A few things need to be said vis-a-vis the impending Greek clusterfuck. Namely, we’ve been listening for weeks on end how the two sides, that is the heavily indebted Greece on one side and the don’t-call-it-Troika on the other were haggling over the finer points of tax hikes, spending cuts, projected values and sums calculated. But for some time now the one thought that has been bugging pengovsky was that we’ve seen it all before. Not in terms of the current economic and financial omnishambles – although one could argue that nothing has apparently been learned either from the Cypriot example or from previous failures of “saving Greece” – but more generally.
While most of the following is, obviously, based on media and other reports which inherently carry their own bias, it would seem that what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. The shituation in Greece is not unlike the run-up to World War One or The Cuban Missile Crisis. In both cases, the conflicting sides were convinced they understood the position of the other side perfectly and in 1914 it ended in disaster, while in 1962 disaster was only narrowly averted. This is what happens when parties involved expect each other to behave according to their respective plans. When that doesn’t happen, bad things occur. And when bad thing occur, every new move, if not carefully calculated, only adds to the clusterfuck. And it is safe to say that calculated and measured moves were very few and far between, on both sides.
Greek PM Tsipras and his stellar FinMin Varoufakis seem to have expected the EU will simply roll over for the two of them after Syriza won the Greek elections. As if things will automatically start moving in a new and more healthy way just on their say so. Well, they didn’t and had they understood what was it that the Troika was after, they would not have spent months grandstanding and posturing (look ‘ma, no tie!) around Europe, achieving practically nothing. But on the other hand, had the Eurogroup and especially Frau Merkel understood what the Syriza victory in Greece actually meant in terms of legitimacy of austerity policy (rather than trying to prove to Greek voters they voted wrongly), things might have moved forward, despite the initial clumsiness of the Greek Duo. As things stand, there is not an innocent party in this sorry story. All of them have boxed themselves in with their own rules of engagement that could only degenerate into the current shituation.
As pressure bar goes way up into the red, accusations of communists in Athens trying to set Europe alight as well as accusations of fat cats in Brussels trying to make an example of Greece and shift the burden of the bailout squarely on the shoulders of the poorest strata of Greek society. Neither are exactly true, in pengovsky’s opinion.
Yes, this is an ideological fight. Whoever maintains that it is only the Greek government who is flaunting ideology suffers from a massive (self-inflicted) blind spot. Even adhering to pure maths means taking an ideological position. But just as the Greek government is “far left” only in terms of the general European discourse being right-of-centre, the don’t-call-it-Troika is a far cry from a 21st century incarnation of the Sherrif on Nottingham, case in point the latest proposal by the European Commission which, for example, calls for a larger cut in defence spending, a wider base for luxury tax, closing of tax loopholes, et cetera.
Point being there is nothing to be gained from an ideological shouting match. Other than shifting the blame, that is. Which is what the current rush to win the battle for interpretation looks like. Not so much wanting to find a way forward but making sure the other party is to blame when things go all the way south. Thus Varoufakis says Greece has a clear conscience re negotiations. That may be. And I’m sure Merkel, Dijsselbloem and the lot feel the same.
Isn’t that nice. The whole common currency project is about to go tits-up, possibly dragging the Union with it but everyone will have a clear conscience. Here’s a newsflash: you dimwits were not tasked with runing the show to have clear consciences but get shit done.
Conspiracy theories aside, plenty of European press seems to be clamouring for a “12th hour deal”, either counting on Tsipras/Varoufakis to see the light or Merkel, Draghi and even Juncker balking at the idea of going down in history as leaders under whose stewardship the euro (and by extension the EU) started to disintegrate. This line of thought has a big problem: Both “The Institutions” and the Greek government are convinced it is precisely their actions which can save the euro/EU while actions of the opposite side are “uneuropean, inhumane and illogical”. Not necessarily in that particular order. It is, as KAL some time ago so aptly pointed out, a classic case of irresistible force meeting an immovable object. It seems doubly ironic that a renowned expert in game theory should be an active participant in the dismal failure of the entire enterprise. Yes, I’m looking at you, Yanis.
True, both Greece and the don’t-call-it-Troika seem to have gone so far down the chute that a working deal is for all intents and purposes impossible without either of the sides caving in completely. So perhaps what is needed is a non-working deal? Something both sides need to save their respective faces (if not asses), knowing full well that the goals laid out will not be met. Because it is not as if all the previous goals set for Greece were met with flying colours.
So, here we are, with Greek banks closed, capital controls in place and EUR 60 cash withdrawal limit per bank account and/or person. Save a surprising yes vote by the Greeks on the #greferendum (which would, in turn, probably trigger new elections, further complicating events), the country is moving rapidly towards leaving the euro. Just how this plays out no-one knows.
A wise man once said that to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. The same goes for current omnishambles. The EU and the euro were always perceived as one-way streets. If Greece leaves the euro and possibly the EU as well, the Pandora’s box will have been opened and things thought impossible will suddenly become deceptively easy and many-a-politician’s weapon of last resort. Because if Greece leaves the euro, why not Germany? I’m sure a relevant political party with an anti-euro agenda would appear in no time.
June 29th, 2015, posted by pengovsky