The banks are closed, the bailout referendum is looming: Paul Mason describes the atmosphere in Greece as it prepares for the vote which will determine the triumph or defeat of the only anti-austerity government in Europe. Originally published in the Guardian, Monday 29 June.
By Paul Mason, 29 June
If it all ends on Monday, with the Greeks voting for austerity in order to keep the euro, the first far-left party to hold office in modern Europe will be judged by its critics a failure.
On 25 January 2015, Syriza, the radical Left coalition lead by Alexis Tsipras, won a historic election victory winning just two seats shy of an absolute majority in the Greek parliament. As Etienne Balibar observed at the time:
“This is the first time that any popular force has proven able to pose a challenge to the ‘governance’ that has dominated Europe ever since the ‘neoliberal’ turn. This rupture is taking place in a ‘small country’, but the Greek experience has its echoes everywhere."
The election was won on the back of a campaign that promised to renegotiate the terms of the country's bailout by the European Union, in stark contrast to Northern European ideology of austerity. Syriza's election win sent shockwaves throughout the international money markets, with the European Central Bank implementing credit controls on Greek banks, restricting its cash flows and making prohibitively expensive for those banks to access capital. After months of negotiations between Greece and its creditors, there has been an impasse, with Germany and its Northern European aliies unyielding despite extensive concessions given by Syriza on the conditions of its €8bn austerity package.
On 27 June, Tsipras called a referendum to decide whether or not to accept the bailout conditions given by the EU. It is a gutsy decision that took much of the world by surprise. A 'No' vote would galvanise Syriza and give it a public mandate to bolster its position against the country's creditors, whereas having its own subjects voting 'Yes' to extensive cuts would deliver perhaps the punishing final blow to any credible alternative to austerity in the Eurozone.
With this in mind, we bring you an essential reading list that aims charts the trajectory of Syriza from its origins as a loose coalition on the fringes of Greek politics to being the only credible party on the European Left that is openly fighting back against the violent ideology of austerity.
"As always," Frédéric Lordon writes, "institutional orders reveal their true essence when they are at their limits, in conditions of extreme crisis." For Lordon, the actions of the troika over the past few days have shown, beyond any doubt, that the essence of the European institutional order is inimical to democracy, and that its punitive will against whoever decides otherwise knows no limit. Translated by David Broder; read the French article here.
By Frédéric Lordon, 29 June 2015
Well, that certainly shut them up. Playing the democracy card is now so far outside of their understanding that when you do it they are left stunned, staggered, destitute. You’d really have loved to see their faces, their jaws hanging wide open like a chest of drawers that’s just been burgled: Sapin, Hollande, Moscovici, their organic intellectuals, their propaganda journalists, all those who have nothing on their lips but "modernity" and have so constantly worked to get rid of the people, the troublesome demos, troublesome democracy, whenever the idea enters its head that it ought not content itself with submitting to what has already been decided on its behalf.