In the weekend leading to Sunday 12 February 2012, Greek politicians were debating the necessity of the latest austerity package. The austerity plan was to be approved, as a condition for Greece to receive a second-bailout package by the IMF-EU of €130 billion and to a debt restructuring. The majority of the Greek people are against further austerity measures, which come on top of previous tax increases and public spending cuts. The government knows this and is defying the will of the people.
According the Greek government, represented by appointed and unelected Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and its ministers:
- The dilemma facing Greece is “austerity package” versus “leaving the eurozone” – no middle ground exists
- “Leaving the Eurozone” would entail social and economic disaster, which would see Greece’s standard of living reduced to that of thirty, forty, fifty years (number vary, depending on the emotional state of minister/speaker)
- As a result, the austerity measures are the “only alternative” to a catastrophic default (more about this here) and should be approved, as it is the only way for the country’s growth and prosperity.
- The bailout package is a loan and most of its funds will be used to pay previous loans.
- In line with the neo-liberal agenda of the previous memorandum, the austerity plan foresees: reductions by 22% of the national minimum wage to €600 per month (before social security payments); Employees made easier to be fired (these two measures are known in neo-liberal-speak “reform of the labour market”; Reduction in the supplementary pensions; Reduction in public health expenditure
- Greece is now in the 5th year of recession, starting in 2008. Its unemployment levels have reached 21%, with youth unemployment at 48%.
During the ten-hour debate in parliament, there was a large demonstration in Athens and other cities of Greece. In Athens, the riot police kept trying to push protestors outside Syntagma Square (where the Greek Parliament stands) and was throwing tear-gas, unprovoked, to peaceful demonstrators. At some point, riots erupted which ended up in looting and fires across Athens during the night.
In the early hours of Monday 13 February 2012, the Greek parliament approved the austerity plan, with 199 out of 283 votes.
The mainstream media in Greece focused on the destructions that followed the demonstration; the violence; the fire in a historic theatre “Attikon” in Athens; the fact that the Greek government needs to implement harsher measures to gain its lenders’ credibility; the reactions of European officials to the result of the vote.
Not a word was said in the Greek mainstream media about the size of the demonstration, not a word about the fact that demonstrators were shouting “We are not leaving” amidst clouds of tear gas. Not one commentator questioned the legitimacy of the government or even bothered to wonder aloud whether this demonstration was any different from previous ones.
Over the past two years, the Greek people are being bombarded by mainstream media with falsified information that Greece is on the “brink of disaster”, scare-mongering speeches by their politicians about the future of the country, insulting comments from foreign commentators and politicians about Greeks and their “overspending”. Over the past two years, the Greek parliament passes law after law, entailing cuts, tax increases, and anti-social measures at great speed, before it has any time to recover.
Sunday’s events were no exception to this pattern. Is there anyone who still thinks Greece is not under the Shock Doctrine?