Monday, 18 June 2012

Syriza like Monday morning

Syriza didn't win, of course. It would have been a good thing for Spain if it had, but it didn't. I almost wrote thought of writing therefore it didn't, on the general principle that the better something would be, the less likely it is to actually happen. But anyway. It didn't happen.

Of course it didn't happen. It's nearly always possible for the Right to win an election if they want to badly enough: if they deploy their gigantic financial advantage, if the media is sufficiently skewed towards them, crucially if the element of fear is abroad, that sufficient voters are inclined to believe that everything will collapse unless power gets its way.

Perhaps they were right. Or perhaps everything will collapse anyway. Or perhaps the reason Syriza aroused such opposition among the European political and financial establishment was that they didn't accept the role it is insisted Greece should play. The real sin of Syriza was to say the unthinkable, the unacceptable, that it is not all the fault of the Greeks.

As it goes, I'm not entirely opposed to we-are-all-guilty views about the crisis. (Perhaps I will get back to that question in a future post.) But the view that there is some entity called "the Greeks" who can be collectively and solely blamed for the problems of their country is a disgusting one.

This is not to say that corruption in Greece has not been rampant: nor that corruption beyond a certain degree doesn't, ultimately, implicate and involve everybody, because it does. But as a narrative to explain the destruction of Greece, especially as a narrative told by the political and financial establishment, as a moral narrative allocating and demarcating blame, it's a nonsense. Come to that, it's a moral nonsense.

There are two reasons why - two obvious, glaring reasons why - neither of which is apparently mentioned within that establishment, or within mainstream commentary, let alone accepted.

The first is that if corruption and the fiddling of accounts was widespread within Greece, which of course it was, then other states, banks, and companies working within Greece must have known this. What they did not actually know, they must have suspected. But they chose to say nothing, because it was not then politically expedient to say so, and because they were happily making a great deal of money. Because the milk was flowing and the honey was sweet.

They went along with it happily until it turned out that their money was at risk. Then they were completely shocked at what they found was happening. But they still wanted to collect their winnings.

This is bullshit, of course. But the fact that it is bullshit is very rarely spoken. "The Greeks" are at fault, collectively at fault and solely at fault and this narrative must be the only one.

The second is that in their horror, their rejection of the old system of political corruption, the political and financial establishment (which is a clumsy phrase, but what can I do?) have openly and repeatedly expressed their support for the old system of political corruption in their campaign against Syriza.

We can take as an example the pre-election analysis of Holger Schmieding of Berenberg Bank, who manages repeatedly to refer to a "responsible government", by which he means a government of the old corrupt parties, and to describe PASOK as "responsible centre-left" when we have been led to believe that PASOK is at the centre of a network of patronage and corruption.

This, too, is manifest bullshit. But it is not given that name.

And the relevance of all this to Spain is that Spain is next in line: the next to be punished, the next to be demolished. But you cannot punish somebody without making it clear that they are guilty.

So watch, as along with the burden of paying for the crisis, the responsibility for causing the crisis is shifted to the Spanish. Watch, as the crisis turns out not to be about construction bubbles but about public sector pensions and employment rights. Watch, as the role of international lenders in financial profligacy is forgotten and the blame falls entirely on Spanish banks and political interference in those banks. Watch, as the blame falls, like Plymouth Rock, on Spain. Or on "the Spanish". Because we all know what they're like.

As we all know what "the Greeks" are like. That's the story. No other story will do. And that's why Syriza had to lose.

1 comment:

  1. I was disgusted with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight referring to Greece as 'a bad kebab vomited up' and I have noticed lots of British comedians who think it is hysterical to mimic the Spanish accent and say untrue things about their character just to get a cheap laugh.