Middle class in the line of fire

After the shock of adapting to the new circumstances dictated by the memorandum signed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Greeks are starting to realize that some of the measures, despite the aggressive manner in which they are being implemented, will truly serve to tidy up the administration and finances of the public sector, as well as help shape a new mentality and lead to better things. The memorandum, however, does not just lay down the rules for fiscal discipline; it also includes interventions in labor laws and entrepreneurship. In these two spheres, the issues are more complex and dynamic than those in the public sector. The situation is complicated further by the fact that the technocratic authors of the memorandum are neither infallible nor do they act according to political or social conditions. They see numbers rather than people, and their ultimate goal is to safeguard the economies of Europe from the effects of any debt crisis chain reaction rather than to save Greece per se. This is something else Greeks are coming to realize. They are beginning to understand the effects of the radical reforms not just on their own household budgets but also on the very core of society. Thousands of shops closing down, thousands of «To let» signs pasted on apartment buildings in expensive city streets and busy holiday resorts, flagging tourism revenues, sluggish retail sales, increasing penny-pinching among households, slashed wages and pensions – these are all signs of one thing: recession. And this recession is dealing a blow mainly to the middle class, the backbone of society. Shop owners, merchants, manufacturers, skilled workers, the self-employed, these are the lungs of the real economy and of society. And it is this vast and fluid middle class that, as a rule, produces the intellectual and social movements that breathe new life into the body of society. We are looking at a social sea change, which is only just beginning to gain momentum and become more turbulent, and which will have unforeseeable consequences. Only a profound understanding of this issue and collective action can avert the danger of social collapse.