What Canadians must learn from Greece

By Nora Loreto

The lessons to be learned from the events in Greece should be gleaned from the actions of people on the ground, not at the top.

It’s impossible to draw parallels between the Greek left and Canada without a contrived analysis. More importantly, the left needs to break our obsession with leadership, especially now that popular force has returned to the streets of Athens.

The European Union is an economic arrangement first, and a political relationship second, and has emerged as a modern colonial force, imposing its right-wing vision upon its member states. Member states have agreed to give up extreme elements of their sovereignty in order to make this project work.

This has allowed the European Central Bank, the EU and the IMF to rule Europe more efficiently than any modern dictator probably could.

The Eurozone, the nations who adopted the Euro as their currency, has enormous power over the domestic affairs of member countries.

Member nations must pay a fine if they run a budgetary deficit. If members cannot repay borrowed money or have difficulty repaying, the repayment plans usually require broad restructuring that can include selling off state assets and overhauling domestic bank regulations. They’ve perfected hostile takeover without needing soldiers or tanks.

While many observers argued that it’s a coup, it obscured the reality that Greek politicians have consented to the brutal conditions under which their debts to the EU must be repaid.

This consent was not given by SYRIZA. It was given by former Greek governments when they entered the Eurozone and borrowed through its various programs. Like a loanshark showing up to break someone’s legs, the Eurozone is following its own policies in dealing with Greece, policies that had the approval of Greek politicians.

There’s a reason why breaking one’s legs isn’t a legal method to force someone to repay their loans: you cannot agree to have your own legs broken, regardless of how much money you borrow from Johnny Tightlips. This is especially true if the economic situation that forced you to borrow was actually worsened by the policies of the agency that will become your creditor.

At the heart of the crisis in Greece is this question: does democracy in Europe exist? When nation-states enter the Eurozone, they bind themselves to the policies of the Eurozone, no referendum required. As was demonstrated last week, if the people vote against the Eurozone’s policies, there’s nothing that compels Greece’s politicians to change course.

Canada is not immune. Through NAFTA, the Canadian government has consented to extreme measures that would bind future governments to decisions of extra-parliamentary panels and courts and relinquish most of its control over determining domestic manufacturing policy.

Now, thanks to our politicians who worship at the altar of profit, we’re about to enter into a sweeping trade deal with the European Union that will further entangle our country with the web of proto-fascist capitalists who find ways to suppress and eliminate democracy.

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe will create another arbitration body that can impose decisions on Canada in nearly all sectors. It will flood Canadian markets with European goods, squeezing out Canadian producers, prohibit public entitles from favouring domestic suppliers and allow for privatization of nearly every aspect of our public sector.

This brings us back to Greece. While politicians have cheered along the integration of the Greek economy in the Eurozone, the people have resisted. And as SYRIZA has voted in favour of crushing austerity measures, the power has again shifted back to the streets. Democracy can only resist capitalism if it is strong and rooted among the people.

The current electoral divisions will likely lead to a new election soon. Regardless of what plays out on the electoral plain, it’s possible that protests and general strikes will have more impact over the negotiations than Greek government officials.

For progressives looking at Greece to learn some lessons, perhaps we could start mobilizing for sector-wide general strikes to defend our democracy, rather than focusing solely on SYRIZA’s errors.

Nora Loreto’s blog is published with permission of rabble.ca, a progressive online magazine.

Nora Loreto
Nora Loreto