Syriza For Party Rocking
From Le Monde Diplomatique:
Since Europe’s institutions turned their attention to Greece and subjected the EU’s most depressed economy to its most draconian austerity policy, what success have they had? No better than was expected and just as they were warned: ballooning debt, collapsing spending power, lacklustre growth, soaring unemployment, declining health standards. But the EU’s sound system remains stuck: “Greece must respect its commitments.” The holy alliance, utterly convinced it is right, is unwilling to listen even to the US president, whose analysis is supported by a host of economists and historians. Barack Obama explained: “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy for them to pay off their debts”.
Greece’s economic collapse, which has now lasted six years, is comparable to the damage that four years of military destruction and foreign occupation inflicted on France in the first world war. Which explains why Tsipras’s government gets enormous popular support — even from the right — every time it refuses to prolong such a destructive policy, and why it is unwilling to survive “like a junkie waiting for his next fix”. But Syriza has few friends outside Greece. As in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, to investigate the potential killers of Greece’s hopes would mean interviewing every EU government, and the chief suspect would be Germany: the failed disciplinary strictures are German, and it intends to squeeze those — especially in Mediterranean countries — who refuse to endure them indefinitely. In Spain, Portugal and Ireland, the governments’ motive for the crime is more sordid. Their citizens would benefit if the iron fist of austerity stopped pounding them. But their governments are afraid, especially when they feel threatened by a domestic challenge from the left, that Greece will demonstrate that it is possible to refuse to follow “a well-marked path, a known path, a path that the markets and the institutions and all the European authorities know,” the path that French finance minister Michel Sapin claims must be “explored right to the end”. The prospect of Greece breaking free would show that all these governments were gravely mistaken to make their people suffer needlessly.
Everyone knows that getting Greece’s debt repaid would be like “extracting blood from a stone” (Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 29 January). So why isn’t it equally clear that Syriza’s economic strategy to finance urgent social expenditure through a determined fight against tax fraud could draw on a young, determined, popular, political force, originating in social movements and free of the compromises and corruption of the past? Even if not marked out, the path is discernible. The uncertain future brings to mind what the philosopher Simone Weil wrote about workers’ strikes in France in June 1936: “No one knows how things will turn out. There is reason to fear a range of disasters. … But no fear can erase the joy of seeing those who have always had to bow their heads, by definition, standing up for themselves. … Whatever may happen next, we will always have had this. For the first time, and forever, there will be other memories floating around these heavy machines than silence, coercion and submissiveness”. The Greeks’ struggle is universal. Our good wishes no longer suffice. The solidarity it deserves calls for action. Time is still, as always, running out.