Smashing the Spinning Plates – Slavoj Žižek and Syriza

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In a recent piece for In These Times Slavoj Žižek reflects on the outcome of the Greek elections on the 17th of June, analysing how Syriza, the radical left coalition, came close to smashing the entire set of the European Union’s crockery. Dismissing the EU’s austerity measures as nonsense, Žižek says:

So why does Brussels impose these plans? What matters in contemporary capitalism is that agents act upon their putative beliefs about future prospects, regardless of whether they really believe in those prospects. And, as we also all know, the true aim of these rescue measures is not to save Greece, but to save the European banks.

To illustrate the mistake of enacting austerity measures as the main strategy to combat the crisis, Paul Krugman often compares them to the medieval cure of blood-letting. That’s a nice metaphor that should be radicalized even further. The European financial doctors, who are themselves not sure about how the medicine works, are using the Greeks as test rabbits and letting their blood, not the blood of their own countries. There is no blood-letting for the great German and French banks—on the contrary, they are getting continuous and enormous transfusions.

 Why is Syriza important in the middle of this?

Syriza is not a group of dangerous “extremists.” Rather, it is bringing pragmatic common sense to clear the mess created by others. It is those who impose austerity measures who are dangerous dreamers, who think that things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. Syriza supporters are not dreamers—they are the awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. They are not destroying anything, they are reacting to a system that is gradually destroying itself.”

He goes on say why Syriza would be a credible governing alternative: 

Some have argued Syriza lacks the proper experience to govern, and this should be admitted: Yes, they lack the experience in how to bankrupt a country, in how to cheat and to steal. This brings us to the absurdity of the European establishment’s politics: They preach the dogma of paying taxes—and against Greece’s institutional corruption—and put all their hopes on the coalition of the two parties that institutionalized that corruption in the first place. The New Democracy victory was the result of a brutal campaign full of lies and scare-mongering—the politics of fear at its purest, drawing a picture of Greece with hunger, chaos and police state terror in the case of the Syriza victory.

Žižek highlights what this means:

There is an (apocryphal, for sure) anecdote about the exchange of telegrams between German and Austrian army headquarters in the middle of WWI: the Germans sent the message “Here, on our part of the front, the situation is serious, but not catastrophic,” to which the Austrians replied, “Here, the situation is catastrophic, but not serious.” This is the true difference between Syriza and others. For the others, the situation is catastrophic but not serious; they want to continue with business as usual. For Syriza, the situation is serious but not catastrophic, since courage and hope should replace fear.

Visit In These Times to read the article in full.