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Active solidarity with Greece as a condition for democracy in Europe

In a previous article published in Eutopia, I asked the question whether the bottom-up actions of citizens can regenerate democracy in Europe. The article stressed the depth of the democratic crisis in Europe.


Some analysts view it as leading to post-democratic regimes that retain only the rituals of democracy but no longer its substance, and others as leading to new forms of oligarchical regimes. The article described the numerous bottom-up movements that try to develop concrete alternatives in many domains of society, from social solidarity to software and culture, from new production and consumption models to environmental issues.





  • A Syriza government no longer looks like a special case that could be ascribed only to the specifics of Greece

  • Up to now, the ability of Syriza to navigate dangerous waters has been remarkable. But it will not last without powerful allies

  • Solidarity is not just a matter of generosity, it is in the interest of the citizens of all countries in Europe



Finally, it took stock of how difficult it is for these movements to develop wider policy platforms and obtain the power needed to implement them.


However, what if the depth of the crisis, the stubbornness with which governing bodies implement policies that destroy the social fabric, and the loss of credibility of traditional political parties lead to a situation where new political movements obtain the trust of citizens and actually come into power through elections?


Many believed that such movements could arise only from the xenophobic authoritarian extreme right, as its growing strength in many countries and the relative weakness of progressive alternatives seemed to indicate. However, we now face a different situation.


Even by 2012 it seemed that in Greece Syriza could win the legislative elections. A vast FUD (Fear/Uncertainty/Doubt) campaign was then conducted by the European Commission, the Eurogroup and some Heads of State of European countries to prevent such a scenario from happening.


This led to close to three additional years of the application of socially destructive policies relentlessly forced upon Greece by its creditors for their sole benefit. The speculative part of the debt grew incessantly to attain close to €200 billions. The social effect of these policies is rightly described as a true humanitarian crisis.


There was, however, one positive effect of delaying the accession to power of Syriza: by the time it conquered it held a much more mature political programme and a stronger team to implement it. In addition, a Syriza government no longer looks like a special case which could only happen in Greece.


This is why we are living through a historical moment. Established European governments are looking with fear to a possible Podemos government in Spain after the general elections that will be held at the end of 2015.


Other countries also see an upsurge of grassroots protests against the present state of politics that could create the ground for the development of progressive alternative forces.


This is the case in Portugal, for instance. Even in countries such as France and Italy where the progressive alternatives have been weak or ambiguous in their stands over the past years and the electoral system (recently revised in Italy) is hostile to emerging forces, there are many signs of a major change in society.


Basically, the potential for wider coalitions of citizens is no longer blocked by the fragmentation into many small schools of ideas and micro-political flavours.


The European Central Bank, the European Council under the major influence of Germany, and behind which France conceals a similar protection for the interest of creditors, and the European Commission have reacted to this situation with an incredible brutality. It can only be explained because - as Podemos leaders have stated - fear has changed sides.


But when the powerful stand in fear, they risk becoming even more brutal. The unilateral cancellation of a transfer of €1.9 billion by the European Central Bank (since reinstated) has led to withdrawals in the range of €2 billion per week from Greek banks.


The quasi-isolation of Greece in the European Council, where even the heads of Portugal and Spain took positions against the interests of their own citizens, can be understood only by the wish to punish the Greek people for their choices and to set an example for other peoples: no such alternatives will be tolerated.


If we stand passive in front of this situation, it will not save the European 'moderate' post-democracy. It will only make sure that it is replaced by the worst forces of hatred, xenophobia, authoritarianism and the search for scapegoats. Up to now, the ability of Syriza to navigate these extremely dangerous waters has been remarkable.


But it can't last if it does not obtain powerful allies. And these allies can only be the citizens of other European countries. The solidarity can only develop citizen to citizen, people to people. Only then, maybe some governments will understand that they can join the course of history for the better and not for the worse.


This solidarity is not just a matter of generosity, it is in the interest of the citizens of all countries in Europe to keep our political options open, to make room for progressive alternatives even when the forces of habit and the interests of the powerful stand in the way.


© Eutopia Magazine – creative commons


Philippe Aigrain joins INTERDEMOS, a small group of individuals who have put together an exciting solidarity project collecting funds for solidarity actions in Greece federated by the platform Solidarity for All. The project is not just about providing resources for these grassroots actions and helping them to scale up. It is also about sending a strong message to governments of most large EU nations and the EU institutions that citizens are more generous and ready for solidarity than governments who conduct policies for the benefits of creditors.


You can read more about the project here.