Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Log 471 Ap 23 2015: Europe closing its eyes to a problem caused by global inequality

EU borders in Europe
EU borders in Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ExPrime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony B...
Two lying leaders: ExPrime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair shaking hands with President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have a new candidate as No. 1 on my list of unbelievable headlines: it occurs in today’s edition of The Guardian newspaper, and it says:
Most migrants crossing Mediterranean will be sent back, EU leaders to agree

In the first paragraph of the following story, things become even more unbelievable

“Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.”

Is this some kind of a joke? I have been expecting this story about the hordes clamouring at the gates of the richer countries ever since, in a book published in 1972 or thereabouts, I wrote that in a world in which the citizens of the world’s dirt-poor countries could see and understand that other countries were wallowing in the world’s riches, it could be expected that eventually hordes of those from the poorer countries would be beating the doors down, as they cry furiously, “We want some of that! We, too, would like to have electricity, running water, decent houses, clean water to drink, education for our children, everything that is available here and now, but only you over there have access to it.”
Well, okay, maybe I didn’t write exactly those words, but they were to be implied by what I did write.
This effort to beat down the doors of Europe has been going on for some years now, to such an extent that a whole camp for the would-be door-batterers has been established (and repeatedly, but vainly closed) in Calais to house temporarily people from all over Africa and the Middle East and even from the poorer countries in east Europe, who hope  somehow to stow away on trucks crossing the channel to Britain, there to be accepted as refugees and granted the possibility of staying permanently and becoming citizens.
Also, at the other end of Europe, the island of Lampadusa has become a regular feature in our news columns as its residents have had to welcome thousands of refugees rescued from the perilous boats in which they have hoped to make the crossing from Africa, once again in the hope of being moved on to Germany or some other welcoming European country for permanent settlement.
All this has been exacerbated by the breakdown in order in the Middle East (again, something the West is guilty of initiating with its unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003, when, to quote myself once again, I wrote that this invasion would destabilize the entire region, and wondered why, if I could understand that, the powers-that-be in the western aggressor countries could not)), resulting in the vast numbers of refugees pouring out of Syria as they try to escape the destruction of that country by the forces of both government and revolutionary insurgents. Similarly, the chaos that has followed the bombing of Libya by European forces has generated such a breakdown of effective government that it has become the favoured takeoff point for thousands of refugees, being carried by people-smugglers in the hope of making  it across the Mediterranean.   In recent weeks, while many have made it, many hundreds, even thousands,  have drowned: in a week in which more than 10,000 people have made it to Lampedusa or Sicily or Malta, boats carrying, in the first instance, more than 400 people have capsized, and in the second instance more than 900, and there is a report of another of 200, the survivors being numbered only in their tens or scores. This is a vast calamity, approaching in numbers the death roll for the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. But with less impact, on account of the victims here being poor and desperate nobodies, and not the well-heeled functionaries of international business firms, as happened in New York.
But surely a little more perspective is required here. It is said that some 150,000 people have arrived on the shores of Europe so far this year. That is not an especially large number. If Canada, a country of 35 million people can absorb 250,000 migrants year after year then it should not be beyond the capacity of the continent of Europe to absorb this number, or, conceivably even, as many as are likely to be able to make it, even though they are admittedly likely to be poor, poorly-educated for the most part, and close to destitution on arrival. As the fellow said somewhere or other, and it applies to Europe today, “Methinks he doth protest too much.”
Last year, according to what I heard the Italian Foreign Minister say today on TV, some 170,000 people made it to Europe in this illegal, or desperate way. Of these Italy absorbed 150,000, and other countries took the rest. Other figures indicate that of the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria, Germany has taken 50,000, Sweden 30,000, and --- wait for it! --- Britain, that traditional home for the  refugee desperate from oppression, has promised to take 143.
As a guy who comes from one of those countries that have traditionally been the depositories for Europe’s poor and desperate masses  --- think of the Italians, Poles, Swedes, Balts and Irish in the United States, the Germans, Ukrainians, Russians, and others in Canada, the English and Scottish in New Zealand, the masses of Yugoslavs, Hungarians, Italians in Australia, even the Spanish and Portuguese in South America ---- I could be forgiven for thinking it is no more than justice that these nations should now be asked to shelter and nurture the poor and oppressed from other countries.
Some of he arguments made by European leaders have been ridiculous. When the Italians had a costly search and rescue programme up and running, most people whose boats capsized were saved, and taken to Lampadusa. The British government --- under pressure from the Ukip party that opposes immigration --- has argued that such a measure had the effect of encouraging continued illegal migration because it took the danger out of it. The Italian Foreign Minister today quietly demolished that reasoning: in practice, the attempts to cross had increased greatly once they had cancelled their search and rescue programme.
Now these birdbrain politicians appear to be flirting with the idea of some sort of military intervention that would destroy the boats of the smugglers before they are used. Others, always glad for a postponing mechanism, argue that the only solution is to dig deep into the societies that produce these migrants by aid measures designed to reduce poverty and improve living and working conditions. The Italian Foreign Minister went so far as to mention, in passing, northern Nigeria and its subjection to Boko Haram.  If this is the sort of solution they are flirting with, it can be prophesied that many thousands more bodies will be despatched into the Mediterranean in the coming years.
As for Britain, it is in the midst of an election, and nothing sensible or humane can be expected to come from any of their politicians.
When I made films in China in the 1970s one of the things that impressed me was how much they had succeeded in doing by shutting right out of the country every influence from outside. It could be, I suppose, that such measures are no longer possible; but I think it can be said that it remains true that solutions to crises that are hitting so many countries today can only, in the end, come from within these countries themselves. It may be true that extremely useful work has been done in aid in the past, but it is always on a measured low-key scale, and has proven incapable of dealing with the overall poverty of nations.
As for the current emergency, it certainly is time that Europe did some clearer thinking about immigration, put its collective will together, and made sure that, faut de mieux, it took action to prevent the drownings, and then worked to carefully distribute the people who have arrived on an equitable basis around a continent that can well afford to absorb them into its work force and citizenry.












Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Log 470 Ap 19 2015: The Marikana massacre, a classic action of class warfare: new film brilliantly portrays detail of the action and its sorry outcome: 34 workers, 4 police and security guards dead, 78 workers wounded


The massacre of 34 platinum miners at Marikana in South Africa on August 16, 2012, shown in detail  in a remarkable documentary film Miners Shot Down that has recently been screened by Al Jazeera, was a pure event of class warfare that sends us reaching as far back as a century or more for meaningful comparisons.
Anyone who doubts that has only to consider one amazing fact revealed by the concentrated footage of the event unveiled by filmmaker  Rehad Desai. On the morning of the day of the massacre the forces of law and order, confronting strikers who were not occupying company property or blocking any roads,  turned up not only with a deployment of 648 police, 4,000 rounds of ammunition,  truckloads of barbed wire, and a fleet of armoured vehicles, but, even more strikingly, with four vans from the mortuary services, in other words, with their hearses ready to receive the bodies of the men the police  must have intended to kill.
This kind of response to a strike recalls such events as the brutal Homestead strike in the United States in June, 1892, when Andrew Carnegie, whose name has passed into history mostly as a philanthropist, surrounded one of his steel mills with a wall and towers from behind which his armed forces were able to pick off any workers giving trouble. On that occasion the purpose was not only to beat the strike, but to destroy the union, which was totally achieved after a prolonged struggle in which nine workers and seven members of the private Pinkerton army of occupying scabs were killed. It ended after four months when, with only 192 out of 3,800 strikers left, a vote was taken to  return to work for lower wages than they had when they went on strike, thus beginning a movement of de-unionization that spread across the country and went on for several years. This was a momentous event in the struggle for human rights; and the Marikana massacre promises to become a similar beacon of shame in the modern struggle for the rights of workers in the fast-developing industries of the developing world.
Marikana is an event that has opened the eyes of all those of us who had looked to the African National Congress as an enlightened government. It certainly started out that way when its great leader Nelson Mandela emerged from  27 years in prison to somehow  snatch governance of South Africa from the vicious white minority whose lunatic doctrine of apartheid had imposed a rule of iron on the black majority for nearly half a century. His new government was pledged to socialistic methods of reducing inequality and poverty, improving living standards and the like. But Mandela was convinced when he went to the Davos meeting of capitalism’s “masters of the universe” to change his movement into one that supported capitalism and all its works. And  Marikana has shown decisively that in jettisoning his movement’s commitment to collective welfare achieved through democratic socialism, he had also exposed his nation to the iron rule of capitalism, which is that the bottom line, profit, and money,counts above everything else.
The irony of Marikana is compounded by the part played in it by one of the heroes of the ANC resistance, Cyril Ramaphosa, a vigorous union leader who, by 2012, had transformed himself into a multimillionaire businessman with multiple directorships, one of which was in the Lonmin company whose mine was struck by the discontented workers. These workers, in fact, were so disaffected by the lack of progress under their new government, that they accused the very union formed and created by Ramaphosa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which had once been a leader of the class struggle in South Africa, of being in the pocket of the mine-owners, and betraying their cause.
The strike therefore, was what is classified in the West as a wildcat strike.  Lonmin employed 28,000 workers, but the NUM had lost so much support among them that a rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), had been successfully recruiting among them.
When the miners first went on strike the company told them it would send them a paper containing its offer, but various spokesmen for the union said they did not want papers because “we cannot read. We want to meet them face-to-face. We are not educated, that is why we are working at the rock face. We cannot read papers.” The company representative advanced towards the strikers in an armoured car, but was not permitted by the police to get out of it. The company demanded the strikers give up their weapons before negotiations could begin. The workers said they were prepared to do that --- “we are only carrying these things --- indicating a spear, machetes and such weapons --- “because the police are shooting at us” --- but they wanted to be escorted to the safety of a nearby hillock --- referred to as “the mountain” by the strikers, which was common land, not owned by either side, where they would surrender their weapons.  For a time it seemed the company was ready to concede that, but suddenly a phone call was made to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, and after that a new, harsher tone was adopted to the strikers.  Who made that phone call later became a question the strikers were hoping the later Commission of Inquiry could sort out, because whoever it was seemed to be pulling the strings behind these events.
In the first two days of minor skirmishes , 10 people were killed, including two police officers and two security guards (and, of course six miners).  The refusal to negotiate did not deter the strikers who turned up again, covering almost the entire face of the mountain on the third and final day, to confront a police and security service armed to the teeth and evidently willing and perhaps even anxious to use their armaments. The leader of the rival AMCU union had taken a hand on the side of the strikers, and, seeing how things were deteriorating, he suggested the strikers, who had advanced beyond the mountain, should retreat and get out of there while the going was good. Mr. Desai has dug up footage showing almost the whole of the action during the confrontation. The strikers began to move away, crouching as they walked for fear of being shot, moving in an orderly fashion towards the mountain, when they were met by a volley of fire that brought them to a halt. Many fell, the firing continued, and the film shows police picking over the bodies, pulling them like sacks of potatoes this way and that, perhaps themselves in confusion after the deadly confrontation.  In this exchange, 17 strikers were killed, many of them apparently shot at a range of 300 feet or more.  One witness tells the filmmaker, however, that not only were ambulances denied entry to the scene for more than an hour, but the police continued to hunt strikers for the twenty minutes after the first massacre. This gave rise to two Scenes of Action, as one might say, 17 miners having been killed at each of them, and some 78 other people were wounded.
Towards the end of the month the film shows the Commissioner of Police announcing to the assembled policemen that they had upheld the ideals of responsible policing. And soon after the events 250 miners were arrested and charged with “public violence”, later elevated to charges of murder. This charge induced, even in the Minister of Justice, "a sense of shock, panic and confusion. I have requested the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions to furnish me with a report explaining the rationale behind such a decision." No police or officials were arrested or charged with anything, and on September 2 all the murder charges were dropped and the detainees released by September 6.  This occurred after a law firm representing the detained men wrote an open letter to President Jacob Zuma threatening to file an urgent petition with the High Court if he did not order release of the detained men. "It is inconceivable that the South African state, of which you are the head, and any of its various public representatives, officials and citizens, can genuinely and honestly believe or even suspect that our clients murdered their own colleagues and in some cases, their own relatives," the lawyers wrote.
A month later a mediator announced that the strikers had accepted a 22 per cent pay increase, an unheard of increase to any wage packet for workers in South Africa at the time.
An official commission of inquiry was established, expected to do its work in four months, but that has taken more than two years, and the report, although presented to the President, has not yet been released to the public.
As for Cyril Ramaphosa’s part in the events, the film quotes him as having told the security authorities that what they were facing was not a labour dispute, but “a criminal event” and urging that strong measures be taken against the illegal strike.
A Wikipedia website on the massacre states that during the hearings before the Marikana Commission, “it emerged that Lonmin management solicited…Ramaphosa, to coordinate ‘concomitant action’ against ‘criminal’ protesters and (he) is seen by many as therefore being responsible for the massacre.”
After these events, Ramaphosa was elected deputy leader of ANC, subsequently deputy-president of the republic, and has again become described as South Africa’s “leader-in-waiting,” as he was before being beaten to the job by Thabo Mbeki. He is estimated to have a personal fortun of anything  between $500 and $700 million.
So it would appear that almost all the elements of classic class warfare were present in this event --- unprovoked police aggression, overkill in police response, stern authority against poorly educated victims, targets chosen just because they were poor workers, apostasy and betrayal among former leaders of the strikers, massive, unsustainable response to the event from the justice system ---- except that the miners eventually won their pay rise.









Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Log 469 Ap 16 2015: Death of Eduardo Galeano is a loss to everyone who believes that a world of justice and equality is not only possible but achievable: read his Memory of Fire

English: Writer Eduardo Galeano during a confe...
Writer Eduardo Galeano during a conference at the Librarsi bookshop in Vicenza, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Open Veins of Latin America
Open Veins of Latin America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
EspaƱol: Eduardo Galeano en la Feria del Libro...
EDUARDO GALEANO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 That Eduardo Galeano has died must be simply a fact of life. I believe it, since I am told it is so. What can also be said of him, however, is that he will never die, that his books, especially his masterpiece, the  trilogy  Memory of Fire, a history book unlike any other ever written, will live on for centuries. What more could a man want?
I count myself extremely lucky to have heard Galeano speak in person, during one of his visits to Ottawa a few years ago. He was an amused and amusing man, it seems, good humoured, insightful, and still, although getting on in years, full of fire. The book of his that is most spoken and written about is called Open Veins of Latin America  which reached its greatest notoriety when Hugo Chavez formally presented a copy of it to Barack Obama at an international conference.  Sales of the book soared overnight, and it is still recognized as one of the most influential books ever written on the politics of Latin America, although Galeano, who apparently wrote it at white heat, later said he found it rather stodgy, looking back at it.  I have not read that book, but I believe his trilogy is the greatest book I have ever read.  It deals with the history of Latin America (although it dips, from time to time, into North America as well).  The form of the book is unusual, to say the least. It is comprised of short, 500-word pieces, each of them inspired by some passage he has read in someone else’s work, identified by a number at the end of the piece that can be checked against the inspirational source at the back of the book.
These pieces are certainly not taken from these cited works: they are wonderful little essays by Galeano about some incident or person, some triumph or tragedy, some heroism or villainy,  drawn from history.  The form is wonderfully suited to someone with his prodigious memory and knowledge, which enables his history book to be both searingly intense and intensely amusing. All sorts of characters, most of whom his readers have never heard of, wander in and out of his pages,  either inspiring or horrifying his readers, depending on what we bring to them. History books were never like this.
The first volume begins in pre-history, deals with pre-Columbian years, and takes us up to 1700 or so. By the end of the first chapter one is not only dazzled, but infuriated by such inhumanity to man (and nature). The second volume takes the story through the nineteenth century, and leaves the reader limp with anger, and by the end of the third volume, which covers  the twentieth century,  one is awakened to the fact that these terrible things that have been visited on Latin America through history, mostly by American and European capital, but also by their local compradors, are still going on as we sit reading about them.
It was these compradors who ensured that even the winning of freedom by Latin American countries from the yoke of Spanish and Portuguese domination hardly improved matters: American and European, mostly British, capital was waiting in the wings, ready to swoop on these newly-liberated nations, and they did swoop so successfully, using their local satraps, as to make the change in ultimate control more or less meaningless: the massive rape of the continent went on, uninterrupted.
Galeano was born in 1940, had to leave high school after two years, became a journalist, and thus was self-educated, his education including about 12 years in exile from military dictators who wanted to kill him. When he returned to his home country of Uruguay and plunged into writing a form of writing that was more demanding than the journalism in which he learned his trade, his work mellowed, became gentler, less angry, but no less relevant to his continent and its woes. He always had a great interest in people who never made it into the history books, people, as he once described them with that touch of irony that was typical of him, “who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them."
A few years ago he wrote a book called Mirrors, celebrating people who had been forgotten by history, but should not have been. I remember particularly his tale of a man who, when involved in negotiating the U.S. Declaration of Independence, tried mightily to have included in it a declaration forbidding slavery. He failed, of course, and thereafter his name was written out of all history of the period.
For some time now my current partner in life has enlivened each day by sending to my computer a little item from Galeano’s throw-away book Children of the Days in which he records some piquant item from historical or contemporary life for each day of the year. As a book it reads rather as if composed of items he didn’t have room to include in Memory of Fire  but that he didn’t want to lose entirely. Here is a typical one, under the heading, The Discovery:

In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians,
they discovered they lived in America,
they discovered they were naked,
they discovered there was sin,
they discovered they owed obedience to a king and a queen from another world and a god from some other heaven,
and this god had invented guilt and clothing,
and had ordered burned alive all who worshipped the sun and the moon and the earth and the rain that moistens it.

That’s Eduardo Galeano, encapsulating in a few words a great message we all should learn.









Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Log 468 April 14 2015: A major battle of the oligarchs to snuffle out any left-wing politics in Europe --- or elsewhere

International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Board of Governors - International Monetary Fu...
Board of Governors - International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
IMF Headquarters, Washington, DC.
IMF Headquarters, Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The European Central Bank. Notice a s...
English: The European Central Bank. Notice a sculpture of the euro sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don’t know anything about economics --- to put it another way, I agree with the Amory Lovins perception that “economics is a brain disease” --- but I find the current crisis confronting the left-wing government of Greece endlessly fascinating, and I have been reading up on everything I can get my hands on, to try to keep on top of what is happening.  However much the guardians of economic orthodoxy in the Western world chunter on about the sacred duty to repay loans, nothing can disguise the fact that what they really have in mind is to crush any credible uprising of left-wing politics within the European Economic Community, and they have no hesitation about using bully-boy methods to carry out this aim.
From my point of view, these arguments about international finance are all about funny money. It is well-known that for all the aid poured into Africa and Latin America from Western sources, still those continents repay more every year than they receive in aid, and they repay it to banks of one kind or another.  In other words, the set-up is a monstrous hypocrisy. This system has been entrenched over the years by such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both controlled and mostly funded by the United States (which today is the world’s leading oligarchy, whose government seems to be completely in the control of Big Money),  and whose primary purpose seems to have been to ensure that capitalism governs the affairs of the whole world. In other words, they don’t lend money unless the receiving countries agree to do away with such nonsense as nationalized industries, high wages and liveable pensions.  In one country after another, they have not only tied receiving countries into knots but have in the process ruined indigenous industry and agriculture and made it simple for Western companies to flood their markets with lower-priced goods. This is the basic understanding from which I approach this Greek crisis because it seems to fit the same parameters as those described.
Any whisper of opposition, as in Greece, and the country is fast brought to its knees by massive withdrawals of funds heralding the likelihood of a banking crisis from which the local government could probably never recover. The terms of the loans granted to Greece have been that they should follow a rigid programme of economic austerity, which has immeasurably worsened the condition of the Greek people, plunging them into  massive unemployment and forcing what is widely described as “a humanitarian crisis.”  The troika --- sixty per cent of Greece’s debt is owed to European Union governments, 10% to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and 6% to the European Central Bank (ECB), which are collectively known as the troika --- have insisted Greece privatize everything that is publicly owned, reduce wages and pensions, and so on until the populace is literally on its knees.
“(Since the election) we’ve seen that these European institutions are not receptive to the kind of political or democratic argument, which says ‘we’re an elected government with a mandate to carry out, and you’re our central bank, and we can expect you to do your work and let us do what we were elected to do,’ ” said Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of the central committee of Syriza, who  teaches political theory at King’s College, London, during a recent fascinating analysis of the whole crisis in conversation with a French philosopher Alan Badiou. The conversation is published in Jacobinmag.com, which describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left.”
He added: “All left-wing governments in the world who were determined to change things ended up faced with this kind of obstacle. At the heart of this question, is (the) decision (of Syriza’s leadership) to break with austerity within the framework of the European institutions, and, more particularly, within the terms of the eurozone. This was the basis Syriza was elected on, and this has been its line throughout the last three years in particular.
“Now we can say that we’ve seen the limits of this strategy. This is not at all what it is about. These institutions are there in order to lock in extremely harsh neoliberal policies, to lock in the troika supervision of entire countries. And that’s exactly what they’ve set out to do, forcing the Greek government into making very serious retreats …. Indeed… at this very moment the teams of troika experts are in Athens scrutinizing Greece’s accounts.”
If this is what it is about, one would have expected the European leftists to have taken to the streets. For a time the French unions obliged, with a huge march of support. But the French so-called Socialist government leader, President Hollande, launched a ferocious attack on Syriza and its pretensions. This did no more than confirm that the European leftist parties have become paper tigers, totally overcome by the neoliberalist cant coming from the big battalions.
A great deal depends on what kind of an outfit Syriza is. Until fairly recently it was a small party, and even today, its ministers mostly are drawn from intellectuals, many of them being professors who have been working away in universities in various countries until drawn back to their homeland to serve in its hour of need. In the months before the election, however, a mobilization of the population occurred that gave the party its momentum to carry it into office, and soon thereafter the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for more mobilization, more street action, more study of the situation as a means of building support.  The participants in this round table agreed that the party’s support within Greece today is now higher than it was before and at the time of their election.  So much will depend on which strain of the party’s membership gains the upper hand. Faced with similar situations in the recent past, socialist movements within Europe have come to power talking a good game, but have collapsed at the first whiff of powder from the bosses in the citadels of economic power.
Badiou made reference to the Mitterand government as an example. When the name of Mario Draghi, now the leader of the European Central Bank was mentioned, with a hint that he might be considering himself as an internationalist in this situation, Kouvelakis responded very sharply, saying, “I would say that the European Central Bank has nothing to do with internationalism, I don’t see the slightest hint of internationalism in Mr. Draghi, and I think internationalism is on the side of those who are now opposed to (him), his politics, and everything he embodies — including him personally, physically.”  He might well say so: Mr. Draghi is just another one of the army of banking operatives trained and employed by the infamous U.S. firm Goldman Sachs, who have been sent out around the world to make sure that global financial management remains in the safe hands of the bankers. The ubiquity of these Goldman Sachs guys really has to be seen to be believed --- they are everywhere, hundreds of them, making decisions for more governments than anyone would have believed possible, and when their bank and others got the world into the crisis of 2008, one of them was appointed as the U.S. government’s point man to steer the way out of the crisis while preventing the banks from paying for their mistakes and greed.
On the BBC today, the former leader of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, told his interviewer, Stephen Sackur, that the argument was not about repayment of loans. That was subsidiary to the Greek government agreeing to “a credible recovery programme.” He repeated this numerous times, as if no one could argue with its irrefutable logic.  But Sackur, though he did try to press the man on a number of issues --- particularly on Greece’s inability to repay any sum of money, however large or small--- never asked him what was his definition of “credible.”  If he had he might conceivably have gotten the answer that to be credible a recovery package would have to bow to the austerity programme insisted on by the troika, as if it were the Bible.
Syriza was a small party until a few years ago, and would never have come to power  if not for the emergence of popular mobilization and social movements before the election, which Badiou described as without a doubt greater in scope than anything  seen in Europe since the 1970s.
As against the dictates of this  “masters of the universe” troika, Tsipras in his appeal to the Greek people following his election asked them to uphold the constitution, and invoked its final article which specifies that the constitution resides in the people and their patriotic  right to rise up.  When the negotiations showed the determination of the European elites to be inflexible, Tsipras gave an interview to a Greek paper, and when asked if he had an alternative, he replied: “Of course, we have an alternative plan. Greece does not do blackmail, but nor will we accept blackmail from others. The country has a lot of possible options; of course we don’t want to reach such an impasse, but . . .”
Kouvelakis added: “So that’s where we are at the moment, in sum. In my view, there’s no other way…. For Europe’s political elites, and the economic forces they represent, it’s vital not only to force Syriza into a retreat, but to humiliate it politically. Such a political humiliation would also be a shot across the bows of Podemos and all the social and political forces in Europe that challenge austerity policies: ‘See what happened to the Greeks? That’s what’s in store for you if you try and do the same.’ ”
Confirmation that the issue is politics, rather than economics, seems to come from an article in the Wall Street Journal on April 8, entitled  “The case for letting Greece go.”  The writer points out that the problem is not “financial contagion”, since more than 80 per cent of the country’s debt is held by governments or “official creditors” who “could absorb default-related losses.”  Private Eurozone banks last September were owed just over $18 billion dollars, one-third of the level in 2012, and much of it in short-term or speculative loans, so that the total today is probably even lower. If that is so what is the problem?
The Wall Street Journal confirms the answer in straight language: “If creditors allow Athens to increase government spending while reversing labor-market liberalization and privatizations, they’ll encourage anti-reform movements elsewhere. Spain’s left-wing Podemos party has polled well since Syriza’s Greek victory in January as Spaniards consider whether it might offer an alternative to painful reforms, and the party won 15 seats in the regional parliament in Andalusia last month. Ireland’s Sinn Fein is gaining support for its anti-reform platform…A serious Greek government would offer to press ahead with privatization and deregulation in exchange for some leeway to cut tax rates along with government spending cuts. But Syriza has insisted on a return to something like the status quo ante, with higher spending, anti-growth tax policies and delays or halts in deregulation….Accommodating Syriza’s agenda now would be a severe blow to a eurozone that urgently needs faster growth….”
This is what M. Trichet meant in his BBC interview, no doubt, by “a credible recovery package”. A veritable gallery of right-wing economic mantras: Privatizations. Deregulations. Lower taxes. Government spending cuts. The very policies that landed the world economy in the mess of 2008.
Some choice!