World Affairs Note: Greek Austerity Provokes Radicalization

The Greek state has been a very capable state and it has been able to deliver all kinds of things. You know, it’s a middle-income country. Its political system has been uniquely stable in Europe. Two parties have alternated in power and nothing has been changing for three to four decades.

Now that’s finished. That’s come to an end. These two parties are completely discredited. The center is hollowed out. And what has happened is that parties on the left and parties on the extreme right have been strengthened.

Deprivation under austerity that results in society feeling deserted by its government can rapidly provoke disenchantment with the political establishment and a lurch toward radicals as the only remaining hope. Provoking such radicalization of a democratic political system is of course a fool’s game. University of London economics professor Costas Lapavitsas lays out how the process is already proceeding in Greece:

And that’s a reflection of what I mentioned to you before of the confusion, the despondency, and the anger among ordinary people. They do not look at the center any longer for solutions; they look at both ends of the political spectrum….If the center-right has made itself discredited, then a lot of people will look to the extreme right, which promises clean hands, efficiency, dealing with foreigners the way in which they understand that, and so on. That can be very quick. That can be very fast. [Real News 10/19/12.]

Western leaders who see punishing the poor as the solution are playing a very dangerous game.

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