Forty years after the collapse of the military junta, authoritarianism is once again in full swing in economically beleaguered Greece.
Forty years after the collapse of the military junta and the return to parliamentary democracy, authoritarianism is once again in full swing in economically beleaguered Greece. The country is under the direct command of the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which in May 2010 provided the terms for the first “bailout” package of Greece for the sum of 110 billion euros as the country was shut out of the international credit markets because of its staggering level of government debt (close to 128 percent) and astronomically high deficit (more than 15 percent) and faced the prospect of a default. A sovereign default would have resulted in huge losses for German, French, Swiss and other European as well as American banks and carried contagion risk, which might have led to the dissolution of the eurozone itself. Indeed, “rescuing” Greece for the sake of the euro was so important for European policymakers that a second “bailout” was approved in March 2012 for the years 2012-14, this time for 130 billion euros. And a third “bailout” almost certainly will be introduced in 2014.
As the small Mediterranean nation and birthplace of democracy surrendered its financial sovereignty to its international creditors, the debt was being repaid exclusively by the blood and tears of the average working citizens, who have seen their incomes decline by as much as 30 percent in the past couple of years while simultaneously experiencing drastic social program cuts and sharp reductions in their pension benefits. The Greek government, especially the current one, which consists of a highly opportunistic alliance between conservatives and socialists, is increasingly resorting to authoritarian methods to enforce the commands of the troika, which has shown not the slightest concern for the economic impact and social consequences of its policies. These include the largest decline in the national output of any economy in recent history (nearly 25 percent), massive levels of unemployment (currently standing at 28 percent, and with youth unemployment more than 60 percent), widespread poverty (more than one of three Greeks now lives below the poverty level), homelessness, a surge in suicides, massive migration among the nation’s most skilled and educated segment of the population and the rise of political extremes. 1
A government’s resorting to authoritarianism is always to be expected when societies are faced with severe economic and political crises that lead to popular discontent and mobilization. It’s the nature of the beast: The state is inherently coercive, oppressive and violent. And, if one subscribes to Noam Chomsky’s view of human nature, in which the main element is the pursuit of freedom and voluntary association with others, it’s easy to understand why the state in a capitalist system is always compelled to act as an enforcement mechanism for economic exploitation and social oppression at the behest of capital. Indeed, it took a few centuries of grass-roots political activity for the capitalist state to be “tamed” and for certain basic and fundamental rights to be allowed to flourish and protected under constitutional law. Thus, in times of political normalcy, there are institutions that will act as a countervailing force to the state’s natural tendency to suppress liberty and freedom in the name of stability, law and order.
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