Saturday, April 28, 2012

Back again

Pelion showed itself at its finest as I left on Thursday. The air was clear and as the plane rose I could look down and see the the whole length of the peninsula. The village where my house is was momentarily visible, sitting by the sea where the land starts to twist round in on itself. Then the plane banked and flew north over the snow-capped Pindus mountains, leaving the warm air slowly behind as it began to approach a vast bank of cloud over northern Europe.

And so I came back to mountainous sarcasm as rain lashes down on this officially drought-stricken country and the unsurprising news that once again the economy has slipped into recession.

Before I left, an elderly neighbour spoke to me as I worked in the garden. She did a startlingly good impersonation of one of her local enemies before moving from the small world of the village to, inevitably, The Crisis. "Prices go up, up, up. How can I live? My pension is only €370 a month. In the summer I can grow food, but what will happens in winter?" That is about all the meaning I could salvage from her machine gun Greek.

So what will happen? There comes a point when the most stubborn-minded ideologue, insulated from everyday life finds that reality has a nasty kick. My neighbour was only one manifestation of a pan-European sense of discontent. Across Europe anti-austerity movements are growing. The problem is that they are as much vehicles for populist, xenophobic and far-right sentiment as they are for democratic leftism. The conservative government of the Netherlands may have fallen, but it was Wilders' Freedom Party that brought it down

The possible election of Hollande in France may be the first crack, if only a small one, in the deadly certainty of the  European elite. If so, then it will be welcome as there has been little sign of any alternative political economy emerging elsewhere. Mark Weisbrot argues from the left that counter-cyclical economic policies are more than possible:
It is only the political will that is lacking. In the meantime, the opposition of ordinary Europeans throughout the eurozone will be all that stands between the European authorities and a worsening economic mess.
What should be concerning us all is that such opposition could end up imposing an even darker fantasy on reality than that of the austerity fetishists. After all, the opposition is not solely composed of elderly women in Greek villages, but of ambitious men and women anxious to promote a politics of hate.

1 comment:

Anton Deque said...

Good post Peter. I hear the "fashionable intellegence" warbling on about the rise of alternative politics to the mainstream parties. This may be true, but I fear it.