Since May 2010, the question of national debt has become a central concern for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone. The first program of €110 billion, imposed by the troika — comprised of the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — for the purpose of elaborating and executing this program, provoked a brutal increase in Greek public debt. This was also the case in various forms in Ireland (2010), Portugal (2011), Cyprus (2013), and Spain.
This program had the following fundamental objectives:
Bail out the private banks with public funds so that they may avoid the damaging consequences of their own private credit bubble, averting a new major international financial crisis.
Give to the new public creditors, who replaced the private creditors, enormous coercive powers over the governments and institutions of the peripheral countries in order to impose policies of radical austerity, deregulation (eroding large numbers of labor and welfare benefits), privatizations, and stricter authoritarian controls (see the last point)
Preserve the eurozone perimeter (in other words, keep Greece and the other peripheral countries within the eurozone), which is a powerful instrument in the hands of the multinational corporations and the major economies of the zone.
Bring neoliberal policies to bear more heavily on Greece, in particular, but also on the other eurozone peripheral countries as an example for all the European populations.
Reinforce a Europe-wide (as much for the European Union generally as for each member state) authoritarian form of governance, without resorting to new experiments resembling fascist or Nazi regimes or that of Franco, Salazar, or the Greek colonels (1967-1974). This aspect is insufficiently taken into account because the accent is placed on the economic and social repercussions. The authoritarian tendency within the European Union and the eurozone is a key issue and goal of the European Commission and the big corporations. This touches on executive powers, expeditious voting procedures, limiting or violating many rights, disregarding electors’ choices and, among more, increased repression of dissent.
There are lessons to be learned from the failure of the policies adopted by the government of Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to break the bonds of austerity. It is also necessary to realize the limits of the socialist minority government of Antonio Costa in Portugal.
Alternative policies in the people’s interest must at the same time address austerity, public debt, private banks, the eurozone, and oppose authoritarian tendencies. The experiences in the eurozone over the 2010-16 period clearly show that it is impossible to break with austerity unless responses to at the least the abovementioned problems are put forward. Of course, the climatic and ecological crises must also be addressed. So must we confront the humanitarian crisis caused by Europe’s fortified-borders policy, the Middle East crisis, and the rise of racism and the far right, responsible for the death of so many immigration and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean.