Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Can the Radical Left take Greece?
So can the radical left take Greece? Maybe just.
First an observation I made in Athens during protests last year. I showed up in Athens the day after a major strike and protest when the center of the city was full of tear gas. The protests were dominated by the stone and fire throwing anarchists that get reported. The next day there was a peaceful large protest by civil servant workers.
What I noticed was that hundreds of the women showed up to the protests in high heels. Now as someone who has always had an interest in protests and public demonstrations I can tell you that the first thing you learn in a demonstration is to wear comfortable shoes. These women in high heels were from a world were demonstrations didn't happen. They did not know to wear comfortable shoes nor did anyone ever tell them. The high heels convinced me that a kind of leftist revolution in Greece is possible.
But is it possible in elections?
Well it looks certain Greece will be going to the polls again in the near future. If the Syriza party can increase its vote share from 17% by maybe 10% it might be able to get enough seats to form a coalition with the Communists and Democratic Left. If Syriza wins over more Greeks it could win outright, but a coalition of ecological, anarchists and Marxist groups seems unlikely to break 25% even in the times Greece has.
Actually looking at the numbers it clearly looks as though the rules of the game of democracy are against the Radical Left. If Syriza can do a bit better in the next election it might get the 50 seat bonus that Greece system gives to the win and come out with 150 seats at most, I think. This is at the upper bounds of the possible. And the Syriza is already a coalition of smaller parties, if it come in under 150 it would have to form an alliance with one of the other left parties, meaning it would come in as a fragmented network of parties that are themselves coalitions, a fractal structure that could break at the drop of a pin.
As I see it the most likely outcome of the next election would be a coalition of the ND and Pasok party. These parties can tell the Greek people that they have been heard, but that the election now comes down to stability. People who voted for a smaller party in the recent elections might hold their noses and vote for stability and Europe, in fact this is the normal nature of political life. Nothing people seem to fear more than chaos, in ordinary times. But we are not living in ordinary times, certainly not in Greece.
The real wild card is Merkel who if not for the utterly random rise in the German economy would be seen globally as the buffoon she is. The problem with Capitalist Democratic system is that Democracy is generally judged on Economics, and if you happen to be leader at a time of economic rise, like Blair, Clinton, and Merkel, you get extra points in the eyes of the public and the international community. Merkel did not keep Germany for participating in the massive boom of the rise of information and banking, German's risk fear did that. Not participating in years of growth meant that Germany was not as exposed to the collapse.
But arrogant on avoiding the worst of the current Economic crisis the German public is on an insane tirade that will only end badly for them and Europe. Germany risks destroying the very economies that have been enabled to buy their goods in the Eurozone and destroying the very currency that makes their good affordable to more of the world. Germany has never been a well working democratic system, in fact like Russia and Poland it is probably more in the autocratic structures of Eastern Europe. Germany has been forced in to the democratic sphere, but is has never fit well in to that. Germany simply kept silent for over 60 years and was forgotten. Well Germany is, for the first time since 1940, driving events in Europe and a track record of instability since the rise of Prussia is extending itself in to the post-modern age.
It is very possible that Merkel is dumb enough, or desperate enough, to lecture the Greeks. If she does, making the election seem like Germany is trying to overcome the clear message of elections not only in Greece but also in France, Italy and the UK, she has a chance of making it a Greek vs. German election, one in which the radical left can make itself out to be the Greeks.
The German stance is stupidity beyond belief. It is hard to list all the things Merkel seems to be ignoring. The most obvious one is the utter failure of Austerity and the collapse of the global right. In Spain, the UK, and Holland politics of austerity are failing. The short term drive to reduced public debt is making the economies of Europe weaker, which is reducing tax revenues.
But if Merkel can not pay attention to the present Europe she certainly is not looking at the past. German conduct is deeply offensive to people who suffered great hardship at the hands of Germany during the Second World War. Imagine for one second you are Greek. You grew up on stories of starvation, murder, and tyranny impose on your nation by the Germans. And unlike the Germans who saw their misery end in 1946 the Greeks lived with the negative consequences of German aggression for much longer than most other European nations, being thrown in to a civil war by the occupation.
To have a nation which occupied you. starved you, murdered your people, enslaved your workers come along and lecture you for harming Europe is deeply insulting to most Greeks, and it should be. Merkel and the entire German public simply has no place lecturing any European member on destruction of Europe. So far nothing Greece has done to Germany compares to what Germany has done to Greece. Germans have made not a single personal sacrifice in the face of the current crisis. Germany is not cutting its massive public spending or cutting public sector jobs. In fact German public sector workers just got a pay raise to avert a strike. The Germans are paying their public sector workers extra money to not go on strike at the same time it is demanding most of Europe self destructs through austerity.
The real fear is what happens when the current crisis ultimately hits Germany. If the austerity nightmare continues Germany will soon lose its main market as EU member nations simply can't afford to buy German goods. Given how Germany has failed to deal with what should have been a fairly limited contained economic issue in Greece, and given German history, the real crisis is what happens in future German elections if the current austerity collapse is pushed through by Merke.