A message of hope for 2017 from Greece

Did you enjoy 2016?


Pretty much everyone I met who is not Greek and does not visit Greece regularly has had the same question for me in 2016: “So, how are things in Greece, its quiet now, no? Better?”.

This post answers this question (if you were minded to ask) but also unexpectedly carries a message of hope in these dark times, a little indication of how 2017 might be the beginning of a recovery for Europe (at least) despite the annus horribilis 2016.


How are things in Greece? I think the closest parallel is drowning in quicksand. So long as you don’t move, nothing gets better. If you try and move, you sink a little deeper.

Syriza’s government has been a circus of horrors, whichever way you look at it. Since they took power in 2015 (as has been well documented in this blog) they have lurched from one disaster to another, from one conflict to another, from one (endless) ‘negotiation’ to another. They have achieved a series of ‘political solutions’ which is code for defeat and capitulation. They have interpreted the demands of Greece’s creditors in the most destructive and senseless manner, to the degree that even the IMF thinks the country is dying, stuck in a mire of growth chocking measures.

Most of the time Syriza has done nothing to improve the situation in the country (staying put in the quicksand). Some of the time (usually after botching another round of ‘negotiations’) they have legislated a new raft of fiscal measures (wiggling in the quicksand and sinking a little deeper).

Nothing has improved in Greece and nothing is changing for the better. My answer to my earnest enquirers is that Greece continues to sink as people slowly eat away any left over cash saved before the crisis. This is not to say that some have not benefited. Syriza friends and family are finding jobs in new PM’s offices. Syriza journalists are being hired at resurrected ERT. The party goes on for the few, for a little while longer. Far-right lunatics (forming the junior coalition partners) continue to bless fighter jets, while police cars cannot move for the lack of fuel. There is ample comedy, within the tragedy.

No, things are not improving in Greece.

So where is the message of hope for 2017 the headline to this post advertises?

Greece has been one of the first places where the wave of populist lies and ‘anti’ propaganda led a band of bandits to power. Greece pioneered the escape to fantasy in 2015, proudly followed by the British people electing to torch their economy through Brexit and the Americans electing to have a stab at torching the world by voting for Trump.

As the first piece of this puzzle of a (often farcical) rerun of the 1930s, Greece may be a good place to speculate on possible futures.

I had argued in 2014, mistakenly believing that those who speak nonsense and act crazy are putting on a show to excite the mentally handicapped sections of the electorate (I was wrong, they are stupid, devious and crazy), that a failure for Syriza would leave the political system in such a sorry state, the electorate would lurch further to the extremes after having witnessed the failure of both establishment parties and their populist antagonists. Who would benefit? Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-nazi (but fat and hairy) variant was first in line.

Alas, this does not seem to be happening. The failure of Syriza to drag Greece out of the quicksand is shifting support to traditional parties, like New Democracy (under its new centrist leader Mitsotakis). Syriza’s antics have served to demystify the idea of the ‘left’ as morally superior. Tsipras has laid bare for all to see how what he leads is not ‘the left’ but a group of opportunist, amoral, ignorant and incompetent power-hungry populist have-beens. Even a population as jaded as the Greeks, after 6 years of crisis, realise that the ability to govern and a broad plan (even a Euro-friendly one) is better than banditry and chaos lorded over by power-mad buffoons.

And here is the message of hope for 2017. After the populist experiment has failed, people can come back from the populist abyss. Perhaps the explosion of discontent that brings the sewer to power dissipates after the experience of governance via populists. Perhaps even the attempt to blame ‘others’ for failure won’t convince people who suffer the consequences of bad decisions.

I admit that things look bad at the moment for Europe and the world. There is a chance however that in 2017, Germans will trust Angela Merkel with another term, ensuring continuity for the European project. The French could return a mainstream president (anyone but Le Pen), thus ensuring the stability of the Euro, The Italians could keep at bay the populist buffoonery of Beppe Grillo.

Britain may ameliorate its Brexit experiment in self-harm.

Unfortunately, the Americans cannot help us here, as Trump is entitled to run a world-wide, real-life version of the Apprentice for 4 years. If the world doesn’t end on his account, we may look back at 2017 as the year that things came back from the brink.

They might. Considering the alternative, they must.

Cheer up and enjoy your mince pies.




Neoliberalism, Market & State in Greece


The election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis as the leader of the opposition New Democracy has sparked a debate in Greece as to what neoliberalism is and what could be the consequence of being a neoliberal.

I do not think Mitsotakis counts as a neoliberal (see the first title below) and I do not think that attempts to deal with the size of the state in Greece correspond with attempts to marketize everything (see the second title).

Both my books dealing with neoliberalism and the European crisis are now available in paperback.



Neoliberalism and the Law

Greece’s Year Zero


The year-long reign of Syriza in 2015 has changed everything in Greece’s political economy.

Normally we expect a continuum between theory and practice in parties of the left. Perhaps because parties of the (more radical) left seldom attain positions of power, it is easier to theorise and imagine a utopia of democratic engagement, accountability, justice and rights.

The experience of ‘left’ governance is something else altogether. Of course, you could argue that Syriza -since it started ‘governing’ after Varoufakis departed and the Herculean ‘negotiation’ came to an end- is not a party of the left. What it looks like in fact is a depraved PASOK with all the corrupt and clientistic practices that brought the country to the dire straights it is at the moment.

I disagree with the above (Syriza not being left). The ‘real’ left government is a little like the end of the rainbow, you imagine its there, but it really isn’t. There is no such thing as a real left government, because the very act of governance causes a rift between a theoretical perception of all things ‘left’ and practice. We arrive at the concusion therefore that Syriza is left, a radical type of left, and a horrible type of government.

Now that we sorted this out, lets think about the future of Greece in 2016. I have argued in previous posts that the Syriza-Anel is now such an abomination that it should not continue. There should be no cooperation from the opposition. If the current grand debate on pensions reform brings this monster down, then great.

Who could replace them you say? I agree this is a legitimate question, and I have struggled with it. Stuck with the lovey couple of Tsipras/Kammenos because we cannot visualise an alternative however is a little like staying with an abusive husband because we cannot envisage living alone. This is not a sensible strategy.

Could New Democracy rise from the ashes and offer a credible alternative? Let us think of this in Matrix terms: Do not try to change ND, imagine ND is not there. Do not try to think how the party could reform, imagine that the party has been completely replaced with something new. It can keep the name, the symbols and the members, but it needs to represent something new, gathering together not only the political centre (whatever that means in Greece), but acting as a focal point for a European focused resistance to the abomination of Syrizanel. ND would not offer us a ‘political’ alternative as such, but it may offer us a technically competent government that can govern within the rule of law and chart a path out of this mess. This is the best we can hope for at the moment. Out of the two contenders for leader of ND, who would be the best person to do this? For better or worse, I think this is Mitsotakis.

2016 will be Year Zero for Greece. Syriza will fall, the question is whether the new year will bring Grexit and disaster, or a path to recovery.