Greek Government Could Collapse

Bhaskar Sunkara August 8, 2012

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.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the found­ing edi­tor of Jacobin mag­a­zine. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @sunraysunray.
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