Austerity in Greece a Remedy not a Punishment for Self-made Ills

By Con George-Kotzabasis September 23, 2016

My short reply to a political theorist of the Jurgen Habermas School of Critical Theory

It is rather surprising to see a votary of Jurgen Habermas in using an analytic blunted tool that leads to the false inference that malevolent Europeans wilfully imposed upon Greece austerity measures to punish it. The truth is, that these measures were saddled upon Greece as a result of a consumer’s binge and an exuberance of public spending, fuelled, by a profusion of borrowed funds which inevitably pushed Greece into the quagmire of bankruptcy. Austerity therefore and the economic structural changes imposed on the country were a remedy, not a penalty, for the self-inflicted ills that past government policies, mainly of Pasok, engendered.

My question is, why you have not mentioned anything of the pledges, that Kyriakos Mitsotakis had made in his speech at the Exhibition of Thessalonica last Saturday, with their great potential to pull Greece out of its long economic crisis. In my opinion, a government, under the strong and astute leadership of Mitsotakis, will pull Greece out of its immiseration—as the Samaras government was close in achieving. An immiseration that the totally inept Tsipras government is exacerbating, with its historically obsolete neo-Marxist fixations and panaceas.

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Pure Marxism and Lack of Strong Leadership Will Ruin Tsipras Government

Trust those who seek the truth; beware of those who claim to possess it. (Paraphrasing a German dramatist)

Marxists, like God, are omniscient and possess the truth by the Mandate of Heaven, so it is useless to argue against them.

. By Con George-Kotzabasis –May 28, 2015

The inevitable unravelling of the Marxist Government of Syriza will not only be an outcome of its barren stand in its negotiations with Troika and atavistic economic policies, but, also, of its weak leadership. A Marxist led government indispensably requires a centre of power dominated by a strong leader. This absolute requirement is palpably missing in the radical government of Syriza. Its Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, does not hold an indisputable unchallenging dominance in this centre of power due to his effete leadership. The seismic plates of leadership, therefore, continuously move under his feet to the different Marxist factions and personalities of the Party, of whom all in an agonistic rivalry contend for the ever-eluding purity of Marxism whose possession would place the crown of leadership on their head. But since no one in the event can possess the purity of Marxism as by its nature is a disembodied spirit, this agitation among its rivals nonetheless places the government in a chaotic situation, that in the absence of strong leadership, a Tower of Babel rises whose ministers contradict each other and even the Prime Minister. An example of this is Tsipras’s support of the privatization of a public entity and the blatant refusal of the minister in charge of this area to accept this privatization. In such a situation when the reins of a radical government are not in strong hands, its ministers tend to do their own thing as each one of them boastfully professing to have the manifest Marxist destiny to represent and lead the proletariat. (And who could challenge the sundry ministers in their claim to such destiny other than a strong leader?)

Hence, in such conditions where all the factions of Syriza chaotically compete for the mantle of pure Marxism, Lenin’s Democratic Centralism, consisting of a Central Committee and a Politburo, on whose apex sits one person invested with supreme power, is replaced by a politically cacophonous and multi-active polycentrism whose lack of control and direction, in default of strong leadership, not only makes a mockery of democratic centralism and Lenin, but also, more gravely, engenders inexorably a failed state.

Not that Syriza is in want of all the trappings of a Bolshevik state. It has all the corollaries of democratic centralism, such as a Central Committee and a Politburo, which it names a Political Secretariat to eschew any resonance to Stalinism, but it ludicrously lacks the sinewy ruthless leadership material at the centre of power that is the sine qua non of a Bolshevik Party. So it is not surprising that all its methods of how to handle the Memorandum, that has been imposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, as a condition of Greece of being continued funded during its financial crisis, have been in shambles and lack coherence. While Tsipras, and a substantial part of the Ministers Council, show a willingness and a predisposition to make the necessary compromises in their negotiations with the Troika that will convince the latter that the Greek government will implement the austerity policies of the Memorandum and make the necessary structural reforms that will make the country competitive and lead it in the short term to solvency (As the Samaras Government was in the process of achieving), the radical Left Platform of Syriza refuses adamantly to make these compromises and constructs a “strategic breach” with the Euro zone and a return to the drachma. But even in the event that the Government clinches an agreement with the Troika early next month–there is a great doubt whether the Tsipras Government will be able to implement and materialize these structural reforms in the face of dogmatic and strong opposition by the faction of the Left Platform and the client Unions of the public sector–the Government will be just as doomed. Hence, this political and ideological chasm between the top leadership of the Party and its major faction, the Left Platform, is unbridgeable and will remain so as a result of the non-existence of strong leadership.

Tsipras is no Lenin. The latter realizing that the first socialist policies of the Bolsheviks by 1921 were failing, immediately replaced them with the New Economic Policy that was capitalist oriented giving people more freedom to produce and trade, he imposed this capitalistic policy upon the Party by dint of his strong unchallenged leadership and thus saved his government from obliteration. Tsipras on the other hand with his feeble weak leadership is unable to impose upon the recalcitrants of his Party the policy that will save both his government and the country. The Tsipras Government is a mad house whose “interns” all think they are Lenin and practise the ruthless and callous policies of the “great” man, breaking eggs to make omelettes, to paraphrase Lenin.

The cause of the ruin of the Tsipras Government lies in Alexis Tsipras himself. But the great tragedy for the Greek people, who in a lapse of prudence elected Syriza into power, will be that while Tsipras ruins his government, at the same time he will be wrecking and ravaging Greece for at least a generation.

I rest on my oars: your turn now.

Greece: A Government of Contrived Smiles Behind which Attempts to Hide Incompetence

By Con George-Kotzabasis–January 02, 2015

Not only the ideologically antiquated and totally irresponsible and hasty announcements of the ministers of the new government, that led to the collapse of the Greek stock exchange and the stratospheric rise of interest rates, but also their body language, as shown in their performance before TV cameras, exposed with ridicule their witless incompetence. The Minister of State, Nikos Pappas, interviewed on Mega TV, was trying in despair to evade and not to answer the questions of the two interviewers and to cover the poverty of his arguments behind endless contrived smiles.

More gravely, but also more comically, the Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis, in the press conference held in Athens last Friday with the head of the European Union (EU) Jeroen Dijssebloem, with tongue-in-cheek and with supercilious righteousness was elaborating with complacent fabricated smiles the ‘perfectly remedial’ counter proposals of the Tsipras Government that would end the crisis to the presumably destructive austerity program of the EU that according to the government was exacerbating it. A program however that aimed, and apparently was succeeding, as indeed did in Ireland and Portugal, in pulling Greece out of the crisis, as recent economic statistics were indicating and serious international commentators were averring. Varoufakis in his last answer to the question of a journalist, in a bravura theatrical performance, described the Troika, the representatives of the EU, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, as being “rotten in its foundations” and the Greek Government would not negotiate with it but only directly with the heads of these three institutions. Dijssebloem sitting next to the Greek minister listening to the translation from Greek to English had a look on his face as if he couldn’t believe his ears. Varoufakis on the other hand had lost all his pompous confidence and showed in his movements and facial expression that he was unsure whether he had said the right thing or not. Totally riveted in his self-doubt and diffidence he seemed like a little child that had lost its way. But the crown of thorns that was placed by Dijssebloem on the head of Varoufakis came when the latter proferred his hand to the former and receiving a contemptuous cold handshake and hearing in bafflement at the same time the head of the EU whispering to him that what he said “was a big mistake.” At the end of this grandiloquent thespian performance by the minister of finance, just before the curtains fell, Varoufakis’ body language showed the depth of his confusion and perplexity and his attempt to hide them behind contrived artificial smiles.

It is by such stuff and political buffoonery that the Tsipras Government will remedy all the ills that the ‘evil’ Troika brought to Greece. This government of a medley of Marxists, socialists, and anarcho-syndicalists posit a great danger to the country as it plans to implement the by now defunct nostrums of its ideology, such as the expansion of the public sector, the nationalization of banks, airlines, ports, and electric and water services, the unbridled extension of the State, a highly regulated business sector, hence, replanting all the poisonous seeds into the soil of Greece that brought a blighted crop of economic bankruptcy.

As to Syrizas’ stand toward to the EU and the IMF, it will either stiffen it and thus lead the country to tactless insolvency and back to the drachma, or it will blink before the sharp sighted Europeans and will be forced to renege, and reverse, all the bombastic promises it made to the people before the elections. Indeed, Syriza will pour so much water in its wine and make it so tasteless that will turn all the people, who so frivolously believed its false promises and lies and voted for it, into teetotallers.

When Syrizas’ charge of the light brigade against the European Union,’ armoured’ with its chimerical infeasible proposals will be made ‘mincemeat’ by the descendants of the Knights of the North, the romantic riders of Syrizas’ leadership will be compelled to dismount their wistful ideological hobbyhorses for the sake of holding on to power. But the latter also will be an illusion. As the Tsipras Government has failed to convince the EU of the correctness and feasibility of its economic proposals, likewise it will fail to have the support of the Greek people for policies, which preordain, as the collapse of communism, the destruction of Greece.

Greece’s Electoral Theodicy: The Worst of all Possible Worlds

Those “whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” The Greek middle classes, who, with inimitable stupidity, voted for the multi-factional neo-communist party of Syriza, deserve their fate. Like Hitler’s Nazi party in 1933, a communist party has taken power in 2015, not through revolution, not through the bullet but through the ballot of a moronic electorate that fell victim to the blandishments of populism.

Con George-Kotzabasis January 25, 2015

7.30 pm Greek time

Greece: The “Closure” of the National Broadcaster

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The politically thoughtless and opposing stand of Pasok and Demar (Democratic Left) to the closure of the corrupt, wasteful, and non-transparent opaque ERT, by the Samaras government, that needed three or eight times more staff than it was necessary, and its replacement in the next few months by a new public broadcaster employing its personnel on axiocratic criteria and not on corrupt government appointments, could endanger the cohesion of the tripartite coalition that is so crucial of Greece’s exit from the economic crisis. Venizelos and Kouvelis must realize that the political fortunes of their parties, since they made their intelligent, brave, and politically responsible decision to support a New Democracy government, are tied-up with the success or not of the Samaras government of extricating the country from its economic woes and thus saving the country from a devastating and calamitous bankruptcy. The electorate will not remember or extol their parties for their stand against the closure of ERT or for any other issue that is secondary to the main goal, i.e., pulling Greece out of the crisis, but will punish them electorally if the Samaras government fails in this great task.

That is why it is stupendous foolishness on the part of Pasok and Demar to jeopardise the up till now correct policies of the Samaras government that show clearly, according to all serious economic commentators and institutions such as Standard and Poor’s and Finch, that Greece has been put on the right track to overcome the crisis and these policies will reignite its economy at the beginning of next year.

The respective leaders of Pasok and Demar must be constantly alert and on guard not to derail the Samaras government, either by inadvertence or by frivolous, doltish, and politically irresponsible stunts, which with accelerating speed reaches the goal of putting an end to the crisis. As the corollary to the derailment of the Samaras government will be the total political obliteration of Pasok and Demar as a result of their association with a failed government. But it will be worse; their destruction will lead to the destruction of Greece itself. The collapse of the Samaras government will be followed by the rise to power either of the extreme left or the extreme right. Thus Pasok and Demar by contributing accidentally if not stupidly to the collapse of New Democracy will be opening the doors of totalitarianism to the country. Will they persist to oppose the Samaras government on secondary issues with the danger of creating an unstoppable momentum against it that could fracture the ideologically brittle composition of the tripartite government? Will Venizelos and Kouvelis foolishly sow their political wild oats on a ground whose pernicious crop will be Syriza or Golden Dawn?

Hic Rhodus hic salta

Greece:What to Do with Missed the Mark Politics of Coalition Partners?

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 3, 2013

The Samaras’ Government, like Atlas on his back, is carrying and attempting to transform and move Greece’s awesome heavy burden of unprecedented economic insolvency, since the ending of the Second-World-War, onto the stage of economic recovery and development. By succeeding in this most difficult enterprise it will also justify the positive, against the negative, economic remedies formulated in the second Memorandum by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so called Troika, for the purpose of saving Greece from economic catastrophe, and thus simultaneously enhance the credibility, and indeed, the survival of the EU as an institution of crucial influence and guidance in world affairs.

In this call to national salvation three politically and ideologically disparate parties 0f New Democracy, Pasok, (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the Democratic Left (Demar) decided to form a coalition government whose main goal was to keep Greece within the European Union and salvage the country, with the financial help of the latter, from economic bankruptcy that would have devastated the standard of living of the major part of the population and would have brought a proud nation to the status of indigence and economic despair for at least a generation. The two leaders, of Pasok and Demar, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, respectively, seeing the prodigious dangers the country was facing, raised their height to these dire circumstances and wisely decided to stand hand in hand with an ideological opponent, that is, the liberal conservative party of New Democracy and its leader Antonis Samaras, for the purpose of saving Greece from this imminent catastrophe. Hence the two leaders of the left put their ideological reputation and the future viability, and, indeed, the existence of their parties at immense risk by their decision to support a government led by Samaras, their erstwhile conservative opponent, and tie themselves and their parties to the fortunes of the latter, that is, whether the Samaras’ government will succeed or not in pulling the country out of the crisis and start the economic development that is so vital in overcoming the terrifying economic difficulties that Greece countenances at the moment.

There are grounds to make one believe that Greece economically and politically might be at a turning point. The Samaras government after succeeding in convincing its European partners, in exceedingly difficult negotiations, to provide the funds Greece needed, to ignite its economy and place the country on the path of development, under less onerous terms of the bailout than the initial ones the Europeans were demanding. This was a great success and a great achievement of the government and demonstrating at the same time its virtuoso skills in the art of negotiations.

The government announced last month that it had beat its budget targets for 2012. Finance Minister Stournaras claimed that the government was close to achieving a primary surplus—the budget surplus before taking into account payments on the debt—this year that would deliver, according to the mutual agreement of the parties, a further package of help from the Euro-zone.  Employment statistics also showed, that within the span of the last two months the number of workers hired exceeded by nearly nine thousand the number of workers dismissed for the first time since the crisis. Furthermore, the recapitalization of the banks was on track and bound to be consummated in the next few weeks and the spigots of liquidity were therefore ready to be opened that would provide the private sector the funds for investment. Last week, the president of the National Bank stated that levels of liquidity are progressively established and 10 billion Euros could flow into the real economy. And already 50% of one thousand of small and large private enterprises announced that they were preparing to start investing within the current year. The internationally renowned telecommunications company Nokia is planning to establish a branch in Athens that would employ hundreds of highly skilled technicians and could become a magnet that would attract other foreign corporate giants to the country and thus by their presence would provide a continuous economic confidence for the country’s future. The Task Force of the European Commission last week issued favourable reports that the Greek economy was about to be re-ignited although it warned the government that small businesses had been dried of funds and their future operations were at risk. Also the credit ratings agency Moody’s estimated that Greece would have a positive rate of growth in 2014, after five years of negative growth.

Thus we see that there are ample encouraging signs that Greece might be at the crucial point of overcoming the crisis. It is most important therefore that the two parties, Pasok and Demar, that support the Samaras government, must first take note of these auspicious indices and that the current measures of the government are putting the country on the axis of economic development, and second, must not jeopardise this favourable situation by rigidly sticking to their parties position on other issues, such as labor relations and on the restructuring of the public sector, which are contrary to the overall current policy of the government and could endanger the economic progress the latter is making in overcoming the crisis.

The coalition partners must become fully aware that their political viability is tied up not with the sacred ideological position these parties hold on a variety of issues, contra the neo-liberal position of New Democracy, and pushing these toward their consummation, at this critical juncture whose primary goal is the salvation of the country, is a most imprudent diversion from the main goal. On the contrary, their political future is tied up with the success of the Samaras government in pulling the country out of the crisis. The electorate will not remember them and will not elect them for being pure to their ideological position but for their pragmatic support of a neo-liberal government that saved Greece from economic oblivion and mass poverty. In the event the Samaras administration fails in this complex immensely difficult and great task would likewise totally discredit and everlastingly condemn and cast to political oblivion both Pasok and Demar for their support of this failed government, no matter how favorable the former have been on other minor issues, in comparison to the major issue, that are dear to the hearts of the many. Their responsibility to the country and to themselves therefore lies in their pragmatic assessment of the policies of the government beyond ideology as to whether they are better placed to extricate the country from the crisis.

It is for this reason that in this process of the Renaissance of Greece, under the wise and strong leadership of Antonis Samaras, the cohesion of these partners in the salvation of the country is of unaccountable importance. Thus for Pasok and Demar not to miss the mark is to realize that the failure or success, in this uniquely historical venture of saving Greece, will determine their political viability in the future and not their ideological hues on secondary issues.

I rest on my oars:your turn now

A Functional Government is a Prerequisite for Handling Crisis in Greece

I’m republishing the following short piece that was written on June 20, 2012. As events have shown since then  it was the unity of the tripartite government of New Democracy, Pasok, and the Democratic Left, that was set-up post-election, in regard to the policies to be followed with its negotiations with the European Union that has kept Greece within the union and has given the country a new opportunity to overcome the crisis. There are favorable signs that Greece under the strong and resilient leadership of Antonis Samaras the miracle of an economically resurgent Greece is about to unfold. 

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The present position of Evangelos Venizelos the leader of Pasok that the government to be formed on June 18 must include Syriza in a coalition of other parties so that it can presumably deal more effectively with European leaders in regard to the necessary modifications of the Second Memorandum, is to repeat the stupendous error of the Democratic Left, under the pusillanimous leadership of Fotis Kouvelis, when it too had placed the same pre-condition after the May 6 election. The present profound crisis of Greece needs a functional government with united policies and realistic and decisive leadership that can pull the country out of the crisis and not a government of factions whose deep differences of how to handle the negotiations with the European Union would inevitably lead to intestine fights and to the collapse of such government that would seriously exacerbate the crisis. Thus the pleading for a wider coalition as Venizelos proposes will result with mathematical precision to a dysfunctional government irretrievably incapable of handling the crisis.