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Greece

Inside the Greek laboratory

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / MEMOIRE DES LUTTES

A new book publishing the views of Greek scholars and professionals on the impact of Troika policies has helped Bernard Cassen understand better the criminal nature of market fundamentalism pursued by Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin

You have to be very naive to believe that the fury of the “troika” against Greece is driven solely by a desire to strictly manage EU funds. When representatives of the three institutions that make up this yoke – the European Central Bank (ECB ), the European Commission and the IMF – multiply, as has been the case in recent weeks, the conditions for paying the government in Athens the tranche of the 8, 5 billion loan that was promised [1], we see clearly the relentless pursuit of a laboratory experiment started there six years ago.

This experience has an ambition of historic significance: dynamiting the welfare state, the fruit of decades of struggle, first in the most vulnerable country in the European Union and, step by step, in other “periphery” countries (Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal) before expanding this project, with the complicity of the governments in some countries of the EU’s geographic “centre” , including France’s President Francois Hollande and the newly appointed French PM Manuel Valls. This project is multi-dimensional, at once economic, political and social. The President of the ECB, Mario Draghi, did not hide this when he told the Wall Street Journal that “the European social model was dead.” We have been warned…

Insofar as the Greek case is a foreshadowing of the future of most EU countries, especially those of the euro area, it should be studied in detail. This has just been done in a remarkable work [2] in which Noëlle Burgi, a researcher at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), published the views of nine Greek scholars and professionals from various disciplines, including a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

We must recognise that the history of Greece – dictatorships, foreign interventions, repression of the left, the backwardness of society that has been slow to transform into a political community, the manipulation of state actions by elites in order to perpetuate their privileges, patronage, corruption – has made it a particularly fragile country, which greatly facilitated the work of the European institutions and the IMF, as well as their special police, the troika.

The results of the “rescue” of Greece (more accurately, the bailout of the banks and the euro) are the now well known explosion of poverty which affected 36% of the population in 2012, a fall of 40 % in the incomes of pensioners and those who still have a job, the abandonment of the unemployed to their fate, the dismantling of labour laws and the public health system, privatisation (or more accurately sell off) of public services and goods, and so on. Less well known , but perhaps most important over the longer term is the damage to society in Greece: the installation of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in the political landscape, spiralling drug addiction, the transformation of socially vulnerable people into “dangerous” citizens now reduced to ” useless” mouths to feed.

After reading this book, we understand better the criminal nature of market fundamentalism that serves as a compass to the policies of Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, supported by all European governments. And it is surprising, even where the policies have been implemented, that they have not – or not yet – caused widespread civic insurrection. The European elections of May, and in particular the score of the radical left coalition SYRIZA in Greece, will tell us if this calm is deceptive.

1 On 18 March, the troika agreed the release of a small portion of this amount – 500 million euros, to give a little oxygen to the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who fears a rout of his party in the next municipal European elections. On March 31, the Greek Parliament finally passed a bill that includes all the requirements of the troika and paves the way for payment of 8.5 billion euros

2 Noëlle Burgi, La Grande Régression. La Grèce et l’avenir de l’Europe, Le Bord de l’eau, 33310 Lormont, 260 pages, 18 euros.

Bernard Cassen is General Secretary of Mémoire des Luttes and honorary President of Attac

 Translation by Revolting Europe 

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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