The European Venue for Green Ideas
Follow us on
Politics

Greece: Austerity is Over, Fasten your Seat-belts

By Kostas Loukeris

The recent national elections in Greece have brought to the fore the real issues. Greeks have decided to cut the Gordian knot of austerity that has brought a whole country to its knees without any prospects for recovery. The radical left government of Greece and its allies have declared themselves willing to cut many more knots including those of corruption, clientelism, favouritism, black market and tax-evasion.

When SYRIZA and its allies were calling on Greek voters before the elections not to fear and not to allow themselves to get blackmailed, they knew that the post-elections day would be one of confrontation and consequent deliberation. SYRIZA managed – in a perhaps world record time – to form a coalition government, restructure the Greek cabinet, show its teeth in international affairs by temporarily blocking the declared sanctions against Russia and complete a first round of meetings with all partners involved.

Greeks, surprised by the government’s speed, its willingness and expressed desire to defend the rights of the Greek citizens this time and not those of “cousins”, “party-friends”, bankers and Co. are behind their government. Government approval rates are above 70% suggesting that SYRIZA is seeking answers to real problems while our debtors are offering answers to the wrong questions.

Everyone knows in Greece that the road ahead is not paved with rose petals. It hasn’t been like that anyway especially in the past six years of recession. Most Greeks are not afraid anymore to confront Greece’s debtors as they now know that austerity has destroyed the social fabric of the country. They know that the debtors are the same people who recommended all memoranda and still push for more unemployment, more destruction of health and education, more insecurity and humiliation. What debtors are failing to understand it that there is always a point of no return for someone who decides to say ‘no’ and face possible consequences. Debtors fail to understand that when Greeks talks of ‘dignity’ they do not expect praise for the Acropolis or Sparta. They demand to be treated as human beings with rights and responsibilities. And ‘austerity’ is not a responsibility of citizens or of a government, it is supposedly a ‘tool’ for the well-being of citizens, a medicine which would improve one’s health. When the ‘tool’ doesn’t work it’s of no use. When the ‘medicine’ makes you worse you stop taking it.

Europe at the crossroads – a new call for democracy

When the Greek prime minister speaks of the victory of ‘reason’, he is neither a creasy lefty nor an anarchist youngster. He answers all those in Europe who did their best to portray him as a nationalist, as a Marxist lunatic or even a ‘Chavista’. He calls upon all open-minded Europeans who have allowed themselves to believe that massive and prolonged human misery can be the means for progress. History teaches us that when humanity opted for such ‘solutions’ in the past, it found itself experiencing horror beyond imagination.

One needs to entertain the possibility that it is not Greece at the crossroads but Europe as a whole. Because, if Greece ‘fails’, gone is the value and purpose of the democratic process. Otherwise, why have elections, if it is for the German government and its close friends to make all crucial decisions? Why elect law-makers if in the final analysis bankers or companies have a stronger say?

Readers of the ‘Greek situation’ should start entertaining the idea that Greece, the guinea-pig of brutal neoliberalism, has changed its mind and wants to stop being a guinea-pig. It is high time that open-minded Europeans who at some initial stage flirted with the idea of ‘at last some order for those strange and lazy southerners’ realise that the change of paradigm attempted in Greece is not a romantic and yet old-fashioned ‘left interlude’ but a call to put at last people first, a call for democracy. The’ iconoclasts’ are not among SYRIZA government representatives who speak in the name of the people who elected them but within the core of European decision-makers who still think that driving societies into extinction is a one-way street.

The interim agreement between Greece and its debtors currently under consideration must somehow guarantee that all involved will not repeat the same mistakes of the past and that Greece’s debtors will offer Greece some breathing space to get on its feet. The imperative not to repeat the same mistakes goes of course to the Greek authorities as well as to Greece’s European partners.

Greek officials as well as Greece’s European partners know well that a possible disaster in the Greek case goes beyond its economic potential as it destabilises a traditional ally of ‘the West’, even in its current ‘alternative behaviour’. And it does so in an international environment that has a saddening surplus of violence in its conventional and its current unconventional form.  It’s in no player’s interest to yet add one more player in the zone of instability and insecurity. It is high time politics prevails, dogmas are put aside and the policies decided are based on the interest of the many and not the luxury of the few. What seems as radicalisation in Greek politics is perhaps the last chance of fresh air into Greek politics. SYRIZA might not bear ‘the truth’ but its message became worth listening to.

A feeling of self-affirmation has captured many Greeks after the elections. The call for ‘dignity’ has neither a nationalist nor a xenophobic character. You can rally nowadays in Athens with a red, a green, a purple, a rainbow flag, the national flag of Greece, that of Spain or Italy, those of many political parties from across the world, accompanied by Pakistani bystanders who might actually be supporters of SYRIZA. Government change in Greece is perhaps the last positive thing that can come out of a bankrupt country which wants to put an end to its destruction and reinvent itself. The new Greek paradigm is not written in stone and it is therefore inviting to all those who are interested in democratic and peaceful change that simply sets different priorities. It is in everyone’s best interest in Europe and the world today to show solidarity to Greece. What is needed in Europe is a new vision which will energise our continent. We need a vision that will replace ‘fiscal discipline and austerity’ as the highest value in the European Union with the not so radical value of ‘making sure that no child is hungry today and every day in the European Union’. In any case, as pressure mounts, Greeks are fastening their belts. They are the same belts they used so far to tighten every now and then thanks to austerity…

Newsletter

Cookies on our website allow us to deliver better content by enhancing our understanding of what pages are visited. Data from cookies is stored anonymously and is never shared with third parties.

Find out more about our use of cookies in our privacy policy.