Greek crisis: C.Lapavitsas-C.Douzinas-A.Chatzistefanou


Join Professor Costas Lapavitsas, Professor Costas Douzinas and the journalist Aris Chatzistefanou to debate the implications for Greece and the EU

Greece has been the weakest link of the eurozone since 2009, and the crisis has brought to the fore several issues that go to the heart of contemporary Europe. Austerity measures are dividing the continent and the Greek people are preparing for a second general election in as many months. Does the vote amount to a referendum on whether to leave the eurozone, as has been suggested by David Cameron? Will the euro collapse altogether, and does the current instability threaten the balance of forces that have historically dominated European politics?
Professor Costas Lapavitsas, Professor Costas Douzinas and the journalist Aris Chatzistefanou will be here from 3pm to 4pm (UK time) to debate the Greek crisis and what might happen next for the rest of Europe. You will be able to post your questions in the thread below from 2.30pm. 
Odysseus asks: 
greyavatarTo Costas Douzinas: you are famous for being conversant with a number of largely antithetical theories, from philosophers whose work suggests seemingly impassable theoretical obstacles (eg, from Zizek and Laclau to Derrida and so on). If you are able to do so in stimulating and interesting ways – that is, to utilise what is best from each philosophical tradition – why exactly do you think KKE is so staunchly anti-SYRIZA and feels unable to lend any kind of support to the latter’s struggle to change Greece’s socio-political spectrum?
Thank you all – and solidarity with the Greek people!
Costas Douzinas replies:
douzinasOne of the most exciting recent developments has been the opening of radical thought to a number of different traditions and philosophies. Laclau’s development of ideas around populism, Derrida’s politics with a strong ethical basis and Zizek’s interest in the way in which psychoanalytical perspectives can help us understand ideology have enriched traditional leftist theory and practice. The recent wave of resistance all over the world can be understood from these perspectives. The question is not create a new orthodoxy but to understand how different aspects of the social bond and individual subjectivity operate in late capitalism. Many of these theories appear antagonistic to each other. However if we put to one side the ‘narcissism of small difference’ and the common quest for a world of social justice we can use some of these approaches in a complementary fashion. We are at a stage in our history when the actions of people are well ahead of any single theoretical or party programme.

Odysseus asks:

greyavatarTo Aris: SYRIZA is slated to be the first party at the June 17 elections; being a coalition will it still be entitled to the 50-seat bonus? I understand that this bonus is given to «coherent», homegeneous parties only. If that is the case and SYRIZA does not get awarded said bonus, what do you envision being the reaction fo the electorate?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22Yes, SYRIZA will participate as an homogenous party as it filled a motion to the supreme court of Greece. So theoretically will get the 50 seats bonus if he wins the elections. Denying the seats will be a «parliamentary coup» and I don’t expect something like that to happen. I would be more afraid about the propaganda attacks the party is receiving before the elections.
Just have a look at this article – there are people who wish for Greece to have a bank run so that elections will be annulled and a new technocratic government will take control.
It sounds like conspiracy theory but when a political system is collapsing we should have our eyes open.

IsabellaMackie asks:

greyavatarHi, I’d like to know what the feeling is within the Greek population towards Germany. Is it as hostile as some headlines have painted it, or has the media outside of Greece stirred up the situation?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22@IsabellaMackie Greeks might be hostile against Angela Merkel and some German Banks but not against the German. Greeks seem to realize, (as economist magazine once said) that «Germany is bailing out euro-area countries to save its own banks». 

000a000 asks:

 greyavatarIf Greece crashes put of the Euro, young Greeks are even more likely to look to leave Greece and seek employment in other EU countries. Has the EU got a plan to deal with the resulting reaction from other EU countries (in economic hard times it’s easy to blame «the immigrants»), and what will the outflow of young people mean for Greece in the medium to long term – will Greece lose tax paying people and be left with dependants?
I don’t see any plans to address migration issues from the EU at the moment.

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22A Greek crash or even a Greek exit from the Euro zone doesn’t necessarily mean that Greece will exit the EU. The EU treaties guarantee the free movement of people inside the Union and, to my knowledge, there are no plans to change this situation. The British Home secretary has said that she is studying plans to contain migration to the United Kingdom if the eurozone crisis escalates. However, according to Nick Clegg, Britain would not bring down a «drawbridge» at the borders to stop an influx of immigration, if Greece exits the euro.
As in every other country, the outflow of young, educated people from Greece would constitute a major disadvantage, both socially and financially. Remittances by Greek workers abroad could curb the financial loss to a small extend.

Costas Douzinas replies:

douzinasI respect the views of Costas L who has made a huge contribution to this debate. However I disagree with the exit strategy. I believe it is politically problematic and economically highly ambiguous. Even those who support it accept the the immediate short-term outcome will be an economic storm. This is a storm that will be piled on top of an up to 50% reduction of the spending power of ordinary people, 20% unemployment, over 50 % unemployment of 18-24 years old (a gene-cide to coin term, the destruction of a whole generation) and a 20% contraction of GDP. These people cannot take any more and they say so in every opinion poll. The Europeans cannot eject Greece since, as every rational economist says, the consequences for the European and world economy would be much worse than 2008.
The comparison between continued austerity and exit for the euro is based on projections and extrapolations on both sides. No compelling argument has won that debate. The SYRIZA position argued by an impressive group of academic economists is that austerity can be seriously mitigated through the repeal of the laws implementing austerity, serious reduction of the debt burden, socially just economic measures to help growth and negotiations with the Europeans. Taking this into account, it is politically imperative that the left argues against austerity and for staying in the euro.

pesaola asks:

greyavatarMy questions, all related to the same theme, are the following:
Why does Syriza not discuss more seriously the possibility of Greece’s exit from the eurozone? Why don’t they follow through suggestions such as the ones Costas Lapavitsas has made? Is their loyalty to the eurozone sincere, or is it just an electioneering pretense? Do you think they have seriously drawn up plans for the (probable) eventuality that they will need to exit the eurozone, if they become government?
I am Greek and am asking from a standpoint that is sympathetic to Syriza but also to a voluntary and organised exit of Greece from the eurozone.

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22@pesaola You have to understand that exiting the eurozone was a taboo subject for Greece for many years. Just yesterday the anchorwoman of the biggest TV station in Greece compared the exit with a nuclear war. Another commentator said that after that the country… will not exist!
I don’t think that the Greek population supports the euro but many people are afraid for the consequences – as described by the mainstream media.
So even if SYRIZA was ok with exiting the eurozone it would be difficult to persuade the population. In my opinion we should explain that the exit will be shock for the country. Unfortunately staying inside will lead to certain death.

compayEE asks:

greyavatarI would like to ask Professors Costas Lapavitsas and Costas Douzinas as well as Mr. Chatzistefanou why do they think that despite its bad track record, Nea Demokratia is still credited with getting the largest share of the votes by the latest opinion polls. Also, Anthony Samaras is deemed by the Greek voters as the best Prime Minister in waiting (true, closely followed by Alexis Tsipras)
What is the secret of the popularity of Nea Demokratia, a party which is directly responsible for crassly deceiving the Greeks as to the state of their economy during their five year long tenure of power?
Pasok seems to be punished and in tatters, why not so ND?
Is that because of the innate conservatism of an important segment of the Greek voters who will, willy nilly, decide the outcome of the elections in their favour and despite Syriza’s recent surge?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22New opinion polls show SYRIZA is leading again with more than 30%. Don’t forget that New Democracy has become a «coalition» of right wing and extreme right wing politicians and has the support of all the mainstream media in Greece.

Costas Douzinas comments:

douzinasSticking to the political argument, Europe is witnessing an unprecedented attack on Greek democracy which comes close to what could be called a ‘postmodern coup d’etat’. It is not about tanks in the streets (although even this is mentioned from time to time). It is about secrets and rumours, public statements and private murmurings, empty supermarket selves, scenaria of a coming armaggedon and further destruction of a proud people if they vote for the left and lead to Greece being ejected from the euro.
It is about scaring the people and stopping them from voting against austerity, in other words, it is an attack both on democracy and the idea of Europe. The European and Greek political and economic establishment, with support from mainstream media, led by Baroso, Laguard, Merkel, Shauble et al have launched a campaign of threats, blackmail and the most absurd politics of fear. Had they dared to do something similar to the British, the French or the Italians, there would have been met with universal outrage. The response to the attack on Greeks on the other hand is treated in muted terms. If it succeeds it will spread elsewhere, whenever people don’t vote in the way the elites want.
But there is another aspect to this ‘postmodern coup’. Why do they do it now? The reason is simple: they know that if the left wins the election the Europeans will have to accept the bulk of its policies approved by the people and negotiated by politicians who do not automatically side with German and EU policies. Policies that will rescue the Greeks from their ‘rescuers’. The Europeans will not be able to stick to the conditions that destroyed the Greek social fabric and were happily accepted by the previous governments.
The European establishment strikes now because of the lesson of the May 6 elections. Up until May 5 both New Democracy and Pasok were saying that There Is No Alternative. On May 7, they ‘realised’ that the measures were highly problematic, changed their line as if by miracle and were both converted to the renegotiation of the Memoranda they signed and implemented. The European leadership has also accepted this volte-face and they have promised some ‘adjustment’ of austerity. They dont want to see their misjudgment of the peoples’ feelings on May 6 repeated on June 17 and they desparately try to stop it.

Costas Lapavitsas comments:

costaslapSeveral questions addressed to me raise the issue of Greece exiting the euro as a matter of choice. I’d like to make three points at this stage. First, Greece is heading toward the exit anyway because of the tremendos austerity while servicing a huge debt. It simply cannot be done. Second, Greece must prepare for exit to ameliorate its impact and to protect Greek people as far as possible. No preparations appears to have been made so far, which is inexcusable. Third, there will be severe short term costs to exit but the medium to long-term perspective will be positive for Greek economy and society. The estimation of short-term costs by bank research departments, incidentally, is unreliable, including the latest by the National Bank of Greece. Often it is nothing but naked scaremongering.
More broadly, in my view the euro is unsustainable in its current form and a country that exits first will have clear advantages.

atrixo asks:

greyavatarHow influential is the group ‘Golden Dawn’ at present? surely a Greek exit would only bolster their cause and make them even more prominent? How are the authorities tackling this fascist threat?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22Ι don’t think that the Neo Nazi group has deep roots in the Greek Society. Unfortunately it was the so called «extremism of the centre» that supported Golden Dawn’s ideology.
On the other hand Golden Dawn seems to be well connected with the so called Deep State in Greece. The party is alleged to have close relations with the police. Recent reports have suggested that one in two police officers voted for Golden Dawn party.
You can have a look at a recent article in Guardian concerning these issues

dickthornton asks:

greyavatarIt appears that the EU thinks that the problem is caused by Germany not paying its workers enough, and if they paid them more, then the other euro countries would become more competitive. Do you agree, or do you think such a move would make Germany less competetive on the world stage?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22I would agree that freezing german worker’s salaries for more than a decade created the gap in competitiveness that led to deficits and debt accumulation. Euro played a crucial role here as the countries in European periphery couldn’t control their monetary policy.

ManWhoFellToEarth asks:

greyavatarI’m sympathetic to this line of argument, and I think it’s frankly tragic that ordinary Greeks are being put over a barrel like they are, but it’s a tough call. If you run a business and you owe the bank more than the value of the business, its assets, its income, etc, then the bank pretty much owns the business and calls the shots. Given the amount of money that has been lent to Greece, compared to its revenue-generating prowess, I’m faintly surprised that one or other of its creditors hasn’t pointed out that the creditors pretty much ‘own’ the country, in those terms.

Costas Douzinas comments:

douzinasNo country is ‘owned’ by anyone except for its people, in a metaphorical sense. CiF has exhaustingly debated the issues of debt and deficit and Costas L is a world expert on this and has made huge contributions. For my part, I want to say that the day that creditors, bondholders or banks ‘own’ a people, any people, it would be the end of democracy as we know it. Resource allocation can be based on marginal productivity and assets or on social needs, broadly speaking, Democracy means the latter.

FatCatisBack assks:

greyavatarHow Greece will finance its ecocomy if there is no financial help from EU and IMF?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22Almost all the loans that we receive in the last few months go directly to foreign bank account for debt repayment. By taxing in a fair way the financial capital, the church (one of the biggest landowners in Greece) and Ship-owners we have enough income to support ourselves. Even with today’s corrupted system the income of the state could guarantee pensions and salaries. Unfortunately after the imposition of the austerity packages the government left the tax collections agencies in disarray.

Costas Lapavitsas comments:

costaslapGreece can certainly sort its problems out – if it takes charge of its destiny instead of expecting its ‘partners’ to make decisions for it. The most important step at this stage is not to comply with the structural adjustment programme because this means certain economic and social failure. Greece must lift austerity if it is to stand a chance. Second, Greece must default on its debt and start the process of cancellation. Greece simply cannot pay its debt, and nor will it ever become capable of doing so. If these steps bring exit from the euro, which I think they will, Greece must confront the new conditions as they emerge and turn them to its favour. The alternative, in my view, is slow death dictated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF. Syriza appears to have grasped the importance of the first two steps but not necessarily of the third.

strou0030 asks:

greyavatarDo you believe that there’s a possibility to change things for the benefit of the working people without clashing with the system that is creating the inequalities? (ie Capitalism)

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22I personally believe that the current economic situation in Greece is an outcome not only of the financial crisis of 2008 but of the structural crisis of capitalism. So the answer is No.

siren45 asks:

greyavatarWhat proportion of the ‘bailout’ moneys is fed straight back to the creditors? What is the situation with Greece’s primary deficit? If Greece follows the advice of Mr Varoufakis and refuses the ‘bailout’ money thereby defaulting on its debts, can Greece make it on its own?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22Once more the Economist has some interesting numbers – just $36 billion went to the governments of Greece, Portugal and Spain. The rest was loaned out by banks like Munich based Hypo Real Estate that distributed over $104 billion for property schemes.
See other responses for your second question. Actually not repaying the illegal and/or odious debt is the only solution for Greece to survive. We all knew that from the first moment.

polyzois asks:

greyavatarTo Costas Lapavitsas, How long do you see the Euro lasting in Europe as a single currency? More than 6 months?
Thanks in advance

Costas Lapavitsas comments:

costaslapFor the euro to survive it would be necessary to engage in a series of extraordinary policy changes. First, introduce a Marshall plan to raise the productivity of the periphery. Second, engage in income redistribution in Germany to raise the wages of German workers and rebalance demand within the EMU. Third, adopt debt cancellation across the EMU, or alternative bring sustained iflation for several years to reduce the burden of debt. Fourth, adopt a system of fiscal transfers to deal with temporary surpluses and defcits on current account. Fifth, introduce a system of bank supervision and rescue that is transnational rather than national. Need I go on?
The euro is an economic nonsense and a political monster as it stands – and it would take a miracle to survive in its current form. And since miracles rarely happen, it is a matter of time. I would be amazed if the EMU was around in its curent form by the end of 2013.

Manospetrucci asks:

greyavatarI would like you to answer a question that is not aimed purely into economic field, but I would say that aims more generally on the life quality of a human life.
Suppose a country, eg Greece, elects a politician with a strong democratic result of 70-80% and suppose that this guy, is going to give a politically and economically fight with all of his powers, against the few sick but powerful minds that are gambling the wealth of people. Here comes the question;
Do you think this man puts his life in danger?

Aris Chatzistefanou replies:

ARIS22Examples from Latin America showed that if you have the support of a massive movement there is nothing to be afraid of.
Explore posts in the same categories: Αριστερά, Ευρώ, Κόσμος, Οικονομική κρίση, Πολιτική, εκλογές 2012


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