Basta Yani! A discussion

My open letter to Yanis Varoufakis (blog post Basta Yani!) has caused some online discussion that I think deserves a response. The range of comments received show both the difficulty communicating the Greek government’s message abroad, and the inability of Syriza supporters to deal with criticism.

First of all, responses to my blog post on WordPress show resistance to my call for a new election.

H.Trickler wrote: “Up to a few weeks before elections Syriza always said that Grexit is the only possibility to regain sovereignty and dignity. Only in the very last weeks they also said that they do not intend to establish Grexit right away. Those who have voted for the current government must have known that Grexit could be the consequence of a firm strategy of the Eurogroup.

For this reason denying the current government having a mandate to continue their fight is unfounded.”

This is not correct. Only a fraction of Syriza (namely Lapavitsas) has advocated Grexit, and he has been thoroughly marginalised as evidenced by his exclusion from Kostantopoulou’s famous ‘Truth Commission’ (see discussion here). The rest of the party, Varoufakis and Tsakalotos specifically advocate a pro-european, pro-euro reform strategy. For a wonderful overview of this position see the book Crucible or Resistance (read my review here).

Lloretta objects to my condemnation of Germany: “{Europeans for bringing us to this position. Shame on Germany for killing the European dream} How about your former governments? Who made this size of debts? They are responsible. They have brought you in this situation., not Germany.”

My problem with Germany is not so much on the diagnosis of the disease (though, I do not agree with that either), but in the cure prescribed. By an ideological insistence on austerity and contraction Germany is destroying Greece and the European Periphery. This is not a fringe view (and I am together with Varoufakis on this one). I have explained extensively in my writing why the current ‘Troika’ plan cannot and will not work; to the detriment of everyone. Germany is forcing a choice between Grexit and a technocratic junta that implements policies that benefit the elite. This will end badly. The question for Greece is how and when to resist and with what consequences. This is where I disagree with the ‘rupture’ trajectory of Syriza.

Some, like the rather foul-mouthed Xenos (on other posts) on the blog of @keingut (see here) object to the idea of a referendum.

thread on blog

This is an important point of criticism, as I have been extremely critical (and not always polite) about Giorgos Papandreou in the past. Am I advocating doing what Papandreou proposed prior to his government’s implosion? I am not. I do not think a referendum is a good idea, because as I have said in the past the questions facing Greece are too complex to be placed in the binary of an in/out of Euro referendum. Possible rupture needs a wider political coalition of support that can only emerge from a new election. In such an election parties need to compete on in/out platforms explaining to the population what each choice entails. This cannot be done in a ‘Dignity vs Occupation’ referendum.

As to the references to a poker game. I sincerely hope that Varoufakis is not gambling the survival of the country in such a manner.

This brings us to even less dignified commentary (this time from the right of the political spectrum). @Ilias_Energia ,a staunch advocate of a minimal state and proponent of privatisation has launched on a personal attack along the lines of ‘you benefit from capitalism, yet advocate socialism for others’.

thread with @Ilias_Energia

While this is crude, I have heard such complaints of ‘hypocrisy’ in the past. What I can say is that the whole point of academia is to be critical, and one does not need a state sponsor (Venezuela style) to critique capitalism. Further, I would hope one can be critical of privatisations in the birthplace of Thatcherism, and I do not feel particularly privileged by the creeping privatisation of higher education. Nonetheless, I have thought about Mr Tsagas suggestions, and I am booking along with all other Marxist-leaning colleagues at UK institutions a trip to North Korea.

Despite being a little discomforted by personal attacks, I am aware that this is standard practice, especially if one comes from the left and criticises what now is the ‘official’ left in Greece. The sadly anonymous, yet prominent @GreekAnalyst (though no-one can accuse him of being a lefty) knows all about this.

thread with @GreekAnalyst

Hopefully. These debates even in a tiny corner of the internet can help us understand what is going on and guide policy makers to making more informed decisions. I can finish this by saying that I am thoroughly frightened by developments in Greece, but as I do not live there (benefiting apparently from advanced capitalism and its perks in London), I will not lecture the Greeks on choosing dignity over food on the table. Neither should Syriza.

@iGlinavos

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8 thoughts on “Basta Yani! A discussion

  1. Again cheap fingerpointing at germany for the incompetence of former greek governments. Germany believes in austerity, it’s in the germans DNA, from Merkel/Schäuble to the majority of germans. We would have a lot less debt it if wasn’t for reunification. People tend to forget that the euro was forced upon germans as the price for reunification (Mitterand, Thatcher, Kohl deals), the majority of germans opposed the euro from day one. Greeks tend to forget that many other governments follow the austerity path, and people in greece seem to ignore that Ireland, Portugal and especially Span are in fact recovering – under austerity measures. It’s just Greece that’s clearly not. Is that the fault of the general means if one single country is unable to do so? It’s always just the german banks, the german enterprises that brought misery to greece. What about the fact (http://www.bloombergbriefs.com/content/uploads/sites/2/2015/01/MS_Greece_WhoHurts.pdf, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/05/us-eurozone-greece-banking-exposure-idUSKBN0KE16H20150105) that german banks exposure to greece is comparable to that of french, italian banks and others? And with anyone offering a bribe, there’s one accepting it.

    As a matter of fact, Schäuble and Merkel don’t have any other option than playing tough, otherwise they’d be domestically finished, because the average german is seriously pissed off by the current greek drama. And I doubt, that people in Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, etc. feel differently.

    Please grexit now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As an addon: I don’t know if these numbers are correct (no better source found, but the tendency is obvious), but according to http://money-go-round.eu/ Greece has received ~ 105 billion euros more than it contributed to the EU, germany has paid ~ 339 billion euros more than it received (both since EU membership).

    Germans (and many other states) have been paying to improve the greek economy year after year, for several decades now, we accepted haircuts. In the light of the current anti-german sentiments, this is what pisses most people here really off.

    Germany is alway to blame. Be it the current greek situation, the bad weather, the austerity program, what not. Always the germans. And that’s just plain ridiculous. We’re seriously begging (and forcing!) our politicians to stop sponsor half of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Germany is not “destroying” Greece. If they wanted to destroy Greece they wouldn’t have helped with any payments at all. Grexit would’ve been the easiest way to destroy them.

    It seems you want a cure for the symptoms instead of a cure for the illness. This might be a short term solution and it might look like the better one at first (because it will end the crisis faster), but you shouldn’t be suprised if the symptoms come back sooner rather than later.

    What would the Greece government change if we (=the EU/Troika, not Germany) just pay for everything? Nothing, they will just keep going like they did for the last few decades.
    E.g. Tsipras promise to reemploy the public servants that lost their job. More public servants in a bloated public sector? I don’t see how this would solve the crisis.

    Greece cheated their way into the EU and since then lived way beyond their means. Now they pay the price for it.
    But instead of accepting/changing the problems in their country most Greeks seem to be rather creative when it comes to blaming others.
    “Corruption, inefficient bureaucracy, huge shadow economy, way too many public servants…let’s blame one of the other countries that are paying for this right now. Why do they dare to give us their money only on their conditions!”

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  4. HowCanYouTalkAboutDignity says:

    Is this your european dream, that one country could live on the costs of the other. That the people of the other countries has to work until 67 before they go in retirement, while in greece they go in retirement with 58.
    And is this your view on dignity of the greek people?
    If this is your european dream, then it is my nightmare.

    BTW. there is no cure for this kind of illness, cause it is a self-made mental illness comparable to alcohol withdrawal. And what you want is to have more alcohol.

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  5. “{How about your former governments? Who made this size of debts? They are responsible. They have brought you in this situation., not Germany.}

    My problem with Germany is not so much on the diagnosis of the disease (though, I do not agree with that either), but in the cure prescribed.”

    Your analogy completely misses the point. Greece is not some hapless victim that involuntarily contracted a disease. Greece *asked* for the loans which it now cannot repay. When you break your word, it is no-one else’s fault.

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  6. Sad to see how many people always seem unable to employ the practice called “hinterfragen” in German (to question something at a deeper level to come to its definitions, origins, causes, etc. Reading these comments above as a non-German living in Germany particularly sad to the extent that it’s true of people in Germany. Unfortunately the word used for for debt: “Schuld” is the same one used to mean “guilt”, whereby it makes speakers of the language easier to manipulate on the topic of guilt. On top of that, horrendously poor quality media such as “Bild” exploits this while having the greatest spread of exposure among the population.

    Still, at some point, the curious mind should ask and investigate, after hearing year after year after year this term and topic of great disussion and dispute: What is debt? What defines debt in this context? What mechanisms in the system in which it is embedded produce it? Sadly none of this is evident it the string of reflexive responses to your article above.

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      • There is no question directed toward your understanding (which shows an understanding of debt), but rather to that of the commentors. The post attached describes precisely some of the elementary economics, which is not really difficult to understand yet such a large step beyond the “Schabian housewife” reasoning foisted upon the masses in Germany, which was exploited insidiously by “Bild Zeitung. These people just stick steadfast to the “Schwabian housewife” level of economic thinking, where a national economy is like a house. More tragic socially is the fact that they feel more impelled to voice their underinformed opinions rather than spend that same amount time more usefully by learning something new by asking themselves questions and investigating the answers.

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