Messages from the Protest
It’s not evident what protesters have to gain from Wednesday’s big protest in Athens, since the country’s course has been plotted out by its foreign creditors. The most likely scenario is that the protest’s organizers want to hold the demonstration for honor’s sake, so that they won’t be considered a sure thing and totally apathetic, and to justify their presence, so that they can always point to the fact that there will always be some sort of reaction from unions to the measures being imposed by the memorandum. Obviously, no one can take this right away from them. And we would add that the damage that these two or three nationwide strikes are causing to the economy would be very small if not for the daily demonstrations, usually consisting of several dozen people, who decide to brink traffic in the city center to a standstill with haughtiness, or better yet, boundless indifference. Wendesday’s demonstration came at a very unfortunate time; at a moment when even the country’s possible exit from the eurozone is being discussed. And so, it is absolutely certain that the markets, along with the leaders of the eurozone, are following the protest in Athens with great attention. They are following it because they want to know the proportions of the people’s anger and their reaction to the measures of the memorandum, and by extension, the political room that the government has to implement the next round of even more difficult measures. And that’s why these demonstrations are so important. And from that standpoint, it’s a good thing that Wednesday’s demonstration – albeit big, according to TNH’s Greek and English language correspondents, who were eyewitnesses – was smaller than the one that took place last May. No doubt, photos from the violence that erupted will be seen all over the world, and that is going to have its consequences. But the fear in these circumstances is that one protest can easily be sidetracked from its peaceful intent and lead to injuries, just like on Wednesday, when some were even seriously injured. In some cases, there might even be fatalities. And then the matter takes on other proportions. Of course, the message from Wednesday’s protest was, in our opinion, two-fold: first, that the police finally got tough and cracked down on troublemakers, and second, that union leaders are losing the glory that they once enjoyed. In regards to the first point, it is evident that the police were instructed to show their strength, not allow things to get out of hand, and to somehow lay down the law. And even though this is self evident, unfortunately, the way things have gotten today, this reaction makes news in Greece. No matter how much one would like to avoid violence, in any of its forms, there are instances when the police has no other choice but to uphold the law. And it looks like the police has turned a new leaf in this respect. This is a necessity, and it is something that the country now badly needs. And if this is true, it reveals a huge shift in public opinion. In regards to the union leaders: it was unavoidable that after decades of abusing their rights through behavior ranging from calling baseless strikes over matters unrelated to their profession to proclaiming so-called struggles over the rights of workers that had ulterior motives – their own good time and personal gain. And so it was unavoidable that by taking advantage of the labor movement to service their own personal goals, this practice would eventually lead to their marginalization, as is the case today. And this is unfortunate because healthy union leadership is useful for the protection of workers from unscrupulous employers; it is useful to society. Finally, anything that someone has to say about the media, who decided to strike during such an important moment, is not enough.