A devastated Greece

By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
Mar 4, 2023

The railway tragedy in central Greece, where a still unknown number of mostly young people (more than 50) have perished, is an incomprehensible accident. In 2023, it is simply inconceivable that two trains will move on the same track and in opposite directions without anyone in the system – machine or human – watching them and averting the collision.

Recently it was revealed that the Greek government is monitoring nearly everyone in the country (with the help of the Israeli secret services).  Yet it doesn’t even bother to track where the trains are going and whether they’re heading towards each other!

The accident revealed to its full extent the endemic corruption and mismanagement dominating Greece nowadays, as well as the complete surrender of the New Democracy government to oligarchic Greek and foreign interests.

But it also fully exposed the results of the “bailout” programs, imposed by the Troika (EU, ECB, IMF) back in 2010 and still in place, which were in reality programs of destruction and plundering of Greece, having also finally contributed to the rise of a “new” Right, representing the country’s worst traditions. Nothing similar has appeared in Greece since the collapse of the military dictatorship, back in 1974.

Those “bailout” programs are still being implemented, but in a more discreet way, with the Athens government not doing anything that is not agreed with the Troika which was, in its turn, renamed  “institutions”,  then disappearing altogether from public sight, but  still very much subsisting, functioning, controlling and imposing its will on Greece.

What are the causes of the railway tragedy? First, a probable human error by the stationmaster of Larissa, the biggest railway station in Greece. He was a 60-year-old man of limited experience, alone in a position of great responsibility, and appointed to this most probably by the clientelist Greek state as a friend of the ruling party.

Why was this man alone in controlling all train traffic? Because already in 2012, following orders from the Troika, but also in order to dissolve the railway state agency and promote their privatization, a drastic reduction of staff began. The Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) had over 6,000 staff in 2010; now, although it is projected to have 2,800, it has only 800.

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As part of the cuts in Greek government spending imposed by the Troika and accepted by successive Greek governments, and also due to the lack of personnel, various security systems that existed and that would have prevented disaster, gradually ceased to operate. The last system of tele-management of the railways was deactivated in 2020, a former director of the Trainose company said, adding that since then he stopped travelling by train.

Back in 2017, the program of looting Greek public property, including the country’s profit-making airports, bought by a German company, also at a derisory price. At even that price, the German company did not pay with its own capital, but took out a loan from the (bankrupt) Greek banks: that is, they obliged Greece to pay them to acquire profitable Greek airports!

The Germans also acquired a controlling interest in Greek communications industry; ports and other infrastructure was sold, while private international funds have bought the mortgages of 700,000 Greeks and are now preparing to kick them out of their homes.

A long time before the accident, the Greek railway trade unions warned repeatedly about the security and lack of personnel, even going on strike to ask the government and the Italian owners to take urgent measures to safeguard the railways. Even the European Commission has referred Greece to the European Court of Justice for that reason. (Of course there is quite a hypocrisy on the part of the Commission, as it represents an institution which imposed those policies to Greece and now it says it is dissatisfied with their results!).

The warnings by the trade unions and the European Commission were totally ignored by both the government and the Italian owners.

But we cannot understand what is happening now in Greece if we don’t take into account the deep consequences of the inglorious capitulation of the leadership of the Greek Left back in 2015 and its subsequent management of the country, in full agreement with the creditors, and without any conception and plan for the country. All that represented one of the most severe psychological and moral defeats ever for the Greek people. As a friend of mine put it: “Back in 1949 (year of the victory of pro-US forces in the Greek civil war) they killed the body of the Left; in 2015 they killed its soul”). This defeat paved the way for the emergence to power in 2019 of the worst Right that Greece had known since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974, causing a wave of unprecedented apathy and resignation throughout Greek society, which permitted the generalization of mismanagement, corruption and political cynicism. The vast majority of Greeks concluded that they could do nothing to save their country and preferred to close their eyes to reality and go after their private business, their family etc., while a large number of young Greeks continued to emigrate abroad to find a decent job. Very good Greek doctors educated at the expense of the Greek state and who are badly needed in the Greek NHS, are now staffing the German and the British NHS.

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The policy of the New Democracy party, which is neither new nor democratic (it increasingly evokes the pre-junta, pre-1967 authoritarian “democracy” in Greece), has been accompanied by a wave of authoritarianism and by the complete surrender of the country to its foreign “protectors” from the “collective West. Greece has been transformed into a western “debt colony”, then turned also into a “military-geopolitical” and a “data colony”, in complete contradiction to the views and the feelings of the Greek population, which has in the past struggled heroically to defend its country against direct or indirect foreign aggression, including against Hitler and Mussolini. (Maybe this struggle explains the hatred of some forces inside the very centers of western powers towards Greeks and Greece).

New Democracy was preparing to trigger elections when the train crash happened. Now it will probably put them off for at least a few weeks. It is pretty certain that it will suffer serious electoral losses, though it is not easy to calculate how great they will be. We also do not know whether the other two opposition parties, SYRIZA and PASOK, will benefit from the tragedy, given the responsibility that they also bear for their policies in the past and the absence of any credible project for the future of Greece. The leaderships of both those parties are more interested in attracting the favor of the Greek ruling classes and of the external forces nowadays controlling Greece than in addressing the deep anti-establishment, radical feeling in sections of Greek public opinion and, in particular, the Greek popular classes (as it happens, unfortunately, with large parts of the western Left, more and more representing rather themselves and middle bourgeois strata of the population than the people).

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But in the wake of the train tragedy, there has been a very hopeful and encouraging evolution, in the spontaneous mass movement of Greek youth, students and pupils who mobilized in many Greek towns with demonstrations and occupations, expressing their anger at the tragedy. They are less burdened by the defeats of previous generations and more determined to claim back their stolen country.

Published at uwidata.com