The Poor, the Rich and the Reporters
01 Thursday Nov 2012
Having lived in central Athens for a month now, I’ve got a bit more of an idea of the conditions that people live under. The continual police harassment, especially of migrants and political activists. The fear of the Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and its violent attacks. The dangerous levels of drug use where men and women openly inject heroin and smoke crystal meth in the street. The mafia controlled prostitution which sees young – very young – women waiting on street corners whose hourly rates are not much higher than the UK minimum wage. The lack of a social safety net which leaves people without family available to take them in, having to resort to sleeping in doorways and who gather together enough euros to feed themselves and their families by begging, collecting returnable bottles or sorting through rubbish bins for saleable scrap. The austerity measures are crippling Greek society and the social fabric is breaking down.
While politicans wrangle over the latest bailout which sees no money invested in social security, health or education but merely allows the Greek government to spend some of its tax revenue on the needs of its citizens rather than the demands of the banking system, increasing insecurity, poverty and desperation is setting in. Yet, one short metro journey away, at the end of the line, another world awaits. For here is the neighbouring town of Pireaus. There is nothing so obscene in the whole of Athens as this port, where rows and rows of luxury yachts, each one worth tens of millions, stand idle awaiting their owners to fancy a cruise. It is right here where the scum of Greek society can be found. Few pay taxes on their yachts, claiming they are for business use, or simply dodging it altogether aided and abetted by a government who has no interest in pursuing the wealthy as they bleed ordinary people dry. It is also where Chrysi Avgi has a significant base,where the daughter of the neo-nazi leader participated along with several others in a vicious attack on a worker and where a group of 15-20 attacked a makeshift mosque (there are no mosques in the whole of Greece despite its significant muslim population).
The Legarde list of 2,000 tax evaders, who had made deposits of totalling two billion euros in Swiss bank accounts was given to Evangelos Venizelos the current leader of PASOK, two years ago when he was the Minister of Finance. Apparently he “lost” it. As you do with hundreds of millions in potential tax revenue in a country where the austerity measures are so harsh that its cities burn in protest at the misery. Earlier this month, while still claiming never to have opened the file, he also claimed that on viewing some printouts, he implied a Jewish connection to the tax evasion, stating that the only three names he had seen on the list were of Greek Jewish origin, a comment that was picked up by the right wing racist blog, Hellas Orthodoxy, who demanded that these three names were made public. Although racism directed at migrants is common, this attack on Jewish people was a new ideological escalation from a mainstream politician in a country where fascists are on the rise.
Kostas Vaxevanis, a journalist with Hot Doc magazine went one better – publishing the whole list. Unlike the pursuit of the tax evaders, his arrest was swift on charges of violating data privacy laws. Another attack on journalism in a country where the freedom of the press is being substantially controlled and state propaganda is the order of the day. Journalists are facing increasing restrictions with beatings being dished out to anyone who criticises Chrysi Avgi, or who attempts to report on their activities, while those who so much as mention reports of the torture taking place in police stations face losing their jobs.
Tspiras, the leader of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) has announced that he will reveal the funding sources of the fascists. It would not surprise me in the slightest if there was substantial overlap between the two lists. Here fascism is being fed and funded by fat cats who fear the loss of their kleptocratic regime.