how the Greeks were railroaded and what it means for all of us

Dear Greeks,

You are a proud people, a proud nation. Tomorrow you have yet another set of elections.

You say: We’re free. Bild says: It’s in your hands. There is a difference. If you did not want our billions, it would have been fine by us for you to vote for any leftists or rightist clown you wanted. But for over two years now, the situation is like this:

Your ATM’s continue to give you euros, only because we put them there, the Germans and the other nations that have the euro. Yet you still call us Nazis, which we do not fine funny. But anyway.

But let’s be clear on this:

If the elections are won by parties that want to put an end to austerity and reform, breaching every agreement, we will stop paying. The agreement was: you fix your country and meanwhile we will help you. If you do not want this anymore, then we do not want it either. It’s in your hands.

Tomorrow is your choice. But actually there is none. Namely, you have to choose between painful 
 reason and utter destruction. And we are very much afraid that you don’t get that yet.

Yours in friendship

Your Bild.”.1

They might just as well have added – P.S. Nice little place you’ve got here, you wouldn’t want anything to happen…

Bild were far from alone. For the last few weeks almost all of the loudest voices have been bullying the Greek people into submission, including their two main political parties New Democracy and Pasok – the very parties that helped plunge the country into the crisis to begin with.

Sadly, it seems to have worked. At least for the time being. Enough Greeks voting for the pro-bailout/austerity package to secure an election defeat for the only party offering any genuine alternative, which was Syriza. So what happens next? Well, a pro-austerity government has since been formed, and under its authority the Greek people can now look forward to the further ruination of their country.

On election day [June 17th] Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek-Australian economist and head of the Department of Economic Policy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens sent a letter to the BBC and “assorted international media”. It begins as follows:

Over the past 48 hours, as Greek voters are mulling over their options prior to entering the polling stations, the international media have indulged in a frenzy of disinformation and scaremongering. Gone is the nuanced reporting of the BBC, nowhere to be seen the critical approach to the Euro Crisis that the rest of the international media have shown over the past few weeks. As if united behind a common cause, the hordes of international TV and Radio reporters are now peddling a simple line: Today, the Greek people are choosing between ‘Reason’ (meaning the pro-bailout New Democracy party) and ‘Indulgence’; between staying in the euro and leaving on a whim. In moment of greater exuberance, they add that, today, Greeks can deal a decisive blow at the Eurozone by voting against the European Union’s strategy for dealing with the Euro Crisis. What utter nonsense!

This is nothing but an Assault on Truth. First, Greeks are NOT voting on whether they want to stay in the Eurosystem or to leave. They are voting between two different programs on how to survive within the Eurozone. On the one hand, there is the discredited ‘establishment’ line which has it that, to stay in the Eurozone, Greeks should simply do as they are being told by the troika. On the opposite corner, there is the Syriza position that doing as we are told is guaranteed to lead to the wholesale and final collapse of what is left of the Greek social economy, thus leading us out of the Eurozone by default. Their recommendation is that Greece should adopt a determined bargaining stand.

Click here to read the full letter.

Perhaps in response, Varoufakis was then invited to give an interview to BBC news. The interview can be seen here:

Strangely (as you will see if you watch the clip) the link to Athens failed. Varoufakis says:

[So,] It was with great relief that I received a call from their TV News Dept offering me a chance to make my point on camera. But as I was coming to that point, the link surreptitiously caved in. Now, I have no doubt that it was, most probably, a genuine technical failure. Having said that, the fact that I was not given a chance to complete my point at a later stage raises questions.

Click here to read more on Yanis Varoufakis’ blog.

The problems facing Greece began as a banking crisis that was born in the USA and frankly I can barely believe my ears when I hear some (especially American) commentators talking about the dangers of ‘Greek contagion’. The situation in Greece and elsewhere is the product of deregulation (especially of Wall Street and the City of London) combined with banker incompetence and criminality. Meanwhile, the endless bailouts just about pay to keep the banks afloat whilst compounding the debts and thus actually deepening the crisis itself. Only one country has so far stopped this rot and that country, Iceland, tackled their own problems by means of criminal prosecutions and a debt moratorium:

Iceland also did what other parts of Europe haven’t dared to do – let its banks go under. It took some of the cost itself but forced foreign creditors to take the biggest hit.

Lauded by some economists for taking unorthodox measures to fix its broken economy, others see it as a one-off example that would be hard to replicate.2

Even Iceland did not survive entirely unscathed but they have at least turned the corner. Their own economy is growing again:

Iceland’s GDP growth estimated at some 2.6 percent this year will outshine even powerhouses like Sweden.

“These are among the highest numbers in Europe,” said Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson. “Sometimes it is easier to turn a small boat around than a big ship.”3

No doubt this is true, although tragically we may never find out how quickly our own ships might be turned around with Greece and the larger European flotilla still steering towards inevitable disaster:

Europe’s peoples are being marched into a catastrophe. They know that this is their predicament. They can see their march is leading them off a mighty cliff. But they are too afraid to veer off, in case there are beaten back into line, in case they get lost in the woods, for reasons that sheep know best. However, the only way this hideous march can end is if someone summons up the courage and does it. And steps out, showing the others that this march can stop and must stop – for everyone’s benefit. Who is that someone? We, Europeans, do not have many options. As I wrote above, the Irish people had a chance but did not take it. In two weeks, the Greeks have their chance. Voting for Syriza would offer us (and by ‘us’ I mean all Europeans) a chance of this circuit-breaker. A chance to say: Enough! Time to change course in order to save the Eurozone, so as to prevent the Great Postmodern Depression which lurks once the euro-system fragments formally.4

The abiding question: how many more opportunities can we afford to miss?

Click here to read more of the same excellent article by Yanis Varoufakis.

1“Liebe Griechen,

Ihr seid ein stolzes Volk, ein stolzes Land. Morgen wählt 
Ihr mal wieder Euer Parlament. Ihr sagt: Wir sind frei. BILD sagt Euch: Ihr habt es in der Hand. Das ist ein Unterschied. Wenn Ihr unsere Milliarden nicht bräuchtet, dann könntet Ihr von uns aus jeden Links- oder Rechts-Hallodri wählen, den Ihr wollt.

Seit mehr als zwei Jahren ist es aber so:

Aus Euren Geldautomaten kommen nur deshalb noch Euro heraus, weil 
wir, die Deutschen, und die anderen Euro-Staaten sie 
reingesteckt haben. Dass wir in Griechenland trotzdem als Nazis beschimpft werden, finden wir nicht komisch. Aber sei’s drum. Nur eines muss klar sein:

Wenn bei Euch jetzt Parteien gewinnen, die entgegen aller Verträge Schluss machen wollen mit dem Sparen und den Reformen – dann werden wir nicht mehr zahlen. Der Deal war: Ihr bringt endlich Euer Land auf Vordermann und wir helfen Euch über die Durststrecke. Wenn IHR das nicht mehr wollt, wollen WIR auch 
nicht mehr. Ihr habt es in der Hand.

Morgen ist Eure Wahl. Aber eigentlich ist es gar keine. 
Ihr habt nämlich nur die Wahl zwischen schmerzhafter 
Vernunft und völligem Untergang. Wir fürchten: Ihr habt das immer noch nicht begriffen.

Liebe Grüße

Eure BILD”

From an article entitled “Liebe Griechen, macht jetzt keinen Fehler” [literally, “Dear Greeks, don’t make a mistake now”], published in Bild, on June 15, 2012. http://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/griechenland-krise/liebe-griechen-macht-jetzt-keinen-fehler-24686922.bild.html

2 From an article entitled “Banking crisis over, Iceland’s economy thaws: Many see Iceland as offering a lesson to struggling European countries such as Greece and Spain”, written by Mia Shanley for Reuters, published on May 3, 2012. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47280153/ns/business-world_business/t/banking-crisis-over-icelands-economy-thaws/#.T9-yaZFc5hc

3 Ibid.

4 From an article entitled “Why Europe should fear Fine Gael-like ‘reasonableness’ much, much more than it fears Syriza”, written by Yanis Varoufakis and posted on thegreekperspective.

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2 Comments

Filed under analysis & opinion, austerity measures, Greece, Iceland, Ireland

2 responses to “how the Greeks were railroaded and what it means for all of us

  1. darren

    such a shame about the elections. History may put this down to a great opportunity missed to turn around this worrying new brand of economic terrorism in Europe. However, when (if) they do start the privatisations and when the majority of people start to suffer and feel the true effects of these policies, all hell will break out in Greece. There will be war on the streets, potential military coup, total societal breakdown. I wonder if anyone has yet considered where all the migrants will/are fleeing to. With the Golden Dawn party now randomly beating people up on the streets on an almost daily basis, i wonder if anyone has factored in how that will effect all things right wing across Europe because it will not have gone unnoticed by them. There are some very dark days ahead…
    The EU was always a challenge to the USA, just in its very conception. It seems like the ‘electronic herd’ working out of the USA has found very easy ways to destabilise the whole of Europe now the number of currencies has been reduced. It must be very easy these days to manipulate such things if specific influential groups decide it is the right thing to do and in their interest. Most worrying though, is that most of the key moves and pressures are coming from within Europe. Is this just the last throws of a dying empire (the USA) though, as has been suggested with increasing frequency, or are they in fact making a play that will ensure their dominance for many more years to come. Destroying welfare systems, deregulation, militarising the police, privatising national wealth and demoralising populations across Europe is certainly not something that can be fixed by a change of government in one country. The EU needs to start acting like a Union and remember that it needs to stick together when pressure comes from abroad, not enact the same policies that have led to life in the USA becoming one of the most unequal, unjust, corrupt and fascist societies in the western world.

    Like

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