Despite the fact that it is impossible to predict how soon the votes will result in changes in actual policy, May 6 was a good start for Greeks, for the French and for all the European people to be able to react.
The European Spring
“If you can’t find spring you make it,” wrote surrealist poet Odysseas Elytis, the leading Greek poet of his generation and a Nobel Prize winner. The month of May is the heart of spring, even though EU bureaucrats might not feel it yet in cold and sun-less Brussels. Yet May 2012 may be the beginning of the “European Spring,” as revolt against austerity is sweeping Europe.
Hollande’s victory in France and Tsipras’s success has helped drive home the message that Europeans have had it with austerity. Europe’s political elite, including Europe’s boss, Ms. Merkel, know even though they don’t and won’t admit it, that both elections were referendums on European economic strategy. The collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, Europe is admitting that austerity is simply not working.The tectonic plates of the EU are moving. This is why we see the tragic, farcical and simply depressing construction of the current power system on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Eurozone’s problem child is not the problem anymore
The financial crisis has broken the illusion of stability, the cracks in the concrete of the Eurozone are gaping. It’s not Greece-Eurozone’s problem child anymore. It’s about Portugal and Spain, Ireland and Italy even France. From the Netherlands to Romania, governments are falling under the weight of cuts and tax increases required by the Eurozone’s new permanent deflation treaty. Francois Hollande’s victory and his rejection of the fiscal pact is (hopefully) the first defeat of the policies Merkel and the miserable EU technocrats have forced on the European people. Hollande’s election has not only opened up the chance of a change of direction in France. His elections, given that he will keep his promises, will mark a whole new era for th EU.
European voters everywhere are turning against the elites that have managed most of the continent for the last few decades. The reason is simple. They realized that Greece isn’t the problem. The real structural problem is in the EU’s political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. This is the reason why the Portuguese, the Irish, the Italians even the French, suffer. A whole continent, including superpowers like France and Italy have been turned into Germany’s “Yes” man. This is what the Greek and the French voters realized last Sunday, and with their vote they tried to shout to Brussels that they woke up and they are determined to find the key to economic recovery, which means finding a way to get past that minority’s malign influence.
Almost 70 years after World War II, we are right back where we started. Germany clearly is Europe’s boss. Merkel seems rather upset with the Greek and the French voters.How dare the French and Greeks reject a failed strategy!
The day before the Greek elections, the German finance minister issued a shameful threat to Greeks, saying that they must honor their commitments or “take the consequences.” It isn’t clear yet what those consequences will be but then again, with the suicide and homelesness rates having doubled in a year, what Greeks have now clearly isn’t working either. Any logical person understands that terrorizing Greeks and then the Spanish, the Portuguese and so on to accept the Troika demands, with the dilemma “Support anti-social measures or Greece will default” can’t last forever.
Alexis Tsipras: a leftist in power
Tsipras managed to form a very basic program — opposition to the EU/IMF measures, redistribution of wealth, a restoration of welfare rights—that much of the broad left opposition to austerity could sign up to. And if his scenario plays out, expect Spain, Portugal, and Ireland to be watching what happens closely. France enters into such re-negotiations as one of the big kids on the block.
There is real suffering in the European south and legitimate questions over the purpose and the methods of austerity programs. Europe is now set for a debate over the balance between growth and austerity in meeting the debt crisis, and Greece must do its part and reform so as to be in a position to benefit.
Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s rising political star has a unique opportunity to initiate a European revolution against austerity. However, before he starts his revolution in Brussels, he has to start reforming his own country and make all those who created the crisis take responsibility for their actions. Other than PASOK and ND politicians, he must finally deal with the civil servants who took bribes to do their jobs, the businesses that ran in closed shops that they staunchly defended, the middle class that exploited cheap migrant labor and the unions who looted state utilities. Taking out their rage on the political class is easy and cost free, yet if the mentality of the Greek people doesn’t change, Tsipras will only have achieved one thing: taking Greece out of the Euro.