“In history,” wrote Rob Urie, “the Nazi Occupation of Greece created moral and factual debts owed to the Greek people that couldn’t be repaid in several epochs. This history includes tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Greeks starved to death to feed the German people and their armies, and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Greeks publicly hung, shot or executed in ‘death vans.’”
When thinking about the situation in Greece, a nation that is being asked to accept harsh financial reforms in order be able to pay off debts to (mostly) Germany, it’s hard to look past the fairly recent history between these two nations. For some reason, not being able to pay off predatory loans is seen as a greater moral problem than being bailed out after a failed campaign of aggression to occupy the entire world.
That’s part of why I think that it is good that the Greeks just refused to accept the deal offered by their creditors. But more broadly, this “no” vote is a rejection not just of this particular referendum, but of a much deeper problem that goes beyond the particulars and even the immediate global implications of the crisis in Greece. What this is really about is the weaponization of global capital, which, as Naomi Klein has documented at length, has proved to be a much more effective means of occupying the world than the methods of the Axis countries during the Second World War. Mandela and the ANC were able to take over the government of South Africa, but they were powerless against the financial institutions, who forced them to chose between playing by their rules or facing economic destruction. Hopefully, this will become a choice that we no longer have to make.
Here’s what others are saying:
I would argue that Europe, and the European idea, just won big—at least in the sense of dodging a bullet.
I know that’s not how most people see it. But think of it this way: we have just witnessed Greece stand up to a truly vile campaign of bullying and intimidation, an attempt to scare the Greek public, not just into accepting creditor demands, but into getting rid of their government. It was a shameful moment in modern European history, and would have set a truly ugly precedent if it had succeeded.
The current circumstance of Greece is more systemic than particular. French and German banks made the same predatory loans across the European periphery. Stupidity, ignorance and / or ideological blindness may explain as much or more than malevolence, but expertise in assessing the capacity to repay loans is the business of bankers, not borrowers. The failure of ‘center’ governments to hold malevolent and / or incompetent bankers to account while forcing the consequences of their poor business decisions onto those least able to resist them ties the ‘excesses’ of the 1990s and 2000s to the prior half-century of predatory banking in the service of neo-imperial conquest.
In this frame it doesn’t all that much matter what Syriza did or didn’t do— the game was rigged from the start.
It’s easy to say what people should want to happen in Greece. It’s just impossible to get there. The Northern Europeans should write a check and make this go away. They should accept the fact that Greece is not going to pay most of its debts. They also need to accept that these debts are partly their fault. These loans were made by Northern European financial institutions, and the Northern Europeans should suffer for making stupid loans, too.
But that won’t happen. Northern European governments like Germany, Finland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Sweden don’t want their banks to lose money and they don’t want to tell their voters that they’re handing money to the Greeks.
Immediately after the No vote, Greece demands that the ECB restore full liquidity to the banking system (as any normal lender of last resort is supposed to do). A threat is made—either publicly stated or implicit but communicated to the Eurozone authorities—that if this doesn’t happen, Greece will immediately issue a parallel currency redeemable against future tax payments
If a major expansion of the effective Greek money supply does what one would expect it to—stimulates the Greek economy—this would be a real nightmare for the Eurozone, for reasons that are too obvious to explain. In many ways, it would really be the worst of all possible worst-case scenarios, politically speaking.