Photo by plagal (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are accounts of Greeks pulling together to support themselves and each other ahead of an election that polls predict will result in a leadership firmly opposed to austerity policies imposed by the European Union.

The Guardian takes stock of the damage done during the post-2008 recession:

Few in Greece, even five years ago, would have imagined their recession- and austerity-ravaged country as it is now: 1.3 million people – 26% of the workforce – without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages down by 38% on 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country’s population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line.

And just under 3.1 million people, or 33% of the population, without national health insurance.

Community medical facilities staffed by professionals who suffered reduced employment in the crisis are among the organizations Greeks have formed in a vacuum of help from official leaders:

The Peristeri health centre is one of 40 that have sprung up around Greece since the end of mass anti-austerity protests in 2011. Using donated drugs – state medicine reimbursements have been slashed by half, so even patients with insurance are now paying 70% more for their drugs – and medical equipment (Peristeri’s ultrasound scanner came from a German aid group, its children’s vaccines from France), the 16 clinics in the Greater Athens area alone treat more than 30,000 patients a month.

The clinics in turn are part of a far larger and avowedly political movement of well over 400 citizen-run groups – food solidarity centres, social kitchens, cooperatives, “without middlemen” distribution networks for fresh produce, legal aid hubs, education classes – that has emerged in response to the near-collapse of Greece’s welfare state, and has more than doubled in size in the past three years.

When members of the ascendant, radical-left Syriza party were first elected to the legislature in 2012, 72 MPs voted to give 20 percent of their monthly salary to a fund that would help finance Solidarity for All, a group that provides logistical and administrative support to the popular movement. Theano Fotiou, a member of Syriza’s central committee who is standing for re-election in the capital’s second electoral district, told The Guardian in the presence of a dozen or so exceedingly enthusiastic young volunteers, “The only real way out of this crisis is people doing it for themselves.”

“If people don’t participate, we will be lost as a country,” Fotiou said. “This is practice, not theory, a new social ideology, a new paradigm — the opposite of the old passive, dependent, consumerist, individualist model. And the solidarity projects we have now are its incubators.”

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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