Coup Feared as Greece Veers Toward Economic Collapse

Petros Papakonstantinou

In an interview published in the French newspaper Liberación, March 3, 81-year-old Michel Rocard, Prime Minster during François Miterrand’s administration, declared, “My conclusion is that the inequitable developments will lead to a civil war. This implies important questions for Greece. How can elections be held in this environment? How can anyone govern telling the people that they must give up 25% of their salary over the next 10 years in order to pay the debt? No one talks about this, but the only way to get out of the problem in Greece is through military rule.”

Three days later, the Spanish El País published an article by sociologist Ignacio Sotelo about the Greek crisis which arrived at the following conclusion, “The danger exists that democracy could be destroyed by a developing process approaching social revolution. The radicalization that this process could imply would not be tolerated by the upper classes in Greece and most likely, not by their European associates either. This obliges them to justify some form of military intervention.” Several British media have expressed sentiments along these same lines, “Fears of army coup as Greece hits meltdown,” according to the Daily Express.

We should not underestimate the seriousness of these statements, mistaking them as exaggerated. Despite the social horror being proposed and the enormous difficulties, the lack of continuity and leadership within the popular movement (which cannot be derailed by the elections, a hopeless quagmire), a social explosion is inevitable. The question is not if it will happen, but when and how and what the outcome will be.

Five years after the fall of the first domino – the U.S. real estate market – it is abundantly clear that global capitalism is experiencing an unprecedented structural crisis, with no resolution in sight. For the first time in its history, there is no positive idea to offer the popular classes, no wellbeing produced by a “New Deal” or national greatness as proposed by Fascism, or the 30-year consumerist society of the “glorious” postwar era, not even “popular” capitalism with easy credit and benefits. This is the high point of neo-liberalism. The only thing promised is a terrifying nightmare of “internal devaluation” in which the French become Greeks and Greeks become Bulgarians and Bulgarians, Chinese.

In this context, the system’s last great idea, the battle which remains, is that of fear. The only struggle permitted is one against your neighbor, for survival, in a world where people become wolves. Such a social environment, as Hobbs foresaw in the Leviathan, generates legitimacy for a new type of totalitarianism, especially if working class uprisings take on the desperation of Los Angeles or an Iron Heel, terrorizing the petty bourgeoisie, in a climate of anarchy, real or manufactured.

The negative forecasts are accumulating. The Observer reported that some of Britain’s most important construction companies, possibly in collaboration with the police and M15 secret services have formed a semi-state gang organization to pursue left-wing workers and trade unionists they have included on a “black list,” to make it difficult for them to find work. Governments of non-elected “technocrats” appointed by Berlin, the abolition of union contracts – something even the Military Junta did not do – attacks on peaceful demonstrators with chemical weapons, arrests and prosecutions of minors on the basis of anti-terrorist laws, government statements about the possibility of tanks protecting banks… What else is this, if not a steady drift toward authoritarianism?

Capitalism’s development from “creative destruction” to “disastrous evolution” undermines traditional reformist politics, that is the two-pronged strategy in which the party does parliamentary work and the trade unions carry out an economic struggle for growth. Another type of politics on the left has become a necessity, focused on policy and on the struggle at a national level to solve social problems, – not in the sense of a guerilla movement, but yes, giving the idea of having a plan for government power, for the popular, democratic renovation of the country.

Regardless of strategic disagreements, the forces on the left must create a broad alliance to defend democratic rights, creating the necessary mechanisms (counter information, organization and security of struggles, enemy vigilance and popular self-defense, etc) to support the level of popular struggle, solidarity and morale in the coming battles.

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