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Human Misery vs. Profits: What’s Happening in Greece

Human Misery vs. Profits: What's Happening in Greece -- Larry Wines

In other countries, they are reading headlines like this one in Britain:

“Greek economy close to collapse as food and medicine run short.”

In Greece, the streets are filled with flag-waving demonstrators arguing for the future and the very soul of their country, the world’s birthplace of democracy.

The US, as usual, isn’t all that attuned because, well, we are preoccupied. Right now, it’s Donald Trump’s arrogant bloviating and NBC’s resulting cancellation of televised coverage of the Miss Universe beauty pageant that Trump owns; and it’s women’s soccer, which we don’t care about until the US women’s team plays in the world championship; and of course it’s what we’re going to eat at our 4th of July barbecues. Last week it was the Confederate Battle Flag. Next week, it’ll be some other obfuscation and distraction keeping us from what really matters.

Meanwhile, there’s the rest of the world. Where oil is manipulated to subvert supply-and-demand economics. Where global climate change is putting island nations underwater.

And where global financial machinations enrich a few at the expense of what had been stable status-quo economies—but where that has caught-up with both manipulators and manipulatees alike. And that brings us to Greece.

For our fellow Americans, a quick orientation may be useful (or even necessary). So here goes. Greece’s new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was elected in the popular backlash against imposed “austerity” in Greece. That austerity was a product of conservative Greek politicians in league with international banksters, enabling the latter to play vampire on the Greek economy.

Tsipras’ election and the change in the Greek government came amidst even more demands for austerity from foreign banks, chiefly German, and the German-led IMF (International Monetary Fund).

Austerity in Europe, just like austerity in the US, is what the proponents of privatization and corporatocracy are working diligently to bring about: a world with government so starved for revenue and so devoid of operating capital that it cannot afford to operate the regulatory and oversight authority it is charged by its people with exercising in the public interest. And that, in turn, enables unlimited potential for private profit derived from unbridled exploitation of everything—people, markets and natural resources—with no need to slow down to re-train needy folks whose obsolete skills leave them in the exhaust stack, ora for corporate raiders or profit-maximizers to clean up any of the mess.

Greece has been the world’s laboratory for what happens to real people with a real government in a real society with a real (and proud) history when somebody puts those toxic ingredients in a national test tube.

It’s a kind of economic Darwinism, but it’s manipulated. That pulling of the puppet strings includes nurtured hothouse blooming in the “right people’s” hothouses, and selective poisonings and exterminations in fields they cannot completely control, or where, god forbid, they might inherit some liability.

Greece has been the world’s laboratory for what happens to real people with a real government in a real society with a real (and proud) history when somebody puts those toxic ingredients in a national test tube.

Now, in Greece, Prime Minister Tsipras is urging the people to vote “no”—in Greek, “oxi”—on accepting any more imposed austerity. Which is no to more foreign financial manipulation or control, and no to receiving big bailouts that would only come with those conditions. Specifically, that’s “no” in Sunday’s vote by the Greek people in a nationwide referendum.

It’s a referundum wherein a “yes”—in Greek, “nai”—vote accepts all foreign-imposed conditions, including far more austerity, as an absolute precondition for additional foreign debt relief and outside “help” with the Greek economy. A Greek economy brought to ruin by many factors that prominently include the Economic Darwinism, et. al., that we described.

A “no” vote could take Greece out of the shared euro currency. It could bring international economic sanctions, especially from Germany, which has eclipsed Switzerland as Europe’s chief banker. That’s serious and severe sanctions, like those reserved for pugilistic rogue states who use their military to attack their neighbors. Obviously, this is not the kind of thing economic sanctions are used for.

But then, we’ve never been here before.

It has many Europeans terrified. The moguls of global money markets are scrambling to find ways to win, whatever happens in the referendum. Predictably, they tried to block any possibility that the will of the people could go against their financial interests. But Greece’s top court overruled an appeal—from two Greek citizens—seeking to block the national referendum, so the vote will go ahead on Sunday.

Meanwhile, people in other European nations, especially Britain, have held rallies all this past week to show support for the Greek people’s rebellion against the global banksters.

In Greece itself, nothing has been this big since modern Greek independence.

For days, tens of thousands of people have gathered in Athens each time another massive rally is held. Huge crowds have supported BOTH sides. On Friday, the “yes” and “no” camps each produced multiple rallies of more than 10,000 people, with one “no” rally bringing more that 25,000 to the streets.

“Oxi” rallies—the “no” side—bring lots of blue-and-white Greek flags, which the nation based on the conceptual layout of the US flag. And these are accompanied with plenty of graphic expressions of “no” in many forms.

“Nai” rallies—the “yes” side—produce the blue European Union flag with its circle of gold stars, and vast quantities of identical solid red banners with “nai” as the only lettering. A “yes” rally is jarring in its visual uniformity, and just as glaring psychologically, as a contrast from the days when red banners universally symbolized communism. To now see red as the color of global capitalism, eclipsing demands for national determination of a people’s destiny? Who could have predicted that?

“Oxi”—”no” rallies, in addition to Greek flags, produce plenty of variety with different, sometimes artistic individual signs and giant banners reminiscent of the heyday of the “Occupy” movement. These are as diverse as “Debt Slaves No More,” “Stop the Looting of Greece,” “Save Europe / End Austerity / Support Greece,” to “Democracy? Sorry. Not available in Europe,” to simply, “Unf*ck Greece.”

Still, all the polls agree that it’s neck-and-neck and could go either way. It could split along generational lines, as we saw in the UK’s failed vote for Scottish independence. But that was national pride, and this is national survival.

Greek pensioners, including many who are quite elderly, have largely been without money or even basic food for days. A “yes” vote would permanently cut their pensions so severely it would leave them to live out their lives below the poverty line, forcing many to move to much cheaper housing that simply does not exist in sufficient quantity to receive them. And a “yes” vote would hard-wire Greece’s tax and revenue base directly into foreign banks, rendering the nation unable to build affordable housing for its suddenly impoverished elderly and others made newly poor from salary cuts.

Yet, as unquestionable as those facts are, it’s not clear that all of Greece’s older voters see it that way. With so much at stake, there has been plenty of electioneering to appeal to fear.

A “yes” vote would drastically cut jobs and services that austerity has already reduced at all levels of Greek government. In many places, those cuts are already so severe that government workers are now below a viable number to serve the essential needs of the Greek people. A “yes” vote forces more austerity, more reductions of everything, including still more job cuts, across the board.

The world’s press working in Greece hasn’t reported all that much on another huge aspect of the story.

That is, more austerity would have a disastrous, probably terminal, impact on the ability of foreign individuals and companies to obtain licenses, receive inspections, or do any of what’s necessary to do business in, or with, Greece. That would spell an end to Greece’s participation in global trade outside the Eurozone, unless Greece adopted new laws that opened its borders to duty-free imports—that would kill even more Greek jobs and siphon more of its money to manipulators of capital who are outside the country.

All this is part of the looming specter of invoking a budgetary “austerity” so severe that a society can no longer function.

And, as the one newspaper story from the UK observes, we are seeing it all play out “as capital controls bite and vital tourism industry sees thousands cancel holidays in Greece.”

Throughout Europe, they’re calling it the “Eurozone Crisis” and the “Euro Banking Crisis” and describing it in apocalyptic terms.

The largest competing demonstrations came Friday in Athens. The “Yes” / “Nai” campaign, organized by the rich, is doing all it can to capitalize on the fear of the young.

Populist and trade union-supported demonstrations for the “No” / “Oxi” vote were huge Friday in Athens, attended by Greece’s veterans of the global “Occupy” movement, together with massive numbers of unemployed, current and laid-off employees from all levels of government in Greece, pensioners spry enough to go out, and pretty much all private-sector workers who are closer to retirement than to the start of their careers.

The outcome of Sunday’s referendum by the people of Greece could create an earthquake. It could be the first time that ordinary people say “Oxi,” and “No,” and “Non,” and “Nyet” to the banksters and the 1%ers who make money by manipulating money, and with it, manipulating people’s lives and futures.

It has huge implications for the 2016 elections in America. Even if Americans, led by the American media, have done their best to ignore what’s happening in Greece.

The Acropolis could be the new Bastille.

Larry Wines