A Greek Referendum on Austerity, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

greek referendum

We are now entering the terminal stage of austerity, a disease whose symptoms are most acute and visible in Greece. Within the past few weeks, a macabre cortege of politicians, economists, bureaucrats and technocrats have tried in every way possible to asphyxiate any sign of recovery and nullify any sentiment of hope and optimism within the Greek people. The degenerate disease has spread to such a degree that even the antibodies, the last democratic pulsations, ultimate rampart of health, attempting to salvage a thread of dignity within a sea of humiliation, have been declared by the prognostics of the charlatans of high-finance as viruses that must be eliminated.

Today as Greeks turn to the polls, with the ponderous task of breaking with the dictum of austerity, never has the real purpose of such an ideology been as clear. No matter what the outcome of the Sunday referendum vote might be, the process in itself has already accomplished a great deed, that of debunking the mysticism of austerity.

It’s like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Only the technicians of austerity think that their rhetorical verses still charm, when in fact the rhetoric of austerity is naked.

In the past week, the incompatibility of the democratic process with austerity was once again unveiled for all to see. First there were the calls from the European elite that a referendum was unreasonable.Then there were direct calls for regime change.

It has been a understood rule, since the onset of the 2008 crisis, that austerity and democracy don’t mesh, that austerity is fundamentally incompatible with democratic proceedings and the two are mutually exclusive. Through the intransigent stance of the Eurogroup, i.e the Troika, austerity has revealed itself to be more of a means than an end.

The Greek Crisis, the imposing of austerity by the world financial institutions, has never been about “debt” or the extreme moral necessity of repayment for the well-being of the global financial system. Austerity in itself is void, it services a specific purpose: creating a rhetorical and moral leverage for the restructuring of the societies in which it’s applied.

Austerity in Greece isn’t merely an economic doctrine, serving a specific economic purpose, but a means to justify the usurping of democracy, the transfer of the common wealth into the private sector through privatizations, the militarization of police forces and socially conservatives policies in the name of budget priorities and adjustments.  Austerity is an ideology as per the premise of The Fourth Revolution written by Woolderidge & Micklethwait as a “restructuring of the state,” not a downsizing of it.

As Lenin analysed the world of 1917, he concluded that imperialism was the highest form of capitalism, its final stage in many ways. Lenin identified that imperialism was a by-product of capitalism, that it could only exist as an ideology as an extension, as a rhetorical tool at the service of capitalism, of the “liberalization” of the markets i.e the forced creation of new markets through capitalism.

Within the analytical framework put forward by Lenin, ideologies that appear to be situated outside of capitalism such as nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, are actually fundamentally integrated into the capitalist dynamic. At the time (just like today), imperialism was an ideology that mobilized a humanist rhetoric to justify its utter brutality. The commercial and financial elites of the time used the Gun Boat Policy and delusional humanistic principles of the burden of the white man to subjugate and exploit most of the world.

What imperialism was for capitalism yesterday, austerity is for capitalism today. The so-called “need to civilize” of the time is called “the need to balance budgets” today.

Austerity is the highest form of capitalism we know today, a sort of necrophilic vampirism, an ideology that promotes capitalism in its purest form. But “purity” entails fragility.

At this point, given the current disposition of forces, the current rapport of forces, the Greek referendum appears as the shattering moment of this porcelain ideology. The victory of the OXI camp would call into question the legitimacy of the moral premises of austerity. Austerity as an ideology, such as imperialism, only exists because of the belief that people give to the moral premises that lay at its foundation.

The Greek people have the awesome opportunity to shatter the glass castle of austerity. But all in all, it’s only a matter of time until people see through the mirage. In that light, we can found a new moral foundation in which people trump profit.

* Featured image by Ggia via WikiMedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

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