Greek Parliament to Discuss Austerity as Protests Rage

Allison Kilkenny

Police arrest demonstrators in Athens on Tuesday, June 28, as they protest Greece's new austerity measures.

If Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine has taught us nothing else, it’s to expect governments facing overwhelming popular backlash over austerity policies to rush legislation forward rather than pause and debate the issue.

Right on schedule, lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to adopt a bundle of emergency laws that will inflict further income and government spending cuts upon the people of Greece. Parliament plans to debate the new cuts even though it’s extremely likely both pieces of legislation will be approved. 

The $172 billion bailout is the second huge loan Greece has taken on in less than two years, and despite the bailouts, things have only gotten worse. During the same period of time, Greece has been experiencing what the Washington Post calls deepening misery,” and Paul Krugman described as double-digit decline in output.”

The caustic measures: cutting the minimum wage by 20 percent, deep cuts in government spending, wages, and pensions, and some 150,000 government employees losing their jobs, are all the more wasteful given austerity’s poor global track record.

Paul Krugman offers a recap of the disastrous pro-cuts strategy:

Last week the European Commission confirmed what everyone suspected: the economies it surveys are shrinking, not growing. It’s not an official recession yet, but the only real question is how deep the downturn will be.

And this downturn is hitting nations that have never recovered from the last recession. For all America’s troubles, its gross domestic product has finally surpassed its pre-crisis peak; Europe’s has not. And some nations are suffering Great Depression-level pain: Greece and Ireland have had double-digit declines in output, Spain has 23 percent unemployment, Britain’s slump has now gone on longer than its slump in the 1930s.

In other words, Krugman writes, the confidence fairy has failed to show up.” The private sector is not surging. Instead, people losing their jobs and witnessing their wages being slashed are saving their money instead of spending it, which is tanking the economy.

Even with the severe cuts, Fitch downgraded Greece’s credit rating further into junk status, from CCC’ to C,’ and furthermore, the agency says a Greek default remains highly likely in the near term.”

In response to the cuts, Greek unions have called for a protest rally against the new round of austerity for 4:00 p.m. outside Parliament. Communist supporters plan to hold a separate march an hour later, while other protesters are planning a motorcycle rally, the Washington Post reports.

According to the AFP:

Two main Greek unions — CSEE and Adedy that together claim more than a million members — called for protests in Athens and Greece’s second city Thessaloniki at 1400 GMT over new salary and pension cuts.

The pro-Communist union Pame called for another protest in Athens two hours later, planning a march to the central Syntagma square, the scene of often violent demonstrations against austerity measures over the past two years.

The measures … are another blow to the pensioners and the social security system in the country. Greeks are blackmailed and no one can tolerate it,” the union said in a statement.

Strikes and protests by union, the unemployed, or public workers have become daily occurrences in Greece. Last week, protests turned violent when 80,000 people flooded the streets and some individuals clashed with police.

In New York City, protesters chanting, Banks got bailed out, Greece got sold out!” gathered in Zuccotti Park this weekend to show solidarity with the people of Greece. Truth Out described the scene: 

One of the Zuccotti Park protesters, Costas Panayotakis, is an associate professor of sociology at City College of Technology and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.” Greece is just a more extreme example of what’s going on around Europe and around the world,” he said in an interview with Truthout, explaining the impetus behind the solidarity demonstration.

Christa Calbos, a student activist who goes to Manhattanville College and who has spent time in Greece, agreed that the solidarity stems from people worldwide seeing their own situation in the Greeks’. It is important for Americans,” she said, and all citizens of the world fighting against austerity to show solidarity because the challenges Greece now faces are not unique to Greece.”

There is a growing global consciousness that has resulted from the crisis,” Panayotakis elaborated. There are global movements. The Occupy movement itself is part of the global movement going back to the occupations in Spain and Athens and even before that, of course, in Tahrir Square in Egypt. There is a global growth in solidarity, because what we have is the failure of global neo-liberalism has become manifest during the crisis and so has the failure of the political and economic elites that have been administering this neo-liberal project.”

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.
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