Friday, January 30, 2015

"You just killed the troika!"

Are you enjoying this?

Make no mistake.  There are big fights coming.  Juncker has said, articulating what was always the practical doctrine of the EU: "there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties."  The EU elites are firmly declaring their insistence that Greece will pay a debt that cannot be paid, on terms that will destroy Greece.  Some of the European media is already beginning the Venezuelan-style demonisation programme, as when Le Monde published a relatively balanced article by Gerassimos Moschonas, but changed the headline without letting him know, so as to imply that he condemned Syriza as a 'demagogic', populist formation.  There is an EU push-back coming.

However.  Just for now, Syriza is playing a blinding game.  Pushing ahead immediately with a raft of reforms - not at all radical but, in context, a real break - to signal their determination to break with austerity was the first step.  The publication of a mildly Keynesian programme of public investment for Greece and Europe was the next.  Now we have this: Varoufakis refuses to seek an extension of the bailout, and instead says he won't deal with the troika.  This is not about breaking with the EU.  The finance minister is explicit that he wants to negotiate a new programme for the debt, based on write-downs of some of the debt, a substantial 'grace period' for the remainder, and a commitment to pay it out of growth rather than budget cuts.  

In principle, there should be nothing particularly radical about this.  To reiterate, this is just reasserting national sovereignty.  One notes, moreover, that there is a growing international chorus of bourgeois disapproval of Merkel's austerian hardline: from Obama to the Bank of England governor to The Economist.  They may strongly disapprove of Greece's rowing back on 'competitive reforms' such as privatisations, wage cuts and so on, but the emerging critique is that austerity has gone too far and that the debt has been used ineptly to promote the desired 'reforms'.  

Yet the anguished response from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chief of the Euro Group, says it all: "You just killed the troika!"  One middle finger in the eye for EU elites.  Enjoy it while you can.