Yesterday, in two European countries, one big and powerful and the other smaller and more marginal in terms of continental power, electoral consultations took place. In the big country, once again the solemn drivel of the politics of representation was heard, with two candidates outdoing each other in ridiculousness, speaking in the name of "the French" and shamelessly emitting phrases like "the French want", "the French think" etc.
The great hexagonal country is an old centre of European power. The crisis has hit France but, for the moment, this has not turned into the social disaster found in the countries of Southern Europe, especially the smallest and most marginalized of them, Greece. Hence, it is still possible to play at representation, at a game of mirrors between right and left in which the different components of capitalist rule decide whether to give greater importance to the market or the State, to equality or free enterprise. All within a splendid continuity between the two poles of a system that is never questioned by either component, because both are part of the system. Whoever thinks that a capitalist regime is called into question by reinforcing the State or improving juridical equality between citizens ignores the fact that the generalised market that is characteristic of capitalism is the product of statist activity, and that equality of contract is the basic condition for the existence of the market. As Michel Foucault reminded Chomsky in their memorable Dutch television debate in 1971, a regime cannot be fought according to its own concepts and values.
Hence, the representative left can only represent, at best, a working class that forms part of the framework of capitalism, of its specific mode of distribution of wealth. Its role in class struggle is pure mystification, of hiding the antagonisms behind the common values of the system presented as "democratic" values or "values of the Republic" with the pompous voice used to proclaim big lies.
In the powerful hexagon, François Hollande, a leader of the Socialist Party who set forth a programme that was moderately critical of austerity policies and who proclaimed his desire to modify the European Stability Pact, won the presidential election by a small margin over the outgoing president. What he proposes, instead of austerity, is "growth". Hollande will probably not take long to renege on his promises and return to the "realism" that consists in accepting austerity and cutbacks, perhaps in the name of growth. In France there is still a margin for lying with some success and also for cutting public spending and salaries. As long as this margin exists it will still be possible to have the charade of the two candidates, on the right and left, with their "populist" acolytes on the right and left who, between State and market, bring a third character into the farce: the people (pueblo). This people that irrupts as the Other of the market in the left discourse of Mélenchon or the Other of the State in the semifascist populism of Le Pen's daughter. As if the people were not the unification by the State and in the State of the dispersed agents of the market.
An appeal to populisms shows no way out of the labyrinth of mirrors of representative politics in which, simply, no outside space exists, nowhere beyond any representation other than "terrorist" criminality, and even this is a mystified exterior, a false exterior entirely designated by those in power. The class struggle cannot be represented, only those mirrors which reflect, ad infinitum, the false antagonism between the State and the market, between the people of the left and the people who are guardians of the national being. As in the final scene of the film, The Lady from Shanghai, directed by Orson Welles, the protagonists shoot against their images in a labyrinth of mirrors and by shooting at their own image they kill the other.
Capitalism with a liberal flavour kills capitalism with a socialist flavour or vice versa. Meanwhile, they trot out the fascist bogeyman, previously fed through a conscious State-driven xenophobia so that the majority options, which are respectable and not "populist," can present the most brutal policies as a "lesser evil" ... in comparison with what would happen if the fascists were to win. The existence of a fascist bloc allows the parties of the regime to be fascists themselves while accusing the "populists" on the extreme right of being so. Good cop, bad cop.
Greece had elections yesterday too, but their course and their results are very different from those of France. The official [corporate-owned] (oficialista) European press has presented the results of the Greek elections as a strong advance for the "radical" left and a reversal for the two big protagonists of the Greek two-party system, the socialists of Pasok and the right-wing New Democracy.
However, something even more serious has occurred: it has been shown that, once it gets to a certain point, democratic representation of neoliberal capitalism becomes impossible. The two big parties who defend austerity and the payment of the debt, Pasok and ND, received less than 33% of the votes: the rest of the forces represented in the Greek parliament are, by contrast, radically hostile to these policies which are driving the country into ruin and impoverishing the popular classes and the middle layers. This has not prevented the regime from doing everything possible in order to stop the Greek citizens from expressing their discontent: not only was it not possible to consult the population about the austerity measures in a referendum (the mere attempt at doing so cost Papandreou his job), but, in order to prevent the expression of minority positions, the minimum percentage for obtaining deputies was raised from 3% to 5% of the vote, which meant in the latest elections excluding 19% of the electorate, a percentage of votes greater than that obtained by Nea Dimokratia, the party that received the most votes. Not only this: the bonus for the party that won the most votes was raised just before the elections to 50 seats, so that New Democracy with 18.9% (just 2% more votes than Syriza, the left coalition that got 16.8%) receives, thanks to this generous "gift", 108 deputies compared to Syriza's 52. The combination of the minimum of suffrages and the premium to the majority party disfigures this way grotesquely the interrelation of the political forces represented in the parliament.
This blatant legal rigging, which was intended to guarantee "governability" and allow a government of "national salvation" made up of New Democracy and Pasok, the minority parties that represent the politics of austerity against which the voters expressed themselves clearly and resoundingly, was almost successful. The final results have not allowed for this solution, since not even with this legal electoral fraud could the parties of the "mnimonio" (the memorandum on austerity policies imposed by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF) reach an absolute majority. Austerity becomes unenforceable by democratic means. This is the big difference between Greece and France. In Greece, with yesterday's results it will be near impossible to form a government since, although Syriza has obtained an excellent result, it will be impossible for it to get sufficient support. The Communist Party, which already opposed unified lists with the "social democrats" of Syriza because they were too "Europeanist" will not accept any kind of post-electoral coalition. Elsewhere, a cartoonish but terrible Far Right, Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) has entered parliament with policies that oppose immigration policies but also those of the "Junta" (the hispanic name used in Greece for the dictatorship of the colonels) of the "mnimonio" (memorandum). The function of this formation is for the moment similar to that of Marine Le Pen in France and that of other far rights: to enable the neoliberal and xenophobic radicalisation of the majority parties that can present fascism as a "greater evil," even though their militias are already on the streets acting against immigrants.
The elections that ought to have served to give legitimacy to the rule of financial capital through austerity and the payment of the debt have not achieved this objective in Greece. Austerity and debt are today unrepresentable, and so too is the resistance of the multitude against these policies. The mirrors have broken conclusively, although it is possible that there may be some playing with that large splinter that the far right constitutes. In the coming days anything can happen: if there is no majority to support the rescue plan and the imposed austerity measures that come with it, there could quickly arise a suspension of funding from Europe and the IMF and a suspension of payments by Greece. It is very likely too that the country will have to leave the euro, with the attendant repercussions on the other weakened countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland etc.) and on the zone as a whole. Greece today finds itself in a situation that recalls Germany in the 1940s. The causes are similar: Weimar Germany was destroyed by the payment of a brutal war debt imposed by the victors of the first world war. Keynes had already warned the war reparations commission of the disastrous consequences of this policy. Against the impossibility of a revolution due among other things to the deep division of the lefts and the sectarianism of the German Communist Party, an ugly and resentful little boor, as ridiculous as the leaders of Chrisí Avgi, ended up taking power. We know the rest of the story.
At this moment, only a powerful reaction at a European level against the policies of austerity can prevent the return of barbarism from our continent. We need a Europe that is a true space of productive co-operation for the multitude, a space of democracy and freedom and not a mere odious debt recovery agency managed by an oligarchy and a racist immigration policy. Not every country can allow itself the spectacle of the great "republican" puppet show that France enjoys; they can't even do it within France. Greece shows us that social domination through debt cannot be represented democratically. To preserve democracy, it is urgent to put an end to economic policies that hide less and less their character of true political domination. This, however, cannot be done within the frame of the nation-States: the sovereignist nostalgia represented by fascism and to a certain extent by the "populisms" is today a trap. It is only at a European level that there can be solutions to problems that moved away from the national level some time ago. By shutting ourselves into "our" States we will find ourselves with a capitalist rule that is ever more brutal and we will be ever more incapable of confronting it. Another European construction is necessary and urgent. The 12M will be much more decisive to this end than the elections of the 6th of May.
The 1% sacrifices our rights to save their privileges. THEY ARE LIVING BEYOND OUR MEANS. Poster from social movement Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth without Future).