Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Spectacular Failure of Syriza

The Associated Press has a succinct roundup of Syriza's abject failure in "Greece Gets First Batch of New Bailout Loans, Avoids Default," while the Gray Lady's Alison Smale provides a lifeless puff piece, "An Architect of the Latest Greek Bailout Navigates Germany’s Dual Roles," on Germany's victorious finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Syriza's capitulation is complete now that the third bailout agreement has been finalized and the money from the creditors to the creditors is starting to flow. Nothing has changed, as the AP story makes clear. The chairs on the Titanic have been rearranged:
ATHENS, Greece — Greece received the first 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) from its new bailout package on Thursday, allowing it to pay a debt of 3.2 billion euros to the European Central Bank and avoid a messy default.
Greece could not have afforded Thursday's debt repayment, which was confirmed by the debt management agency, without the rescue funds from 18 other European nations that share the euro currency. Missing the payment would have raised new questions about the country's ability to remain in the euro.
European bailout fund supervisors approved the release of the first batch of loans on Wednesday evening. Twelve billion euros are earmarked for repaying debts and the remainder for settling arrears to public sector suppliers.
The new three-year bailout package — Greece's third bailout in little more than five years — is worth a total of 86 billion euros ($96 billion), and the gradual disbursement of funds depends on the Greek government implementing a series of reforms, including steep tax hikes and spending cuts.
Accepting the conditions was a major reversal of policy for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the coalition government between his radical left Syriza party and the small nationalist Independent Greeks. It has cost him a major rebellion within Syriza that threatens to split the party and could lead to an early election as soon as next month.
Tsipras has been contemplating his options after a parliament vote to approve the bailout conditions led to dozens of his own party lawmakers voting against him. Among the options being discussed are for him to call a vote of confidence in his government or to call an early election outright, potentially in September.
The government has said its main priority was to secure the bailout funding and to repay the ECB loan on Thursday, after which it would announce any further action.
The prime minister was holding meetings with his ministers, and there was speculation an announcement could come as soon as Thursday afternoon.
The political uncertainty took its toll on the market, with the Athens Stock Exchange down 2.8 percent in early afternoon trading.
Tsipras won general elections in January on promises to repeal similar austerity measures attached to Greece's two previous bailouts. But he has said accepting creditor demands for yet more reforms was the only way to ensure his country remains in the eurozone, which opinion polls have shown the vast majority of his population wants.
Hardliners within his party have accused him of capitulating to unreasonable demands that will plunge the Greek economy further into recession.
Hopefully Tsipras will be tossed from power. The dominant neoliberal paradigm survives because politicians say one thing to the electorate -- promising to tax the super-rich and invest money in social programs; economic justice, basically -- and then when they govern they refuse to do what they were elected to do. Tsipras is a prime example. Obama is another. It also explains why Hillary Clinton has a lot of name recognition but very shallow support. Voters know what they are going to get -- a lot of articulate remedies delivered at campaign events, but nothing or next to nothing once on the throne. It is why there has been a Trump boom. His pandering seems to have ruptured the conventional boundaries of neoliberal discourse. Trump is critical of free trade and by demonizing immigrants he is trying to frack what is left in the played-out well of white backlash. Maybe Greece will lurch rightward in a Trumpist direction after Syriza's spectacular failure.

Whither the dialectic? Can the dialectic, the engine of history, be stemmed? That is what we are seeing in our present history. The rulers are refusing to budge. They are trying to roll back the tide, whether it is the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street or Syriza. Neoliberalism will out.

The 2011 Arab Spring has been, at least temporarily, successfully subverted at the cost of destroying the Sykes-Picot Middle East. Instead of an efflorescence of democracy, the region now has a caliphate which has re-legalized slavery.

Occupy Wall Street was successfully razed and then co-opted by Obama 2012. But Obama in his second term was quickly a disappointment. By 2013 the faithful were deserting en masse.

Syriza following its election victory in January became the vehicle for change. Instead, it ended up implementing neoliberal austerity. More of the same, even though the people voiced support to break free of the paradigm in the historic "Oxi" vote.

The hubris of the power brokers is the belief that history can be mastered, toyed with, subverted -- that neoliberalism can be maintained, despite enormous costs, with a tweak here and there.

But it cannot.

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