Source: The Guardian Unlimited
The powers that be will fight back against attempts to change the status quo, economically or globally
A decade and a half into the 21st century, we’re still living through the aftermath of two epoch-making shocks. The first was the demonstration of the limits of US power in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Iraq – the war on terror that broke the spell of invincibility of the world’s first truly global empire. The second was the financial crash of 2008 and the crisis of the western-dominated economic system it unleashed, still playing havoc with economies and lives across the world more than six years later.
That crisis will shape politics in Europe in 2015, from London to Madrid. But the impact will be felt first in Athens. The slump and stagnation that followed the crash has already fuelled the rise of the populist right. Now, after years of self-defeating austerity and falling living standards, the radical left has leapfrogged ahead to challenge for power in the most devastated eurozone economies of Greece and Spain.
It was a backlash waiting to happen. In Greece the leftwing Syriza party, which rejects the austerity enforced across the eurozone by its unelected troika, is favourite to win the snap elections called for the end of January. Syriza may have stepped back from its one-time demand for unilateral debt cancellation, its programme to boost living standards in the wake of a 1930s-style depression may be modest, and mainstream voices across Europe may also be calling for a change of direction. But Europe’s governing elites will have none of it.
Expect a ferocious campaign to terrify Greek voters, who have already been warned by the European commission’s Jean-Claude Juncker not to vote the “wrong” way. If Greeks still insist on making their own democratic choice, everything will be done to force Syriza to retreat. If all else fails, Greece will be punished for fear that others, such as Spain’s new Podemos party, might go down the same route later in the year.
The powers that be in Europe are determined to prop up a failed economic model regardless of the cost – as they will be in Britain if Labour wins the general election in May. The aftershocks of the breakdown of that neoliberal regime are still being felt across the world economy – in falling commodity prices, capital flight, stagnation and recession. But the interests that depend on it won’t let go without a serious challenge.