by David Peel
We are a few weeks away from the General Election in Britain, and austerity is moving front and centre. Not NHS privatisation, not school academies, not McJobs or homelessness, but their mother and father – the ideology of austerity. The phoney election war between the major parties, otherwise known as the ‘cosy consensus’, is about to be dealt a blow.
It has emerged, if reports in The Times are right, that the EU has asked Finland to draw up plans for a Grexit, where Syriza doesn’t walk out of the EU, it is pushed. EU leaders are fresh out of patience with Greece, and their mood was not improved when Syriza leader Alex Tsipras turned to their bitterest enemy, Vladimir Putin, for help.
Those of us who are old enough to remember, or who have read our history, will know that many times in the last 100 years, ‘pariah’ states trying to make their own way, often through popular revolutions have gone to the Russians for help. It was the Soviet Union which saved the Cuban revolution, as America tried to strangle it with sanctions, blockades, invasions, and assassination attempts. Today, I think both Syriza and the EU are coming to the mutual understanding that their relationship is at last, finally over. They both recognise they have a fundamental incompatibility, a basic failure to communicate, a total lack of empathy for each other’s situations, and frankly sometimes, a kind of hatred.
Like a very bad ‘on-off’ relationship, this one is now beyond repair.The EU does not give a damn whether Greek people live or die, starve or eat. It just wants the money. The EU is capitalism at its dysfunctional best. Democracy — what government the Greek people choose for themselves in elections — is of no relevance in Britain, Germany or France.
Like a very bad ‘on-off’ relationship, this one is now beyond repair.
Global finance capital is also way beyond reach. We all live under its totalitarian rule, though some of us grab for the rose tinted spectacles and our cherished illusions about ‘freedom’ whenever anyone dares to suggest that we may be slaves. It is believed, and this line is being punted heavily no doubt by Foreign Office mandarins, that Greece will be bankrupt next month, and there are to be no more bailouts for the naughty children of this beautiful, sun lit, suffering nation.
As in many relationships which fall to constant rows, truth is the first casualty. Facts are skewed to suit either side; indeed it is no longer certain whether there are any facts at all, just ‘my’ truth and ‘yours’. With no shared standards, no shared respect, no appetite for a shared future, where else can the EU and Greece go, but their separate ways.
It is now more a question of who sends the text ‘you’re dumped’ first. Just over a week ago, Syriza was unsure. Syriza knows it must walk, but it keeps coming back for more of the same humiliation. On one day a week ago, Syriza said it would not default on the Greek people, but on the IMF, as it faced a bailout repayment of 450 million Euros. About 48 hours later its spokespeople were reassuring everyone that the IMF repayment would be made, thus defaulting on the Greek people.
It is now more a question of who sends the text ‘you’re dumped’ first.
The issue for Syriza is disarmingly simple, while being desperately complex. The simple bit is the utter impossibility of fixing the Greek capitalist economy and remaining in the Euro without tormenting the people of Greece further with more austerity. They have had enough.
That’s where the simplicity ends. Capital flight out of the country, the economy and the banks is a reality. The rich are staring at the carcass of the Greek economy, while preparing their own plans to exit with what is left of their dirty money. Perhaps they will run here, and as in Margaret Thatcher’s day, bung the austerity parties some cash. It’s called money laundering in criminal circles. Perhaps there will be another property spending spree in London — this time by Greek shipping magnates — the result being lots more luxury, empty homes in our own capital.
Either way this coming messy split may well tilt what George Osborne laughingly calls our economic ‘recovery’ into recession again, or even a new depression. Make no mistake, this exit, whoever announces and organises it, still represents a seismic shift. The aftershocks will be felt everywhere.
In Iceland, though a much, much smaller country (population 323,000), the people acted with clarity and purpose. Bankers were jailed. So were corrupt representatives. New constitutions were written by the people. If there is any hope for Syriza, it lies with the ‘proles’, as George Orwell might have put it. The insurgency led by the Greek working class has been put on hold to give Syriza room to do business. Now is the time for the Greeks to re-enter their history.
In Iceland, though a much, much smaller country (population 323,000), the people acted with clarity and purpose.
We are living in the end times of capitalism. The crises are coming thick and fast, they are deepening, and the time needed to recover from them is lengthening. The ideology of austerity is the involuntary kicking out of its still warm corpse. We, the working class, must suffer its demise the most. It just could not be any other way. After all, its birth was all blood and fire.
In the meantime, those of us who consider ourselves anti capitalists and insurrectionists, must do what we can to sharpen the struggle in Britain and the EU. That means at the very least having the intelligence and political nous to honestly nail austerity parties like Labour, the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems in our own countries. We will not fall into the trap of being diverted by personal feelings and naïve sentiment.
Who would have believed it? Greece — that cradle of philosophy and culture, democracy and religion, politics and poetry, beauty and sensuality — might just turn out to be the grave of capitalism.