Greece will be obliterated

24 Jan

It will be very interesting to see the international financial and political reaction if Syriza – the left wing party – win the election in Greece. One of the lessons of the financial crisis that started in 2008 has been the incompatibility of democracy and hyper mobile late capitalism. As western governments and international financial institutions have attempted to ‘correct’ the economic crisis over the past few years we have seen repeated instances of the overriding of popular sovereignty by the sovereignty of capital.

Only in Iceland did people power work. In other places, democratically elected governments sided with international financial institutions rather than with their people. Any notion of responsibility to protect people from the predations of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund or private banking corporations was ditched. The government of Cyprus raided the bank accounts of its citizens. Governments in Ireland, Portugal and Spain bowed to pressure from the ‘troika’ (IMF, ECB and European Commission). In Ireland, the troika insisted that the government lifted a ban on home repossessions. The troika approves budgets, tells governments how much they can spend on health care and education, and is not open to scrutiny itself. In no state has there been serious scrutiny of, let alone sanction against, banks – or the regulatory authorities and political parties that facilitated them running up unsustainable debts.

Instead, private debt has been nationalised, with the burden passed to the taxpayer and the strategy out of the economic crisis seems to be based on yet more borrowing. Popular and national sovereignty has been no match for the demands of banking corporations and the commitment of governments to maintaining an unsustainable capitalist system.

If, as expected, Greece does vote for Syriza, and if – as promised – Syriza tears up agreements with creditors – then all hell will break loose. Western powers (states and capitalist interests) simply do not tolerate dissent – even if it is democratic dissent. Look at the case of Gaza. The people there were repeatedly lectured on the need to embrace democracy. So they did – and promptly elected Hamas into government. The west reacted with fury, has refused to recognise the government, and has punished the people of Gaza with sanctions ever since. Greece can expect sanctions too. They will come in very many forms – threats, freezing and confiscation of assets, expulsion from a series of economic ‘clubs’, exclusion from sources of credit, and additional financial restrictions. That the actions its government takes are the result of democracy will be immaterial.

The people of Greece will be lectured repeatedly on the need to conform, to act ‘responsibly’. But they have been treated with utter contempt for the past five years. They have seen unemployment rocket, taxes increase, unemployment spiral and the state abandon any pretence of social responsibility to its citizens. Most people in Greece have little to lose. International capital has behaved disgracefully towards them and has been content to see them humiliated. Hopefully a new Greek government will treat the troika with equal contempt and inspire citizens in other economically beleaguered states to stand up to craven political parties that prioritise dancing to capitalism’s tune rather than to that of democracy.

There will be interesting days and weeks ahead should Syriza form a government, and should it pursue radical policies. Capitalism does not tolerate democracy or radicalism and so I really fear for the Greek people. They will be made to suffer even more.


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