Italy, Greece and Europe after the European Parliament elections: An interview with Alessandro Bianchi

ITALY_GREECEHow the current policies of the Brussels-Berlin-Frankfurt triangle are based on a propaganda campaign reflecting continuing Crisis Denial and why they constitute an attempt to create a new financial bubble  – Why SYRIZA is a pro-European progressive party, in contrast to UKIP and Ms Le Pen’s FN – What should we expect of the new Italian government and why there is important room for an alliance between Italy and a SYRIZA-led Greek government. In conversation with Alessandro Bianchi of L’Antidiplomatico (click here for the Italian version)

  • In the European elections, SYRIZA has become the first party in Greece. SYRIZA has always been the reference of the struggle against the policies of austerity and against the bailout plan imposed by the Troika to the country. What message did the Greek people send with this vote?

The fact that a party of the radical left topped the poll is a turning point in Greek, and possibly in European, politics. Of course, elections emit multiple messages, and the recent European Parliament election was no exception. That one in ten Greek voters backed a Nazi party, after the revelation of its members’ murderous activities removed the excuse that these voters were merely uninformed, ought to concentrate our minds. Also, the fragmentation and dispersion of the vote amongst a large number of political parties is worth a note. All in all, it is abundantly clear that the Greek voters have rejected wholeheartedly the great big lie that the European establishment has been steadfastly trying to establish as the truth; namely, that austerity works, that the crisis has been handled in the best possible manner and, therefore, that a Greek Success Story is in the making. Having said that, this is only the beginning of an alternative for Greece to the orchestrated misanthropy imposed upon its people by the Brussels-Berlin-Frankfurt triangle. SYRIZA has a long way to go to forge an alliance capable of securing government and pressing its powers into the service of a sustainable alternative for Greece. Before we reach that juncture, and along this path of building a viable alternative, Europe’s and Greece’s ruling establishment is already laying a series of landmines and explosive devices the purpose of which are to impede our progress. It is up to us to defuse and avoid them while not losing sight of the task ahead.

  • The next European Parliament will see mainly three euro-skeptics groups: one led by Marine Le Pen, one led by Nigel Farage – probably along with the italian Five-star Movement – and the last one that will have in SYRIZA his point of reference. Will they find a common ground for a dialogue to jointly tackle the main battles against the European technocracy, and in particular to block in the next months the Treaty for a free trade area with the U.S. (TTIP) and the ERF (European Redemption Fund)? 

I disagree wholeheartedly.  SYRIZA is in no way a euro-sceptical party. Mr Farage and Ms Le Pen are set on a course of either dismantling the European Union or having their countries exit it. SYRIZA neither proposes to remove Greece from the European Union nor has any plans to challenge the idea of the European Union. Indeed, SYRIZA is a deeply pro-European party which simply wants to make the EU and its institutions work for Europe’s peoples – rather than against them. Even regarding the Eurozone, which SYRIZA is highly critical of, the SYRIZA position is that the euro must survive, with Greece in it, and ought to be re-designed in order to survive. Put differently, whereas Mr Farage and Ms Le Pen are inimical to the EU and would like to see it shrivel and die, SYRIZA is pro-EU but also understands that, in order to save the EU and the Eurozone, we need to confront, contest and oppose the irrational policies perpetuated by the European ruling elites.

Turning to your question about the TTIP and the ERF, SYRIZA has no interest in finding common ground with UKIP and the French National Front on either matter. SYRIZA will, instead, present to all parties its views on these two matters and try to forge alliances on the basis of reasoned arguments. More precisely, on the TTIP, the negotiations can go on as long as Europe does not concede to the United States the right to preserve its cultural heritage, to maintain a substantive industry policy (against the demands of American multinationals to determine a monopoly of patent and royalties) and, importantly, to impose environmental controls that suit Europe (e.g. on genetically modified organisms and horizontal fracking). Finally, on the European Redemption Fund proposal, SYRIZA, I have no doubt, will do anything in its power to kill off this awful, austerian, deflationary and predatory idea.

  • Will the new euro-skeptics groups in the European Parliament be able to impose a turning to the European Union in line with your “Modest proposal” and so with a massive investment plan, a real Union Bank, the creation of Eurobonds and of a European welfare state?

No. Euro-sceptics are interested in dismantling the Eurozone and the EU. The Modest Proposal is about using existing EU institutions in order to render the Eurozone, and thus the EU, viable. It is important, as I implied above, to draw a sharp distinction between Euro-scepticism and adopting a radically critical approach to the policies and ideology of the Euro-crats and of the conservative governments in the national capitals.

  • The governments in power and Brussels tend to reassure about the current economic situation and they speak about a recovery, even if Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal have returned to contract and France is in a state of stagnation. In addition, the euro-area is in a situation of low inflation – deflation for many countries – making it less and less sustainable the debt / GDP ratio. What is your overall opinion and prevision on the economic situation in the euro zone?

As Joseph Goebbels expounded in the 1930s, the optimal propaganda campaign is one that takes the truth, stands it on its head, inserts a Grand Lie at its core and keeps repeating it. This is precisely what the powers-that-be have been doing in the past twelve months in Europe. The economic realty is abysmal. Universal austerity has caused a permanent depression in Ireland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Slovenia while pulling even surplus nations like the Netherlands and Finland into recession. France languishes in stagnation and even in Germany the number of working poor are rising and rising. Meanwhile, the death embrace between insolvent banks and insolvent states is getting stronger, under the so-called Banking Union (which is no such thing in practice). Instead of looking at this picture and recognizing the EU’s failure to tackle the crisis, the Berlin-Frankfurt-Brussels directorate are attempting to create a new financial bubble (e.g. in the bond market, under the aegis of the ECB) in order to support their declaration of victory against the crisis, stooping so low as to suggest that even Greece has turned the corner. Thus a Goebbels-like propaganda campaign is in full swing. What does this mean for Europe’s future? To the extent that the propaganda reflects the continuing Gross Denial of the systemic nature of the crisis, it means that the crisis will continue to eat away at the flesh and fabric of Europe’s social economy, reinforcing itself at the expense of the notion of a shared European prosperity, and strengthening the extreme right.

  • In the new context created after the election, will Germany agree to put an end to restrictive policies who threw the continent in mass unemployment, poverty and the renegotiation of social rights?

At best, Berlin may allow for an easing of austerity, in view of a more assertive Italy, under a Prime Minister who does not want to perish as quickly as his predecessors. However, Berlin will not allow for the systematic change in the policy mix, as well as the institutional changes, that are necessary to turn the crisis around. Not unless Mrs Merkel faces a coordinated rebellion by several powerful countries in the European Council.

  • What do you expect for the economic future of Greece? Will the country be able to come out from the troika’s bailout and at what price?

The Greek private and public sectors are bankrupt. The logic of the bailouts ensured that this twin bankruptcy would deepen and be extended ad infinitum. Which is precisely what has transpired. While Brussels-Frankfurt-Berlin, and their Athenian Quislings, will argue that the troika program is about to expire, and that Greece will successfully exit its bailout, this claim operates only at the propaganda level – just as in the cases of Portugal and Ireland. In reality, the plan is to maintain Greece’s, Ireland’s and Portugal’s debt bondage for as long as possible but call it something different (i.e. declare the official end of the hated bailout programs). As long as investment remains close to zero (due to the fact that no sane investor invests in the real economy of a bankrupt entity, state or private) and bank credits are continuing to shrink (due to our banks’ insolvency), the notion that the country can recover is absurd.

  • In the event that the hoped change indicated in the Modest Proposal does not happen in the coming months, do you believe states should start thinking about a Plan B, such as a controlled end of the euro zone?

It is neither desirable nor necessary to do this. To consider a Plan B, progressive forces must be in government. But if they are, the thing to do is to use their veto power within the European Council to trump the current policies and to demand something along the lines of the Modest Proposal. If Germany wants to dismantle the Eurozone, rather than accede to these reasonable demands for a modest program of resolving the Euro crisis, let Berlin do its worst. If they want to take the blame for having dismantled the Eurozone, let them take it.

  • Do you see in the new political context of the European Parliament a party or a movement able to drive the change and to prevent that the European Union will dissolve slowly for the suicidal policy chosen?

SYRIZA is clearly a harbinger of progressive change. But it is not enough, as Greece is a minor player. Italy must come on board, using perhaps a SYRIZA government as battering ram with which to break down the wall of silence and obfuscation within the European Council. If Greece is the laboratory in which the most misanthropic experiments are carried out, Italy is Europe’s frontline. Will Mr Renzi realise that his days are numbered until and unless he pushes Brussels in the direction of something resembling the Modest Proposal? If he does, he then has a chance to pull Italy out of the mire, to save his government and to stabilise Europe. In this task, an alliance with SYRIZA might prove decisive.

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15 Comments

  • Thank you Yiannis for an other lucid interpretation of the recent flow of events.
    There is, however a point that, to my opinion, needs more elaboration: what might be the ultimate goal of Germany doing all this?
    Could there be an intelligent guess on this?
    Is it pure misanthropy – I think not. There has to be something that Germans are aiming to accomplish: something so important financially or ponderous in strategic/geopolitical terms that counter balances their, almost certain, loss of the internal european market.
    Knowing the possible answers to that, will put everything into perspective.

    • No misanthropy imputed. Germany’s elites are simply not interested in altering the post-war German economic model. Their problem is that the said model is no longer sustainable. Still, by the time they realise it, a great deal of human suffering will be inflicted.

    • It’s not misanthropy. It’s hubris!

      We, the germans, have been told that we have emerged as the victors from a conflict between what we still percieve as our model ‘social market economy’ and the irresponsible pseudo socialist, anti-market statism of the southern periphery.
      Needless to say that outside of Germany nobody in their right mind would share that point of view – but we still believe it to be true.
      I order to produce this kind of mass delusion, the german elites have been tirelessly at work, improving their propaganda apparatus to perfection and it is now propably a much better example of german ‘engineering’ than any luxury cars or washing machines produced here.

      As an example of how well this machine works I would refer you to the posts of my fellow countrymen here, most of whom would never even think of supporting Ms Merkel. Still, they have fallen prey to the same deception that she has.

      There are very few germans who understand what it really means to share a common market with other nations. In our minds, there is no sense of unity in this European union. We have been trained to treat everybody else as competitors in a race to the top, and to accept the rule of supply and demand as an inevitable force of nature permeating all aspects of human life. Those who stay behind in that race are simply not trying hard enough.

    • It is irrelevant what the Euro needs. Europe does not need the Euro or more EU.

  • “Know thy self” stuff.

    According to a VPRC poll Syriza is the party with the highest % of public workers(what an irony since this group is the #1 Troika reform target) and students, ND a party of mainly pensioners, PASOK(Elia) a party of pensioners too, Golden Dawn a party mainly of enterpreneurs/employers, Potami a party of mainly first time unemployed, KKE also a party of first time unemployed and Independent Greeks a party of technicians/small retailers (as far a group dominance is concerned).

    This alone tells you why the Greek political scene is so fragmented. Because each group is pursuing self-interest and nothing resembling a coherent theme. They all seem to be voting pocket issues.

    As a result there is no party loyalty. If and when the economy improves there is going to be a major shift in Greek political preference minus some predictable ideological attachment(such as students who would mostly remain as they are in voting preference).

    http://www.thepressproject.net/article/62972/European-elections-2014-the-electorates-dividing-lines

  • Dear Yanni, I am intrigued by your answer:

    “To consider a Plan B, progressive forces must be in government. But if they are, the thing to do is to use their veto power within the European Council to trump the current policies and to demand something along the lines of the Modest Proposal. […] If [Germany] want to take the blame for having dismantled the Eurozone, let them take it.”

    It begs the following question: what will happen if they do take the blame—or credibly threaten to do so?

    Unless the people (Greeks, Italians, French) hear in **explicit, no uncertain terms** that breaking up the EZ is **preferable** to keeping it as it is, the necessary public support for a confrontation will not be mustered. This is what e.g., Pissarides has been publicly saying recently.

    Is this something that you also believe? I would appreciate an explicit position.

    • I am even more radical than that. My view is not only that the current Eurozone architecture is worse than its demise but that its demise is inevitable unless it changes!

  • That Levy Institute article proposes the same thing as the Modest Proposal – except an “EU Treasury” would have to created from scratch, whereas the Modest Proposal uses already existing institutions.

    • But the point was not just to read the Levy Institute author’s proposal. It was to elucidate the sheer silliness of the German position, the sheer impossibility of their ‘advice’ to the rest of Europe being effected and succeeding. Moreover, it provides a useful extensive discussion of the trade-offs involved in a proper federal union and (again) the sheer stupidity (or, alternatively, the genius cunning) whereby an unworkable framework was accepted and established in the vain hope (of some, perhaps) that the problems that it was bound to result in would catalyze the fundamental structural changes, in an evolutionary fashion no less, without radical break, that ought to have been part and parcel of the original structure.