Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hello Greece—Syriza forms a government

The EU now has a member that intends to take aim at the heart of EU power—the control of the continent by the creditor classes.  Big money has run things for a very long time so Greece is taking on an almost impossible task.  And it doesn't seem like Syriza has a coherent strategy.  Here in the American midwest, the major critiques of the "money trusts" came from agriculture and other small business types who typically voted Republican.  Monetary debates are far less passionate on the Left, and Syriza is nothing if not a Left grouping.

But one thing the left is very good at is symbolism and wow, did Tsipras kick off his government in style.  First he visits a memorial to the lefties murdered by the Nazis and then he welcomes the Russian ambassador first.  Apparently, the Greeks are quite angry with Germany these days—to the point of being willing to do something desperate.  And while the power of the creditor classes is based on illusion, their ability to summon the might of armies and intelligent agencies is quite real.  The Creditor / Predators know there are considerable incentives to nip this debt-forgiveness idea in the bud.  After all, if Greece gets off the hook, why not the rest of southern Europe, or for that matter, why not all of Europe, or the rest of the world.

I cheer for the Greeks because without debt restructuring, there is absolutely NO chance of building the necessary upgrades necessary to avoid the climate and related catastrophes.  The banksters are the enemy of civilization—of human life itself.  Anyone who is willing to take on their greed and stupidity should be supported by any sentient being.

Germans Are In Shock As New Greek Leader Starts With A Bang


In his first act as prime minister on Monday, Alexis Tsipras visited the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944.

The move did not go unnoticed in Berlin. Nor did Tsipras's decision hours later to receive the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official.

Then came the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to "fiscal waterboarding", would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticising an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.

The assumption in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's entourage before Sunday's Greek election was that Tsipras, the charismatic leader of the far-left Syriza party, would eke out a narrow victory, struggle to form a coalition, and if he managed to do so, shift quickly from confrontation to compromise mode.

Instead, after cruising to victory and clinching a fast-track coalition deal with the right-wing Independent Greeks party, he has signalled in his first days in office that he has no intention of backing down, unsettling officials in Berlin, some of whom admit to shock at the 40-year-old's fiery start.

"No doubt about it, we were surprised by the size of the Syriza victory and the speed with which Tsipras clinched a coalition," said one senior German official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Another said Tsipras's choice of coalition partner and finance minister were "not good signs", while a third admitted to being "stunned" by the Greek leader's first days in office.

Officials close to Merkel say they still believe Tsipras will ultimately change course, dropping his more radical election pledges and signing up to the economic reforms that Berlin and its European partners have insisted on as a condition for handing over more aid that Athens desperately needs by next month to service its debt.

But the past days have sown doubts about this hypothesis.

Radical change

Even as Greek stocks plunged and bond yields soared on Wednesday, Tsipras continued to promise "radical" change. Over the past 24 hours, his government has put two big privatisations, of Piraeus port and Greece's biggest utility, on ice, and his ministers have pledged to raise pensions and rehire fired public sector workers.

In response, German economy minister and deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticised Athens on Wednesday in unusually stark terms for halting the privatisations without consulting, and he issued a warning to Tsipras that the euro zone could survive without Greece.

"We no longer have to worry like we did back then," Gabriel said, when asked about contagion if Greece were to exit the single currency bloc.

Marcel Fratzscher, head of the DIW economic institute in Berlin and a former official at the European Central Bank, said Tsipras was playing a "very dangerous game" by coming out with all guns blazing.

"If people start to believe that he is really serious, you could have massive capital flight and a bank run," Fratzscher said. "You are quickly at a point where a euro exit becomes more possible."

Officials point to a Brussels summit of European Union leaders on Feb. 12-13 as a first key test of Tsipras.

Russia threat

The other major area of concern for Germany is a new Greek government's stance on Russia.

Tsipras's meeting on Monday with the Russian ambassador, who handed over a personal letter of congratulations from Vladimir Putin, and the new Greek leader's howls of protest at the EU statement on Ukraine, have raised questions about whether the bloc's fragile consensus towards Moscow can hold.

Even before Tsipras took power, officials in Berlin were worried about keeping countries like Italy on board for Russia sanctions, which must be renewed in mid-2015.

Now the fear is that Tsipras, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and sceptical eastern European countries like Slovakia and Hungary, could band together against an extension, and a ratcheting up of sanctions in response to a new advance by pro-Russian rebels on the strategic Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Prying Tsipras away from his European partners on the Ukraine issue would be a coup for Putin. Some officials fear the Russian president could go so far as to offer Greece the financial support it needs to meet its debt obligations as a carrot.

One senior German official described Tsipras as part of a brash new generation of European leaders, including Italy's Renzi, who weren't afraid to stand up to Merkel and challenge the assumptions that have shaped policy in the euro zone and Ukraine crises in recent years.

"He doesn't come from the establishment, he's unvarnished, confident and capable of rallying the public behind his course," the official said. "It clearly not going to be easy with him."

No one can say the signs weren't there in the run-up to the election.

Only days before the vote, Tsipras told thousands of people at a campaign rally in Athens: "On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad."

In the background loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song "First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin". more

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