Sep 16, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Blood Being Spilled

According to recent reports, Greeks are increasingly talking about “blood being spilled” and even “civil war” in response to the painful pay and pension cuts being imposed by European authorities in exchange for bailout money. Obviously, to talk about civil war is way over the top, but it seems clear that as new loans loom, Greece is set to enter a period of more violent protests.

We’ve talked several times about Greece and other weak links being “punished” for their past extravaganzas. But beyond the discussion of a fundamental ideological divide –is austerity or expansion better to recuperate a bankrupt economy-, there is the question of feasibility. The European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF just imposed, for example, cuts on disability benefits in Greece, leading to protesters in wheelchairs gathering in front of the country’s parliament. I suppose nothing is sacred.

Protesters in the streets of Portugal / 09.15.2012

And is all that pain helping? Right now Greece is cutting one thousand jobs a day and the unemployment rate has surpassed 23%. In the words of “The Guardian”, “Greek debt still accounts for 166% of GDP – and shows little sign of reversing. That has added to the mood of fury and fear, provoking criticism even among reform-minded Greeks of the troika and its policies.”

Portugal faces similar challenges. Yesterday the streets of Lisbon witnessed the largest anti-austerity protest since the start of the crisis, and Madrid had its own mass manifestation. It gets increasingly hard to convince the people that the cuts in their salaries will result in anything positive for their countries.

I remember when, not long ago, the US job marked was shedding 800,000 jobs a month (though the unemployment rate never got as high as in Europe). And as we are constantly reminded, the US chose a different path to try to spur its economy. Obviously the situations are different and demand different responses, but the same ideological clash appears in the comparison between them.

How much more can Greeks, Portuguese and others take? We will find out soon enough. And don’t miss the opportunity to discuss it further in the next edition of our journal Democracy&Society –the call for papers will be made available tomorrow.

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2 Comments

  • How much they can take is a good question. “Expansionary austerity” is an ideology designed to fit the solution of Europe’s economic crisis that the Government of Germany and creditors wanted: no external bailouts; no defaults. At times I get the feeling that Germany just wants Greece and Portugal to leave the Euro. It’s a solution the Germans like, but they won’t be the ones pulling the trigger. If this happens, I wonder what the bankers will do. If Greece and/or Portugal leave the Euro and default, I suspect we will have a showdown between the countries’ creditors and the Government of Germany over “who lost Greece?”

  • Very interesting. I think you should definitely submit a paper to the next edition of Democracy&Society :)

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Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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