The Greek Elections and the Change of Political Cycle in Europe

25 June 2012 By  posted at Critical Legal Thinking 

The change of cycle in Greece, and in Europe, has already begun. Des­pite Syriza’s nar­row defeat last Sunday, the fact that a sup­posedly minor party could, in less than a year, man­age to obtain nearly 30% of the votes, double that of the social demo­cratic party in power, PASOK, tells us some­thing about the strength of the social mobil­isa­tion that has car­ried this coali­tion for­ward. Des­pite the ver­ti­gin­ous speed with which novel and import­ant pos­i­tions such as those of Syr­iza have spread, they still need a cer­tain amount of time before they become those of the major­ity in Greece. In fact, as is the case with 15M, some of the mat­ters, the more stra­tegic ones, placed on the table by Syr­iza call for ways of prac­tising polit­ics and inter­pret­at­ive schemas that will be unavoid­able for any kind of con­test­a­tion that might be artic­u­lated in Europe in the com­ing years. This is the key revealed in the Greek elec­tions: the pro­pos­als from Syr­iza for exit­ing the crisis, espe­cially those that refer to the need for a con­front­a­tion with the fin­an­cial sec­tor and its European polit­ical del­eg­ates, in con­son­ance with the slo­gan “we do not owe, we will not pay” from the indig­na­dos of Syn­tagma Square, will be the basis for a new com­mon sense, in oppos­i­tion to the com­plete sub­mis­sion to the diktats of fin­an­cial act­ors on the part of the dif­fer­ent European ver­sions of bipartisanism.

The vic­tory of New Demo­cracy and this party’s accept­ance, along­side PASOK, of the bru­tal bail­out con­di­tions, is the real­isa­tion of its defeat in the short/médium term. The con­di­tions for tough­en­ing privat­isa­tions, cut­backs and tax rises –not for the richest– imposed by the Troika (ECB, EU, IMF) simply can­not be man­aged from the national level and will con­tinue to gen­er­ate lines of con­flict that place the insti­tu­tions of the EU largely con­trolled by Merkel, on the one side, in con­front­a­tion with the Greek pop­u­la­tion on the other. For a long time we have been used to hear­ing that the monu­mental mobil­isa­tions in Greece had served no pur­pose. This was true to an extent pre­cisely because they were enclosed within the nar­row space of Greek national sov­er­eignty and they had not reached the point where they addressed the interests of the powers that oper­ate above this nar­row sov­er­eignty. Now we can say that con­front­a­tion at a European level has been opened up in Greece, and once opened there, it is also poten­tially opened in the whole con­tent. It is easy to observe the symp­toms of this new polit­ical phase. First, the European Union has had to inter­vene dir­ectly in the elect­oral cam­paign of a mem­ber state, caus­ing its appear­ance of tech­nical neut­ral­ity to dis­ap­pear. Second, the elect­oral debate centred on the con­di­tions imposed on Greece by the EU: even New Demo­cracy prom­ised that it would try to rene­go­ti­ate the aus­ter­ity Memor­andum that they them­selves signed. And lastly, in a large part of Europe, Syriza’s gamble has been per­ceived as the open­ing up of the type of con­flict that can truly change the situ­ation of the 99% of the pop­u­la­tion: the first step towards ques­tion­ing bor­ders as lines of con­tain­ment for social costs and polit­ical con­flicts in the EU.

Within the EU, national bor­ders have served to turn the hole in the bal­ance sheets of European banks into a debt crisis of mem­ber states. The mech­an­ism has been as fol­lows: the banks have needed pub­lic fund­ing, which has driven up the debt levels of mem­ber states, which in turn have found it pro­gress­ively dif­fi­cult to fund them­selves through the mar­kets and as as an end res­ult have had to apply for an EU bail­out to obtain fund­ing. This entire mech­an­ism has been, and remains, the way cap­ital gets injec­ted into European banks: dir­ectly via assist­ance from coun­tries to banks; through money received from theECB at 1% which is then loaned by the banks to coun­tries at a higher interest rate (between 4% and 7%); via bail­outs such as the €100bn to Spain, which will be destined for the cajas whilst State is burdened with the repay­ment guar­an­tee and the debt. Risk premi­ums, debt and bail­outs are all part of the same mech­an­ism of the loot­ing of the 99% to the bene­fit of the 1%.

The prob­lem of the EU is noth­ing other than the lack of demo­cracy. The sov­er­eignty of each coun­try in sep­ar­a­tion is near inex­ist­ent, and those who run the EU have man­aged to ensure that the crisis has been main­tained as national prob­lems of Greece, Por­tugal, Ire­land, Italy or Spain that the EU can ‘help’ to resolve, always provided that the con­di­tions linked to adjust­ment and aus­ter­ity are abided by. Let us remem­ber that thanks to the con­tain­ment of the crisis within the peri­pheral coun­tries, Ger­many is man­aging to fund itself very cheaply and its firms are tak­ing advant­age of privat­isa­tions in order to acquire import­ant assets such as the Greek tele­coms com­pany or Athens air­port. It is also worth point­ing out that none of the coun­tries bailed out has improved its situ­ation, des­pite hav­ing car­ried out the sac­ri­fices required: the risk premi­ums have not come down and the national debts con­tinue to grow.

One only has to look at the relieved reac­tions of all the European chiefs to the pyrrhic vic­tory of their col­leagues and the bru­tal cam­paign of fear launched by the EU to know that Syr­iza has touched a cent­ral nerve by present­ing the crisis as a polit­ical prob­lem that is resolv­able via a demo­cratic restruc­tur­ing of the continent’s polit­ics and not as just one more eco­nomic inev­it­ab­il­ity to which one can only con­sent and be resigned. It falls to all of us Europeans to draw con­clu­sions from this, but espe­cially Span­ish and Itali­ans, who now find ourselves in the centre of the same model for gen­er­at­ing profits for a few at the cost of the major­ity which, a year ago, ended up for­cing bank­ruptcy on the Greek State and the impos­i­tion of that bru­tal mech­an­ism of polit­ical dom­in­a­tion and loot­ing known as the bail­out. In Spain we are not going to have a single big bail­out; rather it will be car­ried out in stages, with suc­cess­ive off­set­ting, cut­backs and privat­isa­tions, each time on a greater scale. But this, even though there is still no party even remotely sim­ilar to Syr­iza, should not hide the sim­il­ar­it­ies with the polit­ical situ­ation in Greece.

It is no coin­cid­ence that all the Span­ish media, with few excep­tions, either hid or lied about Syriza’s cent­ral pro­posal: non-payment within the Euro. It is import­ant to point out that once an audit were con­duc­ted, one could detect which debt is ille­git­im­ate –acquired fraud­u­lently, in the bene­fit of private interests or to the harm of the major­ity –so that it did not have to be paid. This is such a power­ful pos­i­tion because it demon­strates that European neo­lib­eral policies are not some­thing inev­it­able. In fact, with the Greek elec­tions, the alarms went off in the EU: the con­flict might cross bor­ders and become a European prob­lem, which is exactly what it is. The Rajoy gov­ern­ment is an inter­me­di­ary as was that of Zapa­tero. Bail­outs and the accom­pa­ny­ing rise in debt are already here. It is time to make the leap onto the European scale of the crisis, and also, there­fore, of the con­flict. We can take note of what has happened: the stra­tegic points are already for­mu­lated and it is our turn, here too, to take advant­age of the breach that has been opened in Greece and join forces, through a demo­cratic audit, to bring about a declar­a­tion of the non-payment of ille­git­im­ate debt that puts an end to the impos­i­tion of the interests of the 1% onto the rest of us. How can that be done? This is what we have to think about among the many brains con­nec­ted through net­works and the squares.

Ori­gin­ally pub­lished in Mad­ri­lo­nia with trans­la­tion by Richard McAleavey Cun­ning Hired Knaves

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