FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Riots in Athens: EU’s Impending Collapse?

People move events. The Greek people are trying to shape their own history. They aren’t there yet—even the Left hasn’t quite joined them. But a coalescence of forces is on the horizon: either Syriza radicalizes or it will be left behind. Capitalism by its very harshness is creating its own antithesis. Ideological labels are not important; what is, is a genuine people’s government. The riots in Athens, while the Greek Parliament passed the austerity measures, may be the first sign of the breakup of the EU, itself a political formation of advanced capitalism unable to meet the needs of its poorer members.

“Breakup” is too strong a term. Shrinkage, disruption, and greater transparency, the last signifying EU’s role as spearhead for US-defined globalization, the mix of market fundamentalism and militarism, would be difficult to hide and all three revealing unity as a German-inspired economic monolith for achieving an intra-Europe division of labor, nations rich (North) and poor (South), while providing political cover for NATO in its continued prosecution of the Cold War. Austerity is repression, pure and simple. It is also, as I recently pointed out, the framework for class warfare, in both cases to the extreme detriment of working people. The people in the Athens street know this, know that Tsipras and Syriza have not done right by them. The public workers’ union went out on strike Wednesday. Crowds gathered before Parliament in the evening. Tsakalotos, the new finance minister, was shaken, reluctant to approve the bailout, in microcosm, representing the many, in and out of the party, who saw the mounting pressures and if not succumbed then made a forced choice.

This was not the affirmation one expects from a basic settlement, and rather, a period of deliberation, of gathering force that, should the EU turn the screws further, might well explode, not as revolution, but a willingness to say No and from there leave the eurozone and the EU itself. Why would Germany and the other stalwarts, Finland, the Netherlands, and the Baltic countries care? For the reason that Greece is a living refutation of all the stalwarts value: balanced budgets, taxation favoring business growth, gradual diminishment of labor rights, erosion of pension and social-welfare programs, etc. By bringing Greece to its knees validates austerity: there is no other way than this, the best of all possible worlds. Capitalism, both in Europe and America (indeed everywhere), thrives on false consciousness lest its destructiveness becomes apparent. Hence, it must thwart Left social movements; antecedently, it must deny the idea of alternatives, that which shows a better way to social justice, peace, a humane life.

Greece is on the edge of the precipice, struggling not to be pushed over into the abyss. It wants to fight back (here calls to national honor and dignity are not empty and/or retrograde rhetoric), where for once nationalism–in the face of imposed conformity to rules, procedures, and values intended for permanent political-economic subjugation—acts historically as a progressive social force. Supra-nationalism, candy to the idealist, turns out to be rotten, and is workable, worthwhile, and just, only when it is equalitarian in structure and substance, which the EU is not. Today, small riots, as the gap widens between citizenry and politicians; tomorrow, with other nations in the EU watching events in Greece, and facing similar if not identical circumstances of deprivation, perhaps they too—Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland—will take to the streets and proclaim No to austerity, as increasingly the viper’s nest of fascism.

I hear pebbles loosening in the base of the EU edifice, which is ever so slowly shaking. Yet it takes little, one or more false moves, for the ground itself to rumble. Avowed declarations of denying sympathy for those hurt by austerity, Merkel leading the chorus, may register 3.1 on the political Richter scale, but a 5.5 mark is in the cards when the EU professes clearly its identity as the viable political setting for NATO to move ever eastward in confrontation-mode against Russia. The same countries critical of Greece are in the vanguard of anti-Russian feeling. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Latvia is now the dumping ground for heavy weaponry near the Russian border, with B-52s in the skies. Is this relevant to Greece? Yes, it is being punished less for indebtedness as such than for exposing the fragile character of EU unity and the means used to keep the member nations in line. The psychopathology of militarization has been made a supremely binding agent for economic cooperation, false consciousness carried to lengths Marx never envisioned—hence, deviations, like the Greek referendum itself, must be ridiculed and viewed as un-European and ingratitude. I am heartened, though, by the scenes before the Greek Parliament hours ago. The Greek people have an unquenchable thirst for freedom.

More articles by:

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

January 23, 2019
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail