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Friday lay day – Faut-il donc haïr l’Allemagne?

Its my Friday lay day blog where I plan to write less here and more elsewhere. Today, a brief discussion of two interesting articles that I read recently. The blog title – Faut-il donc haïr l’Allemagne? (must we hate Germany?) – was the question posed recently by the French economist – Jacques Sapir – as a reaction to the way Germany (particularly its Finance Minister) handled the Greek request for less austerity and more flexibility in the recent Eurogroup encounters. His February 20, 2015 article (in French) – Haïr l’Allemagne? – concludes that the actions of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble towards Greece have “repeated the sins” (“Les péchés répétés”) of the past and opened up old wounds that will further undermine the democracy in Europe. Sapir concludes that “Alors, disons-le, cette Allemagne là est haïssable”. What does that mean?

Sapir notes the way the Germans such as Schäuble have deliberately insulted the Greeks although the Germans were also affronted by the approach of the Greek Finance Minister – not the blokey, suit brigade sort of stuff.

Germans have also been whipped up into believing they are saving the Eurozone while the Greeks just want to spend their heads off.

Sapir thinks the call by Greece on the Eurogroup to “restore the living standards of millions of Greeks” (“rétablir le niveau de vie des millions de citoyens grecs”) is not an “empty word” (“Ceci n’est pas un vain mot.”) in the context of the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding within Greece under austerity.

He lists:

1. 25 per cent of Greek children do not have enough to eat.

2. Around 50 per cent of the population no longer can gain medical treatment.

3. The suicide rate has increased by 40 per cent in the last five years.

And a whole generation of youth will enter adulthood having never worked and with inadequate education and training. The disaster will span multiple generations.

Sapir considers that Schäuble wants “nothing less than a complete surrender of the Greek government” (“Il ne veut rien moins qu’une reddition complète du gouvernement grec”).

He thinks that resonates with past history – the “ultimatum sent by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Serbia, which started the First World War”, the “arrogance of Hitler’s Germany sending another ultimatum in May 1941 to Yugoslavia and Greece” etc.

He argues that the current behaviour of the German leadership and Merkel, in particular, “begins to look like what we find most hateful in Germany” (“Son comportement commence à ressembler à ce que l’on trouve de plus haïssable dans l’Allemagne”).

These are very strong words.

It is in this context that he concluded that:

Alors, disons-le, cette Allemagne là est haïssable.

Which means in the context that the Germany that Merkel and Schäuble represent – the paragon of efficiency, the submission of elected sovereignty to financial dictates and the sadomasochistic discourse of sacrifice and repression – echoes the 1940s – and is in that sense that Germany is hateful.

But on a positive note he also notes that Germany is better than Merkel (“L’Allemagne vaut mieux que Madame Merkel”) and that eventually the people who are being oppressed will confront and destroy this ideology (“l’affronter et à la détruire sera implacable”).

He suggests that the a significant proportion of Germans resist this ‘hateful’ approach. More and more Germans are deploring the “mercantilist policy” that the Germans have pursued with the Hartz reforms (Mini-jobs) and the emphasis on supressing domestic demand in favour of expanding exports.

He notes that millions of German workers are now poorer as a result. Please read my blog – Germany is not a model for Europe – it fails abroad and at home – for more discussion on this point.

He comments on the rise of extremist, right-wing politics in France and elsewhere as an accompanient to the harsh policies meted out by the undemocratic Troika.

But history will repeat itself. If Merkel and Schäuble succeed in crushing the Greek hope with their iron fisted approach then the oppressed will eventually rise up and destroy them.

He concluded:

Le nazisme est mort, lui aussi, sous les chenilles des chars soviétiques.

Nazism is dead, too, under the tracks of Soviet tanks.

It was interesting to juxtapose Sapir’s sentiment with the comments from a Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas (March 12, 2015) – Greece: Phase Two – who was interviewed by the Jacobin Magazine, which is a quarterly publication and “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture”.

It is one of the better interviews (in terms of questioning). Some of the answers are odd but then Lapavitsas is a self-declared Marxist academic economist who believes he has a unique ‘theory’ of money, which is a separate debate I am not going into today.

His answers were quite amazing when viewed through the prism of a – Westminster System – of democratic government where so-called Cabinet and party solidarity is a feature.

He also gives a hint that as a former Professor of Finance, he might have expected to play a greater role in the government than he is. He doesn’t criticise the current Finance minister vehemently but words are words and the impression is there.

For instance, he implicates the current Finance Minister for his past formal association (as adviser) to the Papandreou period, “which was the first government that introduced the bailout policies in Greece”.

And further, he says of the current Finance minister: “I don’t think you can call him a man of the Left in any systematic way”. That is incredible, in itself, that a radical left party (Syriza) would install a non-leftist as the Finance minister. But you get the drift – simmering rivalry from one who claims the higher ground as a ‘Marxist’.

He also subtely digs at the “inexperience” and “elements of personality” in relation to the current Finance minister.

His interpretation of the negotiations and outcomes of the Eurogroup meetings where Greece secured a 4-month breathing space were interesting.

He said that the Greek government entered the negotiations with a firm agenda – “the lifting of austerity and the writing off of debt” but was constrained because they were also committed to achieving these changes:

… firmly within the confines of the monetary union.

So they planned to change Europe from within – to “transform the monetary union”.

But then he claims they “discovered reality” and the strategy failed. Why?:

Because the confines of the monetary union are what they are. They are not susceptible to this kind of argument. It’s a very rigid array of institutions with an embedded ideology and approach to things. The other side wasn’t going to budge just because there was a new left government in a small country.

Which is the position I have been arguing all along and which is explained in detail in my soon to be published book on the Eurozone – Eurozone Dystopia – Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – Early peek.

The structure of the Eurozone is biased towards austerity and prolonged recession and stagnation.

Costas Lapavitsas concludes that “the Greeks … had high hopes, and they fell into the trap that those institutions had set up for them” which involves a dependency on the Commission and the ECB for cash given they have no currency sovereignty.

In that context, he says:

The Greeks had no options. They could not deal with that. Syriza could not deal with that, because it had accepted the confines of the euro. As long as you accept the confines of the Euro, you’ve got no effective answer. That’s the reason why this in the end took the form that it took.

Which led to the inevitable “poor compromise”.

He said “that the negotiations in February would have had a different result not only if the government had been aware of the trap but had also been prepared to take action to not fall into it.”

Meaning?

Make sure:

… the other side realizes that you’ve got an alternative in your hands and you’re determined to follow it if need be.

Meaning?:

… if you tell them that you’re not prepared to press the nuclear button, as you say, then obviously you weaken yourself enormously.

The nuclear option is to exit the Eurozone. He thinks that unless they use that strategy in the next round of negotiations nothing much will change.

He advocates a “negotiated exit”, which is the preferred option I outlined in my Eurozone book.

Interesting, even if he is not enamoured by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

ABC PM segment on Labour Market Data

This is the segment I contributed to after yesterday’s ABS release of the Labour Force data for February 2014 – Weak employment growth sees slight fall in jobless rate (which provides the transcript).

Here is the – Audio.

Music

This is what I have been listening to this morning while working. I have gone back recently to doing a lot of classical guitar (left-hand) exercises to expunge some of the bad habits that one gets when playing a Fender Stratocaster a lot – at least that is the version that an old teacher of mine would have of it. They are not really bad habits – just a different technique. But you lose the classical technique (particularly the left wrist angles) if you don’t practice them. Hence the practice.

This is one of my favourite pieces from the Romantic period written by Spanish guitarist – Francisco Tárrega – who helped revive the guitar in a period when it was dying as a result of the rising importance (and loudness) of the piano.

This piece Adelita is played by the British guitarist – Julian Bream – and constitutes 1 minute 40 seconds of perfection.

Given the earlier discussion about Greece and Germany, I thought this music was a good backdrop. The Greek classical mythology and the later Hellenic religion and philosophy talked of the – Dæmon – which was a divine spirit.

Linking to the music, the Spaniards might call it ‘duende’, or what Spanish writer – Federico García Lorca – termed the highest artistic inspiration.

And then the link to Germany, Lorca tried to develop the concept of ‘duende’ by drawing on the thoughts of German writer Johann Goethe.

In the book – Conversations with Goethe – by Johann Peter Eckermann (Goethe’s secretary), Goethe extends his notions of Christian belief and outlines the concept of the Daemonic by example. Eckermann recorded a conversation on Wednesday, March 2, 1831 with Goethe.

We read (p 1028 of the eBook):

“The Dæmonic,” said he, “is that which cannot be explained by Reason or Understanding; it lies not in my nature, but I am subject to it.”

Goethe says that the “Dæmonic” is perceptible “in all which cannot explain by Reason and Understanding. It manifests itself in the most varied manner throughout all nature … The Dæmonic manifests itself in a thoroughly active power”.

He then says:

… it is found more among musicians—less among painters. In Paganini, it shows itself in a high degree; and it is thus he produces such great effects.

And the compositions of Tárrega and the playing of Julian Bream. Pity German-Greek relations were not so inspirational.

All of Tárrega’s compositions are worth listening to even though it was ‘Salon’ music for the ruling classes.

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 14 Comments
    1. Nice audio clip on abc there Bill; so, you can be concise! :)
      jacques sapir seems an interesting guy, not heard of him before, theres a pdf on his wiki from 08 re. the crisis so i’ll have a look at that.

    2. «If Merkel and Schäuble succeed in crushing the Greek hope with their iron fisted approach»

      It is also the iron fisted approach of all the governments of the poorest EU states, from Slovakia to Latvia to Bulgaria. The votes in the EU council on negotiations with Greece are usually pretty much unanimous except for the Greek vote, even if some of the richer states like France might occasionally feel a bit more flexible.

      Things are not as simple as blaming vicious germans for enjoying the pain of their naive greek victims.

      Merkel and Schauble are just the front people willing to get the unpopularity (or popularity) of speaking for a pretty wide front.

    3. Especially nice post, Bill.

      Goethe says that the “Dæmonic” is perceptible “in all which cannot explain by Reason and Understanding. It manifests itself in the most varied manner throughout all nature … The Dæmonic manifests itself in a thoroughly active power”.

      Excellent point. As Goethe observes, the Daemonic, which the Greeks also related to the Dionysian and the Chthonic, affects much more than the arts and humanities. There is an important difference between the irrational as sub-rational and the non-rational as super-rational. This tends to be denied or ignored by those who are victims of scientism, materialism, and empiricism. It also affects some humanists. Many conventional economists seem to be disadvantaged in this regard, too. The preference for efficiency over effectiveness is a manifestation of it is, as well as a concept of effectiveness that is devoid of sensibility in the moral and aesthetic sense.

      It’s interesting here that this is the precisely the syndrome that is driving the euro crisis, especially as manifested by the behavior of Schaüble and Dijsselbloem, who come across as crass in their insistence on “principle” while the continent falls deeper into darkness.

      Goethe was followed by Nietzsche. The Daemonic has two sides, one light and one dark. The light is characterized by the power of love and the dark by love of power. It’s not difficult to see how this lines up politically. Unfortunately, the dark side is growing in strength in Europe while the light side is being eclipsed by conventionality and timidity.

      Parlous times, especially with a hot war on the eastern border of Europe in which real-life fascists are involved and we are again witnessing torchlight parades and Nazi and Nazi-like insignia, slogans, and behavior, as well as Nazi philosophy being espoused by political figures.

    4. Interesting piece, but just as pertinent, I think, are Sapir’s comments on the as he puts, Vichy-like devotion of the French élites for the German right wing. Nobody has spoken more eloquently about this than Alain Parguez, with his well-founded accounts of the fascist tendencies of the French elite. Sapir asks, of his own country, that the cause of liberty and justice be taken up against the plutocrats (especially those masquerading as progressives). So it is not just an attack on German elites, but on our own neo-liberal policy makers in our respective countries. Surely the point that Sapir and Parquez are making (should be?) is that all this “national” sentiment is just a cover for a class war. Anyway, with a name like mine, nobody can justly argue that I am anti-German (in general, I mean).

    5. Ahhh …. a guitar; in the hands of a musician ….!!

      That same guitar could produce horrible sounds, untuned, or in the hands of a monkey.

      It could be used to express frustration, anger, hate, lust.

      Instead it is used to express a feeling, coming from deep within – a feeling of beauty and strength, clarity, peace – ensouled within sound.

      When you walk away from a concert, only the feeling remains and lingers, for a while.

      All are players, even the idiots in Brussels. The feeling will drive what happens. Human beings are feeling machines. That is where our strength lies.

      ‘Darkness devours the light, then dies because it runs out of light to feed on …’ [I remember that from Monkey Magic]! Even one little candle lights a darkened room.

      I think back and behind all of the turmoil people are still switched on and desire peace. The daemon in each human heart has more potential and power, creativity and intelligence to change things than mind or ego could ever conceive. The war is not over yet.

      After 200,000 years on the road for the human being, my $money is on the daemon, and the heart …..!

    6. Perhaps it would be salutary for those sympathetic to Schaueuble to read Albrecht Ritschl on German historical responses:

      This one is on the Mantoux hypothesis: Ritschl, THe German Transfer Problem, 1920-1933 (http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1155.pdf)

      And this one on the WW2 reparations that never were. This is from Truthout (http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27261-germany-s-unpaid-debt-to-greece-albrecht-ritschl-on-germany-s-war-debts-and-reparations), an interview with Ritschl.

    7. Corrigendum + Addendum:
      Unfortunately, I spelled the German finance minister’s name wrong – it should be Schaeuble.

      And I should have noted that after WW2, the Axis powers, notably Germany and Japan, were let off paying reparations in order not to repeat the mistakes of the WW1 treaty. Ritschl’s point could be seen as intimating that Germany should acknowledge that they were let off the hook, as it were, after WW2 and perhaps could do something in this vein re Greece in light of the historical point that he makes.

      It should be noted that Germany has rejected Greek demands in this regard. And Schaeuble has contended this matter has been settled for decades – (http://uk.businessinsider.com/german-finance-minister-to-greece-dont-blame-others-for-your-economic-woes-2015-3?r=US). Well, maybe for some.

    8. «this one on the WW2 reparations that never were»
      «Germany and Japan, were let off paying reparations in order not to repeat the mistakes of the WW1 treaty.»

      That’s a pretty imaginative fantasy. Germany and Japan were forced to pay reparations in kind, with the confiscation by the occupying powers of all intellectual property and any physical property that could be carted away, as Roosevelt declared before Congress on March 1st 1945:

      http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/03/address-to-congress-on-yalta-march-1-1945miller-center.html
      «It means that Germany will have to make reparations in kind for the damage which has been done to the innocent victims of its aggression. By compelling reparations in kind — in plants, in machinery, in rolling stock, and in raw materials — we shall avoid the mistake that we and other Nations made after the last war, the demanding of reparations in the form of money which Germany could never pay.»

    9. Blissex,

      I’m sure Greece would pay their debt to Germany in Olive oil and Ouzo if that was being asked of them. Instead Germany continues to run a trade surplus and must expect that the Greeks will simply securitize every asset they own and eventually hand over the keys to Greece to the German government without incident?

      There really are some moronically short-sighted world leaders right now.

    10. Hello Blissex

      I would like to ask a question, following the view that you and many others have expressed (in the media, for instance) that “It is also the iron fisted approach of all the governments of the poorest EU states, from Slovakia to Latvia to Bulgaria. The votes in the EU council on negotiations with Greece are usually pretty much unanimous except for the Greek vote… Merkel and Schauble are just the front people willing to get the unpopularity (or popularity) of speaking for a pretty wide front.” (13th March 2015, at 21:54)

      Do you think that, if the German government was taking the opposite point of view, and voting the opposite way, Slovakia, Latvia, Bulgaria et al would oppose the German govt’s vote, or fall into line with it?

      This is not a rhetorical question. It is something I have thought about but not come to a conclusion on.

      Regards

      Jim

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