Privatisation of national assets. Deregulation – grotesquely, bakeries and milk are specifically mentioned as no longer to be subject to pesky government interference. Bread and milk. Removing workers’ rights to strike, to collective bargaining, to their legal rights in the wake of mass redundancies. No matter what the Greeks voted for, no matter what they wanted their government to do to help them: no democracy allowed.
This is a replay of another war: but not seventy-five years ago, only twelve.
One of the plans for the conquest and plundering of Iraq that went awry for the Bush administration was that all Iraqi nationalised assets were to be privatised. Saddam Hussein’s government had nationalised about 30% of Iraqi industries: the plan post-conquest was for the Coalition Provisional Authority to pursue policies that, as Donald Rumsfeld said in the Wall Street Journal in May 2003, ‘favour market systems’ and ‘encourage moves to privatise state-owned enterprises‘.
But, as the Bush administration discovered, their planned timetable of conquer, plunder, then hold elections, made the selling of the plunder unlawful: only a properly-elected government can lawfully sell national assets. A government established by foreign conquest explicitly can’t do so. Bush declared victory in Iraq on 2nd May 2003. The first post-conquest democratic elections were held 30th January 2005. One certain reason for the 18-month delay was that the Bush administration was trying to find some legal loophole that would let their planned mass privatisation go ahead.
The Maldives: beautiful, unspoiled islands surrounded by clear blue water, perfect for diving holidays.
They are 2000 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, only 200 of which are inhabited, 87 of which are tourist resorts. 394,451 people live on 113 islands: 28% of GDP, more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts, and 90% of the government’s revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. It’s a tiny country which, in effect, sells beauty and a dream tropical island paradise to people who are rich enough to pay for it.
The visitor may take the opportunity to stroll through the lanes of the village, observing children playing contentedly beside the wooden huts and village women weaving and creating traditional handicrafts utilizing natural materials such as palm leaves, coconuts and reeds. Visitors can also visit schools and mosques in the idyllic villages. Tourist advert
Thirty years ago, Greece joined the European Union. Fifteen years ago, at a science-fiction convention in Chicago, I was staying in a huge flat near the Loop which had been turned into a kind of dormitory for all three of the flatmate’s SFnal friends: I was the only Brit in the mix, and indeed the only European. A woman I knew came into the main living room and asked the room generally “Who on EARTH has Greek toothpaste?”
I waved my hand. (My toothpaste in fact had writing on the tube in all the languages of the European Union, but the Greek lettering was the most conspicuous.) Everyone looked at me.
“Why do you have Greek toothpaste?” she asked me.
“I am a citizen of Europe,” I told her happily, and that silenced all the North Americans in the room.
I have been seeing cheerful headlines around the news quite a lot, declaring that the Greek Parliament’s vote to accept the bailout means the “long nightmare is over”, that Greece is “rescued” at last. This is nonsense.