It used be a proud boast by European Union leaders that the EU was a zone of democracy and solidarity that should be emulated the world over. After four years of crisis in the financial system and the implementation of savage austerity in the Member States most affected, that claim has little validity.
The Greek people are living a nightmare that seems to them to have no end. Years of vicious cuts to living standards and public services have left a deeply wounded economy and a traumatised people. Now Greece has the highest suicide rate in Europe, having increased by 22%, as many tragically feel they have no way out of desperate situations. Tens of thousands of people who were working a few years ago are now homeless on the streets of Athens due to a major unemployment crisis. The Orthodox Church estimates that it feeds over 200,000 people daily in soup kitchens.
Instead of solidarity with their desperate plight, however, the Greek people have been subjected in the last weeks to unprecedented and outright bullying against the background of campaigning for the General Election that took place on Sunday. The Irish people were subjected to great psychological pressure in the course of the referendum campaign around the Austerity Treaty to the effect that the State could be starved of funds if the treaty was not passed. However, this pales into significance compared to the scale of the propaganda campaign deployed to terrorise the Greek people to vote for political parties which pledged to continue the programme of savage austerity dictated by the EU led Troika.
Predictably the capitalist press in Greece weighed in massively against the Left wing Syriza Party which pledged to break with the policy of pauperising the Greek people to pay off the bankers and bondholders of Europe. But in an unprecedented intervention the Financial Times Deutschland carried a lead article in its editorial page which was a major exhortation to the Greek voters in both German and Greek that they should vote for the right wing New Democracy party in the General Election.
The title of the article was ‘Resist the Demagogue!’, referring to the Leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras. It repeated the threats that were constantly made to the Greek people during the election campaign, that they would be out of the Eurozone if they dared exercise free choice by voting for Syriza and demanding a change of policy from austerity. This was despite the fact that Syriza does not stand for Greece leaving the Euro and in opinion polls up to 80 of the Greek people expressed support for staying with the Euro. This kind of propaganda was magnified a thousand fold in the propaganda of the main right wing parties and had many people in a state of great fear and worry.
It is a great tribute to the resolve of the Greek people that, despite this blatant scaremongering, a majority still did not support the three parties which pledged to continue the Troika austerity policy. The support for Syriza was especially dramatic rising from 4.6% in 2009 to 26.9%, or in votes from just under one third of a million to over one and a half million.
The question is what now for the Greek people? Nowhere good unfortunately, on the basis of continuing austerity. The incredible level of cuts in workers’ incomes means there is no basis for the economy to grow and lay a basis for recovery. The fact is that the debt load on Greece is unsustainable. The crisis will intensify. The pyrrhic victory of the right wing political forces is likely to be short lived in its effects. It may not be too long till the working people of Greece, exhausted after four years of crisis and turmoil, begin to mobilise their workplace and street power.
A worrying development in the Greek elections is the near 7% of the vote achieved by neo-fascist party called Golden Dawn. This vote was achieved despite this party’s thugs being involved in horrific violent attacks on immigrants in Greece and its leader brutally attacking two Left Members of Parliament in a television studio. Close observers say that very many who voted for this party would not be fascists but affected by extreme disorientation and alienation arising from the crisis. A challenge then for the Left to combat the fascist element and win over the others.
Greece can be looked on as a political laboratory for many other States in Europe where right wing parties are also imposing cruel austerity measures to preserve their system. These policies will continue to fail. The possibility arises for rapid developments for the Left which raises the urgent need to advance a democratic socialist alternative to the ongoing crisis in Europe arising from the inherent contradictions of the capitalist financial markets system.
CHECK OUT OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:
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