Monday, 22 June 2015

Yet Again, It's Crunch Time

A pivotal moment. It's  almost crunch time. The endgame approaches. The longer these negotiations go on, the more casually recycled this apocalyptic language feels. Nevertheless times are serious in Greece.

The people of Greece, living under this constant cloud of uncertainty, must surely be going mad. Many want an end to the stalemate, no matter the cost. Who can blame them? Anything would be better than this.

Channel 4's Paul Mason has been writing consistently insightful journalism on the Greek crisis for years now. His most recent post makes two things clear: the latent appeal of default for sections of Greek society (including the radical left, parts of the right, and some 41% of the population) and the embeddedness of Syriza politicians in their party membership. Thus, Syriza is wedded to the euro far more strongly than might have been necessary had it, in the past, taken an opposite internal path and made opposite moves in its engagement with the Greek public. But that avenue - perhaps available during their meteoric rise after 2011 - is surely now closed. Syriza - including, at times, the party's Left Platform - set continued euro membership as a priority a long time ago.

Here's that link: http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/greece-crunch-time/3882

My hunch is that Syriza will cave more or less fully to the austerity demanded by the troika, probably at some time in the next week. The leadership will do so partly because of the exhaustion of the Greek people, their threadbare faith in the government, and the near collapse of the country's banks. But more importantly the collapse of the government's bargaining position was secured for the troika by the Syriza leadership itself well before the election. By insisting that the EC, IMF and ECB would compromise, they assured everyone that they could remain within the euro and end austerity at the same time. No such thing was ever possible without the threat, at least, of default and, by extension, coordinated exit.

It is harder to say what will happen next. What will the depth of an already extensive demoralisation be when Syriza surrenders to the maximum budget surpluses demanded by the troika? How deep into the soul of the nation will the sense of defeat sink? And then what, if any, kind of emotional and intellectual recovery can take place? The relief of six-months' funding will be brief, the social effects of renewed austerity catastrophic.

It is clear that the modest Keynesian reflation promised in Syriza's Thessaloniki programme has been routed by the imposed legality of the treaties, the precedents set by the memoranda, and the financial and fiscal limits of the Greek state. A different path might once have been possible. A new path will require the mobilisation of the Greek people on a scale not seen since 2011-12. Only the Greek people could in theory drive Syriza - the political force which has come to represent Greek society more than any other since the onset of the crisis - towards new and more creative forms of opposition and rebellion in the years of austerity ahead. The situation remains open, but there is little cause for optimism. The future will be testing to the extreme.

The Greek people have been heroic enough to defy austerity, even in the pit of exhaustion. We owe  them a cool, critical assessment of the government. And our support if they find some hidden resources to continue.

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