While the wealthiest 85 individuals on the planet own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population – and when the top 1% will soon own more wealth than the bottom 99% – the people of Greece and the anti-austerity party, Syriza, they elected to lead them are struggling to rebuild their economy so that ordinary people there can live with a shred of dignity and security.
But powerful international interests are putting the pro-growth, pro-worker experiment in progressive democracy currently underway in grave danger.
Greece is on the verge of leaving the Eurozone rather than accept a continuation of the reduced government spending measures imposed on it by the union’s other 18 members in exchange for a credit package that expires at the end of February; talks in Brussels broke down on Monday after the Syriza negotiators refused to break the party’s promises to the Greek people by accepting more punishing austerity. The German government, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) all seem intent on bringing the new government to heel, regardless of the people for whom German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble claims to feel sorry.
The real concern, apparently, is that democracy may go too far for austerity advocates to continue imposing their economic ideology from a distance: in Spain, Portugal, Finland and elsewhere, the patience of citizens is wearing thin as a growing number of them awaken to the stark reality that, while the very rich get much richer, the austerity programs their governments dutifully implemented are the cause rather than the cure for what ails their economies.
If Syriza succeeds in rolling back the EU-mandated measures, it could encourage dissident political movements in other parts of Europe; the right-wing governments in Europe’s periphery are terrified of a Greek success at the negotiating table.
Syriza’s recent electoral success was a clear indictment of the budget-strangling policies that left Greece mired in a depression for the last five years. Back at the beginning, money that should have been used to protect Greek families and rebuild Greek communities was instead used to protect the holders of Greek government debt – mainly French and German banks.
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