Socialist Worker

Thousands protest in Athens against bullying bankers

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2439

Protesters outside the Greek parliament

Protesters outside the Greek parliament


Thousands of protesters rallied at short notice outside the Greek parliament in Athens last night, Thursday, against the bullying of Europe’s top banker.

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it would stop accepting Greek government bonds as collateral for loans to Greek banks.

Private investors are taking billions out of Greek banks. Ordinary people, who fear they will be left to bear the cost, are withdrawing money too. The ECB decision adds to this bank run.

It follows an announcement by finance minister Yanis Varoufakis that Greece would no longer cooperate with officials from the “Troika” of the ECB, European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Troika is hated for enforcing austerity to pay for bailing out the banks.

Radical left party Syriza was elected last month to stand up to it. Many of its voters are furious that Europe’s rulers want to deny them that right.

Teacher Stavroula Drakopoulou said she was protesting because, “We have nothing to lose, that’s why we’re defending the government.”

Despite kicking out the Troika, Syriza has pursued talks with the institutions behind it. Varoufakis has offered creditors a “frenzy of reasonableness”.

Yet they continue to take a hard line. This could force Syriza to choose between staying in the eurozone and keeping its election promises.

Some in the establishment wish the ECB and EU could co-opt Syriza. Southwest Securities investment firm boss Mark Grant said, “I think this is a real act of vengeance by the ECB and the EU and that’s a shame.”

But those at the top of those institutions realise that if Greece defies their blackmail,   others could too.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (Pic: World Economic Forum/flickr)


Protests took place in other Greek and European cities including Berlin, where Varoufakis was meeting German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Varoufakis reported, “We didn’t even agree to disagree.”

This is despite Varoufakis offering a “debt swap” that would see Greece continuing to pay for decades. He affirmed earlier this week that “Europe comes first”—even if it meant dropping some of Syriza’s anti-austerity promises.

Many Syriza supporters see it differently. Protester Dimitra Spyridopoulou said, “The decision by the ECB demonstrates the pressure on Greece, but that’s nothing compared to the problems of people who are starving or suicidal.”

Socialists in Greece have called a protest at the EU’s Athens headquarters on Thursday of next week.

It is in the interests of every worker that the bankers are defeated—and that Thursday’s protests are the first of many.


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International
Fri 6 Feb 2015, 14:26 GMT
Issue No. 2439
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