We think these moments were the echoes of the French Revolution clashing against the walls of those houses, banging on those sublime doors that fixed landed property and labor as one, in one, rather than in opposition to each other.
We think we hear something like "liberty, fraternity, equality" in 1820, 1821, 1830, because we want to hear something like liberty, fraternity, equality today and tomorrow.
We know that romance is not history. We know it is not the echoes of the French Revolution that we hear coming from that period, but the defeat of the French Revolution. We know it was the impact of the British industrial revolution, British production choking, suffocating, markets sustained by artisan, handicraft production. We know it was British production commandeering the agricultural markets, ruining the textile export markets, and draining away the commercial lifeblood of the "underdeveloped, not yet and never to be "nations" of the Ottoman empire.
We know by this time "national emancipation" was a scaffold erected upon which the peasantry, the artisan, the village, were to be sacrificed, removed, dispossessed, made itinerant.
We know that even at this early date in its reign, capitalism could only do some, but never all, and only in half measures of its so-called "historic tasks." Capitalism was aces at dispossessing, immiserating, the small, direct producers, but held only the low cards when it came to revolutionizing the mode of production.
We know that developing capitalism, its struggle for markets, its commercial impulse, its compulsion to absorb value whatever its source, was incapable of reshaping the economic territories of empires in its own image.
We know that 19th century capitalism undermined but perpetuated the archaic relations it encountered. We know that 19th century capitalism did that just as 20th century capitalism did that... in Mexico, in Venezuela, in Ecuador, in the Philippines, in Greece.
In its long struggle against the Ottoman Empire, the "Great Powers" of Europe, always Britain, often France, later Germany, at times Russia, found nationalism a most effective weapon. The "independence" of Greece, of the Balkan, or Black Sea, or Danubian provinces was the struggle of the agent, determined to win new clients from the portfolio of.....an opposing agent.
The Porte, organized to limit the power and the possibilities of a landed aristocracy, had bequeathed to Greece an agricultural sector dominated by the small producer, the marginal producer; and an urban sector dominated by the village; by artisans.
The capitalists of Greece in the 17th, and 18th centuries were the trading capitalists, the merchant capitalists. We know that by the end of the 18th century, Greek merchants had a virtual monopoly on illegal cereal exports from the western provinces of the empire to the rest of Europe. The Porte, porous as a sieve, could not even ensure grain security for Constantinople.
In the first decade of the 19th century, the Greek merchant fleet grew to 625 ships and 154,000 tons, employing 37, 500 sailors (Mouzelis, Modern Greece: Facets of Underdevelopment, Macmillan, 1979 page 10). And in the second decade of the 19th century an "export crisis" devastated the shipbuilding enclaves, the textile centers, leaving both seamen and artisans ruined and itinerant.
With no interest, and no principle, to affect the transformation of agriculture, to make rural production the production of capital, to transform peasants into farmers and proletarians, to make landlords act as improving landlords, to make production the production not just of but also for value, the Greek merchant bourgeoisie defined, determined Greek capitalism as client capitalism, attached to, dependent upon, subordinated to Britain (most of the time).
The great themes and constraints of Greek capitalism-- the persistence of, and persistent impoverishing of small producers; the diaspora bourgeoisie; the massive migrations to the United States; the restricted domestic market; the missing industrial production; the fragmentation of agricultural production-- were established not just as the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, but in Europe's confrontation with the Porte. The merchant bourgeoisie mimic, support, synchronize perfectly with their patrons. Greece is the product and the predicament of capitalist underdevelopment.
The Greek nation was formed minus all the centers of Greece commerce. Smyrna, Salonica, Alexandria, Constantinople, all remained outside the boundaries of the new state. The Greek nation crowned its "emancipation," its "independence" by being awarded a monarchy by the "Great Powers," in 1832. The "hereditary sovereignty" of and over Greece is award to Prince Frederick Otto of Wittelsbach, the son of..........King Ludwig of Bavaria:
Es lebe die co-abhängige, nicht ganz souverän, griechischen Nation!The prince came with a guaranteed loan of 60,000,000 francs. Greece, the Great Powers decided, must pay an indemnity to the Sublime Porte. Nothing forged the chains of debt servitude like national liberation.
2. "Configured" by commerce, subordinate to the economies of the "Great Powers," Greece's economy functioned as an enclave within capitalism, where capital as that specific relation, exchange of labor power for a wage, the organization of labor power as value expanding value was itself isolated, constrained.
Where capitalist markets expand, overproduction is sure to follow, and market collapses in currants and tobacco worked to drive the rural producers off the land. This dispossession itself did not transform the mode of production. Throughout the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, agriculture remained the realm of the small producer. Abandoned land was not consolidated,was not capitalized, in that no rural proletariat was created. Share-cropping, and tenant relations, "veiled" wage relations, existed to be sure, but the capitalization of agriculture, that is to say the opposition of ownership of the land to the labor, the ability of ownership to command the labor of others was not the determining mode of production.
The cities, to which the ruined small rural producers migrated, were not centers of industrial production, and the marginalized rural population became a marginalized urban population.
The Greek state, in all its weakness, its inadequacy, its corruption, was the only social body with enough cohesion, that is to say greed with a purpose, to even attempt improvements in infrastructure so necessary to stabilizing the domestic economy. But....the domestic economy was contingent on its service to the world markets. The Greek state could only satisfy that contingency through taking on massive loans from the "Great Powers," and so the economy was right back where it started, between the rock of world market, and the hard place of lowered productivity.
Wars with Turkey won; wars with Turkey lost; territory gained and lost; populations transferred, absorbed, expelled, slaughtered, none of that changed the once and future and eternal truths of the Greek economy: within international capitalism there is no solution to the conflicts, antagonisms, limits of Greek capitalism; without the aid of an international revolution there is no prospect for Greece.
3. The expansionary periods of capitalism in the 20th century had a significant impact on Greece without overcoming the historic limitations. Between 1923 and 1930 foreign capital amounting to 1.2 billion gold French francs flowed into the country (Mouzelis, page 23). By 1939, the horsepower utilized by industrial production tripled, and the volume of industrial production doubled (Mouzelis, page 23). Still, the economy was dominated by the small producer; the artisan. As late as 1958, half of the labor forced was trapped in agricultural production (Mouzelis, page 27). In 1930, 93 percent of manufacturing enterprises employed fewer than 5 persons. In 1958, 85 percent employed fewer than 5 persons (Mouzelis, page 38).
After WW2, after the defeat of the Communist Party in the civil war by the spent British and the spending Americans, Greece's capitalism retained its enclave nature, with investment focused on textiles, tourism, and shipping. Manufacturing was the slowest growing portion of the industrial sector, trailing construction, transport, and utilities in output. Electricity production expanded tenfold to reach 2.7 million kwh by 1961 from the pre-WW2 mark (Mouzelis, page 25).
The banking structure was highly concentrated with just two institutions, the Commercial Bank, and the National Bank of Greece controlling 90 percent of domestic saving and maintaining significant ownership in the insurance and industrial sectors of the economy.
And then? And then along came the Jones of the 1960s, the rapidly increasing expanding foreign direct investment in the metallurgical, chemical, communications industries. Foreign direct investment which in 1960 had amounted to $11.7 million accumulated to reach $157.6 million by 1966 (Mouzelis, page 28). Greece was becoming an exporter of industrial goods.
The persistent low productivity in agriculture, the persistence of smaller family-owned production units, combined with the technically advanced "islands" of FDI driven production meant that the cities, the urban areas, industry, could not absorb the population moving off the land. Along with industrial goods, Greece once again exported portions of its population
However, the FDI expansion did, almost, reshape Greek capitalism in its own image. Like the advance capitalist countries, Greece featured an acute concentration of capital. The forty-nine largest industrial enterprises employed 1/3 of the industrial work force and accounted for more than half of all capital assets. Enclave monopoly, disassociated concentration were the tell-tales of the economy. The largest 100 industrial corporations accounted for 65 percent of all assets and 68 percent of all profits (Mouzelis, page 38).
Agriculture, which in 1960 had accounted for 80 percent of Greek exports was, finally eclipsed by industry. By 1968, agriculture's share had declined to 42 percent of the total (Mouzelis, page 121).
Greece had arrived. It exhibited all the characteristics of modern capitalism: centralization of finance, concentration of industry, inability to meet the needs of all those moving into the cities; export of population. Greece looked in the funhouse mirror, and saw all of capitalism reflected in its distorted image.
This transformation, and transfer, of the sources of wealth in the economy, destabilized the society and lead to the military coup. FDI, after a brief period of hesitation, resumed and continued to grow.
The threat, to the military, was not so much a threat from the working class, which was just beginning to reorient itself after the decimation of WW2, and the defeat during the civil war. The threat was that Greece might actually become modern.
Marx had thought that the not-yet-capitalist-developed, but market-penetrated, countries of Asia should "look to Britain" for a glimpse of their future. Indeed, but the image to be captured was not the Britain of the industrial revolution, of the cyclic but cumulative growth, or even of the Britain of the "long deflation." Rather it was the Britain of the post long deflation period; the Britain of decay; the Britain where the dispossessed population could not be absorbed by industrial production; the Britain where the expulsion of labor was not only relative, but absolute; the modern Britain of redundancy; the Britain where capital accumulation and asset liquidation raced each other to the bottom line and the bottom line was zero. Underdevelopment is advanced capitalism; capitalism that has run up against the limits of its own foundations-- private ownership.
The coup fell under the weight of the contracting global capitalist economy in 1974. The message in both the coup and its disintegration was the same: within European, and global, capitalism, Greece's economic development would always lead to failure; without a reciprocating European social revolution, the prospects for the revolutionary struggle, the revolutionary opening in Greece were...bleak; still necessary as the only possible path out of impoverishment, but still...bleak.
That's the same message that has been transmitted in an SOS from Greece since 2009.
4. Since February, 2015, articles, debates, maneuvers, denials of Greece's imminent, and immanent, bankruptcy have filled the journals, the websites, the periodicals, the epublications of the world market. It's on again; it's off again. Greece can make it to April, but then... Greece can make it to May, but then....Greece can make it to June, but then..... The last time the players of left and right in this gigantic hedging operation they wish they could substitute for class struggle predicted something to occur so many times in such a short period was when they were all awaiting, breathlessly, the death of Francisco Franco, who managed to keep breathing... to the point where it simply didn't matter.
Like Franco, the demise of Greek capitalism, its bankruptcy, is both a foregone conclusion, and an event not worth waiting for. Syriza pays the IMF? Guess what? It doesn't matter. The payments will not resolve the structural, organic, inadequacies of capitalism in Greece.
Syriza draws "redlines"? Guess what? They don't matter. No matter what Syriza does or does not do, the Syriza government, that is to say the government administering capitalism in Greece will not be able to pay the pensions, the salaries, the bills that are past due.
Syriza privatizes, refuses to privatize, communications, ports, the national lottery? Guess what? It doesn't matter. The revenue generated from privatization, or from continued nationalized operations is inadequate to the needs of the population, and the needs of social development.
Syriza keeps Greece in the eurozone? Syriza takes Greece out of the eurozone? Doesn't matter. The tasks of economic development, of social welfare, are class tasks. The bourgeois class cannot, structurally, historically, meet those challenges. Syriza, not being a class, intent on preserving the existing class relations, can only pose, posture, proclaim. It cannot perform.
A "Grexit" would be "a disaster" for Greece? Hey, exactly what do you think the last 6 years have been? Catastrophic is the word.
Those who argue that Greece, under Syriza, would suffer horribly if it left the Eurozone are simply not paying attention to what has, and continues to, transpire in Greece.
Those who argue that Greece under Syriza must remain in the eurozone are utilizing the exact argument that was used by "leftists" to support the TARP program in the US to prop up the banks; the capital injections by the UK government to its banking sector; the coordinated actions of the central banks to protect capitalism.
"Under," "with" Syriza are conditions, not requirements. Under, with are conditions of capitalism.
The chances for improving the welfare of the Greek people begin with opposing Syriza's program; for declaring "no-confidence" in it as a government, and as a party.
May 30, 2015