Today, 16th June, Bloomsday, there will be a demonstration at the Spire in Dublin with the theme End The Dictatorship of Fear! Support the Greek people, in advance of the Greek elections held on Sunday. That it is Bloomsday is a coincidence, but that doesn’t mean it’s a coincidence that should be ignored.
As the press release for the event noted, Joyce had a deep interest in Greek thought, literature and culture, and Ulysses would not exist without Greece. What is more, the central character, Leopold Bloom, is an internationalist who shuns corrosive and debilitating nationalism.
This is particularly relevant in light of the reigning logic of the European Union, by which member states become the containers in which the values of democracy, equality and universality are crushed by a neoliberal governance increasingly reliant on corporatist nationalism: sacrifices to the market gods must be made for the glory of Ireland Inc, one must pull on the green jersey, and so on.
These market gods have nothing to fear from people pulling on the green jersey; as Jorge Moruno suggests below, what they –or rather, the people behind them- fear is that people might stop thinking like the Citizen from the Cyclops chapter in Ulysses and start thinking like Bloom.
One only has to take a glance at the main media outlets when they talk about the coming Greek elections to realice that those who are in command are afraid too. They basically present the scenario along the lines of good guys and bad guys. On the one hand, the good guys are the parties of the regime – Pasok, ND- who have managed with blind obedience to the Troika, and the bad guys represent “chaos”; which is the name they have for Syriza. We have to choose between Europe or its destruction. This is how the elites of the continent take part with regard to the “festival of democracy” the coming 17th of June. Pressuring, distorting, smearing and whipping up fear in the population.
But are they really so terrified because of a posible Greek exit from the euro? I don’t think so. Sure, this worries them, but their greatest worry is that they remain, and the box of Pandora gets opened. The real fear that the financial kleptocracy can have is that people start talking about Europe again, but in a different way. A new narrative about what Europe must or must not be, is what they want to avoid at all costs. For them there is nothing to debate: that falls within the realm of the illusory; they infantilise it, they infantilise us, but it can come to an end.
Syriza propose a debt audit, they tell us that 75% of the debt is illegal, it is odious debt and they make a call to join up with other countries who find themselves in a similar situation. They propose all this and much more without giving up on Europe, why should they have to do so? Perhaps someone claims that by returning to the drachma people’s lives will improve? That is the easy option, it is always there, but it is better to fight the battle on the terrain of complexity, to use a finer thread: we reject your vision of Europe, which is not the same as rejecting Europe.
In his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche examines in depth the causes of what can lead something to be considered good or evil, and he interprets the changes in their meaning over time. Among other matters, he points out that the etymology of the words debt and guilt start from the same root. Whoever has a debt also bears guilt, something that anaesthetises and inflicts emotional defeat on whoever owes it with regard to any intention of not paying. What is at stake is a change of positions between who is guilty and who owes whom.
If most of the debt acquired has been for the benefit of speculators and bankers, but the guarantee is public. If that money loaned money comes from the public, from the Europeans, who provide it to the banks and who in turn to provide it to the States charging a higher interest rate, who is guilty? This is the question that Syriza places on the table, and nothing about an intention of leaving Europe. But the financial machinery prefers to make us believe that exit from the euro is an abyss, before a different model of another Europe, built by its people for its people, can be set forth.
Faced with these stakes Syriza has acted with nimbleness, intelligence and daring. It has made its enemy’s demagogy into its best ally in a fine guerrilla communications move. Instead of closing ranks within the identity built for it by the media and the elites, it has preferred to do a judo move and play with the codes. In one of many posters they make fun of their accusers, saying “Syriza is to blame for everything. It’s Syriza’s fault that we’re going to get eaten by Godzilla”.
But why vote or support Syriza? What makes it different? As the philosopher Sánchez Estop says, “Syriza represents something that power can never tolerate: the social movement that has made the the reigning social order democratically unrepresentable and morally unpresentable”. Syriza has managed to turn elections to a liberal parliament into a challenge to the regime of finance itself. Of course it remains to be seen whether it will carry out its programme, whether it will hold out and so on and so forth, but that for the moment is another matter.
Right now, Syriza is growing in the heat of the mobilisations, taking part in them, creating an institutional base that legitimates the voice of the squares. It reflects the aspiration of those below to take part in the res publica –the public thing- so that everybody and anybody can decide about what they see and do. So that the commons is shared out in common, so that those who have no part take up their part and mark out their spaces, their times and their activity: autonomy, that old Greek word.
This coming 17th of June not only will the Greeks go out and vote, it is also we Europeans who have the future of Europe at stake. Debt is the worst enemy of peace: with debt, peace is threatened throughout Europe. Democracy or barbarism. The regime of finance that subjugates the European multitudes is totally infected, it hangs on because it has not finished rotting, but it is now beginning to get gangrene. Europe has only one way out: that of amputating those at the top. Greece is the cradle of democracy and autonomy. They are not satisfied with being a bibliographical reference, they have decided to recover the meaning of the words because they are not afraid of Europe. And with them, all of us follow behind.