The Greek fiddle

Submitted: Jul 15, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The problem is with democracy. If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. By countermanding first the landslide victory of an elected government and then a 61% plebiscite majority, the EU functionally vetoed the outcomes of Greek democracy. If the democratic spirit now dies in Greece – and it might – we had better hope that phenomenon too does not go viral. -- Paul Mason, The Guardian, Julhy 13, 2015

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. -- John Pilger, The Saker, July 12, 2015 

 

 

Or, as Juan Peron said of Argentina, "The left hand holds it but the right hand plays it." -- blj

7-13-15

The Guardian

Greece put its faith in democracy but Europe has vetoed the result

The EU has humiliated Syriza and ignored its referendum: now the only power the country has left is to implement what the lenders want

Paul Mason

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/13/greece-bailout-eurozone-democracy-is-loser

The only thing certain about the aftermath of Sunday’s Euro summit is the disgrace of the political leaderships. The EU’s main powers tried to ritually humiliate the Greek government, but ruthlessness of intent was matched by incompetence when it came to execution. The German finance minister,Wolfgang Schäuble, threw on to the table a suggestion for Greece to leave the single currency for five years. Senior MPs from his coalition partner, the socialist SPD, screamed from the sidelines that they had not agreed to this – yet enough of Germany’s partners did agree to get the proposal into the final ultimatum.

The Greeks were negotiating under threat of their banking system being allowed to collapse, a threat made by the very regulator supposed to maintain financial stability.

For the Greek leadership, it has also been a week of miscalculation. Armed, they thought, with a mandate for less austerity, they listened once again to the French, whose technocrats actually helped design the Greek offer going into the Brussels summit, only to see that offer ripped apart and replaced with a demand for the reversal of every measure against austerity the government has ever taken.

But the real problem is not the politicians. It is the eurozone’s inability to contain the democratic wishes of 19 electorates. When the Finnish government threatened to collapse the talks, it was only expressing the wishes of the 38% of voters who backed the nationalist rightwingers of Finns Party. Likewise, when Schäuble sprang his temporary Grexit plan, he was expressing the demand of 52% of German voters, who want Greece to leave.

Little did leftwing Greece understand how scant was the power its ministers actually wielded from their offices

As for the Greeks, having tramped the streets of Athens alongside them for the best part of two months, I am certain that the “Oxi” movement was essentially a demand to stay in the Euro on different terms. You cannot get 70-80% of people in the working-class suburbs of Athens turning out – in the face of a rightwing media bombardment – on far-left anti-Euro sentiment alone.

Now it seems that both sides of the Greek referendum were voting for an illusion. One of the most touching aspects of Greek life is people’s obsessional respect for parliamentary democracy. Syrizaitself is the embodiment of a leftism that always believed you could achieve more in parliament than on the streets. For the leftwing half of Greek society, though, the result is people continually voting for things more radical than they are prepared to fight for.

I asked one of Syriza’s grassroots organisers, a tough party cadre who had been agitating for a “rupture” with lenders for weeks, whether he could put his members onto the streets to keep order outside besieged pharmacies and supermarkets. He shook his head. The police, or more probably the conscript army would have to do it.

When it comes to the now-abandoned Thessaloniki Programme, the radical manifesto on which Alexis Tsiprascame to power, there is always talk of implementing it “from below”: that is, demanding so many workers’ rights inside the industries designated for privatisation that it becomes impossible; or implementing the minimum wage through wildcat strikes. But it never happens. When strikes are called, it’s by the communists. When riots happen, it’s the anarchists. The rest of leftwing Greece is mesmerised by parliament.

 

Little does it understand how scant was the power its ministers actually wielded from their offices. And now the realisation dawns: the Greek parliament has no power inside the eurozone at all. It has the power only to implement what its lenders want.

And what of rightwing and centrist Greece? Its party structures are already shattered by the political defeats of January and the referendum. But here, too, the mass base is prone to voting for an illusion. When they went on to the streets with their badly translated red-baiting placards in mid-June, the Greek right claimed to be for nothing more than “Europe”. But the Europe they want is the Europe that tolerated corruption and fiscal profligacy, and indeed paid for it. The Europe of the submarines purchased from Germany, under conditions which put a former Greek defence minister in jail for taking bribes. Peoples with sovereignty have the right to vote for illusory things. But the Euro took sovereignty away.

I followed the summit in a bar, with a bunch of young Greek freelancers – photographers, fashion magazine journalists, speakers of perfect English who could work anywhere, but choose to tote their DSLRs and laptops here. They know they’re sitting on the most visually stunning and compelling story in the developed world. We watched the hashtag #ThisIsACoup proliferate until our eyes could not stay open. Then, said one: “Let’s go to the beach. Let’s bring women that look like supermodels and a bunch of handsome guys and let’s flip the finger at the world, saying: ‘We’re still Greece’. That will go viral.” It probably would, but the Greece they’re part of is shattered. The economy can and will rebound. Syriza will purge itself and be reformed. The right will find leaders who don’t look bewildered by their own defeats.

The problem is with democracy. If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. By countermanding first the landslide victory of an elected government and then a 61% plebiscite majority, the EU functionally vetoed the outcomes of Greek democracy. If the democratic spirit now dies in Greece – and it might – we had better hope that phenomenon too does not go viral.

 

7-13-15

The Saker

The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie.

by John Pilger

original article: http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-problem-of-greece-is-not-only-a-tragedy-it-is-a-lie

http://thesaker.is/the-problem-of-greece-is-not-only-a-tragedy-it-is-a-lie/

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values – and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.

Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands – which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt – as Argentina did successfully – and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” – the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote: “Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism… I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated… Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory]… What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself…?”

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” – when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change – he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”,  Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.

 

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