Reel News reporting from Greece in March 2012

ReelNews 32 – Our Present is Your Future – Pre-Order Now!

We’ve been working hard to finish the films about Greece. The DVD will be out by early June. You can pre-order now!

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This special issue on Greek austerity and people’s resistance will include the following films:

  • CRISIS We try to explain the Greek crisis, how it relates to the rest of Europe and who is actually being bailed out. Features clips from the documentary Debtocracy, and an interview with the film maker, as well as the financial editor of one of Greeks biggest newspapers, which has been on strike for months.
  • That’s Our Power – Rank and File Organising Strikes, workplace occupations, food banks, workers in Greece haven’t been paid for months, and are facing huge pay cuts. Some have gotten pay cheques of less than 10 €. We spoke to doctors, steel workers and journalists on strike and on the streets.
  • Solidarity – Not Charity: Community Organising in the Face of Austerity From the teargas clouds of Syntagma Square emerged a new approach to the crisis. Community kitchens, clothing exchanges and other acts of practical solidarity. It’s not charity, it’s practical solidarity. “We’re not giving to the poor, we are the poor. Any one of us could be homeless next.” First Cut Preview: Community Organising.
  • Our Present is Your Future: How to destroy public health services. Out of 131 hospitals, as many as 50 will be closed. Patients already have to pay at the door when going to see a doctor. Procedures will have to be paid up front, and if you don’t have the money you will be sent home. “People will die.” “The cruelty is unbelieveable.” “This is a nightmare.” Video previews: Health Workers Strike, Making Patients Pay, Our Present is Your Future.
  • It’s still like being in a war zone – Immigrants in Greece Refugees trying to reach safety in Europe get stuck in Greece: Once in Europe, they have to remain in the country they first arrived in. They speak about lack of basic support like housing, clothing and food and daily racist abuse. Not only by fascists like Golden Dawn, but also Greek people – and the police. Video preview: Immigrant Workers Protest.
  • It’s not me anymore it’s us now – The Street Fighters from AlAnyA The Solidarity, Disobedience and Resistance movement take a practical approach to the problems people are facing. They close down motorway tolls, block ticket machines for public transport and reconnect electricity where it has been cut as punishment for not paying taxes. Video preview: Tax Offices, Closing Toll Collections.
  • Potato Movement While farmers don’t get a whole lot for their potatoes, in the shops they are rather expensive. In response, sales have plummeted. When farmers couldn’t sell their produce, and decided to give it away rather than have it go to waste, it was the start of the potato movement: Farmers and consumers are in direct contact on the internet and bypass traditional allocation structures, increasing the profit for farmers and lowering the prices for consumers. Video preview: Potato Movement.


Greece: “Our Present Is Your Future”! Special pre-tour screening in CARDIFF, Tuesday, May 15 2012

As we move closer to finishing nearly two hours of films on the Greek resistance sending shockwaves around the world, we present a special pre-tour screening in Cardiff on Tuesday, May 15th.

This is your first chance to see footage from the occupied workplaces that have been on strike all year, from the occupied hospitals where doctors and other health workers are taking militant action to stop the destruction of the health service, from the neighbourhood assemblies self-organising in the communities and from the many other groups taking direct action against austerity.

The final versions of all the films will be ready by the start of June – as will details of the tour in June and July. If you want to arrange a screening in your locality, get in touch.

Tuesday May 15th, 6:30pm

Red & Black Umbrella Social Centre

57-58 Clifton St

Adamstown, Cardiff CF24 1LS

Rushes from Greece — Our Present is Your Future

Greek doctors call for solidarity and international cooperation in the fight for a public and free health care system, where patients aren’t made to pay.

We will be adding more videos on the privatisation of the Greek health system soon. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Help us make our special issue DVD on the current struggles in Greece by sharing this video, taking out a subscription or donating. Also keep checking back for the Reel News Supporters scheme which we will be launching soon.


Rushes from Greece — Making Patients Pay

While we’re struggling in Britain to save the NHS, the people in Greece are already experiencing what it means to have their health care system privatised. This will be part of a documentary about the drastic cuts to the Greek health care system, won by the people as recently as 1985.

To help us make this and a series of other documentaries on Greece, take out a subscription or make a donation. Also keep a look out for the Reel News Supporter scheme which we will be launching shortly.

On the State of Press Freedom in Greece

On Thursday, 5th April 2012, Marios Lolos, a photojournalist, was hit on the head by a police truncheon while covering a peaceful protest in response to the recent suicide of a 77 year-old  man in protest to austerity measures. Marios Lolos sustained a brain injury and had to have surgery yesterday. We extend our best wishes to him and everyone else who has been injured and wish them the best for their recovery. Read more about the incident on Keep Talking Greece.

Update (9.4.12): A call for eyewitnesses and photo or video evidence of the attack has been published. You can also get in touch with us and we will pass on your info.

Reporters Without Borders had already issued an alarm last autumn, criticising the violence faced by journalists in Greece. In a recent article they also address thinly veiled threats of sexual violence made by police officers against Anthee Carassava, when she attempted to identify officers who had attacked her earlier, in order to be able to report the incident during the Independence Day Parades on 25th March 2012.

by Guy Smallman

On the same day, we witnessed journalist Nectarios Dargakis being arrested twice. The first time, town councilor Petros Kostantinou was also arrested, and both were released after he called a government minister from inside the police van. The second time, Nectarios Dargakis did get arrested. In both incidents officers tried to stop us from filming.

Marios Lolos is the president of the union of photojournalists in Greece, EFE issued a statement following the attacks on him and other journalists (see English version). The London Photographers branch of the NUJ has published a letter of support.


Rushes from Greece — ALANYA close motorway toll collection

Members of the Solidarity, Disobedience and Resistance movement (ALANYA) carry out an action at the hated Athens motorway toll. The toll was introduced to pay for the road. The activists argued that the toll was illegal as the road had been paid for many times over. So they regularly close several lanes and then wave traffic through the remaining open ones without paying. The actions usually go unchallenged by the authorities and are extremely popular with motorists.

See slideshow.

March 29: Toll road action, inside the hospitals, vicious racism from the Greek state

A busy day started at 7:30am with Alanya (“Solidarity, disobedience,resistance”) opening up the toll booths on one of the major roads into Athens. The road they chose is in private hands, sold off after the Greek people had already paid for it.

The day before, the government announced plans to imprison people for three to six months if they open the toll booths. The group said that they would continue the actions when the bill becomes law, and are prepared to go to prison to stop the rich making profits out of what should be public services. They also said that the government’s response shows how effective actions like this are- in the past year, 50 million euros worth of toll charges has gone uncollected .

Alanya then took me to visit one of the local street markets where one of them had a stall selling shoes. Before the crisis this was a busy bustling market; now it is practically deserted, as most people can no longer afford to shop, even at cheap places like this. When I asked the street traders what they thought the solution was, three out of the four said simply: “revolution”.

Then on to Nikea-Piraeus hospital, the busiest hospital in the country where doctors were having a rank and file union meeting. Unlike Britain, doctors here have always come from working class or lower middle class backgrounds, and their pay is much lower. Doctors earn 1500 euros a month; junior doctors only 500 euros a month at the moment. However, even these small salaries have not been paid at all since December, with many people receiving less than 20 euros a month.

Strike action by junior doctors, organised on a rank and file basis through weekly assemblies at the 35 hospitals in Athens, today finally won them the money they were owed in December. They voted to continue strike action, not only to get the wages they are owed for this year, but to get improvements in health care for the people of Athens.

Dr. Olga Kosmopolou then showed me round the hospital to see the terrible conditions. Wards have beds and patients crammed together, there are severe shortages of equipment and supplies, and patients are now forced to pay for treatment and medicines. Direct action by doctors has ensured that at least people don’t have to pay the 5 euro charge just for visiting the hospital, but medicine is a real problem. Cancer patients are being told to pay literally thousands of euros for essential medication, which means many will die over the next few years. There is now an hiv epidemic too – because there is no money for drug rehabilitation, and no supply of syringes, drug users turn to used syringes. Those who become hiv positive often turn to prostitution to buy the medication they need to survive, which is accelerating the epidemic. Meanwhile the drug companies are making a fortune.

Olga made an appeal to all workers across the continent. “We ask all our European colleagues: We have to fight together, because our present is your future.”

Finally, a nasty reminder of the darkness that could come if we don’t all fight together.  In the afternoon, police started rounding up refugees and asylum seekers to be transported to huge detention centres in the North of Greece – essentially concentration camps with no access to lawyers, no indication of how long people will be kept there, and with reports already of maltreatment and torture by police.

Most asylum seekers are here because of a European directive that returns deported asylum seekers to the country they first pass through in Europe – which is normally Greece. Obviously they don’t want to be in a country where they have no support, no chance of a job and are scared to walk the streets, but the governments of Europe, including our own, are collaborating to force everyone into these Greek concentration camps.

I talked to a worker at a refugee advice centre, who was visibly shaken today, telling me that police were trying to arrest anybody who wasn’t white, including many who either had legal status or who had actually lived in Greece for many years. Members of the openly neo-nazi Golden Dawn attacked students in universities who were attempting to give people a safe refuge – the police aren’t allowed onto university campuses, and apparently there is proof that the police and the nazis are working together.

These are the desperate actions of a government  (backed up by the European union, who have provided the money for the detention centres) trying to divert people’s anger over the austerity cuts by blaming refugees. It won’t work. The growth of the nazis is nothing compared to the huge shift to the left that is happening in Greek society. As Oil rig worker and Alanya member Jake put it, “The people aren’t afraid of the government any more. But the government are very afraid of the people.”


Help us continue publicising the growing resistance!



Greece update: Peristeri neighbourhood committee

Meeting with representatives of the neighbourhood committee in the huge working class district of Peristeri last night, one of over 40 similar committees throughout Athens. Similar to the neighbourhood assemblies that sprung up in Argentina ten years ago, this one was formed in 2000 but has grown massively since the start of the crisis in Greece, accelerated by the opposition to the extra tax on electricity.

They told me (only one of us left in Greece now!) how people are starting to organise themselves, including, crucially, at a rank and file union level in the workplaces. They’ll be showing me a lot of this this week, particularly in hospitals and schools, and taking me to another strong committee in the working class community of Nea Smyrni.

Athens ALANYA motorway toll action

Members of the Solidarity, Disobedience and Resistance movement (ALANYA) carry out an action at the hated Athens motorway toll. The toll was introduced to pay for the road. The activists argued that the toll was illegal as the road had been paid for many times over. So they regularly close several lanes and then wave traffic through the remaining open ones without paying. The actions usually go unchallenged by the authorities and are extremely popular with motorists.

Photos by Guy Smallman