Photo: © Petros Diveris, Salonica, Summer 2014
"I offered my friend Jack Lew these days that we could take Puerto Rico into the euro zone if the U.S. were willing to take Greece into the dollar union."
Wolfgang Schäuble, 2015
"Since men are a sad lot, gratitude is forgotten the moment it's inconvenient"
Niccolò Machiavelli , The Prince
"Greek fatigue", "Grexit", "a Greek-ment"; in the past two years we have been bombarded with ugly expressions spat at us to mask the terrible truth, that of the great sacking of Greece, and the attempted rape of Europe. As it happens, the elephant in the room is not Greece; owing to our "fatigue" I think it is high time we talked about Germany, it is time we talked about Schäuble. This discussion has been off-limits to intellectuals and political commentators, because the last thing one needs when analysing this catastrophe is to talk about these issues in terms of nations and national characteristics. So far the talk had to be focused on deficits, GDP, bonds, yields, interest rates and above all debt (the words growth and unemployment are strictly banned).
I would like to take the opportunity here to address the hopefully existent majority of Germans who are progressive, or at least democrats, the large number of people whose mandate to their government was, and hopefully still is, for a large, stable and democratic Europe. German democrats: I want to bring to your attention that you have been taken for a ride by a group of very nasty people. Those people have transformed the economy, and more specifically debt, into a weapon of mass destruction, and they have done so for aims which, when I lay them bare, you will agree are not your aims. It is understandable that every sane German or Slovakian or Finnish taxpayer who contributes to the Greek "bailout" , or any bailout for that matter, should expect that they get their money back. But things aren't always what they seem. Leaving aside the humiliation embedded in it, the latest agreement between the creditors and Greece is about anything but you getting your money back.
According to the Stern magazine, half of you are satisfied with the way Angela Merkel handled the situation, with the so called "Greek programme". Being the Stern magazine the question had to be asked that way, rather than, for example, "do you think this is a good agreement for both parties?" or "in your opinion, is this agreement good for Europe?". The truth is that this agreement is not good for either of the two parties. It's certainly not good for Greece, who have just lost sovereignty and they stand to also lose islands, ports, mountains and the family silver. It is not good for Germany either though because it is designed to fail in budgetary and debt repayment terms. Owing to the programme's anticipated failure a clause was introduced dictating that €50 billion worth of Greek assets be set aside, and sold on the spot to cover the budget hole, which amounts to an institutionalised perpetual looting that will resemble the Nazi occupation of Greece in the 1940s, as it is established to make the occupied country pay for its own occupation. Let's be frank here; as the economy keeps shrinking, so will the value of assets on "sale". As a result, what Schäuble really demanded, and apparently got, was all Greek assets, or at least as many as he thinks are enough; for now it's just 14 "peripheral" airports, and a few ports. What is more terrifying, Schäuble is planning to use the proceeds from the loot of Greek state assets to bankroll the demolition of that very state.
It is because of this that the agreement is a very bad deal for the German democrats. Essentially the finance minister achieved what the Wehrmacht didn't manage to do in the previous century. As things stand, it would be more desirable for the Greeks (except perhaps for the oligarchs) to capitulate to Germany en masse, and declare themselves a body of non-descript European citizens. That way they would be able to enjoy the same rights as other EU "citizens", in theory at least, for who knows when it comes to Schäuble; as it stands Greece has become a protectorate and its citizens subjects.
Schäuble's vision is simply the utter reduction of the Greek state to its absolute minimum, the transformation of its military and civilian forces into lieutenants of an occupying force, albeit a financial one. This time there are no tanks, fighter jets and frigattes. Following July's agreement Greece has already surrendered its fiscal sovereignty to the troika (you see, the markets are not interested in borders, warships or identity). I suspect that all Schäuble wants is enough state apparatus to guarantee the smooth operation of your country's big multinationals, and that's that. He's probably neutral about the influx of young educated Greek professionals to your country; I sense that he considers this a kind of collateral boon. I say this because, of course, as a result of his decrees, the generations to come are condemned to be much less educated, if schooled at all.
As even the SPD applauded the agreement, it obviously has not been made clear just how bad a deal you got for yourselves. The problem with Schäuble's plans is that they will either succeed, or fail. If his plans succeed then we are looking at a very dystopian Europe, with pockets of wealth and numerous rings around them, of varied prosperity. As state power in the European nations is gradually reduced to being a long arm of the financial establishment enforcing this core-periphery system, violence will ensue. This is because as the neo-feudal periphery becomes increasingly impoverished, it will at the same time become increasingly disenfranchised. Democratic institutions will become redundant, like the Greek parliament has already become through this 'agreement'. Furthermore, we have now entered an era in which a finance minister of Germany not only decides what constitutes periphery, but he can (and will) also create new peripheries.
I am fully aware that a lot of you, one in five in 2010, are employed in "mini-jobs". This figure is probably one in four today. That means that a fifth, maybe even a quarter of you, cannot build up pension claims, and you rely on state handouts to survive. I am therefore fully aware that, to many of you, Schäuble's claim that you have to "bail out the Greeks" will sound absurd. But Schäuble never told you that what neeeded bailing out was not "the Greeks", but your and France's banks. That was just the first part of a horrible master plan conceived by Schäuble, a plan modelled on what he did to the DDR using Treuhand. That plan relied heavily on Schäuble essentially lying, hiding from you the fact that you had to bankroll the operation to the tune of €100 billion. Schäuble's vision for 21st-century Greece and other large parts of "old" Europe is much less kind to their peoples. After all, the Greeks and the Portuguese aren't quite German, are they? They should be thankful to hold onto full time jobs that pay just €200 per month, with basic health services, and maybe some "state" pension later, "the markets" permitting. He has already given a glimpse of his grand designs, by demanding that Greece's basic pension of €360 be reduced even further. Greek pensioners can already be seen scavaging the bins of Athens, and other cities, for anything that can be converted to cash, but why should that bother Schäuble, or disrupt his plans? The oligarchs who act as his enforcers in Greece have alredy siphoned their money out to Luxembourg. After all it is the poor who apparently need punishing for the largesse of Deutsche Bank and Credit Agricole.
Schäuble's morals, or the lack of them, should be the most pressing question in Europe today, and the only two possible answers to this question are equally disturbing. It is quite plausible that Schäuble simply doesn't do morals. In this scenario his masterplan is simply based on the doctrine of the markets' superiority, their absolute domination of the sphere of humans, their activities, and society itself, if not the universe. As it happens, Germans are simply better at doing business, and as business and "markets"* are above everything, so it is that Germany sits naturally at the top. As Schäuble has already indicated, "politicians' responsibilities stem from their office", in other words, he's simply following orders. If that sounds terrifying to you is because it is. In this scenario, entire regions of Europe, and tens of millions of people, are forcibly pushed out of the core, into a newly-created periphery, because big northern capital needs its Lebensraum.
Of course there is another possibility, namely that Schäuble does morality. It might be then that, in Wolfgang's world view, some people simply happen to be above others, or that some of us are born unlucky and inferior. In this scenario the only role for the Greek, the southern Spanish and Italian and Portuguese, if not the Irish, periphery, is to simply feed into the gigantic machine of superiority, the defender and extender of which happens to be Wofgang Schäuble. If that sounds even more horrible to you it is because it is. In this scenario peoples of the world are simply consumables for the smooth operation of a chosen business and people. It's time we stop mincing our words; no matter which scenario you went for, what we are looking at here is fascism, pure and simple. As the Greek equivalent of Treuhand starts confiscating islands and ports and forests and monuments and mental space, apparently to pay back "the debt" to the German taxpayer, to you, you will once more have to deal with a civilian population determined to stop your moneymen from looting and pillaging, just like in 1941.
Now, it is plausible that you may well find yourselves in the privileged core of this system, by virtue of simply being Germans, but is this the kind of Europe that you want for you and your children? At any rate your position within the system that Schäuble is attempting to construct and enforce is fragile, conditional, and likely to be challenged by both the needs of it, and the markets, if not the outraged south. Make no mistake, in Schäuble's plans we are all collateral damage. This system will backfire by design, just as it did twice in the last century.
It pains me that very few people in your country have so far stood up to this most grotesque attempt to remould Europe into that very ancient horror of a system of satellites orbiting the big old superior German machine. Twice your country attempted that, with the silent approval of the socialists and democrats, and twice we counted our victims and collected the dead by the millions. I want to ask you why? What will it take to plan a future, for the continent, that will include us all, rather than the twisted vision of a very sad and dangerous man? Why is it necessary to repeat the mistakes of the not so distant past? Greeks are corrupt and lazy and owe everyone money, that's the narrative. Leaving aside that Germany was the briber-in-chief in Greece in recent decades, and that a lot of bribes came straight back to your country to afford cars and houses and champagne to apparently honest men and women, employees of Siemens and Ferrostall et al., is this really the kind of start the new European century deserves? A repeat of a 1910s sick vision of Europe, made true by a man who's either a fascist, or a... fascist? Machiavelli once said that "the successful ruler is the one who adapts to changing times." I suggest that Schäuble one day picks up and reads a book for once, and reflects for a change, before he turns Europe into debris once more.