Speech to the “Sofia Club” conference, Sofia, Bulgaria, April 25
By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
I want to thank very much the organizers of this conference for their kind invitation and for their initiative for which we are in great need.
Human history is not a linear process, it is usually a non-linear, “turbulent” process. Sometimes it can also take the form of a chaotic process. There are places and times of high “density”, of “concentration” of historical dynamics. There are points, in space and time, where things take one or another path and we are unable to predict what path they will take through deterministic models. Such “choices” may have huge consequences, sometimes determining even what will happen decades ahead.
We are living through such “critical phases”, able to determine in decisive way the future of Europe in two places in the continent: Ukraine and Greece.
In Ukraine, we are flirting now, unfortunately, even with the possibility of a new world war and with a major conflict between western powers and Russia, provoked by the neoconservatives. The crisis and conflict in Ukraine will determine heavily the evolution of the situation in the world, it will shape relations between European Union countries and Russia and the role of Europe in the world.
If Ukraine will be decisive for the evolution of the “external” parameters of European Union and for determining its role in the world, Greece will be decisive for the shaping of the internal structure of EU.
Ukraine is used by the most radical neoconservatives to attack Russia and, indirectly, any idea of European autonomy, such an autonomy requiring a strong link with Moscow (and also the second phase of the dismembering and destruction of USSR, a process begun but not finished in 1991). This is happening for a very simple reason which has very little to do with Putin’s “regime” or any kind of “democracy” in Ukraine – western rhetoric about Ukraine is simply ridiculous for any informed person.
The reason is that Russia with, among others, its nuclear arsenal and its tradition of independent world policy remains the strongest state, the strongest point of concentration of “hard” and “semi-hard” power, able to defy the control of the whole planet by a “totalitarian empire of globalization”, this is an alliance of the international financial capital and the US military-industrial complex. And, as we know from the Jeremia and Wolfovitch reports, the nearly official goal of US “proactive” policy, after the “end” of the cold war (if it really ended) is to deter any kind of alliance between any two poles of the international system (for instance Westen Europe and Russia, or Russia and China), which would be able to defy the monopoly of US power over the planet. An advanced Western Europe-Russia partnership would be a heavy blow to the idea of an “American 21st Century” and it would represent a potential threat to the nearly unseen, still extremely powerful alliance of Finance, ruling the world, or wishing so.
If Ukraine is used by neoconservatives to shape relations in Eurasia and attack Russia, before attacking China, Greece is used by neoliberals to reshape drastically not only the economic and social situation in Europe, by literally destroying the social welfare system, but, indeed, to proceed to “regime change”. They are destroying any element of democratic rule. They are not doing this directly, at least for the time being. They keep intact the external form of “democracy” and popular sovereignty, but they insist on refusing all essential content to it. After May 2010, the representatives of the people do not decide practically anything, they are there to legalise the troika decisions, that is an alliance of European unelected institutions (European Bank and Commission) and the IMF, representing the alliance of “markets” (world finance) and German elites, followed by other European elites.
Some people in the left think still in terms of descriptions of capitalism by Marx, Smith or Ricardo, of spontaneous crises by a total of “independent” actors. Such models were based exclusively on the model of european capitalism of 18th and 19th centuries. We are very far in reality today from such descriptions, which were an abstraction even at the time they were made. Behind the supposed “automatism” of markets and the chaotic way politicians are deciding, there are those whom we can rightly call the “Leninists of the Markets”. Capitalism in our days is not capitalism which was described by Marx or by Smith or by Ricardo, it’s a quite directed system, even if this is not done way central planning or the political control of the Soviet Union was applied. To combat our enemy we have to name it, write Zean Ziegler in the last of his books. And I agree completely with him to name the financial capital as the architect and the strategist of the new way towards a totalitarian society.
The Greek experiment
But let me be more specific about what is happening in Greece. You remember well that in the fall of 2008 we had a big banking crisis. Banks were saved by the States with money of the States and without essentially nationalizing them. The banking crisis was thus transformed into a sovereign debt crisis. In the same time Greece was used to transform the crisis of the unregulated financial system into a crisis between European peoples. At the end of 2009, western, especially German press, begun a hate campaign against Greece based on half truths and half lies, really a nouveauté for post war Europe. No country of the EU has been attacked in this way. This slander campaign against Greece, it coincides, this is why I am speaking about planned, well directed and not spontaneous processes, with the appearance in the international press of the acronym PIGS. They were describing the countries of southern Europe as pigs. It was very clear what they wanted to do. So we had a hate campaign against Greece in German press, especially and also in european press in a lesser extent, which reminds us of the campaign against Serbia before the war and the campaign against Iraq, also before the invasion, or against Libya, and so on and so forth. It’s a kind of communication bombing before the real financial attack, much in the way you bomb a rival before you attack him. We are in front of a new kind of war in Europe, an economic war. It had been applied sometimes in the Third World, but not in Europe these latest years.
At the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, Greece has become the object of a coordinated attack by the “Markets”, that is by the big international banks and funds, acting in cooperation with the rating agencies and by the press. I should remind you that just before the crisis Greece was considered by the rating agencies as an optimal investment, before it was practically announced as bankrupt. Of course this attack could be more difficult to succeed if we did not have in Greece a government headed by George Papandreou, a politician in better terms with George Soros and with Rothschilds, than with his own people, and who was able to use the great prestige in Greece of the name Papandreou. In a period of some months, the country was practically insolvent and pushed to ask the help of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. This is the famous “Troika”. Which is as a matter of fact an alliance of international finance and German leadership, followed by other European elites. It’s a kind of Faust alliance, so to say, between Berlin and Goldman Sachs.
So they said that they have to help Greece overcome its numerous problems. Now, in order to avoid a very detailed discussion on this, I will give you some numbers. As a result of this help by Europeans and the IMF, the GDP of Greece is now 27% less that it was in 2010. This is more than the losses of France or Germany during the first World War. This is comparable to what has happened during the last three-four years of the Weimar Republic or during the Great Depression in the USA. The unemployment has skyrocketed. Two out of three young Greeks are unemployed. And those who are employed, they are often under terms oscillating between slavery and labour. The welfare system of Greece, the system of health and pensions was all but destroyed.
The interesting thing is that all this has happened supposedly in order to solve the problem of competitiveness of Greek economy, as well as the debt and budget deficit. As a result of the program applied debt has increased from 110% of the GDP to 180% of the GDP, which means, by the way, it will never be paid. As for the Greek exports except oil products they have fallen! We had a huge experiment and we have seen that there is no way, there is no even economic, “competitiveness” sense, in transforming southern and eastern Europe into third world. There are already other competitors. China or Bangladesh or Gabon will always be cheaper than Europe. So, that does not make sense.
But this is not only an economic problem. The destruction of Greek economy and society is not only an economic-social choise, it is also a project of regime change based on the destruction of Greek economy and society. The kind of agreements signed between Greece and Troika were a nouveauté also in terms not of European history but also of history of colonialism. They have literally transformed Greece into a debt colony. They have rewritten Greek constitution waving all clauses of national sovereignty. In 2011, I had made a visit in Cuba and was discussing with a known Cuban journalist who told me he was very much surprised by what the Luxembourgian vice president of the government had told them during a visit to Cuba. They told them, “listen it’s not true that we will take Acropolis from the Greeks, but it’s not very far from what we will really do. We are going to control everything, the property included”.
For every dose of financing Greece has received, it had to give a part of the State property, a part of its sovereignty, even a part of the private property through excessive, enormous taxation. So it was a program of transforming the country into what we may call a “debt colony”, but a continuously destroyed, not stabilized “debt colony”.
Democracy has continued to be the official form of government, but Greek governments and European “partners”-colonialists made everything possible to deny the Greek people the right to express their opposition to this programme. They have practically forbidden the demonstrations. Because we had big demonstrations, half a million, one million people in Athens, but they were oppressed by the Police which made the centre of Athens a kind of gas chamber so people, next time, were not able to demonstrate their opposition to the massacre of democracy and social rights.
Kafka in action
I cannot prove it, but I do believe that there was also a programme of psychological warfare. I mean the communication policy applied inside Greece was trying to persuade Greeks first of all that their country is already destroyed, they can do nothing. And second, that they are guilty for it. This combination of mourning and guilty is defined by psychiatrists as depression. And when you are depressed, you are committing suicide. We have an explosion of suicides. You don’t revolt. You revolt when you hope for something different and you revolt when you have a sense of justice. If you feel guilty that you have created the situation, then you don’t revolt.
So, this was an interesting experiment to smash the capacity of the Greek people to resist, its confidence to itself, its confidence to its own nation-state, its democracy. To destroy any psychological security to the population, to return Greeks to a situation similar to what Germans lived in 1945, French in 1940, Soviets in 1991. That is to destroy the psychological foundations of Greek bourgeois parliamentary democracy.
You have to crash people’s belief to themselves, to their capacity to rule their country or influence its policies, otherwise whatever anti-democratic measures you may take, they will fail in the first try. And I think this moral, psychological aspect of the programme applied to Greece, which reminds a little bit of the atmosphere described by Kafka, is of particular importance, because it is also confirming that here we have a systematic attack against social conquests and also against democracy, bourgeois democracy, as we have known it after the second World War in Europe. In spite of the fact that we hear a lot of things about automatism, or spontaneism of the markets, you see that this market attack on Greece was continuing unabated until May 2010 but at the same time financial markets were not attacking the other peripheral countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain, in spite of their quite similar to the Greek situations. When Greece signed finally, the next day they begun the attack against the other peripheral countries. I had the impression that we have in front of us a kind of hidden financial Guderian who is attacking one country after the other. And I think this is a deliberate plan to isolate the victims of this attack. I mean, ok Greeks will be destroyed, the others will see what happened, they will obey. So we have 8% of drop of Italian GDP, which is very big, but you cannot compare it with 27% of Greece. This is planned I believe to make very difficult to make an alliance between various European nations against the markets. Such an alliance is necessary to confront this enormous “counterrevolution” project, which wants, in the long run to refuse even the results of Rennaissance and Enlightment and, for sure, the results of the popular victory over Nazism and Hitler.
So, now, this process in Greece, is very similar as I told you to what has happened in the Weimar Republic between 1929 and 1933. Germany was under the external pressure of the enormous war reparations, as Greece is trying to pay an enormous debt, which is unable to serve. Germany, at this time, was following under chancellor Bruning, exactly the same policy that was imposed to Greeceby the troika. As in Weimar Germany, such policies lead also modern Greece to the collapse of its political system. SYRIZA is the product of the fact that the old parties have nearly collapsed and somebody has to rule the country and of the fact that it posed as a candidate to stop the destruction of the country.
SYRIZA and its fundamental contradictions
But SYRIZA suffers from a fundamental contradiction. It promised to solve the problem throught a classic left socialdemocratic policy and throught a tough negotiation with the creditors, avoiding in fact a complete clash with them. But for socialdemocracy to exist you need to have a dividend to provide to society. Hunger cannot be the foundation of any social democracy. SYRIZA has also proclaimed its confidence that it could somehow solve the problem with harsh negotiations with the creditors. I am not sure, personally, that this is possible. I would prefer such a compromise, if it yields a perspective to the country, but not a capitulation leading to very bad consequences.
Because, as a matter of fact, up to now, some kind of peace and democracy has been preserved in Greece, because there was a big hope in SYRIZA. If the social strata which are destroyed don’t find a possibility to change a situation throughout elections and throughout normal political process, then everything will be possible, we could very well find ourselves to a situation of potential civil war, even if of "low intensity". At least this is one of the possibilities
The problem of SYRIZA is that it adopted, in its way to power, the most radical slogans of the opposition developed by society (and not from inside the party) against the loan agreements and MOU between the troika and the Greek governments. But it has not been able or willing to understand the deeper logic and the consequences of an analysis which sees in the Greek program not only a program of deep economic and social anti-reform, but a program of “hijacking” of the nation-state and destruction of its democratic, social and national functions. Not to speak about the huge geopolitical implications of te program. The SYRIZA leadership continues to see the program as a mistake, rather than the logical development of European euroliberalist system and also it has still completely unfounded and extremely dangerous illusions about the help that US-Israel axis could provide to Greece against Germany. SYRIZA is making a radical critique of the policy followed but it wants to solve it inside the context of the system that produces this policy. In the same time, other forces, inside or outside SYRIZA which are using a more radical terminology, they are also not willing or able to prepare the Greek people and themselves for the risky, difficult path of a clash with creditors, which may be unavoidable to save Greek nation-state, society and democracy.
The outcome of the Greek crisis will have a decisive impact on the character of the European Union. So, as a matter of fact, what the European dominant elites and the financial capital are trying to do, by invoking the necessity to pay the debt as it is, it is to establish the right to govern the government by the Troika. They are not against having elections and nominally Greek government ruling the country, as far as they follow exactly what they are saying. So, it’s an experiment on the internal governance of the European Union. If this will pass in Greece, sooner or later it will be applied to first to southern and eastern countries, member states, and even , I think, at some future perspective, to more central ones. If there is a really a financial totalitarianism in Europe, ready for the final war against societies, then a defeat of Greece may have analoguous consequences to the whole continent with those provoked by the defeat of democratic Spain in 1939.
As the situation stands now, European Union has two choices. The one is to evolve into a totalitarian structure, which somehow is implied in the clauses of the Maastricht treaty, but it is opposite to the ideology of the European Union, to the way that this Union was “sold” to the public. Or a second possibility will be for EU to destroy itself in a chaotic process, letting many small countries, which will be in economic war between themselves to attract some part of a demand, which is shrinking and in the same time they will be unable to resist the pressure of international finance and, probably, of US hegemony.
Up to now, we have essentially in Europe resistance to the totalitarian project. We don’t have really, a visible alternative. Essentially two ideas have been proposed in Europe, the one is to go back to Keynesian politics, that is to make Germany recycle its surpluses. And with that goes a lot of claims, which essentially, they don’t have a political, but a trade union character. We are all demanding an end to austerity, better salaries, bigger social expenditure, we are not really proposing a different model. And the second idea is coming from people who say, anyway, we don’t like the European Union let’s destroy it but sometimes they don’t describe very well the situation in which we will be found, if the European Union is destroyed. For instance, many people were critical of the Soviet Union, but they were not satisfied when the Soviet Union was destroyed. So, it’s important to make a critique of existing structures but it is also important to see where you go from the point you are and to develop strategies and political instruments able to push Europe or some of its states to a third direction .
So, I believe, a club like ours, and maybe other initiatives we are trying to form, have to begin the elaboration of more precise projects and ideas about what we would like to replace the existing European Union. On the level of the treaties, on the level of the economic mechanisms, we have to open this discussion, to put the questions. Can we have for instance a democratic Europe, which will be completely open in the globalisation? Can we go to some form of Keynesianism without some form of protectionism? Do we have to forbid derivatives and other financial products? Or to try to control the financial influence into all the political, economic and social institutions of the Union? Because, in the European Union everywhere you find people of Goldman Sachs. And so, we have a confusion, because, instead of demonstrating only in Brussels and Berlin, which by the way we don't do it so often, we should probably go also to their offices in New York. It is well documented, we have lists of people, Prime ministers of Greece or Italy, even the President himself of European Central Bank and very many other people are men of the Goldman Sachs. The firm that is controlling the financial situation of European banks and has access to all their secrets, is itself controlled by Goldman Sachs.
We have to begin saying those things, because we are afraid to speak, and second we have to propose institutional so to say barriers, to their influence into European Affairs.
And also, we have to cooperate between ourselves, because our enemy is regional and international and we are making unfortunately very local, very national policy, everyone on his own agenda. In the same time we have a monster in front of us and we are unable to coordinate our actions.
By the way I would like to note my belief that we are in the midst of a transition, since 1991, from an American Empire to an Empire of Finance. Which is an ally of America but it is also using America. It is a phenomenon similar to the transition from the British to the American Empire.