By David Paulin
It’s an overlooked aspect of the euro-zone debt crisis and Greece’s probable default: the hand that former European communists (now top members of the European Parliament) had in creating the euro-zone’s command-and-control economic system, along with the trappings of a common (and dubious) European culture. Now it’s all coming apart — a calamity that’s threatening the viability of the euro-zone and rattling the global economy.
The quest for a united Europe — one with a common currency (the euro) along with a single flag and anthem – was in retrospect a project for dreamers. And as euro-skeptics have said all along, the dreamers were European elites with autocratic tendencies.
So perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that a number of the elites who constructed a utopian political and economic union for Europe have something in common: communism.
This explains, in part, why headstrong Euro elites recklessly expanded the European Union and, in particular, the euro-zone (comprising the 17 states utilizing a common currency in the 27-member European Union). But in their zeal to achieve their dream, the European Union’s idealists failed to recognize a daunting problem: Countries as different as economically disciplined Germany and corruption-riddled and undisciplined Greece shouldn’t share a common currency under the same economic system — a system with one-size-fits-all interest rates and no chance for currency devaluations. (And if Greece still used the drachma – not the euro – a currency devaluation would be a way out of its economic mess. That option would spare ordinary Greeks the suffering caused by harsh and unrealistic austerity measures imposed by unelected eurocrats.)
Britain’s Nigel Farage, a conservative politician, euro-skeptic and delegate to the European Parliament, has on more than one occasion drawn parallels between Europe’s old communist dreamers and European Union dreamers.
Speaking in the European Parliament early last year, Farage drew attention to the number of former communists and their fellow travelers in the European Parliament – and he took them to task for their handling of Greece’s economic troubles, which were then in their early stages. (See the YouTube clip, below.)
Farage, a former metals trader, has made similar comments in the past about Europe’s financially troubled PIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. He appears to be one of a handful of members of the European Parliament who has a firm grasp of financial markets and economics.
Declaring that Greece had become less democratic after becoming part of the euro-zone – now “trapped in the economic prison of the euro” — Farage observed: “While 60 years ago an Iron Curtain fell across Europe, today we have the iron fist of the European Commission” imposing its will upon Greece.
Early last year, Farage also delivered a dramatic speech in the European Parliament in which he recounted a tragic-comic story: Europe’s evolution from a continent divided by communism to one divided by the undemocratic political and economic system created by the EU and euro-zone. His comments, lasting just under four minutes, drew howls of protest and jeers. They are worth watching on this YouTube clip.
With respect to Greece’s probable default, Farage told the European Parliament last week that Greece was now a “protectorate,” subject to the EU’s “economic governance.” And just like the Iron Curtain that went down over Europe some 60 years ago, the EU is now divided between North and South, said Farage – all due to the economic calamities brought on by the economic straightjacket created by the euro-zone on countries such as Greece, which EU dreamers – against the advice of pragmatic euro-skeptics – allowed into the euro-zone. “Is it any wonder that Greeks are now burning EU flags and drawing swastikas on them,” he said. (For the YouTube clip, click here.)
In the case of Europe’s old communist past and the euro-zone, history is repeating itself in some respects.