of Golden Dawn’s exploits, however, this seems a rather feeble reaction.

The current Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias recently in Parliament made a show of chastising Golden Dawn and stated that he will “absolutely not tolerate storm-troopers and the like”.

Taser gun mark on the body of a protester tortured by the Police.

Nevertheless, this was not how it turned out to be when, on September 30th 2012, a group of antifascists drove on their motorbikes to the Fylis area of downtown Athens to demonstrate against Golden Dawn. A clash with Golden Dawn stormtroopers –who were busting up shops owned by immigrants, but later maintained they were “residents”– drew the police, who soon arrived in force. A platoon of motorized police, dubbed “DELTA”, arrested 23 antifascists and two Golden Dawn members. While the Golden Dawn members were released within a few hours, the antifascist demonstrators were taken to GADA (General Police Directorate of Attica, the Police HQ), and held without access to counsel. During the night, they claimed they were brutally tortured, which was subsequently confirmed by forensic reports.

Mr Dendias shrugged off the allegations when asked about them in Parliament, and accused SYRIZA, the left-wing opposition, of supporting violence. When he was asked again, he said the forensic reports showed no such thing, even though the forensic reports had not been concluded yet, and when they were concluded did support the claims of the victims. When the Minister was confronted with a report about the torture in the Guardian newspaper, he replied he was going to “sue the newspaper”.[11]

425.000 NEONAZIS?

Nazi salutes at Golden Dawn party offices, after 2010 Athens municipal elections (photo vie episkiasis.wordpress.com)

Golden Dawn’s electoral success and recent rise in the polls has made a lot of people wonder what the characteristics of these voters might be. The number of votes was calculated at approximately 425.000 in the last election, out of a 6.2 million total (registered voters are 9.5 million, but catalogues are outdated).

According to political scientist and pollster Christophoros Vernardakis, Golden Dawn’s primary audience is the traditional lower middle class that is being rapidly impoverished by the crisis. Small owners, shopkeepers, lower middle class unemployed, and the police are the social groups where the Far-Right achieves its highest ratings.

What is also interesting is that, according to recent polls, 7.4% of New Democracy voters, the Right-Wing party that currently heads Greece’s coalition government, now intend to move to Golden Dawn. There are however those who voted for SYRIZA, the Left-Wing coalition that is currently the main opposition party, if fewer in number, who also intend to move to Golden Dawn. Political scientist and pollster Efthymis Papavlassopoulos believes that Golden Dawn’s voters are moved by particular yet crucial choices, such as their position on immigration, and are characterized by “ambivalent ideology and values”. Half of these voters, he sais, “originate in the right wing of the political spectrum: 41% from New Democracy, and 9% from LAOS [a Far-Right party that failed to secure seats in Parliament in the last election]. A hardly negligible 20% originates in PASOK [a Center-Left populist party, formerly the strongest in Greece, that has taken a huge dive in the last elections, after implementing harsh austerity policies in government]. But the most interesting find is that a 27% of Golden Dawn’s voters originates in the “others” category. What does this mean? That the Far-Right is reaping the ‘anti-political’ wave, which in previous elections was mainly expressed by not going to vote at all…”[12]

“WE ARE NOT DEMOCRATS”

“Blood Honor Golden Dawn”. A member of posing at party offices.

425.000 people voting for a neonazi party, in a country that suffered greatly under nazi occupation and boasted some of the fiercest resistance in the world, is shocking.

Shocking, however, doesn’t mean incomprehensible. The reasons can be found in the deepening debt crisis and recession, while interesting analyses point out the structural characteristics of traditional Greek society and contemporary popular culture that in combination explain in part why such a portion of the public seems enthralled with Golden Dawn. Still other analyses document the relationship between totalitarian government and the neoliberal economic paradigm, draw enlightening parallels with historical experience, or critique the ideology of the “two extremes” that makes Liberal Democracy so susceptible to this kind of threat.

The most important historical parallel to be drawn, though, is that Golden Dawn’s intentions, the same as those of their original source of inspiration, are plain for all to see.

“They do not understand”, said Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos in a speech in 2011, “that when we become strong, we will be merciless! If need be, we soil our hands! If need be, we are not democrats!”

On this, if on nothing else, Golden Dawn should be taken at its word.

  • Additional reporting by Mariniki Alevizopoulou, Panayiotis Frantzis, SPY – Jungle Report. Photos via Jungle Report, unless otherwise credited. Some photographs not credited, for reasons of safety of the photojournalists involved. Additional photos and video via UNFOLLOW, Antenna TV, and Golden Dawn connected blogs. We owe a big thank you, as always, to the UNFOLLOW team.

[1] P. Frantzis, “The Lower Middle-Class and the Rise of the Far-Right”, UNFOLLOW magazine, issue 11 (November 2012), p. 96

[2] Interestingly, Michaloliakos was succeeded in this position by Makis Voridis. A Far-Right extremist, known for taking part in street fights with leftists (an infamous picture shows him holding an axe), Voridis was later elected in Parliament with LAOS, a Far-Right political party, and then slipped into the New Democracy party. Apparently disavowing his Far-Right extremist past, he became a minister in Loukas Papademos’s “national emergency” government, appointed to implement austerity policies, and is currently a member of Parliament and Parliamentary Spokesman for New Democracy, the major party in Greece’s current coalition government.

[4] Nikos Michaloliakos, “The Tradition of Race. The Mythological Continuity of Earth and Blood”, Golden Dawn magazine, September 1982

[5] Golden Dawn magazine, June 2005

[6] Ilias Kasidiaris, “Hitler Beyond History”, Golden Dawn newspaper, 20.4.2011

[7] Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, pilot survey.

[8] Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, Survey 1.1.2012-30.9.2012

[9] Th. Antonopoulos, “Your Turn is Coming”, Lifo newspaper, 12.9.2012

[10] Ta Nea newspaper, 17.4.2004

[12] P. Frantzis, op. cit.

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Financing development or developing finance?

This briefing is based on a longer report published by The Corner House, which will available on their website, www.thecornerhouse.org.uk.  The original article can be found at the Bretton Woods Project.  

For its relevance to the eurozone, read about the 2020 Project Bond Initiative

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/financial_operations/investment/europe_2020/index_en.htm

A forthcoming report on private equity infrastructure funds by Nicholas Hildyard of NGO The Corner House, More than bricks and mortar, looks at the connections between infrastructure funding and international financial markets, and at the wider political project that infrastructure embodies. In this briefing, Hildyard argues that the transformation of infrastructure into an asset class has environmental and social implications far beyond what can be handled by stronger safeguards on investments.

When the World Bank focussed its 1994 World Development Report on infrastructure, it should not have come as a surprise that the report was not in fact about bridges and dams, but about privatisation and reducing the role of the state in development.

Until the 1990s, the vast majority of infrastructure projects in the developing world, from drinking water systems to power stations, were funded by national governments, with substantial project-specific loans from multilateral development banks (MDBs), such as the World Bank. The role of the private sector in financing infrastructure was minimal, but the last two decades have seen it increase substantially. From 2002 to 2007, the value of infrastructure projects in developing countries with private sector participation amounted to $603 billion. Private investment far outstripped the $64.6 billion loaned to developing countries for infrastructure projects over the same period by China (the biggest source of bilateral concessional development finance).

Infrastructure is now firmly back on the international policy agenda, with MDBs and the G20 all announcing support for major infrastructure initiatives. In Sub-Saharan Africa, long portrayed as a region shunned by private investors, private sector financing for water supply and sanitation exceeds that provided by rich countries in development assistance and by emerging country financiers, such as China. “Overall”, notes the World Bank, “private finance to African infrastructure [has come] from nowhere to provide a flow of funds comparable in magnitude to traditional [aid].”

Pot of gold for the private sector

Governments argue that the sheer size of the ‘infrastructure gap’, coupled with the lack of government funds due to huge costs of propping up the banks in the wake of the financial crisis, means that they have no choice but to bring the private sector into infrastructure development. However, considerable untapped pools of public money exist in many developing countries, notably in public pension funds for state employees, which could be used for public sector investment in infrastructure. Governments could also restore their depleted coffers by abandoning low tax regimes or clamping down on tax evasion and capital flight. Such policies, though, would mean dismantling the political and economic alliances that underpin the current relationship between the dominant elements of the state and private sectors, a relationship in which state power is used not to restrain accumulation but to enable it, be it through privatisation, intervention, regulation or, indeed, deregulation.

The policy choice is not between the private sector, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. There is a new state-private combo, in which a realigned state is the lynchpin in creating new highly profitable investment opportunities through selling off state-owned enterprises at knock-down prices. Unsurprisingly, the infrastructure policies now being pushed by the MDBs are aimed at maintaining the current state-private combo rather than restructuring it. To attract infrastructure investors, the Indian government (like many other governments) is rolling back hard-won environmental and social regulations, particularly those protecting poorer people against forced evictions. It also set up a high-level committee (including investment bank Goldman Sachs’ India director) to identify “regulatory or legal impediments constraining private investment in infrastructure” and to “issue specific recommendations for their removal”. Other incentives now being offered by the Indian government include tax breaks and an $11 billion fund to provide debt finance through tax-free infrastructure bonds. Legislation is also being introduced in many countries to encourage public pension funds (which could be a major source of public finance for infrastructure) to invest in privately-funded infrastructure, for the profit of the private sector. Private investors in the North, particularly private equity firms, are leaping onto the bandwagon, increasingly looking to infrastructure investments in the South as a new source of profits.

The ‘reforms’ being pushed through to further increase private sector involvement in infrastructure development both respond to, and are shaping, changes in the way that infrastructure is financed and the demands of new actors in the sector. In particular, they are part of a wider effort by both state and private sector actors to transform infrastructure into an asset class.

Historically, private investors were reluctant to make direct equity investments in specific infrastructure projects. With the sector set to boom, investors are now keen not to lose out on possible profits. The solution, engineered by investment banks, has been to create ‘infrastructure funds’ – pooled vehicles through which investors can invest in companies within the infrastructure sector without having to directly finance the projects that the companies are building, thus reducing the risks inherent in the sector. In 2011, an estimated 50 new dedicated infrastructure funds were ‘on the road’, reportedly seeking to raise $26.8 billion for ’emerging market’ investments, a sum which, if achieved, would put private equity on a par with the World Bank Group ($21 billion a year) as a source of infrastructure finance for developing countries.

Private sector investors in infrastructure funds include rich individuals and pension funds. Public sources, particularly funds from public development finance institutions (DFIs), such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm), are also involved. Of the 350 private equity infrastructure funds analysed by The Corner House, 125 have reported investments by one or more such publicly funded DFIs. Overall, the contribution of such public agencies to private equity infrastructure funds is reportedly some 4 per cent of capital raised.

Such investments reflect the growing use by DFIs of ‘intermediaries’ (primarily banks, but also private equity firms) to invest in the private sector, with the intermediaries, as opposed to the DFI, deciding where the money is ultimately invested. Although the IFC argues that this strategy encourages the private sector to take on riskier investments than it might otherwise do, the record suggests otherwise. Far from breaking new ground, the private equity funds in which the development agencies have invested are heavily focused on countries such as India, China, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa, which already have considerable private capital available for investment, both from international and domestic sources. Indeed, the huge sums that private equity firms are now pouring into infrastructure suggests that such funds need no encouragement from DFIs to invest: the profits to be made are sufficient incentive.

Environmental/social implications

All infrastructure projects – whether state-financed or private sector-financed – have social and environmental repercussions. One response to the rise of infrastructure as an asset class has therefore been to treat private sector infrastructure investment like publicly-financed projects and to press for better application of international standards. Certainly, there is considerable scope for enhancing private equity standards, most of which currently have no environmental or social standards at all. Private equity funds which enjoy DFI support should be required to adhere to the environmental and social standards that DFIs apply to their non-intermediated finance. Even if this was done, it would leave unchallenged a range of adverse social and economic impacts that are intrinsic to the redefinition of infrastructure as an asset class.

Worryingly, the sectors that are benefiting most from private equity fund investments would appear to be fossil fuel extractors and burners – a profit-driven investment pattern that is locking society into a development path that makes transition towards a low carbon future more difficult. In India, Adhunik Power and Natural Resources is relying on private equity funds to part-finance its plans to dig new coal mines and build new coal-fired power plants producing 3,480 megawatts of electricity before 2015. The company has already secured investments from two funds, including the IFC-backed SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund.

Concern has also been expressed by NGOs that DFIs are deliberately using intermediaries to circumvent their environmental and social safeguard policies. With rare exceptions, DFI-backed private equity funds are often left to apply their own standards – or standards they have agreed with their DFI backers – and to monitor and self-certify their implementation.

When approached as an asset class, infrastructure has political and economic consequences that go far beyond the immediate social and environmental impacts of the projects that are funded. In particular, many of the new investment vehicles – notably private equity funds – are seeking turbo-charged profits (typically, returns of 30 per cent a year) whose pursuit is leading to the increased financialisation of the infrastructure sector – from manufacturers of equipment through to project developers – with profound implications for what infrastructure is funded and who gets to benefit from it. Moreover, many of the strategies that civil society have developed to hold infrastructure developers to account and to ensure positive development outcomes from specific infrastructure developments – including lobbying for ‘safeguards’ and ‘standards’ – are not keeping up with the swiftly-developing new realities.

The compatibility of investing via such turbo-charged profit-driven investment vehicles as private equity funds, with the stated poverty alleviation mandate of most DFIs, has also been questioned. Taking refuge in the widely discredited ‘trickle down’ theory of development, most DFIs generally judge the success or failure of investments primarily on the basis of their profitability, the assumption being that what is good for investors must be good for poorer people. Even fund managers, however, balk at making such outlandish claims.

Private equity funds do not invest in projects in order to provide public goods, but to generate above-market returns on investment. Entirely absent from the portfolios of all but a few philanthropically-financed infrastructure funds are projects that respond to the demands of poorer people. There is investment, for example, in privatised water utilities servicing those with the money to buy water, but no investment in rainwater harvesting that, once installed, provides water for free. If poorer people feature at all in the discussions of investors and developers, it is almost exclusively as labourers or obstacles to be removed. Many poorer people are priced out of access to essential public goods.

Tellingly, an IFC review of its private equity portfolio has concluded that any correlation between high profits and wider positive development outcomes was relatively weak, and that the most pronounced impact of private equity investments was in “improvements in private sector development”, such as encouraging changes in the law favourable to the private sector. In effect, what is good for private equity is good for private equity – but not necessarily for the wider public.

More than bricks and mortar

But, perhaps most fundamental of all, private equity infrastructure finance is about more than building bricks and mortar. It is part of a wider construction project, as yet far from complete, whose purpose is to enshrine markets, rather than democratically-accountable decision-making processes, as the means through which infrastructure is not only financed but its disposition decided. Now infrastructure embodies more than an agenda of privatisation: what is being constructed are the subsidies, fiscal incentives, capital markets, regulatory regimes and other support systems necessary to transform infrastructure into an asset class that yields above average profits.

A 2008 policy paper by Goldman Sachs, modestly entitled Building the World, identifies “adaptation of … regulatory systems” and a “move towards market pricing” as major priorities if the private sector is to be encouraged to participate in infrastructure development. Critically, private sector financing is seen as a driver of both financial innovation and the building of capital markets, stimulating the dismantling of “current onerous restrictions on investments” and the opening up of developing country economies to foreign banks. It also demands that “governmental interference” be kept “at a minimum”, whilst, on the other hand, it envisages its entire political project being underwritten by the continuation (and extension) of a raft of state subsidies in the form of “public/private partnerships, government credit guarantees, and coinvestment by governments”. The task for the private sector, thus, becomes one of persuading decision makers that it is in the public interest for the state to continue facilitating a massive transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector.

The problem of too much capital chasing too few investment opportunities has deepened, contributing to global financial crises. The planned interventions by the G20 and MDBs in the infrastructure sector are better viewed as a response to this problem, which will further entrench the current state-private settlement, geared to harnessing the state to extracting profit for the private sector. As such, infrastructure is less about financing development (which is at best a sideshow) and more about developing finance.


Based on a longer, fully-referenced report, More than bricks and mortar, available this month at www.thecornerhouse.org.uk.

Published: 3 July 2012 , last edited: 3 July 2012

Eurozone meltdown: IMF providing “political cover”

See original at the Bretton Woods Project

As European elections show the public increasingly rejecting austerity, critics call on the IMF to focus on the flaws of the eurozone rather than austerity in country programmes.

Throughout the past months the prolonged recession in parts of Europe saw unemployment reach record highs and output stall, with concerns that austerity is hindering growth and the prospects to achieve fiscal and debt targets (see Update 80, 79). A March report from the Macroeconomic Policy Institute in Germany expects economic activity to decline this year by 1.3 per cent in Ireland, 4.3 per cent in Portugal and 6.7 per cent in Greece, with unemployment reaching 14.1 per cent in Portugal and Ireland, and 20.1 per cent in Greece. The report concludes that because of “simultaneous austerity policies … the main cause of the euro crisis will thus not be overcome but aggravated”.

In this context the austerity policies demanded by the troika (European Union, European Central Bank and IMF) have been rejected by a growing share of voters in the Greek and French elections, criticised by government leaders throughout the world, including US president Barak Obama and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, and even seen increasing opposition from participants in capital markets, who have started to call for a new strategy to deal with the crisis. In early May Charles Dallara, the head of the Institute for International Finance, a global association of private financial institutions, explained that “the focus has been too heavily placed in short-term budget cuts and this has created the feeling that the situation seems bottomless.”

Beware of IMF’s ‘sympathy’

Despite criticisms and poor outcomes, the IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard argued in the latest IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO), published in April, that “the right strategy remains the same as before”, meaning that spending cuts should neither be too fast, which would hurt growth, nor too slow, which could hurt credibility (see Update 78, 77). Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, also reaffirmed the existing strategy of the Fund by praising the internal devaluation in Latvia. Lagarde argued “it’s important for other crisis-ridden countries to learn from Latvia. The programme there was a success.”

Mark Weisbrot, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), criticised Lagarde’s “perverse praise” of “Latvia’s disastrous internal devaluation”, arguing that the country “sacrific[ed] nearly a quarter of its national income at the altar of austerity” with “unemployment rising from 5.3 per cent to over 20 per cent” and another 10 per cent of the labour force leaving the country. Similarly, in a June article, Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman opposed the idea that an internal devaluation can replace the need of exchange rate adjustment, and argued that “while Latvia’s willingness to endure extreme austerity is politically impressive, its economic data don’t support any of the claims being made about its economic lessons.”

Lagarde also faced fierce criticism in May after making controversial comments on the need of the Greek population to “pay back” for their country’s mistakes, and that she felt more sympathy for “little kids from a school in a little village in Niger” than for the people of Greece. Nick Dearden from UK NGO Jubilee Debt Campaign responded that “if ‘sympathy’ is what characterises the IMF’s approach to Niger, then Greece would do better to avoid it.” He described how “in Niger, the IMF’s loans have done more harm than good as ordinary people have had to pay the price for reckless lending”, and argued that “to pretend that the IMF operated in a somehow kinder way towards Niger than it is doing in Greece stands up to no scrutiny whatever.” Meanwhile, Greek economist Alex Andreou criticised Lagarde’s idea of “Greece as one homogenous, tax-dodging mass responsible for its own downfall”. He argued that Lagarde’s “stance shows a complete misunderstanding of the psychology of a nation which has suffered nearly five years of recession and the severest of austerity cuts; a nation which is increasingly and vocally rejecting foreign interference and which is being pushed to political extremes.”

After two years of interventions in Europe, however, the Fund seems to be slowly acknowledging that growth and stability will not be achieved if flaws in the design of the euro are not addressed. The latest IMF WEO emphasised the euro “design flaws” more than previous editions, pointing to the “urgent need” for common banking supervision and risk sharing. It details that “measures should be taken to decrease the links between sovereigns and banks, from the creation of euro level deposit insurance and bank resolution to the introduction of limited forms of eurobonds, such as the creation of a common euro bill market.”

Also, a mid-June IMF staff discussion note, Fostering growth in Europe now, points at the need to tackle uneven demand between northern and southern European countries with action on both sides: “Relatively speaking, the south needs nominal wage restraint, and the north to let wages rise in line with productivity and market developments”. However, it proposes labour market deregulation policies in order to restart growth (see Update 81).

IMF’s repeated failures

Austerity and structural reforms, including privatisations of public services (see box), are expected to continue throughout Europe, and especially in Greece. It is possible, however, that a softening in the conditions attached to country programmes in Portugal and Ireland will take place.

The troika will return to Greece to renegotiate with the new government in early July, but the relaxation of the loan conditions requested by the country might be blocked by Germany and bring increasing tensions in the troika. Robert Zoellick, then president of the World Bank, warned at the June G20 summit of growing divisions between the Europeans in charge of the loans and the IMF, and predicted that, in the absence of decisive action, this division could turn into a confrontation by the end of the summer.

University of Athens professor Yanis Varoufakis predicted in late June that even looser bailout terms will prolong recession in Greece and warned that “when in December, it becomes, yet again, clear that another, more relaxed, Greek bailout has failed, that realisation will add to the strains and tensions in Europe, accelerating further the centrifugal forces tearing the eurozone apart.”

Charles Goodhart of the London School of Economics pointed out in May that “the presence of the IMF as part of the bailout programmes has given European leaders political cover for continuing to peddle ill-conceived, failing policies, delaying much-needed more sensible solutions to the crisis.” He explained that “given its historical mandate on exchange rates, the eurozone is the natural counterpart for the IMF, not euro-area member states” and argued that conditionality must apply “also to EU institutions such as the ECB [European Central Bank]” and to “northern countries like France and Germany”. He concludes that “the current asymmetric and incomplete adjustment plan for the eurozone, which focuses solely on the peripheral economies, is self-destructive.”

Meanwhile, Andy Storey, from University College Dublin and member of NGO Action from Ireland, argued that “the failure of the intervention of the IMF in Europe can be explained precisely because of the Fund’s lack of autonomy from capital markets and the mainstream European elite managing the crisis”. He said that “because of this lack of autonomy, since 2010, instead of focusing on the real problems of the eurozone, the Fund promoted unjust and counter-productive fiscal adjustment policies that are contributing to the meltdown of the monetary union. This proves once more that this institution needs radical reform.The question remains, however, who (if any) in the Fund will be held accountable for its appalling failures to date.” Storey added that the IMF’s sitting out of the late June European loan to Spain to recapitalise its banking system shows that “the Fund has lost faith in country programmes in the eurozone. It is unacceptable that the IMF continues to pour tax payer money into programmes that even it now sees as unsustainable. What is needed is a write down of public debt before it is too late.”

Privatisations threaten rights to water

A March report commissioned by the Canada-based civil society network Blue Planet Project and written by five European civil society organisations, examines the impacts of austerity measures on the human right to water in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria. The troika programme for Greece includes the privatisation of the public stake in the water companies of Athens and Thessaloniki, while in Portugal the program includes the privatisation of the public water company Águas de Portugal. It concludes that “IMF/ECB/EU policies … are resulting in the general impoverishment of the population, with the imposing of brutal increases in water charges and taxes.” In mid May, 30 European civil society organisations, including the ones behind the report, wrote a letter to the European Commission arguing that “privatisation … directly threatens the right to water” and demanding that the commission “refrain from any further pressure to impose water privatisation conditionalities” arguing that such “pressure is flawed, undemocratic, [and] at odds with the EU treaties”.

Sonia Mitralias, founding member of the Initiative of Greek Women against the Debt and the Austerity Measures, explained in a March interview how “the destruction and the privatisation of public services imposed by the troika” are affecting women in particular: “millions of Greek women [are] taking on responsibility themselves for the social tasks for which the state was previously responsible” with consequent effects “in terms of physical and mental fatigue, of nervous tension and premature ageing.”

Related articles

In solidarity with the Greek people, against illegitimate debts and austerity measures, let us mobilize!

For joint actions for large Euro-Mediterranean’s mobilizations in autumn 2012!

  June 2012

 

The response to the financial and economic crisis is the same everywhere: cuts in expenditure and austerity measures under the pretext of reducing deficits and the repayment of a public debt which is the direct outcome of 20 years of neoliberal policies. Governments in the service of finance and big European capital are actually using this pretext to further reduce social spending, lower wages and pensions, privatize health care, dismantle social benefits and deregulate labour laws, increase taxes on the majority while social and tax giveaways are generalized for the big companies and the highest net worth households.

Measures of violence against the populations, similar to those tested in the Greek social laboratory for two years, are already being implemented in Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy, and in Eastern European countries. Latvia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria have inaugurated the same sad litany of austerity measures, with drastic fiscal cuts (significant decrease in wages, closure of schools and hospitals, partial or total axing of social benefits, rise of VAT rates…). All the European peoples are threatened. This political orientation, which results in growing unemployment and poverty, must be radically rejected. Everywhere, companies are closing down and industrial wastelands are created, all for the greater glory of immediate gains. Everywhere, social inequalities are increasing. The public debt grows whilst many countries enter into economic recession.

Finally, while governments of technocrats are put in place by the creditors flouting universal suffrage and the most elementary democratic rules, new European treaties (ESM, European Stability Mechanism, and TSCG, Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) are adopted to the detriment of democracy, for the benefit of financial markets and behind the people’s backs. These treaties grant immunity to senior civil servants, allow for the participation of the private sector in close collaboration with the IMF, impose a limit on deficits and give priority to the repayment of debt, no matter the consequences.

Faced with such coordinated attacks on our social gains, resistance is getting organized among Euro-Meditarrenean peoples, there are national general strikes and the ‘indignados’ movements are increasingly active. In Iceland the people refused to pay the Icesave debt to the UK and the Netherlands. In Europe as in Egypt and Tunisia, initiatives for a citizens’ audit of public debt analyze how much of the public debt is illegal, illegitimate, odious or unsustainable, and must therefore be cancelled. Paying creditors is stealing what rightfully belongs to the population and payments will continue to be the cause of college and hospital closures, pensions cuts, etc. The Greek resistance persevered for 2 years and recent election results in Greece show a strong rejection of current neoliberal policies. We here express our firm support of the refusal, by the Greek people in their ballots on 6 May 2012, to negotiate with the Troika and to apply its memorandums and the creditors’ villainous conditionalities.

However the neoliberal steamroller has not yet been stopped, and it is high time for the populations and their organizations to develop mobilization on a more significant scale.

Along with other European and international networks such as the Joint Social Conference, the International Citizen debt Audit Network (ICAN) calls for a common mobilization of all groups and trends within the social movement, without exception, including trade unions, ‘Indignados’ and ‘Occupy’ movements, women’s movements, alterglobalization associations and NGOs, political organizations, leading figures, grassroots citizens, intellectuals and artists.

Aware of the need of convergence of all mass mobilizations, we call for large Euro-Mediterranean’s mobilizations in autumn 2012, coordinating an international level of solidarity with the Greek people, against illegitimate, illegal, odious or simply unsustainable debt and austerity measures, to be organized around the traditional week of global action against debt and international financial institutions which, this year, coincides with the 25th anniversary of the death of Thomas Sankara.

In the same spirit, we call for the creation or reinforcement of grassroots’ committees together with local audit groups in all European countries – they would spearhead resistance against the EU’s attacks and give substance to our solidarity with the Greek people and all harassed peoples.

Together we can !

Please send your signature to : debtauditineuromed@gmail.com.

NB: For a better coordination, the International Citizen debt Audit Network (ICAN) will provide further information in each country where it is present:

Belgium, http://www.sauvetage-dexia.be/ and www.cadtm.org

Egypt, http://www.dropegyptsdebt.org/

France, http://www.audit-citoyen.org/ and https://sites.google.com/site/refer…

Germany, http://blockupy-frankfurt.org/es and http://www.attac-netzwerk.de/ag-schulden and http://www.zukunftskonvent.de/

Greece, http://www.contra-xreos.gr/ and www.elegr.gr

Ireland, http://www.notourdebt.ie/

Italy, http://rivoltaildebito.globalist.it/ and www.smontaildebito.org

Poland, http://nienaszdlug.pl/

Portugal, http://auditoriacidada.info/

United Kingdom, http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/

Spain, http://auditoria15m.org/

Tunisia, http://www.tunisie.attac.org/dette/… / and http://zelzel.net/

With the economic crisis showing no signs of retreat, and the impact of the government’s aggressive austerity measures already being felt, the status of the financial sector is very much in question at the moment. However, despite five years of economic turmoil, the workings of the financial system are still bewilderingly opaque to many people (including most politicians, it seems!).

We are therefore pleased to announce the publication of our clear and concise, 24-page ‘Nuts & Bolts’ Guide to the ins and outs of the financial sector. From hedge funds to the money markets and derivatives, all of the major players and products are broken down from a critical perspective. With jargon deconstructed, case studies explained and many of the myths about the city and its operations debunked, this booklet is designed to give readers with little or no knowledge of the world of finance and banking an accessible overview of its workings.

This booklet is the first publication in our ‘Banking on Crisis’ series. The next booklet, due out it the next few months, will cover the ongoing economic crisis, its origins and history, the politics of crisis and a breakdown of some of the most common narratives used to explain the current financial meltdown. Watch this space for more…

order a hard copy (£2) go to our shop
Or to download the digital version (free) click here