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Democracy in Southern Europe: Out for the count

Author bio: 
Richard Cottrell

How fast things are moving.

In Italy, the new techno-premier installed by the EU, the Trilateralists and the Bilderberg Club, has just effectively suspended parliamentary democracy.

There are no civilian ministers in prime minister Mario Monti’s government. All ministerial posts are in the hands of technocrats, soldiers and diplomats. MP’s have been told they can sit in the wings for the next two years while the new prime minister goes around restoring order.

One glance at the list of ministers was sufficient to convince me that this blatant coup d’état has been in the works for at least the best part of a year.

In Greece, Monti’s lookalike Lukas Papademos has ushered extreme Right wing sympathizers with the former Greek military junta (1967-74) back into power.

Just over a week ago I wrote that a Greek military coup had been narrowly averted by the former civilian government headed by Georgios Papandreou summarily sacking the entire general staff.

I suggested that a military putsch had been averted ‘for the time being.’ Hey presto, the new head of the defense ministry is Dimitris Avramopoulo, from the Right wing New Democracy party which is known for its closeness to the Greek Pentagon and the CIA.

So the Greek military is now effectively underpinning the new government. Something remarkably similar has happened in Italy. A navy admiral, Giampaolo Di Paola, is now defense minister, thus severing civilian command of the armed forces for the first time since the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.

We can regard him as NATO’s minister in Rome.

Are the new techno-dictators of Greece and Italy expecting widespread public disorders, real or staged? It certainly looks that way. Indeed, as I write there are protests breaking out all over Italy. Crowds are gathering in Rome, Milano, Palermo Bari and many other cities protesting at the ‘rape of democracy.’

Italians, of all peoples, know a coup d’etat when they see one.

We can judge the flavor of these new governments by inspecting the cast list.

Il Nuovo Duce Mario Monti has appointed himself as finance minister in addition to holding the premiership. In a move that is bound to raise suspicions that the banksters are taking over the country, Corrado Passero, the CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo, the country’s largest mainstream bank, has been awarded the infrastructure and investment portfolio.

Meaning, I guess, no investment. Just what Wall Street ordered.

Italy’s ambassador to the US, the aristocrat Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, becomes foreign minister. I suspect that he will effectively act as Monti’s deputy.

What I found most disturbing at the rush of events in Italy is the language that the chief spokesman for the junta, namely Professor Monti, is using. He states that the ‘absence of political personalities in the government will help rather than hinder a solid base of support for the government in the parliament and political parties because it will remove one ground for disagreement.’

He is either demonstrating his complete contempt for parliamentary democracies or effectively making them redundant. It may just be more of that latter.

After all, he is on record for saying that he has always been fascinated by politics – but not party politics.

The crumpled, dejected Silvio Berlusconi that we saw in the wake of his public humiliation is back on best bunga-bunga bouncing form. He is crowding the channels of his own television stations denouncing the new regime as authoritarian, autocratic and isolated from public opinion.

One headline in the Left – the leaning Repubblica of all organs - talks of ‘nostalgia’ for Berlusconi breaking out everywhere.

What may happen as Italians come to terms with what is transparently a putsch is an unknown for the time being. Parliament is still sitting. If it makes a fuss there will be rule by decree.

The promised cuts to health and welfare services, public transport, and public sector wages, all dear to the heart of Professore Monti, will earn their own rewards in terms of political support, such as it is, for a government which has made no pretence of requiring public consent.

But we are in untested waters. Mussolini’s coup rested on a wide base of public support. Over the two decades that he was in power, he made sure to court and flatter the public piazza, until he made his big mistake of entering the war.

This new administration in Rome has no roots in popular consent. In the circumstances, it will be quite easy to ban strikes, which I expect to happen.

In Greece, the situation is little different even though the two main political forces, New Democracy on the Right and Pasok on the Left, are supporting the new government. They have ministers in the new government. As the unpopularity of the new regime swells, so will theirs.

The really disturbing factor is the inclusion of the Far Right grouping called LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) in the government. LAOS was founded in 2000 by a disenchanted New Democracy MP George Karatzaferis as a gathering ground for Far Right and fascist sentiments.

His great idol is the former Greek military dictator Georgios Papadopoulos who died in prison a few years back, after being convicted of overthrowing the state. The LAOS program calls for a State Council which includes military representatives and the clergy.

By the look of things, it is half way there. The military junta of 1967-74 made church attendance for all university and college students compulsory.

A prominent figure in the new coalition is Makris Voridis, who back in the 80’s was renowned for his hammer wielding attacks on protesting students. His own designer party the Hellenic Front collapsed through lack of support. What is more significant is the fact that it was in touch with neofascist forces around Europe.

One can scarcely believe that Hammer Vordis has given up on these ambitions. In the meantime he is the new transport minister. Three other LAOS politicians sit alongside him.

If anything polarizes opposition to the Papademos regime, then it will the presence of such figures in the government.

This being Greece, it is the extra-parliamentary opposition that may count the most. Memories are still fresh of the long years of urban guerilla violence attributed to the pseudo Marxist group calling itself November 17.

The name was taken from the massacre of anti junta protestors at the Athens polytechnic on that day in 1973. Within a year the US and NATO backed junta collapsed.

The N17 founders are all in jail. But their many imitators and copy cats (some of them government agents) are free on the streets. My guess is that Greece is about to witness another bitter round of urban violence.

The imposition of autocratic governments in Rome and Athens will do nothing to cure the ills, to the extent that they are real, of two countries which are always prone to authoritarian forces.

Greece is the home of tragedies. The Greek civil war after WW2 wrecked the country. In proportional terms, it was worse then the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. In practical terms, it never recovered. The imposition of a fascist orientated military government in 1967 postponed practically all efforts to heal the wounds.

Italy is a frail democracy at the best of times. There has been hardly anything that might be called normality since WW2.

Yet, understanding as we do that these regimes have been installed by powerful forces to preserve the Euro, and thus international order, then it will not be easy to get rid of them. This for the time being at any rate is my pessimistic judgment.


Richard Cottrell