Lair Of A Squirrel Red


Uhm, this is just wrong, ok? by korakious
September 29, 2007, 6:58 pm
Filed under: Scottish politics, sectariana

Dear Daily Record,

Please don’t do this ever again.

Kthanx

No comments.



Elections in Greece: Positive results for the left by korakious
September 27, 2007, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Elections, Greece

The following is my take on the recent elections in Greece. It will be also appearing on Emancipation and Liberation soon, but I thought I’d post it here as well, because I know you were waiting for it.

That the Greek parliamentary election of the 16th of September would result in a significantly different composition of the legislature than the one Greeks are used to was more or less common knowledge. Three and a half years of extreme government incompetence and quite shocking scandals such as the telephone surveillance case[1] and the abduction of Pakistani men by British agents[2], both having serious implications on national sovereignty, as well as increasing incidents of police brutality, especially during the student protests against the proposed educational reform (on which I’ll comment in another post), ensured that support for the conservative government of Nea Demokratia (ND, New Democracy), would retreat significantly from the 45.36% of the vote tallied in 2004 and the strong absolute majority of 165 out 300 parliamentary seats this guaranteed. Moreover, the fact that the whole of the rather short campaigning period took place under the shadow, or better, under the eerie glare of a rather large part of the country being ravaged by wild fires which were anything by accidental, made certain that there would be a significant protest vote gained by the far left and, to a lesser extent, the far right.

Both of the above happened more or less as expected, with ND suffering a loss of 3.52% and 13 seats, tallying 2,995,321 votes (41.83%), which significantly decreased their parliamentary power, leaving them with a very slight majority of only 152 seats. Meanwhile, the combined far left vote increased by 4.04% to 13.19%. KKE (the Communist Party) gathered an impressive 8.15% (+2.26) of the vote returning 22 MPs (+10), while SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), with 5.04% (+1.78) returned 14 MPs (+8). In large cities, the gains made by the left were significantly higher, with, for example, KKE reaching 14.55% in the V’ Peiraios district and SYRIZA 9.27% in A’ Athinon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the far right LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) entered Parliament for the first time, tallying 3.80% (+1.61) and winning 10 seats.

What was more surprising is the serious setback suffered by PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement, the Greek equivalent of the Labour party). Support for the SPD-style Social Democrats retreated below the level of the 2004 election to 38.10 % (102 MPs, -2.45%), the lowest in more than 20 years[3].

The emerging picture is that of a clear shift of popular support away from the two large bourgeois parties towards radical smaller forces. Whether this is just an isolated protest vote incidence or the beginning of a more long term trend pointing to an intensification of class struggle remains to be seen. What is certain however is that Greek society has become far more receptive to more radical politics meaning that an increasing amount of space will be opening up for the far left to organise in the near future. Before going into what the immediate tasks of the Greek left are, it would be useful to provide some background on the parties currently in Parliament which it would be fair to say, will be the prime forces shaping Greek politics in the next four years (unless of course a revolution happens, workers councils spontaneously spring up and the dictatorship of the proletariat is established, but I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up for that).

The Parties

Nea Demokratia

Nea Demokratia was founded by Konstadinos Karamanlis, the first post-dictatorship Prime Minister of Greece. It is the traditional party of Greek capital and its satellite strata. While international commentators generally refer to them as conservatives, a more correct parallel would be continental European Christian Democracy. Unlike most centre-right parties, it is not a group of right wing liberals, but on the contrary, includes a variety of rightists from David Cameron like “modern” fluffy conservatives, to intensely ideological, ultra religious xenophobic cavemen like the former Minister of Public Order, who used to refer to riot police as the “praetorian guard of the country”. The Party is currently led by Kostas Karamanlis, the founder’s nephew who seems to have been placed at the helm more for his name than his political skills.

Right after emerging victorious, Karamanlis restructured the government, removing extremely unpopular ministers like the aforementioned Public Order brute from their posts (in fact, the Public Order ministry was abolished as an independent body and was incorporated into the Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation), in an obvious effort to rebuild the party’s citizen friendly image. However, this does not in any way mean that there will be any large scale retreat from the aggressive neo-liberal policies ND has been pursuing against the exploited working strata of Greek society with the tacit support of PASOK. Nevertheless, its significantly weakened position in Parliament is bound to make the party far more responsive to social movement pressure.

PASOK

Above, I described PASOK as SPD-style social-democrats. The reason I did so is that, like the SPD, PASOK has been on an increasingly right wing trajectory without however having been transformed (yet) into a fully fledged neo-Thatcherite party like New Labour. The similarities however, end here. Unlike both Labour and SPD, PASOK did not arise organically out of the struggle of the working class, it did not emerge as the political wing of the trade union movement and was definitely never a radical socialist political force. That is not to say that, it is not, like Labour, the party were most of the working class is, but that its apparatus is not composed by cadres of a proletarian character.

The party, or movement as they style themselves, was founded following the collapse of the Colonel Dictatorship in late 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, son of the prominent classical liberal politician Georgios Papandreou. From the very beginning, the social basis of PASOK lay in the radical wings of the petty and national bourgeoisie. Its early policy platform was clearly populist left nationalist, and in that manner, they share a lot with the SNP, although Greece’s independent status makes it difficult to draw further parallels. However, like the SNP, precisely because PASOK lacks a deep, organic working class basis, it has been able to engage in a series of political u-turns, like dropping withdrawal from both NATO and EU as a policy in the period following its first electoral victory in 1981. For this same reason however, it is also far easier for the working class sections that do support PASOK to abandon it.

The current leader of the “movement” is Giorgos Papandreou, son of the founder, who acceded to the presidency shortly before the 2004 elections, in an effort to rebuild party popularity after 8 years of neo-liberal “modernisation” under Costas Simitis had severely eroded its support basis. Despite employing populist rhetoric and conjuring his father’s ghost on every opportunity, Papandreou has failed to stop PASOK’s bleeding of support to the left. After defeat in the latest elections had become evident, he announced that he would be seeking reelection as president, however, shortly after that, Evagelos Venizelos, who while popular within PASOK, is considered to be on the conservative wing of the party, also announced his candidacy. Elections are to be held sometime in November. I will return to their significance for the left later.

LAOS

LAOS is a strange case. While it would be fair to say that it is a far right wing party, its perception by many as fascist is rather mistaken. LAOS was founded by former ND member and MP, Giorgos Karatzaferis, following his expulsion in 2000. Since then, LAOS has engaged in a number of extremely haphazard political maneuvers, adopting policies in what seems to be an entirely random manner. Its contradictions are evident on a daily basis, with prominent members promoting books that supposedly debunk the “myth” that there was any homosexuality in ancient Greece, while Karatzaferis himself has stated that homophobia must be fought and voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution on homophobia in Europe. Furthermore, while LAOS maintains that there are too many immigrants in Greece, Karatzaferis has often rejected nationalism as an idea, describing himself as a patriot and an enemy of globalization instead. Further, while members of LAOS have often made anti-semitic comments, Karatzaferis has signed the EU motion on anti-semitism[4] while official party literature denounces marginalisation on any grounds and makes it clear that LAOS respects all nations and religions. If anything, LAOS has only diluted the far right in Greece, pulling it towards a more moderate direction, even though its parliamentary group contains some of the most virulently reactionary elements in the Greek political scene.

While there is definitely a difference between what LAOS as a party puts forward and what its members actually believe (LAOS includes former members of extreme right organisations that have often been involved in violent attacks against immigrants and left activists), it should be remembered that small parties can only have a political effect on society through the issues they raise and the arguments they put forward, rather than what they actually practice, simply because they are not in a position to actually do anything of any importance. The situation might have been more problematic if LAOS had managed to get into office by entering a coalition with ND had the latter not established an absolute majority in Parliament, but this is a possibility we need not presently concern ourselves with.

What is more, the percentage of the electorate that was attracted to LAOS is almost certainly not made up of potential fascists and virulent nationalists, but by less conscious exploited strata, as well as disgruntled ND voters. Its electoral campaigning was a classical example of patriotic populism, attacking “globalisation”, irresponsible bankers, foreign interests etc. while also criticising the government on its handling of “national matters” like the FYROM name question.

KKE

The Communist Party is the oldest party in Greece, founded in 1918. It has a very rich history of both outstanding heroism and shameful class treachery. Unlike most European CPs, it did not turn to reformism and social-democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead, the hardliners who marginally dominated the Central Committee purged the party of “revisionist”, or “renewing”, depending on which side you are on, elements which formed a large part of the apparatus. The expelled members went on to form Syn, on which I will comment below. Then, KKE also suffered a split in its youth wing, with the majority of the membership leaving to form another party, which has now become completely marginal.

Despite these major setbacks, KKE managed to rebuild itself and its youth, becoming the largest far left political force, with more than 10,000 members. Its success is largely based on its insistence on explicitly class based politics, its focus on staunch opposition to all imperialist projects, both NATO and EU inspired as well as its diligent participation in all workers’ struggles.

On the downside, KKE is extremely bureaucratic, leaving little, if any room for initiative to its grassroots activists. It is extremely sectarian, refusing to cooperate with other left wing groups and parties despite the fact that it could use its political muscle to become the driving force behind left regroupment in Greece. However, it does show some signs that it could be moving towards a healthier political path, with its official rejection of stage theory some time ago being the prime example. Unfortunately, the very strict model of “democratic” centralism the party adheres to makes it extremely difficult to discern its internal political developments.

SYRIZA

The Coalition of the Radical Left, is, as its name implies, not an actual party but an electoral coalition. It is quite peculiar however in that it is not composed of groups of roughly equal political weight, but is instead dominated by one party, Synaspismos, or Syn, around which a few marginal organisations have grouped. These are: the Communist Organisation of Greece (Maoist), International Workers’ Left (a split from the Greek SWP), Red (a split from the latter), Movement for the United Action of the Left, Active Citizens, Ecological Intervention, Renewing Ecological Communist Left, Popular Unions of Bipartisan Left Groups, and the Democratic Social Movement. Apart from the latter, it would be fair to say that no one, other than left wing activists, has ever heard of these groups. It is thus very unlikely that anyone, apart from their members, intended to vote SYRIZA in order to support them. It would be safe therefore to regard the growth of support for SYRIZA as a coalition, as a growth of support of Synaspismos as a party. In fact, “Synaspismos” is Greek for “coalition”, suggesting that many of SYRIZA’s voters are not aware of the distinction between the party and the coalition. Thus, the politics of Syn form the core of all SYRIZA policies, even if the smaller groups maintain some influence on their content.

Synaspismos itself was formed in the early 90s after the aforementioned expulsions from the Communist Party. The expelled members joined up with the Eurocommunists that had split from the party in the late 60s. As is the case with most Eurocommunist and reformed CP formations, Synaspismos’s social basis was far less proletarian in composition, with the party being strongest amongst the more privileged strata of the working class as well as the radicalised elements of the middle classes. Naturally then, Synaspismos conducts its politics with little, if any reference to class as the fundamental cleavage in society, while socialism is rarely mentioned as the party’s ultimate political goal, with abstract references to a “more just society” being made instead. This movementist, RESPECT like approach is entirely in line with Syn’s leadership plan to construct a broad, left of PASOK alliance, as in opposed to an explicitly socialist political force. While there’s is an argument (correct or wrong) to be made for such a strategy in countries like England, on the basis that the political level of the working class is not high enough to allow the growth of a radical class-based socialist party, in the context of a society that is obviously receptive to open class politics as is shown by the growth of KKE, this is nothing sort of reactionary.

In its defense, Syn has a far healthier internal political structure/culture than that of the KKE, which, allowing the formation of platforms is fairly similar to that of the SSP. However, the ideological cohesion of Syn is far weaker than the SSP’s even before the split. The SSP suffered from including socialists with very contradictory ideas of how socialists should conduct their struggle, but the idea of socialism as a society that is a complete negation of capitalism was never disputed. Syn on the other hand includes in its ranks anyone from orthodox Marxists to radical social-democrats. This is a rather insoluble contradiction that has often led to embarrassing incidents of Syn members from different factions opposing each other on tv panels.

I hope that the above has given the reader a more or less solid idea of the nature of the prime political parties in Greece; we can now proceed to examine the prospects opened up for the left by the electoral result.

Prospects and Tasks

While both the retreat of the main bourgeois parties and the growth of the radical left were substantial, it is important to remember that they were not nearly as great as the scale of the destruction wrought by the summer fires should have caused them to be. This is not the place to discuss how bourgeois hegemony maintains itself even in the most adverse circumstances. It is important however to realise that if the left does not remain persistent in its resolute opposition to neo-liberal offensives, as well as organise effective resistance against them, this breakthrough might very well be for naught. While a collapse of the scale of the SSP vote is extremely unlikely, simply for reasons of historic loyalty to KKE of a sizable portion of the left, a retreat to the levels of 2004 would still be very disappointing.

In the immediate future, there will be a number of issues that will require swift action to be taken by both KKE and Syn-SYRIZA. Firstly, the attitude of the government towards the communities destroyed by the fires will surely cause much disillusionment and aid will most definitely be insufficient, inefficient and tokenistic. Further, it is certain that a large part of the burned areas will be given to land developers to build on. Infact, this has already started in some areas. There will definitely be significant local opposition to this and it is imperative for both left poles to be visibly present. Unfortunately, given the rural nature of said areas and their long conservative tradition, it is unlikely that a strong left current will be established there. It is however important that the left is present, if only to help raise its national profile, as the destruction of the Peloponese is regarded as a serious matter by the whole of Greek society.

Second, after having restructured itself, the government of Karamanlis will surely embark on an offensive of “modernising” reforms that will be directed against the working class. The one that is bound to have the highest profile, at least in the immediate future, is the proposed revision of the constitution to amend article 16, guaranteeing the public and universal character of education in the country. The student movement that shook Greece last year, although bound to be significantly demobilised and weakened after a whole summer of catch up classes and exam periods, will surely be brought to the forth once again. While the movement suffered from the lack of a correct political orientation, being basically led by corrupt elements of the student union and professor bureaucracy, which saw the “framework-law” reforms – which has since been passed – as an attack against their privileges (which they were), there is little doubt as to the need to fight against the proposed constitutional revision, which would almost certainly destroy what little quality public education in Greece has. The student movement therefore will offer a good chance for the left to build and organise.

Finally, the succession struggle in PASOK will inevitably cause much upheaval within the working masses that still support them. If the populist Panadreou was unable to stop PASOK’s bleeding of support despite his overtures to the left, then Venizelos, the likely winner of the contest, who is a far more thoroughly bourgeois politician will only increase the rate of decline. It is thus more likely that PASOK will soon start to fight ND on its own ground. Bizarrely, this might actually work for them, as ND will most likely move to the right on token issues as pressure from LAOS increases and since the difference between PASOK and ND is almost entirely tokenistic, it is not improbable that the more centre oriented ND support base will move towards PASOK. In any case, a huge space will be opened to the left of PASOK that the left should move to occupy. In this respect, the president of Syn and SYRIZA, Alekos Alavanos is entirely correct in remarking that radical social democracy should be approached by anti capitalist forces[5]. However, the Syn leadership is wrong in trying to achieve this by means of finding common ground, when it clearly has the political weight to pull the left of PASOK elements towards an anti-capitalist direction, meaningfully different to the dead end of anti-neoliberalism. Any alliance of Syn with the radical social democracy on their grounds will only strengthen its internal social democratic factions and increase pressure for entering a coalition government with PASOK, a possibility which has never been rejected in principle by the Syn leadership.

Conclusion: The problem of left bipolarity and the KKE or Syn dilemma

As long as this division within the radical left persists, any resistance against the increasing aggressiveness of the bourgeoisie will be severely fettered by sectarianism, while any hope of it turning into an actual working class offensive will remain just that, a hope. While it is true that responsibility for kicking off the project of meaningful left unity lies with KKE as both the larger and the more radical force of the two (and unfortunately, the most sectarian of all), Syn-SYRIZA should be criticised on the basis that it does not engage in any action that might make the KKE Central Committee more open towards the prospect of rapprochement. Specifically, Syn’s complete lack of principled opposition to the European Union’s directives (in fact, the nature of its opposition amounts to critical support), must be abandoned in favour of a more clear cut rejection of the whole project like its position on NATO. Further, the radical wing of Syn should try to pull the party towards a more class oriented approach to politics, away from its current new left movementism, which is a sure recipe for dilution of principles. It is Syn that must provide the initiative for left regroupment on a radical socialist basis, even in the form of an electoral pact, as any such move is unlikely to come from KKE.

This situation creates an almost insoluble dilemma for non aligned Greek leftists. Electorally, one has to choose between a mass party with explicit class, socialist politics which is however totally bureaucratic and sectarian, and a smaller loose coalition of vaguely radical left forces without a clear political orientation which could in the future possibly enter a bourgeois coalition. There is no easy solution to this problem and one has to choose based as much on personal convictions and feelings as on objective political analysis. Those of us who follow the Greek left without being actively involved in it, can only hope that the self-activity of the working masses will at some point force their vanguard groups to get their act together.


[1] For a fairly good piece on this, see the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_telephone_tapping_case_2004-2005

[2] Greek society was in the dark about this, until it was uncovered by the BBC. See here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4526502.stm

[3] See the Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation website for an analytical breakdown of electoral results. http://www.ekloges.ypes.gr/pages_en/index.html

[5] Interview of Alekos Alavanos on NET (in Greek): http://www.syn.gr/gr/keimeno.php?id=7563



Farooq Tariq going underground by korakious
September 24, 2007, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Pakistan

Farooq Tariq is having problems with the Pakistani authorities yet again

Going underground

By: Farooq Tariq

I was avoided another arrest last night on 23rd September 2007. I had just returned home at 11pm from Toba Tek Singh, a five hour drive from Lahore. I am planning to contest general elections for national parliament from Toba Tek Singh, my home city. When the bell rang, I was sure it is police again. My partner Shahnaz asked me who can come at this time of the night. Our children have just gone to sleep, but Mashal (14) our daughter got up as well with the bell ringing constantly.
I asked Shahnaz to check who they are and if police is there do not tell that I am at home. We had decided that I will not be arrested this time easily. Police has to work and work little harder to catch me. If I am at home and police comes, they have to break the doors to get me out. I will not voluntarily come out. I was also sick and tired of police knocking my door again and again.
Shahnaz went out and she was tricked by the police to open the door. They did not tell her that it is police; instead they said friends of Farooq. But when she opened the door, she found dozens of police men in uniform and they asked where I am. Shahnaz who has now become used to police arrivals at our door step, told them courageously that he is not here and he is in Toba Tek Singh. My daughter Mashal was also with her watching the drama.
They did not insist to enter home instead asked my mobile number, which was given to him. The police officer connected my number and my cell started ringing at home, Mashal immediately felt the danger and ran inside to stop the phone. The running of Mashal inside home could have convinced the police officer that I am at home but he did not force himself inside the door and said thanks to Shahnaz.
Shahnaz closed the door but police remained there for some time. I as watching from inside home fearing of police climbing the walls and break in. But it seems that police officer was just doing his duty and not really interested to go any further. It was the same police officer with his team who had arrested me last time on June 4th 2007 from my same home.
I then sent SMS to the friends and press informing that I just avoided the arrest this time. Police is arresting most of the activists from the opposition parties and this time including the main leadership of the opposition parties. This practice is to avoid more demonstrations against General Musharaf who wants him to be reelected again for the next five years from a parliament who was elected for five years term. This parliament has elected General Musharaf with the help of the religious fundamentalists in 2002. But this time the religious parties do not want him to be elected and has decided with other political parties to resign from the parliament instead of electing him.
The regime has arrested dozens of activists and leaders of different political parties and is raiding houses of more activists like me. I do not want to be arrested this time and has decided to remain active but to avoid arrest as well.
Going to jail again and again is no good and comrades and friends have made jokes and jokes about me. Whenever, I meet a friend, he asks me when have you come out (jail) or when are you going in?
My son Abdullah (7) told me this morning that it now my turn to play „find and hide‰ game with police. When he was only one year old, police came to arrest me at my home and at the time both Shahnaz and myself were not at home, when Razia, the women who was taking care of Abdullah told police that Farooq is not at home, he said ok where is his son, I will take him with me and then Farooq will definitely come to present his arrest, a normal practice by many police come in Pakistan. He did not know that my son is only one year. Razia went inside home and brought Abdullah outside and told the police officer in anger, yes, you can arrest him, he is son of Farooq. Looking at Abdullah, the police officer was ashamed and said sorry and went back not come again for some time.
When I was living in rented place, my house boss was arrested and my office boss was arrested instead of me when police was unable to find me at home and at office. I went to one friend who was editor of Daily Jang to help the release of my home and office bosses, when he heard, he advised me to leave the buggers with police, and told me that at least you do not have to pay rent anymore.
So a new game has started with police, I will attend the demonstration on 27th September alongside with the advocates in any case and till then will try that police should not get hold of me.
So be ready for a new possible solidarity campaign please.

Farooq Tariq
general secretary
Labour Party Pakistan
40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6271149 Mobile: 92 300 8411945,

labourpartypk@yahoo.com www.laborpakistan.org www.jeddojuhd.com



SSP statement on victory against cuts by korakious
September 3, 2007, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh, Scottish politics, SSP

Comrades from England (and the world) may not be aware of the plan of the SNP/Lib-Dem controlled Edinburgh City Council to axe about 22 schools and nurseries as well as implement further cuts that would result in job losses and other things that nobody on the left likes. Well, whether you were aware of it or not, you will be happy to learn that the SNP decided to scrap the plan after a spontaneous movement of students and parents rocked their shocks. The Lair brings you the SSP statement on this very heartening victory

Under an onslaught of protest from school students, community activists, parents and trade unionists, SNP councillors on Edinburgh City Council have been forced to end their support for a devastating series of schools, nurseries and community centre closures.

A general strike of UNISON members employed by the council brought services to a standstill on Thursday 23rd of August, heavily supported by school students and community campaigns such as Save Our Old Town and Save Meadowbank.

This was followed by a city wide protest of school students on Friday 31st that saw children from primary to secondary taking protest action.
Withdrawal of SNP support for the closures effectively ends the immediate threat to essential community resources.

Anti cuts campaigners are jubilant after a highly effective Edinburgh wide campaign was rapidly mobilized with the support of existing community campaigns and hundreds of new activists.
Former MSP Colin Fox and UNISON activist Catriona Grant played a key role in brining together trade union and community activists.
The SSP was also represented amongst the school students by Lothians Scottish Socialist Youth organiser Sarah Higgins.

Yet again the people of Edinburgh have taken protest action in defence of public services and for people, not profit.

The previous Labour administration was beaten back in its attempt to privatise the entire municipal housing stock by a grass roots tenants campaign that defeated a multi million pound advertising blitz.
Now Edinburgh communities have again taken action that has defeated attempts to dismantle municipal facilities.

The SSP has been at the heart of the movement to defend public services in Edinburgh and the Lothians since our inception nearly a decade ago and are proud to be a continuing part of the people’s battle to defend the basic principle of public services; for people not profit.



Capital Inferno. Wildfires in Greece by korakious
September 2, 2007, 2:00 pm
Filed under: environment, Greece, Guest posts, Imperialism

The Lair is now open. The Squirrel Vanguard decided to bring you quite a bombastic opener for this year; we hope you will appreciate it.

The following article I found somewhere in the endless dusty corridors of the world wide web. It deals with the recent wildfires that ravaged (and are still ravaging) a great part of Greece, burning villages and killing more than 65 people. The author used a number of sources to put together the puzzle of what can only be described as a coordinated offensive by capital, foreign and domestic. References are to articles in Greek. Remember folks, the Lair never lies to you.

Greece under attack by tourist-developer cartels

In the last week of August of 2007, Greece underwent the most enormous catastrophe in her history since the restoration of Parliamentary Democracy in 1974. Western and Southern Peloponnese, the “heart” of both ancient and modern Greece, as well as other places like Athens’ suburbs and Evia Island, have been totally destroyed by wildfires. 65 people have been killed (among them was a mother with her four young children), several more are missing, numerous villages have been wiped off the map and millions of acres of forest or agricultural land have been converted into ashes.

Apart from the loss of human lives, the destruction wrought by the arsonists will have far reaching effects that will surface in due time. The devastation of forests will result in an overall rise of temperature, floods in the winter, corrosion of the ground and landslides. Furthermore, the razed areas will be affected economically by a tremendous rise of unemployment, a huge emigration of their native population to Athens or other big cities, while the whole of Greece will face an overall decline in agricultural output, since those areas were key producers of vegetables, fruits and, most importantly, olive oil.

Undoubtedly, a major crime has been committed. A crime, however, that is not spontaneous, but premeditated. The 290 different centers of fires that broke out in Peloponnese definitely point to arson.

In order to locate the arsonists, one has to look at the strong financial interests which have been pressuring for the “development” of the destroyed areas for several years up to now.

The Ionian Road

The construction of a national highway in Peloponnese under the name “Ionian Road” – specifically the south part of Ionian Road, as Ionian Road is extended in Central and Northern Greece too – connecting her four major cities, Korinthos, Patra, Pirgos, and Kalamata, was conceived as an idea in 1996, but it was postponed mainly due to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens which absorbed most of the state’s resources. The new right-wing government of Nea Dimokratia promised in 2004 to start building the highway soon. At last, its construction was auctioned in July of 2007 to the native and multinational construction companies Vinci–El.Technodomiki–TEV, Aktor, J&P Avax, Hochtief and Athina, and it was supposed to start right away, with the prospect of being completed in 2011[1].

The Ionian Road would secure road access to the enormous tourist facilities that were being built in Western Peloponnese, and those that were still being planned at the time. The completion of the Ionian Road ought obviously not to take more than the required time; therefore, its construction shouldn’t be interrupted by “aggravating” forests, biotopes and ecosystems as well as environmental and community activists. the Nea Dimokratia MP for the Elea region of Western Peloponese G. Kontogiannis, had stated clearly, as early as 2004: “The political leadership of the Ministry of Public Works believes that the Ionian Road has to proceed rapidly so as to make up for the delays of the last few years…”[2].

Ionian Road was originally scheduled to cross over places of high environmental significance, such as Lake Kaiafa in Zaharo area, which had been included in the Natura 2000 European catalogue. As the chairman of Zaharo’s Environmental Protection League, Mr. Agrapidas said in July, “The combination of ground and lacustrine ecosystems as well as their co-existence with antiquities, mythological places and the thermal fountain renders Lake Kaiafa ecosystem a unique cluster that has been declared an archaeological site and a landscape of special natural beauty”.

The prefectorial council of Elea, in which the aforementioned area falls under, refused to cede Lake Kaiafa for the construction of Ionian Road, despite the strong pressure by the Ministry of Public Works. According to Mr. Agrapidas’s claims, there was an alternative route for the highway, not crossing the area; nevertheless it might have been longer and of higher cost[3]. At last, the Ministry succumbed to the demands of the locals and decided on the 24th of July to divert Ionian Road towards another direction, far away from the lake, so that its fragile ecosystem would not be harmed[4]. However, a mere month later, the area around Lake Kaiafa was burned to the ground. The constructors of the highway will now face little resistance in their exploitation of the devastated area.

Strangely enough, the centers of most of the fires that broke out there coincide perfectly with the original plan for the Ionian Road! Compare the NASA satellite photograph of the Peloponese burning to the Ionian Road plan.

Other Interests in the Western Peloponese

Lake Kaiafa had also attracted the attention of other benevolent investors and developers. In 2003, the former Deputy Minister of Economics D. Georgakopoulos of the former government of the “socialist” PASOK, was charged with pressuring the Domanial Service of Elea, the region that he was elected in, to declassify Lake Kaiafa as a protected territory in order for it to be granted to big tourist corporations for the development of hotel complexes and golf courses. He had also presented a relevant report according to which an investment of 150 million euros would be made on Lake Kaiafa for the “modernization” of spas and other facilities of the area[5], which referred to the ecologists who protested against the plans as “ecoterrorists”[6]. Now that the beautiful biotope around the lake has been burnt up, the “investors” and their political agents won’t need to counter any bureaucratic barrier or “ecoterrorism” in order to declassify it.

Apart from Lake Kaiafa, many other places in Western Peloponnese through which the Ionian Road will pass, are also considered to be “ideal” for the development of tourist businesses. For instance, in the Messinia region in the South-West of Peloponnese more than one billion euros are going to be invested in 11 big hotel blocks of 5 stars, luxurious summerhouses, sea therapy and spa facilities, a seasonal center as well as 4 huge golf courses. The major investor in this area seems to be a notorious Greek ship-owner, V. Konstantakopoulos, who runs Costamare Shipping SA, based in Panama, but strong multinational corporations seem to operate alongside him; Kempinski multinational corporation which is mostly active in South-Eastern Asia is going to exploit the sea therapy and spa facilities and a famous American company has undertaken the exploitation of the golf courses[7]. Konstantakopoulos has appropriated enormous areas of agricultural land with olive trees, some times without the consent of their owners, as well as land in areas alongside the Navarino lagoon (also protected by NATURA 2000) openly defying the law. The few “bureaucratic” problems considering the permissions of Archeological and Forest Service that had remained were overcome after his visit to the presidential palace and his meeting with the Prime Minister K. Karamanlis, in 2005. He also secured 45% subsidization by the state for his investments[8]! And now, that much of the Messinia district has been consumed by the (not so) wildfires, he definitely feels even luckier as he can extend his business to the devastated area expropriating the land he needs in depreciated prices.

Another place in Western Peloponnese that is considered by the “investors” to be a bargain is Katakolo in Elea district. In late August, the famous international business association World Trade Center Group sent their representative, David H. Lee, to Katakolo and ratified an agreement with state officials for the “development” of the area[9].

The region around ancient Olympia has also been the subject of potentional exploitation. Many domestic and foreign “investors” have proposed deploying the surrounding area by building modern stadiums, hotels and other facilities and even use this place for organizing the Olympic Games[10]! One of the reasons that they were not permitted to implement their plan was that this surrounding area was forestland. After the fire though, there is no more forest surrounding Olympia so that barrier is no longer present.

Most people in Greece know that Western Peloponnese has the most magnificent coasts and beaches in the whole country. Nevertheless, her people were very traditional and closely linked to their land and property and with the agricultural sector of the area being particularly strong, they had never desired to exploit their region in a tourists-industry fashion. The tourist “investors” had good knowledge of this fact and in order to successfully exploit the area, they first needed to preemptively destroy any popular resistance to their plans and they couldn’t care less if then of people there died in flames. As for the people who survived, most of them will move to Athens to seek a job, while the few remaining there, will apparently work as waiters or security guards to the huge hotel block that will spring soon. The investors seem to have achieved what they had intended.

The Germans’ special role

Mountain Taygetos and Parnonas in Central and Southern Peloponnese respectively, were also burned. It was common knowledge among those local communities that powerful German interest groups desired avidly to transform the mountains into ski resorts and chalets. The Germans had in the past been interested in exploiting Mountain Grammos in Northern Greece, which was partially burned this summer in July. German capital has also been active in Western Peloponnese and Evia buying enormous pieces of land, either as private investors or under the cover of offshore companies. Not surprisingly, one of the contractors that will participate in the construction of Ionian Road in Peloponnese, Hochtief, is German and interestingly enough it is owned by Kaitel, the son of the homonymic notorious Nazi general. It seems that while German imperialism failed to occupy Greece in World War II having been beaten and humiliated by her strong resistance movement, it succeeds in 2007 without military invasion, just with some fires and the help of their modern collaborators; not the security battalions, but the regional and central bureaucrats ruling the Greek state.

Yet, the similarly crucial role of British and American interests should not be ignored. Having almost fully “occupied” Corfu and Crete Island with their hotels and golf courses, they coveted Peloponnese as well, buying huge swathes of land to be used for tourist developments. Indeed, they are very loyal to their colonialist traditions of 1944 when the British bombed Athens and killed 40.000 civilians in order to crash the resistance movement, which had achieved to liberate Greece before they came in, and of 1967, when the U.S. imposed a seven-year fascist dictatorship, which totally destroyed the country.

The golf lobby

One of the strongest blocks of interests, if not the strongest, which desire the “resortisation”, so to speak, of the Greek coasts are the prospective constructors of golf courses. The huge level of environmental destruction that the construction of golf courses will lead to, such as waste of water, use of enormous quantities of artificial fertilizers and disruption of the nearby ecosystems doesn’t seem to concern the Greek government which does everything possible to grant large areas in the countryside to golf investors. The Minister of Public Works, G. Souflias, claimed in May of 2007 that “considering the golf issue there are many deficiencies, as Greece has just 6 golf courses whereas France has more than 500, Italy more than 200, Spain more than 300 and Portugal 36”. Moreover, another high-rank officer of the ruling party, the Deputy Minister of Economics, P. Doukas, is at the same time the president of the Greek Golf Association, and had publicly declared in 2005 that even more golf courses are necessary. It should be noted however that the main opposition party, PASOK, before the elections of 2004, had promoted the support and the expansion of the golf industry in Greece, and after the elections, which it lost, it hasn’t been opposed to golf policy of the Nea Dimokratia government at all[11].

As expected, all the environmental studies and reports that warn about the destruction that golf courses will cause have been deliberately ignored. “Who passes by those studies in favor of tourist development?” wanders Mrs. E. Mpriasouli, professor in the Department of Geography in the Aegean University. “They think that this way they are going to get the hotels full of people. 70% of global tourism is manipulated by a single organization (i.e. Global Tourist Organization). They promote the golfer cluster and they blackmail us to accept this model. The same happened with the pools. […] This model of tourism concerns the foreigners who stay and do everything inside the tourist facility. They don’t go outside of it, they don’t consume any domestic products, and of course everything is produced and constructed by big companies”[12].

Western Peloponnese’s long coastline was ideal for the golf industry to construct several golf courses. By 2005, the International Golf Association was very optimistic that in 2006 and 2007 there would be a very big golf ‘boom’[13]. However, so far the locals and the environmentalists struggled hard against this prospect. Now that there is no environmental value in the devastated areas, that ‘boom’ will face little resistance. In confirmation of that, the aforementioned Deputy Minister of Economics, who is renowned in Greece for his cynicism, appeared on national TV two days after the disaster, and he attempted to soothe the pain of the people living in the disaster areas by promising that a development plan, considering tourism and especially golf courses, will start being implemented there right away! Of course, the sold out Greek Mass Media, both public and private, branded the plan as a great benefaction.

Government’s and main opposition’s complicity

The government of Nea Dimokratia, which has been ruling from March 2004, has devoted itself in the tourist development of the countryside and coasts in order to increase the annual influx of tourists. “There are one million Europeans who are interested in buying a summerhouse in Greece” was one of the main arguments of government officials, who used to refer to tourism as Greece’s heavy industry[14]! Thus, the Ministries of Civil Works and Tourism put up a plan of tourist “development”, under the name of New Zoning Framework for Tourism, which blatantly offered land and water to the tourist cartels.

According to the abovementioned framework, an “investor” can buy land everywhere, and simply by naming the investment as a “tourist” one, get a big subsidization and build four times more than a privateer, as long as they sell the 70% of the houses to privateers and run the rest 30% as a hotel. They have also the right to build in environmentally protected areas or skerries provided they name them “tourist”! This situation is aggravated by the inexistence of a National Cadastral Register, which would at least classify some forestlands or biotopes as such and might prevent them from being built[15].

However, for this plan to be successful an overall reconsideration of zoning in the country needed to take place, that is to say, permissions for appropriating forestland should be awarded. Therefore, in early 2007, the government tabled a constitutional amendment according to which, article 24, stating that construction in forestland is strictly forbidden, would be practically abolished. The official opposition, PASOK strongly condemned the amendment and blocked the ratification of it by withdrawing from the voting – the funny thing is that, in 2003, when PASOK was in power, it tried to pass an identical amendment, but Nea Dimokratia, then the official opposition, refused to support it. Although, finally, article 24 was not abolished, the prospective arsonists were encouraged to hasten their plans, and consequently, in the summer of 2007, Greece suffered the greatest number of wildfires in her modern history.

Furthermore, the Sub-Ministry of Environment, which happens to fall under the Ministry of Public Works and is responsible for using the state funds provided to the latter for the protection of the forests and biotopes, did very little on this. Most of the, already few, resources for environmental protection were transferred back to the Ministry of Public Works in order to support works already under way, using the ridiculous excuse that the Sub-Ministry of Environment was unable to spend it all[16].

Another way in which the government is responsible for the holocaust is that it caused the collapse of the Fire Brigade. The Ministry of Public Order, under whose jurisdiction the Fire Brigade falls, hadn’t recruited the required number of firemen, preferring instead to hire thousands of policemen! In addition to this, the virulently right wing Minister of Public Order, V. Polidoras, transferred incompetent officers, who were eventually proven to be completely incapable to combat the numerous wildfires, to key positions simply because they were members of the ruling party[17].

The tourist-developer cartels soon realized the incapacity of the Fire Brigade and the insufficient measures for the protection of the forests, and therefore, aided by the high temperatures and the strong winds in this area, obviously decided it was a very convenient time for them to put their plan into action.

The scapegoats

When the first fires in the Peloponnese broke out, everybody thought it would be the ordinary land developers who casually burn pieces of forestland every year in order to build on them. Yet, when several new fires broke out which, unprecedentedly, burned whole villages to the ground, killing tens of people, the public started suspecting an organized plot by strong native entrepreneurs or even multinational companies. Greece was apparently under attack, and since the fire brigade and their political chiefs in the Ministry of Public Order were proved to be totally incapable to put down the fires, the government tried to spin the mayhem unleashed by global capital and its domestic lackeys to its own advantage. Two days after the first fires, the Prime Minister, following the advice of his image-makers, appeared on National Television wearing an ordinary jacket, like George Bush did right after September 11th, and stated that Greece faces an asymmetric threat. Nevertheless, he obviously didn’t name those actually responsible for the fires, whose identities he most definitely knows. On the contrary, his colleagues in the government secretly or even openly blamed anarchists and political extremists for the arsons claiming that “they want to destabilize democracy”!

The mass media which support the government invented new imaginary enemies like the Turks, the Albanians or even PASOK, blaming them for the wildfires! PASOK, of course, condemned these scenarios as conspiracy theories, but on the other hand, it just put the blame on the government accusing it of incompetence. It is more than obvious that PASOK knew that the arsonists were the tourist-industry cartels, but it didn’t want to stand up to them, as, when in government, it was (and will be) tightly intertwined with them.

The police and its dependent secret services, all of them being famous on a world scale for their incompetence and stupidity, but very effective at beating up defenceless immigrants and protestors, did their best to find the perpetrators of the terrible crime. The result was the arrest of an old woman in Zaharo for causing the fire by negligence while she was cooking in her backyard, an Albanian immigrant who was misleadingly presented as the one having put some fires in order to take revenge from his Greeks employers for mistreating him, and a 62 year old pensioner arrested in Aeropoli of Lakonia who was a former member of PASOK and was forced to admit that he was one of the arsonists[18]. Yet, in this case the police needn’t have necessarily acted as stupidly as always; the mission surely assigned to them by the government was to cover up the actual arsonists.

Conclusion

As days pass and more evidence comes to the surface, it becomes more and more obvious that the instigators of this recent destruction in Greece are the multinational tourist-sector cartels. Nevertheless, the implementation of that arson attack was not something that ordinary arsonists (usually foreigners hired by petty developers) could have done; on the contrary, it required perfect organization, planning and coordination. Thus, the perpetrators of it are definitely the cartels’ instruments, that is to say foreign secret services.

It is widely accepted that tourist cartels of Western Europe and America with the collaboration of their Greek business representatives, and the tolerance of the corrupted local politicians, have been trying to convert Greece into a huge tourist resort for well-off Europeans and Americans and her people into waiters. For decades, the E.U. has been using economic violence, forbidding Greece to subsidize her own industry and agricultural production or to impose import duties to their products while the U.S. have been blackmailing her to buy their weapons exploiting and inflaming the tension between her and neighbouring Turkey (also a great customer of the US weapons industry), in a manner reminiscent of Italian mafia “protection”. However, this kind of violence didn’t bring swift results and they decided to resort to physical violence, like the one that they regularly used to exert in their colonies.

So far, the Euro-American cartels seem to have achieved their target to devastate a big part of Greece. But her people have not said their last world yet. They will definitely claim their land back.

[1] Corinth, Patra, Pirgos, Motorway to be ready by summer 2011, GoWest.Gr, 24/7/07, http://www.gowest.gr/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9777&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=1585

[2] ND will end PASOK’s fiasco over the Ionian motorway, Indymedia Athens, 27/8/07, http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=752934

[3] The road can be moved, the lake, not quite, Kathimerini, 08/07/2007.

[4] Statement of Public Works Minister, Mr Yeorgios Souflias, on the signing of the contract re the North-West Road of the Peloponese, 24/7/07, http://www.minenv.gr/download/2007-07-24.dilosis.g.souflia.gia.ypografi.symbasis.elefsina-korinthos-patra-pyrgos-tsakona.doc

[5] Kayafa healing springs; investors needed, Rizospastis, 15/4/2003.

[6] 18- hole crime, Golf construction hysteria in Greece, Eleutherotypia, 3/4/2005.

[7]Tourism for Global Capital,Aristera! http://www.koel.gr/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=964&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=34

[8] 18 holes in a forest, Apiganias: Development or Destruction? Eleftherotypia, 1/5/2005

[9] Meeting of Sp. Spyridonas with International Entrepreneurial Delegation. Press release, 21/08/2005.

[10] Olympia is Reborn, Kathimerini, 6/8/05.

[11] 18- hole crime, Golf construction hysteria in Greece, Eleftherotypia, 3/4/2005.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Their country? Sold. Eleftherotypia, 17/6/2007.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hypocrisy – Environment and Public Works Ministry tried to cut back 30 million euros on “protected areas”. Eleftherotypia, 21/7/2007.

[17] From Karamanlis’s promises to… Souflias’s palpitations, Eleftherotypia, 28/7/07.

[18] Questions over 62 y.o.’s arrest in Aeropoli for arson. In.gr, 30/8/07, http://www.in.gr/news/article.asp?lngEntityID=827585&lngDtrID=244