At the heart of the EU is supposedly a message of peace. Recently however, it seems Greece is being subjected to a different kind of warfare. Financial warfare. This has truly marked the beginning of a new chapter in politics. Why? Because everything done from this point onwards will be done with Greece in mind. The austerity that has been enforced on behalf of the European Central Bank (ECB) has widely been discredited by economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for that matter. Despite the clear failings of this economic ideology, it continues to be used as the excuse for the erosion of human rights.
So desperate was the situation leading up to Greece’s No vote, cash machines were running out of money. People were facing the prospect of losing the money in their accounts. This is how far Greece’s creditors were willing to go. It was just how ‘out in the open’ it was that was so alarming.
€240 billion (£260 billion) was given by the German banks to Greece in the form of a bailout fund. This would have gone a long way towards easing the severe suffering if it wasn’t for the fact that 90% went towards avoiding the failure of the German and French banks. Is it any wonder ex finance minister Yanis Varafoukis accused Greece’s creditors of terrorism?
The perpetual debt Greece had thrust upon them before Syriza’s election in January, was as disgraceful as it was pointless. The sinister piece of this puzzle is how easily the ECB could write off the debt entirely, just like Greece helped to write off Germany’s massive post Second World War debt. When we factor in to the discussion the amount of money spent bailing out banks globally being literally trillions, something tells me that if there was a profit to be made in Greece’s recovery, this would already be yesterday’s news by now.
Initially, it looked as though Greece had breathed new life into the European wide fightback against neo liberalism. Instead what did we get? Germany just smacked its disgruntled employee in the face for publicly speaking out, told it to sit down, shut up and looked around at the rest of the room full of employees and asked, ‘Anyone else want to be a hero?’ The ECB needed someone to make an example of in order to make it clear just where everybody stands. Greece have been set up to fail and used as a lab rat in a twisted neo liberal Frankenstein experiment.
This is nothing new of course, but the impact of these developments on a newly found politically engaged generation has given Greek events great significance. It has brought the control the financial sector has to the forefront of its consciousness.
It’s not as if there is a shortage of support for human rights across Europe. Look at the Labour leadership race for example. Why has Corbyn raced ahead in the polls? It is not due to socialist idealists looking to make trouble. It is because the English public have been given the faint scent of progressive politics and grabbed it with both hands. Just because Tony Blair thinks Corbyn is old fashioned, doesn’t mean what he is saying isn’t resonating with people. The same thing happened in Scotland last year.
Whenever there is a whimper of opposition to the status quo, it causes near hysteria within the ranks of law makers. No surprise then, when Greece became the first country in the EU to default on its IMF loans, the state media’s reaction was largely typical. Belittling the honest intentions and priorities of Syriza. Many of Britain’s leading intellectuals expressed their contempt with how a political party elected to raise the living standards of its most deprived citizens, was being portrayed as an errant charity case. The Herald’s Iain Macwhirter noted the similarities between their depiction of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and their caricature of Alex Salmond as an arrogant renegade, motivated purely by ego and self-interest. The Guardian’s Suzanne Moore said the politics of ‘project fear’, all too familiar to progressive Scots, are spreading across Europe.
And what is David Cameron’s mentality towards the struggles of the Greek people? It is similar to his attitude towards the thousands of drowning migrants or ‘people’ as they are sometimes known. Neglect. This is what I find so upsetting. The UK shows no empathy towards its fellow Europeans, purely to ensure that the figures look good. To our unsympathetic Conservative Government, Greece is the benefit scrounger of Europe, doing anything it can for a hand out. And to give it would mean hurting our economy and preventing our precious 0.7% acceleration.
All things considered, Syriza knew they could never accept the Troika’s proposals, so they played the only hand they had and called for a referendum. However, by allowing the Greek people to decide, they have highlighted how willing the European elite is to undermine democracy. Greece’s No vote in the referendum has apparently fallen on deaf ears as Syriza are being forced to implement the austerity they have been given a clear mandate to fight against. Now the curtain has been pulled back and the will of the people has been undermined for all to see. How a country’s citizens want to live is of secondary importance and as we pass through the looking glass, into the next chapter, many are left traumatised. George Monbiot hit the nail on the head when he described Greece as the ‘Latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy’.
The objective of the European elite has never been more clear. Narrowing the scope of ideas and institutionalising the free market mentality. If we are to regroup as a Europe wide movement, we have no alternative but to accept that any hope for a reformed European Union has been significantly set back.