PHOTOS: Leaders of the Greek military government of 1967 to 1974. Is something similar waiting in the wings if the eurozone leadership’s effort to terrorize the Greeks into voting Yes to never-ending austerity fails today? Below: Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras, former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and Nobel-Prize-winning American economist Paul Krugman.
Recent Western “regime change” machinations seem not to have worked out quite as advertised, so ordinary citizens in the still partly democratic West should be concerned about what happens in Greece today, where yet another such effort appears to be under way.
After all, at least one plausible interpretation of the unfolding Greek tragedy is that the zone in which neo-fascism is permitted to reinforce neoliberal totalitarianism is now creeping back toward one of the regions where it has not been encouraged since the end of Europe’s great fascist upheaval, which culminated in the catastrophe of World War II. This should worry all of us.
Moreover, whichever side, Yes or No, wins today’s Greek referendum on “the bailout package” – which is plainly no bailout in the normal sense of that word, since it offers no chance of relief, only more economic pain, essentially forever – the results are unlikely to resemble the confident predictions in Canadian and U.S. news coverage about the events unfolding in the birthplace of democracy.
As Paul Krugman, Nobel-Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, explains it, “this isn’t about analysis – it’s about power.” If Greece votes Yes, he said, “it will face endless austerity, and a depression with no hint of an end.”
Meanwhile, even the Times’s normally reliable news department now concedes a major effort at regime change is under way in Greece by the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, all of which desperately want to knock off Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
This is no surprise. It is what The 1% and its agents wish for any leader anywhere who dares to throw roadblocks in the way of their global neoliberalization schemes. (Rachel Notley, take note!)
“What is playing out now is a largely unacknowledged campaign to oust him, led as much by his critics among other European leaders and top officials as it is by his rivals in Greece,” the Times reported. (Emphasis added.)
This is a little disingenuous, even though it sails closer to the truth than most of the reporting on this story we have seen in Canada. That is to say, it’s been acknowledged by many commentators for months that the EU, IMF and ECB leaders are involved in a campaign to terrorize Greeks about the consequences of leaving the eurozone, but at least the Times is now acknowledging the existence of such an effort.
Meanwhile, Canadian reporters on the scene are still coming up with Greek shopkeepers and farmers who can explain in strangely idiomatic English why pensioners and unemployed young people must pay the price for economic mismanagement by the Deutsch-centric eurozone.
The issue now, as correctly pointed out by the Times, is that for promoters of a eurozone free of economic apostasy, a yes-to-austerity-forever vote today may give them what they want, or at least what they say they want.
That is, if the Greeks have in fact been successfully terrorized into voting Yes, the Masters of the (European) Universe will probably achieve their short-term regime-change goal, as Mr. Tsipras has promised to resign in such circumstances and his Syriza Party would probably unravel into pro- and anti-austerity factions anyway if he didn’t.
As Dr. Krugman explained it: “… The essential point now is that Greece has been presented with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that is effectively indistinguishable from the policies of the past five years. This is, and presumably was intended to be, an offer Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, can’t accept, because it would destroy his political reason for being. The purpose must therefore be to drive him from office. …”
But if the Greeks are given the option of voting on the matter again – and that they will be is far from certain, since the EU-IMF-ECB is not all that happy about the last Greek election or Mr. Tsipras’s quick referendum on the so-called bailout – they are highly unlikely to put up with more austerity imposed by incompetent European economic technicians in Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt once the impact of their Yes vote has sunk in.
Social democracy having failed for them and membership in the eurozone an obvious disaster with no end in sight, the Greeks being human beings may well opt for more radical solutions. And remember, in Greece, an outright neo-fascist party, Golden Dawn, is waiting in the wings for its chance.
The only question then would be whether an openly fascist government in Greece blaming refugees for the state of the economy is an acceptable outcome to the leaders of Europe. That is not yet clear, but it is quite possible they will see it as preferable to the alternative of requiring the 1% that contributed to the creation of the problem in Greece to share the cost of fixing it.
Moreover, in the neoliberal tradition of never letting a good crisis go to waste – Jim Prentice et. al. redux – an acknowledged economic crisis like this may be just too tempting an excuse not to continue the program of gutting pensions, privatizing effective public services, firing public employees and implementing additional neoliberal depredations.
This would allow open neo-fascism to creep awkwardly close to the comfortable democracies of northern Europe, but as we have seen throughout post-World-War-II history, a certain amount of additional latitude has always been deemed by the Great Powers to be permissible in the Balkan Peninsula.
Moreover, if there is a No vote today, it is far from certain that Brussels will not permit a right-wing military coup in Greece – as happened in that country in 1967 to “save the nation” from “communism.”
Ironically, after the military government had frittered away its support among the usual suspects in the Western establishment, it was the Turks who finally put an end to the experiment in military leadership with their successful invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974. The Greek junta, discredited, finally collapsed.
Such a scenario could unfold as well, one supposes, in response to an openly ideological fascist government.
In the end, it may well come down to whether negative publicity generated by one form or another of open fascism in a small country in supposedly tolerant and modern Europe is seen as preferable to a loss of power and control that might set back the global neoliberal project.
Of course, if preserving the eurozone is really so vital, the IMF, the EU and the ECB could also recognize their bluff has been called and resume negotiations in the event of a No vote. But, seriously, how likely is that? No, additional punishment for the Greeks is more likely.
In other words, no matter what happens today, we and the Greeks are not out of the woods just yet.
That said, it is possible that as a result of whatever unfolds next in Greece, the people of Ukraine will one day be delighted they had a big neighbour that prevented their absorption into the eurozone.
If so, they will not be so different from us Canadians, who can celebrate the lucky fact we remained outside a currency union with the United States, as advocated by many of our domestic right wingers back in the day, giving the government of prime minister Jean Chretien the flexibility to let currency fluctuations ease us out of situation potentially not dissimilar to the one in which Greece is now trapped.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.