In June, I wrote gloomily about the radical SYRIZA falling just short of the votes needed to lead a government of the Left. Instead, Antonis Samaras, New Democracy’s leader, took power alongside the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, long the voice of Greek social democracy, and the smaller Democratic Left, a right-wing split from SYRIZA.
Samaras had the world’s backing. He was the respectable candidate, capable of playing ball with the international lenders that Greece has been beholden to ever since a 2009 sovereign debt crisis. That crisis began after investors feared that the country would be unable to pay back its growing public debt. But just days after his government announced another £9 billion in cuts, the coalition’s seams are already showing.
The continued working class resistance isn’t surprising. Pensions and other public sector benefits are being reduced drastically, the retirement age is rising to 67, and the social safety net — including even hospitals and schools — is being sliced up and sold to the highest bidder.
But as Nikos Loudos reports, dissent is being dealt with harshly, with immigrants and other marginalized groups scapegoated.
Ministers are trying to hide the havoc caused by their austerity plans by clamping down on migrants. More than 10,000 people were brought to police stations in just three days last week.
Police officers “sweep” the streets and take anyone who seems to be poor and has darker skin. Half of these officers, according to official electoral statistics, had voted for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. They put migrants who don’t have legal papers into recently built concentration camps.
The xenophobic quality of this repression is more proof that the dream of Europe in the neoliberal imagination is a farce. The European Union is certainly a novel idea. A political fusion of 27 states and a monetary zone of 17, the project represents an unprecedented attempt to promote the free movement of commodities, labor and capital. But the idea that the Union has battered down parochial conceits in the name of accumulation has always been false. It’s had an ugly side that’s relied on divisions — migrant vs. native workers, core vs. peripheral countries, Islamic vs. Christian Europe.
With powerful left-wing forces in opposition there is hope, however, that the ruling coalition won’t be able to push through more austerity. Three MPs from the Democratic Left, the smallest component of the grouping, even vow that they won’t vote for the cuts. With their own house in disarray, it’s hard to see how the European Central Bank is going to get its plans executed. And if this government fails, like all the ones before it, European elites will be out of conventional options. Blowing up the Eurozone or making concessions and an arrangement with the Left may be their only plays.