“We don't change our policy according to elections." Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission, finally conforming what we have long known, that the European Union isn’t a democracy at all.
So now it’s official: parliamentary democracy has been abolished, consigned to the museum of failed political systems, along with Soviet-style ‘Communism’, gas-and-water socialism and Spanish Falangism. It still works well in some parts of the world, of course. In the USA, for instance, with a population largely divided between the delusional, the disillusioned and the hopelessly gullible, it’s fairly easy, though rather expensive, to maintain a ‘two-party’ system which is in reality a one-party system. But in the European Union, with its huge diversity of peoples, cultures, political traditions and historical experience, democracy has become far too unreliable.
So when a party variously categorised – bizarrely – as ‘far left’, ‘extreme left’, and - more accurately - ‘radical left’, wins an election by such a huge margin that it is almost able to form a government on its own, it’s something of an attention-grabber. Indeed, if only the KKE were less sectarian (and I speak as someone who shares many of their criticisms of Syriza) we would now be looking at a solidly left government, the first in Europe since the EEC was founded in 1957.
Why did people who in many cases had no record of voting for any left party suddenly decide that they would vote for Alexis Tsipras and his party? Their decision to do so shows Europe’s ruling elites that it is actually possible to go too far, to push people over the edge into what for some is unthinkable territory.
It’s clear that the Greek people were voting en masse not so much for socialism, which most probably dismiss as a pipe dream, but against those policies which Reichsleiter Katainen admits, or boasts (it’s hard to say which) will not be changed. Here are some of the results of those ‘immutable’ policies: GDP has declined by over 25% since 2007; government spending has fallen by 40%, with cuts concentrated on those areas of spending which Greece’s increasing number of poor people need most. Unemployment has risen steadily from 9% in 2009 to 29%, a level maintained throughout last year. Youth unemployment has fallen slightly, but this is hardly good news when it remains at over 50%. I am unable to confirm this, but there must be a strong suspicion that this fall is down to young people leaving the country for pastures new, pastures whose unskilled, low-paid work is preferable to starvation.
“We don't change our policy according to elections.” Many will reply that they never do, so what’s new? This is true, of course, but there are nevertheless many things new in this situation. What they will change their policies in relation to is fear. That is the only thing which those who run this exploitative system have ever changed their policies in relation to, so nothing new there. What’s new is the openness of the boast, or admission, or threat.
Vίκη! – that’s Greek for victory, and we have certainly had a victory, but it is only in one battle, and there’s a long way to go. The next few weeks, months and years will be dangerous, and we will need to keep our wits about us. If Syriza can stay in power, can deliver real benefits to the Greek people and set an inspiring example to the rest of us, if their allies in Spain’s Podemos, the Socialist Party of the Netherlands and other like-minded parties and groups elsewhere can make similar breakthroughs and form a progressive transnational bloc within the EU Council, then we will at least be in a new phase.
Debt restructuring (which is what Syriza actually wants) is neither a radical demand nor a radical policy. It was granted to Germany four times in the 20th century, for instance, on the last occasion to pay debts run up in destroying much of Europe. If it is granted, however, it will demonstrate that fear is indeed setting in amongst the elite. We must then decide what we will do about that.
Steve McGiffen is Spectrezine’s editor.
Illustration: Socialist Party of the Netherlands.