Dr Schäuble’s Plan for Europe: Do Europeans approve? – English version of my article in Die Zeit

On 15th July 2015 Die Zeit published this piece. Here is the original English language version.

The reason five months of negotiations between Greece and Europe led to impasse is that Dr Schäuble was determined that they would.

By the time I attended my first Brussels meetings in early February, a powerful majority within the Eurogroup had already formed. Revolving around the earnest figure of Germany’s Minister of Finance, its mission was to block any deal building on the common ground between our freshly elected government and the rest of the Eurozone.[1]

Thus five months of intense negotiations never had a chance. Condemned to lead to impasse, their purpose was to pave the ground for what Dr Schäuble had decided was ‘optimal’ well before our government was even elected: That Greece should be eased out of the Eurozone in order to discipline member-states resisting his very specific plan for re-structuring the Eurozone. This is no theory of mine. How do I know Grexit is an important part of Dr Schäuble’s plan for Europe? Because he told me so!

I am writing this not as a Greek politician critical of the German press’ denigration of our sensible proposals, of Berlin’s refusal seriously to consider our moderate debt re-profiling plan, of the European Central Bank’s highly political decision to asphyxiate our government, of the Eurogroup’s decision to give the ECB the green light to shut down our banks. I am writing this as a European observing the unfolding of a particular Plan for Europe – Dr Schäuble’s Plan. And I am asking a simple question of Die Zeit’s informed readers:

Is this a Plan that you approve of? Is this Plan good for Europe?

Dr Schäuble’s Plan for the Eurozone

The avalanche of toxic bailouts that followed the Eurozone’s first financial crisis offers ample proof that the non-credible ‘no bailout clause’ was a terrible substitute for political union. Wolfgang Schäuble knows this and has made clear his plan to forge a closer union. “Ideally, Europe would be a political union”, he wrote in a joint article with Karl Lamers, the CDU’s former foreign affairs chief (Financial Times, 1st September 2014).

Dr Schäuble is right to advocate institutional changes that might provide the Eurozone with its missing political mechanisms. Not only because it is impossible otherwise to address the Eurozone’s current crisis but also for the purpose of preparing our monetary union for the next crisis. The question is: Is his specific plan a good one? Is it one that Europeans should want? How do its authors propose that it be implemented?

The Schäuble-Lamers Plan rests on two ideas: “Why not have a European budget commissioner” asked Schäuble and Lamers “with powers to reject national budgets if they do not correspond to the rules we jointly agreed?” “We also favour”, they added “a ‘Eurozone parliament’ comprising the MEPs of Eurozone countries to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of decisions affecting the single currency bloc.”

The first point to raise about the Schäuble-Lamers Plan is that it is at odds with any notion of democratic federalism. A federal democracy, like Germany, the United States or Australia, is founded on the sovereignty of its citizens as reflected in the positive power of their representatives to legislate what must be done on the sovereign people’s behalf.

In sharp contrast, the Schäuble-Lamers Plan envisages only negative powers: A Eurozonal budget overlord (possibly a glorified version of the Eurogroup’s President) equipped solely with negative, or veto, powers over national Parliaments. The problem with this is twofold. First, it would not help sufficiently to safeguard the Eurozone’s macro-economy. Secondly, it would violate basic principles of Western liberal democracy.

Consider events both prior to the eruption of the euro crisis, in 2010, and afterwards. Before the crisis, had Dr Schäuble’s fiscal overlord existed, she or he might have been able to veto the Greek government’s profligacy but would be in no position to do anything regarding the tsunami of loans flowing from the private banks of Frankfurt and Paris to the Periphery’s private banks.[2] Those capital outflows underpinned unsustainable debt that, unavoidably, got transferred back onto the public’s shoulders the moment financial markets imploded. Post-crisis, Dr Schäuble’s budget Leviathan would also be powerless, in the face of potential insolvency of several states caused by their bailing out (directly or indirectly) the private banks.

In short, the new high office envisioned by the Schäuble-Lamers Plan would have been impotent to prevent the causes of the crisis and to deal with its repercussions. Moreover, every time it did act, by vetoing a national budget, the new high office would be annulling the sovereignty of a European people without having replaced it by a higher-order sovereignty at a federal or supra-national level.

Dr Schäuble has been impressively consistent in his espousal of a political union that runs contrary to the basic principles of a democratic federation. In an article in Die Welt published on 15th June 1995, he dismissed the “academic debate” over whether Europe should be “…a federation or an alliance of states”. Was he right that there is no difference between a federation and an ‘alliance of states’? I submit that a failure to distinguish between the two constitutes a major threat to European democracy.

Forgotten prerequisites for a liberal democratic, multinational political union

One often forgotten fact about liberal democracies is that the legitimacy of its laws and constitution is determined not by its legal content but by politics. To claim, as Dr Schäuble did in 1995, and implied again in 2014, that it makes no difference whether the Eurozone is an alliance of sovereign states or a federal state is purposely to ignore that the latter can create political authority whereas the former cannot.

An ‘alliance of states’ can, of course, come to mutually beneficial arrangements against a common aggressor (e.g. in the context of a defensive military alliance), or in agreeing to common industry standards, or even effect a free trade zone. But, such an alliance of sovereign states can never legitimately create an overlord with the right to strike down a states’ sovereignty, since there is no collective, alliance-wide sovereignty from which to draw the necessary political authority to do so.

This is why the difference between a federation and an ‘alliance of states’ matters hugely. For while a federation replaces the sovereignty forfeited at the national or state level with a new-fangled sovereignty at the unitary, federal level, centralising power within an ‘alliance of states’ is, by definition, illegitimate, and lacks any sovereign body politic that can anoint it. Nor can any Euro Chamber of the European Parliament, itself lacking the power to legislate at will, legitimise the Budget Commissioner’s veto power over national Parliaments.

To put it slightly differently, small sovereign nations, e.g. Iceland, have choices to make within the broader constraints created for them by nature and by the rest of humanity. However limited these choices, Iceland’s body politic retains absolute authority to hold their elected officials accountable for the decisions they have reached within the nation’s exogenous constraints and to strike down every piece of legislation that it has decided upon in the past. In juxtaposition, the Eurozone’s finance ministers often return from Eurogroup meetings decrying the decisions that they have just signed up to, using the standard excuse that “it was the best we could negotiate within the Eurogroup”.

The euro crisis has expanded this lacuna at the centre of Europe hideously. An informal body, the Eurogroup, that keeps no minutes, abides by no written rules, and is answerable to precisely no one, is running the world’s largest macro-economy, with a Central Bank struggling to stay within vague rules that it creates as it goes along, and no body politic to provide the necessary bedrock of political legitimacy on which fiscal and monetary decisions may rest.

Will Dr Schäuble’s Plan remedy this indefensible system of governance? If anything, it would dress up the Eurogroup’s present ineffective macro-governance and political authoritarianism in a cloak of pseudo-legitimacy. The malignancies of the present ‘Alliance of States’ would be cast in stone and the dream of a democratic European federation would be pushed further into an uncertain future.

Dr Schäuble’s perilous strategy for implementing the Schäuble-Lamers Plan

Back in May, in the sidelines of yet another Eurogroup meeting, I had had the privilege of a fascinating conversation with Dr Schäuble. We talked extensively both about Greece and regarding the future of the Eurozone. Later on that day, the Eurogroup meeting’s agenda included an item on future institutional changes to bolster the Eurozone. In that conversation, it was abundantly clear that Dr Schäuble’s Plan was the axis around which the majority of finance ministers were revolving.

Though Grexit was not referred to directly in that Eurogroup meeting of nineteen ministers, plus the institutions’ leaders, veiled references were most certainly made to it. I heard a colleague say that member-states that cannot meet their commitments should not count on the Eurozone’s indivisibility, since reinforced discipline was of the essence. Some mentioned the importance of bestowing upon a permanent Eurogroup President the power to veto national budgets. Others discussed the need to convene a Euro Chamber of Parliamentarians to legitimise her or his authority. Echoes of Dr Schäuble’s Plan reverberated throughout the room.

Judging from that Eurogroup conversation, and from my discussions with Germany’s Finance Minister, Grexit features in Dr Schäuble’s Plan as a crucial move that would kickstart the process of its implementation. A controlled escalation of the long suffering Greeks’ pains, intensified by shut banks while ameliorated by some humanitarian aid, was foreshadowed as the harbinger of the New Eurozone. On the one hand, the fate of the prodigal Greeks would act as a morality tale for governments toying with the idea of challenging the existing ‘rules’ (e.g. Italy), or of resisting the transfer of national sovereignty over budgets to the Eurogroup (e.g. France). On the other hand, the prospect of (limited) fiscal transfers (e.g. a closer banking union and a common unemployment benefit pool) would offer the requisite carrot (that smaller nations craved).

Setting aside any moral or philosophical objections to the idea of forging a better union through controlled boosts in the suffering of a constituent member-state, several broader questions pose themselves urgently:

  • Are the means fit for the ends?
  • Is the abrogation of the Eurozone’s constitutional indivisibility a safe means of securing its future as a realm of shared prosperity?
  • Will the ritual sacrifice of a member-state help bring Europeans closer together?
  • Does the argument that elections cannot change anything in indebted member-states inspire trust in Europe’s institutions?
  • Or might it have the precise opposite effect, as fear and loathing become established parts of Europe’s intercourse?

Conclusion: Europe at a crossroads

The Eurozone’s faulty foundations revealed themselves first in Greece, before the crisis spread elsewhere. Five years later, Greece is again in the limelight as Germany’s sole surviving statesman from the era that forged the euro, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, has a plan to refurbish Europe’s monetary union that involves jettisoning Greece on the excuse that the Greek government has no ‘credible’ reforms on offer.

The reality is that a Eurogroup sold to Dr Schäuble’s Plan, and strategy, never had any serious intention to strike a New Deal with Greece reflecting the common interests of creditors and of a nation whose income had been crushed, and whose society was fragmented, as a result of a terribly designed ‘Program’. Official Europe’s insistence that this failed ‘Program’ be adopted by our new government ‘or else’ was nothing but the trigger for the implementation of Dr Schäuble’s Plan.

It is quite telling that, the moment negotiations collapsed, our government’s argument that Greece’s debt had to be restructured as part of any viable agreement was, belatedly, acknowledged. The International Monetary Fund was the first institution to do so. Remarkably Dr Schäuble himself also acknowledged that debt relief was needed but hastened to add that it was politically “impossible”. What I am sure he really meant was that it was undesirable, to him, because his aim is to justify a Grexit that triggers the implementation of his Plan for Europe.

Perhaps it is true that, as a Greek and a protagonist in the past five months of negotiations, my assessment of the Schäuble-Lamers Plan, and of their chosen means, is too biased to matter in Germany.

Germany has been a loyal European ‘citizen’ and the German people, to their credit, have always yearned to embed their nation-state, to lose themselves in an important sense, within a united Europe. So, setting aside my views on the matter, the question is this:

What do you, dear reader, think of it? Is Dr Schäuble’s Plan consistent with your dream of a democratic Europe? Or will its implementation, beginning with the treatment of Greece as something between a pariah state and a sacrificial lamb, spark off a never-ending feedback between economic instability and the authoritarianism that feeds off it?

[1] “Elections can change nothing” and “It is the MoU or nothing”, were typical of the utterances that he greeted my first intervention at the Eurogroup with.

[2] Moreover, if the Greek state had been barred from borrowing by Dr Schäuble’s budget commissioner, Greek debt would still have piled up via the private banks – as it did in Ireland and Spain.


  • Yanis, this is absolutely scandalous. You really must communicate this to the other peripheral countries. You will get a hearing even from the austerity parties.

    • Dean, Re your claim above that Grexit necessarily involves Greece defaulting on debt, that’s nonsense. Given Grexit, Greece has a choice. It can default and be excluded from bond markets for a decade. Or it can behave like more normal and honest countries, i.e. repay its debts and retain access to bond markets.

      As for your insulting remarks about Schauble, I can do insults too: you’re a thick headed, pig ignorant, useless, heap of rubbish.

    • This is an ignorant statement Ralph.

      Having achieved a primary surplus Greece would not need access to the bond markets if it wipes off all of its debt circa 470 Billion euros (including ELA and Target2 ).

      For any small amounts in the form of 6-12 month paper, Greece could rely on the Greek banks which already provide around 20 Billion of short term paper financing.

      Who cares about access to the bond markets and why?

      And as to your characterizations in blind faith the answer is No; I am not or will ever be a German thank God.

  • This is the specter haunting Europe (to coin a phrase): A form of reasoning which doesn’t recognize, or can’t acknowledge, the prejudices embedded in its hypotheses, and uses threatened or actual force to carry the argument, is a recipe for social and political disaster. I might add that it’s not only Europe which suffers from this intellectual disease. My own country, the US, has raised a similar anti-democratic pseudo-rationality to a high art. And what shall we call the cruel irony which informs China’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics?” There’s no doubt that the complexity of the post-industrial political economy can exhaust its dirigistes and managers, but treating the rest of us as an irritating distraction from the serious tasks at hand is a guarantee of only one thing: catastrophe. Wearing an imperial eagle on his hat didn’t make Wilhelm II the smartest man in Europe in 1914. Being able to slap Yanis around doesn’t make Wolfgang Schaueble the smarted man in Europe today. Make no mistake, Schaueble is wrong, and everyone in Europe is at risk from his leeches and potions.

  • You are absolutely correct, Yannis V. in what you say. Democracy is being put in a financial strait-jacket to save the angst-ridden barbarians from having to confront reality. The barbarians are indeed at the gates of the European ideal of its founders. These people have no names, they are unnameable ones, and to name them gives them a human identity that they do not deserve. I now fear that my country, Ireland, will be next, especially if we are as brave as the Greek people and elect a government of the people that will rattle the cages of the barbarians, Then, the others, Portugal, Spain, Italy, no one will be spared because of the obsession with a Grand Design, a design which is flawed and destructive. Thank you, for keeping the candle of hope flickering in our darkness.

    • And yet you keep paying an ever increasing bill which will soon use as rope to hang you with. Could you explain to us the low IQ involved in your hilarious miscalculations of the Greek situation?

      When exactly are you going to get the message that you would be the big losers of all this?

    • Take it easy, Dean. The two guys on the phone are talking in quotes from major german Newspapers. It’s a satirical critique of the loathsome smear campaign that was led by the german media against Greece during the negotiations. That Video is basically a call to Europe and particular the germans to “stop behaving like assholes” and treat Greece with more respect.

    • What’s wrong with Grexit is the framing of it. Whereas a Grexit now leaves Germany unharmed and prospering as a result, a true Grexit needs to hurt Germany the most and cause it serious damage.

      When it comes time for a Grexit the cumulative Greek debt to be erased would be in excess of 1/2 Trillion euros. And it’s coming but it would be in Greece’s terms.

      You ain’t seen nothing yet.

  • Yes, acknowledgements are now being made. Are they too late? I hope not.
    “It is quite telling that, the moment negotiations collapsed, our government’s argument that Greece’s debt had to be restructured as part of any viable agreement was, belatedly, acknowledged.” (Yanis Varoufakis above)

    “Now is a good time to ask: Is Europe holding up its end of the bargain? Specifically, is the euro zone’s leadership delivering the broad-based economic recovery that is needed to give stressed countries like Greece a reasonable chance to meet their growth, employment, and fiscal objectives?…..Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are also obvious.” (Ben Bernanke) http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/ben-bernanke/posts/2015/07/17-greece-and-europe

  • For me the issue of sovereignty could be less important… as long as the issue of democracy, human, social, civil and political rights are safe. But Schäuble’s plan is just an attack on democracy itself.

    Furthermore, in conjunction with the TTIP, the TISA, the already existing and highly dysfunctional EU institutions and NATO/Gladio, it is clearly just another step towards the destruction of democracy in Europe in favor of an oligarchic Empire directed by corporations against the will and needs of the peoples.

    A totally different approach to federation is that of Switzerland: Switzerland is a highly functional federation of states (cantons) with different languages and ethnic affiliations, which, in spite of the major role that corporate capitalism plays in it, it is strongly rooted on actually working democracy, including regular binding referendums on all sorts of issues. It has lasted for eight centuries already, what speaks volumes about its efficiency.

    I believe that Europe would be much better off if we’d adopt a political system similar to that of Switzerland (what probably implies chopping down current states, at least the big ones, into more manageable pieces) and accept that solidarity and cohesion stems from diversity and democracy, because without democracy and rights, there is nothing left but resentment, while citizens, turned into mere subjects, become enemies of the state (federation or whatever) and that is bad for all (barring the necessary revolution).

    Anyways, Schäuble’s plan only has one point: to create a new figure of budgetary inquisitor. The other point about a lesser Eurozone Parliament, just as useless as the current European Parliament, is merely decorative. Considering what the Eurogroup and the BCE are doing as a matter of fact, that is not even a novelty: just a formalization of the current state of affairs.

    Yanis: you said that Schäuble was the only one with a plan. I don’t think it can be called a “plan” at all: it’s just the formalization of the current order of things and shows once again how bourgeois oligarchs do not have any plan at all other than “loot while you can, as much as you can”.

    We Europeans really need to grab the bull by the horns and build a real plan: a plan where democracy and rights are top and corporations are deprived of their extreme power by either collectivization or dismembering, a plan that in the political aspect takes Switzerland as model, but in the social aspect goes far beyond. It’s going to be an uphill battle but what else?

    • You are mistaken and naive if you believe that without sovereignty democratic values could be preserved.

      How could you possible expect Germany to care for what is good for Greece when all Germany shows you time and again is that it only cares about the euro and its trade surpluses.

      This is precisely the leftist naivete which made Yanis lose his job. He believed – in the face of all evidence to the contrary – that he could speak reason to Schauble and that somehow another Europe existed which does not seem to exist other than in extreme minority circles and within groupings of minimum influence.

      Sovereignty means a love for one’s own and it’s the foundation of everything that is good for the citizens and society. If you can not take care of your own people then no one could do it for you.

    • Well, I’m talking from the viewpoint of a Basque national… lacking sovereignty for 800 years already. What I mean is that I don’t care much if our national sovereignty is taken by Spain, France, the USA or the European Union. I’m not going to fight for the “sovereignty” of my oppressors to oppress me harder, you know, so I don’t mind at all to consider things on pan-European terms. However I need them to be strictly democratic and strongly decentralized.

      Even in the event of independence, we’d be still subject to immense pressures: do not nationalize the banks, do not collectivize energy or telecoms, do not dare to exit NATO, put up with nuclear power plants just kilometers away, etc. So I would not go too idealistic about sovereignty, much less the sovereignty of imperial states like Spain, France or Britain. I also do not think Germany is truly sovereign. If they’d be sovereign, they’d be not sewn up with US military bases or dependent on foreign powers like Goldman Sachs (those are the real powers, not states), etc.

      Sovereignty is always relative and shared, what matters to me is the level of decentralization and actual power in the hands of the people, including the reinforcement of human rights, social and labor rights, as well as the demolition of corporate privileges and other non-democratic sources of evil. How can we still accept that the principle of one person = one vote is not applied in “special” associations like corporations or sects? Democracy is either total or is a scam. I am a subject of NATO? I demand my vote there. I am a subject of Goldman Sachs? I demand my right to vote there as well, and also to the redistribution of profits. I’m a colonial subject of the USA? I demand my vote there as well! And that of Haitians, Hondurans, Mexicans and Canadians. I am a colonial subject of Germany? I demand my right to vote in the German elections! Greek, French, Italians and Poles too!

      That’s how African colonies became formally independent, you know. Demanding their vote in France and Britain until white Europeans went into racist-inspired panic mode and relinquished control, more or less.

      Otherwise I agree with you, Dean. I’m all for sovereign free peoples but, once this one is being denied, the least I can demand is at the very least DEMOCRACY: one person = one vote, also in the ECB!!!

    • Maju, the Swiss confederacy and its system has not Iasted for 8 centuries as you claim. It was constitutionally created for SwitzerIand by the great Greek statesman Capodistrias, who is celebrated throughout SwitzerIand as the founding father of their democracy. Furthermore, Capodistrias worked out the Swiss constitution preciseIy with Greece in mind, because at that time we were stiII under the Turks. His centraI insight was that sovereignty is the absolute key to protecting and ensuring the survivaI of a nation, its culture and its interests. For this reason exactIy he was invited to SwitzerIand to heIp the country, whose survivaI was then under threat. You can verify this in Wikipedia, and at the same time be introduced – perhaps – to this great & originaI mind.

      MeanwhiIe it is the European Union whose drive is to not onIy remove nationaI sovereignty as a first step, but furthermore to break former nations into regions – ensuring that they do not re-coalesce into sovereign states at some distant point. Therefore whiIe in step 1 “Spain” wouId become a state [Iike Tennessee or Kentucky], in step 2 the State of Spain wouId be broken down into regions so that AndaIucia wouId be pitted against CataIunya, GaIicia against Navarra etc.

      Since you understand the TTiP, TISA, corporation direction of the EU institutions, consider then in that context what power AndaIucia – say – couId bring to the tabIe to resist Monsanto, or Banco Santander?

    • I meant naturally Switzerland as a decentralized democratic confederation, not to its current federal incarnation, which is relatively recent and is what you’re talking about. Actually, to be precise, it’d be 724 years rather than “800”, as Switzerland was first constituted in 1291. Of course it had a major crisis upon the French occupation in the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars that ended up in modern federal Switzerland but that was not my point, as it’s only the final episode of a deeply rooted tradition in the same basic lines.

      “… the European Union whose drive is to not onIy remove nationaI sovereignty as a first step, but furthermore to break former nations into regions”…

      I’d like to see that, really. But in reality it’s not doing any such thing: states remain the backbone of the EU’s constitution, particularly big “imperial” states like France, Germany, Britain or Spain, detracting from plurality and diversity. Also unlike in Switzerland, in the EU’s case, economic unification is the main driver, with political unification, let alone human, social and civil rights, being only a decoration. In fact the EU is modeled pretty much in the Prussian design for Germany: the Zollverein and eventually the North German Confederation, structures in which human rights or democracy played no role. The only driver of the EU, as of the Zollverein, is the interest of Capitalism in destroying tax and toll barriers to its desired free movement of capitals.

      “in step 2 the State of Spain wouId be broken down into regions so that AndaIucia wouId be pitted against CataIunya, GaIicia against Navarra etc.”

      Step 2 is not being promoted by the EU – however it remains part of the internal reality of Spain, weakening it for lack of a true confederate structure in which nations can feel at home within the multinational state. The reality is that Spain, like France and Britain, is part of the historical core of European Imperialism and has always been defended in its current borders by its more powerful and stable neighbors, very particularly France but also Britain, Germany and the USA. It’s part of the deal.

      IF Spain would become rebellious to the Atlantic Imperial order, then and only then, separatisms would maybe be used, much as in Yugoslavia, to bring it to its knees. But worry not: it won’t happen soon. Pablo Iglesias is defeating himself by alienating everybody in his party and in the possible allies’ zone.

      But in any case that’s the kind of analysis we do in the Basque Country: while NATO-plus (EU included) is strong, there won’t be realistic room for an independent Basque Country because it’s not just about defeating Spain (that’d be feasible maybe) but all NATO (and that’s just not realistic unless it is collapsing already in general terms much as when we achieved independence from the Roman Empire in the Bagaudae revolution some 1600 years ago). In the meantime we can only accumulate forces and help in the forge of internationalist alliances along class axes. The scenario of any revolution or liberation is European, we like it or not, although it does not need to be pan-European, it’d be enough if it involves SW Europe (current France, Spain, Portugal and maybe other neighbors).

      That may not necessarily be the case of Greece, because Greece is a homogeneous ethnic state, it is geographically detached from Western Europe and is clearly in a mored advanced stage of the class war. I’m talking from my point of view (because I believe it sheds some light on the reality of this part of Europe).

    • MeanwhiIe it is the European Union whose drive is to not onIy remove nationaI sovereignty as a first step, but furthermore to break former nations into regions – ensuring that they do not re-coalesce into sovereign states at some distant point.

      An article in Counterpunch magazine touches on this: Some excerpts:

      The sense of belonging to a single nation, with all for one and one for all, simply does not exist between peoples whose languages, traditions and customs are as diverse as those between Finns and Greeks. Adopting a common currency, far from bringing them together, has driven them farther apart.

      The European surrender to the United States occurred about seventy years ago. It was welcomed as a liberation, of course, but it has turned into lasting domination. It was simply reconfirmed by the July 12, 2015, Greek surrender. And that surrender has been enforced by an increasingly hegemonic ideology of anti-nationalism, particularly strong in the left, that considers “nationalism” to be the source of all evil, and the European Union the source of all good, since it destroys the sovereignty of nations. This ideology is so dominant on the left that very few leftists dare challenge it – and Syriza was leftist in exactly that way, believing in the virtue of “belonging to the European Union”, whatever the pain and suffering it entails. Thus Syriza did not even prepare for leaving the Eurozone, much less for leaving the European Union.

      As a result, only “right-wing” parties dare defend national sovereignty. Or rather, anyone who defends national sovereignty will be labeled “right-wing”.


    • Honestly I wouldn’t think there are so many differences between Finns and Greeks, a European (con-)federation India-style is perfectly imaginable, but it would require of the will of its constituent peoples, what is being weakened rather than promoted by the purely capitalist structure of the EU. I disagree with the idea of “traditions” being part of the problem: the problem is lack of democracy and lack of even a modicum of “socialism” that can keep people content about the new political structure. It is also a problem of geopolitics because the USA would never allow a true union, which might become a competitor instead of the subservient vassal structure that EU is now.

      Finally it is also a problem of the Great Crisis and how is faced. It would allow for a lot to be written but suffice to say that it’s not the best of circumstances and that mismanaging it in Thatcherian terms only creates hatred and destroys trust.

      But what is clear is that I understand the issue in terms totally opposed to what Counterpunch suggests: the USA is interested in using “nationalism” (a very ambiguous term incidentally) against the unification of Europe because a truly unified Europe would be a rival rather than a vassal, with greater population and GDP and usually not at all the same geopolitical interests the USA has.

      Of course I don’t think that European political unification can happen any time soon because the conditions are simply not there: Thatcherism/austerianism, horrible destructive German “leadership”, growing distrust, and Anglosaxon anti-Europanist meddling. It would need a revolution and wholly new terms for it.

      What I do think however is that the scenario of politics is clearly much more European than national. That’s something very hard to deny.

    • Maju:

      I didn’t know you were Basque. This explanation you gave puts it into perspective.

      In Greece independence is a very touchy subject. The Greek city states of classical Greece lost their independence in 143 BC when some Greek cities invited the Romans to settle old scores against other Greek cities ( a task Romans were delighted to perform). Greece remained in slavery for almost 2000 years regaining freedom in 1832 (Greece was recognized as an independent state in May 1832).

      Not only we have been slaves for 2000 years but we were also given a Roman religion (aka Christianity) whose main purpose was to rule people without having to fight wars.

      So as you can see the subject of independence is very touchy. The modern day religious folk in Greece are still slaves to some backwards, dark ages sort of following which prevents them from being Greek and thus free.

      So Greece has its work cut out for it. Not only we need to shed a false religion hoisted upon us so that we could remain obedient servants of empires (the most anti-Greek behavior one could possible imagine) but we also have to fight the modern incarnations of slavery manifested by the Holy Roman Empire and the German trash posing as Europa.

      Being a modern Greek means a continuous struggle for freedom.

    • I was going to put that very scenario of Roman conquest of Greece as example on how the USA behaves towards Europe. However I disagree about what the Eastern Roman Empire means historically: it was a Greek-dominated state and a de facto liberation of the Hellenistic world vs the Roman Empire, resulting in the subsequent collapse of (Western) Rome, deprived of its East-draining economic structure (or colonies if you wish). The Christian Coup was a Hellenistic coup that resulted in the decay and eventual destruction of Rome (not of New Rome but that was not anymore Rome proper but something new, different and pretty much Greek: much closer to Alexander’s Empire than to Octavius’).

      “Not only we have been slaves for 2000 years but we were also given a Roman religion (aka Christianity)”…

      Actually it is much more a Greek religion (although of course it is first and foremost a Hebrew religion): Christianity expanded from Greater Greece to the West and not the other way around. The old Christian communities were mostly in Greece and Asia Minor. As I just said, the Christian Coup was instrumental in the segregation of the Hellenistic world, depriving Rome of most of its fiscal resources and dooming it. Surely Rome deserved it but anyhow the facts are not the way you describe them.

      IF today the EU would become a federation and detach itself from NATO (gradually maybe but anyhow), the USA would suffer a similar destiny… because Europe is pretty much all of the US Empire outside its core.

      “The modern day religious folk in Greece are still slaves to some backwards, dark ages sort of following which prevents them from being Greek and thus free”.

      Well that happens with pretty much every sort of religious folk everywhere, except that Christian religion in Greece is a national Greek church, unlike for example the Roman Catholic one. So I would disregard your ‘religion vs nation’ part of the argument as rather fallacious in your particular case.

      But I do understand that the issue of patriotism is something serious in Greece, because Greece is a true nation-state, with no significant minorities, unlike my own, and a nation that has fought in recent history several wars for its independence. And I do respect that, of course.

    • I am sorry Maju but Christianity is nothing more than paganism by another name. A completely fabricated Roman narrative by the House of Flavious designed to replace armies in solving the Jewish resistance problem and effectively rule an empire by other means.

      There is not an iota of Greekness in this religion. It’s a construct which resembles the EU is many ways. Same concept, same intentions. Rule by other means.

    • I very much disagree: Chrsitianity is ab origine a Jewish messianic sect which spread primarily among already existing converts to Judaism (“diaspora”) in Hellenistic lands but was ultimately more successful than mainstream Judaism because of the Pauline reforms, which indeed make it more easily acceptable for people of Pagan roots. In turn Judaism was of course Hellenized before Jesus but the more Hellenistic and Hellenizing of all early Christians was without doubt Paul.

      In any case, just read the title of the epistles: to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians and only once to the Romans. What kind of “Roman” sect is one that is born in Jerusalem, reinvented between Antioch and Tarsus and has nearly all its initial communities in Greek lands? Furthermore: it incorporated Neoplatonism (a Greek philosophical development).

      Romans only excelled in one key aspect: military. All the rest they borrowed (and most of it from Greeks). Christianity (and other oriental sects that competed initially with it: Isianism, Mithraism) were no exception.

      And the result is anyhow clear: Rome collapsed while Greece thrived for other 1000 years, even if under the name of “Rome”.

    • Maju:

      It’s all explained here. The use of Greek and the Hellenistic influence was a deliberate act by Flavian Rome which by the way is also responsible for anti-semitism.

    • It’s all explained here.

      Yes — it’s all right there in a youtube video …lol

  • A general question: I just read a few hours ago about the secret Juncker’s plan B for Greece implying “tanks in the streets of Athens”. Has any further information transcended? It would be most interesting to read and analyze. I wonder why Tsipras has not reported to the Greek nation about it. He has repeated that he was blackmailed but he revealed no details. I for one believe that the Greek People (and by extension all Europeans) deserve to know what is really going on behind the scenes.

    • I think the “tanks in the streets” scenario was promoted by the Greek opposition in settling old scores. Kammenos of Independent Greeks used to be part of ND. He defected and now he is the defense minister in Tsipras’ coalition government. Therefore ND floated the scenario that Kammenos would impose a Syriza dictatorship though the use of the Greek Army. And ND promoted such idea because almost all junta supporters folded into the ND ranks after 1974. So ND wanted to accuse Independent Greeks of a would be crime which themselves have committed. In other words they accused Kammenos that being from Right part of the ND party he would surely resort to force of arms as Greece was driven to Grexit by Syriza. 🙂 Greek politics are full of twisted logic propositions like this.

    • Dean is right. And since that accusation came from BrusseIs this onIy underIines the symbiotic relationship that the pro-memorandum parties & their oligarchic backers have with the BerIin-BrusseIs apparatchiks. Indeed, with Samaras [ND] and Theodorakis [Potami, a pureIy fake construct] rushing to BrusseIs to pubIicaIIy undermine the nationaI negotiations, nothing couId be more cIear.

  • There is obviously an interesting dynamic developing here. Berlin now sees Tsipras as the only true political choice for Greece and already started to praise him. Of course there is no longer any credible Greek opposition since Tsipras has turned them into his obedient slaves.

    I am not sure how this is going to develop. My lot is cast with Yianis and not Tsipras. I certainly don’t want another Greek collaborator but rather I am looking for an avenger. Yanis had the right strategy; I am not truly sure who Tsipras is and I think he will have a terrible year in 2016:


    • On this topic of opposition: I noticed that the last opinion polls show a small but significant decrease of the support for Syriza and an increase, not of KKE, GD or any other party (ND might have made minimal gains at the expense of ANEL, which is collapsing), but of the “others” category (from 4% to 7%). My question is if anybody knows if some party leads that growth of the “others” category such as Antarsya.

    • Maju:

      I have not seen any credible Greek polls yet. Keep in mind that Greek polls are uber unreliable. They all showed a Yes vote being neck in neck with the No vote in the recent Greek referendum. The NO vote prevailed in all Greek territory with the exception of the 3rd peninsula of Chalkidiki where the Mt. Athos monastery are. The monks and the church are fiercely pro-establishment and pro-deep state.

      Greek polls show whatever the people funding them wish to see.

    • Of course there is no longer any credible Greek opposition since Tsipras has turned them into his obedient slaves.
      Credible opposition? There is no credible government!

    • Dean & Maju

      “My question is if anybody knows if some party leads that growth of the “others” category such as Antarsya.”

      Antarsya refused to join Syriza as you know, and their poII numbers have remained fairIy consistent – but there is probably a smaII number who voted Syriza anyway and now feeI burned. The rise in ‘other’ parties is most IikeIy a rise in PIan B and Drachma party, since many Syriza voters want out of the eurozone. Without a breakdown of ‘other’ in the poIIs it is impossible to know – and there is a good reason not to show this info if what I suggest is true. EspeciaIIy since the poII was sponsored by a [good quaIity] pro-Syriza newspaper.

      Concerning poIIs the big mystery here is the % pro-euro. By ApriI poIIs showed that this had dropped from January’s purported 8O% to 52% “pro-euro” – and some even showed 52% anti-euro. Since the …um…capituIation – which stunned at Ieast 6O% of Greeks – claims of 8O% pro-euro are again tossed around by the media [and Verhofstadt] whiIe the “poIIs” now shows 63-68% pro-euro.

      Since this is not my experience on the ground – which is predominateIy and even vioIentIy anti-euro – [and I Iive in Athens’ most poIiticaIIy & socially mixed neighborhood] – and no one believes that the eurozone has gained in popularity since ApriI, we aII assume IocaIIy that this number is a poIiticaI decision. It seems the one poII that aII parties refuse to run is the pure Pro?-/anti?-euro question. The 62% NO is more IikeIy the true number.

      One Iast remark – the NO / anti-euro vote is not the simpIe working ciass/Ieft construct you assume Maju and that Syriza Iikes to claim too. Nor does it reflect onIy those hit hardest by the crisis – who incIudes aII poIiticaI stripes. It is actuaIIy a pure common sense position, heId by weII informed voters across the poIiticaI and social spectrum – and this was reflected in the cross-section of crowds at the NO demonstrations. We have had 5 years to understand the issues – Greeks have turned into economists/constitutionaI lawyers manqué. Furthermore, Greeks as a nation do not reaIIy have the social habit/comprehension of cIass division, if you can foIIow me. Perhaps because we never had industriaI revolution [we’re a pre/post-industriaI society] and due to our wideIy dispersed population – a country of mountain redoubts with a sea at its heart – what unites us i.e. our shared rebelliousness & independence-mindedness is much more important than what divides us. FinaIIy the poIiticaI centre of Greek politics for 5O years has been centre Ieft, the position that Syriza has occupied for at Ieast 3 years.

    • Thank you, Elenits. I’m not privy to those new parties you mention (“PIan B and Drachma party”).

      “Concerning poIIs the big mystery here is the % pro-euro”.

      I’d think that pro-euro “faith” is just collapsing, not just in Greece, but in all Southern Europe. And for very good reasons: >25% unemployment, privatization of all kind of public services, destruction of democracy/sovereignty, etc. are hardly the kind of arguments that keep the “faith” alive. The “medicine man” must not just be a good performer but also deliver.

      “One Iast remark – the NO / anti-euro vote is not the simpIe working ciass/Ieft construct you assume Maju and that Syriza Iikes to claim too. Nor does it reflect onIy those hit hardest by the crisis”…

      Well, the data is overwhelming: in Athens affluent districts voted “yes” around 70%, working class ones (more numerous, naturally) voted “no” around 70%. The elderly/pensioners were the only age segment voting mostly “yes” (even if very much split), while the youth/students voted “no” in more than 80%. The sociological divisions run along age and class axes very clearly. The third factor I’ve read mentioned is the “national” factor, which may explain better the “no” vote even in rural “conservative” areas where the class division is less clear cut.

      This kind of class division in voting tendencies is not just apparent in Greece, we can see it in Spain or Catalonia too. For example in Barcelona the middle/upper class central districts voted massively for bourgeois parties like CiU, while the working class ones voted for Barcelona en Comú (popular unity list led by anti-foreclosures activist Ada Colau). The class lines are indeed reappearing and likely to stay simply because bourgeois parties are not sensible at all to the demands of these segments but rather just plunder them (us) while trying to mesmerize them with “media magic”, what is not really good enough when impoverishment is so dramatic, corruption scandals pop up every other day like volcanoes in the ring of fire and the attack against the floating line of workers’ livelihoods, in parallel to aid for the oligarchs, is so blunt.

      “Greeks as a nation do not reaIIy have the social habit/comprehension of cIass division”.

      I would disagree. On one side class division is objective: even if you don’t understand it, it is there and will show up once and again, more so in “crisis” times like the ones we live through. On the other side, Greece has “always” (I became aware in the early 1990s but it’s surely much older) had a very belligerent revolutionary and class movement, much larger and more active than almost any other European country. This class conflict was largely managed by PASOK but this buffer was demolished in 2010, while objective class consciousness was enhanced by the Troika impositions. This as we know resulted in Syriza’s meteoric growth but now that Syriza has gone PASOKistic, I’m intrigued on how things will evolve both inside and outside Syriza.

    • Elected yes but on a platform that is not implementing at all. That’s almost as good as saying it was not elected at all.

      That also underlines the huge problem of “democracy” being something that only happens once every four years, with a de-facto dictatorship in between. Yearly elections or other ways of making sure that politicians stay true to their word would be a zillion times better.

    • That’s naive to even post. Only private islands can be sold.

      Once government land is sold it becomes … wait for it … private!

      There is a little thing called the Constitution.

      Yes, it’s a little thing — a very little thing!.

    • What do you mean non-credible government? The Greek government was not elected?
      In the election campaign, they sold the Greek people a cheesy bill of goods. They should have been up front with them that the “A” in SYRIZA really stood for “Austerity” (and let alone the bogus referendum).

      So, no, it’s not a credible government .

    • The USA and Greece have different constitutional and legal frameworks.

      I repeat: which islands do you think Greece owns and could offer for sale?

    • The USA and Greece have different constitutional and legal frameworks.

      Indeed, unlike Greece, the USA is not a vassal state. So, yes, you have a valid point.

      I repeat: which islands do you think Greece owns and could offer for sale?

      I guess I’ll have to do the simple arithmetic for you. OK, pay attention.

      So, there are “between 1,200 and 6,000 islands, according to a range of different estimates, and there is no definitive answer on how many the Greek government owns.”

      Let’s be conservative and take the average: (1200 + 6000)/2 = 3600

      Of those, 10% are privately owned. So …

      (100% – 10%) x 3600 = 3240 islands… give or take a few hundred.

      It’s all a rough estimate. If you want exact numbers, give your “Napoleon Bonaparte” Tsipras a call. Tell him it’s you, “Josephine” … sure he’ll take the call 🙂

      And as things get really desperate, ’cause, you know, austerity, the Greek government might as well sell the Greek Constitution … not much use anymore … sell as a souvenir … on ebay — should bring in a few hundred euros for the 50 billion euro privatization fund. Anything to appease the creditors. Anything!


  • Maju, if you insist on seeing it this way so be it, but even your quotes don’t reaIIy support your assertion.
    8O% of youth says nothing about their cIass, nor does the high proportion of pensioners many of whom are the anxious soIe support of extended famiIies and come from aII parts of the poIiticaI / economic spectrum. Four wealthy neighbourhoods in Athens
    predictably voted YES – but these neighborhoods aIso house a huge proportion of pensioners, with PaIeo FaIiro having the highest median age in the whoIe of Europe i.e. cIose to 7O years oId.

    As I said before the ‘centre’ of Greek politics has been centre-Ieft for 5O+ years and aII social cIasses are represented in that centre including the most wealthy. CertainIy the highest proportion of best educated [whatever their social origin] are centre-Ieft. This is pIus economic origin is reflected in Syriza itself.

    Studies have shown that the right meanwhile has a sIightIy higher amount of poor voters than rich. These divisions are historicaI – those who supported the imposed German monarchy [vs RepubIicans] included whoIe regions such as Macedonia and Messinia, mostIy agricuIturaI. This continued into the second worId war and the junta coIoneIs [who were Iower cIass]. The break came after the junta, i.e. distancing from the USA and entrance into the EU.

    ND was founded post-junta as a smaII c centre-conservative party, whiIe PASOK was the *shock* thumb-your-nose-at-the-USA socialist party breaking previous taboos, including the Domino Theory. The Communist party took off in the war and its adherents included many educated bourgeois, among them Yanis’ father. The subsequent demonisation & obscene punishment of its members by the British and Americans in their imposed civiI war secured the IoyaIty of its remaining adherents.

    In the urban centers the Micrasia refugees [Smyrna 1922 etc] constitute another Iayer. MostIy communist, they are aIso a markedIy successful group professionally, and many have become wealthy.

    My 18 year oId son, who was prevented by ND/PASOK from voting in January, voted for the first time in the referendum – NO of course. The youth see it in terms of their future, not cIass. A centre-city kid with 2 professionaIs as parents, both now out of work, he and his friends reject the whoIe idea of cIass divisions. His friends are from aII economic cIasses, including PhiIipino and other immigrants. He was privateIy educated, [using up our savings!], and is of course Anarchist Iike most of his friends. They Ioathe the EU as “phony” and as an American capitalist NATO-ruIed construct, and want out of both eurozone AND EU. The Iast ain’t gonna happen, of course, but they are certainIy right about the EU being phony.

    NO was not just about economics, but fueled by a weII informed ‘nationaI’ patriotic Iogic. I put the word nationaI in quotes because in greek the word for nationaI is “ethnic” and has sIightIy different resonance.

    • They Ioathe the EU as “phony” and as an American capitalist NATO-ruIed construct, and want out of both eurozone AND EU.


      I have it on good authority here — indeed from our very own Dean Plassaras — that the United States is Greece’s “key and only reliable ally in the western world” (…lol… sorry, it’s hard not to laugh at that)

      Maybe Dean Plassaras should have a talk with them young ‘uns in Greece. Talk some geopolitical sense into them. You know what? Belay that thought.

    • Your understanding of classes seems very rudimentary, as if covered by many ghostly veils (“middle classes” maybe?), Elenits. As nearly universal rule: approx. 90% of the people are working class, 10% are bourgeois (of which 1% or less are the ones objectively rich or high bourgeois). The bourgeoisie is defined by the property of the means of production (business) and hiring of subservient workers, the worker class is the ones who lack means of production and are hired, or sometimes (self-employed) do have some means of production but do not hire other workers or only minimally so (auxiliary hand or apprentice).

      As such it is only normal that the right wing parties draw support from the working class, particularly (but not only) in the context of universal suffrage parliamentary systems. Universal suffrage is something to which the bourgeoisie had to concede in order to legitimate its power, which must now be maintained by various manipilations of the working class. But this is not new: the very essence of capitalism is that the bourgeois lead the workers in the productive process (and claim privileges out of that position of leadership legitimated by the scam of private property laws, and perpetuated that way). This is done usually either via “conservative” brands (parties) that appeal to old traditions and emotions such as religion, fatherland, authority, responsibility, etc. (all associated with the subconscious figure of the father or superego) or via “progressive” brands (parties, unions) that appeal to the more objective demands of the worker class but whose only actual role is to manage those demands at the service of the bourgeois oligarchy, sometimes getting concessions (if the pressure is high) but most of the time just making them in shameful act of betrayal.

      Every time a party with a more or less serious class background reaches to power (what does not happen every day because the power of the privately owned media is just brutal, or used to be at least), a crisis takes place. A crisis in which the oligarchies try to make sure that the party is either destroyed or domesticated. This is what has happened these months between the EU leaders and Syriza. We were imagining it was about the debt, about sovereignty, about social rights, about European construction, etc. but all the time it was about defining what role will Syriza play as party backed by the Greek masses: another PASOK or a revolutionary force capable of challenging the status quo?

      Anyhow, you should not mix the age axis of voting tendency with the class axis. They are different animals and must be analyzed in separate blocks. But both are very clear: the worker class voted >70% “no” and the youth voted >80% “no”.

    • Lastturk:

      If the EU was a a Nato and US construct, then you couldn’t have the ex Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke say the Germany is feasting on the rest of Europe.

      Country friendship is a relative term. Greece might be alone in the pursuit of her national interests but in the USA it has a fair minded ally and as close of friend as it would be possible because naturally the USA has many more issues to consider other than Greece.

      USA will always give Greece a fair shake and there is nothing more you can ask from a key ally.

    • Dean: you can think of US imperial policy in Europe with an onion-like or somewhat pyramidal structure. Focusing only on main regional powers it is as follows: (1) Britain, (2) France, (3) Germany. The interests of Germany are set to serve those of the “Greater Ententé”, which is the foundation of NATO and in general the neo-European US-centered “world order” (or intentional disorder often).

      The collapse of the Soviet bloc allowed Germany to reaffirm its position as major regional European power but such stand is bound to clash with the Atlantic or Greater Ententé point of view and very complex diplomacy revolves around such geostrategic dialectics. Suffice to mention that Germany has not or only very reluctantly followed the leader (the USA) in the following issues: (1) Russia (to which German business particularly are very close to), (2) Libya, (3) Syria, (4) humiliation of Bolivian President Evo Morales upon his visit to Moscow, (5) Ukraine (and sanctions against Russia). So it’s not too surprising that now France and the USA use the Greek crisis (very belatedly and only once Syriza has been humiliated and pushed into a corner of subservience) against Germany, favoring French interests and to some extent also the wider stability needs of the US Protectorate of Europe.

      Of course the interests of Greece are very low in the scale of priorities of Washington (or anyone else except Greeks themselves). Thinking otherwise would be very naive. And particularly Washington does not want that Greece abandons NATO and aligns with Russia, even if just mildly. Probably that was what Nuland lectured Tsipras about earlier this year.

    • Our Dean Plassaras says: “Country friendship is a relative term…. USA will always give Greece a fair shake and there is nothing more you can ask from a key ally”

      U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is welcoming the agreement between Greece and its European creditors as “an important step forward.”

      In a statement Monday, Lew said: “The agreement provides a basis for restoring trust among the parties and creates the conditions for a path forward for Greece within the eurozone.”

      He noted Greece’s “commitment to make deep and difficult fiscal and structural reforms” and a commitment by its creditors to “create a path for Greece to return to growth” and make Greece’s debt burden more manageable.

      Like Dean says, “friendship is a relative term”…lol