Thursday, July 23, 2015

While All Eyes Were on Athens

Media accounts have given the impression that Greece is the locus of the malaise endangering European unity and the E.U.  However fiscal woes extend the breadth of the EU Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibralter and over to the Irish Sea - Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.  Indeed, many say German chancellor Angela Merkel's belligerence toward Athens was fueled by what it could mean to those other nations if she budged on Greece.

In perpetually restive Italy, even the grand city of Rome has succumbed to "degrado."

The grass in some public parks sways knee high. Disgruntled subway workers have slowed service to a crawl. Fire has rendered the city's largest airport crammed and chaotic. The arrests of public officials pile up, revealing mob infiltration of the city government.

It all adds up to what Romans call "degrado" - the degradation of services, buildings and their standard of living - and the general sense that their ancient city is falling apart. Even more than usual.

Italy's Forconi (pitchforks) movement in December, 2013, saw masses of Italians of all political persuasions rise up in opposition to their government's austerity policies.  The protesters blocked streets and auto routes, stopped trains, battled with police and almost brought Italy to a standstill.

Meanwhile Spanish voters will be going to the polls sometime before December 20th.  The election date is expected to fall in late November.  Spain has it's own Syriza called Podemos that some believe/hope will emerge at least holding the balance of power in a multi-party parliament not given to coalition governments.

It would be nice to think that at least the Greek problem is settled but it's far from over.  No one has any real idea of where Greece will be headed over the next year or two.  Will Greece remain in NATO?  Might Putin offer a better deal?  No one's sure but no one seems to be ruling anything out either.


Purple library guy said...

It would be terrible to think the Greek situation was settled. If it were settled it would mean the forces of evil (and I do not use that word casually) have triumphed and Greeks are condemned to indefinite, increasing misery.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't believe it's settled, PLG, anything but. What is Tsipras really thinking?

Purple library guy said...

I'm disappointed in Tsipras. He means well, but he didn't really face the situation. He wasn't the first to underestimate the to him unreasoning hostility of neoliberal elites to any changes which would make life better for people and even increase the economic growth they supposedly like, but potentially curtail elite and corporate profit and control. He won't be the last.
But the situation is unstable in many ways. The Greek people, the people involved in Syriza the party and in the social movements, are pretty pissed off. Meanwhile, the situation imposed by the Europeans is just going to crash the Greek economy worse, leaving the government broker than ever, unable to make its payments. The way they have things set up, this will automatically trigger still more austerity measures and even flat-out theft of Greek public assets, which will crash the economy still worse and so on. Default is still coming.

The French Revolution did not start with a bunch of people wanting to kill the king and eliminate the aristocrats. It started with a bunch of people thinking if only they could explain their problems to the king and make him listen, he'd realize he was doing the wrong things and fix stuff. Only once they had organized to put their grievances to the rulers and been confronted repeatedly with the fact that the rulers not only didn't care, they actively wanted the people to continue being victimized and violently resisted the idea of fixing anything, did the French take their revolution all the way. The Greek situation is like a factory for creating people who realize the ruling class wants them screwed. It's already made plenty and it will keep making more.

The Mound of Sound said...

I agree with most of your observations, PLG, but do you really think that Tsipras has actually misread the situation, that he's lost his spine and capitulated? Is it remotely possible that he believes his country will be able to endure the protracted pain and economy-killing austerity measures demanded by the Troika (even absent the IMF)?

Portugal is now being held up as the poster boy of successful austerity but I don't believe it. Ireland, having socialized its big creditor debt, is also now on something of an upswing. My daughter just got hired on by Oracle's Euro-HQ in Dublin.

I think southern Europe's financial problems are going to be compounded by the northern EU powerhouses' determination to use the south as a compound for migrants out of Africa, eastern Europe and the ME. That could be the straw that really broke the EU camel's back.

Purple library guy said...

Yeah, I kind of do. I don't even blame him that much for capitulating when it finally came to it, the pressures mounted were enormous. It was basically "Live with this or we crash your banking system, stop giving Greece any currency at all, and unable to import food the Greeks will start to starve." The problem was that he doesn't seem to have anticipated that level of ruthlessness. He didn't really understand to what extent the ruling classes of Europe just don't care what happens to people and are willing to do whatever it takes to consolidate their control and entrench inequality. He persisted in attributing to incompetence ("They just don't understand that their economic ideas don't work! We will enlighten them!") what can only be explained by malice.

The question is, is he now willing to start making serious contingency plans to harden Greece against further such threats? Like getting ready to issue parallel currency, nationalize the banks, get loans from Russia or China or Argentina or Venezuela, generally put in place the institutions needed for a Grexit and/or default? Will he back the grassroots movements trying to transform Greece on the ground? Will he stop consistently claiming that Grexit is inconceivable and instead help prepare the Greeks to conceive of it? That's far from clear, but there are certainly elements in Syriza who do want to do that stuff.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, it's troubling that Syriza is descending into internal revolt. This fault line within the party almost neutralizes their effectiveness. Tsipras needs to find some way to restore cohesiveness or the party's relevance is sapped.

It makes me wonder what Podemos is doing to harden itself against the same tactics should they win enough support to if not govern at least hold some balance of power position.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said....I wonder how Germany would react if they were asked to pay out the cost of clean- up after the second world war especially the clean up of Europe?

Purple library guy said...

To the contrary, I'm very happy that Syriza is descending into internal revolt. I'd be much less happy if they were all willing to roll over to the international overlords at Tsipras' bidding. My hope is that either Tsipras finds his resolve and agrees to follow the party and the activists in getting serious about what Syriza always claimed they would do, or Syriza thrashes things out and gets themselves a new leader. There are plenty of intelligent, thoughtful people in Syriza; it isn't a one man show nor should it be.

Purple library guy said...

Come to that, it's if Syriza does not revolt against this situation that they will be politically destroyed. A party of change and resistance to austerity that tamely fails to produce change and enforces austerity is a party the Greek people have no more reason to elect; they'll go the way of the traditional parties if they submit to this situation. With no other serious left force waiting in the wings, that would pave the way for the one force that seems to have no hesitation in ruthlessly doing whatever it takes to get complete national sovereignty: Golden Fucking Dawn.

So no, I would say that Syriza needs to find a new path to resistance, with or without Tsipras.