Not more than 24 hours ago was I here writing up a summary of the pivotal talks for the future of the Eurozone that are taking place in Brussels and now everything, or almost everything, has changed.

In the last day of almost non-stop negotiations, a already humiliated Tsipras has been dragged through the mud in an unbearable and horrendous manner. The Germans, believe it or not, have towed a harder line, completely redefining the notion of intransigence altogether, refusing and shutting down Greek propositions and pushing for harsher measures and lighting bolt reforms. Tsipras and his team of advisors went through what was dubbed by observers as a session of “mental waterboarding,” a preview of what might be in the works for the Greek people within the days to come.

The German Grexit

The most amazing turn of events was that, finally, Germany’s hidden agenda for a Greek exit from the Eurozone has surfaced in one of the four draft propositions that circulated on social media and throughout the mainstream media during the talks that lasted for a record 17 hours. The German will to precipitate and encourage the Grexit outcome is telling. The German government wants to send a strong signal and it’s nothing “personal.” It has more to do with the anti-austerity movements that are brewing throughout Europe, and not just in Greece.

Surely the German position wasn’t improvised and, unlike some have said, Merkel and her administration are not being irrational. The Germans, politicians and public, aren’t suffering from some sort of PTSD acquired during the hyperinflation crisis of the 1930s or an incommensurable will to humiliate and trample Greece. (This has been accomplished ten fold over the past five years) They are very much conscious of their program and nonchalant about its application.

Make no mistakes. This will be the Versailles Treaty of the Eurozone.

2011_Greece_Uprising
100,000 people protest against the austerity measures in front of parliament building in Athens (29 May 2011). From Wikipedia.

Restructuring of the Greek State Instead of the Greek Debt

The German program, the austerity program put forward by the German delegation among others, has one essential objective: to put the Greek people under guardianship by nullifying their voting system. The Eurogroup’s end isn’t merely to humiliate Greece, but to restructure the Greek state from the top down, leaving it devoid of any input from its own citizens.

But this restructuring goes further. The Eurogroup, which seemed to be on the defensive after the victory of the #OXI (isn’t that a far away memory?), is now demanding that Greece privatize 50 billion euros in public assets. The Greek state must become an empty shell. First, the utilities markets will have to be liberalized. But 50 billion euros means much more than an austerity-lite. The propositions the Eurogroup have put on the table call for the complete dismantlement of the Greek state and the transfer of its assets into the hands of third party management – technically a bank would run the bulk of Greece if this proposition goes through.

“There is no alternative”

The program put forward by Team Austerity is more than just the economical restructuring of Greece, it’s a way to cleanse Greek of its socialistic tendencies and of the “democratic mistake” of SYRIZA.

In a Europe where Socialist parties are the shadows of their former selves, at best lending a human face for austerity measures and at worst selling out their “working-class” constituency to legitimize deeper cuts. SYRIZA had been the first major threat against the neoliberal hegemony to have surfaced on European soil within decades, since the election of François Mitterrand in the 1980s and the implementation of the Programme Commun – which also resulted in utter failure. The neoliberal discourse has, within the past years, been shaken to its core and radical left-wing oppositions have appeared as an alternative. The German position reaffirms what Thatcher had said a few decades ago: “there is no alternative.” What German intransigence means, more than anything else, is that the reform approach of social-democratic governments with the current rapport of forces and within the Eurozone is unrealistic and has proven to be an impossible mission.

No to austerity
Anti-austerity demo in Edinburgh. 14 Feb, 2015. Photo by Digi Tailwag. Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0.

The Lineage of a New Absolutist Supranational Entity

The German proposition is using Greece to shift the current dynamic within the Eurozone. Within the past two decades, European federalism has been refused most notably in the referendum of 2005, in which both the French and Dutch electorates voted against the proposed European Constitution, thereby refusing federalism. Today, the technocratic federalism, which was rejected by the electorates in the past, is making its comeback in an astonishing way, through austerity. The dynamic of “economic integration,” the implementation of a common currency and of a common free trade zone has come to trump the democratic procedures of most member states. If this deal goes through, it’s not just Greece that must be worried, but every small European member state that has a sizeable amount of debt.

Thus the lineages of a new form of absolutist state have been formed – a state that is technically independent, but in reality completely subdued to the will of unelected lenders, bankers, and technocrats. Could it be that Greece, the cradle of western democracy, is also set to be it’s gravesite? Only time will tell.

What is to be Done?

For left-wing movements, there are many more questions than answers that arise as the final outline of yet another humiliating deal for Greece is drawn. How can there be a break with the Eurozone? How must we reform the European Union and European institutions? Is reforming this corrupt system even possible?

But most importantly, as the conversations draw to a close in Brussels, there are three points to be made about the future and the survival of socialist and social-democratic movements that refute the neoliberal stranglehold and want to challenge it:

First, Oxi, a “No” against savage neoliberalism and barbaric liberalization and privatization is possible. Sections of European society, public service workers, the youth, the unemployed, the underemployed, migrant workers, the service class and the working class are ready to be mobilized. We must take the necessary lessons from the Greek referendum and implement them broadly.

Second, the reaction against the Greek Oxi vote was international. A globalized reaction can only be met with a globalized revolt. European anti-austerity movements must organize in a transnational manner and create strong and enduring alliances amongst each other. Actions must be coordinated simultaneously. In other words, international general strikes and transnational movements must foster a strong consortium of action.

Third, we must be ready to break – but that is easier said than done. What a break means and how it is to be achieved are the primordial questions. These questions do not seem to have been drawn up on the SYRIZA planning board. The drawing of this solution might make us question the entirety of our strategic and our tactical outlook. One thing is certain, this new solution must be drawn within the context of incredible financial pressure and blackmail. Grexit or not, default or not, that will remain the case.

A luta continua.

The Eurogroup emergency meeting came to an abrupt end at 12 a.m. Brussels local time, after 9 hours of excruciating debates.  The vacuum of information caused by the Eurogroup’s closed-doors meeting fostered a twilight zone of sheer terror for some – most of the Greeks –  and patchwork of divergent rumours were abundant: that the Germans would oppose any kind of deal; that, according to a few tweets, the opposition turned into a Finnish ultimatum, and that the Grexit was finally precipitating and imminent.

Within this void, various countries’ positions formed stark opposites. Compare the eternal French “joie de vivre” and the Italian “end to humiliation” with the Finnish, German and Dutch tough-on-Greece stance. All of this underlines that, whatever the outcome of the Eurogroup talks this week, the European project has capitulated and this might merely be the visible tip of a much more profound crisis. The specter of Greece haunts Europe.

A modernization of the Greek economy? The New Greek Proposition

The proposition that the new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos tabled Thursday wasn’t in itself that different from the propositions that were deemed inacceptable by his ex-colleague Varoufakis not more than a week ago and which were also massively refused by the Greek public.

The new Greek proposal consists in its main outlines of cuts to pensions, which have already dilapidated since the onset of austerity measures in Greece, a rise in the sales tax (VAT), the progressive phasing-out of the VAT exemption for Greek islands, and the privatization of the last of the Greek public assets i.e. the port of Piraeus, which has been a point of contention.  Within the this potpourri of austerity on steroids the only silver-lining – if any –was to be found in the propositions of rising the corporate tax rate and the abolition of the exemption of taxation for ship-owners; a relic of the fascist dictatorship of colonels. These latter proposals were already turned down in previous negotiations by the Eurogroup.

Euclid Tsakolotos
Euclid Tsakolotos. Photo from Sinn Feid, Flickr CC by 2.0.

The emphasis was put on the “modernization” of Greece, by putting in place  necessary measures and adjustments to move Greece forward. This being said, drastic efforts have been put in place over the past few years to ensure that end; however the European Union has been unwilling to help with the said “modernization,” especially in terms of its financial framework, its taxation system and coming to its aid in its fight to prosecute tax evasion. The amount of Greek euros held in financial safe-havens like the London, Luxembourg and Switzerland in general, is incalculable.

Tsipras and the coup of the extreme-center

It might seem extraordinary, schizophrenic even, that, in less than a week, the Greek position, which seemed to be at the pinnacle of its power, invigorated by a crushing “Oxi” vote and the resignation of one of the main political leaders of the political opposition Antonis Samaras, capitulated to the rapacious force of the creditors. But to think anything different was failing to see the prophetic signs that those who had pillaged Greece for the past five year – some might say for decades – had any will to relinquish their hold of the Greek economy.

Thursday, as the first outlines of the new Greek proposition were tabled and the new package was put for before the Greek parliament to be voted upon, even the Greek prime minister couldn’t hide the calamity that was before Greek legislators.

Between a bad and a catastrophic choice, we are forced to choose the first […] it’s not easy but we have to,” Tsipras said. During a tense and fratricidal debate, 251 MPs, many from the ranks of the governing coalition and those of the neoliberal extreme-centre (Potami and New Democracy) voted in favour of the new proposition. Notably, Tsipras lost the foundations of his governing majority and a split within SYRIZA (of its left platform) is imminent. The anti-austerity majority rising from the still fuming victorious Oxi vote was thus transformed, within the space of a few days, into its most dreaded enemy: a reconstituted, reinvigorated, extreme centre.

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The Eurogroup meets

From financial waterboarding to financial strangling

But this “strategic retreat,” as some have dubbed it within the European left, was the obvious outcome of the negotiations from the moment ex-finance minister Varoufakis resigned amidst the elation of the crushing victory of the Oxi camp as the final votes were being counted in last weeks referendum. The stance that Tsipras took, that a strong Oxi vote was a tactical maneuver to strengthen the Greek negotiating position didn’t materialize. Instead, the hounds of austerity saw the referendum as a provocation.

The first move of the Eurogroup through the European Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) was to maintain their stranglehold on the Greek public, through withholding funds that should have enabled Greek banks to reopen within this past week. This position was no different from the ELA’s position to cut all funding to Greek financial institutions from the day the referendum was called.

Using such tactics, which have come under none or very little criticism through the European partners, as ex-finance minister Varoufakis announced the morning of the referendum, was a move with the objective of terrorizing and subduing the Greek people into voting in favour of the dictum of the Eurogroup.

With all the frenzy of a Grexit, few have noticed that Greece has been de facto under a financial embargo, which has pushed it to the fringes of the Eurozone and was a consequence of European policy and not the hidden agenda of the Greek government.

Tsipras speaks
Tsipras speaking

A symbolic death for Europe

Two dynamics have been lethal for the Greek cause within the negotiations.

First: The Eurogroup reigns supreme. Europe, having pushed its weight around, has proven that it is the only relevant instance, that its members are the real deal brokers behind the curtains, and that’s where power lies within Europe outside of the public sphere: in a place at the antipodes of democracy.

Second: the Greek referendum had a huge symbolic importance but unfortunately not much more than that. The Oxi of 61% of Greeks within the current framework of the European Union is only binding to those that care for the notions of democracy and popular sovereignty. Those notions are alien to the Schäubles and Dijsselbloems of this world.

Many have stated the cataclysmic consequences of a Grexit for Greece, but little have measured the consequences this entire process has had on the future of the European project. While making his way through the hoards of journalists awaiting some newsworthy shred of information, Dijsselbloems stated that it was “still very difficult because of the lack of confidence that reigns between lenders and the Greek government.”

The European institutions have proven right – some would say once again – the Eurosceptics in their view that the EU has a complete disregard for the democratic will of the peoples it supposedly represents. The distrust between the peoples of Europe and the European institution has taken various forms. “Fascistoid” and xenophobic political formations have capitalized on this lack of confidence. The EU that sought to “modernize” Greece is in need of a profound “modernization” itself, which is why, today, the downfall of Greece might not necessarily mean the downfall of the EU. However, for the sake of a brighter future, it must mean its demise.

As Zoe Kostantopoulou said addressing the Greek parliament, “The No of the Greek people stands above us all.” “No”s in more languages than one will come in future and that’s the specter that haunts Europe.

As Greece rejoiced with the victory of SYRIZA, a coalition of “radical” left-wing parties ranging from Maoists to Trotskyists to everything in between, calling it the annunciation of the end of the terrifying reign of austerity, the most impoverished Venezuelans were ransacking grocery stories in the hopes that they would stock-up just enough to sustain themselves through the next neo-liberal heist. Meanwhile, Argentinians were holding up the floodgates withstanding as much as they could the latest economical onslaught sponsored by Wall Street hedge funds.

Even though the glowing hope emanating from Athens might have seemed contagious on the evening of January 25th, one red-string of flowing open arteries, the catastrophic aftermath of an attempted neo-liberal suicide, ran through Buenos Aires, Caracas and Athens, bonding them together. It seems as though the “war on terror” is a perfect distraction from the “war of terror” that the free world is waging against the democratic aspirations of people throughout the globe. Here illustrated are three contemporary examples: Greece, Venezuela and Argentina. This obviously isn’t an exhaustive study of all of the cases.

Greece Fights Back

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The electoral success of SYRIZA, even though a foreseen outcome, sent an electro-shock throughout the European continent. It was the proof that what had been deemed as dangerous, radical and suicidal could actually work. A program that was deemed to be the annunciation of the apocalypse, a program that dared to put human development over debt reduction and paying off interest, could actually be a winning motion!

“Scandalous” and “outrageous” must of been the first words to come to mind at the hedge-funds, the European Central Bank (ECB) and among Srasbourg technocrats when news of SYRIZA’s overwhelming victory hit. For the first few days, many within the mainstream media were under the illusion that somehow SYRIZA’s radical demands could be tamed. The strategy of containment that was prevalent for the past year, since the neo-liberal forces in Greece had started faltering, was at its apogee: “SYRIZA’s now in government will come to see the light, they will understand the logic of austerity, why austerity is necessary.”

And for the first week of SYRIZA governance, many on the left had that fear; the fear that SYRIZA under piling pressure might fall on their own sword, might be a victim, as are so many, of their own failed dreams. But they haven’t and it looks as if the coalition government lead by SYRIZA will stop at no lengths to bury once and for all the Troika. The first bombs, the first economical terrorist attacks to destabilize the newly elected government have landed on the Greek capital.

The War on Venezuela’s Poor

During that time while the world was engulfed in their war against terror a.k.a the war against ISIS, the “free world” of free markets and free trade was waging a war of terror. In Caracas, the war against the Bolivarian revolution was initiated (in the same manner the war against SYRIZA) on the night of Hugo Chavez’s election. Since Hugo Chavez’s death and the ascension of Maduro, his dauphin, to power, domestic neo-liberal elites with the help of their CIA foreign counterparts have declared an all out war on the most impoverished sections of the Venezuelan population.

Those who have directly benefited the most from the social transformation that started with the Bolivarian revolution and those who have been at the avant-garde of the social transformations are now under attack. For the past year, inflation has been soaring, stock markets such as Wall Street have been carpet bombing the Venezuelan domestic market and multinational corporations have been withholding basic goods in an attempt to make prices soar and turn the most in need against the government.

Argentina’s Debt Crisis

What is going on in Caracas is very similar to what happened in Argentina during their “debt-crisis”, their refusal to pay back a debt that was forced upon them by the IMF, the World Bank and their puppets within the Argentine military junta. Weren’t those the days, when neo-liberal austerity measures could be imposed with lethal force!

In Argentina’s case a vulture fund had set Argentina in its cross-hairs, buying its unsolvable debt knowing full well that Argentina had no intention to pay it. They set about strangling and bombarding the country in every economical sense of the term, until it did!

Argentina has withstood the economic assaults that have been made against it, for the time being, but its people have also paid the price. Cuba wasn’t the only country under embargo in Latin America from 1998 to 2002, Argentina, even though no media would report it, was defacto under economic embargo. Argentina, in many ways, had to go into autarky mode for the past few years, because of the pariah label that has been given to the country by the big institutions of deregulation, the IMF, the WTO, the World Bank. That’s the price to pay, I guess, for being counter current.

Austerity’s Self-Destruction

And this is why SYRIZA’s victory is truly groundbreaking, because the pariahs are making inroads into the epicenter of global capitalism. Like a gregarious disease, neo-liberalism and its ultimate and most violent form austerity, have bread the seeds of their own self-destruction. Within this self-destruction comes the opportunity, through revolt, to refute the system of values and principles and to rebuild, to change the behavior, to change the foundations of society.

Oedipus, in the words of Gilles Deleuze, is the norm, society, capitalism breeds schizophrenia, breeds suicidal tendencies, but beyond that codifies them and normifies them. Thus austerity becomes the norm. Anything outside of the box of austerity is radical and dangerous, even though the only thing in the world that is radical today is the radically limitless ascension of greed in every sphere of public life.

In these times of economic terrorism we must stand with those that have refuted the norm. To create a new norm, we must bond with them. Capitalism and austerity validity are the first and foremost mental blocks. The converts of radical capitalism are a zealous bunch and are growing at a rapid pace, the threat of neo-liberalization is eminent. If we we want to win the war against terror we must end the capitalist war of terror first!