|The spectre of fascism is haunting Europe, as the bankers tighten their grip|
In Greece, George Papandreou had loyally imposed ruination on millions of his voters for two years, going back on pre-election pledges to resist cutting public spending. But following huge strikes and mobilisations of the working class on the streets of Athens and other cities, he called a referendum on the latest cuts package. He did so for his own political reasons, in an attempt to force the hand of opposition politicians who had postured as opponents of the cuts. But Papandreou was punished on the financial markets, and was humiliatingly summoned by Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France for a dressing down. Days of confusion and horse-trading followed, but finally Lucas Papademos emerged as the new PM.
For the international banking elite, Papademos has impeccable credentials. He worked in the highest echelons of the Bank of Greece for nearly twenty years until 2002, overseeing preparations for eurozone entry. For the next eight years, he was vice president of the European Central Bank - a key member of the 'Troika' now restructuring the Greek economy in its own interests. In the year leading up to his appointment, he had been an advisor to Papandreou. So there will be no deviation from brutal austerity under his leadership - on the contrary, the attacks on working class living standards will be deepened and accelerated. The recent police raid on a Thessaloniki university - the first time they have been on campus since the Greek colonels' dictatorship ended in 1974 - points towards even more iron fisted repression.
Silvio Berlusconi of Italy has also been imposing huge austerity measures on the Italian working class this year, but never enough to satisfy the appetite of the kings and queens of finance. In the week before his own resignation, the country's standing on international markets yo-yoed, depending on whether or not it looked like he would remain in office. This signal was read and understood by parliamentarians, who removed his majority, and effectively forced his hand. Bankers deemed Berlusconi's embroilment in personal corruption charges too much of a distraction from his role as their servant, and so they demanded his head.
Even in Spain, where a collapse in support for the formerly social democratic Socialist Workers' Party saw the post-Francoist People's Party returned to power just four days ago, the new PM has already been put on notice by the oligarchy. Mariano Rajoy made an appeal to the markets that "there are elections and that the winners must be given a little room for manoeuvre that should last more than half an hour". But then the real rulers of Spain showed him the whip, raising the cost of borrowing close to the levels which prompted Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek bailouts, and dropping the stock market level by almost 2% in early trading. Having seen what has just happened to Berlusconi, Rajoy knows that the oligarchs have far more power to destroy him than any electorate.
Democratically-elected politicians have to make some kind of appeal to the electorate, and this is a hindrance to the ultra-rich. This is the reason why the franchise was so hard won from each nation's bourgeoisie in the first place, and why today's ruling class - the international finance houses - will not hesitate to remove it wherever it becomes an inconvenience to them. The appointment of technocrats represents another big step in the eventual abolition of bourgeois democracy. When the time comes, military and para-military forces from the far right will be used in an attempt to crush the fighting battalions of the working class.
This is the ominous significance of Makis Voridis' and Adonis Georgiadis' elevation to ministry portfolios in Greece. Both men belong to LAOS, an extreme right party founded in 2000, which argues for political decisions to be made by a council including military officers and Church officials. There is also a large anti-Semitic element to their politics, with many holocaust deniers holding high ranks in the party structures. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Voridis became infamous as 'Hammer-Voridis'. He earned this nickname by attacking protesting students with a hammer. He is now Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in the Papademos administration. In short, LAOS' promotion to government is the equivalent of the bankers appointing Nick Griffin to the UK cabinet.
The total enslavement and pauperisation of the western working class cannot be fully imposed by politicians with one eye on the opinion polls, so bourgeois democracy is fast outliving its historical usefulness for those who profit most from our "blood and tears". In this new great depression, the democratically-organised working class is the only force which can resist the new dawn of fascism, and finally organise society in its own interests.