Building Education for the Commons
By Creston Davis
The first time I hear about the Greek economic crisis was during a panel in which a few of my Rollins College colleagues and I were presenting our freshly published books. One of the presenters was from the business school and after he heard my talk on radical democracy he stood up and said something like, “If we follow your ideas we’ll all end up where Greece is now.” I was curious about his comment and quickly started researching what was happening in Greece. My Neoliberal colleague’s comment targeted my stance on democracy from the moral ground of “free-market” enterprise.
The upshot being that we should all just face the reality that there is no alternative to the free-market. But as research has shown, the reality is very different. In fact Neoliberal ideology of “free market and minimal government interventions” actually requires Nation-States to usher in their anti-democratic policies using massive military and police spending to keep democracy from rising so that the banks, IMF, World-Bank etc. can create the conditions of possibilities in which public services (health care, electric grid, energy, water, education, transportation etc.) can be purchased and privatized by the 1%. Is it little wonder that the first Neoliberal “experiment” was designed by professors at the University of Chicago (Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger) and deployed through the dictatorship of General Pinochet’s Chile. From that first moment, Neoliberalism’s strategic plan has been to employ military dictatorship principles in order for the 1% to buy up public land and services so that they can continue growing their power throughout the world. One recent example of Neoliberalism is what happened to Greece.
It is beyond dispute that the Greece government over the past decade or more have acted as puppets to the 1% Neoliberal policy. This took place through what the Greeks call miza–that is politicians are literally paid off to provide room for international businesses and corporations to come into Greece to buyout public services. Well, as it turns out, the money the politicians were paid needs to be paid back. But because the public sector has been gutted by Neoliberal policies the economy suffered and in light of these loans needing to be paid back, the people of Greece now face a Great Depression via Austerity Measures.
The Radical left wing party, Syriza was a response to how the 1% Neoliberal policies gutted the sovereignty of the Greek people and undermined democracy. The Greeks want to rule themselves and not have international corporations invade their country and turn it into a playground and resort for the rich. So they are taking a stand against the neofascist policies of the 1%. The only defense the 1% financial industry has is to play the quasi-religious ‘moral’ card by demeaning the very dignity of all Greek working people by calling them lazy and irresponsible. The reality is the Greek conservative politicians who took bribes from the 1% are to blame and not the Greek workers; indeed next to Mexicans, Greeks work longer hours per week than any other country on the planet, according to my friend and economist, Dr. Leonidas Vatikiotis. And where do you think the former Greek politicians who sold their country out are now? They have made money off the deal, meanwhile the average Greek has been suffering for more than five years working harder now than ever with far less pay.
Just listen to the German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who said, “The problem is that Greece has lived beyond its means for a long time and that nobody wants to give Greece money any more without guarantees.” The rhetoric Mr. Schaeuble employs is that it’s somehow the fault of the Greek worker, that they didn’t work hard enough, that somehow the Protestant work-ethic never took in Athens. But this moralistic rhetoric is not only hypocritical, it’s anti-democratic because now they want to force Greece to its knees and continue their plan to buy everything the 1% can get their hands on. That is why 75% of Greeks now support Syriza’s plan to stop the crushing and endless cycle of debt, but the financiers including the IMF won’t let them. In other words, what you see here is literally the front lines of a new world war between the 1% and democracy. What folks like Schaeuble want is to force Greece to its knees and ignore the sovereignty of a country’s decision to elect leaders who actually represent the will of the people. Schaeuble doesn’t want democracy he wants his money for his billionaire business investors. This is why this stand-off between Greece and the EU is so crucial. Will democracy survive or will the 1% continue crushing the Greeks and eventually the rest of us via debt and deploy the military-police regime to enforce it? If we don’t stand-up for democracy now, it may be too late.
Perhaps it’s time put on trial the politicians and the 1% who are trying to buy us out, and to stand on the morality that it is immoral to pay back loans that were immorally distributed.