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Greece’s radical left could kill off austerity in the EU

Key points from the article by Owen Jones in Guardian

Another war looms in Europe: waged not with guns and tanks, but with financial markets and EU diktats. Austerity-ravaged Greece may well be on the verge of a general election that could bring to power a government unequivocally opposed to austerity. Momentous stuff: that has not happened in the six years of cuts and falling living standards that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.”

But if the radical leftist party Syriza does indeed triumph in a possible snap poll in the new year, there will undoubtedly be a concerted attempt to choke the experiment at birth. That matters not just for Greece, but for all of us who want a different sort of society and a break from years of austerity.”

What misery has been inflicted on Greece. One in four of its people are out of work; poverty has surged from 23% before the crash to 40.5%; and research has demonstrated how key services such as health have been hammered by cuts, even as demand has risen. No wonder the country has experienced a political polarisation that has prompted comparisons with Weimar Germany. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn – which makes other European rightist movements look like fluffy liberals – at one point attracted up to 15% in the polls; though still a menace, its support has thankfully subsided to half that.”

Syriza’s manifesto proposes that repayment of debt could come through economic growth, rather than from budget cuts. It wants a European new deal backed up by an investment bank; an all-out war against the tax avoidance endemic in Greek society; an emergency employment programme; a raised minimum wage; and the restoration of collective bargaining. In alliance with anti-austerity forces such as Spain’s surging Podemos party, Syriza wants the EU to abandon crippling austerity policies in favour of quantitative easing and a growth-led recovery.”

And then there’s the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, a man who hardly has an inspiring democratic mandate and is best known for questions over his former country’s tax avoidance policies, who has already made it clear that the Greek people should not vote the wrong way. 'I think that the Greeks – who have a very different life – know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the eurozone,' he has said. 'I wouldn’t like extreme forces to come to power.' There are rumours that, if Syriza does win, Greece could be deprived of all EU funding. Apocalyptic talk of capital flight and bank runs abound. Markets and elite politicians alike have their guns pointed at the Greek electorate.”

So 2015 could finally be the year when austerity meets its reckoning across the continent. Or it could be the year that a democratic challenge to economic madness was strangled to death. It is a game of high stakes in which the futures of millions of people could be decided.”

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