Tuesday, February 24, 2015

24 hours late, and € 240 billion short

1. A day late and more than a dollar short, Yanis Varoufakis submitted a "program" of reforms to the Eurozone finance ministers (Eurogroup) regarding the Greek government's development and implementation of tax policies, public finance management, revenue administration, public spending, social security reform, public administration and corruption, instalment schemes, labor market reforms, product market reforms, better business environment, judicial system reforms, banking and non-performing loans, privatisation and public asset management, statistics, and last and certainly least,  the humanitarian crisis where Yanis sums it up perfectly, puts a cherry on it, wraps it with a bow, seals it with a kiss--
The Greek government affirms its plan to:  Ensure that its fight against the humanitarian crisis has no negative fiscal effect.
Upon reading that, Wolfgang Schäuble, a tear in his eye,  sent a telegram to one Dieter Kaufmann stating:  Je suis Charlie. Tout est pardonné!

2. The submission of the "reform" package was a clever bit of stagecraft in that it gave the appearance that the Syriza government was negotiating on behalf of Greece as an equal among equals; partners among partners; as if in fact there is or was any substance to the negotiation process itself. 

Syriza had already affirmed that Greece was not an equal among equals; that there were no "partners" only the debtor and the debt holders; that "negotiations" were but a charade.  The government had assumed power demanding an end to the conditions of the 2012 Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement.  The finance minister had "killed" the Troika of the ECB, the Eurogroup, and the IMF overseeing the disbursements and assistance to Greece.  And then...

And then, when faced indeed with the end to the MFFA; when faced with no further extension and no further disbursements, the Syriza government "flipped":
The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.
The "reforms" submitted by Syriza are simply "pretend measures," as in "I'll pretend I'm saying something, and you pretend you're listening." 

What counts is who controls the cash flow; and there's no pretending there. 

That the very act of submitting such a document "pretending" to so many reforms in so many areas to an external agency answers all the questions anyone might have about "partners," "equals," "sovereignty;" that the existence of the document and the process prove what the parties  hope to obscure--namely that fools and cynics are no less essential to capital accumulation than fear and greed--didn't stop Yanis from submitting the document with a straight-face.  And the Eurogroup from accepting it, equally straight-faced.

Wolfgang, however, in the privacy of his office, howled with laughter.  "More rabbits!" he said.  "I want more rabbits!"

3.  The document itself is supposed to be the basis for a review to be concluded within the next four months regarding Greece's worthiness to receive further disbursements from the Troika.  If drafting this comprehensively vague document caused the Syriza to run a day late, the actual development and execution of the so-called reforms will take much more than four months if in fact they are ever developed anywhere other than on Varoufakis Macbook.

But that's the point.  The so-called reforms and plans aren't reforms and plans.  They are "white noise" to cover the continued subjugation of the population to servicing the debt. 

The Greek government "promises...."  The Greek government will "modify...."  The Greek government will "modernize..." The Greek government will "devise and implement..." The Greek government will "enhance...," "strengthen...," "staff...," "augment..." "augment and review...," "identify...," "control...," "phase out...," "establish...,"  "turn the fight...into a national piority...," "target, tackle, reduce, activate, rationalize, promote, improve, calibrate, step-up, utilize, collaborate, commit not to roll back privatizations that have been completed, safeguard, review, adopt, achieve, expand, phase in (to balance the phase out), remove, pursue, honour, guarantee, address, evaluate..."

Nowhere in the document is there any analysis of how much the strengthening, enhancing, staffing, reviewing, etc. will cost nor how much benefit it will provide.  Not a single projection, not a single estimate, not a single number. 

Nowhere does the document specify when and how it will accomplish a single one of its promise, intentions, programs.  

The point of the document, at least as Syriza would like to imagine it and sell it to those interested in buying, and eating, an air sandwich, is to provide a basis for the government to a)prove its compliance with the obligations agreed to in the various MoUs and facility agreements that direct the disbursement of funds b)request some sort as yet undefined, and unclear, mitigation in the obligations Greece is attempting to prove it has satisfied, and can satisfy.  

That is the inherent, and irresolvable conflict in the document submittal and review process, and that is why the language being used is so fundamentally imprecise, irresolute-- and traffics in ignorance. 

The language that is used in this document is exactly the language used by corporations when they want to market their gutting of pension plans, health care benefits, work rules, wages, as "improving efficiencies," "eliminating waste"  "maximizing choice." 

Here's the "thing"-- and the bottom line, the only bottom line to be found in this ridiculous submission by a huckster government:  There is nothing there except the preservation of the creditors' demands on the debtor.

February 24, 2015


  1. For the little it's worth, I attended a talk in London last night with with Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Syriza’s central committee and Alex Callinicos. The former was trying hard to be optimistic, talking a lot of Gramsci, emphasising the historical nature of the victory, focusing on the importance of electoral politics over revolution and vanguardism etc. The latter was somewhat more belligerent, damning the coalition with ANEL, hinting at the possibility of violence, and warning against demoralisation. Now that the pass has been sold, though, it's hard to see what could be salvaged.

  2. As Callinicos stated, Poulantzas is considerably more important than Gramsci in the worldview of the left wing of Syriza.