The new austerity measures the E.U. is imposing on Greece have caused quite a backlash. As this article in the Financial Times notes, a lot of the Greek anger is directed at Germany. Of course, because the Greeks are in Greece, all they can do is riot against their own government, not the German one. As is usually my opinion of rioting, this seems idiotic. I don’t see what good destroying Greek property will do to convince the Germans that these austerity measures are a bad idea.
Roman Gerodimos at CNN sums up the larger political picture in Greece:
The role of the state and of the public sector is usually at the heart of political debates between left and right. Yet, for the first time in recent memory, the political battle lines in Greece are not drawn between left and right, but between the modernizers and the populists existing in most political parties across the spectrum.
I don’t know the details of Greek politics, but that first sentence is wildly inaccurate for most of the world as far as I know. Indeed–and this is usually more true in Europe than in the U.S.–things usually make much more sense if you read “nationalist” for “right-wing”. And nationalists, as we know, are concerned only with the role of the state as it relates to the people and the culture of a nation. Maybe Greece is different, but in my experience, most debates over “the role of the state” are not really over the role of the state. They are proxy debates between cosmopolitanism and nationalism.
There’s more than that at play here though, because the nationalists in Greece are mad at Germany for imposing austerity measures, and the German nationalists are mad at the Greeks for squandering their money. And in the meantime, the cosmopolitan E.U. officials from both countries seem to have come to a truly terrible solution, so the lack of faith in them is understandable. But not only are the nationalist groups in both countries mad at the E.U., they are also mad at the nationalists in the other country. This is often the way with nationalists.
(And, of course, the terrible economic situation is largely the result of mismanagement by materialist business interests.)
As I look at it, in the above sentence from the CNN article, the modernizers are “cosmopolitans” and the populists are “nationalists”. Thus, the true nature of the conflict has not really changed, it has only become more obvious.