You could almost hear the collective sound of hearts being lifted across Europe in response to the Greek No (‘Oxi’) vote to the Troika’s bailout terms, making it a moment to savor in itself. The hope that resonates with the defiance shown by the Greek people has been a long time coming for people suffering the weight of austerity, measured in the lack of fight to what has seemed a juggernaut of despair rolling over the lives of millions without respite these past few years.
What this unfolding Greek crisis has exposed is that austerity is not so much an economic theory as an ideological concept – a code for class war, waged by the rich and their political servants against working people and the poor in order to maintain the wealth, privileges and profits of those who crashed the global economy with their unfettered greed and recklessness in the first place. It has provided a crash course in politics for people who otherwise were happy merely to work, live, and provide for themselves and their families. Now they know that both their fate and the fate of their fellow citizens is something they have in their own power to decide, as they are given a lesson in where true power resides.
Democracy in the West has been no more than a mask, behind which the machinery of global capital has lain concealed, hidden from view as it reduces national sovereignty to an outmoded concept, something that truly belong in a museum. Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats are the true masters of the Universe, we now know, men and women whose humanity has been surgically removed in service to the machine.
In calling this referendum, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and his Syriza government delivered a masterstroke, counterposing democracy to the tyranny of this machine, of global capital, specifically the European Central Bank, IMF, and the European Commission, otherwise known as the Troika. The pressure arrayed against them in the process, both from without and within Greece by the country’s privately owned media was inordinate and unprecedented. Yet despite this the people delivered a resounding No, thus plunging the Troika into crisis as Greece teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and exit from the EU.
Armed with the contents of an IMF report on Greece’s economic crisis coming out in the final hours leading up to the Greek referendum, asserting that the current state of the country’s public finances is unsustainable and that substantial debt relief, including debt write-offs, is required, the Eurozone’s case, embodied in the person of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, evaporated. This is why, unsurprisingly and reprehensibly, it was reported that Eurozone countries attempted to block the document’s publication in Washington.
Watching this crisis unfold has been nothing short of surreal. The way the rich countries of Europe have systematically reduced a fellow European nation and its people to a state of pauperism, biblical in its cruelty, has been frightening to behold, rendering civilization a moot word when applied to Europe. The absence of humanity demonstrated by the champions of austerity will be pondered over, analyzed, and dissected by historians and social theorists in years to come. Right now the priority is fighting them, exposing the rotten foundations upon which the lie of austerity rests. Growth not immiseration is the answer to economic crises and recession, and growth is a product of investment and consumption rather than starvation.
Make no mistake, this struggle and the woes of the Greek people are far from over. With the country’s banking system on the brink of catastrophe a financial lifeline is now a non-negotiable necessity. The prospect of Russia or China – perhaps both – stepping into the breach with a financial lifeline has been suggested, though at this late hour it seems unrealistic. Russia’s economy is not as strong as it was due to the sharp drop in the price of oil that has ensued over the past year, while the prospect of China doing anything to upset European equilibrium would be out of character for a state and an economy that has made a virtue of non-interference in political crises, which this most certainly now is.
No, the resolution of this crisis remains with those responsible for creating it, posing the question of whether Europe – rich, advanced, ‘civilized’ Europe – is willing to sit back and watch a country of 11million people descend into the abyss?
This is where the people of Europe must intervene. For where Greece goes others will surely follow, with potential consequences too stark to contemplate. The Weimar Republic gave way to fascism in Germany at the height of the last global depression. Let’s not make the mistake of believing nothing like it could happen again. As Bertolt Brecht reminded us after the carnage of the Second World War: “The womb from which this monster emerged remains fertile.”
The Greek people’s No vote is also a plea for solidarity. They cannot and will not win this struggle alone.
Who will answer their call?