“Tsipras between innocence, incompetence and pushiness”, by Bruno Adrie

Confronted with a strong opposition in what was once his coalition, – 39 MPs have stopped supporting him and half the central committee has voted against the agreement he’s brought back from Brussels (Macropolis) – Alexis Tsipras stays on course towards the austerity reforms and is about to sign a third memorandum. Facing the discontent of his comrades in arms, he has, without irony, proposed postponing the dialogue to September after the measures are voted (Macropolis). Those must have had a smile when they heard such an awkward message which actually means: “I’ll give you back the freedom of speech within Syriza as soon as the third bail-out is underway and you can’t roll back on my decision.”

According to Romaric Godin, this plan is doomed to failure because “it repeats the mistakes of the past”. The privatizations won’t yield – they represent as a whole 5.4 billion euros for the period between 2010 and 2015 – and won’t enable the country to pay back a debt that represents 177% of total GDP. According to this journalist who writes for the French economic newspaper La Tribune, this stubbornness could be explained “at best, because he’s wearing ideological blinkers, at worst because of his shameful unconsciousness.”

So, is Tsipras stubborn? That’s exactly the opinion of the French economist Frédéric Lordon, who thinks that the Greek PM has voluntarily and blindly submitted to the concepts of the ruling German power. “Tsipras is mentally prisoner of the euro”, he says, “he’s unable to free himself from his belief in the euro, to which, it’s been proven until now, he’s been inclined to sacrifice everything, his country’s sovereignty, the conditions of its economy and (…) his political grandeur.”

As far as he is concerned, Nick Malkoutzis (Macropolis) leans towards the hypothesis of Tsipras’s incompetence. According to him, Tsipras has actually added in the last few months his “diplomatic folly” to “years of mistakes”. He asserts that Tsipras has been inexplicably gullible in front of his interlocutors. Didn’t Yanis Varufakis warn him in April when Schäuble had put the Grexit on the table like he had already done in 2011 with Evangelos Venizelos? (Malkoutzis)

Maybe he should have known that “Germany didn’t want more Europe; it wanted less” as explained Joshka Fischer, former German Minister of Foreign Affairs who also said that the “Euro-romantic” ideas had passed and that “where Europe is concerned, from now on Germany [would] primarily pursue its national interests, just like everybody else.” Joshka Fischer thinks that “on the night of July 12-13 [Germany] announced its desire to transform the Eurozone from a European project into a kind of sphere of influence. »

Frédéric Lordon does agree with him but thinks that this tendency of the German diplomacy is older than July of 2015. In his opinion, it’s rooted in the tradition or even written in the DNA of German’s will for power. Germany has just replaced its military domination by a monetary domination and, in this area, it can’t stand sharing responsibilities. He points out for example that the ECB is not a central bank nor a European bank. First, the ECB is not a central bank because “the German “hegemon” refuses to be the final resort liquidity supplier.” Helping the states in difficulty would make Germany “lose control of its own money (even in the case of the euro).” Second, the ECB is not really a European bank because “what Germany wants is not the ECB to be independent per se, but to be, first of all and substantially, a German bank and only after, but in a second time, independent if needed to protect its German character.” (Lordon)

However, a rather temporary element can be added to this idiosyncratic issue. In the opinion of Romaric Godin, the lenders – who are nothing more than “big liars” – didn’t hesitate to put Greece in a “social, economic and political burden” instead of confessing that they had made “impossible promises” by telling that the money lent to Greece by the German tax-payers would be paid back while in fact they knew it would be impossible. Today, Angela Merkel has chosen a headlong rush and is hiding her responsibility “behind a demonization of Greece and a moralistic discourse.” (Godin) That’s why Germany has pressured the IMF to be more severe with Greece and tighten Greece in a succession of bailouts that will not save the country.

As a politician and Prime Minister, Tsipras should have known all those things and, if he didn’t, that means he has been incompetent, and the incompetence is, as many of us will have noted, an infallible indicator of pushiness, a terrible moral disease so hard to fight as much on the left as on the right wing of the political spectrum.

Thucydides tells us that, during the Peloponnesian wars, Athens wanted to rally to its cause and make adhere the isle of Melos to its league, a former Spartan colony which wanted to remain neutral in the conflict. The Athenian armies devastated its land and established a camp. In front of the resistance of the inhabitants, and before prolonging the war, the Athenians sent envoys and tried to negotiate the submission of those determined adversaries. The Melian magistrates met them in private and, during the talks, the Athenians explained to them that they wouldn’t use “fine phrases” but the language of geopolitics that is to say the language of force. We won’t say that “we have a right to our empire because we defeated the Persians, or that we have come against you now because of the injuries you have done to us — a great mass of words that nobody would believe.” And they added: “We recommend that you should try to get what it is possible for you to get, taking into consideration what we both really do think; since you know as well as we do that, when these matters are discussed by practical people, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.”

If during his studies disturbed by his penchant for militancy Alexis Tsipras had read The Peloponnesian War, he would have known that “the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.” The story told by Thucydides ends badly for the Melian because, some time later, “another force came out afterwards from Athens under the command of Philocrates, the son of Demeas. Siege operations were now carried on vigorously and, as there was also some treachery from inside, the Melians surrendered unconditionally to the Athenians, who put to death all the men of military age whom they took, and sold the women and children as slaves. Melos itself they took over for themselves, sending out later a colony of 500 men.”

Today, for want of having learnt this political truth in the work of this eminent Athenian, he will at least have felt its blast, in the foam of the days, or in the turbulence of the circumstances.

He may pay the price for this delayed learning – some may doubt of it – with a depreciation of his political image. As far as they are concerned, the Greeks will pay it more painfully, in a state of poverty exacerbated by the collaboration of a PM elected six months ago on the promise of relieving their pain.

As there was also some treachery from inside…

Bruno Adrie

References :

Joshka Fischer, “The Return of the Ugly German”, Project Syndicate, July, 23rd 2015.

Frédéric Lordon, « La gauche et l’euro : liquider, reconstruire », Blog : La pompe à phynance, 18 juillet 2015

Frédéric Lordon, « De la domination allemande (ce qu’elle est, et ce qu’elle n’est pas) », Blog : La pompe à phynance, 18 juin 2013

Nick Malkoutzis, « Which way now, Mr Tsipras ? », http://www.macropolis.gr, 17 juillet 2015

« New Democracy finds compromise but SYRIZA seemingly heading for clash », http://www.macropolis.gr, 24 juillet 2015

« Tsipras gears up for internal battle, sets priorities for summer », http://www.macropolis.gr, 22 juillet 2015

Romaric Godin, « Grèce : pourquoi Angela Merkel refuse de parler de la dette grecque », La Tribune, 7 juillet 2015

Romaric Godin, « Grèce : la vraie nature du troisième mémorandum», La Tribune, 15 juillet 2015

Thucydides, The Melian Dialogue (in History of the Peloponnesian War)