Part 2 and follow-up to “Grexit Crisis: EU Disunion or Greater Unification?”
Sometimes the fate of the world hinges on how a seemingly local crisis is resolved or escalates. Nothing happens, however, life goes on regardless of changing circumstances, and the existence of fate itself is dismissed. So it is with Greece.
The underlying and all consuming economic and political system itself must be not changed but transformed. Today that system is Finance Capitalism triumphant. It devours all political systems from liberal democracies to despotic tyrannies, in turn leaving Corporatocratic Fascism triumphant in politics and governments. People from before Aristotle to beyond Wallace Stevens have observed everything changes yet somehow remains the same anyway. The nature of slavery has changed, and yet, we still have slavery. And so it is with Greece.
I feel as surprised as most seem to be with the current twisting and turning of events regarding Greece and European Union over debt and power. Nothing unfolded as expected. It is a humbling experience not to be wrong so much but to miss my aim completely.
Greece did not exit the Eurozone nor did it nationalize the banks or seize foreign accounts.
Greece did not leave the European Union. Nor did the EU kick Greece out.
Despite calls for a magnanimous Greek and even European Jubilee of debt forgiveness none took such calls seriously enough for it to happen. “Doin’ a Jubilee” would in turn give the Capitalists an excuse to restructure their control in a way to avert anti-capitalist blowback while distracting and misdirecting the anti-capitalists with a show of debt forgiveness. Thus private control of the money powers and the engines of finance would remain unchallenged. Any debt forgiveness concealed compounding interest rates and further surrender of public sovereignty to private control.
Russia did not come rushing to Greek’s aid as some had hoped or feared. China and the other BRICS stayed out, too, their regimes beset with a multitude of problems right at home.
Although tensions between the world powers remained high, it was clear no one was rushing to a major new world war. There was too much at stake economically. Border conflicts, financial manipulations, and cyber attacks continued unabated and even increased. The extremist fringe of conspiracy theorists claimed the Americans had attacked Tianjin with secret weapons in retaliation for the Chinese devaluing its Yuan. If true, no world war broke out and any violence remained in the shadows. Even the two Koreas firing live artillery at each other within the DMZ without killing anyone was soon dismissed by chilled-out observers as more drama for the soap opera. Still, these events overshadowed the increasingly long-drawn out Grexit Crisis.
There was not any domino effect within the EU or its Eurozone. No other nation-state threatened to break away, too. Nor did the Grexit Crisis inflame separatist secessionist feelings among Europa’s many stateless-nations. In other words, the European Union did not fall apart and disintegrate as many predicted.
Nor was the EU inspired to move further toward political unification even tho such integration was recognized as urgently necessary. Again in spite of what many predicted. Despite all the outspoken recognition either political unification or dissolution must happen next, neither occurred. Nor will either happen anytime soon.
While the Russians did not invade, and some argued the Americans actually did, Europa was clearly invaded by and overwhelmed by enormous waves of immigrants and refugees fleeing death and destruction from all across Africa to the Middle East and Asia. White Europeans kicked up a racist fuss and were reminded the wealth of their nations was generated primarily by colonial conquest and exploitation, Capitalist god Adam Smith’s distorted views be damned once again. The immigration crisis pushed Grexit and Ukraine and the New Cold War out of the mainstream mass media.
It’s as if the so-called sheeple herd were bellowing, “You mean all that damn fuss and hullabaloo about the Grexit and NOTHING REALLY HAPPENED AFTER ALL? And Tsipras is acting like a real POLITICIAN? Well, shoot, that’s BORING! Lookit, here’s news about human cyborg wannabes growing ears on their arms, people wanting advanced androids with artificial intelligence so they can enjoy sex with robots, and the Subway guy who lost all that weight pigging out on foot-longs or whatever is really a child molesting monster.” Attention shifts. The Grexit Crisis continues regardless of other circumstances.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis, his then-Finance Minister led the socialist Syriza party to national victory earlier this year. Then after leading a “Mouse That Roars” revolt against the Troika, they pushed the Grexit Crisis right up to the edge of the cliff by gambling on a quick and dramatic referendum to galvanize and consolidate Greek public support for liberation from the Troika. They campaigned in the “Greferendum” for the no vote against accepting another Troika bailout in exchange for more sweeping and severe austerity. Troika leaders urged the Greeks to vote yes, or if they voted no, then Greece must leave the Eurozone if not the Union.
Across late June 2015 and early July Tsipras urged the Greeks to reject austerity. Towards the end of June, on the Wednesday the 30th, Greek defaults on its debt payments to its capitalist creditors. They owed billions of euros to the ECB and the IMF. Greek banks have been periodically closed then opened for short times with severe restrictions on cash withdrawals for the general public, and then shut again.
On Sunday the 5th of July, the Greeks voted, “OXI!” Theirs was a resounding “No” vote against the tyranny of the bailout terms that stunned the EU leadership and many analysts around the world. The news was full of doom and gloom. “OXI!” graced many a Facebook page around the world as people in other countries displayed solidarity with Greece.
The next day the outspoken and brash Yanis Varoufakis was forced to resign as Finance Minister and replaced with a more accommodating collaborationist. Soon, however, Tsipras did an about face in mid-July and surrendered to the troika, agreeing to accept austerity. Many in his cabinet and in his party revolted. The nation was in an uproar.
About the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel engaged with a young Palestinian refugee in an awkward and clumsy manner. The girl cried, the world cringed, and many erupted in outrage at Merkel. The German leader is often portrayed as a heartless, greedy monster who lost her grander transnational vision. This embarrassing moment reinforced this perception as Germany’s “Thatcher.”
In a few more days Greece reopened its banks and began repaying the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. More and more outrage and confusion boiled up. Greeks demonstrated in the streets against austerity.
Leftists around the world, including socialists here in Seattle where I live, were dismayed and baffled. I felt the same angry, puzzled mix. Socialist Alternatives in Seattle, deep in struggle to help reelect member Kshama Sawant to the City Council, were briefed by representatives of both Syriza and Spain’s Podemos. These comrades shared inside perspectives of the Greek crisis, its relationship to the working class everywhere, lessons learned, and what can be done next.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, by the way, went on to win the local primary election in her Seattle city district with over 52% of the vote against four opponents. It must be noted this local election victory by a Socialist in America gave an important boost to both Syriza and Podemos. The victory of Kshama Sawant and the working class in her city is itself a historic accomplishment and of great significance far beyond Seattle politics. The ties of mutual support developing and growing between the different democratic socialist groups networking on local levels around the planet is itself a fascinating topic of inquiry.
Still, the sense of betrayal by Tsipras and his supporters rippled across the Left. While frustrated and mad, I am not in Alexis Tsipras shoes. Many pundits and strategists pumped out a list of what-shoulda-been-dones and what-oughta-be-done-like-frackin’-right-nows. I have my opinions, too. Nationalize the banks for one! Issue temporary scrip currency!
The Grexit Crisis morphed and mutated and became unrecognizably Greek.
Analysts became filled with more doom and gloom. The Greek economy was going to become worst than Argentina’s and throw Europe into a deep depression and the Russians would invade only to find out they conquered a giant peninsula filled with refugees from Nigeria to Burma. None of that happened. Nor did the economy collapse. Riots did occur, yes, but all-out revolution never materialized. People were scared, hurt, hungry, and angry, yes, but there wasn’t any Panic.
There is much suffering going on, yes. There is desperation and many destitute people in Greece. Refugees are fleeing horrific wars and economic breakdowns burning through many countries and cultures. It feels overwhelming. But the worst-case scenarios did not result. Nor did the hoped-for miracle cures happen either. No new Great Depression or world war. No new Jubilee or Socialist victory.
The Grexit Crisis appears far from over, and yet it appears to be managed. It may not be managed as you and I, even with different opinions, would prefer, but the crisis is now manageable. Some analysts claim the debt crisis is sustainable. Others declare otherwise. The Grexit Wildfire has been contained. If and when other Eurozone wildfires blaze forth, The Powers That Be now know what strategies and tactics to leverage to maintain bankster control over the working classes and keep the masses divided, down, at each other’s throats over race and religion, and thus occupied.
It is a lesson for us on the Left. Occupy Wall Street was too shortsighted. Imagine the differences it might have made during a time of populist uprisings if we had instead rose up as Conquer Wall Street or Liberate Wall Street? Not Occupy the Banks but Conquer the Banks?
In the meantime, Alexis Tsipras stunned the world again and outfoxed his rivals and critics. He submitted his resignation as Prime Minister to Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulous as well as the resignation of his government. Tsipras called for snap elections as soon as expedient. More socialists revolted against Tsipras and left Syriza. Varoufakis called Tsipras a second Charles “De Gaulle” as the elections began to commence. More vituperative accusations flew back and forth among many in Greece as Syriza fragmented further among possible candidates and their factions.
Tsipras is proving to be wily as a fox, however, a pragmatic warrior who twists and turns to wrestle with his enemies any way he can. He changes his mind without letting his shame at doing so stop him. He’s lost the integrity of his word, saying one thing then doing another. As a result, cynicism and resignation increases each time Tsipras abandonment of his Word. Yet his choosing to move into the gray shadows of borderland warfare has muddied the political and financial landscape and has prevented a quick death and painful rebirth only to replace them with the slow, drawn out agony of an infant who gradually starves to death on too little breast milk.
Tsipras did not openly challenge the de facto Euro-American global empire of National Security States, Finance Capitalism, and Corporatocratic Fascism as so many around the world had hoped. Instead, Tsipras staged a series of temper tantrums to shock and appease The Powers That Be as well as his fellow Greeks. He is crafty and unpredictable. Tsipras’ agendas appear to be to combine a methodology to salvage his political career or go out in flames as a martyr with saving Greece as Greece. He has an opportunity to lead a truly radical and revolutionary transformation of Greece. Such a transformation likely would have roared and rippled across the European Union and possibly beyond. Instead he chose to pursue short-term survival and thus a policy of everything more or less remains the same as nothing really changes but the drama.
My prediction is the Grexit Crisis will likely flare up with lots of smoke and noise but will continued to be managed and contained. The New Cold War will continued to be kept at bay even if it means sacrificing eastern Ukraine to the Russians. The European Union is more focused on the immediacy of the current immigration and refugee crises and the challenges of moving forward toward greater political and economic integration with versus without the British.
Closely tied to these issues is the combustible mix of rising numbers of ultranationalist and Nazi groups, the impact of extremist Islamic jihadism as perceived within Europa, and the proximity of the wars raging across the Muslim Umma as well as other ethnic conflicts were all sides commit atrocities. In part because of all these challenges, the EU is bedeviled by increasing resistance of national governments to being told what to do by the unelected EU authorities as well as by the overgrown and seemingly meaningless existence of NATO feeling more and more as an imperial American imposition.
Furthermore, as many European nation-states recognize the necessity of building a truly federal union similar to the United States of America, more and more people within question if they really want such a union after all or flat out reject it. Contrarily, the rise of secessionist movements in stateless-nations such as Scotland and Catalan wish to break away from the UK and Spain, respectively, grow in power and popularity but desire to stay as new states within the EU.
The Grexit Crisis served to shine a magnifying lens upon the whole of Europa. Despite being in a current state of containment, Greece is now the big, dirty rock in the bedsheets. How this crisis is managed will affect how the flood of refugees and all the other related crises of Europa will be managed.
William Dudley Bass
23 August 2015
1) For Part 1 of “Grexit Crisis,” see: <http://williamdudleybass.com/grexit-crisis-eu-disunion-greater-unification>.
2) The term “Troika” here refers to the triumvirate of the European Central Bank or ECB, the U.N.’s International Monetary Fund or IMF, and the EU’s European Commission. It stems from the Russian term for a team of three horses harnessed together to pull a carriage or a sleigh.
3) Regarding the fotos up top: The image of the Greek national flag against a blue sky with SOLD stamped in bold upon it was found upon a Common Dreams tweet on an Adbusters twitter account as was seen replicated in other news sources. I modified the colors twice with an old iPhoto program, once to brighten the fotograf, and a second to make it black & white. I sought to amplify the movement from a freely flowing flag to waving the flag as surrender to the starkness of slavery.
The foto is by Peter Guilliatt of a flag flying over the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a visit to Athens in 2009. The word “SOLD” was already upon the image when I first saw it online on the tweet, and that particular image was the one I slightly modified for my Non-Commercial article per (cc) Creative Commons. See the following sites:
Copyright © 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.