Greece and the Death of Democracy, Economics and Civility

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Greece and the Death of Democracy, Economics and Civility

(Photo: European Union 2015/European Parliament/flickr)

Irrespective of whether it was total capitulation, there are already a multitude of analyses trying to decipher what (and how) exactly happened in Greece and whether it could have been avoided. Countless opinions will be offered as to who is to blame.

My sense is that this Greek tragedy could not have been avoided no matter the level of strategy involved: what was supposed to happen, happened exactly the way it was supposed to. The truth is, it was unavoidable and the one lesson we learned was that the power of finance trumps democracy, every time. What the Left now need to do is determine how to reverse this, which is not an easy thing to do. After all, the whole purpose of the Occupy movement is to do just that. So the Left has a lot of soul-searching to do.

So we know that democracy does not work, but we also learned that economics had nothing to do with this as well. There was a quasi-unanimous opposition from economists warning against the imposition of more austerity and the inevitable failure in which it will eventually result. Stiglitz, Krugman, Piketty, Wren-Lewis, Sachs, to name but a few, all condemning the actions, all warning that this was bad economics. But in the end, even this did very little to stem the ideological penchant toward imposing more austerity.

Finally, we realize that international diplomacy and civility failed miserably. Germany was never prepared to lead, but rather to crush -- crush the will and democratic expression of a people, at all costs. As a result, the European dream is dead: there is no Europe, just the German will to dominate. After this, who will dare to oppose Germany? In a sense, this was the objective all the time: beware of dissent, we will not tolerate it and will threaten to crush your economy if you dare to raise your voice. This is the new European zeitgeist.

I am not saying this out of any sense of anger, malice or disgust (although I am angry, and disgusted), but rather from a cool, rational place. One only need to read any of the major newspapers in the world today to realize the quasi-unanimous condemnation of how Germany fucked Greece. Perhaps not a poetic way of saying it, but any other way would have failed to convey the real sense of what happened. In Canada, the Globe and Mail in its editorial on July 14, stated that Europe is no longer a currency union but that it revealed itself to be an "opportunity or blackmail": disagree with Germany and we will throw you out. The Guardian (July 14) compared Europe to a war zone with "wreckage everywhere." Social media was trending with the hashtag #ThisIsACoup.

Yet, a number of realities were made apparent through this humiliation.

First, when your opponents play dirty, you must be prepared to play dirty as well. Tsipas was a bit naïve in this, thinking for some reason that democracy could trump the power of the elites. It never stood a chance. Of course, it did not help that they had ruled out a grexit from the beginning and that in that sense, had told their opponents in essence that they were not prepared to play dirty. So the fix was in. Germany and the Troika knew this and simply waited. Tsipas tiptoed on the line of dirtiness when he allowed Greece to default, albeit briefly, but backed away when the ECB squeezed the Greek banks.

It is not certain what the impact will be on the Left in Europe. In a sense, I think it may empower the Left and activists. It will be interesting to see how this affects Podemos in Spain. Will "people power" fall into line or dare to rise up again, and this time more determined to stand up to Germany? Time will tell, but one thing is clear, Europe RIP.

Louis-Philippe Rochon

Louis-Philippe Rochon is associate professor of economics at Laurentian University and founding co-editor of the Review of Keynesian Economics. Follow him on Twitter @Lprochon

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