It’s not that often I agree with Suzanne Moore. So that has to be noteworthy for a start. I find myself agreeing with Joseph Stiglitz more often — and why not, I mean he is a Nobel Prize winner. I am pretty sure for all three of us to be in agreement is pretty exceptional though.
And what are we agreeing about? Germany’s atrocious, scandalous bullying of Greece, that’s what.
I am no fan of Margaret Thatcher, but her fears, expressed before Germany was re-unified, have proven correct: Germany is once again Europe’s bad-mannered thug, and it has begun to flex its muscles.
Of course it always was; three times in under 70 years, it invaded its neighbours and created havoc. (Okay, the first was technically Prussia, but that’s a detail.)
The last expression of its natural tendency to be King Rat caused 72 million people to be killed and Europe — as well as substantial other parts of the globe — was devastated. Well, after that one we got smart and took Germany’s tanks and bombers away.
So now they are using their financial power to do the same thing, bully and intimidate smaller countries. Last month we heard the head of the ECB — a German — ask that democracy in Greece should be suspended and a ‘technocrat’ appointed to run it instead. After all, we can’t have an annoyance like democracy getting the way of the Master Race’s plans now, can we? And freedom, what’s that?
Today we hear German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisting that no debt restructuring will be offered to Greece. If they cannot behave like good Germans — which is what, apparently, being European now means — then they can starve. If they wish for forgiveness they must kiss the jackboot of the goose-stepping schoolyard bully and thank it for not sweeping down the Danube and delivering the punishment in person. Except it can’t because we took away its tanks and bombers. Thankfully.
Well, this is where I agree with Stiglitz. It is Germany’s boneheaded insistence on ‘austerity’ that has ruined the Greek economy. And they are determined to reduce all Greeks to third-world status just to show what happens when you dare to stand up to the Master Race. Just like they did in 1914. And 1939. And that Franco Prussian entanglement.
As Stiglitz points out, Germany, after it ruined Europe and killed 72 million people, was given the BIGGEST BAIL-OUT IN RECORDED HISTORY. Its war reparations were written off. Of course none of the other European nations got this free hand-out because they –INCLUDING Greece — were the ones who gave Germany this gift.
Why did we do this? Because making Germany pay for the destruction it caused in the First World War was its reason for starting the Second World War. Better that the other European nations stayed on rations than give the Germans another excuse to do the same again, nein? I mean, 72 million is a lot of people.
Through the Marshall Plan, the US injected vast amounts of money to rebuild Germany — far more than any other state received. For decades, billions more were poured in as part of NATO defence policy. Germany was allowed to re-unite, although this immediately destabilised Europe — which the British and French attempted to defuse by pushing for enlargement of the Union.
Then, Germany was allowed to establish a fixed exchange-rate mechanism that favoured its own economy and ensured that the normal economic pressures, which would have cause its currency to rise and make its products less competitive were negated by the presence of weaker currencies in the group. This then became the euro — which is just another exchange-rate mechanism, not a currency union at all. That is why the Swedes, when asked, refused to join. The Swedes have a proud tradition of resisting German bullying.
And the euro has worked exactly as the Germans planned — it has sucked wealth out of the weaker economies and given it to Germany.
So Germany’s economic success is not because it’s thrifty or hard-working, but because everyone else has been pouring billions — trillions — into its economy for SEVENTY YEARS.
And now, big bully Germany would rather see Greeks starve than do the decent thing and write off the so-called ‘debt’ — mostly, by the way, in favour of German and French banks.
Greece should have none of it. It should leave the euro and go back to the drachma. The US Government has today made it clear: it will not let Greece fall. The IMF has said the same. The Greeks have nothing to fear. If they stick up for democracy, the bully of Europe cannot harm them.
Yet what a bitter taste it leaves, for once again — for the third time in a hundred years — a European nation needs the USA to save it from Germany.
And this is where I agree with Moore: I have always considered myself a good European. I still am. But if being a European means standing by and allowing this appalling behaviour on the part of the bully of Europe, then I want no part of it.
The UK will hold a referendum on EU membership within two years. Thanks to Germany, I will be campaigning for an exit. Maybe nobody will listen, but I will do my little best. It’s time to tell the schoolyard bully to go off and stand in the corner in shame, alone.
The last time we had to stand up to Germany and its shocking behaviour was 1939. It looks like we’ll have to do it again. And we have discovered something — taking away its tanks and bombers has not made Germany a good European.
Very, very far from it. Enough already.