A false interpretation of the Greekileaks IMF meeting has taken hold – why?
‘Beware the Man of the Tribal Left who has a book to market’. That’s the only conclusion I can draw today from Paul Mason’s really quite extraordinary misinterpretation of the Wikileaks transcripts of an IMF Mission meeting about Greek debt.
Paul Mason is on the BBC’s Marr Show as I write. He is increasingly seen as a rising star journalist and an economist to be taken seriously. But great journalism requires both a talent for interpretation of ‘the facts’, and an absence of the sort of political agenda that tends to see what it wants to see. Mason was relatively early into the Greek baseball-bat bashing by the self-created EC Eurogroupe, and has been a staunch supporter of the real situation faced by ordinary Greek citizens. However, he has an agenda, and that is – as a confirmed socialist – to position the global econo-fiscal mess as a crisis in capitalism per se…..rather than the inevitable outcome of one especially idiotic model of it….as defined by Friedman, Levitt, Goldman Sachs, and most large multinational manufacturers and banks.
A major fear of mine since 2008 has been that the Old Left will use the insanity of neoliberal economics to say “This is really what capitalism is about, and only socialism knows better”. You only have to read the title of Mason’s new book (“Postcapitalism: a guide to our future”) to spot the drift of his logic. The Guardian noted, on reviewing the book:
‘….Paul Mason argues that the internet is bringing another quaint and fantastical idea within the scope of the achievable: socialism….he doesn’t mean the tame social democracy that emerged in the second half of the 20th century, with its emphasis on moderating inequality and championing workers’ rights. He doesn’t even mean the spikier version currently associated with Corbyn and Syriza. He means the real deal, going right back to the utopians of the early 19th century and their eventual successors, Marx, Luxemburg and Lenin. This is socialism as a root-and-branch challenge to capitalism, the market and the very idea of private ownership.’
This is all fine, but my view remains citizen based, not systemically derived: without an understanding of the flawed nature of Homo sapiens and the social anthropology that reflects it in all the best and worst senses, every attempt at Utopia is doomed to create dystopia….because sooner rather than later, the fallible raw material has to be forced to fit into the system. For the Right, this leads to an acceptance of Thomas Hobbes’s “nasty, brutish and short” life; for the Left, it leads to Marx’s dialectical materialism of Communism as the synthesis of superiority to feudalism and capitalism. I’ve yet to read any evidence suggesting that this was ‘the real deal’, but the old Left’s tendency to say things like “it’s never been done properly” is spurious.
To be clear, I believe in communitarian citizen responsibility alongside truly socially beneficial entrepreneurialism….where the business model is mainly mutualist, and the size of social unit downsizes to become the very antithesis of global monetarist claptrap. Mine is a predominantly Benthamite philosophy: neoliberalism and socialism are ideologies – or put another way, secular religions….and equally censorious.
Ideologies lead to journalism based on agenda, and Paul Mason’s latest piece on the IMF Wikileaks does seem to fit neatly into that definition. The setting is two IMF excutives discussing how best to give the Greeks the level of real debt relief they need….rather than loading it with more debt disguised as a “a bailout” – the last thing it needs. They debate the Eurogroupe’s intransigence, Dijesslebleom’s vicious stupidity, and the German ‘Merkeschäuble’ insistence on no debt relief at all until Greece hits the decreed payback targets….which they can’t, because these too are mathematical impossibilities.
It is abundantly clear from the complete transcripts that the IMF blokes want to manufacture the possibility of ‘an event’ – that’s bondholderspeak for a possible Greek default – in order to scare the living crap out of Brussels-am-Berlin, and thus help Greece get down to an affordable level of debt that is genuinely sustainable. This is believable because the IMF has been arguing in favour of it for at least three years – that is, some form of debt forgiveness.
But for reasons of his own, Paul chooses not to see it this way. His headline – ‘IMF plots new credit event for Greece’ sets the tone, and posits the simplistic idea that Christine Lagarde’s aim is to bankrupt Greece. He writes (my emphasis):
‘So let me decode. An “event” is a financial crisis bringing Greece close to default. Just like last year, when the banks closed, millions of people faced economic and psychological catastrophe. Only this time, the IMF wants to inflict that catastrophe on a nation holding tens of thousands of refugees and tasked with one of the most complex and legally dubious international border policing missions in modern history.’
That is complete bollocks. The idea that Lagarde would risk the first mega-default in the history of the IMF on her watch is contrary to every signal she’s given thus far – classic egotistic narcissism – and the obvious objective of the IMF staffers whose conversation was Wikileaked – viz, to scare a Nordeuropa-dominated Eurogroupe – not to inflict further misery on the Greeks.
Not that I think her motives are remotely philanthropic: but the one and only thing her IMF, the ECB and the EG have in common is a terror of bond spikes following a Greek default. I also feel it only fair to point out that a substantial minority of Greeks hold the attitude to default of “Great…bring it on…then we can get rid of this millstone called the euro”. It is largely the olive-stone brained followers of Samaras centred around Kalamata who fear and reject default on the basis of ‘national pride’. Not even the ghastly New Dawn neo-Nazis agree with that idea.
However, Mason uses his interpretation to full propagandic effect…and this time, the emphasis is his, not mine:
‘It is the whole of Europe, in other words, that the IMF is conspiring to hit with the shock doctrine.
It’s clear from the transcript that the IMF has become a playground for neoliberal fantasists.
To fantasise about inflicting yet another near bankruptcy on a teetering democracy reveals levels of insouciance about the welfare of human beings and the sovereignty of states incompatible with a democratic organisation.
It proves, yet again, that the core of the economic doctrine that guides the global elite is the determination not to “give a shit” about real people, but to impose the doctrine even at the cost of state failure.’
You’d have to go a long way to find propaganda with quite so much of its slip showing as that rant. I have to say, I agree with a lot of it; but it does betray a committed Europeanist determined to blame The Great Satan for all the EU’s self-inflicted ills. And in that sense, I think Brendan O’Neill got it right after Mason branded a Syriza critic “a Nazi collaborator”: for he placed the Channel 4 reporter in that group he described thus:
‘They aren’t genuinely opposed to the EU; they’re just really angry with Germany. In fact, much of this oh-so-late Euroscepticism, especially from the left, is really anti-German sentiment in disguise. It’s the return of the British disease: a hives-like allergy to all things German and a rash fear that this nation is once again plotting to subject all of Europe to its black, unforgiving boot.’
I’m sure Paul can set me right on some of my conclusions in this piece. I have tried to engage with him about Greece on several occasions, and I have received responses in kind up to but not including once. I have found to my dismay on numerous occasions that the tribal Left doesn’t do cooperation and alliance, and Paul Mason is no exception.
Is Mason going to vote Brexit? I very much doubt it. He is on the record as writing that ‘When Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon treaty, he pledged participation in an “ever closer union”. That prospect is over for ever – which is strange, given that it was the mainstream view 10 years ago’. I’m sorry mate: it might have been in your narrow brass neck of the woods, but it wasn’t anywhere else in Britain.
In a Guardian piece earlier this year, he said that the Brexit option offered “a flimsy illusion of choice”. By this, he means “we’ll wind up with the nasty folks whatever happens”. During the Marr newspapers review this morning, he named names by saying “if we stay, we get Cameron and Osborne, if we go we get Boris Johnson”. He evaded the question on his own personal voting intention (as is his perfect right) but this is yet another example of tribal Labour’s inability to join together – even temporarily – for the common good. And in that sense, I’m sorry to repeat myself but his fellow-travellers are no better than Camerlot: they are ideologically blinkered.
Paul has no solution on Brexit, only critiques: he accepts that we can never reform the anti-liberal, zero democracy totalitarianism of the EU/EC/ECB Troika, and then says leaving won’t make any difference. I take a different view, viz: the difference is that a vote for Brexit will leave is with one nasty élite to tame, not two; that it will split the governing Party and lead to a more cautious, less cavalier approach; and it will once and for all disassociate us from an evil US-controlled Empire that left an entire nation of innocent Greek citizens in destitution, their State a failed institution, and its assets as easy meat for the very globalist carpetbaggers both Paul Mason and I despise.
Paul Mason is, I suspect, still an internationalist – despite all the evidence that down that road lies a ball, a chain, and a vale of tears. To that end he, Corbyn, the pc clan within fat Labour and all ‘committed’ socialists will delicately ignore the Dark Side with whom they sup. Well, it’s not for me. And it most definitely not at all good for investigative journalism.