Good and bad economics news out of the birthplace of democracy.
The good news: According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece is seeing a boom in tech startups. Of course, that boom starts from a very low number, as the Journal reports:
“there were 144 startups in Greece in 2013, up from just 16 in 2010. The money invested in them has climbed to €42 million ($57 million), compared with just €500,000 three years ago.”
Most of the funding is geared towards servicing the sector of Greece that hasn’t been ruined by the past few years of EU-imposed austerity, which rules out a large percentage of under-35s, the presumed Internet generation. The unemployment rate for young Greeks aged 15-24 is 58.3%, while for 25-34 year old Greeks, the unemployment rate is 35.5%. Exciting new Greek startups attracting outside VC capital, like incrediblue — an online yacht booking service — and Taxibeat, a mobile taxicab hailing app — aren’t going to be much use to them.
Still, Greece’s “booming” tech sector is the good news.
Now, the bad news: Greece’s pro-EU ruling conservative party, the New Democrats, just named an actual neo-Nazi, Makis “The Hammer” Voridis, as Greece’s new Health Minister. Jewish groups are outraged over the news that Voridis—a longtime neo-fascist activist and anti-Semite who has publicly promoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as worthy of scholarship, and doubted the authenticity of the Diary of Anne Frank—is serving as a prominent minister in the ruling party’s cabinet, in charge of an important ministry at a time when Greece has been gutting its health care budgets, causing widespread misery.
I wrote about Voridis in November 2011, because I was shocked that a government coalition essentially imposed on Greece by the EU and Western creditors would demand that the allegedly technocratic “austerity coalition” included members of Greece’s anti-Semitic, neo-fascist LAOS party. Including Makis “The Hammer” Voridis, who served as minister of infrastructure and transport.
I call him “The Hammer” because photographs surfaced showing Voridis as a University of Athens law student, carrying a makeshift stone hammer in hand which he used to bash suspected leftwing students with. That was in 1985, when Voridis was in a fascist group called “Student Alternative” which supported Greece’s bloody military coup and military junta that ruled from 1967-1974.
Voridis was expelled from law school for clubbing leftist students, and went on to Big Things in the world of neo-fascist Greek politics. In 1994, he founded the far-right Hellenic Front, which in 2004 formed a coalition with a self-described Nazi, Konstantinos Plevris, who openly advocated for the extermination of Greece’s remaining Jews. In 2005, Voridis merged his party into the LAOS party, whose leader, Georgios Karatzaferis, publicly mocked Auschwitz and Dachau death camps as “myths,” blamed Jews for 9/11 during a speech in parliament, and said “the Jews have no legitimacy to speak in Greece.”
In late 2011, as Greece politics collapsed under the weight of its debts and the harsh EU-imposed austerity measures, the EU imposed a new “austerity” government that included “The Hammer” Voridis and other members of the neo-fascist LAOS party. The austerity government ran Greece until new elections were called in mid-2012. In those interim months, the austerity coalition pushed through radical austerity measures that caused LAOS’ fascist voters to desert them for an even more violent, more extreme neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn Party. One would’ve thought that’d be the end of Makis Voridis.
But Voridis is one of the slyer fascists. He joined the austerity cabinet and served from November 2011 through June 2012. In the June 2012 elections, after LAOS was obliterated for participating in the austerity government, Voridis abandoned LAOS and joined the new ruling party that won the elections, the respectable right-wing New Democracy party.
And now New Democracy is paying back the favor to their favorite austerity fascist.
Over the past two years, the New Democracy-led government in Greece has faithfully carried out a series of pro-EU austerity programs, squeezing the juice out of Greece’s impoverished population, causing an appalling rise in suicides. Greece’s health budgets have been slashed by over 40%; Greece’s former health minister described it thus:
“these aren’t cuts with a scalpel, they’re cuts with a butcher’s knife.”
In last month’s EU parliament elections, New Democracy lost to Greece’s radical left anti-austerity party, Syriza. Modern European leftists can always be co-opted, but Syriza might be the real thing, and that’s a problem for the EU creditors. The EU banks need a pro-austerity Greek government in charge, to continue shaking down its desperate citizens. To paraphrase former GE chief “Neutron” Jack Welch, Greece’s citizens have “unlimited juice” to squeeze. But you need good squeezers, and so the New Democracy party is doing what the austerity coalition of 2011 did: Bringing in “The Hammer” Makis Voridis, the neofascist, to squeeze juice out of the Health Ministry in a country suffering from suicides, collapsing health care, and declining life expectancy.
The reappearance of Voridis in yet another austerity cabinet shows again one of the biggest enduring myths about fascism as supposedly in opposition to capitalism. The whole purpose of fascism, then as now, is to protect the richest and most powerful from the threat of democratic socialism when that threat gets too serious. As it is today in Greece.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]