Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Alexis Tsipras: From "For Whom The Bell Tolls" To "The Sun Also Rises"?

Not too long ago, Alexis Tsipras recommended to his European 'partners' that they should read Hemingway's "For whom the bell tolls". Judging from last evening's interview, it seems that this 40-year old has discovered that the bell tolled for him. If he left it there, Hemingway would consider him a loser. Tsipras now needs to surround himself with people who can convince him that "The sun also rises" and who can show him the way how he can live up to the role which destiny has laid before him --- to become the leader who makes the sun rise again for Greeks.

Perhaps last evening was just another show of the brilliant showmaster. I am inclined to think that not. The signs of having been through a 9-day crash course in growing up to the real world were too visible. Some of his statements seemed to be reflections on how he truly felt.

To be sure, there were a few statements which he better should not have made. At one point, he said something like "I put my signature on a text which I don't believe in". There were a few others like that. But all told, these 'wrong' statements amounted to far less than 10% of the total. It is interesting to note that Central European media today focused entirely on these statements.

Over 90% of his statements caused in me disbelief that they would have come out of the mouth of Alexis Tsipras. The most extreme example was where he said something like "Raising the retirement age to eventually 67 is something which actually we should have proposed ourselves". Come again? Which Northern politician would dare these days to suggest that the retirement age should be raised to 67? Angela Merkel tried that a few years ago but she has backtracked since then.

Another statement where I questioned my hearing was where he said something like "Austerity and solidity will encourage foreign investment". Well, Mr. Tsipras, that's the whole point! If Greece could be reformed to become an attractive place for investment and an easy place to do business, foreign monies would flow into the Greek economy en masse. Whose money? Well, to begin with, the billions and billions which Greeks hold offshore earning zero interest, which could then be invested in Greece with much greater return potential! Money alway flows to places where the risk-adjusted return is the highest.

I am surprised that Tsipras would have justified austerity that way. Austerity alone, as important as it may be, will not attract a single Euro in foreign investment. Anyone who wants to know what attracts foreign investment should look at the criteria which the World Bank uses in evaluating countries as to their "Ease of Doing Business". Lay out a road map for Greece's becoming one of the easiest places to do business in Europe and you are home free!

To sum us: I had fallen for Tsipras' wonderful soundbites once before and I ended up regretting it. However, I am not sure that last evening's statements were the usual soundbites of Alexis Tsipras. They were more like the reflections of a man who had gone through an enormously high-speed and painful growing-older process. A bit like a woman who has, against her original intent, given up her virginity and who now wondered whether it was all worth it.

Perceived personal defeat and disillusionment can also be fertile ground for strong leadership to emerge. My gut tells me that Tsipras is aware of the historic opportunity he could have. The majority of Greeks apparently still stands behind him. It now all depends on the advisers with whom he surrounds himself; on the team he forms.

I think the large base of that team would have to consist of reasonable center-left politicians/technocrats with a fair representation of the Left and Right, just to keep the minority views present at all times. Responsible "Social Democrats" instead of passionate "Socialists". Socialists, as the saying goes, get into trouble when they run out of other people's money. Responsible Social Democrats understand that instead of going after other people's money, one should insist on a fair share of other people's incomes (and make sure that these incomes are there!). Or put differently: if one wants to milk the cow longer term, one better make sure that the cow is and remains healthy and strong (or as in the case of Greece: that the cow is made healthy and strong in the first place). I will close with one of my favorite Churchill quotes:

"Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon".


  1. Great Article Mr. Kastner,

    I've been waiting all day for your opinion. He is adjusting with times and thankfully he has the youth type mind to live and learn.

    Many were inspired yesterday but we also need to see how he will hurdle the extreme lefts. He even seems to have already managed this with style. He also "emptied" Varoufakis in a very gentlman attitude.

    For the left's he handled as a party leader very well. I will not go into detail. Basically he did it in a way which he does nto betray nor does he offend people from the left. Even ZOi Konstandopoulos (the fascist communist, who if was living under stalin would have been a goulage manager) said i respect my PM.

    As for the point....

    "I put my signature on a text which I don't believe in".

    This has been taken out of context. When someone who believes in change it does not necessarily mean he has to agree with what he is forced to sign. Do you believe in the austerity program or many of the points? No, Neither do I. But acceptance of responsibility regardless how the greek crisis is above him. (This shows alot and is why the comment can not be taken out of context) In greek it all ties in well and meaning is lost in translation. He needs to get some successes and then he must be allowed the freedom to solve the problems in the Greek way. Not the eurocrat way. But he needs their support.

    There is an underlining hope in people even though a harsh agreement is coming. It is very very obvious. People who did not like him now like him alot. Even people on the right and people on the left who also support Lafazanis. Believe it or not.

    The extreme left feel betrayed and unfortunately they can not change in ways like Tsipras. He learns and moves foward and they can not follow him because they are confused within their own ideologies. Tsipras is dynamic and with such dynamics change can come. Comment to Roger Read the good german media. Tsipras is our reboot. Die welt wrote a good article today that the plan will fail. It may fail in parts but there will be successes as well. The combination of both and rebuilt trust in tsipras will mend our wounds. german & greeks.

    New Plan Of Steps (With Tsakalotos MFinance):
    1. Approval tonight.
    2. Meet eu. And unfreeze banks for business but maintain capital controls. Close bridge deal. Make payments to loans.
    3. Close the deal. for new agreement.
    4. Possible elections most probable. Replace the lefts as they will leave on their own. They will not stay. How this will happen i do not know, he shows he can finds ways to get out of messes. Tsipras can make his own party and take those who stand by him now and find new supporters.
    5. He will win the election by landslide. I believe a minimum 30% but realistically if he sidesteps landmines he will get 50% of the vote. Team up with Potami. Have 60% base vote to.......


    The above will prove to the eu and formulate what money inflows mean in what you state above Mr. Kastner.

    After so many months of depression and rollercoster of emotions we need this badly. We need to to revive ourselves without being bothered by the austerity.

    Oh an by the way.... somewhere in the above steps someone needs to control the German shepard's bark. (No offense to my german friends)

    Mr. Kastner, what is your Marxist Friends opinion on what he is seeing. I am curious.


    1. I really wish you both are right. That the Greeks and Tsipras really awaked due to the shock and want to change their country, now also admitting own mistakes and not only foreign ones.
      I got quite sceptical about it by readings the Tsipras-sentence both of you quoted as it reminded me how the other two bailouts were honored in Greece.
      I am still sceptical how a nation that voted against a treaty last week should now be able to accept the even harder version and fill it with life. And how it can accept the deep intervention of the "institutions" into the greek parlamentary democracy. (I still think these interventions are cruel, even more than the economic rules.)

      As I know my scepticism and that of fellow Germans, and as I know our *cough* diplomatic style *cough*, it wont be easy to control the barking. But as you know, barking dogs dont bite. ;-)

      I wish you the best. The way will be quite long and not easy, and hopefully it will be worth it. If Greece really decides to remain in the EuroZone and is able to live with the mechanics that work in hard currency zones, finally it should be the better road than the Drachme-road. Sometimes üerhaps the harder one, but also the faster one.

      PS: A future coalition of moderate Syriza with Potami sound like a dream for me. If that had happened in January already the negotiations should have been way much easier and the results much better for Greece! At least at that time it was the favourite coalition for many in Germany. Anel was the first shock for many, the first reason to get sceptical about deeper motivations.

    2. Hi Roger,

      Thanks for the support, at least wishful support.

      The underlying problem in Greece are two pillars. Both are correctly stated by Xenos. I agree. Public Clientalsim and Private Clientalism which leads to tax evasion.

      Nobody not even the eu institutions dare say this out loud. They only hint to it. Hence both Thedorakis and Tsipras stated I am against these manditory harsh changes BUT, they need to be done. People know exactly what they mean. Clientalsim.

      Troika i now see has tried to side step the 1st underlying problem. Through two measures. Privaizations and Salary managment and salary caps. Both will force down the expenditures in public spending. Privatization is the key. Selling prospect public companies that are ailing as to run right and force public workers to work in the private sector. Make those businesses efficiecnt. 2nd. Salary caps. If you put a flat salary cap with 3-4 levels of low salaries in the public work force, it will automatically make working for the public less interesting. Pscychologically one will say it is not worth to work for the public contributing to lower the public work force.

      As for the referendum. To be honest we are also unsure why it was called. But you can not distrust the people. 70-80 % of the people want the euro. The question was made in very sneaky way. Plus i believe at that time about 1 month ago about 1 week after Riga eurogroup Tsipras realized Varroufakis was not appropriate but needed to handle many eggs juggling at one time. He took a huge risk. Make a referendum in a way so to the europeans it is not a pro/con euro but a pro/con austerity. To internal use it was obviously pro/con euro. He set it up in a way so people would vote yes. What he did not expect is that when he said vote "no" that so many people would vote "no". It backfired, but it gave him something else. It proved that people are following HIM and not Syriza. The no vote politically cost him with his euro partners but he gained the people behind him.

      I think the german poliicians saw this as well. And behind the seens they said now is the time for the major problem pillars stated above for change. NOW! Ok we we will see the debt thing later.

      Now how he will massage this into greece's minds has shown he has excellent brinkmanship. Going down to the wire as well also gave an electric shock to the people. It will cost both eu tax payers and greek tax payers again but it was necessary.

      Now my friend everything is all about presentation. we have only one plan. Troika plan. good or bad it is the only plan. It needs to be implemented and with the Troika based in Athens it must be done. Troika needs to simply put the proper faces and characters in athens as so this goes well. I would not sugest technocrats. But more "showmen" who are filo Greeks. Behind the scenes in the back of the offices we can hide the technocrats who are really calling the shots.

      This can work.....


    3. continued....

      It distrubes me that a coalition will not be formed as we need a good base vote to be with Tsipras to make this new agreement be implemented.

      KKE will be a major pain the arse. Likewise the new left based off shoot of syriza. They will make troubles for the governement.

      Pasok is dead.

      Leventis (centeralist) will make parliment which is very very good. (He also wants to destroy the old system.) He is quite ugly and old but has been stating this for 30 years now.

      ND is staggering. Only a few good mp's left. Most of them are from the old system, with old ideas and they are old. I even fell asleep 3 times watching their speeches last night.

      It is a time for hope Roger. I have personal experience when Germans and Greeks work together, nobody can reach us. Nobody!

      As for Schauble. Yeah i know. I don't think he means bad. But he needs to be tamed. Even I, whom I understand his thoughts sets me off when he throws those cynical and poisinous sentences. But i always think twice what is behind his sentences now.

      I have found new hope and it is all we have left. I believe the majority feels this way. They know hell is coming but there is hope. Hell for many for me just more taxes. Public workers will be hit hard, i feel sorry for the few good public workers who do work hard, will pay the price of the degenerates.



  2. My impression is that you are too generous, probably because hope dies last...

    >"But all told, these 'wrong' statements amounted to far less than 10% of the total."

    My lifelong (and I am old) professional and private experience always proved that when intelligent persons show such (seldom) glitches, then it is worth to take it as an thrilling alarm bell!

    So I do not think that although he is an attractive showman, he does not have the required talents.


  3. He's a dead man walking.

    The fact that there are people that still believe in him is an indication of the intellect and the maturity of the Greek voter and a good explanation of why we are here and why we will be here -or worse- in the future.

    I heard they fought hard to have 'isodinama' instead of some layoffs demanded by the Troika. Tells me what the future holds.

    That Varoufakis guy, seems a heck of fella.

  4. A coalition of New_Tsipras_Syriza (as somehow indicated by you) and Potami would be something I would´t have dared to dream of. A populist young politician with leftish backround checked by a partner who knows how an economy can thrieve.
    Unfortunately, however, I will have to agree with H.Trickler
    What a shame...

  5. Not convinced - Greece needs a pragmatic leader with vision, someone like Lee Kwan Yew, Lula de Silva, Gerhard Schroder, or Margaret Thatcher. I suspect Mr Tsipras is a butterfly, he'll say whatever he needs say to maintain his position.

    Already my elderly Greek neighbour (of the old left) tells me some Syriza members have said that even though they'll vote yes in the parliament, they will make sure it doesn't get implemented, just like previous governments did. That they'll load up the assets fund with idle properties where ownership is disputed.

    In my opinion the EU is criminally negligent (in a moral sense if not a legal sense) in letting things go this far. They must either a) convert the EMU back to national currency boards, perhaps some would have crawling pegs, or b) implement full-on banking, fiscal and transfer unions. I doubt any national electorate in the EU has the stomach for a USoE, and if spoken of it would probably guarantee a Brexit, which nobody (including Washington) really wants - not even the French ;)

    So the only choice I can see is currency boards - maybe a common currency could be retained symbolically - but a German Euro would get you say 8 Greek Euros or 2 French Euros. IMO TINA.


    1. With troika based in Athens 24/7... the program will be implemented. Whether we like it or not.

      Clientelsim will end.


    2. "Already my elderly Greek neighbour (of the old left) tells me some Syriza members have said that even though they'll vote yes in the parliament, they will make sure it doesn't get implemented, just like previous governments did."
      Such idea, as they are already expected in northern Europe, lead to the very strict controls, and both can further poison the athmosphere in the whole EuroZone. The north fears abuse, the south complains about loss of democracy, and both can easily be proven to be correct. It can enough if radical minorities of both sides play the balls to each other.
      I would be glad, but I am still sceptical how this predeterminated breaking point can be repared inside the EuroZone, with more new money, but the loss of trust between the responsible persons of all sides.

      By the way, the deal can also be seen as a surrender of Germany: "Germany’s conditional surrender" (Google to read it for free)

      I still believe, a debt cut without new money and an aquisition of the broken greek banks by ECB may have caused loss new poison. Less poison in the North as there gets no new money into fire and less poison in Greece as the unsustainable debt level has been reduced.

  6. There will be elections soon... The Left Platform threw the gauntlet to Tsipras last night (assisted by prof. Varoufakis). Of course being "comrades' stabbings", they don't openly dispute Tsipras, because they don't want to be accused of being those that toppled the goverment of the left. So they want Tsipras to kick them out of the party, so that they can raise their own banner.

    It is ridiculous for a goverment to have 122 votes in all important laws and legislate only thanks to the opposition, that lifts the burden that the goverment MPs don't want to. Tsipras had also said that either he will be able to count on his own MPs or he will go to elections.

    Logic says that Tsipras will sign the new memorandum and then go to elections without the Left Platform. Until now, the political parties were divided between "memorandum and antimemorandum". From now it will be "euro vs drachma".

    A small hint about Tsipras. Once more, one must not concentrate too much on what Tsipras says during premeditated speeches, since you are listening to what speechwriters say. Now that prof. Varoufakis has crossed the Rubicon, it's probably minister Pappas that writes Tsipras' speeches. It is far more interesting to see what Tsipras says during unprepared interviews (meaning non to ERT journalists).

    1. Pappas does not write his speeches. I will not disclose the name.

      And Tsipras is not a technocrat. He a manager and a manger must be able to properly present what needs to be done. His technocrats need to find the solutions or counter proposals to an agreement and then implementation. It is Tspras job to present things in way where people accept.

      This is a very important charisma. It will help us do the necessary change.

      I have no care for the lefts. Tsipras will leave them out to dry on their own. He will make it so they leave. When they do they will get 3 maybe 5% of the vote at best.

      My concern is the percentage Tsipras will get. If he gets the majority he should not impliment the new agreement on his own. He mst have the backing of a Coalition to make this measures pass. And fast. Same time in 2016 all measures need to be implemented as so greeks begin to see the light in 2018 -2019. By then things will look different.

      And something else. Currently in greece we have only one leader. There is no other leader in this country regardless of political standing. He needs to be supported as so we greeks make the change on ourselves.

      Many do not want to change. That is the problem. People would prefer to have the same miserable problems rather than change. this needs to break.


  7. I fail to understand how anybody can expect something good to come out of this agreement. Why would a corrupt, nepotistic, privileged bunch of politicians and civil servants create a system that denies them the possibility to to be just that? That sort of "government" need weak institutions. It is a failed nation that has reached the point of no return a long time ago. Have a good re-read of Why Nations Fail.

  8. Maybe because for the first time we have a government that is not corrupt, politicians that we know work for the poor people and not for Europe. Ho we have elected and ho work for us Greeks. We do not need Germany or other barbarians to tell us anything and steel our land and islands. We are Europe, Europe was Greek before you existed, it belong to us.

  9. @ Anonymous July 20 at 1.47 PM.
    Whoa, I was not in particular referring to this government but to the political system in Greece. But as you wish. As for corruption and nepotism they are not better than the previous ones. The PM nominated a cousin and former business partner to a high position in the finance ministry 2 days after he was elected, a position that his CV indicate he is not qualified for. And the PM was not the only one. A nice old lady managed to draw 200.000 EUR from her account on the eve of capital controls. Either she has fantastic business acumen or her daughter Nadia Valavani whispered in her ear. And she was not the only one.
    As for the Barbarians.
    "Unlike the narrowminded, I make no distinction between Greeks and Barbarians. The origin of citizens, or the race into which they were born, is of no concern to me. I have only one criterion by which to distinguish them, virtue. For me any good foreigner is a Greek and any bad Greek is worse than a Barbarian".
    I trust you are familiar with the Quote.