It did not take long for the dark side of right-wing’s empire to round on Greece for daring to elect representatives ready and willing to throw off the shackles of enforced austerity. In fact, it took a single day.
First out the traps was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pursuing the rabbit. “There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt,” she said to a Hamburg newspaper, missing the point entirely, that Greece is forced to sell off its heritage and its silver getting poorer by the hour.
She went on, “I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation.”
Those familiar with what I call polit-speak will interpret the phrase ‘I do not envisage’ as, “I can’t see that happening at the moment. I must first set out my negotiating position, tough, stern, unrelenting, but that could alter during negotiations.”
Merkel is not a lady for turning. Probably. Perhaps. But as if to confirm sceptics her militaristic stance a bluff she softened the blow immediately. Like a stern mother refusing her child another chunk of chocolate cake, she qualified, ‘Okay, after you eat your greens.’
“Europe will continue to show its solidarity with Greece, as with other countries hard hit by the crisis if these countries carry out reforms and cost-saving measures,” she added.
So, door wide open to reforms, then. It’s all down to who tires first.
Next out the trap was three-legged mutt George Osborne, Chancellor of the Bullingdon Club. Just as he spewed fire upon the Scots with his stertorous, “Walk away from the Union and you walk away from haggis,” he tried fear mongering on the Greeks.
“The stand-off between Greece and the Euro-zone is the greatest risk to the global economy,” Osborne said after meeting Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in London. Man, that Varoufakis has a way of scaring a person witless.
There we have it. The pound in financier’s pockets is more valuable than some goat herding, Sophocles spouting, baklava munching Greek’s right to live a fulfilling life.
Then Osborne too bit his tongue and moved into patronising school teacher mode. “I urge the Greek finance minister to act responsibly, but it’s also important that the Euro-zone has a better plan for jobs and growth,” quoth he.
So, now we know. Jobs and growth are very important for Greece, as they are for others in the European union, or ‘zone’ as Osborne keeps referring to Europe as if a voluminous parking bay. Like Merkel, he too hopes a satisfactory compromise is the outcome of negotiations, otherwise Mother Earth will experience a catastrophic meteor hit wiping out humanity, and all the untouchable bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
Democracy is a terrible thing
At the same time a thousand sweaty hands belonging to the maliciously brain-dead hit keyboards all over the EU ‘zone’ to warn the world that the Syriza party, legally and democratically elected to bring about humanitarian aid to Greece, was in fact financed from the estates of Mussolini, General Franco, and drug dealer and Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega.
The expected black propaganda was spray painted on internet walls. Syriza is too inexperienced; only a small percentage of voters support it; it will cave in as soon as the next tranche of debt must be paid; banks will hang them from the nearest lamppost; and not forgetting the obligatory character assassination, Tsipras is a demagogue. It is all too familiar, sadly reminiscent of the abuse thrown at Scotland for thinking it was eligible for equality of democratic rights with England. We in Scotland have seen it before, and still receive it.
Overnight Greece had become a seething repository of terrorism, fascism, and Nazism all rolled into one kebab, a concoction known previously only to the British Royal family.
Only President Obama offered a Greek olive branch of hope. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression,” Mr Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. “At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits.”
Meanwhile, the new Greek minister for fiscal sanity, Yanis Varoufakis, was doing the rounds of glad-handing leaders of the western world putting their mind at rest Greece will not seek help from Russia. The western world gave a collective sigh of relief. Putin thumped his bare chest in annoyance, and punched his horse in the head.
One other person offered a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. At last, a major German political figure, Joschka Fischer, acknowledged the obvious: that the austerity movement is in serious trouble in the Euro-zone. He realised the certain outcome of giving Greece two fingers is contagion in the financial markets that would result from Greece leaving the EU – the very ace card Varoufakis has shown openly from the day he took office.
Varoufakis made plain from the harbingers of daylight robbery, the ‘Troika,’ the group of auditors representing the Commission, the European Central Bank and IMF. Their gospel is comprehensive privatisation in return for a loan. They supervise progress, month by month. One Euro in, ten Euros out. In defiance, on taking office, Syriza halted all privatisation. The only thing they are selling are all the official cars, luxury BMWs.
The EU Commission has indicated the Troika should be replaced by a more democratic group. Round one to Syriza and Varoufakis.
The fearful Troika
The most feared of the Troika is the IMF – the International Monetary Fund. It is almost completely dominated by graduates of the Chicago School of Shock Economics, [my title] the same that has raised many a country’s economy to the ground. At the Chicago University fantasy economics was ruled over by Ayn Rand admiring economist, Milton Friedman. He encapsulated his doctrine in a single paragraph.
“An administration has ten days, maybe two weeks, to implement draconian economic policies before the population recover from their trauma of their disaster, [natural or man-made] before they recover, and regroup to protest.”
The term ‘shock’ is derived from electro-shock therapy, previously used on mental patients and prisoners of war to eradicate memory and replace it with indoctrination and controlled behaviour. (It’s chief progenitor was an over-zealous Scottish doctor working in the States with one eye on immortality, and the other on 100 volt switch.)
The IMF tried shock economics on the USSR when it collapsed, but Russia’s first president Boris Yelsin was smarter. After taking the IMF’s money in return for accepting IMF orthodoxy of privatising everything, including museums and probably vodka, companies to be laid open to USA purchase, he signed all the major Russian utilities to trusted friends and family. On returning to Washington, the head IMF negotiator remarked in fury, “Those fucking Russians are not to be trusted.”
The mantra of the IMF is not only privatisation, but also massive reduction of the welfare state, together with adherence to free market principles, plus unfettered advancement of globalisation. The powerful are free to move their money where they like out of harm’s way. The IMF continue to make inept and erroneous predictions about economic situations. Each crisis the IMF attends to, (often together with the Word Bank) necessitates a new model. In the end they use a sledge hammer to break an egg.
The “neoliberal onslaught” we all talk of and feel unable to stop, the globalization brought about by the IMF and World Bank through a shift of power away from governments and towards markets, has a hellish detrimental effect – a conflict of interest between business and social welfare. That is what the Greeks are rebelling against, that an imposed poverty.
We live in a world where international economic order has been designed for capital, not people. As we saw from the Scottish Referendum, this undermines democracy. The power elite, the oligarchs, and their lickspittle politicians, control government policy with their capital. Agreements are made strictly between the rich and the rich. For the record, that is not you and me.
Spain protests too
Meanwhile, the week saw tens of thousands of Spanish under the umbrella title of Podemos swarm into the streets of Madrid to demand an end to their unjust austerity, last year’s Ignatia morphed into a vastly larger movement. They denounce their government’s attempts to force deeper cuts. The peaceful demonstrations did not stop the police arresting many individuals. Not only do they not have the right to protest about mass unemployment, they do not have the right to protest about creating work.
Croatia shows how it can be done. Thousands of Croatia’s poorest citizens will benefit from an unusual gift: They will have their debts wiped out. Named “fresh start,” the government scheme aims to help some of the 317,000 Croatians whose bank accounts have been blocked due to their debts. Those applying for the scheme are not allowed to own any property or have any savings. Poor really means poor.
Given that Croatia is a relatively small Mediterranean country, only 4.4 million inhabitants, (like Scotland) the number of indebted citizens is high, a major economic burden for the country. After six years of recession, growth predictions for Croatia’s economy remain low for this year. “We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted by Reuters.
Can any reader imagine that happening in Scotland, sanctioned by Westminster? That’s a policy too radical for the latterday reformation Labour party.
Syriza is surrounded by enemies. But the people are gathering around the proverbial tanks shouting they have had enough. Did the power elite think they could control everybody forever? The enemies of Greece’s reformation might be ready to face down Greece’s audacity but they had better mind their backs.
This essay is written in companionship with ‘Greece – One Cool Dude’.