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Regarding the “Hercules” plan, housing dispossession and squat evictions in Greece
by Theodoros Karyotis
20 December 2019

The “Hercules” plan to sell €30 billion worth of non-performing (“red”) loans to funds, with the state acting as the guarantor, was approved a few days ago by the Greek parliament. Of course the loans will be sold at a fraction of the nominal price, and the funds will be given free rein to demand repayment in full, which will naturally include blackmail, forclosures, auctions of real estate collateral, etc.

The symbolism of the name is clear: As the mythical Hercules diverted two rivers to clean the stable of Augeas of tons of manure, similarly the government is diverting up to €12 billion of its reserves to guarantee these loans and clean the accounts of banks of tons of manure. This is not simply “taxpayer’s money”: this is blood money extracted from the people through extreme austerity measures. Unsurprisingly, the European Comission declared that the plan does not constitute state aid.

The paradox is that banks prefer to sell off red loans at 10% of the nominal price to get them off their books, rather than accept a 50% haircut and a renegotiation. This is because the “Hercules” plan constitutes another, the fourth, recapitalisation of Greek banks, again using the taxpayer’s blood money.

A part of these red loans have residences as collateral, and along with the impending abolition of the legal framework that protects primary residence from liquidation, the huge wave of housing collateral auctions that is already underway, and the fire sale of “packages” of already foreclosed real estate by banks to funds, this is a well orchestrated operation of housing dispossession in Greece. As the big real estate sharks are preparing to attack, the Greek housing model, charcaterised by widespread small property ownership and a high percentage of owner occupancy, will begin to falter. Moreover, this takes place in the context of a skyrocketing rental market and a complete absence of any type of housing policy to absorb the shock.

This is another prism through which to view the attack of the government on the squatting movement in Greece: Not only are they neutralising the “ideological enemy” and one of the few bastions of criticism and resistance to dispossesion, gentrification and “urban renewal”, but they are also rehearsing the repressive tactics they are going to employ in the impending wave of housing foreclosures, testing society’s reflexes to extreme and arbitrary violence.

In this context, no one can expect to be taken seriously when they claim that repression does not affect them because they are not squatters.

Theodoros Karyotis

is a sociologist, translator and activist participating in social movements that promote self-management, solidarity economy and defense of the commons. He writes on