By Robert Zaller, Special to the Hellenic News of America
In Greece, reality is on the ground, right in front of you.
On a trip to Athens last month—a happy occasion, to celebrate Lili Bita’s induction into the Hellenic Authors Society—I passed a distinctly unhappy sight, hundreds of refugees milling around Syntagma Square after their recent rescue from a ship foundering in the Aegean. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs, and, within sight of the Parliament building, no place else to go.
Where do such people, in this case Syrians, go from there? Visit the parks of Athens, and you’ll find them crowded with shabbily dressed men in small groups, either recent arrivals or longer-tenured illegals. They rarely speak. They have nothing to do.
Probe a little further, and you’ll find a third and much larger group of the dispossessed: the people of Greece themselves, refugees in their own land, their wealth—for all but a handful—drained by six years of economic immiseration, and their future stolen. It’s happened to the Greeks before: under four hundred years of Ottoman occupation, four years of Nazi genocide, and seven of home-grown tyranny. It’s happening now under the flag of a so-called democratic government that is in actuality a quisling state taking its orders from Berlin.
For the past few months, encouraging articles have cropped up regularly about a reviving Greek economy. After the sickening plunge that wiped out nearly a third of the country’s wealth and left even more of its working-age citizens unemployed (the rule of thumb, in Greece as in America, is that you add about 50% to the official statistics to get a picture of the real number of jobless), the economy has reportedly grown by about 1%, and the unemployment rate shrunk by a little more than that. A few more shops are said to be open. Break out the champagne!
The truth needs to be spoken. Greece has been cast into a pit from which it will take many years to achieve anything like “recovery,” and which will leave scars even more long-lasting than those of the Great Depression in America. In America, after all, Franklin D. Roosevelt used the Depression to modernize the national infrastructure and create the rudiments of public welfare. In Greece, the opposite has occurred: wealth has not been created by state investment but drained by austerity and what amounts to a permanent transfer payment to Germany—a brain drain of many of Greece’s best and brightest professionals—and the gutting of wages, pensions, and basic social services. The country now finds itself deeper in debt than ever, thanks to the “bailouts” which compound it, and which, with austerity, have left the country in a far worse financial condition than in 2009. In short, Greece is now an economic colony, not a sovereign state, with its resources and its future at the disposal of others. To regain national independence will take an act of assertion no less perilous than the revolution which freed it from foreign rule in 1821. In some respects it will be even more difficult, because Greece had the sympathy and support of many in the 1820s. It has little or none today, since the international media and the interests for which they speak have succeeded in painting it as the simple victim of its own dereliction, rather than of a calamity cynically orchestrated from abroad. The Ottoman Empire isn’t the adversary today; it’s the European Union itself. And any hope for Greece must begin with a clear recognition of that fact.
What, then, is the real situation of Greece? The official unemployment rate remains above 25%, with youth unemployment double that. The vast majority of the population has lost much if not most of its economic resources. Social services have virtually collapsed. When Russia suffered economic catastrophe after the fall of the Soviet Union and the application of shock capitalism, it was able to turn itself around thanks to gas exports. Greece has neither the natural resources nor the industrial infrastructure of Russia, and its small size makes it vulnerable to predatory lenders and developers as well as the shifting tides of the international market, while the plundering of its assets continues apace through the forced sale of public properties and utilities. Finally, it does not control its own currency, the most basic requisite of sovereignty in the modern world.
The stark choice Greece will face in the coming years is whether to accept its colonial position, or fight to liberate itself. That fight is connected to the fate of the European Union, whose subservience to Germany and the international creditor class makes it a clear and present danger to its member states. Those states may find their own reasons to leave the EU, or renegotiate their status within it. For Greece, it’s a matter of freedom or servitude. That choice should be morally clear at least.