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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SYRIZA - Are We Witnessing The Fourth Round?

On March 10, Alexis Tsipras gave a speech as part of the Inter-party Parliamentary Committe for Claiming the German Reparations. The following paragraph caught my attention:

"Some people tell us – why do you tackle the past, look at the future. But what country, what people can have a future if it does not honor its history and its struggles? What people can move forward, erasing the collective memory and leaving historically unjustified its struggles and sacrifices?"

How true a statement this is! A society indeed has a collective memory. Particularly experiences of humiliation can and will influence the feelings of identity of a society, just like with an individual, for many generations. Examples thereof are manifold. On the other hand, an individual and/or society which is at peace with itself will be free to develop its own identity. As Nick Portokalos said so nicely to his sister on the eve of her wedding: "Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become" ("My big fat Greek Wedding"). 

What PM Tsipras refers to is part of the struggle for Greece but the struggle for Greece did not take place from 1941-44. Instead, it lasted from 1941-49, as C. M. Woodhouse has described in utmost detail in his famous book (Woodhouse was head of the British Military Mission in Greece during the anti-Nazi resistence). I am not sure which of the two phases (1941-44 or 1946-49) have more influence on today's Greece and on Greece's future.

A few years ago, I became enamored with the subject of the Greek Civil War. Normally in a civil war, there are 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. In the Greek Civil War, particularly in its roots during the Nazi-occupation, I was never sure as to who the 'good guys' and 'bad guys' were. The more I got interested in the 1946-49 period, the more I wanted to discuss it with Greek friends. Not exactly dead silence but very much close to it! Either they knew very little about it or they simply didn't want to talk about it. Actually, it came across to me as though they didn't really care about it. With the younger generation, I got the impression like they didn't even know that there had been a civil war. But all of them remembered the 1941-44 period and had a lot to say about it.

We take at least one trip a year out to the Northwest and I have criss-crossed the region of Epirus for traces of the Civil War. I have been to Greece's most famous hamlet Lia where Nicolas Gage grew up and later wrote the book about his mother "Eleni". I visited Konitsa to better understand how General Vafiadis had attacked the town and why he failed. The only comment which I could elicit from a local Greek in a café was: "Brother was fighting against brother". All over the region of Epirus I was looking for memorials about the Civil War but did not find any.  

In short, it seems to me that there is a concensus in Greek society that the second half of the 1940s had better be scratched from memory. All I can say about this is: "Good luck! It will never leave memory". To prove this point, I quote what a very well known Greek once told me in writing about the subject: "The Civil War is in us, deeply embedded in our cultural and spiritual DNA!"

Ever since SYRIZA came to political prominence, I had the impression that the faultlines of 1946-49 are again permeating Greek society. SYRIZA seems to me as the ideological successor of ELAS ("It is for you that we all embark on this struggle! To put shoes on your feet, food in your children's mouths! We are fighting to change your life, to raise you up from poverty and humiliation, to make you men!"). And 'the others' today seem to be the ideological successors of 'the others' then ("Any fool can throw a stone into the sea, but once he does, a hundred wise men can't pull it out!").

I have watched videos on YouTube about ELAS-Greeks returning to Greece after the statute of limitation expired. Two old woman recounted with passion how they had brutally butchered an EDES leader after they had seen that man execute ELAS fighters. They looked like they would be happy to do it all over again. On the other hand, I watched an interview with General Vafiadis who, I must admit, impressed me. I don't want to get into any of the massacres which were committed by both sides. I do, however, remember one of Woodhouse's conclusions: "The damage of the Civil War is difficult to calculate but suffice it to say that the material and human damage was far greater than damages during WW2".

To sum it up: I can't help the feeling that what we are seeing today is the Fourth Round of the conflict between the Greek Left and 'the others' with SYRIZA's intent being to finally turn Greece into the type of society which the Left has been dreaming of for decades. PM Tsipras plans to invest in education so that young Greeks learn more about the 1941-44 period. I think he should invest that money so that young Greeks learn more about the entire struggle for Greece from 1941-49.

26 comments:

  1. Great contribution to Greece's history, with details that all should know, that all should watch again, to the same past, but with more and other aspects, to think, deeper. All parts of a puzzle, named Greece, that was/is far from ready and reason for so many questions without answers.
    Thanks.

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  2. I also did not know much about this civil war. Interested by your post I found this article from 1985 (Spiegel, German): http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13512314.html
    Sounds really ugly!

    A war against a foreign enemy is ugly. But how much more ugly is a civil war, brother against brother? I remind how spanish friends spoke how deep and long the wounds lasted and how hard it was to get to a national healing.
    And if I listen how vocally they remind the civil war against Germans it is hard to imagine the following year could have been erased and not told from fathers to childs.
    Sounds like Greece has even more problems than foreigners can already can see at the surface, on the economically layer. The existence of the KKE, even more dogmatic, also shows there are some deep rooting things.
    Hui!

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  3. Searched for the book "Eleni", written by Nicolas Gage, where Herr Kastner refers to in this post, and found a film about this book (English spoken, Greek subtitles). It is indeed about the Greek civil war.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcT8pX5mBIU



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  4. I will contribute my thoughts...

    Maybe we can shed alittle light. Ofcourse the whole period of the 40's was devastating for Greece. I find it funny that 1st and 2nd aspect of the 40's was mainly due the foreign interests in Greece. 1st part an invader of axis seeking to do things, which i will not mention, as this a blog comment, not an encyclodepia of accounts of what occured in ww2 to Greece. The 2nd part is a power struggle of the control of a country by two opposing forces. USA/UK/FRANCE vs RUSSIAN interests on polarizing Greece to one of the sides. The west prevailed. What happened to the people, is the result of any civil war. You mention which is worse? For sure many will feel the second. I beg to differ. The 1st was worse as it was a foreign invader. Simple logic supports this because without the invader coming into Greece the 2nd would not have happened.

    It was after or during the invaders occupation which help formulate the division. Sure ideaologies mayhave existed, but it is war which created the animal in us to support these ideaologies. Without the war, civil unrest in Greece would simple be a class struggle. So in a sense i can also blame Mainly Germany, and the West and East for the creation and birth of the modern greek civil war.

    On a personal note, being from an island, my family and family known friends by in large and by far suffered horrifically by the German occupation. I have personal documentations and thankfully before my grandfather passed i was was able to extract the painful memories. My father still cries about those times even though he was 5 years old.

    My grandfather also proved his character and worth as a human being. After being sunk by submarine 2! times. In 1941, the captain (a gentleman) who had the descency to let the crew off, feed them and tow them to the coast, but unfortunately not the second time. Having to swim out of a sinking ship and swim on barrel to Spain. Only having to walk from gilbrata to south of france, change multiple fish boats for a period of 4 months to get back home. Upon when the occupation of the German overtook those of the Italians. The local Italian soldiers feared for their lives, my grandfather hid, fed and supported 3 Italian soldier meanwile having his own family to feed in a period where EVERYTHING was stolen by the occupiers, for nearly 3 years.

    My grandfather and parents had nothing to say abou the civil war other than they had nothing to eat. Aresult not caused by the civilwar but due to the destruction of the country as a whole. Litterly they ate bread olive oil and maybe an egg if they were lucky. The 40's burns in that whole generation because it is a lost generation which fought many years, left the country to bitterly fight (work) in the west to bring up their children (myself) with something better. Having their andmy grandparents efforts in mind I will not capitulate in what is going on today.

    Also, I now see that a new Greek lost generation is being created.

    So as to conclude, the 40's was miserable for Greeks, had it not been invaded we would have a completely different Greece today.

    Goodnight,

    V

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    1. Not anybody can awaken the hell of a civil war unless it is inside the people, waiting, as a spitha. This spitha was not in any other people, that was involved in the second world war. And you blame now the west, the Allies, and the Germans for it....
      It is again (and I am very sorry to have to say it), but it is again pointing to others as the cause, while the cause is deep inside of the Greeks living in that time, and starting with this war.

      We can also point to God, who created the air to breathe, to be able to fight, who created other human beings as well, so, not only Greeks. We can blame all and everything, but never ever forget, that when you point with your finger to others, that you have five fingers, and three point to your own self!! As long Greece wants to continue with denying its own part, the existence of the three other fingers, it will never ever be able to face the reality, to learn from it, to change and to go on to a better future.
      To unite, with even those that you blame now.
      When somebody only blames others, endlessly, there is something that needs to be hidden. The only way to hide oneself is to blame others, to take the attention away from the own mistakes, the self-created cruelties. Hiding is a way of lying.

      The Greek Civil War is named "The Hidden War".

      Why that name? Is Greece ashamed? What do you think that the Germans of the present are? Proud of WWII? Of course they feel ashamed. And that is good. But they are so courageous to reject their ancestors' acts as evil, and they go on. We, Dutch, have united with Germany, and no, we did not have a civil war, not because we did not hate the Germans, we did, from the deepest within, but we did not have that spitha in us to start a civil war.
      We forgave the Germans, many many years after the war. And no, we do not forget those who died. We remember them.

      You could start reading the book Etty Hillesum wrote. To learn to forgive. To learn to watch in the own self. She was a Jewish woman and was killed in a gas chamber in 1943, in Auschwitz. The book is translated in almost all languages.
      A quote: “I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we first change ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned.”

      Found a serial on youtube about the Greek civil war and made a playlist:
      "The Hidden War"
      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLi6Q2M81B6pxSaI3MJTUvdJ7TuMLexPRL

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    2. As far as i am aware, the dutch annexed parts of Germany after the war only later settling this with German in 1960 for Germany to buy back the annexed land, in a sense this is a form a reperations.

      Greece on the other hand received nothing from Germany. So it is easier from Dutch POV to "remember and forgive." Just like the Greeks have done with the Italians who did provide their war reperations to Greece.

      The conflict in Greece, the war, played a distinct fact which lead to the Greek civil war.

      Greeks do not deny nor not know their own blame for their own problems, but the catalist did not come from within but from abroad.

      V

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    3. The Dutch have never annexed parts of Germany, as a repair, unless it was land more far back in history, but that is so little that it is meaningless to talk about it. We have the character to stop talking about it when it is fixed.

      Whatever there should or could have been about "reparations": what has been damaged within, in the soul, cannot be repaired in a materialistic way. Never. It has to be solved in another way. In oneself. By oneself.

      My father and mother have been in world war two, as adults, and to be honest, my father never ever could name them, the Germans other than with the word "mof", and he always connected that word with a curse, from deep within. "Mof" is a special Dutch bad word for a German. I can understand him: he was, to give you one example, with many many other young Dutch men, brought to Germany, to work there in the war industry. But, the spirit within, and I have inherited it, brought him back to Netherlands, on foot, alone. On foot. That took a week.
      Through the land of the enemy. To Netherlands, that was occupied by the enemy. He managed it.

      My mother had her own stories. I have heard many stories. I have hated the Germans for it, and that hatred deepened to a never ever to forgive level, when the first films about concentration camps appeared on TV. To be honest: it took a very long time to get rid of it. It stopped finally when I was in a deep depression. Via therapies I was going deep inside my own soul, and started to clean up there, learned that. That is hard work, and confronting. I learned, and all who did/do the same, that as long I keep a part of my heart for hatred, (and I had excellent reasons for hatred, too much has happened via unseen wars in my own personal soul experiences), so, when there are rooms in my heart that I keep for hatred, I can never ever be happy in the highest and deepest levels. Hatred is always burning, and darkens even the love in the other rooms of the heart.
      The same counts for "grudge".

      That is what I sense in Greece: hatred, grudge, and not willing to let go. To prefer to blame others for it. To prefer to play the victim. And never ever to be happy. That is a choice.
      As it is a choice to try to get rid of it. And to grow up to a more mature being.
      Blaming others, and not stopping with it, as I see it happen in Greece, as it has become a part of their culture, social life, is a prove that one has not even started with watching the three fingers where I was talking about.

      Etty Hillesum wrote:
      "En al zou er nog maar één fatsoenlijke Duitser bestaan, dan zou die het waard zijn in bescherming genomen te worden tegen de hele barbaarse bende en om die éne fatsoenlijke Duitser zou men dan niet zijn haat mogen uitgieten over een geheel volk."

      "And, even if there would be just one single decent German, he/she would be worth it to protect against all belonging to the entire band/gang of barbarians, and because of just that one decent German one should not be allowed to pour out one's hatred over an entire people."

      She had lost ALL. Even, finally, her life. What is MORE precious? She loved life and had all the talents in her to make a wonderful life. In fact she brought all her talents together in her diaries, written in Westerbork, a transition camp in Netherlands, from where she was transported, in one of those trains, to Auschwitz. She was 29. She did not hate. The diaries have been published in 1983.
      She proves in that book not to be a silly or naive one, but an emotionally, mentally and spiritually highly evolved human being.
      We can learn from her.
      More about her on my Etty Hillesum page:
      https://plus.google.com/u/0/108889501429268344716/posts

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    4. Note: the catalist is not outside a person. It is inside oneself. Even if there is a catalist outside, then it is a choice to let "him" in.
      When you start gong to work at your own self, you will find out that inside of you there is one who opens the door for what you dislike or hate. Throw that out of your life. It is an oppressor. A suppressor. As long it is there it will be mirrored all around you via other creatures and situations. The mirror is the same as the three fingers, pointing to yourself.

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    5. quote...

      Starting in March 1957, West Germany negotiated the return of these areas with the Netherlands. These negotiations led to an agreement (German: Vertrag vom 8. April 1960 zwischen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und dem Königreich der Niederlande zur Regelung von Grenzfragen und anderen zwischen beiden Ländern bestehenden Problemen; short: Ausgleichsvertrag, i.e. treaty of settlement)[1] made in The Hague on April 8, 1960, in which Germany agreed to pay 280 million German marks for the return of Elten, Selfkant, and Suderwick, as Wiedergutmachung.

      The territory was returned to Germany on August 1, 1963, except one small hill (about 3 km²) near Wyler village, called Duivelsberg/Wylerberg which was annexed by the Netherlands.

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    6. Just stumbled upon-
      dedicated to you ("V") and the great majority of Greeks (living in Greece, that is...)

      ___If I were 25 and Greek: Michael Ignatieff at TEDxAcademy

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID8UPXcxS10

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    7. Thank You Anonymous 4:18PM

      I am quite aware of the Ted X. It was an interesting video which i have not seen. Very Valid points of the failure to get our young into the work force. Something that i strive to help and contribute to. But as a personal manager i have failed at my task at this directly. Indirectly i am hoping my hard work and many hours help indirectly to push to employ more youth. I have had some partial success at that.

      Even before and till today, 06 - 2015, my department, a key structure of our company (large multinational), we have increased efficiency in the projects we do, meanwhile doing it with the same personel. (How happy is the owner with this?)And although our hard work and efforts have paid off greatly for the good of the company and the suppliers of the company we remain with the same persons. Even with the so many programs that exist to push companies to hire youth with very low wages are not being implemented to the fraction of what would help push youth into the work market. It is not implement because "they" think only of the extra "pennies" they may earn.

      Unfortunately, stock holders and owners only see the bottom line and when they see there are hard working efficient workers and managers, "why bring in extra persons." This is where i have failed, because i have been unable to prove that with more help or youth workers, i could further increase efficiency. Meanwhile, even asking for help is almost a taboo because the skepticism behind everything is "if you need help" you can be replaced by someone who will work even harder and longer and is providing with employment.

      I am thankful though that my private life employment track record is impeccable. Such that where i can pull strings in a many to increase productivity and knowledge in Greece. These efforts have help employment rise in my sources with youth employment.

      Another thing where i have failed, is that i work so hard and focused on projects that i do not have the time to do the hardest work which is use my mind, and organize the idea for the need for more persons, which will translate into more profits, more efficiencies and better way of working.

      I remain hopeful that one day i will be able to have the power to influence more efficiently as to provide more growth and more employment one day.

      On a personal level, i belive i have only tapped a 50% of my potential and ideas for the good of the private sector. Another failure of mine. By comparison to my counter parts in more developed countries i well being what they produce and i am asked "how do you do it." I only respond imagine if i could tap into my 100% with only a few more people, what you see what i could do.

      Sincerely,

      V

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  5. We are witnessing another round of German occupation and effort of imposing power via blackmail. Ιt is the lazy(!), untrusted, sly- PIGS. What you are doing here is an effort to purge a humanitarian crime against the people of Greece ignorantly referring fragmentarily to past civil war after a country had been transformed to a geopolitical theatre of influence between foreign powers. Shame on you

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    1. @AnonymousMarch 18, 2015 at 11:21 PM

      Only liberality of the blog owner allows you to publish here your blatant nonsense.

      H. Trickler

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  6. Most Greeks know better than to discuss this subject with an austrian tourist [ie German during the relevant period]. Eleni is a book that is more important for tourists than Greeks, since it was written 30 years after the events and there were 10,000 similar 'Eleni's in Greece. Lia is not the obvious place to go but Grammos, Makronissos. Why Makronissos (1950s)? Because the US imposed punishment and stigmatisation lasted until after the junta. 1974. A wiser man than this commentator, Constantinos Karamanlis, made the first steps to heal the externally imposed and funded wounds.

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    1. When i visited Germany and Austria everyone wanted to speak to me about WWII, they wanted to know about Distomo, Kalavrita, whether the Wermacht instead of the SS did any war crimes, etc. Honest! As soon as i was starting to cut and say "let's talk of WWII", my Wiener Schnitzel would go cold from the immediate partecipation of local friends and bystanders. They wouldn't let me eat!

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    2. You cant eat while listening? ;-)

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    3. @ Anonymous at 8.31
      I should have mentioned that I do not view myself as an Austrian tourist but rather as the husband of a Greek for 40 years who now lives a good portion of the year in Greece. Yes, I have visited many other historical spots of the Civil War including Grammos-Vitsi where my wife's father had fought. I think it's only fair to mention that I am also familiar with Meligalas and the Paidomazoma.

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    4. The attitude of the Greeks towards you, doesn't depend on how you view yourself, but rather, how the locals view you. And they don't view you as a Greek...

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    5. @ Anonymous at 9.46
      I totally agree with you and, yes, I am always fully aware of the fact that Greeks can tell that I am not Greek from the distance. Yes, what matters in the final analysis is what others perceive. But that does not deprive me of my right to perceive myself, too. That was my above point.

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    6. @kleingutMarch 20, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      It would be very interesting how your wife answers this question?

      As a Swiss married to a Danish wife and speaking that language pretty well, many times I have the impression that Danish friends often see me as a foreigner...

      H.Trickler

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  7. I do, however, remember one of Woodhouse's conclusions: "The damage of the Civil War is difficult to calculate but suffice it to say that the material and human damage was far greater than damages during WW2".

    Everyone nowdays is everything. Including historian. However, instead of spreading false statements, someone could easily verify such things.

    Read endnotes with multiple historical sources here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#endnote_Greece

    See for civil war here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Civil_War

    What you and of course Woodhouse cosily forget to mention, is that in order to wage war for years, you need: 1) an army, 2) weapons, 3) a constant supply line, 4) a motive. 1 and 2 were provided by the german occupation. 3 was provided by neighbouring comunist countries. 4 was provided by internal politics and british politics.

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  8. hóper édei deîxai (EUCLIDE)

    HAVING DEVASTETED EUROPE TWICE WITHIN A CENTURY you speak about Greek civil war and get angry with "pointing finder at you"?



    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx-1LQu6mAE&feature=player_embedded

    "You simply took something out of context and gave it the turnaround, so that the average german could pursue their passion for being angered.

    FOREIGNER. OUT OF EUROPE YOU GO!

    He's poor and takes our money. That's just not possible! We are the bosses in here!"

    A law unanimously voted by a democratic elected parliament to give 200M EUR in humanatarian help to poor people is regarded unilateral action?

    This blog makes me sick, this will be my last post here (if you publish it)

    SHAME ON YOU - the history will not forgive you

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    1. >"A law unanimously voted by a democratic elected parliament to give 200M EUR in humanatarian help to poor people is regarded unilateral action?"

      If the government has payed everything and that money is readily available, then of course this is fully within the authority of the government.

      If however that state is bankrupt, it all is considerably more complicated!

      My well founded suspicion: That money comes from pension funds which have been urged to lend the populations money to the state. OMG!!!

      H.Trickler

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  9. Every country with a civil war - brothers fighting against brothers, neighbours against neighbours etc - is sick in a sens, be it the USA, Rwanda or Greece. This sickness has to be healed. And the prerequisite for healing is reconciliation. The experience from Rwanda and South Africa shows that clearly.

    Unfortunately I don't think Tsipras is the healer. His idea of putting the civil war on the agenda once more is related to his communist background. He wants to politicise the civil war in order to glorify the communist side in the war. That will just be digging down into the trenches again.

    Greece at this critical point in its history does not need a communist leader like Tsipras. It rather needs a Mandela, a leader with the ability for reconciliation, for bringing people together from both sides of a conflict.

    Is there a Mandela among Greek politicians today? I doubt that. The political climate in Greece seems to be antagonistic and polemic, war rather than peace.

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    1. Thank you for this wonderful comment. It's exactly that 'healing' which you refer to and which, in my impression, has never taken place in Greece. Thus, the patient remains sick.

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    2. Nice post Anonymous 4:57PM

      Really nice. Yes all good points and indeed after the specific civil wars you mentioned there was a leader who stood up for the good of all regardless of the possible personal sacrifice.

      Mandela indeed was a great figure to listen to not only for South Africa but for mankind.

      I still have hopes for Tsipras, regardless of where his position in the political theatre is i belive he is not dogmatized by it. Thankfully he is young and with an open mind. He is a good leader but i am unsure if he can build bridges within the greek political theatre. I also have the same views for Kostas Karamanlis. Both great men but with substandard cabinets and people within the party. A man as you ask if is in Greece must over come that within the party itself. I am hopeful that is Tsipras gets through this crisis and Greece finds a new road we will maybe some kind of bridging.

      He is a leadr who is making logical and smat actions. I felt like that for varoufakis, but in retrospect, it seems he is a complete theorist who incapable of implimentation of his ideas. I think Tsipras has realized this and has made a decision to put him on the side. I believe he will keep Varoufakis as an adviser.

      Mr Kastner and Antoinette,

      I would like to thank you both for your dialogues and information. I apologize if i come off harsh, angry or narrow minded. The information war while trying to live everyday life as to help to contribute is quite stressful. I hope to myself only to have the strength to continue to fight and help and open my mind.

      Sincerely,

      V

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