Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whither Greece?

Anyone who has been a close observer of democracy knows that Western countries have only ever been committed to democratic principles to the degree to which they support and strengthen Western (generally capitalist) interests. Western countries love to talk about democracy but when they don't like the results that a democratic process promotes they quietly (or sometimes loudly) ignore or condemn the process. From the early days of the Trilateral Commission worrying about "too much democracy" to the election of Hamas, the West shows itself again and again to be interested in democracy only to the degree that it promotes their interests. Recently our own government in the past several years has done everything in its power to avoid established democratic processes and principle.

This anti-democratic tendency among the world's nations and the capitalist elite was on full display today when Prime Minister Papandreou suggested that his nation should hold a referendum on the policy that will have perhaps the greatest effect of any legislation on Greece for a generation, and governments and capitalist around the world reacted with disgust and panic. Imagine letting the people decide on something so important. Now, I am not naive and I know that there are cases in which so-called direct democracy can be a problem. But the cases in which democracy can be overridden are those in which the rights of the few are going to be overridden by the bigotry of the many. Federal and supreme courts in many countries can override democratically elected governments in cases such as human rights in which the majority is attempting to prevent certain people in society from enjoying equal rights. Such cases have been seen in things like so-called "interracial" marriage or gay marriage. Furthermore, I am sure that there are cases in which the "people" do not act in the real, longterm interests of the nation. However, in the case of Greece we have a nation that has been pushed to the brink by the irresponsibility of the banks and by a deeply corrupted taxation system in which the rich and corporations have paid almost no tax for decades despite so-called 'socialist' governments. Now, even though they have been paying for generations, the people are once again being asked to bear the brunt of the rich exploiting the system in their own interests. Bankers, large market investors, and the rich in general dread the idea that Greece or any nation could ask the people what is right and wrong when it comes to economic interests. This is what capitalists have always feared. But socialists (and in the old days even Liberals) have been saying for a long time, the economy is hear to serve us not the other way around, and if we decide that banks or capitalist shouldn't be allowed to act in certain ways then frankly that is just too bad for the banks. Despite what rightwingers might tell you, corporations are NOT people and the people can control, and always have controlled markets in various ways. If the people of Greece reject a solution to an economic crisis entirely brought about by banks and the rich syphoning off billions of dollars that should be distributed more fairly throughout the economy - that is a victory for democracy, and those who fear it are those that fear democracy in its most basic and principled form.

UPDATE - Shortly after I wrote this our dear Finance Minister Flaherty responded to the issue of a referendum in Greece. Trying not to sound too outrageously anti-democratic Flaherty said "It is not for us to dictate terms to the Europeans." But he we went on to say that "delay endangers the global economy." The real message from the Harper Tories has consistently been that democracy is dangerous to THEIR goals unless they can get something out of it for themselves. Remember that this is the man who, as finance minister of Ontario left a six billion dollar deficit during a time of global prosperity and then tried to hide his incompetence during the election. Naturally, for this remarkable feat, Harper put him in charge of the nation's finances. 


karen said...

I was happy to hear about the referendum yesterday, and amused at the business community's reaction.
On democracy, a secretary treasurer of my union once tried to explain the non-democratic machinations he and others were pulling during an election. I paraphrased him, "I see. Democracy is too important to be left in the hands of the people." He thought I was agreeing with him and he nearly kissed me. I think of this nearly every day.
I am also interested in some of the noises Mark Carney is making. He has apparently said that Greek's decision to hold a referendum is a good one, and last week was applauding Occupy.

kirbycairo said...

Yes, Karen - A man as highly placed as Mark Carney knows that the system is fundamentally unjust and skewed in favor of the rich and he obviously has just enough of a conscience to sometime say something to this effect.