Austerity wrecks economy and society

Haircut or “Grexit“? Two weeks before the early elections in Greece where the left coalition Syriza stands to win a majority, the German media are concerned with little else. Axel Troost, the financial policy speaker of the parliamentary group DIE LINKE in the German Bundestag, met with leading Syriza politicians. In this interview, he explains why a debt cut is not the most immediate issue, and how Syriza aims to re-build the mismanaged Greek state. The primary challenge, he says, is an end to the devastating austerity policy.


Interview with Axel Troost, member of the German Parliament ….


German interview text here


An interesting collection on the topic Greece, compiled by Troika Watch, can be found here

Freedom of Opinion

Some facts – from
Alexander Kentikelenis, Marina Karanikolos, Aaron Reeves, Martin McKee, David Stuckler:
Lancet 2014; 383: 748–53
drastic reductions to municipality budgets have led to a scaling back of several activities (eg, mosquito- spraying programmes20), which, in combination with other factors, has allowed the re-emergence of locally transmitted malaria for the first time in 40 years. (748)

Researchers from the Greek National School of Public Health reported a 21% rise in stillbirths between 2008 and 2011, which they attributed to reduced access to prenatal health services for pregnant women. (751)

It is about
Denial …
The cost of adjustment is being borne mainly by ordinary Greek citizens. They are subject to one of the most radical programmes of welfare-state retrenchment in recent times, which in turn affects population health. Yet despite this clear evidence, there has been little agreement about the causal role of austerity. There is a broad consensus that the social sector in Greece was in grave need of reform, with widespread corruption, misuse of patronage, and inefficiencies, and many commentators have noted that the crisis presented an opportunity to introduce long-overdue changes. Greek Government officials, and several sympathetic comm- entators, have argued that the introduction of the wide- ranging changes and deep public-spending cuts have not damaged health59,60 and, indeed, might lead to long-term improvements. Officials have denied that vulnerable groups (eg, homeless or uninsured people) have been denied access to health care, and claim that those who are unable to afford public insurance contributions still receive free care.However, the scientific literature presents a different picture. In view of this detailed body of evidence for the harmful effects of austerity on health, the failure of public recognition of the issue by successive Greek Governments and international agencies is remarkable. Indeed, the predominant response has been denial that any serious difficulties exist, although this response is not unique to Greece; the Spanish Government has been equally reluctant to concede the harm caused by its policies. This dismissal meets the criteria for denialism, which refuses to acknowledge, and indeed attempts to discredit, scientific research. (751)
Further references are omitted and can be found in the original; and it has to be emphasised that similar denialism can be found not only also in Spain but in Italy and …. – and in some way also in the so-called rich countries, thigh the situation is by no means as bad as in Greece.
Frightening as it is, the situation is made much less bearable if we look at the various denunciations and rebukes of Greek claims to return to control of the countries situation and to reject the external control under the heading of Washington consensus and Troika.
It may be somewhat naive that I still expected the German Green Joschka Fischer not to support openly this reactionary policy and to show more responsibility and circumspection when it comes to looking for solutions. But …
He has nothing better to do to suggest an end of the crisis, saying
Die Euro-Krise scheint vorbei zu sein. Zumindest haben sich die Finanzmärkte beruhigt, auch wenn der Wechselkurs gesunken ist und die Wirtschaft in den südlichen Krisenländern der Europäischen Union nach wie vor darniederliegt.
And he speaks of political risks, due to the lack of a sound stability after the crisis and the fact that austerity policies did not end in the promised results:
Aus dem politischen Raum droht daher großes Unheil für das europäische Projekt.
He rightly sees the problems in Italy too, but then dares to state comment on the result of the Greek elections on the 25th of January with the words that there is
… the high risk that the left socialists of the party SYRIZA will be elected.
… mit dem hohen Risiko, dass die Linkssozialisten von der Partei Syriza gewählt werden.
Joschka Fischer: Worauf wartet ihr noch?; 15. Januar 2015, 12:07; Süddeutsche Zeitung
The rest of Fischer’s comments show that he lost his sense for assessing what is important and real (well, perhaps her never had it).

Important is to accept the right of the people to elect THEIR government – there is some “risk of democracy” that the governing forces do to like it

Important is to fundamentally work towards a solution of the crisis, which means to move to an economy that does not need austerity but on the contrary is there to enhance social quality, well-being and welfare for all

Important is to recognise that the solution is not about


real european solutions in the direction of increased economic growth

echter europäischer Lösungen in Richtung auf mehr Wirtschaftswachstum

To be fair, Fischer highlights the serious problem of the emergence of nationalism, the staple food of the extrem right. Going beyond Greece he states


that the resentment of the Italians is increasingly not solely directed against austerity policies, but also against the Euro itself. And if the Italians are captured (by Anti-EU/nationalist sentiments, P.H.) we likely will also face a crisis in France.
der Unmut der Italiener richtet sich zunehmend nicht mehr nur gegen die Austeritätspolitik, sondern auch gegen den Euro als solchen. Und wenn Italien erst einmal erfasst wurde, dann droht eine französische Krise.

As said, democracy is dangerous. But a factor of utmost importance is that there had not been any democracy yet when it comes to the EU and Euro-policies – taking a metaphor: It had been a one-sided European strategy, geared towards the establishment of a fortress of which the walls had been standing firm against those who wanted to enter, but also standing firm against the Landsknecht, sacrificed on the altar of competitiveness. Then, if the colorful uniforms of the European army fall and are burning in the ablaze of the failed strategy of enhancing competitiveness, we should not be surprised by nationalism and fascism.

As we know from Brecht’s “Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui [The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui]”


Der Schoss ist fruchtbar noch,
aus dem das kroch
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.
See in this context also (In German only)


Please, find in the following an initiative addressing the situation in Greece … and in Europe.

This is a call which you can sign when following the link



Syriza’s potential victory in the forthcoming elections in Greece is of the utmost importance for all those who want Europe to change course. Such a victory would be an expression of the demand for dignity and justice: for hope. The threats and pressure applied by EU leaders, the Troika and financial circles to influence the electoral choice of the Greek people are unacceptable.

Throughout Europe, we will defend the right of the Greek people to make their decisions freely; to break with austerity; to say ‘no’ to the humanitarian crisis which has plagued the country; to pave the way for a real alternative for Greece – for a social and democratic reorientation.

Most political forces in Greece bow down to the Troika, but Alexis Tsipras and Syriza decided to do the opposite. They have created, working closely with the social movements, a broad coalition whose dynamism may well win a majority. Syriza and its allies propose to fight back against the humanitarian crisis, to restore collective agreements and labour rights, to create a fair tax system and to democratise the political system. A Syriza government will make Greece a credible player and will make the survival of the country and the people a precondition at the outset of any negotiations. The government will commit the country to a new path, rejecting corruption and patronage, opting instead for a new type of development in the interests of all. It will propose a European Conference on Debt to partially cancel the debt. The reimbursement modalities for the remaining part can facilitate an economic recovery through a large public investment programme – which should not be included in the Stability and Growth Pact – and a response to urgent social needs. At European level, it will propose a “European New Deal” for human development and environmental transition. Throughout Europe, we need to break with the rationale which is destroying Europe’s collective social gains and fuelling the rise of nationalism and right-wing populism. We need a new project, based on inclusive development, cooperation and democracy.

Throughout Europe, we believe that such a change in Greece will not affect the future of the Greek people alone. A victory for Syriza will allow Greece to escape from the current catastrophic situation but it will also represent green shoots of change for Europe. Breaking with austerity policies would be a signal, a source of hope for those who want to stand tall. At the same time, if Syriza is voted into power, its government will need massive support from the people of Europe in the face of the pressures from the financial markets and political forces which fear any departure from the obsolete framework of capitalist globalisation.

Across society, from wide political and social forces, from many organisations and walks of life: we do not accept the pressure brought to bear to prevent the Greek people from exercising their free choice. Those exerting this pressure today share responsibility for the perpetuation of harmful ‘shock therapy’ at all costs.

Throughout Europe, we are assuming our responsibilities, supporting those engaged in struggle, changing the balance of power, waging the battle of ideas and uniting all those who want to build – alongside the Greek people – a social, environmental and democratic Europe. We stand with the Greek people because their battle is also ours.

Ireland: Good example for sheepish forbearance?

Recently I had been told that here in Hungary Ireland is widely presented as good example foe remaining calm and considered while facing the crisis and dealing with current politics. Surely I am not pleading for trusting polls, statistics or even elections. But this view on the new electoral contest in Greece may be of some interest when it comes to the search of “good examples”:
Having recently met Alexis Tsipras from Syriza surely leaves me with mixed feelings about the range we (and this we refers in rather general terms to those who are fed up with being treated as Marionettes of clearly definable interests) have at our disposal. At least the meeting in Athens made clear (and later this had been explicitly articulated and officially declared in a meeting in Berlin), that it is too simple to blame the EU. In a resolution with 6 points, it is urged for a “reformed Eurozone” – in the document this notion is frequently highlighted and the way is outlined in several concrete points.
Rather than serving as example of good example of sheepish forbearance, the referendum on the E-Un-constitutional instrument should be used for thinking about good practice not of a simple NO but as a focus of a constructive debate on sound economic alternatives rather than the moral discomfort.

Just having it handy, the following sentence from Marx’ Critique of the Gotha Program may also be of interest – against the rant, in favour of clear analysis:

Do not the bourgeois assert that the present-day distribution is “fair”? And is it not, in fact, the only “fair” distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones?