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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/12/16

Europe's Left: Triumph or Trap?

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Syriza won the Greek elections on a platform of resisting the Troika's austerity policies, only to have to swallow more of them. In Portugal the Left Bloc and Communist/Green Alliance are unhappy with the Socialist Party's commitment to re-pay Portugal's quite unpayable debt. Podemos proposed a united front with the Socialist Party, only to find there are some in that organization who would rather bed down with Spain's rightwing Popular Party than break bread with Podemos.

Lessons learned?

It is still too early to draw any firm conclusions about what the 2015 earthquake accomplished -- and Ireland's election has yet to happen -- but there are some obvious lessons.

First, austerity is unpopular. As Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, put it after the Spanish election, "Governments which apply rigid austerity measures are destined to lose their majorities."

Second, if you are a small economy taking the power of capital head-on is likely to get you trampled. The Troika did not just force Syriza to institute more austerity, it made it more onerous, a not very subtle message to voters in Portugal and Spain. But people in both countries didn't buy it, in large part because after four years of misery their economies are still not back to where they were in 2008.

The Troika can crush Greece -- Portugal as well -- but Spain is another matter. It is the 14th largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in the EU. And now Italy -- the fourth largest economy in the EU -- is growing increasingly restive with the tight budget policies of the EU that have kept the jobless rate high.

But can these anti-austerity coalitions force the Troika to back off?

A major part of the problem is the EU itself, and in particular, the eurozone, the 19 countries that use the euro as a common currency. The euro is controlled by the European Central Bank, which, in practice, means Germany. In an economic crisis most countries manipulate their currencies -- the U.S., Britain, and China come to mind -- as part of a strategy to pay down debt and re-start their economies. The members of the eurozone do not have that power.

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Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, "A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more...)
 
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