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.

Related reading:

The broken Euro
False Dawn




Comments

  1. "But revolutions are ugly. And they seldom deliver what they promise." Presumably, this applies to the neoliberal revolution as well?

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    Replies
    1. Of course. The neoliberal revolution failed to deliver the prosperity that it promised, and it generated the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, which hurt the poor more than anyone. I've written recently on the relationship between rising inequality, due to the growing share of output going to the very wealthy, and financial instability. We aren't getting this right. At all.

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    2. "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."

      I interpret the quote as statement of a previous revolution.

      He seems to state a desire to reverse its rotational momentum (revolutionary momentum).

      * Thank you for picking it out. I was to busy to read it all and it wasn't much my thing.

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    3. The traditional demonstration of angular momentum:
      http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mechanics/rstoo2.html
      https://www.youtube.com/embed/NeXIV-wMVUk?rel=0&controls=0

      * You can not depend on internet science demos to be always be correct. You can always try it out.

      But, to me it looks like at least one systematic problem. That is the responsibility of management to change the system because they are running it and can more easily modify it.

      Delete
  2. I cannot see a good ending for this saga. Both sides of the front have bet their political survival on the defeat of the other. If they retreat they are doomed. If they charge they get shot down by the artillery. Probably the most "European" thing to do at this stage would be to "agree to disagree". And find a cooperative arrangement for Greece to regain the fiscal and monetary tools necessary to reconcile democracy and economics, while maintaining the country within the European Union.

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  3. Tsipras, perhaps surprisingly, is turning out to be a politician with vision and a grasp of history. This makes him almost unique in Europe. Let's see how the European populace responds to his op-ed in Le Monde; we already know what the "leaders" of European countries think...

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  4. Greece is never going to repay any of the money they have borrowed. Ever. Greece will never "reform". Ever. Let them go.

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  5. I am glad that Prime Minister Tsipras wrote this op-ed. However he and everyone else needs to understand that the current situation is not an accident. It was always the design of the post-war elite that people should have as little to say over the governance of Europe. It goes back to the writings of Jean Monnet which had many close friends in high places in the EEC and later the EU. Grexit is desired by some as the starting block for the end of this awful undemocratic project which is the EU. It cannot be reformed as powerful interests will not let go. Europe will be stronger when it embraces its differences.

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  6. I fear that Syriza has squandered its chance and brought the country to the edge of oblivion. I hate to say this, but this ended up playing out like that horrible election ad of New Democracy where the negotiations fail and all hell breaks loose. There are no options left (in any case no good ones, if there ever where any). A deal is needed NOW. We need to face reality: a default and collapse of the banking system (with or without Grexit) will bring horrors on the Greek population. This needs to be avoided at all costs, unless Prof Lapavitsas has a plan for Grexit that can avoid the interim 10 years of chaos (before things start getting better - in theory).

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  7. What is endangering democracy in Spain and other countries is the collapse of the social compact: the erosion of workers' rights to the point that, especially youngsters, have to accept appalling working conditions; the lack of opportunity for many people; the collapse of the credibility of all the institutions; unsurprisingly the potential for secession in two major regions; the drain in brainpower to other countries not suffering the same scale of depression; etc... The situation is getting ever more desperate and the paltry growth that we are observing is just simply not good enough to bring hope to a good two thirds of the population who have seen their living standards collapse while they observed another third prospering despite the crisis. Europe's policy of austerity as remedy for the dumb idea of creating a monetary union with no fiscal union and a bias towards deflation are destroying the fabric of society in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. I was annoyed in 2010, became irritated in 2011, increasingly angry in 2012 and 2013, irrate in 2014 and in 2015 simply depressed and disgusted.

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  8. The Marxist holy mission is to rebuild the Tower of Babel no matter what the human cost , they cannot be trusted to protect the home and hearth given that their hearts belong to the bankers.
    At the same time at the point of failure the globalist forces will leave open the door to the Mises mafia and hope for a fracture along the lines that they create.
    The Redefining God blog gets closest to the real plan me thinks.
    Part of the stage play is for Greece to run into the "good arms" of the east and thus reject the current construction of the west in which most westerners have no control of anyway.
    It a quite spectacular performance if I may say so.

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  9. Extract from Redefining God blog........

    So here is PCR promoting the political right / Mises Mafia as the ones who will end European “vassalage.” They are the globalists’ Right Hand which will sweep in to bring order after the Left Hand brings chaos.

    So as I look upon June, this is what I currently anticipate…

    1) Greece will likely default by June 18.

    2) Greek bank runs, which are already forming, will intensify.

    3) The European Central Bank will block Greece from gaining any increase in their Emergency Liquidity Assistance (the lifeline that is keeping Greek banks solvent). They will do this under the pretense of pressuring the Greeks to come to terms with the Troika by the end of the month, but their real purpose is to intentionally topple the Greek banking system.

    4) There will be a Greek “bank holiday” and a general economic convulsion.

    5) The searingly painful economic convulsion will prompt the Greeks to recoil from the source of the burn (the Troika and Syriza). This will trigger the reflexive jump towards Kammenos and the BRICS

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  10. On paper they at least have some of the tools for pushing back against the technocrats, in the powers of the EU Parliament. Whether or not they ever decide to try and seriously use them is another question.

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    Replies
    1. I ω = L (reverse torque)3 June 2015 at 04:18

      Good idea. What are some of the tools?

      It is so strange. Why haven't they used them and the people before?

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    2. I ω = L (reverse torque)4 June 2015 at 09:27

      I should have been more clear.

      Why haven't the current people and leaders used those tools recently. And why have the previous leaders and people not used them in the past?

      Delete
  11. Tsipras's remarks also reflect much of the thinking of Greece's Left, itself the product of the country's brutal civil in immediate aftermath of the Second World War. That also pitted Greek left-wingers, mainly communists against an authoritarian right wing regime backed by powerful outside interests (first UK, then USA).

    Like the Spanish Left, the Greek Left is perfectly aware of the price of failure.

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  12. To judge by this article by Paul Krugman, Grexit wouldn’t be a bad option in that Finland (another small European country) seems to have done better when it had its own currency than when it joined the Euro. And joining the Euro was a disaster for Ireland.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/01/the-finnish-disease/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Bodyhttp://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/01/the-finnish-disease/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body

    But running one’s own currency involves RESPONSIBILITY. And Greeks don’t like responsibility. They’ve been the world’s experts at cheating their creditors for 200 years (that’s when they aren’t cheating each other via tax avoidance). Playing the part of the naughty boy at the back of the class, cheating one’s creditors, and appealing to emotion with references to John Donne is much more emotionally satisfying. And that fools loads of people.

    And do the wealthier parts of Europe have vastly more obligation to engage in “solidarity” with Greece than with much poorer countries, e.g. Bangladesh. Come to that, how much “solidarity” has Greece shown with Bangladesh over the last 20 years?


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    Replies
    1. "And Greeks don’t like responsibility."

      Not racist, much?

      Delete
    2. I think even solidarity is a balanced act - it's always linked to a notion of proximity, be it geographic, culture or other similarities. Maybe there is even sort of wrong solidarity, pouring freebies to anyone without string attached isn't a viable option in the long term. Even if one is ready to make the sacrifices.

      I think Krugman is right (Godley with foresaw: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n19/wynne-godley/maastricht-and-all-that) and the euro needs to be fixed. But I'm afraid that first we need to be pragmatic and respect democracy over technocracy. Krugman also said economics is not a morality play - there are plenty of reasons to help Greece for our own good. I'm sure Greece is well beyond learning the lesson and what is fair.

      The morality game played now is dangerous and with shallow mandates.

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  13. I am sorry but this is endless mumbling from the left: Europe needs reforms, solidarity, nationalism is not the answer etc. This disastrous monetary union needs to be dismanteled. I have not heard any realistic proposals that would make it workable. It is unlikely that It will be dismanteled in an orderly fashion. The same could have been said about Soviet Union: It needs reforms, solidarity etc. No, It had to be broken up. EMU will break up and I believe that EU does too. Europhiles leave no choice to European people but to turn to nationalism. Greece is a victim but so are other member states in this neoliberal union by design.

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