By Mathew D. Rose, a freelance journalist in Berlin
Five months ago I attempted to explain why the conflict between Germany and Greece was destined culminate as it has:
Following the recent elections in Greece, Germany and its EU compradors are making it clear who is in charge. The Germans are currently not offering any compromise, but iterate the same blunt demand: Greece has to accept what is being dictated; in other words, capitulate or be annihilated. This time it will not be the Wehrmacht und Luftwaffe that are to force the Greek nation into submission, but a weapon just as lethal: national bankruptcy.
This conflict has nothing to do with Greek debt or finances. Syriza’s strategy was based upon the rational assumption that the nation’s debt and recovery are being stifled by austerity. As we know from most any respected economist, Greece’s debt can never and will never be repaid. On the continent that prides itself as the cradle of the enlightenment, there should have been an amicable, lasting solution to Greece’s untenable financial situation. Greece has had to learn the hard way, that the EU is no longer a European project for peace, democracy and prosperity, but a German tool for hegemony.
This has been a conflict between a small European nation, led by a leftist government, attempting to reassert its autonomy under crushing German predominance. That may sound simplistic, but there is not much more to it.
In past postings I have also attempted to explain the German mindset leading to this – and there is no other word for it – disaster. The negotiations have been surprisingly linear. Syriza’s main goal was debt relief. They always saw Chancellor Merkel as the lone decision maker in the negotiations. Ms Merkel on the other hand has unremittingly demanded unconditional capitulation. The rest has been spectacle. There is a saying: “Clowns entertain in the intervals between the acts. The circus director runs the show”. Dijsselbloem, Juncker and the rest may have had a lot to say to the media, but little to say in negotiations. Finland, Slovakia and Slovenia are irrelevant. The only other player of any importance besides Merkel was ECB president Mario Draghi, who assisted Germany’s financial blitzkrieg by questionably terminating the ECB’s support of Greek banks. Schäuble was Merkel’s executioner.
The intervention of France’s President Francois Hollande was uncannily reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain. The only thing lacking was his arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport brandishing a letter from Chancellor Merkel. The conclusion of “negotiations” was reminiscent of the Munich Dictate. Greece has been “saved”, much as Czechoslovakia 77 years ago.
The humanitarian disaster had reached dimensions that defy any definition of a “United Europe”. With the media’s obsession with the pseudo negotiations the fact that this was an existential decision for millions of Greeks was forgotten, many of whom stood at the edge of an abyss. This became clear as affected Greeks were asking how they were to pay for their insulin and if it would soon become unavailable due to the financial embargo that was being created. This was the terrorism that Yanis Varoufakis denounced.
The reaction of what I would term “enlightened Germans” to Varoufakis’s claim was what one expects. For them, they were being compared to ISIS. Even though the fear emanating from much of Greece’s population was palpable, there was little reflection by many of those Germans capable of doing so, with regard to the aggression conducted in the name of Germany. In the phase immediately before Syriza’s capitulation there was an increasing awareness among some Germans that something was going terribly wrong, but it was too little and too late.
This brings me to the first main point of this posting. The history of the “good Germans” has always been one of ineffectuality. In the course of history there have been many Germans who believed in the enlightenment, be it Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant or Wolfgang Goethe. These however never questioned the authoritative role of the state against the will of the people. The class of “enlightened” Germans always regret what their nation is doing, but more often than not, in the end participate in the very actions they deplore. As A.J.P. Taylor wrote: “There were, and I daresay are, many millions of well-meaning kindly Germans; but what have they added up to politically?” In the case of Greece, this has occurred still again.
Not that the ethical Germans have had an easy time of it lately. A few years ago there was a massive campaign in commentaries and politics condemning so called Gutmenschen (literally translated: good people), who were defined by their critics as persons following their moral conscience – regardless of being leftist, moderate or conservative. In a nation that is responsible for the holocaust, this is a very worrying development. Thus the transition of Germany’s hegemonic role in Europe, among many internal transitions such as the unjust redistribution of wealth, has been thoroughly ideologically prepared.
It is worth mentioning a sort of landmark book written by the German historian Heinrich August Winkler, “The Long Journey to the West”, which appeared in the year 2000. It traces the purported progress of Germany becoming a responsible member of Western Europe’s democratic tradition and intellectual enlightenment. Winkler may have been too quick with his conclusion. Under German hegemony we are seeing heads of state removed by financial pressure (Italy and Greece), nations forced to take over debts from reckless private banks (Ireland and Spain) and Greece being pounded into submission and having its autonomy reduced to passing legislation dictated by Berlin. The Germany of today has little to do with Western European democracy, resembling more traditional German anti-democratic authoritarianism.
The second point I wash to make is that the real losers with regard to the disaster in Greece are not even aware of their plight: the Eastern Europeans. What the Germans have done to Greece has its basis in racism, but the Germans have a primordial fear and hate of eastern Europeans, resulting in a commensurate brutality. When the opportunity arrives to subjugate these peoples, the process will not be as gentle as in Greece. Ukraine could already be the first example of this.
The only exception might be Poland, which throughout history has been invaded and occupied by the Germans. Not only have the Germans always considered Poland a colony, but after the Second World War German territory was added to Poland. This is something that Germans resent to this day. Willy Brandt falling to his knees in Warsaw was an important gesture, but in Germany these days Willy Brandt numbers among the derogated “Gutmenschen”. The Poles are fortunately highly distrustful of the Germans – with good reason – and are still not members of the eurozone . They surely have been following the developments in Greece and hopefully comprehended the writing on the wall.
Lastly, no one seems to have really thought through what the “reforms” forced upon Greece will mean in practice. Up to now Greeks apparently were reluctant to pay taxes because hardly any one, especially the oligarchs, did so. To alter a nation’s attitude to taxation is a herculean task for a government at the best of times, a process that Yanis Varoufakis interestingly had initiated very early on. The imposition of a ridiculously high value added tax increase by Germany is nothing more than taxation without representation. Not paying ones taxes in Greece will become a patriotic act of resistance against the Germans and the troika. There can be no crdible political discourse from a politically disgraced Syriza, leaving coercion as the only alternative (Varoufakis knew why he resigned as finance minister and has voted against the German dictate). The Greek people clearly rejected the dictate that has been foisted upon them. They will not be supporting the so called “reforms”, especially as they simply cannot afford to do so.
The crisis in Greece and in Europe is not over, it is only just beginning.
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