Mathew D. Rose: Hope for Greece, and Perhaps for Europe Too

By Mathew D. Rose, a freelance journalist in Berlin

Monday morning I encountered a word in a number of newspapers that I have not read regarding the European Union for years: Hope. The occasion was the election in Greece. I suddenly became aware of how long much of this continent has been living in what appears to be a never ending-crisis.

Germany may not be experiencing the humanitarian disaster that has been unfolding in Greece, Spain, Italy and many other nations of the European Union. But even here, there is a sense that economically something is going seriously wrong and people are apprehensive. Solutions for anaemic economic growth and deflation have not been forthcoming. The message of the political class has been: There is no alternative to austerity. Yet entering year seven of austerity things have grown worse throughout most of the Eurozone. This permanent crisis with no sign of alleviation does not nurture hope. It produces resignation.

The decision by Greek voters, although overwhelming, was surely not easily made. It was obviously a decision of conscience, and I fear also one of desperation. After six years the Greek people have a lengthy odyssey behind them. They have expiated their financial sins, the Greek oligarchs and political class, the source of this malaise, have not. Interviews with the so-called person on the street in Greece that I read and heard were not only full of humility, but was marked by a self-criticism and a political rationality that I have seldom experienced. There was also marked resentment at how they have been treated by fellow Euro states – their “partners”.

Here in Germany there has been a completely different discourse. Last September the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the publically financed foundation of Chancellor Merkels political party, the Christian Democrats, held a conference concerning developments in Greece. According to the report by the Stiftung, the Greek ambassador to Berlin at that time, Panagiotis Zografos (purportedly a second cousin of former Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras), explained, that despite the reduction of the average wage by 23 percent, structural reforms and retirement age being raised to 67, the country is optimistic. In his opinion this proved that the Greek people were willing to satisfy the wishes of Europe. Oh, really?

This is the sort of obsequiousness that Germans are apparently expecting from their European “partners”. Zografos seemed right about one thing, the Greeks are optimistic – about a future without its corrupt political elites and oligarchs. This was however probably not what he was referring to.
As it became clear in December of last year that Syriza was politically ante portas, the German government began publicly explaining that Greece had turned the corner and was recovering economically.

One of the principal arguments was Greece’s current account surplus in 2013. This was however achieved due to a major reduction in imports. As Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s new Finance Minister, noted a year ago, the last time Greece posted a positive current account was “1943 – under the Nazi occupation, when Greeks could not afford to eat (let alone import goods from abroad) but still managed to export a few oranges, a few apples etc.” A parallel that deserves further thought.

Things had gotten so bad, that even Greece’s sycophantic Prime Minister Samaras knew the game was up as the Troika demanded new, harsher austerity measures at the end of last year. What everyone realises in the meantime – except maybe the Germans – is that the economic reform programme of the Troika for Greece has been a total failure. Nothing has turned out as they predicted, such as a tangible economic recovery in 2012. Even the national debt has increased. The Troika’s incompetence has continued unabated, the consequences are being borne by the Greek people.

Maybe Samaras did via the back door what George Papandreou had attempted in 2011, forcing a referendum concerning austerity. By calling for an early election of Greece’s President, he knew this could precipitate elections and political change, should the people will it. Maybe we shall one day revise our opinion of Samaras.

Of course German politicians and media are enlightening their citizens that Syriza, once in power, will do what every sensible German would do: bow to reality and might, accepting that there is no alternative to Germany’s imposed austerity. This is what has been expected of the political class of Europe, and duly delivered: promise change and social justice and then promulgate a programme supporting financial institutions, international corporations, the rich and Germany’s pathological obsession with austerity. Francois Hollande is the most recent example.

In Greece, reality – at least up to now – looks very different. The decision of Syriza to form a coalition with the small right wing party, Independent Greeks (Anel), with which it politically otherwise has little in common, except for its rejection of further austerity, has sent a clear message of where this journey is destined. By Wednesday the new government was putting into many of the measures it had promised: returning the minimum wage to its pre-crisis level; the reinstatement of many civil servants, including doctors; rises in pensions for retired people on low incomes; the halting of privatisation plans; and, maybe symbolic, but defining, the removal of the barricade around Greece’s parliament building, that has protected the nation’s politicians from its people.

What was truly surprising was the decision by Greece’s newly inaugurated Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, as his initial official act to lay roses at a memorial in the former German concentration camp in the Athenian suburb of Kaisariani to 200 Greeks communists executed there by the Germans in May 1944 as retribution for partisans killing a German general. I do not believe Tsirpas act was solely a symbol of defiance towards Germany (where the event was hardly reported). It was much more potent. It was a gesture intended for those Europeans, who are suffering under the oppressive and failed financial policy that Germany has imposed upon the Eurozone. The new Greek government is obviously trying to make German hegemony a European issue.

Varoufakis’ statement on his blog following the elections seems to confirm this:

The people of Greece today sent a message of solidarity to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West of our continent. The simple message is that the time for crisis-denial, retribution and finger-pointing is over. That the time for the reinvigoration of the ideals of freedom, rationality, democratic process and justice has come in the continent that invented them.

Most of Germany’s politicians and media have gone ballistic. Suddenly the humanitarian crisis of the past six years has become a unequivocal “success”, which is being threatened by Syriza. Syriza is unwilling to reform the Greek state, Syriza has put the EU in great danger, Syriza courts radical right elements. The decision by Greece not to endorse an EU statement blaming Russia for a rocket attack on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has caused a further incandescent reaction.

There is no nation in the eurozone that has profited more from the current crisis than Germany. The nation’s ability to balance its budget has just as much to do with dramatically reduced interest payments on its debt as with its misplaced fiscal discipline. The price of its bonds has inexorably declined since the beginning of the Euro crisis, currently enabling it to refinance its debt for almost nothing. Quantitative easing, against which the Germans have railed, has given this downward trend a further fillip. Yields for five-year yields are negative, while 10-year yields are once again nearing the record low of 0.44%. According to the Bundesbank the German government has saved 120 billion Euros in interest payments since the euro crisis began in Greece in 2009 until 2013. Should this trend have continued in 2014, another 50 billion Euros in additional savings will have been added to this sum. Simultaneously the Euro has dropped in value, which for a nation so dependent on exports like Germany, could not come at a better time. That the German government has accepted that its policy would wreak havoc with its citizens’ savings and pensions seems to be of little concern.

Not to be forgotten is the fact that most of the financial support that Greece received from the EU never made it to Athens, but was used to repay Greek debts to German and French banks instead of forcing them to carry a major part of the burden as a consequence of their reckless lending, a ploy that was repeated in Spain and Ireland. The same European governments that rabidly refuse debt relief for Greece today, carry the responsibility for this decision, which would have reduced their current exposure in Greece.

Germany keeps insisting on reforms in Greece, but has nothing other in mind than further weakening labour laws and the social system, some of the greatest achievements in the European political tradition. The real issues, such as corruption, the banking sector and taxing the oligarchs, were ignored by the Samaras government. In the past two years under his administration existing corruption laws have been weakened. These are obviously not deserving of reform in the eyes of the Troika.

This is of little surprise, as Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, who has been the driving force in Germany’s punitive campaign against Greece, was caught out in 1999 accepting envelopes full of cash from a weapons dealer, something he persistently lied about. As Germany had de facto no laws against corruption, there were no consequences and he simply carried on in politics. Schäuble is just another example of the endemic corruption of the political class in Europe. This may well be the crux of the coming conflict between Greece and the EU, not its debts. Up to now, the eurozone has overcome obstacles concerning bailouts, private debt restructuring, banking union and most recently quantitative easing. A solution for Greece’s untenable debt and economic debility could just as well be achieved.

Thus it may not be debt-relief that is truly worrying the European politicians. Not only is Greece challenging German hegemony, but is throwing down the gauntlet to the European political establishment. There has been a growing discontent among EU citizens concerning its political class, Scandinavia being the exception. It is anti-democratic, authoritarian and as already mentioned, egregiously corrupt. Many new parties on the left and the right have picked up on this issue. Syriza appears serious in its intention of cleansing of Greece’s corridors of power that have been transformed into Augean Stables under the aegis of the EU.

Another aspect that could well play a decisive role is Europe’s Social Democrats. They are clearly on the decline, as they have lost credibility as a party of the people. Their natural replacement, ergo their most menacing opponent, will be the new parties on the left. The once predominant social democratic party in Greece, PASOK, could not even muster five percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections. The PSOE in Spain is plumbing the 20 percent barrier, things look scarcely better for Germany’s Social Democrats; while in France Hollande and his acolytes seem set on immolating their party. Even in Britain, where the Labour Party was hoping to come out of the upcoming elections as the strongest party, it has not only lost one of its heartlands, Scotland, to the Scottish National Party, but is facing a surge in England by the Greens, who are adopting an ever increasing leftist agenda and brazenly showing solidarity with Syriza and its programme.

Then there is Germany. With the introduction of quantitative easing last week, which Germany virulently opposed. Ms Merkel and Schäuble have lost face and there has been a good amount of schadenfreude in the eurozone. This is not the sort of thing the dominant power in Europe takes lightly. Its chance to re-establish its authority could well be found in its future dealings with Syriza.

Thus Europe’s political establishment has good reasons to make an example of Syriza and quash it in this incipient phase. Greece may be facing its second Thermopylae. One should however not forget that although the battle was lost and the Greek forces decimated, the Greeks went on to win the war against the apparently invincible Persian forces under their despotic King Xerxes, ushering in not only democracy, but probably the greatest era of western civilisation.

On the other hand, there are politicians in the EU that still embody the spirit of a united Europe and a Europe of democratic ideals, which entails the well-being of all citizens, of all nations. There was, until the financial crisis, a practice in Europe, maddening as it may sometimes have been, to seek and find compromise. There was a tradition of all EU member states being equal. Many EU citizens are simply fed up with the fact that German hegemony has not led to prosperity, but has been exploited to further solely German interests. The question is, who will prevail, Germany or Europe?

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  1. McWatt

    I was in a coffee shop this morning run by Greeks and my fluent Greek speaking waitress who
    goes back to Greece yearly says the following: “Yanis is a Marxist! Tspiras’ first official act was meeting with Putin!”
    “The problem with Greece is that no one wants to work or pay taxes and as many everyday transactions occur
    under the table as possible and everyone wants a rich pension.”

    Could someone comment on this for me as I have no experience with Greece.

    “Catch-22 says they can do anything we can’t stop them from doing.” Heller

    1. Northeaster

      I lived there almost three decades ago, and nothing with priority got done without a bribe of some sort (tax free American cigarettes were great barter). Government of all types went on strike weekly, electric, transportation, shipping, you name it, no one was happy at the same time. Basically you got used to the inconveniences and adapted (minus November 17 blowing Americans up), and did what you could. I loved my time there, and I have gone back a couple times to visit friends I made there, but I have no plans of travelling anywhere in Europe again, business or leisure, simply too unstable for my tastes.

      1. Tsigantes

        Eminent possibility. Most of the WW2 collaborator (Greeks collaborating with the Germans, ie traitors) left Greece in the 50s for obvious reasons of personal security. Ditto those who had been part of the junta.

    2. dimitrisp

      -You can check yannis’ blog to see for yourself. I think he believes that Marx’s analysis and critique of the capital is correct. In his proposals i think he is pragmatist – Keynesian maybe?
      -Tsipras met with the russian ambassador – I don’t know who asked the meeting or for what reasons..
      -No. We work really hard. Especially the group between middle twenties and middle forties. And we don’t like bribes – give or take.

      1. Eric377

        I lived in Glyfada near Athens a couple of years in the 1990s and agree that Greeks are hard workers. That said, my impressions were that beyond the family, any sharp dealing to make a drach was the norm – if you did not engage in it you were a sap. Paying your taxes as the laws were written meant you were a sap. Taking a government post with no real work involved using political connections was a very smart thing to accomplish. But the exact same person with such a post might bust his hump working on a family house evenings and weekends. They did not shy away from work as work.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      I don’t know how affluent the Greeks you know are, but I think for Greeks here owning a place in Greece is a big deal. There is a reasonable chance they can be directly affected.

      Then of course, my personal experience is immigrants like the leadership from when they arrived. Being “anti-Communist” and pro-Reagan is a way of fitting in.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Cuban-Americans fit this to a tee, rabid anti-commies, unlike actual Cubans. Emigrants often depart philosophically and physically from their homeland.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Cubans over a certain age aren’t “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” They held the whips before the revolution.

        2. alex morfesis

          that is my cue…being of cuban and hellene extract (born in that foreign country, new york city) cubans can be more confusing than greeks, since they vote in on a regular basis fidel castro’s former in laws (Diaz-balart) to complain about the “kohmounistah” they (diaz-balarts) helped bring to the national forefront in cuba in the early 50’s…

          as to “greeks” in america…most are hill-billz who never cut it there or were not the “in crowd”…not too many political refugees of greek extract in america…heck, most “greeks” don’t even realize that blue and white thing they wave around is a bavarian flag…

          greeks have never had a clearing up of things…a truth commission to deal with the ugliness of the end of WW2 and the gladio clowns who ran the junta…Queen Frederika and Max Marten…there is a deep katharsis needed in greece…there is a whole lot of baggage to be worked out…a lot of little middling smoldering indignities that need to be talked out…

          heck, most “greeks” forget it was the junta that invaded cyprus and pulled a coup there and was rounding up turks into the stadia… and it was makarios who asked the turks to invade…to protect cyprus from the gladio junta…it was the invasion and rebuke by turkey that killed off the junta…not the drunken kids on Nov 17…

          great article by the way…Mr. Rose…

          1. Tsigantes

            “greeks have never had a clearing up of things…”

            Spot on. The election of SYRIZA, for Greeks, has been a giant catharsis in itself. The first time that a party with communist roots has come to power. I refer to the post-war criminalisation of communists and andartes (the people who had actually won the war in Greece), betrayed first by Churchill and then stripped of their rights and incarcerated – for many, up to 10 years – by the Americans.

          2. John Jones

            “heck, most “greeks” forget it was the junta that invaded cyprus and pulled a coup there and was rounding up turks into the stadia… and it was makarios who asked the turks to invade…to protect cyprus from the gladio junta…it was the invasion and rebuke by turkey that killed off the junta…not the drunken kids on Nov 17…”

            Where did you hear this alternative view of history from? If most Greeks forget all this it is because it was never true to begin with.

    4. Steven

      I have no experience with Greece either. But I have plenty with the United States. What you heard was fear of the frightening challenge of deciding what to do with one’s own life when confronted with the challenge of self-direction by retirement or good fortune. Industrialization and automation can achieve victory in the struggle for subsistence but it can’t tell people what to do with that victory. The Lords of Finance and the governments they own aren’t much better. About the only thing they can think to do with power and wealth ceded to them by their serfs – after indulging in every imaginable sort of debauchery – is making war on each other when debt deflation threatens the foundation of their power, i.e. AKA money, ‘near money’ (government debt), the “product” of Wall Street, The City, the Bourse, etc – debt.

      Once again:

      Though it was not understood a century ago, and though as yet the applications of the knowledge to the economics of life are not generally realised, life in its physical aspect is fundamentally a struggle for energy, …

      Soddy, Frederick M.A., F.R.S.. Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition
      This goes way beyond energy wars to questions like whether our species can survive a total victory over other species in the struggle for energy. One thing that the last century should have made clear is that ours can not much longer survive being directed and controlled by the Lords of Finance.

    5. lyman alpha blob

      I believe there were some stats in an NC post that showed that Greeks worked more than most of the rest of Europe so the waitress probably isn’t correct on that part.

      I have traveled to Greece several times and have a couple anecdotes – feel free to take with a grain of salt. A couple decades ago I met a gentleman who was a guard for the archaeological sites in eastern Crete. The word was he got the government job because his father was a WWII hero with some pull somewhere. His “guarding” seemed to consist of going from town to town taste testing the local raki in the tavernas.

      Also, you see a lot of uncompleted houses with rebar sticking out of the roof. The explanation I got for this was twofold. People don’t take out big home loans like they do in the US but instead build a little at a time when they have the money to do so. But secondly, people are taxed on completed homes so if you have a nice new 3 story house and leave some rebar hanging out it technically isn’t finished yet so it’s a way to avoid taxes.

      That being said, I can think of numerous ways people avoid taxes in this country and there are any number of people with nice sinecures here too. While the Greeks may not have the cultural equivalent of the oft touted ‘Protestant work ethic’ (Greeks would probably tell you that only mad dogs and Englishmen work in the noonday sun) I didn’t find the Greeks to be any more or less indolent than people in the US or anywhere else.

      If the vampire squids hadn’t cooked the books to reduce the Greek debt/GDP ratio and ‘help’ get Greece into the Eurozone back in the day, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

  2. carol

    last paragraph: “…. the spirit of a united Europe and a Europe of democratic ideals,..”

    This is a contradiction! A Europe of democratic ideals is a Europe of nations, working together: unique nations, each with its own language, culture, history, taxation morale, etc., trying to cooperate. This used to be the former EEC. Once some politicians started to hallucinate about a united Europe democracy was the first victim.

    1. Steve

      No, a Europe of nations was what led to WWsI and II. And if you want to return to the Europe of nations, we will have WWIII just as sure as the sun rises in the east. (Remember Einstein’s remark that he didn’t know what weapons WWIII would be fought with, but he knew that WWIV would be fought with sticks and stones).

      I suppose we should be thankful that NATO is responsible for European defense, not individual European nations, and so a pre-WWI style arms race is not currently possible. (Of course, NATO itself is not democratic and has engaged in reckless and destructive unilateral action (see Libya), but that’s another matter).

      The European nations wanted to cheat, they wanted the benefits of a single currency, lowered trade barriers, etc. without having to give up their individual freedoms. France and Germany are too proud to merely be large and powerful states in a European Federation–they want to be sovereign nations. When push comes to shove they don’t want to pony up cash to keep the poorer states in the union afloat. Well, we’ve seen how well that works. We’re on the verge of a civil war between Northern and Southern Europe.

      Every union comes with benefits that couldn’t be obtained by the individual members alone, but the price of those benefits is that each of the individual members must sacrifice part of their freedoms. No exceptions. If you don’t occasionally sacrifice, you don’t have a union at all. Just a bunch of individuals who might happen to be moving in the same direction for a little while, but who decide to go their own way and scatter just as soon as the mood strikes them. And that’s going to last about as long as a sand castle on the beach does when the tide comes in.

      The richer nations have profited from this state of affairs for decades; the Germans have benefited immensely from a weakened euro without having to impose austerity on themselves (they square the circle by exporting it to Greece). Now it’s time for them to pay the piper and make the sacrifice so that the union can survive. Or it will fly apart and result in chaos and immiseration on a scale not seen since the Depression.

      You can’t eat “your unique culture and language and history and taxing policy.” You can’t heat your home with it or send your kids to school with it. And at any rate, the current problems with the eurozone aren’t fundamentally about disagreements about culture or language or any of that stuff; those are just scapegoats to keep people distracted from the real issue. The real issue is something much simpler: the fact that rich people don’t like downward transfers of wealth. And a downward transfer of wealth is precisely what is required to rebuild Greece.

      Conversely, one can have a coherent Europe-wide economic policy, including countercyclical fiscal transfers from rich to poor states to stabilize the union in times of trouble, while preserving the “unique culture and language and history.”

      1. EoinW

        European nations didn’t lead to two world wars, it was European super nations. Essentially WW1 was the chickens coming home to roost, as centuries of imperialism blew up on the empires themselves. Had there been no British Empire or Russian Empire nor a united France and united Germany then none of these nations would have had the resources for such massive destruction. What’s the most destructive force in the world today? The UNITED States of America. Absolute power corrupts.

        Don’t stop at breaking up the EU, I want to see an independent Bayern again.

    1. Ken Nari

      Thanks for the link. Tremendous amount to think about.

      Let me repeat what madisolation said: “Go to Global Research and read the article by Joaquin Flores.”

      Yves, could this be a candidate for today’s must read?

  3. ambrit

    Remember your history. The American Articles of Confederation were shown to be unworkable during the American War of Secession. America ‘fixed’ that with the Constitution, which, as civics class used to say, is the blueprint for a Federal Republic. Two generations or so later, America fights a War Between the States to cement the primacy of the Federal part of that scheme. All that in a growing nation sharing a single dominant language. Europe will be a much harder job, if it can be done at all.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Constitution was pushed by Madison and Hamilton, Washington’s surrogate sons and revolutionary war veterans. There isn’t anyone in Europe of their relative stature. GW was such a big deal Americans eventually erected a giant phallic symbol as a monument despite his sterility. Why yes, I found the recent NFL shenanigans hilarious.

      No one can speak for the EU while calling for changes to it.

  4. Doug Terpstra

    Syriza’s coalition with the right wing Anel is intriguing. Appointing its rep to head Defense at first seems absurd, and then Ron Paul came to mind. I could certainly envision the US Greens appointing Ron Paul to the Ministry Department of Defense. It would make the DOD name less Orwellian.

    This is just what the dearly-departed Banger advocated, a selective strategic alliance with the right where interests coincide. I think Banger understood power and the exigencies of wielding it to govern, which the left seems to instinctively shun (and thereby remain fractured, impotent and effectively irrelevant, an angry fringe.)

    BTW, are there any plans to hold a memorial service for Banger? Any thoughts for a eulogy?

    1. ohmyheck

      Forgive me for being out of the loop, but what happened to Banger? Anyone feel free to pass on the information. Thanks.

    2. EoinW

      Dearly departed? That’s so sad. I always read what Banger had to say. Very intelligent man. My condolences to everyone who knew him personally.

    3. RBHoughton

      RAB Butler’s Art of the Possible is the watchword for every politician these days. Left wing / right wing, who cares. A bird needs both to fly. The astute politician today first mentally fixes his destination (without a word to anyone) and then works his way towards it.

      We should forget about capital and labour and their dynamic relationship and focus on objectives.

      Clinton used to talk about political capital, amassing a bit then spending it on some unpopular but necessary initiative. With respect for an intellectual giant, that’s nonsense. No-one these days remembers what you did yesterday. Its all about today, about the here and now – putting together a consensus on this or that – that’s it.

      Who is banger?

  5. Marko

    ” Thus Europe’s political establishment has good reasons to make an example of Syriza and quash it in this incipient phase. Greece may be facing its second Thermopylae. One should however not forget that although the battle was lost and the Greek forces decimated, the Greeks went on to win the war against the apparently invincible Persian forces under their despotic King Xerxes, ushering in not only democracy, but probably the greatest era of western civilisation.”

    I’m hoping that Tsipras and Varoufakis keep this piece of history in mind when facing what I’m sure will be some difficult times ahead , remembering the important difference between “invincible” and “apparently invincible”. Merkel and the Troika are the latter , perhaps , but only on their best days. Today , I bet they’re feeling spooked , big time.

    1. NotSoSure

      Oh come on, let’s not get so dramatic. What’s gonna happen if Greece doesn’t pay up? Will Germany invade? The chance of that is even lower than the chance of Greece defaulting.

    2. fosforos

      This gets Thermopylae quite wrong. First of all it wasn’t “Greeks” fighting the Persians, not only because no such nationality as “Greek” existed–the Thebans who fought on the Persian side were every bit as much Greek as the Athenians, and so was the Persian ally Artemisia queen of Ephesus, the heroine of Salamis. Secondly, it was fought only by 300 Spartans who sacrificed their lives in a militarily meaningless adventure (their position was indefensible and they managed to delay the burning of Athens by two whole days!) as an act of atonement for their failure to show up at Marathon, which had earned them much ridicule throughout the Hellenic world. In any case the Greeks should remember Pyrrhus and beware of victories. It was their crushing defeat of Mussolini in 1941 that led directly to their worst national catastrophe: the Nazi occupation, continued with slight modifications under Anglo-American auspices from December 1944 right up through the regime of the colonels.

      1. Marko

        I prefer the Rose description.

        When someone says : ” Remember when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor !? ” , it stirs the blood , even if it’s a bit off , accuracy-wise.

        Your description makes me want to take a nap.

      2. steviefinn

        Roughly 7,000 Greeks fought in the main battle. Leonidas with 300 Spartans – 700 thespians ( not the acting kind ) & 400 Thebans held the pass as the main body withdrew.

      3. EoinW

        I was struck by the despotic Xerxes comment. Don’t let this get back to Bibi or we’ll be hearing about that weapons program again(BC version). Were there any non-despots in the world back then?

        1. vidimi

          as opposed to modern-day iran, jews of antiquity held the achaemenid persians in very high regard. cyrus was, i believe, the only non-jew to ever be called a messiah and darius and descendants were also respected due to their favourable treatment of the jews in their empire.

  6. susan the other

    I think we are lookin at deep politix. It’s not just those inflexible Germans. For instance, I don’t think Varoufakis would have thrown his hat in with Tsipras unless there was a solution. But nobody is talking about the solution – which must resolve Germany’s problems as well as Greece’s. Just because nobody is talking about it means something is goin on. I’m still curious about Schaeuble’s secret meeting with Syriza. What was that about? Western banking? If it fails, things will be bad. But all of us being in an extortion limbo is just as bad. So the idea must be to finesse the whole western banking “model.” Like a few years ago, another story which died a sudden death (because of very angry citizens), was the one about how the world finance wizards had set their sights on domestic bailouts for banksters who become insolvent. You know, those saints doing god’s work. The plan was so international that even banks from other countries within a wealthy country like the USA could count on a bailout from US taxpayers. Now what the hell? It isn’t working (publicly at least) because everybody hates the banksters. But say we just nationalize them, only the ones we need of course. Then nations have control over banks and hopefully they won’t run amok at the expense of the taxpayer again, and the banks will go on to have another life, just not as cowboys and gamblers, and economies will not fall like dominoes, they’ll just have to get real. Because it is definitely a standoff right now. The banksters against civilization. Weird.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Deep politix, yes. There are, of course, frantic negotiations behind the scenes, and a game of Chicken in public.
      I was particularly struck by references to the EU as a “new German Empire.” Indeed – and something the Germans CANNOT afford. Nor can they afford for the whole thing to blow up in their face, as it so easily could. One thing about persistent austerity: nothing like it to overturn the political system. I’m especially excited by the sudden, dramatic rise of the Greens in the UK; at the present rate, they could win the election in the Fall (many a slip, mice and men, and all that). that would be…really interesting. The implicit alliances between left-wing and right-wing anti-austerity parties – explicit, in Greece – are also promising.
      And only a year till the 2016 campaigns get going. I almost feel young again.

      1. RBHoughton

        New German Empire is quite wrong. Its English-speakers who talk like that and what they fear is Germany renaissant after WWII. They point to German superiority in chemistry and see how they have built a first-rate economy on it and try to suggest there is a political dimension too. Its silly but the London Editors are like that. We have to look deeper

        The vision for Europe is to bring an end to perpetual war amongst the countries and that has been successful. Europe embodies core beliefs of free trade and free movement of people, things that we don’t really like in the Anglosphere and we definitely don’t like Europeans telling us how to run our country.

        The Europeans people who have done really well are the female half of the population who have achieved a more or less equal footing with the boys due entirely to EU law which successive British governments have been reluctantly obliged to enact. If Britain gets out of Europe due to this planned referendum, you can bet your last dollar we will try to reverse that trend.

        1. OIFVet

          Europe replaced “perpetual” war with economic warfare/neo-colonialism (“free trade”) and exploitation of Eastern and Southern Europeans (“free movement of people”), which last has the added “benefit” of lowering wages across Europe. Some great success that was, and then some act surprised that the right wing is on the rise again in Europe.

        2. Tsigantes

          The EU was supposed to end war between European countries (“never again”), frontiers were supposed to be inviolable and the nation states were supposed to be equal. The social compact was supposed to guarantee labour rights, access to medicine, a dignified minimum wage.

          No sooner was the ink dry on the EU – as opposed to EEC – but:
          1) ‘we’ were bombing and tearing apart Yugoslavia as NATO, breaking that country into 7 new ones.
          2) The Eurozone crisis showed that the EU states are far from equal, and as outlined above, one EU state would be allowed to totally destroy the economy of Greece, while throwing the rest of the EZ into deflation
          3) The Social Compact was the first victim of the EU handling of the crisis – ie that what is most civilised & remarkable about Europe would be the first thing cast aside.

          Meanwhile the EU structure is wholly unaccountable and undemocratic.

    2. Marko

      One thing has become clear to me : Tsipras and Syriza have no desire to recreate the status quo ante , they want to fundamentally change the system in Greece , and in the entire EU if they can generate a big enough movement among the left in the EU.

      These are not the words of a man who plays along to get along :

      “”We should not accept or recognize the government of neo-Nazis in Ukraine”

      “Our task is to bring about a European New Deal within which our people can breathe, create and live in dignity. A great opportunity for Europe is about to be born in Greece. An opportunity Europe can ill afford to miss.”

      Where the hell is our American Tsipras ?
      Hellooooooooo ? Are you there ? Anyone ?

      1. Doug Terpstra

        This will infuriate the neocons, and Putin is now setting their hair on fire with an offer to consider financial aid for Greece. This is a deadly serious challenge to Anglozionist hegemony. This will get very hot if Greece pivots to Russia.

        1. EoinW

          Turkey is pivoting and now Greece? Two NATO members. Beautiful! So much for the Anglo-American “Balance of Power” and keeping Russia bottled up in the Black Sea.

    3. Kyle


      “But say we just nationalize them…”

      Now where have I seen something like that before? Oh, yeah – “We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out… We will stand by our homes and stay by our fireside by force if necessary, and we will not pay our debts to the loan-shark companies until the government pays its debts to us. The people are at bay; let the bloodhounds of money who dogged us thus far beware.”

      Wall Street Owns the Country

  7. juliania

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the first financial blow that Greece suffered at the hands of Goldman Sachs? My memory is poor, and my economics expertise nonexistent, but I think there were articles here in the not too distant past on the subject of ‘too good to be true’ loans out from under Greece was never expected to leverage itself.

    Again, as I say, please correct me if I am wrong. It’s how we, the ignorant masses, learn.

    1. Marko

      Yes , you’re right. GS helped Greece hide debt off-balance sheet , starting ~2001. GS and other banks pulled similar deals with other EU countries.

      Adding insult to injury , when elected Greek Prime Minister Papandreau was forced out of office after the crisis , he was replaced by the unelected technocrat , Papademos , who was —wait for it — an ex-executive of Goldman Sachs.

      This how our overlords have fun. They take their hot shit straight from their assholes and rub it right in our faces , and we say : ” Thank you , sir , may I have another ? “

    1. juliania

      Thanks to you, Doug Terpstra, and to Marco above. From your link:

      …The combination of gigantic new loans and stringent government spending cuts that depressed incomes not only failed to rein the debt in but, also, punished the weakest of citizens turning people who had hitherto been living a measured, modest life into paupers and beggars, denying them above all else their dignity. ..”

      Sure sounds familiar.

  8. dbk

    Very nice OP, many thanks.

    The new Greek Finance Minister leaves tomorrow for London, Paris, and Rome for talks with his fellow Finance Ministers in those countries. The new PM leaves on Monday for talks in Cyprus – an interesting development.

    A couple of points re: Greek-Russian ties:
    (1) There are hundreds of thousands of former USSR citizens in Greece who emigrated in the late eighties and nineties, when the Greek government made it possible for those of ultimately Greek origin to repatriate and claim Greek citizenship.This group’s children (2nd generation) are now a powerful political force in the country. One of the richest men in northern Greece is an ethnic Greek of Russian origin.

    (2) Rich twenty-first century Russians (up until the past few months) have favored Greece as a place of second or third residence. In 2014, it was estimated that Russians owned around 10,000 pieces of property in northern Greece’s most popular summer resort area, Chalkidiki.

    (3) Russia and Greece share an important historical-cultural tie, namely that of religion. These shared roots go back more than a millennium.

  9. digi_owl

    Bascially the leadership of Germany is so afraid of another Weimar that they are willing to hand Europe over to (right wing) extremists rather than allow the printing and spending of Euro into the real economy.

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    When a slave escaped, or came near it, in southern USA pre-Civil War, the slave owners, often plantation owners, sometimes reacted with astonishing over-the-top rage, ferocity and cruelty, utterly ignoring the devastating and costly effect such inhuman actions would have on the rest of the slave community.

    Merkel, with her breath taking obsequiousness to the US in imposing deeply self destructive sanctions against Russia, has proven over and over that there is no limit to her ability to ignore reality, never mind a truly dark gathering storm that once out of the bottle will not be stoppable, so there is reason to believe a similar ferocity and over the top punishment is what the Greeks have in store for their bravery and desperation in this last election.

    This may hasten the day of reckoning that the EU is begging for in denial, but in the short term at least, as long as the US is on board, Germany may get away with it just as Israel has gotten away with truly Nazi-like treatment of Palestinians over the decades.

    1. vidimi

      often the slave-owners’ brutal shows of force were meant especially to intimidate the rest of the slaves and to make an example out of the disobedient.

  11. EverADayLate (Park Nihrs)

    Who knows what will happen?
    But you have named the affect dynamics well.
    I am encouraged by all the reactions to Syriza, though a little disappointed that Tsipras acceded to the Empire’s vassal states (EU) punishing Russia. Tactical I am sure; I hope tactics do not betray strategy.

  12. Kunst

    The bottom line of all this is population, which follows the rules of supply and demand just like all other economic commodities. With 7+ billion people on this planet and technology knocking down barriers of transportation and communication, the price of labor is being inexorably crushed. Thin out 10-20% of the human population (epidemic, war, ecological catastrophe) and the equation would fundamentally change.

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