mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
After the deal
European Far Right Girds For a Fight After Greece

Even as everyone struggles to wrap their heads around today’s “big deal” announcement (we’ll have some commentary up soon), yesterday’s big deal between Greece and its creditors faces its first hurdle as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tries to push an immediate set of reforms through parliament on Wednesday. Rumors abound that several ministers will be sacked for their opposition to the deal. Both the Left Platform wing of Syriza and the nationalist right-wing junior coalition partner the Independent Greeks are in open revolt, and chances are that Tsipras may face a vote of no-confidence soon leading to new elections after the vote passes. Nevertheless, the immediate prospects for the vote in parliament appear to be good. Tsipras will likely to lean hard on his opposition parties for support, leaving him with needing only 50 votes from his 162-vote strong Syriza coalition to pass the deal.

The thing to watch beyond the immediate political repercussions in Greece is how this plays out in the broader European political context. As Bloomberg points out, the lesson being internalized by the resurgent far right populist parties across the continent isn’t that resisting the austerity demands of European creditors is futile. Rather, it’s that a grave historical injustice has been perpetrated. That will serve as a good recruiting tool for their purposes:

The Greek premier’s capitulation hands ammunition to those like Marine Le Pen in France and Beppe Grillo in Italy who see the EU as a totalitarian bloc that rides roughshod over national sovereignty and democracy.

Grillo, who wants out of the euro, said in a blog post that Europe “humiliated” Greece. Tsipras was “forced to capitulate to EU despotism,” National Front leader Le Pen said in a televised news conference Monday. The bloc’s common currency, she said, is “not sustainable and a catastrophe.” […]

Grillo, whose Five Star movement is Italy’s second-largest party, and Le Pen, who leads first-round presidential election polls in France, lost no time in leading fresh attacks against the bloc’s focus on fiscal prudence after the Greek deal was announced Monday morning.

Spanish party Podemos, which ousted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party in regional elections in Madrid in May on a similar anti-austerity platform to Syriza, took more time to digest the outcome.

Podemos, which faces national elections later this year, will hold a press conference later on Tuesday. Leader Pablo Iglesias, who has in the past traveled to Athens to demonstrate solidarity with Tsipras, expressed his support for Greece “against the Mafiosos” in a Twitter post Monday.

The elections in Spain, scheduled for December of this year, will likely be the first real indication of how the Greek crisis has affected European politics. And if Podemos wins, expect a lot more turmoil. As Iglesias himself calmly noted before the Greek drama reached its latest denouement, “Spain has something like 13 per cent of European gross domestic product, while Greece has about 2 per cent. Our government is more able to resist outside forces that might stop us doing our own thing.” Translation: just try to do to us what you did to the Greeks.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Ellen

    Margaret Thatcher will be seen, in future centuries, as the prophet of doom who got it right about the EU and European socialism. She presciently predicted that socialism was doomed because “Eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The Spanish can blather all they want, just as Tsipras did during his election campaign. But, other people’s money won’t be available for them later this year either. Pay attention to the fact that “other people” in this context means the German electorate.

    Who would ever have predicted that the grandchildren of the Germans who wanted to conquer Europe by murdering as many people who stood in their way as they possibly could, are now effectively seceding from Europe by refusing to pay permanent welfare to the indolency cases of Southern Europe. The real “exit” scenario that is unfolding here is Germexit, not Grexit.

    • Andrew Allison

      Germany may end up as the last man standing in the eurozone, but won’t quit because a properly valued D-mark would make the country’s exports uncompetitive.

  • wigwag

    Far left and far right are increasingly meaningless labels that obscure more than they elucidate. What we have in Europe is a realization by increasingly large swaths of the population from all political persuasions that Europe’s elites, its technocrats and its financial whiz kids are failing citizens of European nations in the most profound way. Unfortunately these elites have such a stranglehold on power that its very hard to put together a coherent political strategy that doesn’t sound extreme and bizarre; but make no mistake, it’s the elites who have failed the people and not the other way around.

    Whatever one thinks of Beppe Grillo, there’s no question that he’s right. The EU is “a totalitarian bloc that rides roughshod over national sovereignty and democracy.” Whatever one thinks of Marine Le Pen, she’s entirely correct when she says, the bloc’s common currency “is not sustainable and a catastrophe.” There’s simply no doubt that the contemptuous attitude that European elite have about ordinary Europeans is reminiscent of the attitude of the French nobility ensconced at Louis XVI’s Versailles or the nobility surrounding Czar Nicholas in pre-revolutionary Russia.

    We see precisely the same phenomenon in the United States. How does one explain the strange candidacies of a Donald Trump or a Bernie Sanders and the appeal that these candidates have to politically active members of their respective parties? Why, despite the hostility with which the press has greeted Trump’s candidacy is he leaping forward in the polls? The answer is simple; Americans understand in their guts that something is seriously wrong in our country (and in the rest of the developed world). They understand that their lives are getting worse not better, that their financial circumstances are getting more precarious not less precarious and that despite the end of the Cold War, the world is getting more dangerous not less dangerous. Moreover, the understand that both political parties are equally complicit. We’ve had four failed presidential terms in a row; two were the responsibility of the Republican in the White House and two were the responsibility of a Democrat in the White House.

    In our country, activists on the right and left actually share far more in common than they do with the elites calling the shots in the American Government. Similarly, elites in the GOP and the Democratic Party share far more in common with each other than they do with the ordinary citizens who vote Republican or Democrats. We see more and more examples of this reality; politically conservative Americans hate the common core and high stakes testing; elites from both political parties insist on shoving the common core and high stakes testing down the throats of ordinary Americans who don’t want their kids education dictated from Washington. In state after state we’ve seen a virtual revolution in education; it’s not a revolution in new educational policies, its a revolution where hundreds of thousands of Americans urged on by grassroots Republicans and Democrats refuse to expose their children to the child abuse that these tests represent.

    Republican elites and Democratic elites eacb despise ordinary Americans of both political parties who are skeptical of our nation’s lackadaisical policy on immigration. Ordinary Americans don’t hate Latinos but they do hate their leader’s unwillingness to follow the law. Sure, the Tea Party is up in arms about about illegal immigration. Guess what? So are labor unions and African American organizations.

    Of course, public enemy number one for ordinary Americans of all political persuasions is Wall Street. Most of us understand intuitively that if the recent financial disaster proved anything, it proved that its head wall street wins, tails ordinary Americans lose. Yet politicians of both political parties are owned lock, stock and barrel by Wall Street robber barons. Jeb Bush has already raised tens of millions of dollars from hedge fund types; so has Hillary Clinton. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are all crucially dependent on the Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue crowds to underwrite their campaigns. My suspicion is that Americans understand that there is something profoundly unhealthy about this. Maybe the reason Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are doing so well is because Sanders isn’t raising any Wall Street money and Trump’s personal wealth insures that he doesn’t need to.

    My guess is that if we end up with a presidential campaign featuring Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, it might just be the straw that breaks the camels back. I doubt that there is a sentient person in either American political party who wouldn’t recognize in their heart of hearts that a Clinton/Bush race would represent an extraordinary American failure,

    I was at the Democratic Convention in July, 1992 when Bill Clinton accepted the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. As he left the stage, the band struck up that old Fleetwood Mac song; “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” It’s remarkable and distressing that a quarter century later we are faced with the prospect of a presidential race between Clinton’s wife and the son of the man that Clinton defeated. Instead of racing towards the future with confidence, both political parties seem to be doubling down on yesterday.

    Via Meadia probably understands that its not just Europe. American elites have failed Americans every bit as badly as European elites have failed Europeans.

    Eventually, something has to give.

    • Andrew Allison

      Excellent comment. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Suzyqpie

      Your comment was, clearly, more interesting that the article. Tks.

    • Pete

      Excellent analysis, Wigwag.

      America’s ruling elite are rotten and corrupt.

    • rheddles

      Eventually, something has to give.

      What will give is wrm’s blue model. What will replace it is up for grabs. N either party has a vision for that future. That is why they double down on the past.

      • FriendlyGoat

        The Republican Party has a vision for that future. The vision is for people who are making significant private-sector money (including that from sales to government, or from straight-up speculation) to continue making significant private-sector money, with more and more of it spent on “messaging” to buy votes to assure that no political force can interrupt the game. The vision is mostly depended on the idea of wealthy people telling poorer voters, through the “messaging”, that—-IF—-you support us and our governmental agenda, then you—-CAN—-become just like us.

        • CapitalHawk

          It’s funny that what you say is the Republican Party’s vision is ALSO the Democratic Party’s vision. Which is, of course, wigwag’s point. If you think that layering more and more rules and regulations on businesses doesn’t entrench existing businesses and protect them from competition (because it become impossible for a new competitor to emerge without massive pre-existing financial resources), you don’t understand how the world works.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I was replying to rheddles, who asserted that neither party has a vision. I believe one of them—-in particular—-does.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Maybe we really need to sort out whether ordinary voters who are told to be mad at Democratic “elites” and Republican “elites” (or even European “elites”) have any idea of what or who they are supposed to be mad at, or why. That word is getting over-used and isn’t helping a single person in the United States actually understand anything.

    • Boritz

      In our country, activists on the right and left actually share far more in common with each other than they do with the elites calling the shots in the American Government. Similarly, elites in the GOP and the Democratic Party share far more in common with each other than they do with the ordinary citizens who vote Republican or Democrat. We see more and more examples of this reality;

      Yes. Another one: Union leaders who are well educated elitists who have little in common with the rank and file of their blue collar membership.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Sorry to be picky, but 23 years ago today (tomorrow really), not 24 years ago….
      Otherwise, exceptional as always…but then again why would I be surprised?

    • Ellen

      Thanks, great essay.

  • Andrew Allison

    ” . . . a grave historical injustice has been perpetrated.”? Where, pray tell is the injustice in telling the Greeks that, since they’ve proven themselves incapable of behaving responsibly, adult supervision is required? The admission of Greece into the Eurogroup, imposed on the citizenry by the elites to which wigwag refers, was the original sin but the real injustice was perpetrated on the eurozone taxpayer by said elites, who socialized (transferred to their governments the bad debts held by private banks) in the previous bailout. The refusal to put Greece out of its misery is similarly the elite’s determination to prevent a bankrupt nation from leaving the eurozone.

    • Proud Skeptic

      Once the decision was made by the EU to accept Greece on the basis of lies, all of this was inevitable. To allow Greece to remain in the Euro with the clear understanding that whatever reforms are agreed to will be pretty much impossible to implement was a clear indication that there are no long term prospects for the success of the EU. If Greece has not yet demonstrated sufficiently that it incapable of behaving responsibly then what would it take for that to happen?

      • Andrew Allison

        The problem was not Greece’s accession to the EU, but its accession to the Eurogroup. If, having made that mistake the Eurogroup had as it should have, dealt with the Greek problem among its membership, the damage to the EU would have been minimal. Tsipras’s revenge is that he managed to attach the European Commission, and hence the entire EU, to the eurozone tar-baby, and it is this that imperils the EU: the realization that your country is responsible for the fiscal irresponsibility of a Eurogroup member regardless of whether it’s part of the Eurogroup will be salutary.

  • Kevin

    Far right? Europe?

    I think the useful distinction is between establishment parties (generally center-left or center-right in the European context) and anti-establishment parties (often but not always of the extreme right nationalist variety or extreme left Neo-Communiston the extreme left).

    But the other difference is whether they are in the “North” or “South”. They want almost exactly the opposite depending on where they are. The anti-establishment parties of the South want easy money, debt forgiveness and an endless flow of wealth transferred from the North to the South to supported a bloated welfare state and dysfunctional economies. Those of the North want tight money and an end to their taxes subsidizing the South. Compare the Finns party to Podemas.

  • Arkeygeezer

    I don’t think that this saga has played out yet. Whether or not Greece remains in the EuroZone is a matter for the Greeks to decide.

    • Andrew Allison

      It alway was their decision; there’s no eject button in the Eurozone, the EU or NATO. Greece will resign only when the rest of the EU stops keeping them afloat with new, never-to-be-repaid loans. Did you notice that the IMF is now suggesting outright cash transfers (which is, of course, what the “loans” are anyway). The unelected eurocrats are, it appears, spend as much of OPM as it takes to prevent a defection from the Eurozone. When, if ever, will the elected governments of the EU members put a stop to this nonsense (and to expansion for the sake of expansion, again at enormous cost).

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service