Troika to PIIGS: Shut Up & Take Your Medicine
The mainstream press around the world is jubilantly covering the change in leadership in both Greece and Italy, as the people in those countries and the other “PIIGS” continue to have harsh austerity measures imposed upon them. In Greece, the new Prime Minister is Loukas Papademos, a former vice-president of the European Central Bank (ECB), former Governor of the Bank of Greece and a participant in the Trilateral Commission. In Italy, it is economist and former European commissioner, Mario Monti, who replaces Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister.
In both cases, the Troika – the EU, the ECB and the IMF – have been putting heavy pressure on these already-conservative governments to step up the speed and severity of cuts in social spending, cuts in the public sector and wages, and of course privatizations. The EU’s history of ‘economics first, politics second’ is on display once again. Democracy (of any sort) is under overt attack.
In Greece, the ball started rolling when PASOK Prime Minister, George A. Papandreou shocked the political world by calling for a national referendum on the deal that was agreed to with the Troika on October 26th that calmed international financial markets, along with a vote of confidence for his government. Some in the West were impressed by his ‘democratic’ impulse, but anyone remotely familiar with Greece knows that what we witnessed was a “treek” (trick)! The immediate questions in such instances have to be, “what are the motives for, consequences of and reactions to the referendum?”
Up until that point, all of the opposition parties in the Greek parliament were opposed to the referendum and were calling for elections. The referendum was nixed within a day. But the call for a referendum, exposed New Democracy (ND), the conservative branch of Greece’s two-party duopoly (PASOK being the other ‘democratic’ party). ND’s leader, Antonis Samaras, came out and called for a “transitional government” to approve the October 26th agreement – thereby binding Greece legally and politically to Troika austerity – and then to hold general elections.
All of this is an “end around” the people. Greeks have been in the streets consistently since May, mirroring Spain’s Indignados, and Italian protestors, as precursors to our own OWS movement.
Legendary Greek singer/songwriter, Mikis Theodorakis, wondered aloud whether the “treek” of the referendum and the vote of confidence by Papandreou was a sign that the Prime Minister had totally lost it, or whether this represented action by ‘international consultants’ whose sole aim is to disable any popular, democratic impulse in Greece and seal the deal for the banks and the Troika.
The new Greek Prime Minister, Loukas Papademos, has absolutely no popular, political base. Contrary to the glowing reports by Western and financial press, this “unity government” is not at all representative of the spirit of the Greek people, even if one would only consider mainstream political polling numbers. The Papademos government is comprised of the Greek two-party duopoly – PASOK and ND – and the far-Right nationalists of George Karatzaferis, LAOS. They all vehemently oppose any sort of popular participation in making any decisions regarding the austerity measures and the October 26th agreement and the next national budget.
The Greek media continues to present the news in the spirit of Margaret Thatcher’s notion of “There is no alternative” – T.I.N.A. As they present the new Papademos cabinet, they go to their reporters in Brussels, New York, and Washington, where they report how happy the Euro-technocrats, Wall Street investors and IMF specialists are. From Greece, they interview the presidents of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB), the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA). All of this, representing the total approval of the elite – “the 1%” if you will! And at the same time, the total disregard for the people – who, for the most part, aren’t responsible for the mess they are in.
The Troika – the EU, the ECB, and the IMF – are openly employing the two-party duopoly in hijacking Greece with the neo-Nazis in what is becoming a tragedy of democracy. They are framing any and all popular opposition to their decisions, rule, and legitimacy as ‘undemocratic’ by labeling this a “time for national unity”. You are either “with them, or against them”— does that ring a bell?
The short-term aims are crystal clear: Austerity, Privatization, and Dismantling of the Greek welfare state. This is a modern version of IMF conditionality, including crackdowns on political opposition, albeit in new, finessed ways.
What is really funny is that mainstream economists and experts still say that even implementing all of these harsh measures, with the 50% haircut, won’t pull Greece out of debt for years to come.
After what we have been living through, how and why should we be mesmerized and happy to have economists, bankers and technocrats coming to power? These are precisely the architects of the current global capitalist crisis. They should be put in their proper place – many even in jail.
How will the Papademos administration handle protestors in Syntagma Square? Many friends, family, and colleagues in Greece are wondering and worried how the upcoming November 17th remembrance of the uprising against the military Junta in 1974 will be handled. Should we really expect average Greeks to suddenly embrace an essentially imposed government?
It is incumbent on us all to pay close attention to how the new banker-technocrats in Greece (Papademos) and Italy (Monti) will handle both their economic and political rule.