When parliament debated the EU-IMF bailout memorandum on February 12, Mikis Theodorakis and Manolis Glezos, famed for their resistance during the German occupation and the Greek junta, were looking on in the Chamber. The two octogenarians and former MPs had just suffered a police teargas attack in Syntagma Square. They are among the most prominent crusaders against the unprecedented austerity dictated by Greece’s creditors. In a recent open letter to the international community, entitled “The Truth about Greece”, composer Mikis Theodorakis points to a nexus of military industrial interests – from Germany and France to the US – which profited from Greece’s excessive borrowing for decades. In an exclusive interview with the Athens News, the leftwing icon lashes out at the Greek political system and calls for a popular uprising.
-Athens News: Why do you consider passage of the new austerity programme treason?
Mikis Theodorakis: In 2009, Greece was at a level of, let’s say, 100. In two years, the troika, the IMF and our government drove us to ground zero, as Premier [Lucas] Papademos conceded. Does no one wonder why the country is heading towards chaos, even though we are told every so often that the Europeans have sent tens of billions of euros? Where does that money go? It goes straight back to our creditors, while burdening the state with new debt and interest payments. That’s how debt rose to 160 percent of GDP, and with the new 130 billion euro package it will jump to 180 percent. That is unprecedented, and it means we will be bound hand and foot on a stake of debt and interest for the next 150 years.
With what right can parties who represent a minority (polls give Pasok six percent voter support and New Democracy 20 percent) decide Greece’s future for the next 100 years?
What were your thoughts as you heard the parliamentary debate on the bailout?
I am not interested in a parliament representing a minority of the nation – they total less than 50 percent of the electorate combined. From a constitutional standpoint, they are illegal because they are staging a coup, just like the members of the junta.
Would disorderly default be better for the middle and poorer classes than the bailout?
How can one speak of default in the future tense when we already have absolute bankruptcy – when 423,000 businesses have shut down and the unemployment rate is over 20 percent. Don’t you see the people scouring through garbage and sleeping on sidewalks? Those who led us consciously to bankruptcy – the troika and the government – now claim they want to save us from bankruptcy. It is incredible!
With the new memorandum they are legitimising the first one (2010), which did not receive a three-fifths majority [needed to cede sovereignty]. Law professor Yiorgos Kasimatis has argued that even 300 MPs cannot negotiate our national integrity (akeraiotita). All acts implementing the memorandum are thus illegal. The troika, the government and all politicians who took such decisions are illegitimate. You can be sure that one day they will be tried and punished.
Can the left wing alone overturn the memorandum?
No, not just the left. But the entire people can – from the patriotic left to the patriotic right. The homeland. Hellas. United as one fist, one day we will oust unworthy governments, troikas and Merkel-Sarkozy.
Greece is rich. Our people are hard-working. What do we lack? We lack essential national independence. Since the end of the civil war, since 1950, all the major issues – diplomacy, defence, economy and politics – were decided by the Americans. What are the parties that have ruled Greece? They are the parties that have the US’ blessing and are sworn to keep the left wing in the corner. However, today the Patriotic Left is beginning to awaken. These are the forces that saved Greece from the Nazis, first fought the junta and finally delivered democracy. On that point, I am in a position to know the hidden truth.
As for the two parties [New Democracy and Pasok] that have ruled Greece, they led us to excessive borrowing, corruption, subjugation to the IMF in 2010, and, from there, to catastrophe. This is the view of the people, who punished Pasok and [former PM] George [Papandreou], who went from 44 percent in the 2009 elections to six percent in polls today. People are beginning to understand, to wake up and to protest.
Who is to blame for the crisis – the Greeks, the Germans with their austerity model or the all-powerful markets?
The only crisis is the crisis of international capitalism, which is up against the international mafia comprising the giants of finance capital – of virtual money. Finance capital has apparently bought off today’s European leadership, which does not realise that it is putting a noose around its own neck. Today, the European leadership threatens and acts like a predator. Tomorrow, they [all of Europe] will be the victims, just like us.
Where is the political system headed after the expulsion of dozens of MPs from Pasok and ND?
After Pasok’s six percent in the polls, ND will definitely suffer the same decline. There may be new parties, but they are the same people and with the same mindset; people who accept our national dependence and the presence of an essentially foreign government. The political system today is like a train running on rails put in place by foreigners, who are leading us where they want to go. What difference does it make if the train carriages are filled with new parties? What if the conductor-premier changes? The train can turn neither right, nor left. There is no steering wheel. The speed and brakes are determined by foreigners. Today, they are driving us to absolute chaos. The only solution is to cut the rails and replace them with our own, in the direction decided by the Greek people, if at some point they have the power to take their fate into their own hands.
Why haven’t you been able to unite the people in an anti-memorandum front? Is your new organisation Ellada designed to do that?
Manolis Glezos and I called on the people to flood Athens in protest, and they did. There were hundreds of thousands. In terror, the state power sprayed poisonous gases directly at us, to kill us. Glezos fainted and fell down. At first, I saw Charon (death) with my own eyes, as I could not breathe. I recovered and returned to my post, in front of the riot police guarding parliament. I took a loudspeaker and said: “Don’t be afraid. We won’t be storming. We will do that later, when we are ready.” That’s when they started throwing thousands of “bombs” of all kinds. The atmosphere became dark from smoke bombs and gas attacks. I was saved because I had a mask. Hence, you can be sure that Ellada is doing well, and it will accomplish the goal for which it was created.
Was the destruction of Athens planned? Is there a danger of a social explosion?
It was based on a plan to scare the people. If there were not the riot police unleashing gas and violence, a million people would have surrounded parliament. The people in hoods, hand in hand with riot police, fought us. Then you had the gangs, thieves and scum, who profit from looting and burning. You get a nightmarish situation, where truth – hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters – is hidden under a cloud of gas and smoke.