If I were Greek, I’d be tempted to vote for the Marxist – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: Saturday, January 24, 2015

Part of the point of a small, weak country such as Greece being in the euro
was supposed to be to protect it from international financial storms. The
opposite has happened. The system incited it to borrow and spend madly, but
then, when it did so, decided to punish it till the crack of doom. If Greece
alone were at stake, the mighty in Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels could
quite happily let it leave the eurozone at once and reach a rate for its new
drachma that would eventually make it competitive once again. But they
won’t, because of what they fear might follow in Spain, Italy, Portugal,
even France. Nor, however, will they wholeheartedly undertake its rescue
within the system. Truly, the country is being broken.

In these circumstances, it is hard to disagree with Syriza’s leader, Alexis
Tsipras, when he says: “We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill
democracy.” I was amused to read a learned, anxious article in the Financial
Times
this week, which speculated about whether Mr Tsipras will
ultimately let “reason or unreason” prevail. The author did not say which is
which, as if FT readers all knew. But where is the “reason” in the
centrist, moderate Greek parties which, for several years, have conspired
with the Troika to impoverish their country? Might there not be some reason
in electing a party prepared to make “impossible” demands? Then the European
elites might be frightened enough to give it what it asked for. (David
Cameron, please note.) If they don’t, would things be much worse than before?

Greece’s situation is more like a colonial than a democratic one. The old
colonial powers hated extreme liberation movements, and clung on by buying
off the princelings and merchants of the countries they ruled. But the
lesson those movements learnt was that it was by unreason and the threat of
revolt that they ultimately prevailed. Colonialism thus gave rise to
extremism. The eurozone is run colonially – with Greece as a troublesome
outlying territory and Germany as the dominant and most exacting power.
Syriza is the logical, desperate response to this. If I were a Greek, I
might well think: “Why not vote for it and see what happens? I have little
to lose.”

Before the credit crunch, there was talk of something called “The Great
Moderation”, which was supposedly bringing eternal prosperity to the free
world. Our leaders have had to shut up about that, but there remains, even
in Britain, a curious desire to shore up what went wrong. This is surely The
Great Unreason – more unreasonable, even, than the student Marxism of Mr
Tsipras.

You can see this in the reaction to the European Central Bank’s QE on
Thursday. Most people spoke well of it because it might help the eurozone
out of deflation. It probably does put off the evil day, and it was
certainly a diplomatic coup by Mario Draghi to have outmanoeuvred the strict
German doctrines that until now have prevailed. But what people are not
talking about is his ultimate purpose. It is to do, as Mr Draghi promised
two and a half years ago, “whatever it takes to preserve the euro”. What will
it take, exactly? Why should we want it?

In Britain, the prevailing mood is to sigh with relief that we are not in the
thing, and encourage those who are to sort it out. We assume that this can
be done. But surely the lesson of the past few years is that it can’t, for
the essentially simple reason stated in the Eighties, when Jacques Delors
first claimed that Economic and Monetary Union was the best thing since
unsliced baguette. One size cannot fit all. The attempt to make it do so is
financially punitive, socially cruel and politically unmanageable. As the
state of Greece shows, we have now tested the Delors theory almost to
destruction.

So I wonder if we are right to envisage – long-term – a Europe of two sorts
coexisting: one with the euro, one without. It is certainly a more
attractive prospect than an entire Continent bound into one currency like
Sauron’s “one ring to rule them all” in Tolkien. But if the euro does not
and cannot work, even for many of its existing members, isn’t that already
very damaging for all of us, and will it not become more so the longer its
collapse is postponed? If – when – the euro fails, there might really be a
chance to build a European Community based on cooperation rather than
coercion, and nations rather than union.

The saddest thing in all this is the plight of Greece. But the strangest thing
is the state of Germany. As Margaret Thatcher predicted and Helmut Kohl and
François Mitterrand pooh-poohed, the single currency has made Germany by far
the most powerful country in Europe. It has made it more competitive by
giving it a relatively cheap currency. But the euro also threatens to
debauch Germany’s unimpeachable post-war achievement, financial soundness.
Mr Draghi’s attempts to create a genuine monetary union make the zone’s most
important nation terrified that it will lose what it sees as its money to
the beggars. The suffering south is trying to take the money of the
oppressive north. This is a recipe for strife. So each step towards
completion of the euro-dream makes its ultimate break-up both more likely
and more explosive.

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