Greece – a reality check

It is rather sad and disturbing to note that, after being in the spotlight for most of 2015, the plight of Greece has quietly slipped off most people’s radars and we hear very little about what is happening over there, unless it concerns refugees.

And, I must acknowledge, I am as guilty of this as the rest of you.

Obviously, some concerted digging among the many news sites and blogs on the internet will uncover a story or two about the current economic conditions in Greece. However, it would seem that those that have the power to steer the direction of propaganda news about European affairs are quite happy to see that Greece has drifted into a backwater.

It is easy to understand why.

All of the predictions of those that rejected the 3rd EU bailout as a solution for Greece’s problems have, unfortunately come true. It gives me no pleasure to say “I told you this would happen”. Greece is still in a mess.

In fact, after recently reading a few articles on another blog about Greece’s lack of economic and fiscal progress over the past twelve months, I could not hold back a few tears of frustration and anger.

Where Did Bail-Out Money Come From And Where Did It Go To?

by Klaus Kastner (12 Dec 2016)

The European School of Management & Technology (ESMT) is a Berlin-based business school founded and sponsored by large corporations. It published a White Paper on the sources and uses of the bail-out funds for Greece as part of the first and second programs (2010 & 2012). The draft version of the White Paper can be found here. Major points:

* 216 BEUR were distributed as part of 2010/2012 bail-out’s.

* 139 BEUR thereof were used for debt service (principal and interest).
* 37 BEUR thereof were used to recapitalize Greek banks.
* 10 BEUR thereof were used as incentives for the 2012 PSI.
* Finally, 10 BEUR thereof, or roughly 5% of the total, were used for the budget.

It should be noted that an IMF calculation differs from the above to the extent that the IMF claims that a total of 247 BEUR were disbursed, of which 41 BEUR (or roughly 17%) were used for the budget and the remainder of 206 BEUR for debt-related items.”

This is a seriously large amount of money….and only for the 1st & 2nd bailouts! I’m waiting for Klaus to give us a deciphered answer to the question he posed because, by my reckoning, Costas and Maria hardly got anything.

For Once, The IMF Got It Right!

by Klaus Kastner (13 Dec 2016)

“Greece’s debt is highly unsustainable and no amount of structural reforms will make it sustainable again without significant debt relief. Similarly, no amount of debt relief will allow Greece to return to robust growth without reforms.”

Well, this article titled The IMF is not asking Greece for more austerity really nails the issues which Greece is confronting and which Greece needs to handle successfully in order to return to growth. Just one minor addition appears appropriate:

The IMF always reminds the world that Greece needs debt relief but it never accepts the notion that such debt relief should also come from the IMF itself. After all, the IMF’s loans are by far the most expensive portion of all official loans to Greece. If only the IMF’s debt relief came in the form of lowered interest rates, that would also be a contribution!”

I am sure that the majority of Greeks have the will to want to improve their circumstances. But, with the cards stacked so heavily against success, I guess their motivation must be at about zero. In similar circumstances, mine would be zero too.

Greece has been successfully thrashed into EU submission. Nothing has improved. And for what? To perpetuate the myth of the great EU dream. Please……give me a break!

I do not thoroughly trust or believe most journalists that publish in the main-stream media (MSM) these days for reasons that I have made clear many times previously on this blog. However, John Pilger is an exception and he has earned my respect and that of many others as well.

John Pilger is……well, let’s just say that he has done about everything you can think of that a person involved in the MSM would have done. You name it, and he’s done it. But with a difference! John has always done his journalism with two things often lacking in journalists, morality and integrity. Also, take a close look at the titles of his articles. These are the sort of subjects that can easily land you on the wrong side of the editorial committee. Although his biography is liberally sprinkled with the names of publications with “dubious” journalistic track-records, I do not think that this detracts from his contributions.

Soon after the Greek referendum in July last year, John wrote the following article. 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 it has as much relevance today as it did when it was first published.

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.”

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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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