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15 February 2015
“Voters are the eurozone’s weakest link.”
A headline in London’s Financial Times over an article on Greece by foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman on 30 December 2014.
“I think that the Greeks…know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the eurozone,” said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, according to an article by columnist Owen Jones in the London Guardian a few days earlier on 22 December 2014. “I wouldn’t like extreme forces to come to power.” Juncker said later that he hoped that the “old familiar faces” – i.e. those of the incumbent New Democracy party – would be re-elected in the event of an early election in Greece.
“We don’t change policies depending on elections.”
Thus Jyrki Katainen, a vice-president of the European Commmisson and Finnish Prime Minister from 2011 to 2014, in the London Guardian on 4 February 2015.
Katainen was reacting to the result of the parliamentary elections in Greece on 25 January 2015, which ousted the biddable euro-conformist New Democracy party that had accepted bail-out loans from the EU and the IMF in exchange for slash-and-burn public spending cuts. New Democracy was turfed out by the left-leaning Syriza party opposed to continued austerity.
Ian Traynor, the Guardian’s Europe editor, commented: “In other words, governments may come and go, but the policies remain the same.”
Katainen is not alone. The EU’s pay-master Germany as well as Holland, Austria and Spain take the same hard-line: the Greeks have drawn down the bulk of the loans – a total of about €240 billion – so Athens must stick to the Spartan conditions attached.
In a flagrant contradiction in terms, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said that his country will “fully respect the mandate” handed to Syriza by the Greek electorate but that the new government must abide by the terms of the bail-out loan agreed by its predecessor New Democracy.
Similar remarks have been attributed to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Holland’s finance minister, who is a member of the Dutch Labour Party and president of the 19-national single-currency eurozone group (to which Greece belongs) within the EU.
Luis de Guindos, the Spanish finance minister, has gone further and called for the repayment of Spain’s contribution to the bail-out if Greece does not respect the draconian conditions attached when it was granted.
French Prime Minister François Hollande, a member of the Socialist Party, who had been expected to take a more lenient line, has been quoted in the French newspaper Le Monde as saying that “governments must respect the commitments into which they have entered”.
There is a simple explanation for the paradox that EU governments are bending over backwards to say that they respect the result of democratic elections – well, what else could they say, never failing to remind less enlightened nations elsewhere, as they consistently do, that Europe is the home and fountainhead of democracy? – while at the same time insisting that the victors repudiate the platform on the basis of which their voters elected them.
The explanation – disclosed exclusively to readers of Antigone1984, given that, unsurprisingly, there is no mention of it anywhere in the orthodox mainstream media – is the prevalence of partitocracy, which has supplanted democracy in reality throughout Europe, the United States and elsewhere, the name democracy alone being retained for public relations reasons.
What is partitocracy?
For an answer readers could do worse than check out our seminal article on the subject ( Partitocracy v. Democracy ) published on 20 July 2012.
Here, in any case, are some key extracts:
Democracy is a word derived from Greek meaning “rule by the people”.
By this definition, however, western so-called democracies are not in fact democracies. They are partitocracies.
Partitocracy means “rule by political parties”.
In the so-called western democracies, there are normally two major political parties, both of them fully committed to the market economy. Normally, one of these parties holds power for a time during which it implements market-favourable policies involving austerity for the population at large. At the next election, the party in power, which has become unpopular because of its austerity policies, is succeeded by the other party, whose popularity has not decreased since it was not the party which had implemented the austerity measures. That second party then goes on to impose on the population precisely the same austerity measures as its predecessor. At the succeeding election, its resultant unpopularity forces it to give way to the first party. And so it goes on. The two parties, which have virtually the same policies, alternate in office. The party elite on both sides is reasonably happy with this system since it means that each of the parties has its turn in office. The people, moreover, has no realistic alternative but to vote for one or other party. Thus, since the parties have virtually identical programmes, the people has no opportunity to vote for change….
A further problem is the historic sell-out of principle by the world’s socialist parties. These parties retain their socialist moniker in order to hoodwink gullible supporters into thinking that they support socialism, whereas in reality they have gone over to the other side. All the western socialist parties are today capitalist parties. In substance but not in name, they differ in no respect from the capitalism parties of the right. They have betrayed their birthright for a mess of potage – occasional investiture with the trappings, but not the reality, of power. The reality of power remains firmly at all times in the hands of the corporations and businesses to which all political parties now do slavish obeisance. For this reason, we believe that the western socialist parties, together with their lackeys in one-time radical trade unions, are a greater impediment to political change than the conservative parties. At least with the conservative parties we know that they are our enemies. They make no bones about it. The socialist parties by contrast are snakes in the grass. They pretend to be other than what they are. As a result, they con a great many unsophisticated electors into voting for them in the mistaken belief that they remain the progressive parties of their origins, that they still represent the interests of the downtrodden and the common man. It is the Big Lie of contemporary politics. The socialist parties of today are traitors to the cause. They are the Judas Iscariots of our time. In exchange for their 30 pieces of silver, they have betrayed every ideal of socialism. [These turncoats have] made a Faustian pact with the representatives of Capital…
What will in fact happen [in the foreseeable future]? Our crystal ball indicates that we shall have more of the same. The status quo will continue. As we have explained above, the virtually invariable alternation in power of two parties with virtually identical policies means that no significant political change is possible in western societies. The political system has been deliberately designed to eliminate the possibility of change – while at the same time using spin doctors and advertising to give the totally fallacious impression that the alternation in power of differently named political parties does in fact represent change. As has often been said, “if voting changed anything, it wouldn’t be allowed”.
What has this to do with the current situation in Greece?
As we have explained above, the normal result of an election is that either the party (or coalition of parties) in power is re-elected and pursues the same policies that it pursued before the election or a different party (or coalition of parties) is election but one which continues to pursue the same policies as those implemented by its defeated predecessor.
It is the first of these two scenarios on which the Eurocrats were (literally) banking as the hoped-for outcome of the Greek ballot on 25 January 2015. The election of another party (or coalition of parties) with the same political stance as the incumbent party would also have been acceptable. However, unfortunately for the euro-establishment and contrary to the normal course of events in our self-styled western democracies, no such party was within shouting distance of winning the election. So all euro-bets were placed on the incumbent horse. Had New Democracy won the election in Greece, the status quo would have been preserved and government policy would have continued unchanged as if no election had taken place. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” is the motto of the western bureau-democrat.
In the Greek case, the bail-out programme would have continued and so would the accompanying austerity.
However, it was not to be.
In a rare triumph of popular democracy – the exception which proves the rule – all the threats and blandishments of the establishment failed and the voters elected a non-establishment party with an alternative platform based on taking a knife to austerity.
Cue weeping and gnashing of teeth from the bunkers of Berlin to the ivory towers of Brussels and the IMF gnomeland on the banks of the Potomac.
These guys are used to getting their own way – and when they don’t get it, they don’t like it – big time!
The Syriza government now in power in Syntagma Square was elected to pursue policies significantly at variance with those of the preceding government.
It now wants to put those policies into practice.
And this is where it gets surreal.
“No you don’t”, shouts the establishment. “You must put into practice the policies of the previous government that was defeated at the hustings.”
Such are their instructions to Syriza.
In a democracy, are electors allowed only to vote for the status quo?
If they back the “wrong” horse and the “wrong” horse wins, is the result to be regarded as null and void?
Indeed, one might ask, if voters are not allowed to vote for change, what is the point of voting at all?
Such is the sorry state of western democracy today.
Some 2 500 years ago in 462 BC the people’s tribune Ephialtes wrenched power from the oligarchical council of elder statesmen and old freddies that met on the Areopagus hill in Athens and transferred them to new-fangled democratic institutions: popular courts, elected councillors and an assembly of all citizens that met on the fan-shaped Pnyx plateau nearby overlooking the city.
Athens, then as now the leading city of Greece, became thereby the birthplace and crucible of western democracy.
Has it all been in vain?
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
- Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
- Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
- The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
- Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- Ladder (21 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
- Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.