Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist
Athens Without Slavery:
The Battle for Europe
Syriza and the New European Left
‘First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin’ – Leonard Cohen
‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take Madrid’ – Syriza with Podemos
‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take London’ – Anti-Austerity UK
‘A Spectre is Haunting Europe…’ – Karl Marx
European Democracy and the Limits of American Hegemony
A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Greek democracy.
We have been here before in Greece, of course… at least four times.
First, there is the celebrated original emergence of democracy millennia ago; second, the Greek War of Liberation from the Turks (1821-1832), immortalised by the poet Bryron; third, the attempt by Leftist partisan organisations (EAM, KKE, ELAS) to form a Provisional Government in 1946 (in the stead of the Right-Monarchist government, returned from exile, and elected in 1946 in elections which the Left had boycotted), but defeated by the intervention of the United States and the United Kingdom, thus beginning the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), which ended with thousands of deaths and Greek membership of NATO; and fourth, the re-emergence of democracy in 1974 after the fall of the US backed military junta installed in the 1967 pre-elections coup d’etat, the so-called ‘General’s Coup’, eventually replaced by the government of exiled Constantine Karamanlis, which put the monarchy up for a referendum, and with its rejection by the people, negotiated a new presidential constitution, and inaugurated the Greek Republic in 1975.
And, now, fifth, with the people’s mandate, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has taken power in Athens – not ironically with the help or participation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), who were re-legalised in 1974 – promising the people of Greece not only the ‘end of austerity’, privatisation, unfair strike laws, among other transformations, but also, and more fundamentally, the end to the system of oligarchy, propped up by seventy years of external intervention and centrist-conservative governance (New Democracy or PASOK).
Indeed, as we have repeatedly seen in recent modern and contemporary histories, democracy, the vote, the pebble (psḗphos) of the people does not often seem sufficient to challenge the hegemonic narrative of the victor of the war of Europe, the United States.
Moreover, despite its repeated accusations of anti-democratic practises on the part of other states, such as China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and many others, it is well known that the United States has illegally denied or interfered with the will of citizens on a global level, and, moreover, has overthrown myriad democratically elected governments for deviating from the its agenda and narrative.
The United States moreover maintains this state of hypocrisy and contradiction, and without any sense of irony, all the while remaining allies with dictatorships, monarchies, and fellow violators of international law, including terrorists, some of which it trains and funds itself.
Amid this state of contradiction, the United States, simply because of its power, not due to its Right, systematically violates international law and turns a blind eye to its Allies when they do the same. Ever since the Marshall Plan was unfolded, Europe has been on the American hook, and has been generally complicit in its crimes, a subservience reinforced by the militarisation of diplomacy that is entitled NATO.
Yet, in light of the growing strength of a resurgent European political Left, one with a base upon the streets, who will win the new battle for Europe?
Will there emerge an ‘Athens without Slavery’ – or, yet another battlefield and bonfire of our hopes and dreams for a future of global, polycentric peace and cooperation?
The real question: can Europe persist in the status quo of its longstanding malaise, of continued US hegemony, as the demographic of Nietzsche’s Last Man, the nihilistic product of the ‘end of (progressive) history’ – or, must it be, also in the words of the philosopher of the future, something else besides?
Austerity is the Crisis Itself: Syriza and the New European Left
There has been a breach in the narrative of “Austerity” with the definitive victory of Syriza in Greece. In the light of such an Event, differing, alternative voices are rising up, above the din of the corporate media and its monotonous, eternal postponements.
We now learn that “Austerity” is a thoroughly ideological construction, neither inevitable (Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru), nor a solution to any crisis, that “Austerity Economics” has ‘comprehensively failed’ (Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland). Indeed, “Austerity”, according to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is the ‘crisis itself.’
Once the illusion has been dissolved before one’s eyes, however, in this case, the illusion of “Austerity,” how is it ever again possible to carry on business as usual?
How is it possible for the citizens of Europe to take the “Troika” seriously any longer with the revelation that “Austerity” itself (originally based upon fraudulent and publicly discredited economic research) is not only not “working,” but also was never meant to “work”?
“Austerity”, as with the so-called “Financial Crisis”, is and was mass theft of the people of Europe (and the world), indeed, it was and is the liquidation of the Public Realm.
The contemporary situation differs from that of the Cold War however in that the unanimity of Europe has begun to fracture, not only with respect to specific US priorities, such as its covert insurgency in Ukraine and its on-going attempt to enact regime change in Russia, but also with regard to its leadership role, of the alleged, though ceaselessly repeated “exceptionalism” of the USA itself. Indeed, when it comes to the bottom line, America is increasingly becoming bad for business and bad for democracy.
In the present moment in which these so-called “Austerity” policies have led to even further public debt, it becomes clear that a strain of corruption has, like the Suitors in Homer’s Odyssey, taken over the household.
In such a situation, every privatisation is theft. We see each day more complicity between mainstream European politicians and private health insurance firms, campaign donors, and America (TTIP).
We will immediately see, moreover, in this current narrative, that it is the new Anti-Austerity European Left which is playing the role of Odysseus, as Syriza, Podemos, Anti-Austerity Alliance (Ireland), Anti-Austerity UK alliance (Plaid Cymru, SNP, Green Party) and parties and coalitions of the entire European Left, sweep across Europe and take back the household of the people for the people.
The new Anti-Austerity European Left is succeeding by following in the footsteps of the vastly successful Latin American Left by giving political expression and representation to the streets, where Anti-Austerity activist organisations have consistently organised protests since the financial crisis (Occupy, People’s Assemblies, Trades Union coalitions, Stop The War, National Campaigns Against Fees and Cuts, Black Lives Matter), but have been consistently ignored by politicians, even by those of the so-called Labourist, Social Democratic “Left”.
Indeed, it is crucial to speak of the re-emergence of the political Left, as its place was taken by the technocratic neo-Liberal parties, such as the Labour Party of the United Kingdom, which is a Thatcherite party, and has been since the leadership of Tony Blair.
The re-emergence of the political Left is also a reassertion of the progressive meaning of the European Union, and raises the serious and urgent question of the independence of Europe from NATO and American trade agreements, such as the TTIP.
On Contradiction: Towards A Good Europe of Good Europeans
Yet, will the United States allow such a narrative to unfold: that of a free, peaceful, independent and prosperous European Union, one which would be as free to trade with the many nations of the BRICS alliance as it does with the United States?
There is a growing sentiment across the Continent that Europe has failed to demonstrate any independence in the face of the self-assertion of the United States. Europe has been held captive by America through the ceaseless repetition of its narrative, silence in the face of its crimes, and the purchase of its goods, many of which, like the GMO’s from Monsanto, etc. do not meet the health standards of the European Union.
In other words, will the United States allow the European Union to be a sovereign political economic Union of sovereign states? Can Europe have the dignity of defending itself, and of deciding who is or is not an enemy? Will the United States close its military bases in Europe and permanently remove its weapon systems from the Continent and the United Kingdom?
Or, will Europe descend once again into fascism and war, something the USA seems to be actively encouraging in the Ukraine? It would not be the first time America was responsible for a regional European war (Yugoslavia, once an intimate friend to the Greek Left).
In an amplification of Marx’s original phrase, it could be stated that many spectres are haunting Europe.
Of course, the history of Europe is the history of its own class, national and international struggles, yet it is also the history of its own imperialism, its modern day neo-colonial arrangements, and its own servile and dishonourable subservience to the United States of America and its multilateral institutions. Indeed, the spectres of depression, neo-fascism, and war are intrinsically intertwined with the un-balanced regime that holds between Europe and the United States, and has so since the end of World War II.
The intrinsic control of NATO over the defence of Europe and the IMF and World Bank over its political economics has developed into a contradiction between the practises of European democracy and the forced choice of being the vassals of the already failed American empire.
The perfect storm of the re-emergence of the political Left in Europe and the manufactured tension between the United States and Russia, in which Europe has once again been caught in the middle (and potentially as the next battlefield), has forced the contradiction between European collective and sovereign interest and its de facto alliance with the United States into the open – and into question.
The contradiction is out in the open as there has, with the first domino, Syriza, arisen an alternative narrative to the longstanding dogma of the IMF, World Bank and NATO, which under the ‘flag of freedom’, has dominated the political, economic, technological and cultural agenda of Europe for seventy years.
Of course, no one can predict the outcome of our historical situation. However, with the unity of the European Left with the popular movements in the streets, which finally have a political and electoral avenue for expression and representation, there has emerged an alternative both to the status quo of American ‘multilateralism’ and to the seemingly inexorable rightward drift that we have experienced since the late 1970’s, and which has run roughshod over the ‘social contract’ established with the urgency of WWII.
Syriza is standing up against this nihilistic agenda and with growing support from all over the Europe and the world, it is possible that the European Commission, IMF and the European Central Bank will blink.
The rise of the European Left is the rebirth of European democracy and independence. It is vital that everyone who is concerned about this serious and dangerous situation get involved in any way each can. As we know from history, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there will be an attempt to overthrow Syriza and the people of Greece. It is clear that the current stand-off with the “Troika” indicates an existential threat to Greek democracy.
So it is Friday, 20 February 2015 – a four month reprieve, in which the Greeks will write their own reforms, as stated by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
Rise Up Europe. The Days of Hope are coming.