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May 08, 2012

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alle

Regardless of the capacity and intentions of the Greek army, is Golden Dawn really able to go apeshit in the way required for this to work? They don't seem organized and numerous enough (yet) for anyone to take them seriously as an extraparliamentary threat to order.

(Coming to think of it, what happened to all the Greek far-left terrorism?)

jamie

Not so much that they can cause real mayhem, but that whatever they can cause might be deployed as a trigger mechanism in a context where there may be a general received overclass assumption of equivalence between actual Left and crazy Right.

Incidentally, I realise that I'm liable to the charge of predicting 200 of the last zero coups in various places, but I don't see why the above isn't a potential scenario in the circumstances. Anyway, the blog wouldn't be the same without it.

I suspect the autonomist left terrorism got dissolved in the general street resistance, this being where the action is.

CMcM

Scenario 4 is the only one which might lead the EU to initiate Greece's expulsion from both the Euro and the union itself of course.

Sobering thoughts.

sf reader

I should never have clicked on it, a moment of total inexcusable weakness, but there is an epically objectionable Applebaum article on Slate (I know, I know - but even by her/the editors' standards this thing is atrocious) that lays the groundwork for equating left extremists and right extremists. She basically asserts equivalence in Sarkozy's and Hollande's between-round pandering, which is complete balderdash AND manages to ignore that to the extent Hollande pandered it was to make slight feints towards the *right* for heaven's sake, not the left. The only reason I can discern that Applebaum gets any oxygen whatsoever is that she provides a similar cocktail-chatter level of channeling to Friedman re: what "all the right kind of people" are thinking. Thus, a troubling data point supporting Scenario 4 - the elites are already mindlessly equating the outer fringes of right and left.

bert

In this scenario, is the army acting autonomously?
Or is the military being used to seize control of Greece to serve an ulterior set of purposes?

Misha Glenny recently talked about how rich Balkan interests with hot money were angling for Greek default, exit and devaluation as the means to loot state assets at bargain prices.

The worse things get - and this has signs of getting very bad very quickly - the more such previously marginal stuff leaks out into the world of actual problems that need worried about.

Phil

the elites are already mindlessly equating the outer fringes of right and left

They always have, and not just the paid-up capital-E elites either - mention George Galloway to Sunny Hundal some time.

By my reckoning 35% of the vote went to radical Left anti-austerity parties, as against maybe 10% to the radical Right; I think if anyone wants to whip up a state of emergency they'll just go straight to waving the red flag.

nick s

The only reason I can discern that Applebaum gets any oxygen whatsoever is that she provides a similar cocktail-chatter level of channeling to Friedman

"Pillow Talk From Poland With Anne A."

ejh

Sunny Hurndal is basically a tenth-rate internet yah-boo-sucks man.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

The Guardian live blog yesterday had a remarkable line:

Greek TV channels are reporting that the country's electoral earthquake has been met with "stunned silence" by officials at the International Monetary Fund in Washington. "Our sources at the fund are telling us they had no idea of the extent of the anger and anti-austerity feeling in Greece. They are amazed," said Alpha TV's Washington correspondent.

Liars or stupid?

chris y

Liars or stupid?

My vote for both. (But I thought that anyway.)

ajay

Scenario 4 is the only one which might lead the EU to initiate Greece's expulsion from both the Euro and the union itself of course.

Frankly I don't really see a way for Greece to stay in: they've got to get money from somewhere, and if they don't want to raise taxes (won't work fast enough anyway) or cut spending, and no one is willing to lend them any more (seems a fair assumption), then the only option is to run the presses.

chris y

Financial establishment: "OK, we're going to impoverish you all for a generation in order to protect the profit margins of our favoured elites."

Greeks: "Oh fuck off, do."

Financial establishment: "Err... did we say something wrong?"

Really, how hard is this stuff?

dsquared

no one is willing to lend them any more (seems a fair assumption)

I don't see that it is; the EU and IMF are falling over themselves to lend Greece money, and it's not like leaving the euro is a harm-free solution.

Guano

"Liars or stupid?"

My time in African countries undergoing IMF-led austerity programmes has led me to believe that the IMF and World Bank (and the diplomatic community in general) take a great interest in how the public react to these programmes. They are very interested in knowing how far you can push austerity before there are riots (and what the other factors are in the equation).

ajay

I don't see that it is; the EU and IMF are falling over themselves to lend Greece money

But in exchange for austerity measures, which ex hypothesi won't be happening now. Or are you thinking that the Greeks will now call the Troika's bluff by saying "we're not going to do austerity, keep lending us money anyway" and the Troika will cave in? Or the Greek government'll manage to close the gap and get by somehow by raising taxes on the rich (or rather enforcing payment of taxes)?

dsquared

Or are you thinking that the Greeks will now call the Troika's bluff by saying "we're not going to do austerity, keep lending us money anyway" and the Troika will cave in?

Substitute "we're going to reduce the degree of austerity" and yes; this is how basically every IMF program in the history of the IMF has worked out. They're made to be renegotiated. And as I say, it is not as if the Euro exit option is austerity free; at the very least it would mean fuel rationing.

ejh

I certainly lean towards "liars", although I'd bear in mind what Mason says about the European centre having roots (not really the right word) in the mainstream media and mainstream politics, and the connected point that the consequences of austerity, even extreme austerity, don't much affect affluent people. And if it doesn't affect you, it's very tempting (and very common) to assume that other people can keep on putting up with it.

But on the other hand, "we are shocked by election result that everybody has predicted for months" is not a totally convincing claim.

Solomon Hughes

Progress, Lord Sainsbury's organisation inside the Labour Party , are, inevitably, among the first UK commentators implying that Alexis Tsipras is in some way equivalent to, or as bad as the fascists of Golden Dawn. They are currently carrying an article claiming :-

"the elections in Greece, where regular politics have been almost entirely given over to fascisms of right and left, show the full and terrible consequences of unrestrained austerity."

ajay

the full and terrible consequences of unrestrained austerity

...being "people get elected who are anti-austerity".

dsquared: OK, fair enough.

CMcM

this is how basically every IMF program in the history of the IMF has worked out. They're made to be renegotiated.

I'm sure this is true - or at least often has been true. I've been constantly impressed by the degree of sheer inventiveness displayed by the political and financial elite across Europe in trying to keep the show on the road, as it were, despite several moments when it seemed as though the whole edifice of European finance was looking distinctly wobbly. So I'm not ruling out such a solution - indeed, Mason talks about the possibility of the ECB & IMF writing off more Greek debt as one scenario.

But I think they're running out of wriggle room, I really do. & their natural allies inside Greece have just been humiliated at the polls. So now they have even more of a 'tin ear' for the political realities on the ground, and there's a disconnect between what actually happens and the levers the elite will still try to go on pulling.

It's finely poised I'd say. My guess is no single group of interests has a decisive say over what happens next. So, at a certain point, one can imagine the tone of the reporting shifting from 'Greece - in or out of the Euro?' to 'do we want an orderly or disorderly exit?'.

Phil

fascisms of right and left

Jesus wept.

OK, let's do this properly. Thirteen parties took 1% or more of the vote in Greece; the rest accounted for about 5% between them. They look like this:

Pro-'austerity', more or less: 36.4%
Anti-'austerity', Right: 20.5%
- of which actual Fascists: 9.9%
Anti-'austerity', Left: 37.6%
- of which actual Communists: 9.6%

Opposition to austerity: 58%
Support for either Pasok or ND: 32%
Support for Fascism: 10%

dsquared

Also I wouldn't necessarily take Alpha TV's assessment of whether the IMF was amazed, surprised, etc at face value. They might have mistaken "stunned silence" for the normal diplomatic kind. It is not as if this would be the first IMF riot in history and they are aware that programs are always unpopular. Saying things like this is part of their PR strategy - it's consciously part of the IMF's function to draw fire away from domestic politicians. They might have been a bit surprised at how well Golden Dawn did.

Solomon Hughes

Obviously Greece is the main and serious issue here, and it is wrong to shift the focus from the Greek people trying to grapple with the very difficult decisions and circumstances they face - but as to "Progress" and Jesus weeping. I think our saviour probably sheds a little tear every time the "Progress" email arrives in his inbox - it is so shockingly right wing. Lord Sainsbury has given up on giving cash directly to Labour, but still heavily funds Progress. So "Progress" is kind of Lord Sainsbury's Spetzsnas inside Labour, a stay behind force dedicated to sabotaging Ed 's little shuffle away from the true path of New Labour. (well they started the offensive comparisons)

Phil

Nutters are always with us, but 9.9% for GD + LAOS is about 7.9% too high. I blame the United Democrats, or whatever they're called - the main constitutional right-wing anti-austerity bloc, that is; if they had anything like the pulling-power of Syriza they could have drained some of GD's pool and taken votes from ND, thereby putting Syriza in first place and completely buggering up Progress's narrative.

Opposition to austerity: 58%
Support for either Pasok or ND: 32%
Support for Fascism: 10%

This appears to add up to 100, which is unfortunate - the 10 is part of the 58, and the whole 90 is part of the 94.5 I was breaking down above. The other 4.5 is accounted for by small pro-'austerity' parties - there are some, including one that thinks ND is a bit too rebellious. ('Small' is the key word.)

CMcM

Those may the voting figures Phil but they're very different from the 'bums on seats' in the parliament. I dimly seem to recall reading somewhere this is partly due to the peculiar Greek habit of awarding an additional 50(?) seats to the leading party, presumably in some constitutional attempt to promote political stability. Currently, of course, ND holds these windfall seats. So, given that Syriza have come from almost nowhere to achieve a vote only 2pts behind them and thus presumably have some political momentum, ND have got an in-built reason to want to avoid a fresh elections any time soon.

All in all, I'm pondering 1923 and the first minority Labour government as a possible precedent here: where the Left is given office but not power.


ajay

dsquared: well, quite. This is something that's come from an anonymous source, being translated from English by someone whose first language is Greek (the Alpha TV reporter), quotemined, edited, and then translated back into English (by the Guardian).

I doubt they were surprised by the Golden Dawn result, though, it was actually a little less than what the polls were predicting.

ejh

Indeed. And the possibility of it occurring was the subject of almost every piece I saw or read on the elections over the previous few weeks. SYRIZA coming second, less so, I'd accept.

ajay

I suppose with a bit of wishful thinking the IMF could have believed that PASOK and ND would both take a pounding, but would still be able to patch together some sort of viable coalition with some of the minor parties. LAOS didn't get any seats at all, of course - the Greek system has a bit of a cheeky gamma curve on it, what with the 3% cutoff below which you don't get any seats and the 50-seat bonus for coming first, and they may not have been allowing for that.

Picking up on Phil and CMcM's point, if Syriza had got an extra 2% of the vote they'd have been first and got that bonus - at the moment they are just behind ND but have half the number of MPs - and then the arithmetic looks very different, because Syriza plus Communists plus the Democratic Left gives you more or less a working majority.

Phil

CMcM - it depends what question you're asking, specifically whether it's "is Greek democracy being held to ransom by the Fascists?" or "do the Greeks all support the Fascists?"

As it goes, the % breakdown in terms of seats in parliament looks like this:

Pro-'austerity', more or less: 49.7%
(there's that winner's bonus)
Anti-'austerity', Right: 18%
- of which actual Fascists: 7%
Anti-'austerity', Left: 32.3%
- of which actual Communists: 8.7%

Pasok and ND combined: 49.7% (i.e. 149 out of 300)
Anti-austerity: 50.3%
(of which, in the general spirit of telling Progress to sod right off, Fascists: 7%)

149 seats is damn close - if my name were Maynard I'd have been betting on PASOK+ND squeaking over the 50% mark, and then keeping things going from crisis to crisis by peeling off the odd member of the Independent Greeks or SYRIZA. Ain't going to happen now, though.

bert

Greece can't borrow commercially, and is dependent on charity for the foreseeable future. The only plausible scenario for them reaching even a primary surplus is for a global rising tide to lift their boat along with everyone else's. It'd be wise not to plan on that happening soon. In this context, the judgement of whether they'll be kept on life support is a political one as much as an economic one, and I'd tend to side with ajay on this.

Dan's argument, and it's a good one, is that grexit would be horrible. But the argument begins to lose its force when alternative options are also horrible, and for that reason can't be sustained. An IMF programme, tweaked or not, is going to struggle if the only constituency supporting it is the creditors. The election results don't demonstrate a lot of support in Greece. And in the case of the Germans, the support of the creditors is open to question.

ajay

Phil - it's quite disturbing to see that 50-seat bonus in action. Going from 32% of votes in favour of austerity to 50% of MPs...

dsquared

Just to be clear here, there is no "anti-austerity" party in Greece, any more than you could vote for an "anti-earthquake party" in Japan. At present, SYRIZA et al have a policy of "anti planned austerity". Which has a real danger of turning into "objectively pro unplanned austerity".

ejh

Though in some ways the UK system has a similar effect.

bert

To state the obvious, the decisive voice here isn't Greek. Under any government, whatever its attitude to austerity, Greece is going to miss its numbers.
The decision will be German in the end. People keep pointing to continued support in Greece for euro membership, as if that matters somehow. I think it would matter only if it disappeared.

What's more the harm resulting to Greece will be an important consideration only insofar as it spills over indirectly into harm to others. There's a sense in which Greek pain would serve the Germans as a useful disincentive to Portugal and others.

Phil

there is no "anti-austerity" party in Greece, any more than you could vote for an "anti-earthquake party" in Japan

Which is why I used "anti-'austerity'", but perhaps that was too understated.

CMcM

It might be a tad more accurate to say Syriza and others are opposed to austerity planned by the ECB and IMF.

The previous settlement can be compared to a party game. Everyone's been playing 'pass the (debt) parcel' and the Greek people were looking at the unwelcome package sitting snugly in their laps under the previous regime. To extend the analogy,their recent vote means they've wound up the gramophone and the music is starting once again. Whether they actually manage to pass (some of) the unwelcome parcel on remains to be seen.

But, y'know, "..men make their own history but not under circumstances of their own choosing.." 'n all that.

twitter.com/matt_heath

I've seen conflicting reports on whether SYRIZA (being technically a coalition) would be able to take the bonus if they won a repeat election. There's a clause designed to stop united left-of-PASOK or right-of-ND lists benefiting that (based on descriptions I've found) either says "coalitions can't have the bonus" or "coalitions that aren't at least a couple of years old can't have the bonus". SYRIZA would be qualify as the latter I think. Does anyone know anything clearer on that.

dsquared

To extend the analogy,their recent vote means they've wound up the gramophone and the music is starting once again.

... but that the package which had previously contained a big lump of dog shit, now contains a fragmentation grenade, plus nearly all the original lump of dog shit.

ajay

Well, looks like another election next month anyway.

Maybe they'll go the Belgian route and just not have a government for a few months.

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