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13 Theses on the Continuing Greek Debt Drama

Greek crisis2As the Greek debt drama continues to unfold and both the IMF and the eurocrats demand ever more sacrifices from the average Greek people and treat the country as a colony, there are several things worth highlighting about Greece’s problems and challenges, and the political economy of the Eurozone.
First, many of Greece’s current problems are of its own creation, but they were certainly intensified as a result of its entry in a monetary union that is intentionally structured in such a way that it seeks the dissolution of the traditional European social safety net, aggravates economic divergence and aims to establish a level playing field that allows big businesses to run roughshod over national interests and working-class people in virtually all areas of economic life.
Second, Greece’s political economy rested on institutionalized corruption and a kleptocratic state in which the economic and political elite had made eternal vows of devotion to each other so they could enjoy a life of mutual pleasure through the rewards offered by looting the public coffers, an activity, or orgy of personal enrichment, in which lesser actors, such as the main syndicalist movements and various public agencies, were also allowed to participate.
Third, in joining the euro, Greece’s political elite took advantage of the cheap borrowing costs and, with the help of highly irresponsible European leaders and financial institutions, engaged in reckless spending, pushing debt and deficits to unsustainable levels, with absolutely nothing to show for that borrowing in terms of sustainable growth, infrastructure improvement, improved social services, updated forms of governance and so on.
Fourth, the Greek debt crisis was the only real fiscal crisis in all of the eurozone as the calamities that befell the other peripheral member states (Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus) were caused by their private banking sector. Thus, only in Greece was there a public debt crisis, which, again, can be attributed almost entirely to the nature of the Greek political system. The crisis in the rest of the eurozone was a typical banking and financial crisis precipitated by the practices of predatory capitalism that the European Union had fully adopted in the course of the last two decades.
Fifth, the terms of the bailout plan that were imposed on Greece in May 2010 were intended not only to rescue Europe’s banks as they had lent hundreds of billions of euros to the Greek state and to the nation’s private sector, but also to punish the nation for its political culture and for having brought the eurozone to the brink of collapse.
Sixth, austerity policies and fiscal consolidation become the automatic stabilizers simply because the architecture of the eurozone — the absence of a federal form of government, a lender of last resort, and the lack of any form of democratic participation and accountability in European Union (EU) governance — prevents alternative solutions to capitalist crises. In this sense, the EU stands out as the ultimate undemocratic or anti-democratic entity in the advanced capitalist political universe.
Seventh, the policies imposed on Greece secured repayment of the loans and thus kept the country from defaulting, but destroyed national output, led over 25 percent of the active population into unemployment, and, in the course of only a few years, converted an essentially advanced economy into a poor or undeveloped economy that would have sunk to the bottom of the Aegean were it not for its climate and astonishing natural beauty, which attract millions of tourists from abroad every year, although the tourist sector alone is not capable of jump-starting an economy that has been in free fall for so many years.
Eighth, all Greek governments up to early 2015 played the role of a servant to the country’s international lenders (the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) by enforcing the anti-social and anti-growth policies of Brussels, Berlin and Washington. They were ever obedient and servile to Greece’s financial masters, working in full realization that their disgraceful end in Greek politics would not necessarily mean their end as political figures. European and US elite public and private institutions always seem to find room for those public officials who have served the system and the interests of the international capitalist class so well.
Ninth, as the economic situation deteriorated further in Greece, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), which all along was against austerity and challenged the presence of the troika in Greece, started to gain ground and in the national elections held on January 25, 2015, Syriza secured a landslide victory, winning 149 out of the 300 seats in the Greek parliament. Immediately after its victory, it proceeded to form a coalition government with the Independent Greeks, a right-wing political organization, a move that did not sit well with many leftists, but, as they say, politics is the art of the possible. In reality, there was no other bride or groom available for this political marriage, even though scores of opportunists both from home and abroad (ex-socialists and various pseudo-progressives and staunch supporters of capitalism and of the EU) had rushed to join Syriza’s ranks when it had become obvious that the left represented the country’s political future.
Tenth, as an opposition party, Syriza ran on an anti-austerity, pro-Europe platform, in an apparent effort to kill at least two birds with one stone. Its message was that by challenging austerity and Germany’s hegemony, it would open up the possibilities for a new Europe. It placed all its bets on a negotiation strategy with its European partners and denounced the need for having a Plan B in the event that it might end up with its back against the wall, which was the only obvious outcome given the nature of European politics today and the structure of EU governance. In the meantime, its economic program was modest by anyone’s account, thereby hardly living up to the ideological expectations of a party with an entire political history that has been based on the defense of socialism.
Eleventh, Syriza’s initial public posture as a party in government was to demand an official debt write-off, an end to austerity policies and to the presence of the troika in Greece (thus a complete rejection of the bailout plan), the reversion of privatization and measures to address the worst aspects of the crisis. But before you could spell Mississippi, the demand for a debt write-off had been replaced by “smart debt engineering” and mixed signals were coming from senior government officials regarding the reversion of privatization. The new Greek government seemed to have realized rather quickly that the negotiation strategy that it had invested so much in demanded obvious compromises and a return to reality, especially since it had no alternative plan for an exit from the Greek crisis other than the good will of its European partners.
Twelfth, after only a few months in power, the government of Alexis Tsipras not only capitulated fully to Greece’s creditors but converted itself into a fully opportunistic government that practiced the same tactics and methods as the preceding governments (political clientelism, cronyism, and corruption) , thereby betraying the hopes of millions of people both in Greece and abroad who had trusted Syriza as representing a radical alternative to neoliberalism and authoritarianism.
Thirteenth, the current Greek government consists primarily of individuals who are in power purely for the purpose of serving their own egos and advancing their own material interests (most of them are party apparatchiks who have never held a normal job) by being obedient to their political masters both at home and abroad. The Syriza-led government has no vision for the future of Greece and the sooner the Greek people consign it to the dustbin of history, the better.

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