An anthem for Europe
The final paragraphs of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras's op-ed in Le Monde read thus:
Europe, therefore, is at a crossroads. Following the serious concessions made by the Greek government, the decision is now not in the hands of the institutions, which in any case – with the exception of the European Commission- are not elected and are not accountable to the people, but rather in the hands of Europe’s leaders.
Which strategy will prevail? The one that calls for a Europe of solidarity, equality and democracy, or the one that calls for rupture and division?
If some, however, think or want to believe that this decision concerns only Greece, they are making a grave mistake. I would suggest that they re-read Hemingway’s masterpiece, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.Hemingway's book is set in the Spanish Civil War. It graphically describes the ugly fight between those he describes as "fascists" - the Nationalists, who were supported by (among others) Italy's Fascists and Germany's Nazis - and the Republicans. The reference will not be lost on Spain's Podemos.
Nor indeed will the placing of this op-ed in a French paper. France is the mother of revolutions. "Solidarity, equality and democracy" are not unlike "Liberty, equality and fraternity", the slogan of the first French revolution.
In a way, Tsipras is calling for revolution in Europe. A revolution that would overthrow the "technocrats" whose aim is:
the complete abolition of democracy in Europe, the end of every pretext of democracy, and the beginning of disintegration and of an unacceptable division of United Europe.....the beginning of the creation of a technocratic monstrosity that will lead to a Europe entirely alien to its founding principles.Tsipras's concern about the destruction of democracy in Europe is well founded. Europe seems to be splitting along quasi-feudal lines, with weak periphery states becoming subservient to a strong, austerity-minded core. Overturning the dictatorship of creditor states and ending harsh punishment for failing to comply with creditor demands is essential if the EU is to remain true to its founding principles. At present, arguably it is betraying them.
But revolutions are ugly. And they seldom deliver what they promise. France's revolution created the Terror and led ultimately to the rise of Napoleon. Russia's revolution re-created the feudal Russian empire under a new name and an even worse dictator. Both betrayed their founding principles. Neither created the prosperity that they promised.
And revolutions can fail. Hemingway's book does not say this, but the sacrifice of those who lost their lives fighting to preserve the Spanish republic was ultimately in vain. Spain's civil war ended with victory for the Nationalists and nearly forty years of dictatorship under General Franco.
Setting this piece in the context of Hemingway's violent, death-obsessed masterpiece is inflammatory. And it could have disastrous results. The suffering of the Greek people is considerable, but it is far less than that experienced by the victims of war. We do not - yet - have conflict in the Eurozone. Tsipras's op-ed is a call for political change. It must not be seen as a call to arms.
The title of Hemingway's book comes from this paragraph in the English mystic John Donne's Meditation XVII.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.Solidarity, indeed. Europe needs all its peoples. Those calling for Grexit (in various forms) seem unaware that loss of one diminishes all.
This, not Hemingway's book, should be Europe's anthem.
The broken Euro