Or a promising first step with a sour aftertaste
by Mark Linnhoefer
On Sunday, the people of Greece voted for their new government, and the winner was the far-left Syriza party whose leader – and since Monday officially the new Greek Prime Minister – Alexis Tsipras has vowed to end the European austerity grip on the Greek economy, create 300.000 new jobs, and increase social services.
This result marks the first left-wing victory in the history of European elections.
The party almost won an absolute majority of 150 seats in the parliament, but fell a couple of votes short, meaning that they had to find a coalition partner, which they found in the ‘Independent Greeks’ party that is located close to the opposite side of the political spectrum. Both parties do agree on the main economic points regarding Europe and the austerity policy, but disagree on important national topics, such as multiculturalism and immigration laws, which is the reason for many critical voices in- and outside of Greece. Some citizens have been quoted as saying that they think re-elections will have to be held in about half a year, and of course the IMF, the EU Commission, and Greece’s creditors are spouting off threats at the newly formed Greek government, urging it to stick to the bailout agreements that had first been struck in 2010.
A little background: Following huge financial problems within its economy that arose from falsified booking (Goldman-Sachs helped them) used to gain EU membership, the Greek government was deeply indebted and on the verge of bankruptcy. So the IMF and Eurozone nations offered a total of €240 billion as a bailout to the Greek government, providing that it implements an austerity program; a proposal that was accepted back then, but did not have the effects that were expected. Unemployment in Greece skyrocketed to somewhere between 25 and 28 percent (depending on who you want to believe), social expenses were cut heavily (some hospitals are actually understocked on medication), almost a quarter of all households are living close to the poverty line, the number of homeless people is increasing, and many public services cannot be fulfilled properly anymore, and all, or at least most, because of the spending cuts that the austerity program imposes. Getting a country out of debt by giving it more loans is a logical fallacy to begin with, but imposing austerity on the people in order to help an economy has historically proven to be completely idiotic.
The Greek people are seeing – and actually have to deal with – the disastrous impact that the frugal European bailout policy has had on their country, and are therefore quite understandably completely sick of the ‘Troika’ (IMF, ECB, and EC) and anything pertaining to an European debt relief program. All the organizations in that infamous trio are of course harshly opposing any write-off of Greece’s loans, but say that they are willing to revise the underlying terms with cooperation of the new Greek government, but that sounds like the same old to me, especially in light of what Mr. Juncker (EC President) and Mme Lagarde (Head of IMF) have said regarding the Greek elections, which in essence amounts to them commanding the Greek government to stick to the Eurozone regulations and denying them the possibility of being allowed to alter the EU-imposed austerity policy, which I think is an incredibly presumptuous behavior by the both of them, especially of Mr. Juncker, who is a non-elected president that just came out of the blue and now wants to undermine a free state’s sovereignty. I mean, not wanting to cite Mr. Farage here, but who the hell is this Mr. Juncker, and how did he get into that powerful position? I think it’s really fucked up for a supposedly democratic institution like the European Commission to just place someone at the top without holding elections. Just where’s the democracy supposed to be in all this?
But we’re wandering off topic here. The fact that an Euro-critical, anti-austerity, left-wing party got elected shows how detached from the people the politicians of the European Union actually are. There is a problem inherent to the failure of the EU though, and it is the rise of extremism; even extreme right-wing parties such as the French ‘Front National’ are complimenting the Greeks on the outcome of their vote; Marine LePen was quoted as saying that the Greek election was a huge slap in Europe’s face, and that kind of support is a dangerous development for Democracy itself. The economic hell-hole of the thrifty European relief policy is a perfect breeding ground not only for left-wing, but also for insanely right-wing politics, and so what we’re experiencing is an extreme polarization of the voting population, which is a huge threat to any democratic form of government. What the European Union and its enslaving Commission have done is single-handedly laying the foundation for anti-democratic movements to build up a huge momentum that might lead to disastrous outcomes of proportions we cannot yet gauge. The financial markets are already feeling the first repercussions; the Euro’s value has sunk following the first ballot count, nervous investors are getting their money out of Greece, and the country’s stock value is falling.
Then again, I might be overly dramatic here. The financial market’s reaction is obviously one dominate by panic, and the majority of the new coalition now ruling Greece is a clearly left-wing party, so the developments awaiting us might actually turn out to be quite positive all over the board. Leftists in Italy are wearing stickers praising Tsipras, the German left-wing parties are also in a state of celebration, and the motivation to finally bring on the change the undemocratic, outdated, and completely detached European Union so direly needs is growing. Like a stone thrown in a lake, I hope that the Greek election will spawn wide circles of reforms and more democratic, social approaches to the way the EU is run will be found. I mean I’m not against an economic union in Europe at all, and neither is Syriza for that matter, but I think that unilateral action from sovereign states should be tolerated, and I don’t see any reason why EU laws should be superior to national law.
Now of course, the promises made by Syriza are a trifle far-fetched and dreamy; creating 300.000 new jobs, immediate relief for the poor, rolling back unpopular taxes, and completely disintegrating the bailout program are not easy things to accomplish, and put a lot of pressure of the relatively new and yet unestablished party, but their policy is a definite step in the right direction, and if they manage to just partially achieve some of their goals, the Greek population will be far better off than they are now, trapped in the unsocial, EU-imposed austerity program. Mind you, Syriza is not against the European Union per se, it just stands for a newer, optimized, more democratic version of this conglomeration; an update so to say, that focuses more on the social aspect that has apparently been long forgotten and buried by those ruling the Union. The only thing that really worries me is Syriza’s cooperation with a right-wing party, which is obviously a strategically sound decision in light of their shared anti-austerity policy, but in light of intra-national legislation there is a pretty big chance of the newly formed coalition being divided within its own ranks, which would seriously damage – if not topple – the new government and make way for a replacement that would once again act entirely at the EU’s bidding, or even propel some fascist nutcases into power that would completely ruin and dissocialize the nation.
There naturally is no way of knowing what is going to happen, but I think it’s safe to say that a big change in the Eurozone is coming our way, and I surely do hope that it brings on an Era of actual democracy and social conscience instead of an extremist, fascist regime. The bailout program is due to expire on the 28th of February, but, according to Tsipras, a time-frame until July is set for the negotiations with Greece’s creditors, and then we’ll see how the Greek debt conundrum is going to evolve.
I would like to emphasize once more that this is the first left-wing government to have been elected in the European Union since its creation, and that that is a monumental step for left-wing reformist movements all over Europe. People are slowly getting their hopes up, and I certainly do wish for these hopes not to be crushed by another failure of a party that is currently being hailed as a pioneer in terms of Euro-related reforms. We might have finally gotten to a turning point where the people will seize control of their politics once again instead of ceding them to a Commission run by an unelected, unknown president that has no relation with the real world anymore. Selah.