The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie.

Judging by the disappearance of stories about the Greek economic crisis from the mass media, it seems that Greece has been cast off by the European public, the Greeks doomed to continue their painful journey, poor and alone. And maybe this is understandable.

After months of nail-biting drama that made new headlines every day, Greece is right back to where she was, more or less, in December 2014. The Troika are again calling the shots and the ruling political party is in disarray. Public interest outside of Greece has waned and no one really knows where or when any of this is going to end. And maybe they don’t care anymore.

But for the Greeks, unfortunately, the show is not over yet. And the dilemma remains.

  • Some or many or most average Greeks have finally had to accept the fact that, to be able to remain in the EU/Eurozone, the austerity must go on and the Troika must run the country, at least for the foreseeable future.
  • Some or many or most average Greeks have finally had to accept that, to be able to take back their country and have some hope for a brighter and better future, forced austerity really has got to go and the Troika must be sent back to where they came from, and to do this will probably require Greece to leave the Eurozone.

This is the dilemma facing the Greeks. What choice to make?

In the wake of the events of the past six months, it is now even more apparent that politics will be the key in determining the way forward. How do we make some sense of the political situation in Greece?

John Pilger wrote the following article a few weeks ago, soon after the Greek referendum in July. In some ways, the time that has elapsed since then has diluted the impact of the piece. However, the article is written so well and presents its hard-hitting theme so clearly and simply that I had to include it on my blog.

The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie.

 by John Pilger (13 July 2015)

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values – and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.

Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands – which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt – as Argentina did successfully – and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” – the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote: “Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism… I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated… Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory]… What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself…?”

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” – when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change – he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”,  Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.”


About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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5 Responses to The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a lie.

  1. Pim says:

    Ok, the choice is simple.

    Out of the Euro, Lafazanis and his gang. Remarkable that Yanis has’t made his position clear yet. He normally he has an opinion on everything.

    In the Euro, all others including Syriza.

    Only thing that needs explaining is what Lafazanis considers a orderly exit. I’m afraid that all other Eurozone members consider an orderly exit something whereby all debts to the them are paid.

    Now we obvious can’t force Greece to do so. But is will rather difficult to rejoin the international community (without paying your debt) if you main raw material is olive oil.


    • Yes, I have also been wondering which group Varoufakis is going place himself in. Finally now, the blinkers have to come off and the Greeks need to see the clear choice that must be made. If they want anti-austerity and anti-troika, then the outcome is likely to be anti-Euro as well. No more “extend and pretend” as Yanis always liked to say, although in a different context.

      This is what I think. For Yanis the economist, it would be relatively easy to throw together all sorts of different ideas and still claim to be pro-Euro and provide reasons why and how the Eurozone should be reformed and blah, blah, blah and so on. However, for Yanis the politician, he is going to have to choose one of three choices. Pro-Euro, Anti-Euro or get out of politics. That is surely how the political battle-lines are going to be drawn. Sitting on the fence is no longer an option!

      Also, to take up on one of the points that you made. I have a feeling that the politicians are rather going to frame the issue as one of debt-relief or debt forgiveness or whatever name one chooses to use. This may be more politically acceptable to the masses than talking about Euros and Drachmas. There are only two possible outcomes.

      a) If the Greeks vote in the majority for a party that is pro troika, then we will be exactly back to where we are now after the elections. Under this scenario, in many ways the EU is off the hook in the short to medium term. Greece will be on their knees, economically speaking, and other areas of their society will collapse as well in due course, if riots don’t do it first.
      b) If the Greeks vote in the majority for a party that is anti-troika, pro debt-relief or anti-Euro or any combination of the three, then there is going to be immense pressure placed on the EU politicians. The Greeks will regain the bargaining power that they lost earlier and, in this scenario, anything could happen.

      Personally, I am hoping that b) will occur. To me it seems only logical. However, and this is the larger problem that we face, I anticipate a propaganda war like nothing we have seen before to dissuade the Greeks to go for solution b).

      Outcome a) = Lose/Lose. The Greeks will lose out big time and the EMU/IMF/ECB creditors will never get back any of their money in the end, anyway. Greece will become a failed nation within the Eurozone/EU structure and it will constantly act like an anchor around our necks.
      Outcome b) = Semi-Win/Semi-Win. The Greeks will get a chance to revive their country. The rate of success or otherwise will be up to them. If they are smart, the EMU/IMF/ECB could really work out a deal that both offers themselves a chance of getting some money back and getting Greece “off the books” so to speak. In my heart of hearts, I do not believe that the Greeks wish to become a pariah nation in the debtor’s club. But up until now, the EMU/IMF/ECB have been unwilling (because of Portugal, Spain, Italy, France etc) to meet Greece halfway on the debt issue. OK, the IMF have now realised the error of this stance and are making new noises about debt relief, but until the little boy pulls his finger out of the dyke, nothing is really going to change.


      • Pim says:


        You use a hell of a lot of words to pretend that there is a choice between austerity and something else.

        In fact there is only a choice between austerity 1.0 and austerity 2.0. The 2.0 being the austerity outside the Eurozone.

        If they are lucky, Greece won’t fall to far behind Bulgeria in the 2.0 version. But if the Greek are convinced that all evil is brought upon them by the Eurozone, by all means, get out.

        As far as the debt is concerned (you keep nagging about). The amount of debt isn’t an issue. It is the amount of interest you have to pay. As long as you don’t have to pay interest you can survive with a debt ratio of 300. If the holders of this debt are countrymen, I also don’t see a problem.

        Greek government pays interest to Greek pension funds who in turn pay Greek pensioners.

        Greece has already got great cuts in interest payments from the Eurozone so is there very little benefit in canceling debt altogether. Not only is that not allowed, but if you go in that direction, pretty soon other countries would apply for the same treatment


      • Err Pim, I don’t think it is as simple as just keeping up with the interest payments. The capital has to be repaid as well according to the maturity dates previously established and/or new loans arranged to cover the repayments. Take a look at this data:

        It does not look very pretty!

        I have also heard the story that the interest rates are so low as not to be of any concern. I disagree. Interest is interest and it makes the total amount of money that has to be found, larger.

        A lot of words…..very few words……that is the problem. Glib one-liners are not going to cut it.

        I suggest that the Eurozone politicians are fudging on this issue, because if the real truth be known what has transpired “behind their backs” by the citizens of each respective Eurozone country, these same politicians will be out of a job. The fewest words that can be used to describe the issue, the better it is for the Eurozone politicians. I am sorry. I just do not trust any of them to tell us the real truth!

        I am interested to hear how you propose that Greece avoids repayment of the capital sums……..that by definition would be “loan repayment default”


      • Pim says:


        No country is paying back its debt. They just refinance it by taking new loans to pay of the old ones.

        It is mathematically impossible to pay of debt. To day money is created by bank credit. In other words creating debt. If everybody would pay of his debt, the only money remained would be the banknotes issued by the government. You surely can’t run an economy on bank note’s only.

        The problem Greece got itself into is, that nobody is willing to refinance Greece debt or only at a price (interest) Greece can’t afford.

        That’s where the Eurozone comes in. They enable Greece to refinance its debt at rock bottom prices.

        If they leave the Eurozone, there is no big brother that helps them refinancing their debt. If they think they unilaterally can cancel it, they will be in for a nasty surprise.


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