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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Correspondence with an admirer of Alexis Tsipras

I had an exchange with an admirer of Alexis Tsipras in another blog. I had emhapsized the positive aspects of Alexis Tsipras which I had published in this blog but pointed to the, in my opinion, great fallacy in his ideology --- his belief in an even greater role of the state.

He responded to this as follows:

Which (my arguments; ed.)) is precisely what it means and why everybody freaks out (or faints, depending on the gender when Tsipras shows up.

He, or SYRIZA, never said they would increase the role of the state, but rightfully so put the role exactly where it belongs, in "strategic economic sectors" and most importantly "Public ownership and social control of banks". How dare he threaten "big business" with removing the stick behind the door? How dare he threaten the banks with putting financial control over their own and the states finances with the people instead of the sharks in Goldman Sachs? So the puppets start jumping up and down, directed by the puppet masters Merkel, Schauble & Co.

The "privatization" program has a number of things the Troika want Greece to sell off to "repay" the debt. Every single bit of infrastructure vital to an economy is on it, airports, harbours, motorways, you name it. (Not to mention the rest of Corfu which De Rothchild has already expressed an interest in).

Hand these assets over to foreign (read German or German managed!) control, and the country as a nation is enslaved for ever. And it is literally handing them over, as the money from the "sale" goes straight back, with 7% interest, to those who buy it. You simply cannot hold that threat over a country. Well, you can, but then obviously you must expect at least somebody in the country to stand up and say "Nein".

Lets put the pantofla on the other foot for a minute and gauge the reaction if tomorrow somebody would try and force Germany to sell Hamburg and Bremen harbours, all their international airports, Deutsche Bundesbahn, Deutsche post, the Kiel canal, etc. etc. And of course, throw in a few niceties for the rich and famous like a few forests in Bavaria or so. Tanks would roll and boots would march, no doubt about it!

But Tsipras is a dangerous politician for suggestion Greece protects, or takes back, it's vital and strategic assets?

Regarding banks, what he is proposing is only proper order. It is where the ownership and management of ANY financial institution should be, world-wide, with the people who use it. Not with the big time gamblers and speculators as it is now. How dare he suggest no more outrageous self assessed bonuses, no more fiddling at will of interest rates, no more handing out unsecured loans to friends and relations, no more creating of massive private pension pots, no more spending of 250K on golf balls, etc. etc.

In Ireland they have a perfectly working financial system called the "Charter of Credit Unions". Although some have been hijacked by sharks, blatantly against their own rules, in general these institutions works brilliantly, and they work for and with the small guy, at a local level only. They are even run, managed AND owned by the small guy. An absolute perfect example of a financial system under social control. And it works fine. To keep it working fine, it takes proper regulation, sadly missing in the world of finance, and the root cause of the problems everybody is in.
Of course international finance will not allow some rogue politician like Tsipras to shout such a system of the roof tops. It's tantamount to a coup d'etat as far as they are concerned.

On a side note, if the Irish Government at the time had decided to spend about 5 billion on upgrading that credit union system and allowing it "Bank status" while letting the gamblers and gangster go bust, as they deserved, Ireland would never have had a banking crisis to start with. It only became a crisis because of the actions of the completely rotten, corrupt and criminal political system and those in it who combined didn't have a single braincell capable thinking of anything or past the next pint...

My response is below.

Upront, I sympathize with much of what you say. If you read through all my postings on Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA, you will find that we are not all that far apart.

Here is my problem. Those who are in favor of radical change in a society (to be sure, I am convinced that Greece needs radical change) often get carried away with their enthusiasm. That’s always the tragedy of well-meant revolutions. It can become very rough when dreams fade and reality sets in.

I have become very impressed by those (including you) who have embarked so emotionally on SYRIZA as a potential harbinger of a better Greece. I think particularly Alexis Tsipras has the personal talents to be such a harbinger.

However, such movements can only be successful if emotions are complimented by what I would call some "experienced common sense; or experience in general".

SYRIZA and Tsipras could perform all those marvels of which they speak if Greece were Argentina or Venezuela. In other words, if Greece could exist as a stand-alone economy. Greece CANNOT exist as a stand-alone economy; never ever could since 1832!

Anyone who doesn't recognize and accept that fact from the start is doomed to fail. Anyone who leads Greeks to believe the opposite is extremely dangerous!

Anyone who really has a sincere interest in changing Greece, has to start with honesty to the Greek people. That honesty cannot be a focus on the revival of Greek feelings of ancient superiority; of Greek feelings of always having mastered all difficulties; of Greek feelings to be able to lead a better life when only left alone by foreigners.

The truth is that modern Greece has never been able to do well on its own. Now, you can accept that as a brutal offense from an Austrian. Or, you can think of it as a recommendation by someone who means well. “Know thyself” is what we first learned about Greek culture back in school.

Greece as a society has never really gone through processes which Central European societies went through (Protestantism; Enligthenment, etc.). Instead, Greeks have a culture of being “dominated” by foreign powers, be that the Romans, the Ottomans, the Brits or, now, the Merkel’s of the world.

The result is, in my mind (and bear in mind that I have been married to a Greek for almost 40 years!), that Greece is a society which has never had the chance (or was never forced to) develop on its own its own systems for effective self-government. By that, I mean principally effective public administration and the power of credible public institutions. Please don’t be offended, but I would argue that in many aspects of Greek society and the Greek economy, Greece is still a developing country/economy (but not in terms of the living standard/culture of the upper class!!!).

Once you recognize (and admit!) that, you have a basis for improvement. Then you begin SEEKING advice instead of OBJECTING to it. A very prominent member of the Thessaloniki business community (a Greek!) once told me: “We need two people for ever position in the public administration: one EU-expert who teaches and one Greek who learns”. If that had come from a non-Greek, I would have considered it as an offense. Since it came from a Greek, I considered it as an impressive form of self-recognition.

Alexis Tsipras plays the nationalistic card and reinforces in Greek emotions that Greeks can make it on their own. Forget it! Greeks will be able to make it on their own after they have exploited all possible resources/support from others to learn how to make it on their own (refer to the EU Task Force for Greece).

If foreign funding for Greece were to stop (with or without the Euro), Greece would be knocked back into the 1950’s/60s. Those were the times when the Greek economy could survive because Greeks went to foreign countries to work there so that they could remit their savings back home. To avoid misunderstanding: let me emphasize that Greek guest-workers had probably the best reputation of all guest-workers in Central Europe! And I think they made a tremendous contribution to the increase in Greek living standards then!

If I were a young Greek, I might think that Alexis Tsipras promises that Greece can make it on its own. That is an illusion which HAS GOT TO BE KILLED!

Personally, I am still convinced that Greece, if it adopted the right policies, could become, in the not too distant future, the economic tiger of the Eastern Mediterranean. Why? Because Greece has never even made an attempt to take advantage of its competitive advantages; has never even touched the potential it has.

So, what I am missing in the message of Alexis Tsipras is a recognition of that fact. His message should be: “Look, we have all the potential to become the economic tiger of the Eastern Mediterranean but in order to achieve this, we must seek every support and know-how transfer from foreigners. They know how to do all that. We have to learn from them how to do it on our own!”

To put figures around what I am saying: look at Greece’s Balance of Payments. You will see that Greece, without funding from abroad, is a dead duck in the water. Leave your emotions about Greek will and pride on the side; that’s a fact!

I don’t see that realization in the pronouncements of Alexis Tsipras and neither do I see it in your comments. But without a recognition of that and without the measures which would come as a consequence of that recognition, I would share the opinion of a very good friend of mine in Greece, which is: “Greece will never change. Greece will return to the Drachma (he predicts) on Friday night, January 11, 2013. Then a re-emergence into sunlight in a 1960 format, i.e. cheap tourism and, hopefully, a streamlined agricultural system which could turn the current 40% domestic food deficit into covering all domestic needs - and provide some export activity”.


  1. The problems with Tsipras is that
    1) he has not shown ANY kind of competence in dealing with at least financial issues. On the contrary he is a guy who puts ideology before reality. My standard example is voting for using state property plus 15mil euros to build a mosque in Athens and pay the mufti for eternity(and of cours ethe same for any other religion). Granted, so did PASOK and ND and DIMAR, but that nonchalant attitude towards public money is completely unacceptable to me and shows me someone who is not serious at all. 11 or 200 billions are precisely the sum of many 15 million parts. In contrast to you, I do not believe it takes rocket science to run a country. And yes, Greece as well as almost any country CAN make it on its own. However doing so takes very competent leaders and this is what is sadly lacking

    1. I have read your comment twice to see where I might disagree with you, and I couldn't find one single point.

    2. It's only a question of what "making it on one's own" means. There is a greek saying "among the (doubly) blind, he with one eye is king". I think this is a fair explanation of the german (or eu-expert as you say) success: It's competition against the blind, not a sign of perfection for the eu or germany.