[Marxism] Greece: Donald Tusk warns of extremist political contagion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 17 06:55:21 MDT 2015

FT, July 16, 2015 10:55 pm
Greece: Donald Tusk warns of extremist political contagion
Peter Spiegel in Brussels

The bitter stand-off over Greece has given new energy to radical 
political groups on the left and right, creating a pre-revolutionary 
atmosphere that Europe has not seen since 1968, the EU leader who 
brokered Monday’s bailout deal has warned.

Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who now heads the European 
Council, said he feared “political contagion” from the Greek crisis far 
more than its financial fallout, arguing that common cause between 
far-right and far-left groups has been a precursor to some of Europe’s 
darkest moments of the last century.

“I am really afraid of this ideological or political contagion, not 
financial contagion, of this Greek crisis,” said Mr Tusk.

“It was always the same game before the biggest tragedies in our 
European history, this tactical alliance between radicals from all 
sides. Today, for sure, we can observe the same political phenomenon.”
Mr Tusk, who chairs all EU summits, played a central role in forcing 
Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, and Angela Merkel, his German 
counterpart, to agree terms on Monday that will allow talks to restart 
on a new €86bn bailout as soon as this weekend.

The new bailout deal, which involves sweeping austerity measures 
including a requirement to put an estimated €50bn of Greek public assets 
into a privatisation fund supervised by EU authorities, has led to 
accusations in Athens that Ms Merkel forced on Greece the kind of 
punitive conditions Germany was saddled with at the end of the first 
world war.

Mr Tusk disputed such criticisms, saying he was “100 per cent sure that 
Germany is not the winner in the context of political power”, 
particularly since “Germany has to sacrifice much more than other 
countries” in terms of financial aid it will soon have to send to Athens.

“I can’t accept this argument, that someone was punished, especially 
Tsipras or Greece. The whole process was about assistance to Greece,” Mr 
Tusk said.

“When we discuss facts, deeds and numbers, this is the only number on 
the table: €80bn for Greek assistance, and quite soft conditions. Not 
only [soft] financial conditions, but political conditions — in fact, 
without collateral. Come on: what is the reason to claim it’s something 
humiliating for Greece, or this is punishment for Tsipras?”

Mr Tusk said he had been unsettled by the bitter recriminations that 
have characterised the contentious six-month Greek negotiations, 
particularly the anti-EU and anti-German sentiment that he believes has 
become part of mainstream political discourse.

He said he was taken aback by a speech Mr Tsipras gave to the European 
Parliament last week where his criticism of Germany — including an 
argument that whereas Germany was provided “solidarity” and debt relief 
after the second world war, Greece had been denied similar treatment — 
was loudly cheered by a large number of MEPs.

“It was the first time I saw radicals with such emotion, in this context 
anti-German emotion. It was almost half of the European Parliament. This 
is why I think nobody, but in particular Germany, are political winners 
in this process.”

For me, the atmosphere is a little similar to the time after 1968 in Europe

Mr Tusk said he was concerned about the far left, which he believes is 
advocating “this radical leftist illusion that you can build some 
alternative” to the current EU economic model. He argued those far-left 
leaders were pushing to cast aside traditional European values like 
“frugality” and liberal, market-based principles that have served the EU 
in good stead.

He insisted these beliefs did not influence his negotiations with Mr 
Tsipras, whose Syriza party has been the most successful far-left party 
in Europe in decades. Mr Tusk said he took a pragmatic, non-ideological 
approach to the Greek leader.

Still, he said the febrile rhetoric from far-left leaders, coupled with 
high youth unemployment in several countries, could be an explosive 

“For me, the atmosphere is a little similar to the time after 1968 in 
Europe,” he said.

“I can feel, maybe not a revolutionary mood, but something like 
widespread impatience. When impatience becomes not an individual but a 
social experience of feeling, this is the introduction for revolutions.”

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