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' .
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.
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.
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.
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: . 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.
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
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.
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.