The Last Temptation of Greece

I began this piece in January 2015, shortly after the election of Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. I had not really been following the Greek elections, but just days after it occurred, I saw in a European newspaper Alexis Tsipras' "Open Letter to Germany: That Which You Were Never Told About Greece".

I read it, and I was hooked.

It was a letter of the times we live in. A letter about people who feel crushed by the increasingly powerful financiers of the West. It struck me as frank and oddly personal. I had not read anything quite so stark and pure coming from a current national leader.

It was a very logical, irreversible declaration of independence.

Today, on this day of the Greek default, I wanted to share that moment of history I found so moving and significant. The original message has since been lost in the noise and propaganda — but I do believe this is what a "tipping point" in history looks like, at the very moment it is happening.

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The day after Alexis Tsipras was elected Prime Minister of Greece on January 26, 2015, he made good on his promises to voters. The young leftwing leader of the Syriza party swept away the age of austerity. The barricades came down outside the Greek parliament, followed by an announcement that the IMF privatization schemes of Greek public property and services would be halted and all pensions would be reinstated. Then came the news of the reintroduction of the €751 monthly minimum wage. And this all happened before Greece’s young new prime minister had got his first cabinet meeting under way.

After that, fees for prescriptions and hospital visits were scrapped, collective work agreements were restored, workers who had been laid off in the public sector were rehired, and citizenship was immediately granted to migrant children born and raised in Greece.

Barely 48 hours after storming to power, Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza party ended the biting austerity that had so thoroughly destroyed the Greek economy and caused so much suffering. January 26th was a new day and a new chapter in the history of Greece.

What follows is the original inspiration and vision for a new direction for Greece — a message whose meaning is now buried in the past six months of pounding neoliberal brainwashing and media bullying; propaganda designed to taint public opinion with the sort of petty resentments that would insure that folks continued to vote against their own human rights and their own best interests. Reflective Americans, of course, will recognize this dismal process as they regard what has become of their own nation.

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Open Letter to Germany: That Which You Were Never Told About Greece

Most of you, dear [German] readers, will have formed a preconception of what this article is about before you actually read it. I am imploring you not to succumb to such preconceptions. Prejudice was never a good guide, especially during periods when an economic crisis reinforces stereotypes and breeds biggotry, nationalism, even violence.

In 2010, the Greek state ceased to be able to service its debt. Unfortunately, European officials decided to pretend that this problem could be overcome by means of the largest loan in history on condition of fiscal austerity that would, with mathematical precision, shrink the national income from which both new and old loans must be paid. An insolvency problem was thus dealt with as if it were a case of illiquidity.

In other words, Europe adopted the tactics of the least reputable bankers who refuse to acknowledge bad loans, preferring to grant new ones to the insolvent entity so as to pretend that the original loan is performing while extending the bankruptcy into the future. Nothing more than common sense was required to see that the application of the 'extend and pretend' tactic would lead my country to a tragic state. That instead of Greece's stabilization, Europe was creating the circumstances for a self-reinforcing crisis that undermines the foundations of Europe itself.

My party, and I personally, disagreed fiercely with the May 2010 loan agreement not because you, the citizens of Germany, did not give us enough money but because you gave us much, much more than you should have and our government accepted far, far more than it had a right to. Money that would, in any case, neither help the people of Greece (as it was being thrown into the black hole of an unsustainable debt) nor prevent the ballooning of Greek government debt, at great expense to the Greek and German taxpayer.

Indeed, even before a full year had gone by, from 2011 onwards, our predictions were confirmed. 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. The collapse of incomes pushed thousands of firms into bankruptcy boosting the oligopolistic power of surviving large firms. Thus, prices have been falling but more slowly than wages and salaries, pushing down overall demand for goods and services and crushing nominal incomes while debts continue their inexorable rise. In this setting, the deficit of hope accelerated uncontrollably and, before we knew it, the 'serpent's egg' hatched – the result being neo-Nazis patrolling our neighbourhoods, spreading their message of hatred.

Despite the evident failure of the 'extend and pretend' logic, it is still being implemented to this day. The second Greek 'bailout', enacted in the Spring of 2012, added another huge loan on the weakened shoulders of the Greek taxpayers, "haircut" our social security funds, and financed a ruthless new cleptocracy.

Respected commentators have been referring of recent to Greece's stabilization, even of signs of growth. Alas, 'Greek-covery' is but a mirage which we must put to rest as soon as possible. The recent modest rise of real GDP, to the tune of 0.7%, signals not the end of recession (as has been proclaimed) but, rather, its continuation. Think about it: The same official sources report, for the same quarter, an inflation rate of -1.80%, i.e. deflation. Which means that the 0.7% rise in real GDP was due to a negative growth rate of nominal GDP! In other words, all that happened is that prices declined faster than nominal national income. Not exactly a cause for proclaiming the end of six years of recession!

Allow me to submit to you that this sorry attempt to recruit a new version of 'Greek statistics', in order to declare the ongoing Greek crisis over, is an insult to all Europeans who, at long last, deserve the truth about Greece and about Europe. So, let me be frank: Greece's debt is currently unsustainable and will never be serviced, especially while Greece is being subjected to continuous fiscal waterboarding. The insistence in these dead-end policies, and in the denial of simple arithmetic, costs the German taxpayer dearly while, at once, condemning to a proud European nation to permanent indignity. What is even worse: In this manner, before long the Germans turn against the Greeks, the Greeks against the Germans and, unsurprisingly, the European Ideal suffers catastrophic losses.

Germany, and in particular the hard-working German workers, have nothing to fear from a SYRIZA victory. The opposite holds true. Our task is not to confront our partners. It is not to secure larger loans or, equivalently, the right to higher deficits. Our target is, rather, the country's stabilization, balanced budgets and, of course, the end of the grand squeeze of the weaker Greek taxpayers in the context of a loan agreement that is simply unenforceable. We are committed to end 'extend and pretend' logic not against German citizens but with a view to the mutual advantages for all Europeans.

Dear readers, I understand that, behind your 'demand' that our government fulfills all of its 'contractual obligations' hides the fear that, if you let us Greeks some breathing space, we shall return to our bad, old ways. I acknowledge this anxiety. However, let me say that it was not SYRIZA that incubated the cleptocracy which today pretends to strive for 'reforms', as long as these 'reforms' do not affect their ill-gotten privileges. We are ready and willing to introduce major reforms for which we are now seeking a mandate to implement from the Greek electorate, naturally in collaboration with our European partners.

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.

— Authored by Alexis Tsipras via Syriza.net

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To his everlasting credit, Alexis Tsipras single-handedly attempted to block the European Union's absurd and self-destructive sanctions against Russia. The Syriza party believes that the new government in Kiev came to power as a result of a coup. They call it a junta.

"We should not accept or recognize the government of neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” the Athens News Agency quotes Tsipras, who believes that the Ukrainian people should decide their future themselves. Speaking about the East Ukraine peoples’ movements for self-determination and their Referendum and Reunification votes, Tsipras said:

We in the EU should not give preference to changing borders, but must respect the position of the peoples, who have decided to create a Federation within the state.

Right again.

Will the neoliberal banking elite succeed in enslaving and crushing Greece and its people for the foreseeable future?

Or will Greeks find the courage to step away from the Anglosphere and forge their own future — unshackled by endless predatory debt?

Greece's choice undoubtedly foretells the future of the Western world.

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said Greece should tell them to stick it. I keep asking what if we tell NAFTA and TPP to stick it. Even a marriage can be terminated. You can't tell me treaties aren't broken or ignored all the time.

It was also suggested that Greece, Italy and ??? ought to all drop out of the Euro and go back to their own money and deal with their own problems. Last thing any country need is pay day lenders.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

gulfgal98's picture

there will be Spain, Portugal, and Italy. What we are witnessing is what the banksters learned from the Mafia. It is an international shake down game. And as usual, the poorest and weakest citizens pay the highest price.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

Pluto's Republic's picture

If Greece accepts any money from the IMF, that money will turn right around within seconds — and be distributed to the bankers and investors as payments for interest and profits.

Greece will receive nothing.

But they will be saddled with yet another layer of economy-killing nation-destroying debt and forced austerity.

That's how Neoliberal economics works. This a chapter right out of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

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Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

— Martin Luther King

Big Al's picture

And take the criminals that did this to international court.
That's the only acceptable solution.

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mimi's picture

is so much to the point. I wished to have seen it a long time ago.

I hope for a "New Deal" for Greece and I guess I wouldn't vote to pay the IMF, if I were Greek.
Apparently Tsipras has suggested a "two year deal" in a letter to Dijsselbloem, asking that for two years the European Rescue Fund takes over for paying outstanding debt. There will be a "teleconference", which pretty much takes place within the next 20 minutes or so.

Turkey has offered help.

Oh well. The fuck is all about money.

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hecate's picture

Kazantzakis, the Greek philosopher who wrote The Last Temptation of Christ, never had any money—nor did he really want any—so of course 50 years after he died the EU put him on a fancy special expensive silver coin.

The Greeks could simply announce that this is the only currency they recognize, and since all the various loans and whatnot, that all the weinerschnitzels are screaming about, were not vouchsafed to Greece in this coin, the Reality is Greece never really received anything at all, and is therefore under no obligation to pay back to anyone any of the nothing they never received.

Money is an extreme nonsense that possesses and retains value only because hypnotized humans are inured in a mad mass group agreement. In Last Temptation, Kazantzakis wrote:

It was as though they were sluggish oxen who refused to move. The world was a cart to which they were yoked; he goaded them on, and they shifted under the yoke but did not budge. Looking at them, he felt drained of all his strength. The road from earth to heaven was a long one, and there they were, motionless.

That's pretty much the situation.

In the run-up to George I's adventure in Iraq, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, speaking on the floor of the Senate against said adventure, suggested there were many creative ways to encourage the Iraqis to behave in re Kuwait short of the same ol' same ol' of bombing and shooting and strafing and slitting. He pointed out, for instance, that the Iraqis did not print their own currency. Instead it was printed, if I recall correctly, in Britain. Moynihan suggested that several billion or trillion or octatgazillion in Iraqi currency should be run through the presses and then scattered liberally from the air over the Iraqi countryside.

Similarly, the Greeks could take to the presses, run up several trillion in euros, then wheelbarrow it over to the sausages and tell them to quit their bitchin', bugger off, and go march on a road of bones somewhere else.

Large American companies, like Apple, currently sit on a $1.73 trillion cash stash that in the current Reality they really can't do anything with—"American companies keep accumulating cash they don't know how to spend." There have been suggestions that some of this dragon hoard could be invested in Greece, to the benefit of all parties. The bratwursts would stop snarling, and American firms and the Greek people would link arms in a sunny new world combining retsina and smartphones.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has announced that Greece will not acknowledge any purported ejection from either the euro or the EU. "We are taking advice and will certainly consider an injunction at the European Court of Justice. The EU treaties make no provision for euro exit and we refuse to accept it. Our membership is not negotiable," he said. Good for him. That's a start. Reality is what you make of it.

The possibilities are infinite. The Greeks do not have to remain sluggish oxen yoked to the cart of the world, motionless. And neither does anyone else.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

Thanks for the details. I was going to title it "My Big Fat Greek Debt," but that just didn't have the gravitas I was seeking.

I'm glad you touched on the fact that the Greeks never saw any of that banker's loot. None of it was ever in the country for more than 12 hours. IMF's conditions for development loans is that they must be used to purchase supplies and services from the Plutocrat nations. In the case of Greece, that was the US, Germany, and France. South America learned the terrible destructive message of the IMF decades ago. None will ever deal with the IMF again. And, they never have to.

As a result of the IMF horrors around the world — two huge development banks were launched this year: the AIIB (Eurasia) and the BRICS New Development Banks. Both are waiting in the wings; they've met with Tsipras several times this year, most recently just last week in Moscow at the Economic Forum.

Legally, the EU cannot "throw" Greece out of the Euro. This is entirely up to Greece, and Greece is holding all the cards. As I've written elsewhere:

Greece has been offered substantial structural loans (through the AIIB and the BRICS Development Bank) if Greeks vote to default and decide to seek independence from the EU, as well, as an autonomous nation. This has been discussed over the past six months, between Greece, Russia, and China.

This financial support will be vital during a time of transition, including the establishment of a new domestic currency and the nationalization of their banking system. They have a sufficient military and vast military resources. Functionally, it’s achievable. A lot of new paperwork and documents to be issued to citizens. There may be a disentanglement from NATO, which should be orderly.

China will play an important role as a settlement bank for their trading markets, if Greece chooses to use its own currency. (Fortunately, the US Dollar is completely unnecessary for global trade, now.) Russia has already created a SWIFT substitute and China’s version will go live in the fall. Actually, I don’t think Greece can achieve their self-determination goals as a nation without Russia and China and the global systems they have created after the Ukraine coup.

Of course, there is the risk that the US Vassal States of Europe could turn rabid and violent, as they did in Ukraine. Greece is, after all, is the geostrategic jewel of the Mediterranean.

Greece is quite flush financially, when you remove all former debt or debt servicing of IMF/Bonds. Indeed, for the Greek people, austerity will be lifted, and they will be able to grow their economy. There is NO reason why current revenues and income streams for Greece would be interrupted.

Now, here is the extraordinary beauty of the situation for Russia and China and the rise of Eurasia: Greece is at the geographic epicenter of the game-changing New Silk Road Economic Belt. Of the top 10 biggest container ports in the world, no less than 7 are in China (the others are Singapore, Rotterdam, and Pusan in South Korea). Greece is a perfect fit for the AIIB; its maritime advantages are key connectors for the entire Eastern Hemisphere.

For Russia and the NDB, Greece has been a pivotal asset over the past year. After the Ukraine coup, Gazprom’s new gas pipelines to service Europe’s energy needs was diverted through Turkey to Greece. Thus, Greece will be the transit point and controller for Europe’s future energy supply. The transit fees, alone, will be enormous for Greece.

Such realities are not covered in propaganda-based Anglo news.

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Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

— Martin Luther King

hecate's picture

is my current favorite money clip. American prospectors, down in Mexico, discover that their unrefined gold dust, for which they had so mightily strived, is literally gone with the wind. They alight upon the right reaction. The moaners grubbing for Greek gold should do the same. Just laugh, and move on.

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mimi's picture

gave this comment as an answer to a question in a Q&A session and did it rather cautiously. He is factually right. Remains to be seen how far that is going to play out. The commentator also said that the Greeks are (so far) very calm and split over how to vote for or against the referendum, but they don't get against each other (thank god) over it. The demonstrators of being "yes" by around 20000 demonstrators and yesterday as being "no" by around 13000 demonstrators. Other sources say 77 percent want to stick with the Euro. That is a sign of fear by the population. No wonder. They never get anything. I would not pay. But if the banks remain closed for the whole week, I believe it will be a chaos. I think IMF will accept and process the non-payments and take their time to find out what to do, for which they have at least two month time, which means the whole thing is not over until it's over. Cliffhanger.

Yours truly Wienerschnitzel

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hecate's picture

you are not howling for Greece to give you money, you are not a schnitzel. ; )

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MarilynW's picture

to my family who want to know wtf is going on in Greece. I also want to know.

Everywhere we hear that Alexis Tsipras is to blame for the present crisis. His government has been called "amateur" and the pundits hope it will be brought down with the referendum.

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joe shikspack's picture

i remember reading that a while ago, tsipras seems to have been quite prescient. it's too bad that he didn't go into the details of the fraud that was perpetrated by his predecessors with help from goldman sachs. when that part of the story is articulated, it puts the whole mess into a very different light and demonstrates that the greek citizenry are victims rather than perpetrators.

i ran across these today as i was catching up with the news that i missed this week. hudson and black explain it all very well:

US Hedge Funds Get Bailed Out If Greeks Pass Bailout Referendum

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Pluto's Republic's picture

One of the European think tanks I read believe that Greece, Brussels, and Germany are actually working together to stiff the IMF and get them out of Europe.

They insist that Greece will remain part of the EU — and will end up relatively debt-free.

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Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

— Martin Luther King

mimi's picture

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Pluto's Republic's picture

Here's the advisory in German.

This is the English version, but the translation is rather poor. But you'll get the idea.

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Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

— Martin Luther King

joe shikspack's picture

looking at the chart here, it appears that the greek debt to the imf is only about 10% of its total debt. even if greece were able to write off the totality of its imf debt, could they really achieve solvency without write-downs of debts to other institutions?

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Pluto's Republic's picture

…by the IMF, as the French analysts explain it. You are quite right about the size of the IMF exposure, but the IMF has been forced upon the EU by the US "solely to control the Vassal States" to back-up the US quest for Empire.

This is an awkward translation, but...

If the Greek tragedy has lasted so long, it’s not the size of the problem which is in question. To be sure it was necessary to inject around 240 billion€ into the Greek economy – or rather into the Greek banks and financial system, so that they didn’t collapse (which would have risked dragging down the whole European system). An amount which only represents a quarter of the ECB’s QE, for example, or a small part of the European recovery and bank support plans.

No, if the Greek tragedy has lasted for so long it’s because there is another reason. The Germans don’t want to pay ? They are not the only ones to pay (they only represent 22% of funds lent), and they have always done so up until now, without too much fuss in the end. Rather go and look for the reason at the IMF, its excessive demands and far too neoliberal for the European continent. An “ally” imposed by Washington in 2010 but which represents less than 20% in aid (of which more than half has now been repaid); a troublesome ally which Europe would like to get rid of so as to manage its problem alone, without US interference. Especially since it has finally created the means of resolving this problem, thanks particularly to the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility), then its successor the ESM (European Stability Mechanism).

http://geab.eu/en/nato-the-imf-divisions-grexit-looking-out-to-2020-the-...

The IMF manipulation is pretty clear when you compare their actions in Ukraine and Greece. They are both places the US wants to block Russian influence. (And Syria, too, since the US attack on Syria is entirely about the Iran pipeline that Syria supports, which will also terminate in Greece. Syria said "no" to the Qatar pipeline. So, the US, Saudis, Qatar, et al created ISIS.) Turkey recently let it be known that they are no longer interested in joining the EU.

Syria will only allow the "Islamic pipeline" to cross its country, not Qatar's.

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Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

— Martin Luther King

mimi's picture

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