Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Log 460 Feb 24 2015: Greek effort to introduce socialism into the European Union seems doomed to failure

The legislative triangle of the European Union
The legislative triangle of the European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Robert Schuman proposed the Coal and Steel Com...
Robert Schuman proposed the Coal and Steel Community in May 1950. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
European Union
European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has been obvious for many years that the European Community has been designed to be a citadel of capitalism. Given how capitalism has developed into frank oligarchy in so many countries in the last twenty years, this has to be accounted the major defect of the effort to unite Europe.
Almost no sensible person could object to the European countries getting together in an effort to overcome the repeated wars they have fought against and between each other up to the recent past. As we all know these wars escalated in brutality, intensity and destruction, right up to the dreadful Second World War, with its death toll of nearly 73 million people. The greatest wars have all broken out in Europe, more than 5,000,000 of whose civilians died, in the last great war, to which must be added the nearly 10 million Soviet civilians killed, out of that nation’s total deaths of an estimated 25 million. These figures are staggering, and alone provide the impetus for the effort made since the war to establish Europe as an area devoted to peace between neighboring states.
Europe has proceeded towards unification in a succession of small steps, leading up to the establishment of a European Union with an elected Parliament, voted for by the citizens of the 28 member states, and a common currency called the Eurozone to which 19 members subscribe (plus another six tiny entitles which are not members of the Community), and nine do not, including the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark.
A feature of the way these institutions have developed is that a great deal of European affairs are now run by bodies appointed by these representative bodies: that is, unelected people, officials, bureaucrats whose job is to administer the strictly capitalist rules established to guide the development of the European economy.
A major problem has been that some countries, notably France and Germany, are economically and politically powerful, while many of the other 26 are small countries with less developed economies that, thrust into this vigorous environment, are finding it difficult to keep up or adjust.  Among these are Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Greece has been, shall we say, the basket-case among these poorer nations, sinking into a mountain of debt which, left-wing detractors say, was contracted not to aid the living standards of the Greek people, but to support banks and oligarchs with loans which were simply removed from the country into the accounts of these banks and oligarchs --- in other words, the  wealthy  segment of society.
Now, it cannot be argued that the Greeks were not, at least to a certain extent, responsible for their own plight. Former Greek governments, including the so-called leftist Pasok government headed by Andreas Papandreau (who spent many years exile in /Canada during the reign of the Greek army colonels, while talking a good case for reform while in opposition, once elected dropped the ball, as it were, and accepted holus-bolus the dictatorship of these wealthy foreign lenders, with the tough conditions imposed on them to ensure that all whisper of a left-wing solution --- such ass public investment, public ownership of resources, welfare support to the poorest, and so on, were quashed in the bud.
In the most recent example of this draconian economic dictatorship in favour of market capitalism, the Greek people have been reduced to penury by the austerity policies imposed by the European institutions, headed by Germany. Headed among their punishments have been levels of unemployment impossible for any nation that hopes to maintain its citizenry in good health.
The left-wing political party Syriza that has taken office since the last election a few weeks ago was formed originally through the merger of various small Marxist groups arguing for a root-and-branch reform that would have, at its extreme, have seen  Greece renege on these massive, unpayable debts, with the probable result that the country would be forced by the capitalist institutions governing Europe to leave the Eurozone, with unforeseeable consequences for the European economies.
The new government got busy as soon as it was elected, its new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who had been peacefully teaching economics in Texas until a month or so before the election, making the rounds of European leaders to argue their case for concessions It has to be reported that these talks brought no sense of the entrenched powers being ready to help the new government reform the institutions  reform themselves. They were given a weekend in which to produce a plan for reform, which if not accepted by all 26 member states, would never be implemented.
Sure enough, they have produced a document of some kind about which contending parties have produced very different interpretations. The new once-fire-eating Syriza government has suggested an extension of the present arrangements, which at least would give them four months to work out a viable and workable programme, but in doing so the government has undertaken “to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms,” while it has been charged with preparing “reform measures, based on the current arrangement” --- an arrangement that Tsipras, the Greek leader, had, in his election, promised to repudiate.
It did not take long for old-line socialists, veterans of the decades-long struggle for economic justice in Greece to denounce these agreements as a betrayal. Tyical was Manolis Glezos, an old fighter for socialist justice, who said: “Some argue that to reach an agreement, you have to retreat. First: there can be no compromise between oppressor and oppressed. Between the slave and the occupier is the only solution is Freedom. But even if we accept this absurdity, the concessions already made by the previous pro-austerity governments in terms of unemployment, austerity, poverty, suicides have gone beyond the limits.” He added that Syriza members, friends and supporters at all levels of organizations should decide in extraordinary meetings whether they accept this situation.
An even more brutal verdict was announced on the web site of  the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). They wrote:

Even in the entire squalid history of ‘left’ petty-bourgeois politics, it is difficult to find an example of deceit, cynicism and truly disgusting cowardice that quite matches that of Prime Minister Tsipras. Certainly, from the standpoint of the time that elapsed between election and betrayal, the Syriza government has probably set a new world record. In the hours following an agreement that is nothing less than a complete capitulation to the European Union, Tsipras let loose another barrage of demagogic lies in a pathetic attempt to deny the magnitude of Syriza’s prostration and to cover up his own political bankruptcy.
“ ‘We kept Greece standing and dignified,’ declared Tsipras, in a televised statement that seemed oblivious to reality. He claimed that the agreement with Eurogroup finance ministers ‘cancels austerity.’ Tsipras added: ‘In a few days we have achieved a lot, but we have a long road. We have taken a decisive step to change course within the euro zone.’ ”
James Petras, formerly director of the Centre for Mediterranean Studies in Athens, struck a more apocalyptic tone in an article under the title The Assassinaton of Greece, distributed online by the Voltaire Network:
The Greek government is currently locked in a life and death struggle with the elite which dominate the banks and political decision-making centers of the European Union. What are at stake are the livelihoods of 11 million Greek workers, employees and small business people and the viability of the European Union. If the ruling Syriza government capitulates to the demands of the EU bankers and agrees to continue the austerity programs, Greece will be condemned to decades of regression, destitution and colonial rule. If Greece decides to resist, and is forced to exit the EU, it will need to repudiate its 270 billion Euro foreign debts, sending the international financial markets crashing and causing the EU to collapse.
“The leadership of the EU is counting on Syriza leaders abandoning their commitments to the Greek electorate, which as of early February 2015, is overwhelmingly (over 70%) in favor of ending austerity and debt payments and moving forward toward state investment in national economic and social development. The choices are stark; the consequences have world-historical significance. The issues go far beyond local or even regional, time-bound, impacts. The entire global financial system will be affected.”

So, these are the choices as we wait to see how it all comes out.  At time of writing, the money would seem to be on the EU bullying their way into keeping the European Union capitalist, and no mistake.

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