The news from Europe is horrible. First Greece, and now Italy are being told that they have to give up any semblance of democracy and put bankers directly in charge of their government. At one point it looked as if Greece was actually going to get a banker, Lucas Papademos, as its new prime minister. That isn’t happening (at least as I write this), probably because the symbolism was too eerie – but it might as well happen, because the banks are running the show.
Why? The answer we are getting from the mainstream politicians, the mainstream media, and the bankers themselves is that There Is No Alternative (a phrase Margaret Thatcher used so much that people started calling it TINA). Greece has to keep using the euro, the banks that own Greek bonds have to be paid (even the plan to pay them only 50% requires their voluntary cooperation), the Greek state has to be gutted, and the Greek people have to suffer huge losses of jobs, income, pensions, and health care.
Why? Different answers are given. Some are just mindless: “That’s just the way it is,” or “That’s how capitalism works.” The slightly more substantive answer is usually something about investor confidence. If investors think their money is at risk, the argument goes, then they won’t invest, and where would we be?
Well, probably we (or Greece, or Italy) would be better off. After all, it was the investors who got us into this mess. If Greece took control of its own currency (which would mean going back to the drachma), they could direct public resources into work that meets real human needs. Or if the government wouldn’t do that, the people could (that’s what happened in Argentina during their last crisis: investors shut down factories and pulled out of the country, whereupon groups of workers seized control of the factories and repoened them). People making decisions to meet human needs, rather than to profit investors – that’s what democracy looks like!
Does this sound utopian? Sure! It is utopian. It’s an attempt to visualize another world, to show that there is an alternative, another world is possible! That is the message of the demonstrations in Athens, Cairo, Madrid, New York, Oakland, and everywhere else. We can’t accept the claim that their is only one way to do things. Another world is possible, another world is absolutely necessary, and it is up to us to figure out how to get there.
I’ll try to suggest some details, including historical examples, in future posts. This is just to get the ideas flowing.