Reprinted from blog.nurturedevelopment.org
By Cormac Russell, John McKnight and Peter Block
What does a one-room schoolhouse in Michigan have to do with Greece, Europe, Democracy and the now floundering economic globalization experiment?
On January 25th the far left Syriza Party won 149 seats out of 300 in Greece's parliamentary elections and formed a coalition with the fringe right wing independent party. Both parties are fused together in trenchant opposition to the austerity measures imposed on their country by the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) as a means of dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession.
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza Party, is the new Prime Minister of Greece, a leader who carries a clear mandate from an overwhelming majority of the polis: defend our sovereignty. Accordingly he has managed to redraw the political fault lines, stepping over right--left dichotomies to frame a debate that is not just about anti-austerity but confronts the -whole economic globalization model.
The promise of globalization is that, through technology, a liberal democracy and western corporate expansionism taken to scale will make the world a better place for everyone. It is a form of what some refer to as trickle-down economics, the belief that "a rising tide lifts all boats." In fact it only lifts yachts and cruise liners, leaving the handmade rafts of the poor in their wake. As an ideology it devalues playing small and thinking local. Scale and privatization is the only path to a single global economy.
In the last recession, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain bankers were rescued, and citizens were made to suffer, which is to say that the rules of free-market economics were reinforced at the expense of citizens and government social programs. What was held sacred was the trading in a free market in support of banks and corporate interests. The Greeks ---- from young to older moderates ---- had had enough: a 25% fall in wages and 50% youth unemployment are just two of the many effects of so-called austerity.
The birth of modern globalization in 1944 ---- when the world's leading economists, politicians, bankers and corporate figures gathered at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to figure out what to do to mitigate the terrible devastation of World War II ---- launched the prevailing scarcity model of economics which up to now has been essentially unquestioned. With this Greek election, the conversation has been taken out of the hands of the economists and placed in the hands of citizens. In fact, an alternative local economy has been growing to provide livelihood and social services in the shadows of the normal measures of wage rates, documented unemployment and gross domestic product.
The election in Greece is an early fault line in the obscenity of the scarcity economic model. The Greek people endured the austerity measures to pay back predatory debt with no growth in the economy. It atomized both left and right. Also, the financial community is having an anxiety attack. Bank stocks are down. Interest rates for loans are up. The colonial retribution system has been mobilized. The election is called "populist," "leftist." Right up there with the old language of "retarded," "handicapped," and "disadvantaged." And the solidarity movement is working, which is the most disturbing of all. This is a sign of the emergence of neighborhood and community principles as the force guiding citizens to take the future into their own hands.
The people of Greece have dissented en masse against a centralized global economic system that has hyper-accelerated worldwide corporate economic growth at the expense of the world's poorest populations and the planet. Now the citizens of Greece are seeking to halt the seemingly relentless shifts in power from central and local governments and communities toward global corporations, bond markets and the global bureaucracies they have created.
For and Against
The election in Greece can be seen as a symbolic and actual vote against scale and the commodification of cultures in favor of localism and the restoration of indigenous living. Peppered throughout the cheering crowds of Greek citizens gathered in Athens to celebrate the result were many international supporters of localism, from Portugal's Left Bloc to the Spanish Podemos party, but surely poor farmers throughout the world who have been displaced as a consequence of globalization must also have been cheering alongside environmental and public health activists, localism advocates and those committed to reducing the ever increasing gap between the super-rich the so-called bottom billion.
So what have the Greeks voted for and what have they voted against?
There is now every possibility that the ECB (largely influenced by Germany) will move to pull Emergency Liquidity Assistance that is currently keeping the banks from going under. Yet, there is every reason to be hopeful that that will not happen this time; for example, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has called for debt forgiveness for Greece, warning that not to do so runs the risk of another "lost decade" for the EU. He's comment, though veiled, was clearly directed at the German drive towards austerity.