In light of the latest in what has become an interminable series of talks between the Greek government and their increasingly annoyed creditors, you will hear much from centre-left commentators in the days to come about how the ECB is trying to subvert democracy. Actually, putting aside the radio static of snap referenda for one moment, what’s happening between Greece and their paymasters is actually very straightforward: Greece borrowed some money it can’t pay back and wants to wriggle out of the terms of the original deal.
We can talk all you like about how fair or unfair that deal was; whether the whole thing was set up to favour creditor nations like Germany. There’s a point to be taken somewhere in there. However, Greece did sign up to the original terms and conditions themselves. And before those on the hard Left cry it’s all to do with capitalism and its pursuit of profit beyond all else, I’d like to take the time now to make an important point. Money, or actually rather resource, for which money is merely a handy substitute, trumps everything else in every economic system. Including socialism. If you don’t believe me, read your Marx again: the idea that economics is the ultimate determining factor in all human endeavour is the basic idea upon which all Marxism rests.
Actually, what’s going on in Greece should fire leftists up in an entirely different way than we’ve seen thus far. Here you have a society in which what amounts to an oligarchy has systematically pilfered and then misused society’s resources for its own benefit, one which is now trying to save as much of the booty for itself as possible. This is where Syriza has really screwed up since gaining power – it is scared to take on the vested interests in Greece that have got the country into the mess it’s currently in. It is scared to say that not all public spending is by definition good, and that perhaps, just perhaps, a great deal of what the Greek taxpayer and the country’s lendors have been blowing their money on these past couple of decades has been somewhat wasteful and lopsided towards those who didn’t really need it as much as possibly others in Greece did.
Don’t hold your breath for any of these revelations to come our way soon. The Left will simly bleat on about how the Greek government is being held to ransom by the German one – essentially, to use their vernacular, one country’s establishment versus another’s. Everything is now lost in a soup of trying to still use the 2008 crash as a springboard to greater leftism, the whole EU question, and the sartorial desirablity of Yanis Varoufakis.
Edward Wynn says
Your analysis is spot on. A couple of additional points. Firstly whilst Greece is not a failed state it appears to have a level of institutional incompetence ( including corruption) which makes change virtually impossible. One of the benefits I see from the ‘coup’ is that technocratic institutional experts may get a chance to come in a sort out the state institutions. Secondly this issue of who is responsible for the debt – probably linked to my first point in part – cannot be put fully at lenders or borrowers. The concept of sovereign debt being rock solid in terms of risk clearly went out of the window some time ago but both parties should have been crystal clear on the consequences. This was not some bunch of Chavs signing up to a new credit card at a motorway service station.