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Links 1 through 10 of 33 by Shaun Green tagged greece

The Greeks weren’t alone in feeling threatened by nomad incursions. The Chinese built the Great Wall to keep out the Xiongnu, their name for the steppe nomads; the Persians struggled with the Saka to their north. Even the Sanskrit epics tell of the Stri-Rajya, or ‘Women’s Land’, with its two man-killing queens – Mayor locates it vaguely in nomad territory along the Silk Route. From the legends of these cultures a pattern emerges: troublesome nomads of the steppes became tribes of female warriors. Mayor’s analysis is informed by archaeology, but she avoids making romantic or overambitious claims. ‘The widespread idea of women-only societies … can have multiple and independent origins,’ she concedes. Still, those trouser-wearing Central Asian women are usually present in the legends somewhere, if only as ‘grains of plausibility’.

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Long before the crowds in Budapest and Vienna started donating food and clothing to the refugees, and while the local government on Lesbos was still working out what to do, this gang of six was running its own unofficial reception centre, providing food, shelter and medicine to the new arrivals. The florist told me that many people on the island were descendants of refugees driven out of Turkey decades ago. She spoke while driving down from the hills with another family. On the back seat of her Renault a mother closed her eyes and fell asleep with a child on her lap; next to her were three more children between the ages of nine and 14. She took them into Father Papastratis’s reception centre; a man had arrived from Athens and was unloading a car packed with pots, a stove and bags of pasta. He set up a mobile kitchen as the room filled up. Costas was an anarchist who had been feeding the homeless in Athens for a couple of years. The Marxist and the Orthodox priest made an odd team.

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I first went to Greece at Easter 1967. The occasion was a peace conference in Athens honouring the left-wing Greek deputy, Grigoris Lambrakis, murdered by fascists in Salonika in 1963 as the police looked on, and later immortalised in Costa-Gavras’s movie Z. Half a million people attended his funeral in Athens. During the conference wild rumours began to spread around the hall. On the podium, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam couldn’t understand why people had stopped listening to him. Someone with family connections in the military had reported that the Greek military, backed by Washington, was about to launch a coup to pre-empt elections in which they feared the left might do a bit too well. The foreign delegates were advised to leave the country straightaway. I caught an early-morning flight back to London. That afternoon tanks occupied the streets. Greece remained under the Colonels for the next seven years.

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Today Costas Lapavitsas, a professor of economics and a Syriza MP elected in January, commandeered a university conference lecture to deliver his proposals for the direction of the Greek government following its capitulation to EU demands this week. Lapavitsas has been a prominent critic of the government’s strategy to fight austerity from inside the Eurozone, claiming membership of the monetary union is incompatible with the radical change Greece needs if it is to recover. Despite a landslide OXI (No) vote in the recent referendum on the Troika’s proposals, on Wednesday the Greek parliament voted to accept a deal remarkably similar to the one rejected. Alongside former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, Lapavitsas was one of about a quarter of Syriza MPs to vote against the bill.

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Costas Lapavitsas is a professor in economics at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He teaches the political economy of finance, and he's a regular columnist for The Guardian.

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The institution already existing in parallel to the state to be seized on Mykonos was not the church, or the military: it was the hotels. Radu calculated that there were seven thousand service employees on the island. The island radio station, Venus 99.3, could easily be seized by a few cooks with frying pans. Once the call to arms had been transmitted, the mobilisation of the hoteliers could begin. Concierges, who knew the territory, could rapidly dismantle the apparatuses of state power: the naval lifeboats tethered to the docks, the shacks that housed the island’s police, the first-aid stands on the beaches. Ransoms of guests taken hostage by maids in their rooms would finance the movement. Our brothers and sisters at the Tagoo could join us in mounting Profitis Ilias, where we’d hoist up the flag of the People’s Republic of Hoteliers. It was not the sort of thing Syriza had in mind, but they would pause before crushing us. Such fantasies were easier to sustain before the rest of Europe set about crushing the whole of Greece. It all seemed less a problem of means than of will. Most of us didn’t despise our guests enough, and so many of them were nice people. Such nice people. Their superiority, and the niceness that issued from it, was the natural order of things. I took it as a worrying sign when I noticed myself taking small pleasures in our cockroach view of the world.

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It has been argued for some years that one of the important consequences of Germany’s obsession with fiscal surpluses in recent years, articulated by Chancellor Merkel and Finance Minister Schäuble as the “Schwarze Null” austerity policy, is that Germany has been under-investing in its physical infrastructure. But it has taken the recent industrial unrest to bring that to the fore into the public debate. Even the IMF is now getting on the bandwagon.

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It is well known that Varoufakis was taken off Greece’s negotiating team shortly after Syriza took office; he was still in charge of the country’s finances but no longer in the room. It’s long been unclear why. In April, he said vaguely that it was because “I try and talk economics in the Eurogroup” – the club of 19 finance ministers whose countries use the Euro – “which nobody does.” I asked him what happened when he did.  “It’s not that it didn’t go down well – there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply.”

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As the talks proceeded on Sunday night, the aim of the Greek side – and indeed of observers around the world – shifted from achieving a sustainable deal to avoiding Grexit, now openly on the agenda. The deal that was finally agreed is not sustainable. Everyone knows that. It was widely panned not only by left-sympathising economists, but also by Wall Street. It is questionable whether the Greek government will be able to get the first tranche of contentious requirements through its own parliament by Wednesday July 15th, and if it does not then the whole deal is off. And as I write, the IMF has entered the fray, pointing out that recent deterioration in Greece’s economy makes the debt profile from the new deal unsustainable

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It is gut-wrenching, watching Syriza beg, and plead with the creditors not to crush Greece.  Too late did they realise that they weren't negotiating.  They had nothing to do negotiate with, no cards to play.  They went looking for the 'good euro', and found only ruthless, mercenary capitalist enforcers.  They sought compromise and were given fiscal strangulation.  Even after their big deal with the creditors in February, wherein they gave up most of their emergency programme, none of the money they expected was forthcoming.  Their means of raising money were cut off.  For months, and months, they made concessions; the troika made none.  Finally, they were all set to sign up to a deal considerably worse than any imposed on previous governments.  The troika demanded more, on pain of destroying the banking system.

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