A view of Greece from the Outside - Commentaries and Opinions
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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Can The Left save Greece?
blog by the name of New Left Project published an article titled “Can the Left save Greece?”, as well as an interview with Yiannis Milios who is a Professor
of Economics at the Polytechnic University of Athens. Prof. Milios heads a
group of economists including Yiannis Dragasakis, Giorgos Stathakis and
Efklidis Tsakalotos, who collectively shape SYRIZA’s economic policy (according
to the article).
article impresses because it is quite balanced. Put differently, it is not demagogic,
which is what one might expect articles from such a source to be. It is the
interview with Prof. Milios which I find particularly interesting, at least
interesting enough to comment on Prof. Milios’ statements.
(EU countries) are mostly governed by neoliberal parties, while their socialist
parties are actually neoliberal as well.There is obviously intensification in
class struggle, not just in Greece but also in Italy, Spain and Portugal, which
slowly de-legitimizes the neoliberal spin on the crisis. Therefore, it’s the
class struggles themselves that change the circumstances and create this new
situation in which the Left perspective steadily gains ground” – I have trouble
seeing it that way. Certainly France is not governed by a neoliberal party and
there are many, many Conservatives in Germany who criticize Merkel for having
moved even left of the center. The whole idea of a ‘neoliberal spin’ is
far-fetched to me. I think what we have seen in Continental Europe for much of
the post-WWII period is the unfolding of Keynes-policies. Except that Keynes, I
believe, recommended deficit spending only during parts of the economic cycle
with a balance over the entire economic cycle, whereas most Continental
European countries have had uninterrupted (or only briefly interrupted) deficit
spending for decades now. And what made matters worse: the spending was, to an
excessive degree, ‘true spending’ (on consumption) instead of investment in the
future. Yes, I agree that there seems to be a new perspective for The Left but
that is more the result of ineffective leadership of cozy political establishments
than the consequence of a failed market system.
Left has a very clear position: only through reshaping the social and
production models can European societies get through this crisis” – I wish
members of the established and cozy political elites would make statements like
that! This is assuming that Prof. Milios means what I think he means, namely: a
common market (particularly when a large part of it has a common currency)
cannot be sustained when investment, production, employment, etc. move into one
direction and loans flow into the other direction to finance consumption there.
model of a social co-operative economy, operating in a more democratic context,
is the one that can take our societies out of this crisis” – the so-called ‘Genossenschaften’
represent an important part of the economies in the German-speaking
countries.The concept for such ‘Genossenschaften’
was developed by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen in the second half of the 19th
century. Essentially, they are somewhat closed systems where the customers are
also the owners. The owners’ profit motive becomes of secondary importance: if
they earn less as owners because the ‘Genossenschaft’ makes less profit, they
make up for that as customers who pay lower prices. Such ‘Genossenschaften’ are
clearly interesting alternatives to capital market based ownership.
in the 1980s, PASOK favored capitalist interests over the interests of the vast
majority of the people. Our lead is what
society needs and not the imaginary ‘foreign ties of the country’ to its
lenders. We say ‘people over profit’" – well, that is a statement for populist
consumption. It would lend more credibility to SYRIZA if they didn’t use such
statements which have general appeal but no specific meaning.
represent the social front created in Greece against austerity policies and our
ambition, together with the affiliated forces of the European Left party and
others who will join in the process, is to enable the establishing of a
European front against austerity” – sounds like milk & honey! Prof. Milios
should explain that there is not one Eurozone country which can print its
currency. Thus, and to the extent that the above involves deficit spending, a
country must be able to borrow. If it can’t borrow and if it doesn’t have the above-mentioned
‘foreign ties to lenders’, the country is caught in extreme austerity.
will call for an international forum to discuss the viability and targets of
Greek and European debt and budgets. We also intend to take up initiatives in
the direction of re-examining the European Union treaties that make up the
pivotal points of what brought us to this" – well, I think Angela Merkel could
live with that.
for once, will be decided through free negotiation between social institutions
that represent the productive classes” – I presume Prof. Milios means that
wages should be freely negotiated between employees’ representations and
managements of a company. That would be a dream come true for many
entrepreneurs who despise dealing with central union dignitaries who have other
things on their agenda than the well-being of the entrepreneur’s company.
considers increasing revenue from taxation to be a major priority. We will use
tools like the newly established assets list, we will establish a code that
will discourage tax-dodging and we will achieve a dramatic (according to current
data) increase in revenue” – all I can say to this is: more power to you!
unthinkable that in a society facing a humanitarian crisis, expenditure is
directed towards military spending instead of covering basic necessities like
feeding the population and heating schools and hospitals” – all I can say to
this is: more power to you!
certain that the prosperity they (powerful lobbies) enjoyed for decades, the
immunity from taxation, has created enough “stock” the powerful could and need
to share in order to restart our society” – all I can say to this is: more
power to you!
certainly need to be new ways to finance our dying economy. For instance, apart
from the savings from structural adjustment, special purpose banks will be
founded, to operate essentially as investment funds” – Prof. Milios is blowing
smoke again because he leaves the impression that all Greece needs in order to
finance new productive investment are special purpose banks. As pointed out
above, Greece needs the money from those ‘foreign lenders’ because Greece doesn’t
generate enough savings on its own in order to finance the necessary growth.
Even a new special purpose bank can’t do any lending if it doesn’t have the
we define ‘investment’ as a fund coming to buy up businesses which have found
themselves in a tough spot because of the crisis, downsize them, fire staff and
sacrifice its long-term prospects for short-term profitability, then we are
categorically against this” – all I can say to this is: more power to you!
Greece does not need asset strippers as it tries to turn-around its economy!
“If we define ‘investment’ as providing capital for the
development of activities that respect our society as a whole, that in order to
produce profit make use of what modern technology can provide, that respects
the worker’s rights and the natural environment, if they cover basic social
criteria like jobs creation, then yes, we are for that kind of investment” –
all I can say to this is: more power to you!
“If a left-wing government is backed by the people who, in
the past, flooded Syntagma square and demonstrated their dissent against
austerity policies in every city in Greece, then we have nothing to fear. This
negotiation will prove to be of benefit to the vast majority of the Greek
society” – all I can say to this is: power away from you!
Conclusion: I am reminded of a previous interview with Mr.Yiannis Dragasakis of SYRIZA. He, too, had given a rather reasonable interview
only to blow it with his last statement. Prof. Milios repeats that experience:
by and large a reasonable interview but with his very last statement he
confirms all the fears that some people have of SYRIZA.