Monday, 13 July 2015

The Humiliation of Greece

For Germany after the Great War, the terms of the Versailles settlement imposed many deeply wounding terms; the surrender of territory, industrial and transport capacity and her fleet (at Britain's insistence) dealt blow after blow, but the cruellest humiliation of all was perhaps the least deserved - the imposition of German war-guilt, that Germany alone had been solely responsible for four years of slaughter, destruction and bankruptcy. It was far more complex than that, as we know today. All over Europe in 1914 there was a popular willingness for war and even if Germany was the greatest sinner she was not the only sinner. But in 1919, disgusted perhaps at themselves, the victors sought to burden Germany with all their own guilt at their failure to preserve the peace. 

At times over this past weekend, I have been reminded of the unseemly scramble at Versailles by the victors for exoneration. Greece must hand control of her treasury to the IMF, must place €50bn of assets in hock, must pass legislation within 72 hours, must re-sack all the civil servants just re-hired by Syriza. No humiliating burden, it seems, is too great to demand. Like the partners in a doomed marriage, neither of whom are willing to walk-out first, the demands become increasingly unacceptable in order to force a denouement.   

And like Versailles, the settlement seeks to re-write history. Greece's entry into the EMU and the Euro was all Greece's fault, the lies and distortions and omissions were wholly Greece's and fooled the rest of Europe; Germany and France and the Commission are all wholly innocent of contriving to force Greece into a monetary union that was always unsustainable. And now Greece must pay for the rest of the Eurozone's insincerity. 

Greece is not and will never be another Germany, but there are risks, horrible risks, in seeking to humiliate a nation state so. Have we learned nothing?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, the Greeks are willing, active participants in their own humiliation. If they willingly remain bent over, gritting their teeth, to accommodate "just one more inch" from the EU, they deserve every painful second of the slow motion rape.
Leave and leave now I say, no ifs no buts just walk away while you can.

DeeDee99 said...

Unfortunately, the Greeks have made it perfectly clear that they do not WANT their independence and Sovereignty to be restored. Their priority was to remain in the Eurozone - they just didn't like the terms offered. But when it seemed likely that it was "take it or leave it" they didn't have the courage to walk away.

So yes, they're humiliated; but they chose humiliation.

Cuffleyburgers said...

My thoughts were that the humiliating list of demands from Brussels is eerily reminiscent, in spirit at least, of the Austrian list of demands on Serbia during that terrible July 101 years ago.

I am sure it's just a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, as the EU is unable and unwilling to sort out it's internal problems it encourages disaster in Ukraine...

They have no sense or shame.

Anonymous said...

I think the brutal humiliation of Greece will be good for us in one way - as you noted last week Radders the political left are waking up to the authoritarian accountability of the European elites.

Now I appreciate the left don't dislike authoritarianism, they just want to be the ones in control, but there can't be many Labour politicians with their propensity to fuck up the budget looking at the punishment of Greece and thinking "that will never be us..."

opsimath said...

You asked, in your final sentence, 'Have we learned nothing?'

Have we ever? The victors get to write the history, and that is about it. Good post, nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I have maintained all along that the two sides are as bad as each other. Greece still seems to think that it can lead the high life at someone else's expense and that the magic money tree will continue to flourish. What doesn't seem to be factored in here is the resentment of the German people at paying for all this and the resentment of the Greek people who think that this is somehow their God-given right.

Coney Island

Budgie said...

Good post Raedwald. What a mess. But the logic of the Project meant that if Greece was to stay in the euro (the common desire, after all) then it had to be humiliated to offset the German people's indignation, and pour encourager les autres.

hatfield girl said...

“If we aim at the impoverishment of the Balkans [well, he wrote Central Europe but never mind], vengeance, I dare say, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for very long the forces of Reaction and the despairing convulsions of Revolution..."

Maynard Keynes was scarily perceptive in his political understanding.

Sceptical Steve said...

Following R's reasoning, surely this is another case of "following the money"? The Greeks' impoverishment has been balanced by the increased sales of manufactured goods from Northern Europe, particularly Germany. Did none of these household-name companies feel uncomfortable that the Greeks would never have the resources to repay the debts?
Basically, the ECB and IMF were used to insulate these corporations from the impact of their own failure to carry out due diligence, and now the Greek working classes, who benefitted least from the imports of manufactured goods, are expected to foot the bill.

Flyinthesky said...

That's how I see it also Steve, the great furore isn't about Greece very few care a jot about it it's about the corporate and intergovernmental investments underwritten by the eu and the IMF. Their fear is their insurance policy may be cancelled.

Nick Drew said...

@ opsimath 09:58: have the greek marxists learned nothing - about their own history?!