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The Reality of Retreat | Jacobin

The first sophism: "Syriza has no mandate to quit the eurozone." If it had adopted such a position, it wouldn't have won the elections. Putting it that way, we see how absurd this reasoning is. Yes, of course it had no mandate to quit the eurozone. But it certainly didn't have a mandate to abandon the core of its program in order to hang onto the euro, either!

And, without doubt, if it had presented itself to the electorate saying, "here's our program, but if we find that its implementation is incompatible with keeping the euro, then we'll forget about it," then it wouldn't have achieved much success at the polls. For good reason: keeping the euro at any cost is exactly the same fundamental argument as the pro-memorandum parties who've ruled Greece all these years put forward.

And even if Syriza never fully clarified its position on the euro, it did always reject the logic of "the euro at any price." On that note, let's remember that contrary to what most commentators think, Syriza's programmatic texts do not rule out leaving the eurozone if forced to by the Europeans' intransigence, or defaulting on the debt payments. Though it is true that recently these texts seem to have been rather hidden away.

A second variant of this first sophism: Syriza had a dual mandate of breaking with austerity and staying in the euro. This sounds more rational than the first version, but nonetheless it is still sophistry. It's as if the two sides of this mandate were equally important and thus it would be politically legitimate, if we had to choose (and indeed we do have to choose -- that's precisely the problem), to sacrifice the break with austerity on the altar of keeping the euro. Without having even abandoned its mandate!

But then why not turn that reasoning around and say, "since I realize the two objectives are incompatible, I choose to stick to the break with austerity, since essentially that is the reason why Greeks voted for a party of the radical left?" That is, to opt for the rupture and not stability within the existing framework. We might at least think that this choice is more befitting of a radical left party that sets socialism as its strategic goal (even if that clearly wasn't the agenda on which it won the elections).



'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Feb 26th, 2015 at 09:20:33 PM EST
Indeed, indeed. See Streeck. In fact, this is the main thesis of the third diary that I didn't write/haven't yet written about his book.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 04:27:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops. This comment applies to your previous post, of course, about the intentions of the builders of the euro.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 04:30:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people have been opining about the desires of the Greek people over the last several years.

I haven't been convinced by any of them.

by Upstate NY on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 08:32:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kouvelakis sees any attempt to remain in the Euro as a betrayal anyway. He saw an opportunity for SYRIZA to shift towards the drachma with the crisis in negotiations, and sees this deal as a failure.
Thus he has to portray the deal as some sort of total capitulation, despite this being a 4 month deal that pushed the can down the road, which it isn't in practice. The Greek government seems determined to use this "creative ambiguity" of the treaty in order to follow the exact policies it has promised immediately after the elections.

Thus as the new legislative period starts next week, SYRIZA plans within the week to:

  • Reopen the Public broadcaster ERT, rehiring *all of its employees"
  • Start a parliamentary investigative committee on possible criminal responsibilities of previous governments for bringing in the IMF and the troika's memoranda
  • Banning of bank foreclosures and evictions of people from their primary residence
  • A formerly vetoed bill that allows back taxes to be paid in as many as 100 installments
  • A bill that will introduce emergency measures to combat the humanitarian crisis in Greece (from food-stamps to free electricity)

...While the minister responsible for labour affairs has announced that immediately afterwords that a bill will be submitted reistating collective bargaining, which was demolished at the troika's insistance and the previous governments' complicity, a measure on which both the IMF and the ECB have issued warnings not to proceed...

This simply would not follow from Kouvelakis' analysis. In fact the article laments that things such as these are not possible, since it insists that "Syriza will in fact be forced to operate within the existing framework". It isn't. And the next few weeks will demonstrate this as an empirical fact. How the "institutions" will then react to this is a whole different story

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 10:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's interesting that in two of the most reliably pro-Greece (or at least least anti-Greece) left-of-centre MSM I read, The Guardian (UK) and taz (Germany), almost all op-eds have a rather negative view of the deal as a capitulation, in line with the picture Schäuble wanted to perpetrate with his public slights.

However, in an op-ed by Thorsten Denkler (Süddeutsche's Berlin correspondent), I found the following, remarkably sober view, which is more in line with the picture Varoufakis & co want to paint, (and that without expressing any sympathy for Greece's plight or argument against austerity):

Schäuble und Griechenlandhilfe - Machtlose Mätzchen - Politik - Süddeutsche.deSchäuble and Help for Greece - Powerless antics - Politics - Süddeutsche.de
Die ganze Debatte am Morgen im Bundestag, die relativ vielen Neinstimmen aus dem Unionslager, all das soll den Menschen im Land zeigen: Die haben sich diese Entscheidung nicht leicht gemacht.The whole debate in the morning in the Bundestag, the relatively large number of votes against from the CDU/CSU, all that was meant to show the people in the country that this decision wasn't taken lightly.
[...][...]
Es kann niemanden ernsthaft verwundern, wenn Varoufakis jetzt die Liste als ein Dokument "produktiver Undeutlichkeit" beschreibt. Er erklärt übrigens auch, dass ihn ein Finanzmister der Euro-Gruppe gebeten habe, die Liste nicht konkreter zu fassen. Sonst wäre sie womöglich nicht zustimmungsfähig gewesen. Das mag stimmen oder nicht. Aber klar ist: Beide Seiten müssen ein hohes Interesse daran haben, dass die Griechenland-Rettung nicht Ende des Monats abrupt endet. It cannot seriously be a surprise to anyone when Varoufakis now describes the list as a document of "productive vagueness". Incidentally, he also explains that it was a finance minister of the Eurogroup who asked him to not to take the list more specific. Otherwise it may not have been suitable for approval. That may be true or not. But it is clear that both sides must have a high interest preventing an abrupt end of the Greek bailout at of this month.
Es sei gerne noch einmal darauf hingewiesen, dass mit den Milliarden aus dem zweiten Hilfspaket, das jetzt verlängert wird, nicht allein die Griechen gerettet werden sollen. Nein, es sind vor allem die öffentlichen Haushalte und - zu einem geringeren Teil - die europäischen Banken, die vor einem finanziellen Härtetest bewahrt werden müssen, sollten die Kredite an Griechenland platzen. Es geht um dutzende Milliarden Euro, die dann auch deutsche Steuerzahler aufbringen müssten. Das ist es, was Schäuble meint, wenn er im Bundestag sagt, für Deutschland könne ein "großer Schaden" entstehen, wenn das Paket nicht verlängert werde. Und ist genau der Grund, weshalb Schäuble Varoufakis trotz aller Brachial-Rhetorik doch recht machtlos gegenübersteht.It shall be pointed out again with pleasure that the billions from the second rescue package that was now prolonged aren't only meant to rescue the Greeks. No, it's primarily the public budgets and - to a lesser extent - the European banks that need to be saved from a test of financial hardship, should the credits to Greece plop. This is about a dozen billion Euros which would then have to be doled out by German taxpayers, too. This is what Schäuble meant when he told the Bundestag that Germany may incur a "great damage" would the package not be renewed. And that is exactly the reason why Schäuble, in spite of all the macho rhetoric, is still facing down Varoufakis rather powerless.
Es wäre gut, wenn Schäuble sich nicht länger mit gespielter Empörung auf Mätzchen mit Varoufakis einlässt. In den Umfragen gewinnt Schäuble dadurch zwar immer mehr Sympathiepunkte hinzu. Die Griechenland-Rettung hingegen sehen immer mehr Deutsche skeptisch. Das ist gefährlich. Nicht helfen ist schon aus Selbstschutzgründen keine Option. Darum darf sich der Gedanke, Griechenland könne ja vielleicht auch fallengelassen werden, gar nicht erst festsetzen. It would be nice would Schäuble no longer get involved in antics with Varoufakis with mock indignation. This may get Schäuble a few more approval points in opinion polls. However, an increasing number of Germans view the Greek bailout with skepticism. This is dangerous. Not helping is not an option out of reasons of self-protection already. Therefore, the idea that maybe Greece could be allowed to drop should in no way be allowed to settle.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 02:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm starting to wonder if they didn't both blink as the depth of the abyss between them became obvious.
At that point they both walked backwards, neither ready to pull a lever that might undo sixty odd years of attempted European unity.
....And so they kicked the can down the road, maybe hoping for a deus ex machina to force events without their personal complicity.
Having said that although they both walked away a bit battered by the encounter, they'll both live to fight more battles in what looms to be a long war.
Schauble is a bit weaker, both because of his descendant arc of age and diminishing returns while Varoufakis' star is rising, young Turk that he is.
And because public opinion in Germany seems to have shifted slightly this last fortnight, risking Schauble being left in the political cold.
Also I think Germans are staying to resent their leaders putting them at loggerheads with the rest of Europe. Track record not great here...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2015 at 05:34:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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