Europe in Turmoil
I am in the process of converting this column to include wider European issues, including the UK referendum, the refugee crisis and much more. Please be patient as I update blurb, mission statement, etc. Many thanks. Alex
"As austerity continues to devastate communities all over the west, it's particularly crucial to have a committed, engaged and informed voice from Greece, the current vanguard of resistance to this ongoing folly. There's no better writer on the subject right now than Alex Andreou, who combines sharp analysis with great passion and essential levity." - Irvine Welsh, author of 'Trainspotting'
"Alex Andreou's take on Greece has been essential to my understanding of what is currently happening there both politically and culturally . He is able to tell us about Greece from the inside with passion and precision in a way that makes me realise just how crucial Greece is to the rest of the world, wherever we are. Insightful, surprising, warm - he is an absolute must read."- Suzanne Moore, Guardian columnist
After years of the wrong people succeeding, Greece longs for the right people, even if they fail. For the first time, the working class voted in its own self-interest, unconvinced by the vague promise of social mobility and trickle-down. For the first time, a popular government stood up to big interests and said, “We don’t see it like that. The EU you want is not the EU we want.”
What is happening there matters to all. First, it forces out into the open and brings into sharp contrast the increasing divergence between the wellbeing of markets and the wellbeing of populations. Second, it marks a clear act of economic blackmail by a global de facto establishment – let’s call it “The Davos Set” – unhappy at a democratic people opting for an alternative to neoliberalism.
How these tensions resolve themselves will determine whether national elections remain meaningful in any way; whether democratic change is possible or violent revolution is in fact the only effective option.
And there, I think, is the wider lesson from the Greek election. Globalised capitalism and democracy are often uncomfortable bedfellows. We must not assume that one needs – or magically brings about – the other. China is proof that they operate independently. Democracy is often messy. Markets like certainty. It is vital to recognise the existence of this tension.
It has become clear that most of the commentariat no longer possesses even the basic language to engage with politics that is not free-market-based. It looks at a government with clear social intentions, but flexible methods, and it cannot make sense of it. Politicians who, after an election, appear to want to achieve precisely what they promised before it, just don’t compute. Even in its first months, Syriza must be discredited, it seems, at any cost. Tsipras and his finance minister Yanis Varoufakis are portrayed as either dangerous radicals, petulant children or grotesque incompetents.
Syriza is part political choice, part resistance movement. It is important to clarify that most Greeks are fully aware it might fail – everyone and everything is set against the party. The economic environment is as challenging as it could be. Syriza’s ideas may prove unworkable. The leviathan of politics may swallow its politicians and regurgitate them wearing the same ties and telling the same lies as those before them. But the January election was about putting down a marker. About saying “no more”. Shock doctrine has its limits. You gotta leave the plebs with a little something to lose.
We must either, as a species, put life ahead of money, or not. Markets, currency, trade, business, the state, the EU, the stock market and the media are either in the service of utility, of making life better for as many as possible, or utility is secondary to a kind of sadistic accountancy.