The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with Mona Amanatidou and Christos Triarchis of the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement in Greece. This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of February 4-10, 2016. Find the podcast of this interview here.
MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is Mona Amanatidou and Christos Triarhis from Greece’s Popular Stoppage of Payments movement, who will speak to us about this movement and what it is all about, and in addition, about the social and political developments in Greece today. Mona and Christo, thank you for joining us today.
MA: Thank you for calling us from New York and giving us the opportunity to say a few words about what were are doing here in Iraklio.
MN: To begin, share with us a few words about how the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement first began, and a brief historical overview of your movement.
MA: I have to tell everybody that it was March of 2013 when citizens of Iraklio gathered in the main square of the city, because of the economic crisis and the poverty it brought to everybody here in Greece. The reason was to find solutions, so there were many gatherings, and in one of them there was a suggestion about being present at the country court to prevent the banks from seizing our properties. That’s how our movement started in April 2013. Ever since, we’ve managed to rescue about 800 homes of people from the middle and lower class, and they are now able to house their families in them. That’s why we are very determined to go on doing the same actions.
I don’t know if everybody knows what’s going on in Greece with the memorandums that the previous and present governments implemented. Most of the people are poor nowadays, and they live on charities. Most of the people owe money to debtors, owe money to the banks and to the state itself, because they are unemployed and because the unemployment is in high rates here in Greece. So it’s impossible for everybody to pay back what they owe to the country or the banks. It’s impossible for most of them to survive, they starve in fact.
One of our acts is to be present at the county court every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:00 in the afternoon and counter all the banks and the “vultures” who want to seize our homes. This is very important for the Greek people.
MN: …And what actually takes place at the courts every week?
MA: Mostly, the banks place auctions, after they confiscate our houses. They go on with the auction, with the auctioning of these houses at a very low price. What we do, in fact, is to prevent these auctions from taking place. We don’t allow anybody to come close and to give an offer, so the auctions are invalid.
MN: In the coming months in Greece, the wave of home foreclosures and auctions is set to increase following new laws that were passed by the SYRIZA-led Greek government. Is the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement ready to take on this new challenge and to support the growing number of Greek households who will be in danger of losing their homes?
MA: We have heard about the new policy the government is going to bring in Greece, but we are determined to take any measures needed to stop these auctions in any way. We believe that the system is not ready, in fact, to go on with the new way they intend to take our homes. Meanwhile, we are getting ready and we are determined to go on fighting this situation.
MN: Has the Popular Stoppage of Payments Movement encountered any legal difficulties or any problems with the police as a result of its weekly actions in the courthouses?
CT: Especially in the first year, we are talking about 2013, we had some minor clashes inside the courtroom with the police, and outside the courtroom with the police. Nowadays, we have become so-called “friends” with them, and most of us believe that the policemen being sent to the courthouse have now become our friends, and as they have told us privately, they are with us.
MN: Now, on what other issues is the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement active, beyond the issue of home auctions and foreclosures?
MA: Generally, we fight against anybody, even the state itself, from taking our property, because we know that when an industry closes, then unemployment is rising. What we care about is people to have a job, to work, and that’s our final demand. We want the government itself to ban auctions and confiscations until we have really productive development in our country, work for everybody, and wages which will provide a decent life to everybody. In that way, we are going to pay back what we owe, either to the banks or to the state itself. You see, when you don’t have money, you can’t pay taxes. When you don’t have work, you don’t have money. That’s the problem.
MN: Which social movements and organizations are participating as part of the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement?
MA: Recently, we’ve organized a pan-Cretan movement in which different movements, from agricultural to environmental, are taking part. We are [soon] having a meeting at Rethymno, another town in Crete, to make decisions on further activities we are going to have soon. Of course, we support everybody’s reaction on the agricultural matter, and also the insurance funds. We have a problem here in Greece, you know, with insurance funds. We have no money, they want to cut our pensions, they want us to pay more taxes, more money for the insurance funds, and in fact we have no money to do that. So we are to demonstrate against it and fight against the law. All the movements support these demonstrations, and we try to be united and become one movement against the government policy.
MN: Is there any support from any political parties for the actions undertaken by your movement?
MA: Yes, there is support, but not officially. Members of these political parties take part and support. These parties are not in the parliament, they are not elected in the parliament. They are EPAM [United Popular Front], they are LAE [Popular Unity], they are ANTARSYA [Front of the Greek Anti-capitalist Left], and others. The main aim is for the people to be united against the memoranda and generally the European policies which lead people to poverty and starvation.
MN: How do you view the protests that have been launched by the farmers, and what is your message towards these farmers who are protesting and who have set up roadblocks all over the country?
MA: It’s not only the farmers. Everybody has the same problem here in Greece, and this is taxes, this is insurance, and generally the kind of life we lead nowadays. We support the farmers, the lawyers, the doctors, everybody [who is protesting], and the problem and the target is one: to make the government change everything and to make them stop paying the debt, which is illegal as we know, as we’ve been informed. They, the government, have to take care of the people first, their survival, and then the banks themselves.
MN: Have the mass media, either in Greece or internationally, provided any coverage of the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement and your actions, or have you been ignored by the media?
MA: The media used to provide support, more than one year ago, but after SYRIZA came to power, they ignored us. There are some media, especially in the provinces, which support us, some newspapers, some blogs, and all of them are in our country, not outside, in Europe or the rest of the world. This is something we need, because people all over the world must be informed about what is going on here in our country and what we suffer, how we live. Our everyday life is a struggle, a real struggle.
MN: How can someone, an ordinary citizen, participate in the actions of the Popular Stoppage of Payments movement?
MA: It’s very simple. Everybody who realizes what is going on, everybody who realizes that they will be one day soon unable to house their family, without a job, without the means to have a decent life, can come and join us. We need nothing, we don’t care what his political ideas. The main idea here is to be united and find a solution to have a decent life. That’s it.
MN: You mentioned possible future actions of the Popular Stoppage of Payments Movement…what are some things which your movement is planning coming up?
CT: We have taken part in actions regarding the so-called “green power,” which has to do with huge projects of solar panels and wind turbines here, and recently, a few months ago, along with other people from other prefectures of the same island, we have blocked those plans and those projects and so-called “investments” on this island. That was a very good and successful action, and we intend to do the same in the future, as soon as they dare to come back to the island again.
MN: Do you believe that the current SYRIZA-led government has staying power, do you believe that it will remain in office for much longer considering everything that is happening now in the country?
CT: I’m going to drive you a little bit backwards, saying that since the end of the Greek Revolution against the Turks and since the birth of the so-called “new Greek state” back in the 1800s, we are talking about 200 years ago, unfortunately we have now come to realize that our country has always been a protectorate, an undercover protectorate, and nowadays, especially the last few years, we have openly become a colony, a colony of debt and a colony like the meaning of the word itself. The so-called government, we are talking about current and the previous so-called governments, have signed memoranda which do not allow any official and major decision regarding the country unless they have the permission of Brussels and Berlin. I’m sorry for being bold, but that’s the truth, that’s the real truth.
Coming back to your question, it doesn’t really matter who is going to come to office after the next elections, whenever those elections will take place. Now, SYRIZA is following the plan of the European Union and the lenders and the IMF. They are doing nothing more than that. They are going to do the same, whoever is going to be the next government or the next combination of political parties to form a so-called government.
MN: In closing, what is your message towards the Greek government, the European Union, the troika, and towards Greek society?
MA: What we have to do is to push the government to change everything, from the political system, which they claim is a democracy but we are sure it is not a democracy. We must alert them to set up a democracy here in Greece, and at the same time, change everything having to do with the economy and the debt, the debt which is illegal. At the same time, we have to return to our own national currency. In this way, we will be able to provide every class with money, with investments, so that employment is going to rise. Everybody is going to have a job, get money, and sooner or later, Greece will be productive and wealthy, and consequently, all the people will have a very nice life here. This is a very beautiful country, and the sun, the earth, the climate is so nice, so exceptional, that we can produce food and we can produce everything we need to live happily ever after. Not only for the Greeks, for everybody who comes here and lives here and loves this country.
MN: Mona and Christo, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series.
MA: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to say a few words, thank you.
Please excuse any typos or errors which may exist within this transcript.