‘Europe on the brink of revolution’
Greek President Karolos Papoulias has called on the leaders of the country’s three biggest parties in a last ditch effort to avoid new elections. With the Left Coalition SYRIZA party insisting that it will not participate in any government “that will implement the bailout,” Greece faces bankruptcy within weeks, and a likely ejection from the eurozone. But as Greece is told to suffer more austerity or say goodbye to the euro, Politi told RT there is a third way.
RT: Greece's predicament is unenviable. It could leave the Eurozone, maybe default, start from scratch – or try and stick out more than a decade of austerity. Which direction should it go?
Alessandro Politi: Well, there is a third direction, which is that Europe – which means the main European states – should show the solidarity which is incorporated in the Treaty of Lisbon, and which we have seen very little precious solidarity around in the past months. It is very clear that this financial assault [by speculators] is like an artichoke, first you start with the weaker states, and then you go to the heart – the heart is France, Germany and the other AAA [rated countries]. And all these countries have already been threatened with a downgrade – or like France, have already been downgraded to A.
'The middle class will be squeezed for the sake of these financial interests. This is something which goes against democracy, dignity and freedom.'
RT: It almost seems as though you’re describing some sort of chain reaction originating from Athens. Are you forecasting a fairly scary prospect for the entire eurozone by saying that other countries after Greece could also be in line?
AP: Well, if they march divided, and the speculators attack in a coordinated way, this is inevitable. This is precisely what European countries and the ECB [European Central Bank] should avoid. But for the moment, everyone says ‘I’m not Greece, no, I am different, no, Greece must pay and then the rest will see.’ And this isn’t a good idea.
RT: Okay, so it’s not a good idea. What might be a good idea? You’re looking at Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal – certainly there are fundamental members of the eurozone that are flailing right now. Is there a solution?
AP: The first thing is to collectively negotiate the debt. Each country has been left alone to its own devices. This is not a good idea when you face a full-fledged financial assault; this isn’t just a crisis. And secondly, there must be a debt auditing. We are lumping together different types of debts, and we don’t know what are the serious and really guaranteed and transparent debts, and what are shadow financing operations for which I don’t know why we should pay collectively as Europeans.
RT: Let’s address the one simple fact here that a lot of the networks seem to ignore. At the end of the day with these austerity measures, the one area the feels the pain, that feels the pinch is the people. How much longer are the public and the working middle class expected to take the brunt of these austerities when they’re losing their money and pensions, retirement, healthcare, you name it. Where’s the outrage?
AP: Greece has already hit the bottom, and very soon other countries will do the same. Because it’s not just working class, it’s really middle-middle class that will be squeezed without any pity for the sake of these financial interests. And this is something which goes against the grain of democracy and against the grain of dignity and freedom. So I think that the situation, at least in some countries, is really ready for something very similar to an Arab revolution.
'In Italy, the number of suicides is very similar to the ones we had in Tunisia. The statistics office says the number is in line with past years; I’m sure the same thing was said to Ben Ali.'
RT: In Spain we've got mass austerity protests. In Italy we saw more clashes with riot police. And demonstrators in Greece, we all know what’s happening there – only a few weeks ago one man shot himself in the head on the steps of parliament. Don’t you think that the public’s message has been clear at this point?
AP: Yes, but unfortunately there is a political class and also an entrepreneur class which has been educated by more than 30 years of deregulation, which thinks just that numbers count, and not people. So they see the facts, but they really don’t take seriously the message. We are starting in Italy to have a number of suicides which are very similar to the ones that we had in Tunisia, and what does our official statistics office say? Well, the number is in line with the past years. I’m sure the same thing was said to Ben Ali by his own statisticians. But that is not the point. It is not about the numbers, it is about politics and political perception. It’s not just spinning the news.
RT: When the whole idea of the eurozone was dreamed up by politicians, it certainly must have seemed like a good idea. Is it a case now of politicians, whether it’s eurocrats in Brussels or politicians in other flailing eurozone countries, who don’t want to see it go down the toilet on their watch?
AP: Not only, but also politicians in the apparently more secure countries don’t want to see it go down the toilet because their own banks are generally filled with toxic assets. This is something which is not really [discussed], but which is true. It’s not only a problem of countries whose debt has been singled out by speculators. Because other countries also have a worrying composition of their debt, and they still apparently are in good health. Look just at the United Kingdom. They have introduced austerity measures, but they still have a reputable economy despite knowing very well that the debt is very high. Look at the United States, who are saying ‘well, we don’t want to be touched by EU problems,’ when this world crisis was originated by scandals in the United States.