At a time when one in two young Greeks is unemployed, when 25,000 homeless people wonder the streets of Athens, when 30% of the population has fallen below the poverty line, when thousands of families are forced to give up their children to save them from dying of hunger and cold, when refugees and the newly impoverished fight over bins in public dumps, the “rescuers” of Greece, under the pretext that Greeks “aren’t doing enough”, are imposing a new aid package that doubles the administered lethal dose. This is a package that abolishes the right to work and reduces the poor to extreme poverty, while making the middle class disappear.
The goal cannot be the “rescuing” of Greece: on this point, all economists worth their salt agree. It’s about buying time to save the creditors while leading the country towards a deferred bankruptcy. Above all, it’s about making Greece the laboratory of a social change that will eventually spread across the whole of Europe. The model tested on the Greeks is one of a society without public services, where schools, hospitals and clinics fall into ruin, where health becomes the privilege of the rich, where vulnerable populations are doomed to programmed elimination, while those still working are condemned to extreme forms of pauperisation and insecurity.
But for this neoliberal offensive to achieve its ends, it is necessary to establish a system that curtails the most basic democratic rights. At the rescuers’ behest, we see contempt for popular sovereignty in the installation of technocratic governments in Europe. This is a turning point in parliamentary systems whereby we see the “representatives of the people” giving carte blanche to experts and bankers, giving up their supposed decision-making power. This is a kind of parliamentary coup d’état, which also draws upon, in the face of popular protests, an increased arsenal of repression. So when members of parliament acted contrary to their received mandate and ratified the agreement dictated by the Troika (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), a power devoid of democratic legitimacy shackled the country’s future for thirty or forty years.
Meanwhile the EU is preparing to pay Greek aid into an escrow account so it is only used to service the debt. The revenues of the country should be, as an “absolute priority”, devoted to repaying creditors, and, if necessary, paid directly into this EU-managed account. The agreement stipulates that any new bond issued under it shall be governed by English law, which includes material guarantees, while disputes will be adjudicated by the Luxembourg courts, with Greece having waived in advance any right of appeal against the decision of its creditors to seize assets. To complete the picture, the deeds of pubic assets will be placed in a privatisations fund managed by the Troika. In short, this is pillaging on a grand scale, an aspect of financial capitalism that is beautifully sanctioned here by institutions. Since buyers and sellers will be sitting on the same side of the table, there is little doubt that this privatisation is a real feast for investors.
Now, all the measures taken so far have only increased Greek sovereign debt and, with the help of rescuers who lend at usurious rates, it has literally exploded into free fall approaching 170% of GDP, while in 2009 it was still only 120%. You can be sure that this succession of rescue packages – each presented as “the ultimate one” – had no other purpose than to further weaken Greece’s position so that, deprived of any opportunity to propose terms for restructuring itself, it is left under the blackmailing thumb of its creditors: “catastrophe or austerity”.
The artificial and coercive worsening of the debt problem has been used like a weapon to assault an entire society. The use of military terms here is rather apt: it is indeed a war prosecuted through finance, politics and law, a class war against a whole society. The financial class despoils the “enemy” of not only social achievements and democratic rights, but also, in the end, the very possibility of a human life. The lives of those who do not produce or consume enough in terms of profit maximisation strategies must no longer be preserved.
Thus, the weakness of a country caught between limitless speculation and devastating rescue packages becomes the backdoor through which a new model of society bursts, one that satisfies the demands of neoliberal fundamentalism. A model destined for all Europe and perhaps beyond. This is the real issue and that is why defending the Greek people is not reducible to a gesture of solidarity or of abstract humanity: it is a question of the future of democracy and the fate of European peoples. The “absolute necessity” for a “painful but healthy” austerity will be presented everywhere as the way for us to avoid Greece’s fate; all the while, leading us straight towards it.
We call upon our fellow citizens, our French and European friends to speak out loud and clear against this real attack on society, against the destruction of the last pockets of democracy. We must not let the experts and politicians monopolise the dialogue. Given the request, by German and French leaders in particular, that Greece be forbidden henceforth from participating in elections, can we remain indifferent? Doesn’t the systematic stigmatisation and denigration of a European people deserve a response? Is it possible not to raise one’s voice against the institutional assassination of the Greek people? And can we keep silent in the face of the rapid establishment of a system that outlaws the very idea of social solidarity?
We are at the point of no return. It is urgent to fight the battle of numbers and the war of words to counter the ultra-liberal rhetoric of fear and disinformation. It is urgent to deconstruct the moral lessons that obscure the real process at work in society. It becomes more than urgent to demystify the racist insistence on the “Greek specificity”, which blames an alleged national character of a people (lazy and devious at will) for a crisis that is in reality global. What matters today are not particularities, real or imaginary, but the commons: the fate of a people that will affect all others.
Many technical solutions have been proposed to go beyond the alternatives of “either destruction of society or bankruptcy” (which today we see means: “both destruction and bankruptcy”). Everything must be brought to the table as food for thought for the construction of another Europe. But first we must denounce the crime, bring to light the situation in which the Greek people find themselves because of “aid packages” designed by and for speculators and creditors. As a movement in support weaves its way around the world, as the Internet buzzes with solidarity initiatives, will French intellectuals be the last to raise their voices for Greece? Without further delay, let us step up the articles, the media appearances, the debates, the petitions, the demonstrations. All initiatives are welcome, all are urgently needed.
As for us, this is what we propose: to move very quickly towards the formation of a European committee of intellectuals and artists in solidarity with the Greek people in resistance. If we don’t do it, who will? If we don’t do it now, when will we?
Vicky Skoumbi, Editor-in-Chief of the journal, “Alètheia”, Athens,
Daniel Alvaro, Alain Badiou, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Etienne Balibar, Fernanda Bernardo, Barbara Cassin, Bruno Clément, Danielle Cohen-Levinas, Yannick Courtel, Claire Denis, Georges Didi-Huberman, Roberto Esposito, Francesca Isidori, Pierre-Philippe Jandin, Lèbre Jérôme, Jean-Clet Martin, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Judith Revel, Elizabeth Rigal, Jacob Rogozinski, Hugo Santiago, Beppe Sebaste, Michèle Sinapi, Enzo Traverso.
Original published in Libération on 21.2.2012. This translation by Gilbert Leung has been published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license at: http://www.criticallegalthinking.com/?p=5529.