Sunday, January 25, 2015

The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity.

The words of Alexis Tsipras, chairman of the anti-austerity Syriza Party, winner of Greek elections Sunday, adding, "Democracy will return to Greece."

Alexis Tsipras of Syriza after voting today - Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

"Austerity" is how Neoliberalism -- Reaganomics -- is referred to in Europe. The policy of cutting social services, lowering taxes on the wealthy and attacking unions, in order to redistribute wealth upward, has been forced on one European nation after another by politicians like Tony Blair and Angela Merkel and has been accepted by left leaning and liberal parties from the British Labour Party to the French Socialists, just as its been accepted by Democrats in the US. As the official policy of the ruling elite it's forced on countries who accept bailout funds from institutions like the IMF or World Bank, as it has been in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Don't be surprised if markets in the US and Europe act with alarm to Syriza's victory. It's not known yet how far Syriza will actually go in rolling back austerity, or how far it can go, but it will at least go partway, and any alteration from the uninterrupted progress of Reaganomics tends to disappoint investors, who have seen a steadily increasing stream of working peoples' money go into their accounts for three decades now and want that to go on forever.

Two years ago, Syriza, then newly formed, came close to winning while Greece was in the depths of budgetary problems caused by corruption and widespread tax evasion primarily by the country's wealthy and bourgeoise. That time, even as the "Troika" - the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank -- that was providing bailout funds to the Greek government demanded that creditors be paid off with the bailout money first, even as pensions were being halved and unemployment was soaring and "middle class" Greeks were eating out of dumpsters, the Greek people were alarmed by doomsday forecasts from their own politicians and Troika officials if austerity wasn't adopted, and were afraid to elect Syriza.

This time around, as Greeks came to see that they were not meant to ever benefit from austerity, and Syriza pulled ahead in pre-election polls, the Troika put on a full court press, threatening all kinds of dire consequences if Syriza won, but Greeks have given them one seat short of an absolute majority in parliament, effectively putting Syriza in the driver's seat. Under the parliamentary system, where coalitions can be formed to come up with ruling majorities, there had been talk before the election that Syriza would have to ally with a far right party that also opposes "austerity" but Syriza's stunning win likely makes that unnecessary as a much smaller party can be brought in and given a ministry in exchange for its support.

Note: As a point in interest, Alexis Tsipras' reference to democracy returning to Greece will remind many that Eurocentric historians say, and most Westerners believe, that democracy originated in Greece. As if the rest of the world was too stupid to ever think of it. Western and US histories generally trace "our" civilization in a straight line from Greece, to Rome, to Europe and ignore any outside influences and omit most of the history of the rest of the world. Remember that democracy wasn't practiced in Rome and hasn't been the form of government in Europe for most of its history, although it was practiced by the germanic tribes populating Europe that were conquered by Rome.

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