Leonard Schapiro, writing on Stalinism, warned us that ‘the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade. But to produce a uniform pattern of public utterances in which the first trace of unorthodox thought reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.’ During five months of negotiating with the Eurogroup on behalf of Greece I bore the brunt of precisely this type of propaganda. My attempts to infuse some rational humanism into the negotiations on my country’s fiscal and reform agenda were met with a concerted effort to turn our sensible proposals into such a jarring dissonance. It is quite remarkable, but somewhat disheartening, that an insightful statement once written about Stalinism has so much resonance today in the corridors of power in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin.
False dogmas are condemned to be found out eventually
But dissidents should take heart. False dogmas are condemned to be found out eventually, in Europe as they were in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. What matters here and now is that they should be found out quickly. For the human toll of this crisis in Europe is too high and has the capacity to reach parts of the planet that do not deserve to suffer as a result of yet another European debacle. When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied, ‘It would be a very good idea.’ If asked what we think of the European Union today, we could do worse than answer, ‘What a splendid idea! If only we could pull it off!’
I think we can pull it off. But not without a break from Europe’s past and a large democratic stimulus that the fathers of the European Union might have disapproved of.