The Greek tragedy continues. Greece remains in depression. The economic downturn began in 2008 and the economy has shrunk every year since, with the exception of 2014. Although millions are suffering from poverty, the Greek government has continued to make its debt payments, first to foreign banks and now to the Troika. This pairing is the result of two huge loans by Troika institutions in exchange for the imposition of fierce austerity policies.
The Greek people have refused to quietly accept the unraveling of their society. According to the Greek police, there were 27,103 protests and rallies in Athens alone between 2011 and 2015. The number of rallies attended by more than 1,000 people were 61 in 2012, 72 in 2013, 58 in 2014 and 72 in 2015. Knowing the reliability of police record keeping, these are likely undercounts.
Despite popular resistance, a commitment to more austerity in exchange for yet more debt was recently approved by the Greek parliament. It includes new cuts to pensions, increases in required social security contributions, and higher personal and business taxes. Tragically, the current agreement was negotiated by Syriza, the political party elected in January 2015 on the basis of its commitment to end the austerity and renegotiate the country’s foreign debt.
I recently published an article in the journal Class, Race, and Corporate Power which attempts to explain the forces driving Greece’s economic crisis and the failure of Syriza to fulfill its promises. The abstract is below. The article can be accessed for free here, on the journal’s webpage.
With its 2015 electoral victory in Greece, Syriza became the first left political party to lead a European government since the founding of the European Union. As such, its eventual capitulation to the demands of the Troika was a bitter development, and not only for the people of Greece. Because the need for change remains as great as ever, and efforts at electoral-based transformations continue, especially in Europe, this paper seeks to assess the Greek experience, and in particular Syriza’s political options and choices, in order to help activists more effectively respond to the challenges faced when confronting capitalist power.
Section 1 examines how Greece’s membership in the euro area promoted an increasingly fragile and unsustainable economic expansion over the period 2001 to 2007. Section 2 discusses the role of the Troika in Greece’s 2008 to 2014 downward spiral into depression. Section 3 discusses the ways in which popular Greek resistance to their country’s crisis helped to shape and nourish Syriza as a new type of left political organization, “a mass connective party.” Section 4 critically analyzes the Syriza-led government’s political choices, highlighting alternative policies not chosen that might have helped the government break the Troika’s strangle hold over the Greek economy and further radicalize the Greek population. Section 5 concludes with a presentation of five lessons from the Greek experience of relevance for future struggles.