Oxi to austerity, nein to the far-right
Tuesday 7th July 2015
While many progressives are celebrating the courageous Greek vote against the banking elite, VICTOR GROSSMAN warns of a worrying new development within the German far-right Alternative fur Deutschland party
For some Greece may seem distant and marginal, a few narrow peninsulas and scattered archipelagos jutting out of the sea. Some may vaguely recall school knowledge about it. “Didn’t some fellow named Prometheus steal fire from the gods? Or was it Alexander the Great untying some ‘Gordian knot’? Or a Hercules who fought a lion and cleaned out filthy stalls?”
But Greece is not marginal now. Stolen fire today is the political kind, the metaphorical lion needing to be conquered is snarling in Berlin and Brussels. And while there are still plenty of stalls to be cleansed, inside and outside the country, the huge knot, once easily untied with a stroke of Alexander’s sword, is today a very tangled barrier with a more than uncertain future.
One thing is not uncertain — the Sunday referendum in Greece, with an amazing turnout of 62.5 per cent, saw an equally amazing 61.31 per cent of the voters choosing Oxi, which means No. This courageous vote hit usually smug politicians and bankers so hard you could almost hear their teeth rattle — or gnash — in well-appointed cabinet rooms from Berlin’s Tiergarten to the Palais de l’Elysee, and oak-panelled bank executive offices in skyscrapers high over Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.
These harsh demands for austerity, most ardently voiced by Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, were aimed primarily at enriching Germany’s finance and industry and strengthening its leadership position in all Europe and beyond, with the aid of any other European Union politicians who could be bought or browbeaten. Sometimes these endeavours collided with ambitions of the US-centred banks and corporations, which were willing to leave much of Europe to their German buddies, but had their own ambitions in areas like Ukraine, the Near East and Africa and close allies at the top in one-time communist countries like Poland and the Baltic mini-states.
But all could agree on one basic aim — progressive governments with the well-being of their non-wealthy citizens at heart, which required paring the billion-size incomes of the giants, were not to be tolerated. Above all, they were not to be permitted to prosper and serve as models.
This policy, tragically pursued back in the 1930s in the Spanish civil war, has been US foreign policy for years. Indeed, for well over a century. It was sharply demonstrated in Latin America, with invasions of Guatemala, Cuba and Grenada, putsches or putsch attempts as in Chile, and current efforts to undermine or overthrow undesired governments in Venezuela or Ecuador and buy out some of the others. But in Europe, for Germany, this meant Greece.
If rebellious Greece could reject the miserable conditions imposed on it by the financial powers that be, then who knows? The people of Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy could learn some lessons and take some cues. This must be prevented by all possible means.
A first upset was the victory of Syriza in the January elections. Since then everything possible was done to defeat progress there and either force Syriza to surrender or split the population and then depose it. When Syriza made its daring decision to risk its survival by calling a referendum, all stops were pulled. Europe’s prominent leaders warned of the dire consequences which they threatened might mean that Greece would have to give up the treasured euro and stand alone.
The Greek people’s answer was a slap in the face for all of them, including, sadly, leaders of the Social Democratic Party like Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. Now they are all hysterically rushing from Berlin and Paris to Brussels to decide whether to sacrifice prestige and face up to dealing with Greek representatives who now have a big popular majority behind them, or to play it tough, let the Greeks, already hungry and poor after five years of pre-Syriza deceit, now sink into even worse poverty, which would risk tearing a first fissure in the euro currency structure, Merkel’s legacy.
And who knows, maybe those oh-so-stubborn Greeks might just possibly manage to cut through that knot, beat the snarling lion, clean the stables — and save their bold fire as a flare for brothers and sisters in other countries.
A gargoyle of a different kind — but not fully unrelated — raised its ugly head in the city of Essen this same weekend. It could also gain new importance — in a very negative way.
The Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) was founded as a party in 2013 to oppose, from the right, both the European Union and the euro. Its main leader, Bernd Lucke, 52, was an economics professor best known for opposing higher wages for working people.
But the party’s main attraction soon became its opposition to foreigners, especially immigrants, asylum-seekers and all “Islamists” — in other words, people of Muslim belief from Turkey, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine or northern Africa. As the party began to split between Lucke’s far-right policies and the ultra-far-right policies of his opponents, Lucke aimed at ending the party’s rule per trio by becoming its solo boss.
But in Essen the tables were turned — the extreme far-right not only chose instead the very ultra-right Dresden chemist Frauke Petry, 40, as new boss but booed Lucke from the podium and cut off the microphone when he tried to defend his position. She smilingly rejects same-sex marriage and wants to limit abortions. He, like other less extremist leaders, will probably quit the party. Indeed, he may have to.
A big question remains — will the party lose or gain members as a result? The polls show it hovering between 4 and 6 per cent. If it overcomes the 5 per cent barrier in 2017 it will get seats and a voice in the next Bundestag, and while it cannot now be defined as a neonazi party it is not all that far from it and could attract the extremists in Pegida, the National Democratic Party and other far-right groups.
Far-right groups are definitely on the rise, from the Rhone valley in France to Skagerrak beaches in Scandinavia, their rabid mobs looking for trouble in Dresden, Budapest, Vienna. Progressives, in Greece and elsewhere, are marching and demonstrating where they can, hoping their — as yet figurative — barricades will hold. No Emperor Alexander is desired, though a Prometheus or a democratic Hercules might perhaps be welcome. But the Titan really needed in the years ahead is a combined force of determined people overcoming all divisions of nationality, age, sex, orientation, language, religion or colour.
Here and there we have seen potential strength, most recently in Berlin, Frankfurt and other European cities with countless signs saying Oxi, No! Such emulation of the courageous Greek people means No to repression and austerity but Yes to many vitally needed goals, beginning with decent jobs. These signals need to multiply — they are our hope.
Martin Schulz has blatantly lied and threatened the Greek people trying to persuade a nation to vote Yes in the 5th July referendum. This is unacceptable behaviour of the president of the European Parliament. Investigations are demanded whether this is either legal and/or ethically correct: petition here.