This video from the USA of 5 May 2010 says about itself:
“Demonstrations against austerity measures in Greece claimed their first fatalities on Wednesday with three people reported to have died inside a bank building set ablaze by protesters.” That’s the framing that you’ll be hearing all week as U.S. media cover the first deaths in the conflict between striking Greek workers and a government seeking to impose stiff new taxes and cuts to stave off economic collapse.
But when it comes to who claimed what in terms of fatalities, it’s worth remembering what lies in the background of this picture. To begin, the international financial community sees opportunity in Greece’s demise and has placed its bets there, which drives up the cost of borrowing if you’re Greek. Just as here, Wall Street bets against state and local bonds have raised the cost of running city services. Like in the U.S., since 1981 Greek wages have been essentially flat, a fundamental problem no one’s been solving. Cutting state jobs won’t help and already around 20 percent of Greeks live in poverty. Over half a million households pay more than half their income on debt. Even prior to today’s insolvency, surveys have shown that a “third world” was being created inside Greece. Now, cue the angry protests. Now consider what claimed their first fatalities Wednesday. . . demonstrations by the strapped? Or decades of decision making that wrote off inequality, poverty and debt as just collateral damage. Oh, and Portugal’s just been downgraded by Moody’s. And oh yes, The European commission’s forecasting that the UK budget deficit this year will hit 12% of GDP – the highest in the European Union, even worse than Greece. So when we say long hot European summer, we mean it!
As I have written before, our airplane took off to Greece on 4 May.
First, it landed at Samos island.
Lesbos island in Greece has about 90,000 inhabitants, of whom about 30,000 live in the capital Mytilene.
The island is well-known for, among other points, olive oil production, ancient poetess Sappho, and the many birds there.
There are also labour movement and other political sides to Lesbos.
As the ferry-boat from Turkey arrived, Greek TV reporters were at the landing, asking travelers their views on the strike in Lesbos and all over Greece. One lady passenger replied: “The strike means for me personally that I arrive now in Lesbos, eight hours later than planned. However, the strikers have the right to strike.”
We went on a bus to Skala Kallonis village. It has just a few hundred inhabitants. Yet, posters were still hanging around, announcing the village’s own May Day demonstration.
According to Wikipedia, the small town north of Skala Kallonis, Kalloni, has 1,732 people. Still, it has its own party building of the KKE, the Greek communist party. Nationally, in numbers of votes, this is the third party after the governing social democrats of PASOK and the conservative New Democrats (the government until they lost the last elections).
Yet, during the eight days that I was in Lesbos, visually, the KKE was by far the most conspicuous political tendency. Its name was sprayed on rocks and walls near roads and on village buildings, along with hammer and sickle symbols and sometimes also the initials KNE (the Greek communist youth organization).
Other political tendencies, as far as I saw, had zero, or just one sign of being alive on Lesbos. One poster of PASOK (the ruling party in the national government, and in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos). One graffiti by Syriza (a federation of Eurocommunist, Trotskyist, etc. groups). One A with a circle around it, an anarchist symbol. And one neo nazi Celtic cross.