Tag Archives: Paul Mason

The elections’ aftermath and SYRIZA’s ghost

So the (first) elections are over, the situation is kind of normalized and we’re preparing for the next ones on June 17. Greece is a weird country when it comes to elections. Some years ago New Democracy had won an election but the talk-of-the-town was what was happening in PASOK’s leadership. Two weeks ago, New Democracy did it again. They’ve won the elections but everybody is talking about SYRIZA and its leader, sexy Alexis. So who are they? If you want to get informed, read this by BBC’s Paul Mason, whose reports on Greece are probably the most accurate accounts of foreign journalists on what’s happening here.

Well, Greeks did not become radical leftists within a night, as they haven’t been transformed to fascists either. What most Greeks were looking for in the past election was a way to express their opposition to the bailout measures and the Memoranda, an economic policy and seems more and more inefficient and unfeasible. Traditional right wing voters turned themselves to either the Independent Greeks party (centre-right voters) or the Golden Dawn party (far right party but mainly voted by traditional right wing people who are against immigrants). Though the Left had far more choices, the majority went to SYRIZA, a coalition of leftist fractions with a platform of uniting the Left (a rare motto in Greece and an perennial longing of all Greek leftists) to form a leftist government that will undo the Memorandum and cancel the loan agreements. Very appealing for a suffering Greek, isn’t it?

I personally think that these two goals are not feasible and Alexis Tsipras rather meant that he would try to renegotiate the loan agreements and the relevant measures that must be taken. Which is what he had actually caused with his 2nd position in the elections. Suddenly officials from the EU and politicians from several European countries are discussing the dead end of the current plan and are pointing out the need for a slight change or easing of the measures. There is simply no foreseeable solution and exit from the crisis with the current plan. And this fact is the only victory of Greece on a European level, not just since the last elections but during the past 2,5 years.

A cartoon of Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsirpas by German caricaturist Reiner Hachfeld.

You see, Greeks had seen the Papandreou and Papademos governments passing measures that were dictated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF without any attempt of negotiation. They’ve seen Papandreou going abroad and having new measures in his suitcase upon his return without any complaint. Samaras participated in this theatre not because he believed in the rationale of these measures but because he succumbed to another PASOK’s blackmail (either you’re on Greece side a step before bankruptcy or you’ll be responsible for its suicide) back in late 2011. So now there is a feeling that only SYRIZA and Tsipras can a) unite the Left in Greece to form its first leftist government and b) renegotiate the Memoranda. And Europe? Europe is scared of him. Europe is scared the shit out of him simply because they can’t control him and because he might mean what he says.

It’s true that SYRIZA has been a bit confusing as to what exactly they are going to do if they were to form a government. The party, an until recently small leftist party composed of different fractions that tolerated different opinions within the Left, has seen several of its members announcing contradicting promises. Its ennemies, PASOK and New Democracy basically, have used this to their favor. They started a huge campaign to discredit SYRIZA by reminding us on a daily basis of what would happen if SYRIZA comes to power. The EU has followed suit and here we are now, having daily predictions of a post-apocalyptic, Armageddon-style Greece if SYRIZA wins the elections. The whole joke, apart from a daily news item, has now gone viral, it has its own hashtag on Twitter (#ftaei_o_syriza) and is slowly entering the internet meme sphere.

I decided to create a special category of posts in this blog that would contain only these threats – I called it “The Daily Threat Show“. Come back and visit this page (or simply RSS it), I guarantee a lot of fun and also a glimpse of how Greek people’s brains are bombarded with such absurd prophecies and will then be called to vote as reasonable people. Ask any Greek in the street if he knows what will happen after June 17 and you will understand by the confusion in his answers.

But a confused Greek in the street is probably not an originality. Greeks have been confused since 2010 when they were suddenly called to have mature opinions on issues of high Economics. Europeans have always seen the Greeks as a confused people. They were asking themselves: so what do these Greeks want anyway? Why do they protest? Will they solve their problem by breaking one more bank? A foreign journalist (from a eurozone country) came last year to Athens and asked me: So, explain to me, why don’t you want our money?

Alexis Tsipras in a photoshoot by high school students’ magazine “Schooligans”

If Greeks are confused, Europeans are almost schizophrenic. The narrative they’ve adopted is “Greece is given money, they should shut up and do what we say”. They’ve no time to examine the measures asked from Greece to take. They are not in a position to know whether it’s a feasible plan. They are not here to see the misery caused together with the lack of hope for an exit from the crisis. And as they are confused too, they are also afraid of the uncertainty. Here’s a short story to illustrate this.

A foreign journalist came to Greece and we were discussing the situation. This is the dialogue we had.

Foreign journalist: Greece has falsified its statistics in order to enter the eurozone. I’m sorry to say this but Greece was corrupt, it has cheated and now it’s time to pay.
Me: Yes but people in Europe knew that Greece was cheating. And Greece was not the only country which altered its stats in order to achieve the eurozone criteria.
Foreign journalist: Who knew?
Me: A lot of people knew and certainly several EU officials.
Foreign journalist: Really? Who knew?
Me: Certainly the Germans knew about Greece and Italy. And part of the corruption was carried out with German money, through the scandals with Siemens and the German submarines.
Foreign journalist: Why the hell would Greece want a leader like Tsipras? He is going to get you out of the eurozone. His proposals are not realistic, are not feasible.
Me: I partly agree but you’re contradicting a bit now. I know, you know, the Greeks know that their previous governments, as you said, were corrupt. This crisis is happening because of them, of how they handled the situation for at least the past 10 years.
Foreign journalist: Right.
Me: So Greeks finally realize that these politicians are corrupt and they decided to take them down from power. That should please the EU, if it had a problem with their corrupt mentality.
Foreign journalist:…
Me: Tsipras is a young politician, inexperienced yes, but certainly not the like of the previous ones. So Greeks are choosing a new guy to govern them and the EU gets scared. You know why?
Foreign journalist: Why?
Me: Because they can’t, or don’t know yet if they can, control him. Because he is unknown. 
 

Alexis Tsipras is neither Ernesto Che Guevara nor a European Hugo Chavez. Tsipras is simply Greece’s only bargaining chip.

Paul Mason’s tweets for today’s situation

Paul Mason (BBC, Newsnight) just tweeted several tweets on where we stand today concerning the Greek (and EU) crisis. I decided to copy them over here as they do tell a truth and I respect his insight in these matters. By the way, he has written some of the most accurate articles about the situation in Greece last June, before the so-called Second Memorandum.

A quick Twittersplurge on the Euro situation: 1) With G-Pap gone Greece is not “sorted”. 1a) Both Pasok and ND have deep roots in GR society

1b)…Hence Pasok tried to avoid inflicting pain on state, ND must avoid infliciting pain on urban poor, super-rich, middle classes…

1c) Not clear what, if anything, Samaras has signed up to from 26 Oct deal, since he does not believe further austerity can work.

2) An unelected Greek technocratic govt cannot do what an elected Pasok govt failed to do. Anybody busy in EU/IMF diplo understand this?

3) I go back to “anomic breakdown” – only Pasok machine stood in way of this, and as we saw KKE security squads. Also ND hope of election…

4) So now Italy: here there is a clear #Berluscomparsi dividend. He has added instability to sit, so technocratic govt might work. Howevr…

4a) “The restaurants are full” was most telling comment. Whole S Europe living dolce vita on unsustainable debt. Above all upper middleclass

5) There are 3 potential ways to save situation: EFSF, IMF, ECB. Of which… EFSF is most doable.

6) Of EFSF/ECB/IMF routes, each has a democratic impediment. USA/UK won’t do enough IMF, Germany won’t do ECB, Germany stymied EFSF v1.0

7) The Anglo-Saxon insistence on ECB route is both logical and impossible: Germany easier to persuade to redesign EFSF + go fiscal union

8) So logically, since we are in mode of overtrhowing governments who get in way of Eurocrisis resolution… the one to overthrow wd be?

9) Work it out: SPD and Greens stand for fiscal union. That’s why I asked Sarko where does it stop.

10) Meanwhile EU better hope Greeks not listening to G-Pap when he said an election would cause a bank run. The day is young.

While it lasts

The Greek referendum call is, while it lasts, effectively a plebiscite on euro membership.

I say “while it lasts” because the opposition is mobilising a parliamentary manoeuvre to bring down the government, which may succeed – returning Europe to its status quo of containable trauma.

If Greeks reject the 50% controlled default on debts they owe to the banking sector, then the arithmetic I revealed on Newsnight on the eve of the Euro summit comes into play – without a 50% haircut, and a further 130bn euro bailout, on top of 110bn, Greek debt spirals out of control and the country goes bust.

By Paul Mason, Economics Editor, Newsnight, BBC.

The rest of his article can be found here.