Cyn­i­cism and hu­mor

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY AN­GE­LOS STANGOS

Re­li­able sources have said that at the re­cent Euro­pean Union sum­mit in which David Cameron made his last ap­pear­ance as Bri­tish prime min­is­ter af­ter the coun­try voted to leave the bloc, Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras de­liv­ered the line of the day, spread­ing laugh­ter among the at­tend­ing lead­ers. In short, he chided his Bri­tish coun­ter­part – the irony is clear – for go­ing ahead with a ref­er­en­dum with­out hav­ing a plan B. Whether this de­notes in­cred­i­ble cyn­i­cism or a ven­omous sense of hu­mor, or not, it al­lows the rest of us to as­sume that Tsipras had his own plan B at the back of his mind, the one that was so fully re­vealed by Amer­i­can econ­o­mist James Gal­braith in his book “Wel­come to the Poi­soned Chal­ice: The De­struc­tion of Greece and the Fu­ture of Europe.” It has yet to be de­ter­mined whether the no­to­ri­ous Plan X was one hatched by the SYRIZA-In­de­pen­dent Greeks coali­tion for the day af­ter a vol­un­tary Greek exit from the eu­ro­zone or whether it was a con­tin­gency mea­sure to be ap­plied if the coun­try’s cred­i­tors forced it out. What we can be cer­tain about is that the ba­sis of this plan was shaped in Austin, where Gal­braith teaches at the Univer­sity of Texas, where for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Ya­nis Varo­ufakis was a guest pro­fes­sor in 2013 and where Tsipras was in­vited to at­tend a con­fer­ence in Novem­ber that same year. What we also know is that both Gal- braith and Varo­ufakis claim that the prime min­is­ter wanted to be fully briefed about the plan, which would have been im­ple­mented in the case of Grexit, and also the fact that the gov­ern­ment’s com­plete volte-face came at the 12th hour in­stead of the 11th. We can there­fore as­sume with a great deal of cer­tainty that spe­cific forces came into play at the time, so the “No” of the Greek ref­er­en­dum could be turned into a “Yes,” with all that later en­tailed. We can­not know whether the gov­ern­ment’s real in­ten­tions will ever come to light, but we can imag­ine the com­plete and ut­ter de­struc­tion that Grexit would have brought based on the ef­fects of the Brexit de­ci­sion to­day. Af­ter all, the mea­sures of the gov­ern­ment’s plan B, as its de­sign­ers ad­mit, leave lit­tle doubt that Greece would have been trans­formed into a po­lice state (with the mil­i­tary play­ing the role of the po­lice), mired in ab­ject poverty. When Brexit causes the pound to slide, the real es­tate mar­ket to creak, in­vest­ments to be halted, the flight of busi­nesses, in­se­cu­rity among work­ers and sends shock waves through Europe (ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, Brexit has hit banks in Italy) in a mighty coun­try like the UK, we can safely as­sume that Grexit would sim­ply wipe Greece off the map. Nev­er­the­less, the prime min­is­ter in­sisted – with cyn­i­cism and hu­mor – to cel­e­brate the “No” that be­came a “Yes.”

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