Quote of the day

Greece remains roiled by the imposition of an austerity regime on the country. This regime has been and will continue to be harsh medicine for most Greeks. Greece’s political elite have shown themselves to be impotent when confronting the crisis, as Patrick Cockburn illustrated in this report:

The general strike and the parliamentary vote on reforms demanded by international creditors came before a European Union leaders’ summit, when Greece should receive €8bn — without it, the country will run out of money by November. In parliament the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told MPs that Greece had no choice but to accept fresh hardships. “We have to explain to all these indignant people who see their lives changing that what the country is experiencing is not the worst stage of the crisis,” he said.

“It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis. The difference between a difficult situation and a catastrophe is immense.”

But for many Greeks, the catastrophe has already happened and protests increasingly involve the well-educated middle class. The strike yesterday involved air-traffic controllers, tax officials, pharmacists and doctors — as well as taxi drivers, dock workers and garbage collectors. Schools were closed and hospitals were only open for emergency cases. Every street in Athens has a heap of rotting rubbish on it despite a court order to the public service union to end its strike.

What Mr. Venizelos seems unable to understand is the nature of the disturbance in the streets of Athens. The strikes and street fighting are not features marking the final phase of Greece’s political crisis. They are manifestations of an insurgency that spans the globe and promises to endure long into the future.

Quote of the day

Writing for In These Times, Michelle Chen reports:

Everyone knew it was a losing battle, but everyone showed up anyway. In an uprising virtually unprecedented in its size, scope and diversity, malcontents united across Greece to push back against the government’s assault on working people.

This week’s 48-hour strike drew workers from both public and private sectors, students, the unemployed — just about everyone about to get smacked with the austerity measures that the Parliament has approved under pressure from IMF and Eurozone officials. With tens of thousands of civil service jobs to be downsized, pensions and wages to be gutted, and labor and civil rights under siege, the people’s upheaval has proven as severe and persistent as the fiscal butchery that politicians keep ramming down their throats.

People took to the streets because they had nothing to lose. As one protester, civil engineer Vagelis Filezis, told CNN, “We have no hope. The only hope we have is the strength of the people.”

Greeks defend their society against the EU

A General Strike in Greece

Quote Of the day

Mark Weisbrot, a co-Director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, recently took to task the United States and the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The United States is the key member of the IMF and is thus responsible for its actions. Weisbrot criticized them because “They were trying to force the Greek parliament to adopt measures that would further shrink the Greek economy and therefore make both their economic situation and their debt problem worse, while inflicting more pain on the Greek electorate.” But it is not just the Greek economy which is in crisis. “The threat from the Troika,” Weisbrot argued, “was putting the whole European financial system at risk, since it raised the prospect of a chaotic, unilateral Greek default.”

What we are seeing here, then, is a triumph of ideology and interest over reason and solidarity.

Weisbrot drew an obvious conclusion from his analysis:

The “European debt crisis” is misnamed; it is not so much a debt crisis as a crisis of policy failure. There are always alternatives to a decade without growth, trillions of dollars of lost output, and millions of unemployed that the European authorities are offering to the people of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and now Italy. All that is lacking is the political will and competence to change course.

Quote of the day

Eurozone

The Eurozone

Mike Whitney discusses the Eurozone crisis:

Funding fears, political gridlock and plunging stocks have pulled the eurozone deeper into crisis. On Friday, the gauges of market stress continued to widen signalling [sic] more turbulence in the days ahead. Libor — the rate at which London-based banks borrow from each other — increased for the eleventh straight day, while the Libor-OIS spread, (which indicates the reluctance of banks to lend to each other) soared to levels not seen since Lehman Brothers blew up in 2008. And the VIX — better known as the “fear gauge” — has been surging for more than a week.

What does it all mean?

It means the eurozone is in the throes of a vicious credit crunch, but its leaders are frozen in the headlights. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Some strong words for Israel

Richard Falk, currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, cuts to quick in his recent article on Flotilla II:

The reports that two of the foreign flagged ships planning to be part of the ten vessel Freedom Flotilla II experienced similar forms of disabling sabotage creates strong circumstantial evidence of Israeli responsibility. It stretches the imagination to suppose that a sophisticated cutting of the propeller shafts of both ships is a coincidence with no involvement by Israel’s Mossad, long infamous for its overseas criminal acts in support of contested Israeli national interests. Recalling the lethal encounter in international waters with Freedom Flotilla I that took place on 31 May 2010, and the frantic diplomatic campaign by Tel Aviv to prevent this second challenge to the Gaza blockade by peace activists and humanitarian aid workers, such conduct by a state against this latest civil society initiative, if further validated by incriminating evidence, should be formally condemned as a form of ‘state terrorism’ or even as an act of war by a state against global civil society [emphasis added].

Falk concludes his article by stating what ought to be obvious to everyone but which propaganda work and physical intimidation want to render obscure:

Shining through the darkness of this experience of obstructing Flotilla II is the raw nerve of the illegitimacy of Israeli occupation policy. Neither the Flotilla movement nor the somewhat complementary BDS campaign are questioning the legitimacy of Israel as such, but they are challenging the unyielding and expansionist Zionist leadership that denies the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people living under occupation, but also the rights of the 5-7 million Palestinians living in refugee camps or in exile and the rights of the 1.5 million Palestinians that have been subject to a range of discriminations ever since the establishment of Israel in 1948. A just and sustainable peace for both peoples requires an acknowledgement and implementation of these rights. Such rights are truly inalienable, and do not lapse because of their long suppression. This is ultimately what the Flotilla II encounter is really about, and this is also why Israel finds it so dangerous.

The Audacity of Hope

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.