Among a chorus of commentators and news reports referring to Greece as a “spoilt child who spent all of their pocket money”, Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone strikes a resonant chord with those who ask, “Why should we pay for their crisis?”
Written before Syriza came to power, but with that likelihood in mind, this little book takes up the question of what a left government can do in the face of powerful elites who have savaged the country’s infrastructure in the failed pursuit of budget surpluses. Crucially it charts a path for those who want a clearer view of the way out of the euro.
Syriza has ruled out an exit, which the authors argue is impossible given current pressures. However, they stop short of calling the EU the bosses’ club it is, suggesting a break with the euro is unfortunately unavoidable rather than desired. They point out the underutilised capacity (industrial output has dropped by 35 percent since 2007) and mass unemployment (750,000 jobs lost since the cuts), that could be resolved if the country’s hands weren’t tied by the Troika.
The timing of the book means that they are writing about what a left government could do, while the Syriza government has now demonstrated how quickly it could be pressured into compromise. According to the authors, the state should be taken over and cleansed, not smashed and replaced with a workers’ state.
Nonetheless this is a powerful handbook for those arguing against the neoliberal consensus. Placing this ideology at the heart of the drive for austerity, it shows how the cuts have destroyed demand and falling tax receipts have meant the debt has skyrocketed as a percentage of GDP. The authors say this means Greece would have to endure “26 years of austerity” to pay back the debt, based on IMF assumptions that “could only exist on an excel spreadsheet”.
Instead Greece should default on its debt, they argue. The examples of workers’ control we have seen could be the agency needed to carry this through but this does not play a major role in the book. France and Italy are in trouble next from the imposition of neoliberal policies, they warn, proposing dismantling the euro project as a whole. This is welcome but needs to be accompanied by dismantling the capitalist states too.
The roots of the crisis are in the system’s inability to create enough profit to sustain its need to grow but the book leans instead on ideological reasons or financialisation as the problem. However, these are important voices on the left of the opposition to the Troika, with a Marxism much less erratic than some in the leadership of Syriza.