unrelenting austerity and the promise of self-reliance: a blog from greece

A friend sent me a link to this blog, written by a man from the UK, a Socialist Workers Party activist, now retired and living on the Greek island of Samos. It's a picture from of life under extreme austerity - how people are suffering, but also how they are coming together.

It's very scary. People are living under the harshest of conditions. Too often, the response is scapegoating and violence. Attacks on undocumented immigrants, Roma, and others read like European history repeating itself in the worst possible ways.

Yet this blog also highlights the seeds of hope. Grassroots initiatives are forming, people are coming together, sharing resources, finding ways to cope.

I read this and think, there is no way out but revolution. I challenge anyone to read this blog and come up with a better idea.
Today I had an e mail from Patras. In it my close friend Dora relayed that there were many diverse grass roots initiatives emerging in Patras. Many were still fragile and unsure of their direction, but there were some promising signs such as the coming together in some of the projects of undocumented people and refugees (of whom there are many in Patras given the port link to Italy) with other poor Greeks. Groups of women were forming responding to the massive pressure they face as they try to keep, mainly in isolation from one another, their households afloat.

Dora, along with other progressive social workers, have recently formed a group which rejects the top down pathologising and surveillance role of what passed for ‘official’ social work. Instead they are committed to working alongside and in solidarity with the community and neighbourhood impulses under way. They want to use their skills and knowledge in the service of the people according to priorities determined collectively.

It is early days, as Dora never fails to tell me. For myself, I am nourished by her news. “Digging where they stand” as social workers they are committed to developing and creating wholly new forms of welfare practice. They are drawing on experiences from elsewhere, especially the work of Freire in Brazil, and looking at the ways in which over years of community and social engagement in poor and oppressed neighbourhoods organisations such as Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, and the Zapatistas in Mexico built their support. We need more of these initiatives.

The sense of movement, of emergent grass roots initiatives from health provision by teams of doctors and nurses, to food banks, clothing exchanges, markets, cafes and cultural events, is simply not reflected or covered in the Greek mainstream media. If there is any coverage it is episodic like the farmers’ initiative earlier in the year with the free distribution of potatoes and onions. . . .

As expected the austerity measures were passed. . . . The latest austerity measures include draconian cuts in public employment and according to Paniotis it looks likely that the state hopes to dismiss 2,000 teachers every 3 months for the next year.

There are no strikes today so went with Georgos to discuss with the electricity company what they can do about the disconnection. Just before leaving for Samos town from Karlovassi a couple of electricity workers called at the house to check that the meter had not been tampered with and illegally re-connected. We later learnt from the manager in the central office that these checks would be made randomly and regularly and if they should re-connect illegally they could expect a prison sentence.

In some parts of Greece there have been successful community campaigns both preventing disconnections and reconnecting where it has been cut. YouTube even has a do it yourself video guide of how to reconnect your supply. The response of the company has been to remove the cable to the house following a fixed time period after disconnection making it much more difficult to restore the supply. . . .

Without any fuss we got to see the manager. He was a young guy, very sympathetic but bound by regulations that offered little. Even with the property tax element (now included with the electricity bill) removed, the company would need 75% of the debt to be repaid before reconnecting and making any arrangements for the collection of the remaining debt. In this case it amounts to 760 euros. It may as well be 10 million euros as far as Georgos and Dimitria are concerned.
None of us need any more reading material, but I plan on following this blog.

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