I know many have already commented on what happened last week outside the Greek parliament building in Athens. But it’s difficult not to express a feeling of anguish and anger together. A cash-strapped Greek pensioner shot and killed himself outside parliament in Athens on Wednesday.
Dimitris Christoulas was a retired chemist, with a wife and a daughter, who had sold his pharmacy in 1994. In a suicide note found by police, he said: “This Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. If one Greek had taken a Kalashnikov into his hands, I might have followed him and done the same but because I am of an age that makes it impossible for me to take strong action on my own, I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance.”
Tsolakoglou is a reference to the wartime Nazi collaborationist Greek government. George Tsolakoglou was a Greek military officer who was appointed by the Germans in 1941 as Greek prime minister. Mr Christoulas correctly identified the nature of the current banker-led Greek government that has agreed to a crippling destruction of Greek living standards, public services and jobs in order to bail out Greece’s creditors, Europe’s banks, insurance companies and hedge funds – and to lie down before the neoliberal policies of the dreaded Troika (the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF).
In his last statement to the world, Mr Christoulas went on: “I believe that young people with no future will one day take up and hang this country’s traitors in arms in Syntagma Square just as the Italians hanged Mussolini in 1945.”
Unfortunately, Mr Christoulas’ act is not an isolated one. The suicide rate in Greece used to be the lowest in Europe but it has soared during the crisis. The latest data shows suicides jumped 18% in 2010 from the previous year as rising unemployment, higher taxes and shrinking wages drove ordinary Greeks to despair. Last year, the number of suicides in Athens alone jumped over 25% from a year ago.
“This is the point to which they’ve brought us. Do they really expect a pensioner to live on 300 euros?” asked 54-year old Maria Parashou, who rushed to the square to pay her respects after reading about the suicide. “They’ve cut our salaries, they’ve humiliated us. I have one daughter who is unemployed and my husband has lost half of his income, but I won’t allow myself to lose hope.”
I remind you of a previous post (Greece: a Sisyphean task, 13 February 2012) that repeated what Greece’s top bishop said about the state of Greek society under the jackboot of the Troika and the collaborationists. Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece sent a letter to the banker prime minister Lucas Papademos saying that “the phenomenon of the homeless and the famished, a reminder of WWII conditions, has taken the dimensions of a nightmare,” adding that “the homeless increase by the thousands everyday, while small and medium-sized enterprises are forced to go out of business. Young people, the country’s best minds, choose to emigrate, while our fathers are unable to live after the dramatic cuts in pensions. Family men, particularly the poorest, those with many children, wage earners, are in despair due to repeated wage cuts and unbearable new taxes. The unprecedented tolerance of the Greek people is being exhausted, rage pushes fear aside and the risk of social upheaval cannot be ignored anymore by those who are in the position to give orders and those who execute their lethal recipes.” He went on: “in these difficult and undoubtedly, crucial times, we should realise that every Greek home is plagued by insecurity, despair and depression, which unfortunately, have caused, and sadly enough, continues to cause the suicides of those unable to bear the ordeal of their families and the pain of their children.”
Elections are about to be announced after Easter. The date is likely to be 6 May. The two main collaborationist parties, the conservative New Democracy and the laughingly named ‘socialist’ PASOK are desperately trying to drum up enough votes to keep the bankers government in office. Given that they will get most of the TV time and have the overwhelming backing of the main newspapers, they may yet succeed. That’s partly because the anti-austerity parties, although doing well in the polls, are hopelessly divided and refusing to work with each other.
The horrible irony that proves Mr Christoulas so right is that whatever the pro-austerity coalition does, it will not be able to meet the draconian demands of the Troika. The Greek capitalist economy is diving at about 6% yoy and has contracted by about 16-20% since its peak. Unemployment is accelerating towards a 24% rate, with youth unemployment heading towards a staggering 60%. Those who can leave the country are doing so.
There just won’t be enough to squeeze out of the Greek people to pay the demands of the Troika. The government will fail to meet the fiscal and spending targets and then the Euro leaders will have to decide whether yet another ‘bailout package’ must be formulated, with yet more conditions or whether they will decide to ‘let Greece loose’.
The Euro leaders do not want to do the latter because of the ‘contagion’ effects throughout Europe’s financial markets that would lead to Portugal and Ireland also failing and more important onto Spain and Italy, which are also struggling under the heel of austerity. So the leaders may opt for another package – PM Papademos and friend of neoliberal economist Mario Monti in Italy, has already hinted that it may be necessary.
The May elections are the next twist in the Greek tragedy, which has already spilt the blood of many.