On Friday, some 800 angry Greek farmers marched on the Agriculture Ministry in Athens and beat police with Shepherd’s crooks.
The farmers are understandably upset with Alexis Tsipras and the government for a proposal to triple the social security burden and double income taxes in an effort to appease the powers that be in Brussels who claim Greece has not made enough progress towards fiscal consolidation since the country’s third bailout was agreed last August.
Tsipras and Syriza swept to power a little over a year ago with promises to roll back austerity, but prolonged negotiations with creditors and the resulting economic malaise that gripped the country last summer broke the PM’s revolutionary spirit and now, he’s been reduced to something of a technocrat rather than a socialist firebrand.
Putting Greece on a sustainable path is a virtual impossibility at this juncture. There are myriad structural problems that cut to the heart of the currency bloc’s woes and on top of that, Athens’ debt burden is simply astounding. In other words, Tsipras and Brussels can raise taxes and cut pension benefits all they want but this problem is never going to be solved. It’s too late.
Adding insult to injury, data out Friday shows the country slipped back into recession in Q4.
All of this helps to explain why, after the tomato-tossing, stick-waving melee at the Agriculture Ministry, the farmers - joined by some 10,000 of their compatriots as well as union members, massed in Syntagma Square on Friday where tractors could be seen meandering through the crowd.
While that clip depicts a mostly peaceful scene, things weren't so calm earlier in the day when still more farmers clashed with authorities and beat a police car half to death:
And the punchline to the whole thing is that one farmer told RT that if the measures are passed the entire lot will simply pack up and leave. “We cannot let the government pass these catastrophic measures. If they pass, we are going to have to become migrants," Antonis Bitsakis, a member of the coordinating committee of the farmers of Creta said.
So there you have it. An irony of ironies. Thanks to Berlin's austerity demands, Athens will not only be sending Mid-East refugees north to Germany, it will be sending Greek asylum seekers as well.