Just as the same color will appear different on different backgrounds, a political capitulation will appear different within different politico-economic contexts. With capital controls, businesses going under, and with retirees in Greece often not even being able to get their sixty Euros out of a cash machine, an increase in VAT and a serious hit to their annual pension seems a small price to pay to get their ATM cards working again.
And so Syriza is proposing an even larger austerity package (13 Billion Euros of reductions) than that rejected in a landslide last Sunday (8 Billion Euros of reductions). In return there may be some token debt reduction. Had they wussed out like this a couple weeks ago there would have been massive counter-demonstrations. Within the present context, they will survive in power and take their turn in imposing austerity in the name of neo-liberal globalization. Kind of like how Saddam Hussien “won” the 1991 Gulf War in the eyes of many Iraqis because he stood up to American bombers before inevitably caving in (after his army was destroyed), Syriza will be championed as moral victors against their creditor oligarchs even as Syriza themselves police a no-growth zone over Greece for the coming years.
The wealthy West’s economic problems are a result of feral globalism; that is the dislocation of production and consumption. As the West gets de-industrialized, with capital ruthlessly seeking the cheapest labor in the Third World, the only way to temper the inevitable decline in First World living standards was through debt binges. This was particularly strongly felt in southern Europe, where factories were sent packing to China in return for the Euro providing cheap debt to keep the consumer party going. Southern Europeans felt rich as they no longer had to work in factories but could buy lots of cheap consumer goods on credit. Governments could expand spending almost endlessly with the low interest rates the Euro provided. But this process can only go on for so long before consumption by the formerly rich West becomes impossible and the hollowed-out reality of their economies becomes obvious. That is what is happening across Europe and the US today.
Being bourgeois Leftist means Syriza was always going to surrender, but their goal was to send a warning of how terrible life could be without the Euro to European voters who are increasingly realizing their living standards are declining and looking towards nationalist, anti-EU parties like the Front National in France for answers. Marine Le Pen has promised a referendum on the Euro in France once she gains power and Syriza was creating a sort of prequel where they were certain that with capital controls in place and the ATMs empty, the Greek people would vote for austerity within the Euro. The IMF of all people released a report on the obvious unsustainability of Greece’s debt and the OXI side won. Less than a week later Syriza is stabbing their voters in the back. It seems the only political parties left in Greece that the people could trust are the Communist Party and fascist Golden Dawn.
The answer to Greece’s and the rest of the First World’s economic decline is a return to national sovereignty: protectionism, strong laws / border against cheap labor, re-industrialization, and a matching of consumption and production. If Greece went back to the Drachma they would be forced to lower their imports and start producing more a domestically. Yes they would have to import raw materials and energy, but they have a tourist industry that ensures a steady flow of hard currency that could finance domestic re-industrialization.
Here is a comment I left at Naked Capitalism back on 2 February, 2015:
All the mainstream “socialist” and “liberal/conservative” parties in Europe have been completely faithful for some time now to their masters in Brussels. The same was generally true, for the past ten years and up until recently, for the hard left parties. Only the harder right, sovereignist parties have been engaging in the fundamental fight to restore national sovereignty in Europe. The best example of which is the Front National in France.
So the rise of Syriza is a potential threat to the duplicitous pro-European mainstream parties and from their point of view must be crushed as soon as possible — but of course with a smile. I use the word potential because Syriza is covering itself in layers of ambiguity, which is not necessarily a bad policy in this type of conflict, where room to maneuver could be an advantage. Of course Syriza is fighting two battles, one against its European masters, and another against the expectations it created among its own citizenry. So this ambiguity is being aimed at whom?
Greece is currently nothing more than the equivalent of a US state within Europe and Alexis Tsipras is not much more than a glorified governor. They have next to no leverage against Europe. Even if Greece defaults, Europe has its new QE program that I am sure can be used to temper any damage. Without a default, the only way Greece could ever repay its loans is with a bout of Chinese-style growth which no sane person believes is going to happen. No one is going to send any free money to Greece to launch this growth.
The fact is, time is the enemy of Syriza. The longer this goes on, the more dependent they are on Europe. Rich Greek people are emptying their bank accounts. One of their main election promises was to collect more taxes; that’s going to be kind of hard when that tax money is in Switzerland.
Just yesterday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had to publicly state that he was working in Europe’s interest first, and Greece’s second. The only hope for Greece was if Syriza were secretly nationalists, who as soon as they came to power would provoke a crisis, nationalize banks and then impose capital controls, and reintroduce their own currency. But this has to happen fast. Tsipras has to yank off his nice-guy “radical” leftist mask and expose his inner Marine Le Pen. He chose the correct coalition partner; what he needs to do now is provoke the crisis this week and blame the evil Germans for the necessity to “temporarily” pull out of the Euro.
If Europe were only contending with Syriza then their plan would be to stall and with every day the Greek position would weaken. But the real and true enemy of Europe is Marine Le Pen and the Front National. As time goes on and the neo-liberal economic disaster only deepens, all the media scare tactics in the world will not keep a majority of French citizens from voting for her (in 2022). All the moral hysteria of soixante-huitards, all the denunciations by privileged bien-pensants; none of these will stop an eventual Frontist victory. It’s only a question of time before we see this victory that will be the end of Brussels’ power, first in France, and eventually throughout southern Europe. So, whether Syriza wants it or not, even if Tsipras really is that bluffing globalism-loving huggable little leftist some believe he is, Europe might decide to make an example out of Syriza by playing hardball and forcing Greece out of the Euro and then insuring that economic disaster strikes the country. This would serve as a warning to French voters to not dare think about leaving the Euro by voting for Marine Le Pen, whose party continues to surge in popularity, especially among disgruntled working class people who used to vote Socialist. And I don’t think Europe have much to worry about in terms of Greece overnight becoming some great model of economic dynamism once they leave the Euro. While it certainly is the right move for Greece to leave; with rich people taking all their money away; and there not being a whole lot of domestic industry, etc; Greece is going to take a long time to recover.
But this would be a pretty bold step, the type for which European politicians are not known for delivering. So as usual in Europe this will drag on and eventually Syriza will claim some hollow victory and get busy imposing European discipline on Greece in the name of fighting fascism. But in the medium run, any way you slice it, the clock ticking on Europe’s control over its citizens. But only the weapon of national sovereignty will be effective to break those chains of austerity that bind. It would be best if this could be a collaborative left/right thing but given the left’s natural hostility to national sovereignty and the growing doubts about Syriza – it is looking more and more like in the end the radical right will probably have to accomplish the destruction of the EU all on their own. I truly hope I am wrong about this and Syriza actually are able to deliver national sovereignty to Greece.
This analysis holds up pretty well. The last two weeks of “economic disaster” in Greece should give at least a little pause to future National Front voters on the pain of leaving the Euro. Of course France is not Greece and would survive a Frexit just fine after a short period of turmoil.