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A bit on Greek youth

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 19, 2015

Here’s an article from a surprising source, the Financial Times, which seems to get the youthful left-wing anti-austerity sentiment right.

Protesters at a rally this week in the shadow of the Greek parliament building in Athens.

Protesters at a rally this week in the shadow of the Greek parliament building in Athens.


Greece’s defiant youth opt for ‘chaos’ over more of the same
Henry Foy in Athens

Greece’s central bank delivered an alarming warning on Wednesday that the country faced an “uncontrollable crisis” that might force it out of the EU if the government was unable to reach a new bailout deal with creditors soon.
But the throng of young supporters gathered outside the Greek parliament had a different message for their defiant prime minister: hold firm, whatever the cost.

Disillusioned and depressed by years of austerity that have ruined their job prospects and slashed their financial support, the young foot soldiers of the ruling Syriza party may not openly demand the country’s exit from Europe’s single currency, but they are prepared to accept the unknown consequences if the only other option is more of the same.

“[A choice] between more austerity or chaos?” asks Iasonas Schinas, 26, a member of the Syriza Youth wing. “Chaos,” he answered.

Unemployment among the under 25s in Greece is about 40 per cent, almost double the EU average. As with other crisis-hit parts of Europe, the young have been forced to endure the indignity of living at home and relying on handouts from their parents, delaying plans for marriage or emigrating to find even menial work. For that, many point the finger squarely at austerity measures imposed by Brussels.

“Over the past five years, our lives have been destroyed. So now we have nothing to lose. And so we are calm,” Mr Schinas explains amid the noise of chanting, fiery speeches and protest songs blaring from loudspeakers in Athens’ main square.

Along with public sector trade unions, Greece’s youth have been a pillar of support for Alexis Tsipras, who swept to power in January with a populist promise to end the austerity connected to the country’s bailout.

As a stand-off with creditors reaches a seeming endgame, warnings of capital controls and debt defaults are rattling nerves across Europe. Yet the Syriza youth have remained unusually calm and convinced of Mr Tsipras’s course. Many believe that the rest of Europe will soon blink and save Greece — if only for the sake of the rest of the currency bloc — a view that may soon be proven either wise or naive.

“If one country departs, it will destroy faith in the system. If one leaves, all could start leaving,” says Costas Stavrou, another Syriza Youth member. “They are bluffing. They know their problems will be bigger.”

Mr Schinas agrees: “If we don’t pay, then the rest of Europe will have a problem — not us.”

The youth wing’s Athens headquarters features all the trappings of student politics. It is decorated with revolutionary posters, the walls are covered with graffiti and the stairwell is filled with boxes of flyers, protest banners, loudhailers and pots of paint.

Pedros Markopoulos, a director of Syriza Youth in charge of international relations, admits that the potential carnage caused by a Greek eurozone exit is impossible to predict — let alone prepare for.

Hyperinflation or bank runs are possible, he acknowledges. “But the bigger problem will be for the EU,” he asserts, as a protester nearby holds up a placard that reads: “My country is not for sale”.

But not all of Greece’s young people are convinced that Grexit — a Greek exit from the eurozone — is an acceptable cost of defiance. Watching Wednesday’s protest from the sidelines, some were more nervous about the possible ramifications.

“There are other ways to solve this problem. I’m not sure this is the only answer,” says Maria Kamberou, a 20-year-old student who says she supports Syriza, but not all of its decisions. “Many of us young people just don’t want to know what could happen.”

A survey this month by Alco, a Greek pollster, found 74 per cent of the country wanted to keep the euro, and 50 per cent wanted Mr Tsipras to strike a compromise deal with creditors.

But many in Syriza see the stand-off as part of a wider battle against austerity across Europe, and are unwilling to allow Brussels to continue dictating terms to countries that have struggled along since 2008.

“It is not about us. It is about the workers and the youth across Europe,” says Mr Stavrou, who holds a masters degree in theology but is jobless.

He says Syriza wants to be an example to other European anti-austerity parties such as Spain’s Podemos.

“The eyes of the world’s working class are on Greece,” he says. “We want to be an example for them to fight against their capitalist enemy.”

And here’s a Financial Times analysis that contends that a Greek default is still aways off:

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