That the Treaty of Versailles, with its failure to reach an agreement on reparation and Article 231, (the War-Guilt Clause), would play a leading role in starting the second world war, only a few people considered possible. One of the few was Economist John Maynard Keyes, who thought the ordinances set down in the Versailles Treaty too harsh. Keyes considered that treaties overlooking the food, fuel, and finance would exacerbate the situation.1 Keyes was right. For many Germans, to this day, the Treaty of Versailles broke their necks while humiliating and stripping them of their pride.
This year, 2015, that same wind blows, not in Germany but Greece; not because of war, but because of the economic collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in the United States, in 2008; which led to the Great Recession. The corrosive nature of that recession has put Greece in the begging role and subjects them to the hands of non-compromising politicians, whose main concerns are securing their own country’s safety, instead of the welfare of their sister nation, Greece.2
Soup lines, homeless sleeping on streets, beggars pushing carts, begging, while the initial instigators of their presence crisis discuss how to repay a debt that began with the negligence to institute proper controls, just as the Treaty of Versailles neglected to devise a method that would ensure that the German people survive with their self-esteem intact.
The Greek debt must be paid, but does this mean humiliating the Greek working class who has no millions stashed away in bank accounts in Luxembourg or Switzerland or on the Cayman Islands.
The question should not be whether or not the Greeks pay their debt, but whether they will be allowed to pay it back with dignity and room to breathe. History has shown us repeatedly that when the feet of those who have much hold down the feet of those who have little rebellion comes. Will history repeat itself, once again?
Will we ever learn?
1. The Treaty of Versailles and its Consequences. Europe Between the Wars Dr. Julian Casanova, University of Notre Dame, 16 December 2001. James J. Atkinson ↩︎
2. The Political Consequences of the Great Recession in Europe. EuroCrisis in the Press ↩︎