Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Greek 'Revolution' will not be a shining light for Europe's Left - The truth about modern Left wing politics (part two)

The truth is this subject could run and run; the last post was too long and I've had to accept Left wing politics can't be dissected in two posts. So I'll do it bit by bit, this second part has been forever delayed and of course now a General Election is going to get in the way.

If Labour manage to win outright or go into Coalition, there should be a lot of good examples of the problems of Left wing politics, but for now I’ll look at the most obvious current example of a serious Left Wing Government; Greece.

    Syriza's Leader - Alexis Tsipras 
    Greek, in a Left Wing Government and apparently serious...

There's always an element of wanting to see the opposing view fail, for it to be proved wrong; it is in the nature of politics and to some extent it is part of human nature, the cynical part of course. 

I don't wish the people of Greece ill, not at all, it'd be good to see them sort things out and create some sort of successful 'alternative', it'd be interesting to see how it can be done. 

It's not that I don't want it to happen, but I can't see it happening. Not without going into the territory I wrote about in the first post.

Just as I posted about the problems of modern Left wing politics, a party with a truly Left wing outlook was elected to Government in Europe - Greece election:Anti-austerity Syriza wins election. So it seems at least part of my analysis will be tested.

    Syriza have won people over with their humble style
    European politicians should learn something from them.

There aren't that many truly Left Governments in the world and at the end of the day without a Socialist bloc (as existed in the 20th century), they have to exist in a capitalist world and therefore lack support, for hard Left politics.

European Leftists want to paint Greece as the alternative to 'austerity', but I think they're on a hiding to nothing and of course the Left will say that it isn't the politics (the ideals) that have failed, it will be because its opponents have brought it down.

In some respects that will be true, if and when the Greek experiment fails. It's all about money and Greece needs a lot of it. The Left will say Syriza and the nation were denied the chance to make a success of it and they were unable to succeed within the current system (a German controlled EU and a wider capitalist system).

    Angela Merkel

    Between a rock and hard place...?

    Greek Protesters
    Not a fan?

    More Greek protests at Merkel
    Bit extreme...

But Greece would fail in most circumstances, at least if they didn't radically transform their economy. The only situation that would work for Greece is a worldwide revolution and then their global comrades could help them out, because right now they're a basket case.

They don't produce anything much, too many of their citizens don't pay their taxes; they have the economic set up of a third world country, but they have become accustomed to first world public services. And of course they want to maintain those services, but someone has to pay for them and if they're not producing enough to fund their own services, then who pays?

The rest of Europe, particularly Germany, feels that they are paying for the Greeks.

This BBC article talks of the inaccuracy of claims about ‘lazy Greeks’, supposedly retiring early - Greek bailout talks: Are stereotypes of lazy Greeks true? 

I wasn't aware of these claims about the Greeks, the French, yes... 

While there does appear to be some truth to the accusations, according to this article it is to a relatively small extent, but the author does go on to confirm the other problems of their economic set up. Why are people retiring early in an unproductive, dysfunctional economy? Who pays for it?

It does seem that Greece is being squeezed by Germany and the EU should take a lot of the blame for what Greece has become. Just as the Labour Government oversaw an unsustainable economic model in the UK, the EU allowed Greece to get like it is:

    Athens Olympics - 2004
    Good times.

The new ruins of Athens: Rusting and decaying 10 years on, how Greece's Olympics turned into a £7 BILLION white elephant

But the idea of writing off debt while maintaining their public sector and services, is actually insulting to those playing by the rules, not least many countries outside the EU who would love to have the Greek standard of living.

Greece as an independent nation has been afforded its standards of living by the EU and membership of the Eurozone

They are down the GDP list by any measure and their position will be assisted by the currency, many countries with far worse services and infrastructure will be ahead of them in terms of economic output. The respective circumstance and development of each nation make for complex comparison, but there is a simple principle involved. And the Left are normally fond of simple principles…

You could say writing off the debt would allow them a fresh start and a chance to reform without the burden of debt, something that has been offered to the developing world in the past.

    Make Poverty History - Edinburgh 2005
    We've come a long way since then...

Firstly I think they have to sort out the tax evasion before this is even considered, they could be closer to having the means to service the debt but this has been effectively ignored. It certainly has been by many of the Left wing advocates championing the Greek revolution, talking all day long about tax avoidance in this country and then supporting debt in one country being written off, so that they can fund their public services, instead of collecting tax for it. Money is lost from outside Greece, UK included, when the funds may well be in Greece; how does that sit with UK Uncut’s principles…? It’s overlooked -

This is Corruption, everything about the situation is utterly corrupt and that needs to be addressed. Thankfully tax evasion is being acknowledged as a significant part of the problem - Greece debt deal: Reforms will 'combat tax evasion'. It hasn't been acknowledged by the Left at large. Our mate and favourite celebrity revolutionary Russell Brand, who admits to not understanding economics, shared on Twitter a link to an article about a impromptu market of 'the people' in Greece (“Without middlemen” market). How wonderful Russell, but how much tax is collected from this to fund their public services? There was no response to my question on Twitter...

Secondly, if the debt is reduced or gone, they should then have to fend for themselves. I imagine the likelihood of them leaving the Eurozone is high if they won't service their debt and it would only be fair to the other nations within the zone, any nation with a large amount of debt. Surely Spain, Portugal and Italy will all be clamouring for better deals if Syriza get their way within the Euro.

If Greece leaves, we will see how they fair, if they can change their economy and maintain their standard of living.

The crux of the situation does appear to be that Syriza want the rest of the EU to support and maintain the Greek standard of living, when they are not productive and do not pay their taxes.

The European Left should not be championing this situation.

You can’t blame the Greek population for turning to a political movement promising to maintain their way of life without the ‘pain’ of austerity, the electoral victory doesn't make this is a success for Left wing politics, they haven’t achieved any of their aims yet.

    Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras 
    Having a laugh...?

If the Greek government do get a handle on tax evasion then the Control aspect of Left wing politics I looked at in the last post, will be in place. Although rightly in that circumstance, it would still be interesting to see the effects.

Fiscal and wider reforms would have to be fundamental and will put pressure on large sections of the population, some of whom may currently be supporting Syriza, but it will take some time to see what happens and how any changes affect particular groups and activities - Keypoints: Greece economic pledges to Europe

Greece suffers from Corruption in various ways, tax evasion is just one aspect of that and they will need to radically improve their economy with relatively limited means to prove their politics are Practical, in the modern world.

If they can avoid endemic levels of corruption as they move on, then maybe they will be heading in the right direction. Their population is relatively low and this is can enable more successful restructuring and then allow for a Left Wing organisation of society to be maintained.  

This is the case with the favourite national examples of Left leaning success for the more Liberal Left in the West; the Scandinavian countries. They are similar to Greece in that each has a relatively low population, but the similarities pretty much end there; the Scandinavians pay their taxes, levels of corruption are low and probably most importantly, they have long established, functioning economies. 

I saw one Twitter comment suggesting the Greeks should take a leaf out of Iceland’s book, the small nation having apparently made strides towards recovering from the economic crisis. And this appears to be a common suggestion on Twitter.

Iceland and Greece? Opposite ends of Europe, very different economies and cultures, and the population of Iceland is barely that of the average small European city. So it’s a bit more complicated than the suggestion…

    Reykjavik, Iceland

    Athens, Greece

It is just shows how desperate the European Left wing intelligentsia have become, as they're championing Greece, when it is little more than a fed up people wanting to maintain their living standards on flimsy economic foundations. Championing their cause is one thing, but championing their politics and methods is different. Of course it's always the principles of the matter for Leftist intellectuals, not the practicality...  

Leftists have long given up on France... And further afield, Venezuela was a former favourite of the Left - the Left's favourite 'socialist paradise' is sliding into poverty and dictatorship, but this has faded away recently and is in truth another poor example for the Left. Crime and corruption are still rife in this country, there is significant opposition to the current Government, even then it is still in some ways a better example of potential economic success for the Left than Greece, as Venezuela at least has oil money to exploit. 

It's not good, it shouldn't be a sound economic foundation for Left wing sensibilities, but that didn't bother Owen Jones and it seems the notion didn't bother the SNP in Scotland. A means to an end. At least Norwegians appear to realise it can't last forever.

If you don’t have the natural resources, then you have to work hard to stay ahead. The Greeks have got their work cut out, if they are to sort out this mess and prove the likes of Owen Jones right.

    Owen Jones
    Socialism at its best

The world was certainly looking at Greece when Syriza won power. Of course many are keen to point to Greece as the cradle of European civilisation and the pioneers of democracy, and while this is of course true, things have moved on quite a lot since then. Mostly Northwards, where modern civilisation has flourished and largely been maintained. 

    The Greeks are proud of their history
    Start there and move on...

Europe has already had one catastrophic collapse since their ancient democracy and Greece was under foreign rule for significant parts of the intervening time. So are they saying it begins and ends in Greece or the cycle starts again…?

They’re certainly tempting history now:

    Tsipras is ok now Putin is behind him...
    "I must do what Stalin should have done many years ago..."

Good luck to them, I think we all need it...