Solidarity with people living in Greece (Spain, Italy, Ireland,... , ...) : social networks against austerity (austeria?) across political 'borders'

On Friday night, while celebrating the end of the Living on the Edge Conference, and the start of the Edgefest Unconference, I was chatting to other Edgeryders about Greece. After some discussion, we were joined by two people from Greece, and after more discussion we decided that on Sunday 17th June - the last day of Edgefest and the day of the 2nd Greek Election of 2012 (#ekloges12) - we would encourage Edgeryders to express their solidarity with people living in greece by sending photo messages over the internet. At lunchtime on Sunday we did this see the website for the resulting photos: I have pasted the press release we wrote in the comments below, and it is also available on the website.

In this report I want to talk a little about the reasons for this action, and collate some thoughts and resources on the related issues.

So, why did we take this action? Why did we want to do express solidarity with people living in Greece?

Firsly, I was concerned that we organise some action by Edgeryders that would ensure the community made the journey not only from online social network to offline IRL (real life) social network, but into the streets! Many of us have discussed building new networks and practical projects together following the conferences, but despite the impressive testimony of Mike Wozniak in taking opposition to ACTA to the streets in Poland, there was little discussion of how Edgeryders might take public political action together. We wanted to start with something everyone could feel comfortable with, so we decided to take individual photos (with an option for anonymity) of people holding signs expressing solidarity.

Secondly, several of us were growing increasingly concerned with the demonization of people living in Greece - both by the mainstream media and politicians across europe who were using the prejudices of “lazy” and “tax-dodging” greeks, rather than the failures and corruption of financial markets, bank(er)s, international institutions and governments, to explain the crisis, and by right-wing parties in Greece with regard to some of the people living there (ie, Fascist party Golden Dawn and others blaming problems on immigrants, again, rather than governments, banks and international institutions).

Thirdly, we contrasted this demonisation with the positive experience of the conference. As Edgeryders, and at Living on The Edge, people from a variety of different countries of europe, and indeed further afield, had come together; treating each other with respect and dignity, and ignored the ‘borders’ that appear to divide us.

Fourthly, we heard a lot about the potential worsening of the crisis in Greece, and how we as Edgeryders might help to improve resilience there (particularly of health services). Yet we felt that those of us living in other countries also faced worsening crises, and the need for greater resilience. We felt that we can face these crises best by working together - as one placard said: “We are all in the same boat”, the present of Greece may well turn out to be our future.

Fifth, there were also people at the conference from Iceland, a country that took a different response to financial crisis. We wanted to raise critical questions about the causes of financial and economic crisis, democratic control, and austerity policies.

Finally, we accidentally discovered a beautiful statue of the Greek goddess Athena near the unconference (Place d’Athene in Strasbourg). We thought this was a sign that we should take action together, and would be a great place to gather. It also linked nicely to our discussions about the things we owe Greece (though we had an interesting debate about this) - and the way other countries still possess treasures that rightly belong in Greece.

I now provide some responses to the questions of the ‘Living Together’ campaign brief:

“What can those of us in other countries do to challenge stereotypes about and discrimination against people living in other nations?”

We can assert that we feel differently - that we do not accept the stereotypes, that we know they are created to divide us, that we want to LIVE TOGETHER, that we ignore artificial ‘borders’ when we make friends and establish communities working together for common goals.

“How do you define yourself and perceive others in online environments? What helps, what doesn’t help in building resilient networks?”

Supposedly I am ‘European’, ‘British’, ‘English’, ‘Jewish’… but these identifies are not very important to me. I’m also a “cyclists”, a “vegan”, an “economist”, but again, I do always enjoy being identified primarily by these labels. I am a human being, that is imporant.

On the internet, who needs to know what country you are from? When online, we can ignore the divisive implications of these identities, and collaborate together on the basis of our shared common humanity.

Yet in real life, it does matter which country you live in: your economic, social and political situation, your rights to free expression…

An important thing we discussed at both Edgeryders conferences was the value of community in increasing the resilience of places: the commitment to mutual aid, and social solidarity can be crucial in ensuring people work together to help each other out of crisis, rather than fighting each other for scraps when things go wrong.

“How do you build your social network?”

When online, we share our thoughts on the basis of shared humanity (everyone is notionally ‘equal’ as long as they have access) and shared interests (the best example perhaps being the twitter hashtag), but I feel communities are still usually more powerful when they have at least met once in real life (IRL), when human emotions of trust and empathy can develop through face-to-face contact, and nuances of body language, tone of voice and so on are easier to spot. When online, taking action together can feel limited to ‘clicktivism’, which frequently appears a passive and ineffecive way to campaign. IRL, we can not only talk together, but act publicly together. History tells us that it is often (usually?) necessary to take to the streets to achieve our shared goals.

“What about the dangers, i.e. related to commercial, corporate-owned, centralised social networks, how do you manage these?”

The danger here is of nationalism, xenophobia, racism. How do we manage this? Again, I do not know the answer - please respond with comments.

Though we undertook our original intended action, I hope this is not the end of Edgeryder Solidarity, with either the people living in Greece, and perhaps people elsewhere as well. I would like this space on the Edgeryders platform to be one for comment and propoals on the following:

Which forms of action do people (especially people living in Greece) think would be helpful to challenge negative stereotypes?

What can we share that will help the people living in Greece cope?

What do we think are the causes of the problems in Greece? How do we think they could best be solved?

What can we do to learn about, and where appropriate support, the demands made by social and political movements in Greece?

Finally, here are some resources - things I have seen that have made me want to discuss this with other people:

Video - “Crisis: Don’t believe the lies!” (embedded below)

Photo-reports - “Massive Anti-Fascist Protests Across Greece”: Massive Anti Fascist protests across Greece – In the global war between rich and poor,, and “Athens Immigrant workers protest, March 17th”: Athens immigrant workers protest. Saturday March 17th – In the global war between rich and poor,

Journal article - “Who Owes Whom? Citizens’ Audit as a Response to the Sovereign Debt Crisis” by Molly Scott Cato: (free download)

Feature-length documentary film - “Catastroika”: “Privatisation goes public”

Feature-length documentary film - “Debtocracy”: Cracked • Cracked (“For the first time in Greece, a documentary produced by the audience. “Debtocracy” seeks the causes of the debt crisis and proposes solutions, sidelined by the government and the dominant media.”)

Book - “Debt, the first 5000 years” by David Graeber. Wikipedia entry: Debt: The First 5000 Years - Wikipedia

Just for starters!

We Are All Greeks?

See this campaign:

<<<The Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC) is an independent campaign and non-party political organisation, established in response to an appeal by Tony Benn in February 2012 for solidarity with the people resisting ‘austerity’ in Greece.

The working people of Greece are being driven to poverty and mass unemployment by the demands of the so-called Troika – the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – which has imposed Lucas Papademos, formerly of Vice-President of the ECB, as Prime Minister.

Greece is at the cutting edge of the austerity measures that are being introduced across Europe. All the evidence shows that while these measures may protect the interests of the rich, they just make matters worse for the majority of the population.

What happens in Greece today will be repeated in Portugal tomorrow, and in Ireland and Italy the day after. In Britain, the Coalition government is pursuing similar measures which will see workers earnings cut, working longer for a smaller pension, the marketisation of education and the dismantling of the NHS along with other public services.

The Greek people have shown mass resistance to these outrages and we commit to build a movement of solidarity with them.

Our Aims

  • To develop practical acts in solidarity with Greek working people
  • To support and celebrate the determined resistance by all those opposing ‘austerity measures’ in Greece.
  • To provide information on the situation in Greece including debunking the myths about the causes of the crisis.
  • To encourage conferences, meetings, discussions, lobbies, pickets, publications, media work, musical and cultural events.
  • To encourage mutual contacts with Greece through delegations, twinning etc.
  • To oppose governmental attempts to weaken trade unions and destroy collective bargaining
  • To work with solidarity organisations of Greeks resident in the UK and to link with similar anti-austerity campaigns across Europe.
  • To defend Greece’s democracy, sovereignty and independence and support the right of the Greek people to determine their own future free from oppressive external intervention.
  • To support and build activity around these objectives throughout Britain, within Parliament and local government, with trade unions, pensioners, students, faith groups, equality campaigns, cultural and political organisations, and social movement bodies.>>>

Solidarity with Greece - group photo at Athena Sculpture


Back in 2004, when President Bush was re-elected, Americans spontaneously started posting pictures of themselves with “We are sorry” messages addressed to the world. It went VERY viral. I am looking at it and find it still touching… maybe you are trying to do something similar?

The website is here:

yes, basically that’s where we got the idea

Well, similar things anyway. The last one I saw which is what made me think of it was the one by Grow Heathrow (Grow Heathrow Photo Campaign | Flickr).

By coincidence, when I came back from Strasbourg they were protesting outside a court in London (transition heathrow - hotels online), so I went along to show solidarity. They had printed big photocopies of the photos as placards - offline becomes online!

We hope this goes viral, perhaps it will on Thursday when Greece play Germany at Euro 2012 - great opportunity to get a LOT more photos, and publicise the ones we have already!

Solidarity with Greece!


PRESS RELEASE 17 / 06 / 2012



CONTACT: On twitter: @peterpannier, @ecolabs (people living in the UK) and @socialuna (a person living in Greece) for further information. Email: or (a person living in Italy, who took part in a solidarity march from France to Greece recently).

SUMMARY: Today, the day of the 2012 Greek Election (Sunday 17th June) dozens of young people from all over the continent of Europe, who were gathered in Strasbourg for the ‘Edgeryders’ conference organised by the Council of Europe, sent messages of solidarity to people living in Greece. 

“We are young people – and people who are not so young - from around Europe, sharing our knowledge and our skills, our struggles and our successes, and our hopes and fears for the future. We are united despite the existence of ‘borders’ between us. We express solidarity with people living in Greece because we know that they are people like us. We reject the demonization of people in Greece – they are not responsible for the crisis. We also reject nationalism and xenophobia wherever they arise”, said James Beecher, one of the organisers of the action.

The young people gathered beneath a Greek statue of the goddess Athena, near the University Campus in Strasbourg where they were attending a conference.

Organiser Jody Boehnert added “The present of the people living in Greece is our future. Across Europe we face austerity and rising nationalism. We are all in the same boat; to prosper we must work together to expose the real causes of this crisis”.

Other participants from across Europe specifically addressed tensions between the Greek and German governments – “Ich bin ein Grieche” read one sign.

Meanwhile, others criticised the economic policies of the EU, IMF and many European governments (“Against Austerity Everywhere”) and drew attention to the experience of other countries in tackling economic and financial crisis (“Iceland - √, Ireland – X, Greece – X; Austerity NO, Honesty YES” , and called for legal action against bankers: “Greece: Put the bankers in Jail (like Iceland!)”

But the main message was support for the people living in Greece: “Solidarity with people in Greece” was written in English, Greek, Spanish, Italian, French, Polish and Russian.

One of the young people who took part concluded the gathering by saying “Today we express our solidarity through photo messages to the people of Greece, and by coming together as people in other cities are doing. Tomorrow, and in the future, we will show our solidarity in other ways, by travelling to Greece, by sending material support, and by taking action in our own localities – We Are All Greek!”

CONTACT: On twitter: @peterpannier, @ecolabs (people living in the UK) and @socialuna (a person living in Greece) for further information. Email: or (a person living in Italy, who took part in a solidarity march from France to Greece recently).

Film night

Last night I screened Debtocracy and one of the Reel News shorts on Greece to about 30 people in Stroud. Edgeryder Chara also joined us briefly on Skype to discuss what it is like to be a young person from Greece. It was great. We collected ~£70 to cover the costs of the event and make a donation to Greek Solidarity projects.

I recommend organising similar events to others (see the poster here: Films &amp; Chat Sun24thJune 7pm The Exchange Stroud-What is really happening in Greece? Is Their Present Our Future?).

Hopefully many of the group who attended will continue to discuss these issues and come up with some practical ideas for supportive solidarity action.

Does it ameliorate potential for violence?

Hi James, was thinking about this effort of yours and the whole idea of Solidarity with people from Greece…

and was wondering if there were some reactions from the other side, from people there. Is there an outcome or something they learned in particular that can help them, not necessarily via money, but lessons about resilience, or greater feelings of being part of a global community, or even more, attenuate potential for violence?

Right now K, Matthias and others are working to collect learning initiatives that can prevent negative psychological effects on youth nowadays. We’re working from this doc, maybe you would be interested to make a point?

From Edgeryders to policymakers with love?

Hey guys, how do you feel about this depiction and recommendations to improve youth policy? It’s in the latest research report on inclusion la de-categorization… good enough to go into the transition handbook?

"In general, from Edgeryders experiences surfaces a great need to re-interpret social policy by de-constructing categorizations and focus on common aspirations and giving youth the space to build bottom up initiatives in search for a better future for and by all. Barbara adds that: “the main idea of the edgeryders’ governance is the departure from the bureaucratic machinery and the implementation of co- models (co-working, co-housing, sharing of decisions, etc.)”

  • Recognition of a role and voice of young people in society, as peers
  • Recognition of young people’s agency, talents and potential beyond the logic of ordinary curricula and market economy; instead of targeting those who are considered the marginalized and reinforcing labels, focus on commonly held aspirations;
  • By placing a lot of value in coaching, mentoring, inspiring role models, which are provided by both ‘seniors’ and their peers and mostly outside formal work relations, young people like Edgeryders should be provided with fair access to scant resources, in order to continue to work together and make sustainable work where they choose to put their own creativity
  • Young people should be involved in designing, implementing and evaluating youth-related policies. In other words, they should be empowered to participate in the ex-ante evaluation and needs assessment, as well as in the ex-post evaluation. "
Here is the summary of the report and link to full version, hopefully you'll have some time to look it through and help make it better?