Βy Manos Cížek

30 Ιουνίου 2015
There is an article in the Times today entitled «Tsipras and his naive cronies have no one to blame but themselves» by Ian King. His article neatly summarizes a good chunk of the technocratic neoliberal rhetoric against the #Greferendum. Although it contains plenty of taunts and adjectives, I will skip all that and cut to the chase.

I am not a journalist or a political commentator, however as a greek citizen, I feel obliged to put a couple of things in perspective and bust a myth or two about the ongoing situation in my country.

«This time last year, Greece was the eurozone’s fastest-growing economy». Oi! Where was I when this happened? In Greece, apparently. Athens in particular, the country’s capital. Well then, why didn’t I notice all this growth?

Hm, perhaps because unemployment kept rising, pensions kept being cut, more people kept falling bellow the poverty line and occassionally jumping from their balconies – if they had a home, that is.

Ah, but then, what is Mr. King referring to when he says growth? Let’s see.

«Greece had begun to achieve a primary budget surplus. And, astonishingly, in April last year it had even returned to the bond market, selling €3 billion of five-year bonds with a yield of 4.95 per cent.»

He is referring to numbers! Oh well, that explains it. I was referring to people, not numbers on excel sheets. That’s why I didn’t get it. I don’t hang out much with numbers lately -although I am a theoretical physicist- so that’s probably why the fastest growing european economy last year totally slipped my attention.

Greece’s economy was growing fast on paper -and on paper alone. However, at the streets it was talking a nose dive. Because the values of those bonds and surpluses benefitted only the banks, the oligarchs and those politicians who try to run a country like it is a business.

Well, it isn’t a business. A country needs balanced budgets and a welfare state, in order to grow. Not budget surpluses. It’s the people who need to grow, primarily. It’s us, humans, who need to live well and prosper. Not the numbers.

On the contrary, if you have to choose between sacrificing a budget surplus or the welfare state, you sacrifice the surplus, keep the welfare state, and go on deficit for a while. That’s how it used to be in the old days, when Europe was founded. That’s also how Roosevelt helped the US to get back on their feet after the crach.

Now, Mr. King did say something I partly agree with.

«Should Mr Tsipras triumph in the referendum, Grexit begins to look inevitable. But do not suppose that such an outcome would represent a panacea for Greece, as some have suggested».

Certainly the memoranda weren’t a panacea either, as some have suggested. They were the desease rather than the cure. And if the latest proposal of the Troika (a.k.a. Institutions) is accepted by the greek people, this will destroy Greece for ever.

Let me just note, indicatively, that one of this proposal’s hideous terms is that all pensions should be completely cut by 2021.

Let’s see what else Mr. King has to say.

«Greece is not a big exporter, so devaluation via a return to the drachma would not be a miracle cure for the woes of its economy. It might make its tourism sector more competitive, but that’s about it».

Well, well. Good think then that tourism is Greece’s heaviest and most profitable industry! No wonder the current proposal tries to take it down by increasing VAT in the islands.

«On the flipside, the cost of imported goods would rocket, bringing unimaginable misery to ordinary Greeks».

Oh the pain. Oh the misery, that I won’t be able to consume imported goods anymore. In the same exact manner that I haven’t been consuming almost anything for the last 5 years, because I don’t have any money to do so.

Oh the pain, of the unimaginable dark dark night that lies ahead of us, when the prices of imported goodies go up, up and away. No more Coca-Cola for us folks, no more foie gra from France, no more Nike shoes from Indonesia, no more vegetables from New Zealand or spaghetti from Italy.

Could it just be that, if we return to the drachma, we can produce some of this stuff ourselves, by strengthening the primary sector of the economy?

Could it just be that by importing less while producing more and distributing equitably we could start covering our basic needs? And by «we» I mean the 7 million of us who live below the poverty line. Currently it seems that, despite all the imports, we are still undergoing a devastating humanitarian crisis in Greece.

Despite all the efforts of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund to save us, we are perishing. We don’t need more saving from you guys. Please go away. Like, for ever.

With the euro it is that people can’t afford to buy food or medicines for nearly 5 years now. With the euro it is that the brightest minds of my generation are forced to migrate or are destroyed by poverty. I think I can live without the euro, since it is the euro that’s been killing me for all these years now. And I can certainly live with consuming less imported goods. Even if I have to cut facebook, that’s fine.

People in Greece lived for many decades without facebook. And without euro. It is each other that we have lost, it is mutual aid that we need to regain. Online social networking isn’t a fundamental human need, neither a monetary union. Love and solidarity are.

Mutual aid is inscribed in the constitution of Greece, in the founding principles of the European Union and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The welfare state and democracy are what the French revolution gained by overthrowing the aristocracy. It is not philanthropy we are talking about here, it is the sustainability of a nation relied upon the sustainability of the lives of its citizens.

Since a lot of people seem to have forgotten, let me remind you what the definition of the welfare state is.

«A welfare state is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life.»
The man who saved Germany after WW2, the sociologist T. H. Marshall, identified the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism. If you remove the welfare state from the picture, that is, remove the loci of all labour and human rights, within the context of capitalism, then you are turning a country into a special economic zone.

Fast forward this picture a few decades and you will get a concentration camp of free slave labour. Hence, fascism. Alternatively, if you want to do away both with the welfare state and with capitalism, then you’ll probably retrograde into feudalism. In either case, the only way forward is with the welfare state preserved. Again, that means a state that prioritizes people over profits.

This was once the Europian Union’s founding mission. And it is Greece’s need today. A ghost is haunting Europe. It is the ghost of the welfare state.

Πηγή: Astrophysics of Scattered Life
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