When Greece’s pain finally ends, what will be left?

A protester holds a banner reading "Traitor Samara get out"(Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras) in front of the parliament. Photo: Reuters

Greece will eventually get through this. One day the depression will end and the economy will start growing again, though whether that is inside or outside the Eurozone is still not clear.

But what is beginning to worry many thoughtful observers of Greece is that when that happy day eventually arrives, what will be left of civil society?

We saw another bastion of Greek political life crumble last night as a once great left-of-centre party, Pasok, lost a fifth of its MPs under the pressure of bending the knee to Europe’s paymasters.

Just seven months ago, Pasok held an absolute majority in Greece’s 300-strong Parliament.

Elections in April reduced it to a rump of 33. Now there are just 26, with six expelled for defying the party whip last night and one more who chose to walk this morning.

In a party beset by financial scandals dating back to its time in office, it was little consolation that an MP called Skandalidis was one of those kicked out.

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addresses parliamentarians before the austerity vote. Credit: Reuters

The coalition Government, made up of two left of centre parties and the conservatives of New Democracy, is left with a fragile grip on power.

It did what Europe required last night, forcing through the latest €13.5 cuts package with just 153 votes out of 300, but what we are seeing in Greece is the collapse of the centre.

Politicians elected as ‘socialists’ were forced to vote for cuts to pensions, the minimum wage, public sector jobs. That is not just anathema but political death.

Last night’s vote may or may not have been in the national interest, but for the moderate left it was an electoral suicide note.

Conservatives I spoke to yesterday were more convinced that what they were doing was both correct and necessary, but privately they told me of grave doubts that it could possibly work.

Previous rounds of austerity have simply fed the spiral from recession into depression.

If this one does the same, then they too are finished. The stage will be left to the extremists of both left and right.

If an election were held tomorrow (and there could easily be one within the next few months) polls suggest it would be won by Syriza of the far left, with Golden Dawn - a genuinely neo-Nazi party - doubling its support to around 15%. Terrifying.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of the Golden Dawn party

And the civil collapse is not limited to Parliament.

Yesterday 40 senior members of the Bank of Greece resigned en masse because the new measures slash their salaries to around €36,000 (£29,000) a year.

Even in Greece top bank officials think they can do better than that elsewhere.

This was on the same day that Commission officials in Brussels, some of them the same people who have been involved in mandating cuts for Greece, went on strike against the mere threat of cuts to the EU budget.

“We are high-flyers, not burger-flippers” they say.

Well many Greeks, justifiably, say the same, and those who have a choice are voting with their feet.

A protester throws a molotov cocktail at riot police during a 48-hour general strike in central Athens Credit: Reuters

Unless Greece is really going to become a protectorate of Brussels, with foreign civil servants brought in to run a technocratic Government (and the idea has been suggested), someone is going to have to take a more far-sighted view of what is being done to the country.

Creative destruction is one thing. Greece’s political class has proved itself pretty dysfunctional, but laying it waste and leaving the country in the hands of the head-bangers may not turn out to be the best long-term solution.