The Dennis Kucinich Debacle

Abby Rapoport attempted to rebut Glenn Greenwald‘s recent  critique of her Kucinich smear: The Dennis Kucinich Debacle.

She fails, however. It would help Rapoport’s cause if she and The American Prospect had a realistic position on the Democratic Party and most of its politicians. But they do not. The Democratic Party lacks a viable place for a Kucinich, a fact that damns the Party, not Kucinich. Kucinich’s political instincts are sound; the political instincts of most Democratic Party politicians are unsound. Thus Kucinich’s lack of legislative achievements, the gist of Rapoport’s latest critique, only points to the dubious politics which dominate his Party. How might a left liberal (read: social democratic) politician enact legislation when the majority of his political Party oppose his positions and legislation? Why would anyone expect Kucinich to generate legislative victories when those victories would undermine his Party and its current practices? She cannot is she is also rational, especially when that legislation is put to a vote in a majoritarian system composed of only two political parties.

A note on the obliteration of the ‘responsible’ left in Europe and the United States

Serge Halimi rightly points out that:

The Occupy Wall Street protests in the US are also directed against the Street’s representatives in the Democratic Party and the White House. The protesters probably don’t know that Socialists in France still consider Barack Obama exemplary, since, unlike President Sarkozy, he had the foresight to take action against banks. Is there a misunderstanding? Those who are unwilling or unable to attack the pillars of the neoliberal order (financialisation, globalisation of movements of capital and goods) are tempted to personalise the disaster, to attribute the crisis in capitalism to poor planning or mismanagement by their political opponents. In France it’s Sarkozy, in Italy Berlusconi, in Germany Merkel, who are to blame. And elsewhere?

Elsewhere, and not only in the US, political leaders long considered as models by the moderate left also face angry crowds. In Greece, the president of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, is pursuing a policy of extreme austerity: privatisations, cuts in the civil service, and delivering economic and social sovereignty to a ultra-neoliberal “troika” (1). The conduct of the Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian governments reminds us that the term “left” is now so debased that it is no longer associated with any specific political content.

The current French Socialist Party spokesman explains the impossible situation of European social democracy very clearly: in his new book Tourner la page, Benoît Hamon writes: “In the European Union, the European Socialist Party is historically associated, through the compromise linking it with Christian democracy, with the strategy of liberalising the internal market and the implications for social rights and public services. Socialist governments negotiated the austerity measures that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund wanted. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, opposition to the austerity measures is naturally directed against the IMF and the European Commission, but also against the socialist governments … Part of the European left no longer denies that it is necessary, like the European right, to sacrifice the welfare state in order to balance the budget and please the markets. … We have blocked the march of progress in several parts of the world. I cannot resign myself to this” (2).

Others think the debasement is irreversible because it is connected to the gentrification of European socialists and their lack of contact with the world of work.

The upshot: Leftist reformers in Europe and America’s legacy parties will never implement radical and desirable reforms unless large and active movements compel them to do so.

Greeks against austerity

A photo taken from the June 28, 2011 demostration:

June 28, 2011 Athens Demonstration

Reactionary economics is a kind of war-making

Michael Hudson provides a brief case study of this kind of war craft while describing the Greek crisis:

The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack. The threat of bank overlordship is not the kind of economy-killing policy that affords opportunities for heroism in armed battle, to be sure. Destructive financial policies are more like an exercise in the banality of evil — in this case, the pro-creditor assumptions of the European Central Bank (ECB), EU and IMF (egged on by the U.S. Treasury).

As Vladimir Putin pointed out some years ago, the neoliberal reforms put in Boris Yeltsin’s hands by the Harvard Boys in the 1990s caused Russia to suffer lower birth rates, shortening life spans and emigration — the greatest loss in population growth since World War II. Capital flight is another consequence of financial austerity. The ECB’s proposed “solution” to Greece’s debt problem is thus self-defeating. It only buys time for the ECB to take on yet more Greek government debt, leaving all EU taxpayers to get the bill. It is to avoid this shift of bank losses onto taxpayers that Angela Merkel in Germany has insisted that private bondholders must absorb some of the loss resulting from their bad investments.

Popular protest in Greece

The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect.

I am sure it is difficult to produce a Hollywood epic of Greek farmers struggling to survive a blow that begins and ends with a stroke of a pen.

I also do not believe it wrong to identify this kind of elite economic activity as a kind of primitive or original accumulation. I believe it is uncontroversial to assert that the European Bankers and their allies in the United States want to restructure the Greek economy in order to exclude some in Greece from the material benefits they have had in the past and to accumulate capital by exploiting the political, legal and economic conditions in Greece, Europe and the world at large. This manner of capital accumulation may rightly be characterized as a kind of looting, that is, as an expropriation meant, in part, to change the character of economic exploitation in Greece. It is an instance of primitive or original accumulation because it will likely end with a new economic regime in Greece, a regime that will reflect the political capacities and economic requirements of some finance capitalists.

Hudson gives this advice to the Greek people who have been excluded from the elite bargaining over Greece’s future:

The most effective tactic is to demand a national referendum on whether to accept the ECB’s terms for austerity, tax increases, public spending cutbacks and selloffs. This is how Iceland’s president stopped his country’s Social Democratic leadership from committing the economy to ruinous (and legally unnecessary) payments to Gordon Brown’s Labour Party demands and those of the Dutch for the Icesave and even the Kaupthing bailouts.

Use of the direct democratic mechanism is the best feasible and effective path to block this attack on Greece and its people. Revolution is the only rational alternative to the victims of this looting effort if the institutions of a modern democracy were to fail to secure the rights and well-being of the Greek people. Resignation and suffering combine to provide the irrational alternative.

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