Photos of Young Greeks Protesting the Bailout Last Night
"Syriza were subjugated but the working class and the youth will not be."
This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
Greece's new bailout agreement is causing friction within Syriza, the country's leading political party. The issue isn't only expressed by its parliamentary members but also among its supporters, particularly the young. On Monday evening, Syriza's youth chapter called for people to meet in Athens's Syntagma Square and protest the new memorandum.
Around 1,500 people showed up—most were members of Syriza Youth, other left-wing parties, and trade unions. Protestors claimed to be frustrated by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's deal with the Eurozone. Syriza was initially voted in on the back of its promise to end austerity, but the latest deal will see even more cuts in pensions, as well as tax hikes and privatization of $55 billion worth of government assets. (Parliament still must approve the deal for it to go through.) At one point during the evening, a woman set fire to the Syriza flag outside the headquarters of the party's youth chapter. A few weeks ago, this would have caused a riot but yesterday, nothing happened.
Elias Panteleakos—the secretary of Syriza Youth—was also at the square protesting yesterday evening. "This deal is basically a coup by the leaders of the European Union and Eurozone. This government wasn't elected to introduce such horrific policies," he told me.
Immediately after the agreement was signed on Monday morning, the Syriza Left Platform—a party sub-group that basically wants Greece out of the EU—issued a document that declared the agreement to be humiliating for Greeks. It called for party members to fight against the new recessionary measures outlined in the memorandum.
Mania Sotiropoulos was also at Syntagma Square last night. "I've been an active member of Syriza Youth since I was 16. I joined around December 2008. A lot of the 'No' voters were part of that generation. It makes sense; it's a generation of people that have had to struggle to survive since we were children," she said.
Mania believes that the young people who voted "No" at last week's referendum are opposing the kind of austerity policies that make young people leave the country and drive others to suicide. She feels that the movements of 2008 and 2011—when thousands took over Syntagma Square—will continue to grow this year.
Korina thinks that the only solution is for Greece to exit the eurozone. "I don't want to leave Greece. I'd like to stay here. It's barbaric to be forced to leave your country. This is why I believe that breaking away from Europe is necessary." She went on to mention that the way European leaders are trying to intervene in Greece's internal affairs is completely unacceptable.
Patroklos Psaltis, a member of the Communist youth branch of Syriza said: "The memorandum agreement includes aggressive austerity, heavy taxation, sweeping privatization and cuts to wages and pensions. It's a total submission to the demands of the Troika. It's also punishment for the proud 'No' stance that Greeks took in the referendum. Syriza were subjugated but the working class and the youth will not be. The aim right now is to forestall the enactment of the memorandum laws and stop this parliamentary junta. Members of Syriza that vote for these austerity measures and the government officials who accept implementing them automatically put themselves outside the party."
Another guy I met at that protest, Dimitris, told me that he didn't think Greek society could stand yet another series of strict austerity measures. "Me and my parents are in a very difficult psychological state. I'm afraid the quality of my life will only get worse. We've already had to change our way of life because of previous deals with international creditors. Things only seem to go downhill from here on. Not just for me but the Greek people in general."
Greek MPs are set to vote on the first set of the new austerity measures on Wednesday, July 15. Greek trade unions have declared a general strike on the same day.