March 2015        

The Greek people are in a double bind

Mary MacMahon

Since the election of the SYRIZA government in Greece earlier this year the European media have gone into overdrive to marginalise the Greek people and the new government. Even the very limited agenda of SYRIZA, which raised so much hope within Greece and throughout Europe, has been dashed on the real existing European Union—not the air-fairy one that is the darling of the social democrats, ultra-leftists, and broken-down Labour Party types and their supporters within the trade union movement.
     The shine has certainly come off SYRIZA and its much-flaunted slogan “Changing Greece, changing Europe.” Their illusion of reforming the EU lies shattered like pieces of ancient Greek pottery around the Acropolis.
     While pointing out the obvious failures and clearly non-Marxist, non-class approach of SYRIZA in its understanding of the very nature of politics and political structures—the state—we must not lose sight of the fact that the crowing of the establishment and its tame media about forcing a climb-down by SYRIZA over the Greek debt and the continuing austerity programme barely disguises the complete contempt that they have for the people.
     It matters little whether one thought that SYRIZA would inevitability have surrendered to the demands of the European Union or hoped they would stand up and challenge it and defend the Greek people and blaze an alternative direction from within the EU and oppose the IMF.
     What has been exposed is the very limited agenda of SYRIZA, together with that of other political forces around Europe, such as Sinn Féin, with their smoke-and-mirrors economic policies and their idealism in relation to the European Union, or what they call “our European partners.”
     Once SYRIZA took ownership and responsibility for the debt and its repayment, it was reduced to discussing and negotiating some modified form of austerity with both the EU and the IMF. Though the SYRIZA leader and prime minister, Aléxis Tsípras, and the ever-so-trendy minister of finance, Varoufákis, may have stopped using the term “Troika” to describe the EU, ECB and IMF, which they have rebranded the “three institutions,” the reality remains. They are victims of their own illusions and their academic ivory towers.
     Their “red line” issues have become faint memories on a page firmly written and stamped by the EU as non-negotiable. They are committed to solutions that give priority to the private sector, to repaying the debt, and to more investment by the government in the private sector. None of these policies challenge the system. The adoption of these positions means they have accepted the mantra of TINA: There is no alternative. They want to save the system rather than change it.
     For Irish workers there are a number of lessons that need to be learnt. Firstly, the treaties governing the European Union have in effect outlawed not only a radical people-centred solution but even tame Keynesian policies, while the controlling forces are determined to solve the crisis of capitalism at the expense of working people.
     Secondly, the Irish people can vote at the national level for whoever they like, but this is not decisive, as the European Union will impose TINA and the economic and political straitjacket of what is in the interests of capitalism.
     The debt is still the weapon of choice, to be used against the people; democracy has been trumped by the overriding needs of the European monopolies and the big finance houses and banks.
     This is not said for the purpose of exposing SYRIZA for its illusions and idealism (that, of course, needs to be done) but, more importantly, for drawing lessons and applying them to the Irish experience and conditions. The Greek people will settle with SYRIZA in their own time.
     Those who continue to peddle the illusion, whether here in Ireland, in Greece or in Spain, that they can solve the people’s problems within the confines of the European Union and its controlling mechanisms, such as the euro, are only leading our people down a blind alley. There are simply no solutions to be found to debt or austerity within the European Union.
     The struggles of the Greek people have exposed the true class nature of the European Union and its institutions. They have shown that it can be resisted—a lesson that needs to be learnt by working people throughout Europe.

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