Sunday, March 01, 2015

They'll Nip This in the Bud

It's enough to give an oligarch chest pain.  Barely a month in power, popular support for the left-wing, anti-austerity government in Greece is soaring.  Syrzia won the January polls with 36% of the votes.  A few weeks later and there's no sign of buyers' remorse.  Instead the party's support has climbed to almost 48%. Not bad for a movement that came out of nowhere just three years ago.

It's not so much the Greek government digging in its heels on debt repayment and austerity demands that will be infuriating the Euro bankers.  It's the attitude of the Greek people that they'll find unnerving.

On the street, optimism has returned. People worn down by gruelling austerity, on the back of unprecedented recession, are smiling. Government officials have taken to walking through central Athens, instead of ducking into chauffeur-driven cars to avoid protesters. Last week, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – a maverick to many of his counterparts – was mobbed by appreciative voters as he ambled across Syntagma square.

“They’ve given us our voice back,” said Dimitris Stathokostopoulos, a prominent entrepreneur. “For the first time there’s a feeling that we have a government that is defending our interests. Germany needs to calm down. Austerity hasn’t worked. Wherever it has been applied it has spawned poverty, unemployment, absolute catastrophe.”

If there's one thing the ECB and IMF realize it's that this sort of thing can be contagious.  It can spread.  In other countries those populations are also feeling "worn down by austerity" and saddled with governments that are not defending their interests.

It's already taking hold in Spain.  Italy, Ireland, France and even Britain could be susceptible.  I expect the conservative lenders won't sit by idle.  They need the Greek people back in harness to austerity or, before long, everyone will be kicking over the traces.  Optimism, left unchecked, can be a very, very dangerous thing.


Owen Gray said...

Bankers must be getting worried, Mound. They don't know how to deal with Howard Beale's children.

The Mound of Sound said...

Must confess, Owen, I didn't get the Howard Beale reference straight off. Wiki was, again, my salvation.

I think what we're seeing in Greece, Owen, is an awakening of sorts, a realization that the neo-liberal era, has exacted a toll on us all that's beyond economic.

People can take power back into their own hands and they can feel good again and optimistic. You and I and many others share this sense of powerlessness that befalls us in the current order. Maybe it will take the Greeks to rehabilitate democracy.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Hi Mound. I think it's fitting that this rejection of neo-liberalism is happening in Greece.Seeing that the intellectual home of democracy comes from the Greeks, than it's only fitting that they should be the ones to hail it's return. I only wish Canadians were as fed up.

Lorne said...

What Pamela said, Mound.

Until Canadians are able to collectively perform that oh so delicate operation extracting their craniums from their nether part, their enslavement will continue.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Pamela, Lorne. As I read this report it dawned on me that the IMF and ECB had far less to fear from Greek government intransigence than from a sudden swing in public attitude and resolve. Yes, it takes a movement but the Greek public have shown they can quite rapidly mobilize behind it. That has to scare the crap out of every hedge fund manager and vulture capitalist on the planet.