The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

If Syriza Blinks

So, the EU wants Greece to sign an even worse deal than the “no” referendum already rejected.

If Syriza accepts such a deal, Greece will stay in depression and, likely, that depression will get worse.

Let me be explicit: This sort of thing will not stand. If the moderate left-wing (not center-left, moderate-left) won’t do the job, then someone else will.

That will mean either the hard-right, or the hard-left. People who can credibly say: “When we say we will end austerity, we mean we will do anything it takes. Anything.”

You have all been warned, repeatedly. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said it, so it’s been said by a “real person”:

“Let’s not re-enact the Treaty of Versailles.”

The hard-right is salivating over what is being done to Greece. LePen in France, the hard-right in Britain, and so on. They know that rage, anger, and hate is building as people are smashed in the face over and over again by neoliberal politics. They are thrilled by Cameron’s smash-mouth budget in England. They love the way the refugee crisis is being bungled.

They know how to use the fear, desperation, and rage. And they will use it. People will become so fed-up with having lousy lives and no hope for the future that they will turn to anyone who looks hard-assed enough to fix it and to break with current power structures, who will get (and deserve) the blame.

This is not a game; this is not consequence free. We are fulfilling all the necessary conditions for an age of war, famine, and revolt. Greece is only one domino, but be clear, it is both a crime and a mistake. No matter what happens, the consequences of all these stupid and cruel decisions will be harsh. They will be harsher if the hard-right are the ones who make the break.

Europe has a chance here to negotiate with people who still believe in the European project and who are essentially moderates (Syriza is hardly left-wing at all in historical context, sorry).

There will come a day when they will meet people, from either the Left or the Right, who have no interest in negotiating. Given an electorate willing to follow me, I can tell you that, even in 2010, I would have had only very brief negotiations with the EU if I ran Greece.

Today, people like me who are willing to break things to make a new world are in the minority.

Today is passing.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you enjoyed this article, and want me to write more, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


Chinese Stock Market Woes and the Pre-War World


New Greek Proposal—Essentially the Same


  1. This is not about Greece, but about us and the things that are own higher-ups are doing to us. By us I mean those of us who chatter on blogs.

  2. Only I do not think you mean “Blair”

  3. anonymouscoward

    Syriza has shoulder the cross of responsibility, prepare to climb Mt. Purgatory, and crash their country out of the Euro. But looking on the bright side, in just 10 or 15 years there will be no Eurozone for Greeks of whatever party to feel “left out of”.

  4. markfromireland

    Surely you mean “when Syriza blinks”? George Osborne rather than Blair? I keep on saying that the current British Conservative Party under Cameron are far far more radical than they were under Thatcher or Major.

    Otherwise I agree with pretty much everything here. I don’t see the hard left gaining much traction I think it’ll be the hard right.


  5. Ian Welsh

    Oops, meant Cameron, obviously, though it is hard to overstate just how much I loathe Blair. I would never compare Blair to a maggot, for example, because maggots are very useful to the world.

  6. Gabriel

    This NC post (and the talk embedded) have convinced me that Syriza doesn’t have a choice–the collapse of the payments mechanism will happen too son. Even the intra-Euro sabotage strategies I was pinning my hopes on would take too long to execute. Legally, what the ECB’s doing of course wildly illegal and challenges could be telling, but they’d take too long, and anyway EU authorities appear to have read their Schmitt and know that sovereign is he who decides on the exception (we’ve seen this with the ECB’s OMT).

    Only reason I comment here is to highlight how key to the ECB->Germany power is the structure of payments, which I think will reinforce Russian and Chinese efforts to create a parallel payments/etc. structure. The real-world, supply-chain consequences of Greece’s losing access to the Euro payment/clearing systems are the really-existing equivalent to those (largely) fantastical claims Western air-force people are always making for strategic (or “effects based”) bombing. Governments will notice.

  7. EmilianoZ

    Greece is now in the situation of a soldier that is about to get killed if he doesn’t surrender. But if he surrenders, he knows the type of prison he’s gonna be thrown into and how to escape.

    Greece has to acquiesce, play the obedient schoolboy and quietly prepare its exit say 3 years from now. A lot can happen in 3 years. Russia will be in better position to help. Their payment system will be mature by that time.

  8. Ian Welsh

    If Syriza surrenders they won’t be the next government of Greece.

  9. Lisa

    Yep…going to be lots of blood in lots of places.

    The very tattered velvet glove is off now and the elites are not going to back down one little bit. This is it to the bitter end.

    And yes it will be the populist right that leads the charge, the US and European left is totally useless and corrupt and has been for decades. To be a force in the future requires a completly new left being built from scratch,with none of the old left or the daft greens being allowed anywhere near it. A 20 year project at least.

    And I always thought ‘Bliar’ was the correct spelling….. Always made more sense to me.

  10. anonymouscoward

    “If Syriza surrenders they won’t be the next government of Greece.”

    Hell, they won’t even be a party. The various wings and factions of the Greek Left will likely separate, splinter and go through a break up that will make a married couple’s divorce look amicable by comparison.
    That is, if they follow the pattern of past Left movements.

    Sigh. Looks like we’re now going to see just how bad bad can get.

  11. S Brennan

    “If Syriza Blinks” or…

    Syriza is how you say Quisling in Greek.

    Perhaps they feared being “Ukrained”, if so, one can only hope Syriza fares worse in a pitchforks & torchlight parade for their betrayal of the Greek People.

    The Nazis back in Berlin must be goosestepping and clicking their teutonic heels off. The Euro represents a 20-30% export subsidy to them, if they had to work with Deutschmarks, the margins of German manufactures would be reduced by approximately the same amount and we could kill the “tireless worker” myth. Anybody whose worked with Germans knows they drop their pencils at 1700…precisely…even when they come in 2 hours late.

    I was planning on going back this fall in support the Greek economy…now…no.

  12. k

    I’ve suspected for a long time that the real driving force behind neoliberalism is Anglo nationalism.

    Forcibly assimilate the heathens before resource depletion closes the window on planetary-scale empires.

    Assimilation requires that it be possible to destroy anyone who insists on continuing to act native. Normally this involves using in turn military power –> juridical power –> economic power –> employer power. Employee protections must be removed or else the last step is effectively neutered. Where this system cannot work (e.g. where there is no wage earner economy to speak of) they send in the drones.

  13. In principle I agree that Grexit is the best option. However, I understand why they won’t do it. I am not convinced it will their downfall if they don’t. (Could be, but I don’t think certainty is warranted.)

    Y’all of course are totally aware of how insane this all is, but here is Hugo Dixon, “passionate about freedom and responsibility”:

    My hope is creditors accept Tsipras proposal; my fear is they ask for more austerity to compensate for economic damage caused by referendum

    As he consistently has told us he thinks that creditors have behaved reasonably, he is now telling us that reasonable people think that more austerity is an effective way to compensate for economic damage “caused by [the] referendum”. The damage being caused by further ECB tightening, which is only natural and prudent…of course.

  14. Again, the Eastern European countries are another stalking horse here. They simply cannot understand why austerity is not what Greece precisely deserves.

    (In German, they usually translate OK in Google Translate.)

  15. Ian Welsh

    We’ll see. Enough for Tsipras to back and say he won, but I suspect it’s still going to be so terrible that they’ll soon realize he didn’t end austerity.

  16. dsj

    Syriza has blinked… package asked for is worse than what was voted down.

  17. S Brennan

    Mike; I read that blurb [I can’t call it an article], nothing new, bromides and implicit lies tightly wound around a misleading headline…I’ll file it under anglo-trash.

  18. Pluto

    Finally, the Telegraph reported the developing (and very lucrative) deals that the sovereign nation of Greece has made with both Russia and China. Odd, the way people are reacting….

    Greece finally admits €2bn gas pipeline deal with Russia
    Greece has admitted for the first time it is planning a €2bn gas pipeline with Russia.
    The move is likely to worry the US, which has stepped up its involvement in Greece’s debt talks with international creditors over fears the cash-strapped country could drop out of the single currency and come under the influence of its Cold War rival.

    Panayotis Lafazanis, Greece’s energy minister, said the move would be a key part of the country’s “multi-faceted” foreign policy and would create 20,000 jobs, the Financial Times reported.

    Reports in April suggested Moscow was ready to provide advanced payment to Greece for the “Turkish Stream” pipeline project, which will transport 47bn cubic metres of Gazprom’s gas annualy from 2018.


    Beijing has also sought to invest in Greece’s port infrastructure.

    Mr Lafazanis, who heads up the Left Platform of Syriza, has hailed a new dawn in Greco-Russia relations and has invited the likes of state-sponsored Gazprom to drill for oil off the Greek coast.

    Some folks say the violent overthrow of of the democratically elected Greek government is now inevitable. Identical to Ukraine. Which strikes me as odd. The “Turkish Stream” was announced five or six months ago by Gazprom, after Bulgaria began sabotaging its construction when it was the former “South Stream.”

    In any event, now Greece will control southwest Europe’s energy supply, and will enjoy considerable transit fees from the EU.

    Seems like a happy outcome.

  19. markfromireland

    Meanwhile in South America The Guardian reports Unbridled capitalism is the ‘dung of the devil’, says Pope Francis. Actually he said rather more than that:

    Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.


    A lot! They can do a lot. You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!

    You are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: “process of change”. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure. That is why I like the image of a “process”, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to “live well”.

    Full text of Pope’s address here: Pope Francis: Speech at World Meeting of Popular Movements

  20. markfromireland

    I’ll post immediately below a FT report which gives some detail of precisely how much dung the Greek government is now saying the Greek populace are going to swallow. There are a lot of links in it and I’ve included three links to the original documents the report references.

    I know that the comment filters will hold it up and apologise to Ian for yet again giving him extra work.

    Pieter Spiegel’s posting makes a key point about precisely how far the Greek Government has backed down:

    none of the documents mentions debt relief. This was a major demand of Yanis Varoufakis, Tsakalotos’ predecessor. And while it is obliquely mentioned in Wednesday’s bailout request, there’s nothing in the documents sent to Brussels Thursday night that mentions the topic.

    Source: .Emphasis mine.


  21. markfromireland

    Leaked: Greece’s new economic reform proposal

    Peter Spiegel : | Jul 10 00:41 | 14 comments | Share


    Late on Thursday, the Greek government submitted its long-awaited economic reform proposal to go along with Wednesday’s request for a new three-year bailout programme.

    The package sent to creditors included three documents: first is a letter from Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, which we’ve posted here; second it a more detailed letter from Euclid Tsakalotos (here), the new finance minister; and the third is what’s called the “prior actions” – a 13-page plan of reform measures that must be completed prior to winning bailout aid (here).

    We will more completely gut these documents in the morning, but a few things that stand out. First, none of the documents mentions debt relief. This was a major demand of Yanis Varoufakis, Tsakalotos’ predecessor. And while it is obliquely mentioned in Wednesday’s bailout request, there’s nothing in the documents sent to Brussels Thursday night that mentions the topic.

    Instead, what is interesting about both the Tsipras and Tsakalotos letters is their explicit mention of wanting to remain in the EU’s common currency. As Tsipras puts it:

    With this proposal, the Greek people and the Greek government confirm their commitment to fulfilling reforms that will ensure Greece remains a member of the Eurozone and ending the economic crisis. The Greek government is committed to fully implementing this reform agenda – starting with immediate actions – as well as to engaging [sic] constructively on the basis of this agenda, in the negotiations for the ESM loan.

    Tsakalotos puts it with a bit more flourish:

    [The proposal is] a vision which serves our commitment to remain an integral member of the eurozone and respect the evolving rules of our monetary union; one that underpins that commitment with a comprehensive set of reforms and measures to be implemented in the areas of fiscal sustainability, financial stability, long-term economic growth and sustainable development, and, last but not least, reforming the public administration….

    On substance, the new “prior actions” come very close to creditors’ last “prior actions” proposal, which Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum at the weekend. It maintains a primary budget surplus target (revenues minus expenses when debt interest payments are not included) of 3.5 per cent by 2018, though it remains a bit more vague about how fast it will get to that level. The previous progression – 1 per cent this year, 2 per cent next and 3 per cent in 2017 – remains in the proposal, but tellingly in parentheses.

    On the two areas that proved most divisive before negotiations were cut off two weeks ago, overhauling the value-added tax system and pension reform, there is also a lot of convergence.

    In the VAT system, Athens vows – as the creditors demanded – to find new revenues amounting to 1 per cent of gross domestic product (about €1.8bn) every year. It also concedes to a creditor demand to allow processed foods to be taxed at the standard 23 per cent rate.

    The Greek proposal also incorporates one of the creditors last concessions – moving hotels to a lower 13 per cent VAT bracket – but it appears to hold out on one thing that could prove problematic: a separate, lower-rate system for Greek islands.

    Creditors have demanded a single system for the whole country, arguing that a separate rate for the islands – which Athens has insisted on because many are remote and expensive to supply – requires a completely separate administrative system, raising expenses needlessly.

    The new Greek proposal agrees to “eliminate discounts on the islands”, and offers to start with the bigger islands that are popular tourist attractions. But it also says the discounts will not be ended “for the most remote ones”, which may defeat the purpose of a single nationwide system.

    On pension reforms, there are still a handful of gaps. The 2012 pension reform legislation will not be implemented until October 2015 under the Greek plan, whereas the creditors wanted it done immediately.

    But on the big things – implementing measures to raise the effective retirement age to 67 by 2022 and phasing out a “solidarity grant” to poorer pensioners by December 2019 – Athens appears to have conceded.

    The problem with this assessment, of course, is it measures a new proposal against an offer made for a bailout that does not exist any more. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has made clear that what’s required under a new multiyear bailout – which could cost more than €70bn – is much different than a reform plan needed to release just one €7.2bn aid tranche. More needs to be done, she argued.

    So can this new plan live up to Merkel’s new, tougher expectations? It is now in the hands of Greece’s trio of bailout monitors – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – to determine.

    Source: Financial Times:Leaked: Greece’s new economic reform proposal | Brussels blog

    Documents [PDFs]:

    Link to letter from Alexis Tsipras: TsiprasLetter_09-07-2015-1.pdf

    Link to letter from Euclid Tsakalotos: Letter_Tsakalotos-1.pdf

    Link to "prior actions" document: Prior-action-final-version-July-2015.pdf

  22. S Brennan

    Nice one MFI;

    When I refer to Milton “Mephistopheles” Friedman’s Satanic verses*…I am not kidding, that’s what they are. Friedman’s Satanic verses changed America, I remember friends coming to me and singing the praises of that Satanic dung.

    *Freedom to Lose, particularly, the 12 part, one hour TV series, played over and over again in prime time on PBS for over seventeen years.

  23. markfromireland

    @ Pluto July 9, 2015

    Even if they were to start construction now it would be several years before it had any impact. Then there’s the little problem of opposition from Brussels.

    Greek energy minister unveils plan for €2bn gas deal with Russia –

    Greek energy minister unveils plan for €2bn gas deal with Russia

    Christian Oliver in Athens

    Greece has mapped out details of a planned landmark €2bn gas project with Russia in a move that could stir tensions with Brussels just as Athens is seeking a third bailout.

    Panayotis Lafazanis, the firebrand leftist energy minister, presented preliminary plans for the project to Greek energy executives in Athens on Thursday in a defiant speech, vowing the government would not be pushed around by EU institutions.

    EU policy makers are concerned that Russia could take advantage of the crisis to pull Greece deeper into its orbit, and pipeline politics is critical to relations between the two nations.

    Athens and Moscow say the new project, the so-called South European Pipeline, will bring 47bn cubic metres annually of Gazprom’s gas into Europe after 2018. Mr Lafazanis — the political patron of Greece’s biggest public sector company, the Public Power Corporation, which holds a near-monopoly of its electricity market — pledged it would create 20,000 much-needed jobs in Greece.

    The promised deal with Russia is a sharp rebuke to Brussels, which wants to reduce EU dependence on Gazprom and argues that southeastern Europe should diversify its supply by prioritising gas from Azerbaijan.


    The planned Greek gas deal comes after Russia late last year dropped its landmark South Stream project that was intended to bring 63bn cu m into the EU, bypassing Ukraine by running under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. Moscow has rebranded the project as Turkish Stream, which would export the same volume to the southern coast of the Black Sea and then to Greece. Industry experts are sceptical that the Turkish project can be built and financed in the next few years.

    Brussels opposed South Stream because it ran against EU competition rules that prevent Gazprom from dominating both upstream gas supply and distribution. The European Commission insists any pipeline across Greece will face the same competition restrictions.

    To diversify away from Gazprom, the EU is throwing its political weight behind the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, partly owned by BP. This is expected to pipe 10bn cubic metres of Azeri gas from the Turkish-Greek border to southern Italy by 2020.

    Mr Lafazanis said he supported both projects but stressed that he also had specific demands regarding TAP, including compensation for farmers affected by the pipeline and benefits for communities nearby. “We hope that the management of TAP will respond to our demands,” he said.

    All emphases mine. I’d be delighted if what you accurately describe as a “happy outcome” were to come about. But I don’t see it ever happening.


  24. markfromireland

    You’ll get no argument from me about that Seamus any ideology allowed run rampant is going to hurt a lot of people. The neo-liberal one preached by Friedman and the Chicago School is particularly vicious.


  25. Pluto


    My understanding, from following this development through oil and gas trade magazines, is that Russia would give Greece a substantial advance on transit fees, just as China has done for Russia in regards to the landmark oil/gas pipeline they signed last year.

    I believe construction has begun very recently, Turkey signed on, and a completion date of 2017 was mentioned.

    Certainly, Europe does not have to accept this gas. It had no “competition” problem when it was the “South Stream” entering Europe through Bulgaria. Europe signed off on that. (The entire point of these pipelines was to divert from transiting through Ukraine.)

    Perhaps Europe can begin fracking in Brussels to replace the long expected gas from the South Stream, in order to power their factories and stay warm.

    Greece can disperse the gas in the same way that all gas-producing nations in the region do, even ISIS. Either way they profit from the arrangement.

    That, too, would be a delight to see.

  26. markfromireland

    And finally referring to Ian’s last few paragraphs. The OECD has just released the 2015 employment outlook OECD Employment Outlook 2015 – en – OECD there are links on that page for those who want to either purchase it or read it online for free.

    The launch page quotes the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría as saying:

    Time is running out to prevent the scars of the crisis becoming permanent, with millions of workers trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder. If that happens, the long-run legacy of the crisis would be to ratchet inequality up yet another notch from levels that were already far too high. Governments need to act now to avoid a permanent increase in the number of workers stuck in chronic joblessness or moving between unemployment and low-paid precarious jobs.

    Except of course that that’s the plan. A large pool of people in economic desperation and (far more importantly) an even larger pool of people hovering just barely above that level and terrified of slipping in to it is what the diabolical fuckers who constitute the ruling class and their enablers in academia such as Friedman want.

    There’s just a tiny little problem and that is that people who are desperate and angry with nothing to lose and everything to gain are exactly the people who’ll back the extreme right. They will be more than willing to help the extreme right ” break things to make a new world”.

    How might it start? My guess is that it’s most likely to be a series of Kristall Nächte directed against Muslim immigrants and that it’ll snowball from there.


  27. markfromireland

    Open to correction Pluto but I think the date for distribution to begin was 2018. I’ll believe in the advance payment fees when I see them. A lot can happen in 2½ years. Including the installation of a compliant Greek government however achieved.


  28. I agree 100% with @sturdyAlex’s take:

  29. So I know that a lot of you are chomping at the Grexit bit, but if a Grexit happens, it has to happen as a direct action and choice of the creditors.

    This is what the referendum bought. I told you in my post that the point of the referendum was to “sea lion” the creditors: to force them into a persistent political dialogue that they did not want to have. They are having this dialogue, and it is up to Schaeuble to pull the plug on it. To utter the Machtwort.

  30. The fat lady sings.

    It is only the first act.

  31. Ian Welsh

    Schauble is not going to: Merkel will not allow it now that the US has yanked her chain.

    And that means that Greece will not end austerity. I stand by the consequences I predicted for that, and say that Tsripas, from what I’m seeing from Greece, could pull the plug if he wanted “you said no to the deal, and Europe still refuses to deal fairly. We’re leaving.”

    Failure to do so will is sure death for Syriza. Doing so would give Syriza a chance—if Grexit works by the next election, they’re golden. If not, well, at least they tried to take a shot.

  32. Yes. If Grexit is forced (and the German finance ministry is basically saying, against France, etc that the capitulation of Syriza is insufficient), it becomes completely obvious that Schaeuble is the Euroking. If it isn’t, then the whole attempt at ousting Syriza was a miscalculation — Syriza’s very survival without Grexit is the political victory. The nitty-gritty details of the package were not that important in themselves — austerity was happening either way even under Grexit, it was not a get out of jail free card.

  33. My “yes” was to Stirling.

    Failure to do so will is sure death for Syriza. Doing so would give Syriza a chance—if Grexit works by the next election, they’re golden. If not, well, at least they tried to take a shot.

    Grexit and the survival of Syriza are actually orthogonal. Even if they get help from Russia, Russia is not inherently “Syrizist”. Golden Dawn will also be happy to cooperate with Putin and without the lefty internationalism and left-liberal social attitudes.

  34. That is not to say that Syriza will necessarily survive Euro-internal austerity either, of course. What I know is that precipitous actions must be taken by the Eurozone itself, and Schaeble’s principal fear has been that Syriza can portray even its temporary survival as a government as a victory, since he and Dijsselbloem and so on made it in the end, more or less explicitly about destroying Syriza before a deal.

  35. fsw

    Meanwhile in South America The Guardian reports Unbridled capitalism is the ‘dung of the devil’, says Pope Francis. Actually he said rather more than that:

    Meh. I liked it better when it had killer robots in it.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén