Half the challenge is to rip the mask from the face. Now that has happened. After months of the Troika’s unrelenting, unrealistic demands on the Greek people, it has become clear what this conflict is really all about: maintaining the supremacy of the neoliberal market/state alliance. The Greeks must be punished for wishing to explore serious alternatives.
Creditors, having conveniently socialized their losses through taxpayer-funded bailouts, are now using their hammerlock on state power to keep the lid on neoliberal austerity. That’s their only plan: their idée fixe. Democracy? Political stability? Social or humanitarian need? Secondary details. This negotiation is not about reviving the Greek economy, which has only worsened after five years of enforced fiscal austerity and credit-dependency (which is why it’s absurd to continue with the same policies). It’s about which vision of the future shall prevail.
Syriza, armed with a democratic mandate to reject further bailouts and austerity cuts, is locked in a fierce struggle pitting raw financial power and neoliberal policies against democratic sovereignty and a nascent vision of something better. We know who generally wins such struggles (e.g., Chile in 1973). Will it be different this time?
A lot rides on whether the Greek people, in the face of desperate circumstances, are willing to stand up to reclaim their self-determination or whether abject realities will simply force them to surrender and become a colony dependent on European creditors.
The Troika surely wants to send a strong cautionary message to the citizens of Spain, Portugal, Italy and other European countries with problematic finances. If that means imposing further unemployment, social disintegration and trauma on the Greeks, without offering a credible plan for the country’s economic revival, the Troika and its European backers are clearly willing to go there.
The Economist magazine captured this insane choice with a darkly humorous cover, “Acropolis Now.” Angela Merkel enters the “heart of darkness” of subduing the Greeks, only to discover the unanticipated costs. “The horror, the horror.”