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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
Combatting Austerity and Post-Democracy in Greece

Syriza’s Challenge

by BINOY KAMPMARK

“Marx’s once scandalous thesis that governments are simple business agents for international capital is today an obvious fact on which ‘liberals’ and ‘socialists’ agree.”

— Jacques Rancière, Dis-agreement (1999), 113

Across Europe, and more specifically, the euro-zone, a spectre did not so much haunt as totally materialise in the form of Alex Tsipras and the Syriza party. Greece woke up to a new party that had never seen office, coming within a few seats of governing in its own right. Any European party would have salivated at such an outcome – coalitions tend to be a matter of course, and majorities normally associated with authoritarian types. In the Greek case, the order established during the post-junta period had been overturned – at least on electoral paper.

Tsipras, in just falling short of the 151 number required to form government, has sought support from other potential partners. To date, it seems that the right-wing ANEL Independent Greeks party has agreed to muck in. Both have a common anti-bailout position, though it remains to be seen what else they can find common ground about.

This immediately got the leaving incumbents speculating that the union would not last, a desperate attempt at premature Schadenfreude. Petros Doukas, former deputy finance minister, pondered that, “It’s ultimately going to be much more difficult to figure out exactly what policies they will ultimately agree on.”

A mixture of euphoria and terror has met the result. The latter reaction is typical of the market-managers who see earnings being whittled away in speculation and a rocking of the financial sector. The market, in such language, is a sanctified deity which should be propitiated. It is not something to control, let alone directed by human hand. It has its own inscrutable morality.

Consider the wording of Nick Squires (The Telegraph, Jan 26), as he was monitoring the numbers: “The surprise alliance between two staunchly anti-bailout parties, spooked markets and triggered a loss of nearly 4 percent on the Athens Stock Exchange as well as elsewhere in Europe.”

But the Syriza victory is more significant in another sense: the challenge it poses to democracy in the euro-zone. The issues of austerity and debt cannot be divorced from that of political management. Where, given Syriza’s jarring win, does that sit in the European rubric, frayed as it is? For one, the party faces what has been termed by French philosopher Jacques Rancière as the “post-democratic” moment.

Democratic institutions, in this age, are openly, and unquestionably, identified with the market, something which distinctly takes the gloss off their accountability for the broad citizenry. “From an allegedly defunct Marxism,” argues Rancière in Dis-agreement (1999), “the supposedly reigning liberalism borrows the theme of objective necessity, identified with the constraints and caprices of the...

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