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Foreign policy for sale: Greece’s dangerous alliance with Israel

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | February 6, 2018

For a brief historical moment, Alexis Tsipras and his political party, Syriza, ignited hope that Greece could resurrect a long-dormant Leftist tide in Europe.

A new Greece was being born out of the pangs of pain of economic austerity, imposed by the European Union and its overpowering economic institutions – a troika so ruthless, it cared little while the Greek economy collapsed and millions of people experienced the bitterness of poverty, unemployment and despair.

The Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) came to power in January 2015 as a direct outcome of popular discontent with the EU. It was a time where ordinary people took a stance to fend for whatever semblance of sovereignty that was not wrestled away from them by politicians, bankers and powerful bureaucratic institutions.

The result, however, was quite disappointing. Tsipras, now a Prime Minister, transformed his political discourse, and gradually adopted one that that is more consistent with the very neoliberal policies that pushed his country to its knees in the first place.

Syriza sold out, not only politically and ideologically, but in an actual physical sense as well.

In exchange for bailout loans that Greece received from European banks within the period 2010 to 2015 (estimated at $262 billion), the country is being dismembered. Greece’s regional airports are now operated by German companies and the country’s main telecommunication firm has been privatized, with sizable shares of it owned by Deutsche Telekom.

“The only thing missing outside the office of Greece’s privatization agency is a sign that reads: ‘A Nation for Sale’,” wrote Greek political economist, C. J. Polychroniou.

Unsurprisingly, economic subservience is often a prelude to political bondage as well. Not only did Syriza betray the aspirations of the Greek people who voted against austerity and bailouts, it also betrayed the country’s long legacy of maintaining amicable relationships with its neighbours.

Since his arrival at the helm of Greek politics, Tsipras has moved his country further into the Israeli camp, forging unwise regional alliances aimed at exploiting new gas finds in the Mediterranean and participating in multiple Israeli-led military drills.

While Israel sees an opportunity to advance its political agenda in Greece’s economic woes, the Greek government is playing along without fully assessing the possible repercussions of engaging with a country that is regionally viewed as a pariah, while internationally becoming condemned for its military occupation and terrible human rights record.

Israel moved to pull Athens into its own camp in 2010, shortly after the Turkish-Israeli spat over the ‘Mavi Marmara’ attack ensued. Israeli commandos attacked the Turkish Gaza-bound boat, killing nine Turkish nationals and injuring many more.

Although Turkey and Israel have, since then, reached a diplomatic understanding, Tel Aviv has moved forward to create alternative allies among Balkan countries, exploiting historical conflicts between some of these countries and Turkey.

Bilateral agreements were signed, high diplomatic visits exchanged and military exercises conducted in the name of deterring ‘international Jihad’ and fighting terrorism.

Greece and Cyprus received greater Israeli attention since they, on the one hand, were seen as political counterweight to Turkey and, on the other, because of the great economic potential that they offered.

Just one month after the ‘Mavi Marmara’ attack, the then Greek Prime Minister, George Papandrous, visited Israel, followed by an official visit by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Greece – the first of its kind. That was the start of a love-affair that is growing deeper.

The main motivation behind the closeness in relations is the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, located in the territorial waters of several countries, including Lebanon. If Israel continues with its plans to extract gas from an energy source located off the coast of Lebanon, it will increase the chances of yet another regional war.

When Tsipras came to power on the shoulders of a populous political movement, Palestinians too hoped that he would be different.

It was not exactly wishful thinking, either. Syriza was openly critical of Israel and had “vowed to cut military ties with Israel upon coming to office,” wrote Patrick Strickland, reporting from Athens. Instead the “ties have, nonetheless, been deepened.”

Indeed, soon after taking power, the ‘radical left’-led Greek government signed a major military agreement with Israel, the ‘status of forces’ accord, followed by yet more military exercises.

All of this was reinforced by a propaganda campaign in Israel hailing the new alliance, coupled with a changing narrative in Greek media regarding Israel and Palestine.

One George N. Tzogopoulos has been particularity buoyant about the Israel-Greek friendship. Writing a series of articles in various media, including the rightwing Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, Tzogopoulos suggests that, unlike the older generation of Greeks who have sided with Palestinians in the past, the young generation is likely to be pro-Israel.

“This process (of converting Greeks to loving Israel) will take time, of course, because it is principally related to school education,” he wrote in Algemeiner. “But the change in coverage of Israel by Greek journalists is a good omen.”

That ‘change of coverage’ was also notable in the recent official visit by Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, and his meeting with Tsipras and other Greek officials.

In the meetings, Rivlin complained of Palestinian obstinacy and refusal to return to the ‘peace process’, thus causing a ‘serious crisis.’

The ‘radical left’ leader said little to challenge Rivlin’s falsehoods.

Greece was not always this way, of course. Who could forget Andreas Papandreou, the late Greek leader who gave the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic status in 1981, and stood by Palestinians despite American and Israeli threats?

It is that generation that Tzogopoulos and his likes would like to be gone forever, and replaced by morally-flexible leaders like Tsipras.

However, signing off to join an Israel-led economic and military alliance in an area replete with conflict, is a terribly irresponsible move, even for politically inexperienced and opportunistic politicians.

For Greece to be the “strong arm of imperialism in the region” – as described by the leader of the Socialist Workers Revolutionary Party in Greece – is “completely stupid” as it will, in the long run, bring “catastrophic results for (the) Greek people.”

But Tsipras seems incapable of looking that far ahead.

Read also: 

Greece to join air force drills with Egypt, Israel

February 6, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump, Syriza & Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle

By Neil Clark | RT | October 1, 2017

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it. That might sound a bit glib but consider these recent events.

In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament‘s 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.

But what happened?

Pressure was applied on Greece by ‘The Troika’ to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.

“On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe,” Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting ‘No.’

Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier.
The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.

Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.

Trump won the election by attracting working-class ‘rust belt’ voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a ‘liberal interventionist’ foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a ‘clean break’ with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than ‘draining the swamp,’ The Donald has waded right into it.

The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House – sooner or later – will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.

Brits too have had a lesson in the way ‘democracy’ works when people don’t vote the way the most powerful people in the establishment want them to. On June 23, 2016, rightly or wrongly, 52 percent voted to leave the EU. But 15 months on, the view that Britain will either never leave the EU or stay in it in all but name is growing. The government only sent off Article 50 in March, after the courts held that Brexit had to be initiated by Parliament.

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU for a two-year ‘transition’ period after Britain is due to leave in 2019. It’s not hard to imagine the transition period will be indefinitely extended. “I’ve been voicing that fear since long before the prime minister’s dismal speech in Florence, and I see nothing to reassure me that the referendum result will be honored,” says Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express.

The odds of Britain still being in the EU in 2022 are now about 3-1. And they’re shortening all the time.

Again, is that what the people who voted for Brexit in 2016 wanted to happen? The issue here is not whether we think leaving the EU is a good idea, but how the referendum vote has not led to the results that people expected.

These are not the only examples of people not getting what they thought they had voted for. In 2008, the citizens of Ireland voted to reject the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Was that the end of the matter? Not at all. They were asked to vote again – a year later – and this time the EU got the desired outcome.

In May 2012, the Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande won a decisive victory in France’s Presidential elections. Like Syriza, he pledged to end austerity.

“I’m sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable.” He declared. But guess what. Hollande didn’t end austerity. Just a year later he was pushing through a fresh round of cuts.

Proving once again the truth of the old adage: Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes.

This wouldn’t have surprised French students of Hungarian politics as the same thing happened in Hungary in the mid-1990s. In the 1994 election Gyula Horn’s Socialist Party swept the right-wing Hungarian Democratic Forum from power, by promising to preserve the best elements of the old ’goulash communist’ system. Horn attacked energy privatization and pledged to put the interests of ordinary working Hungarians first. But the forces of Western capital had no intention of allowing any vestiges of socialism to survive in the former Eastern bloc country.

Under pressure from Western financial institutions, Horn did a spectacular U-turn, sacking genuinely progressive ministers- and appointing a neoliberal economic professor called Lajos Bokros to impose a brutal austerity program, which was far worse than anything the previous government had introduced. He also stepped up privatization.

See the pattern?

What the above examples illustrate is that regardless of how we vote, the people behind the scenes – the money men, the embedded bureaucrats, those who want to see no end to neoliberal globalization because they do so well out of it – won’t meekly accept the verdict of the people. If the ‘great unwashed’ vote the ‘wrong way,’ i.e., for Trump, for Syriza, for Brexit or for Hollande or Horn, then ways will be found to make sure that normal service is soon resumed.

There are important lessons I think here for the British Labour Party, who could be on the brink of power. Like many this week, I was hugely impressed by the speech to the conference made by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn pledged to develop “a new model of economic management to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism,” and linked the rise in terrorism to neocon/liberal interventionist foreign policies.

This is heresy as far as the pro-war neoliberal elites are concerned.

Opinion polls show that Labour, which registered its biggest increase in vote share in any election since 1945 earlier this year, has a consistent lead. Establishment attack dogs have been snapping at Corbyn’s heels since day one, and it’s utterly naïve to think that it’ll all stop if he does get the keys to Number 10, Downing Street. In fact, the war against Jez and his closest comrades will only intensify. The good news is that Labour is already planning for capital flight and a run on the pound if it’s elected. Paul Mason, a pro-Labour commentator, has said the first six months of a Corbyn government would be like ‘Stalingrad.’

Of course, you could argue that the likes of Trump, Hollande, Horn, and Tsipras were never totally committed to the program they stood on, and they said the ‘right things’ to the people just to get elected. But even if politicians are 100 percent genuine as the veteran anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn appears to be, the pressures on them to cave in to the powerful forces behind the curtain will be immense, especially if they are putting forward policies which the elites don’t favor.

It’s clear from recent history that in modern Western ‘democracies’ voting in itself doesn’t determine outcomes. It’s what comes afterward that’s the most important.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deceit, Betrayal and the Left: The ‘Traitor of the Year Award’

By James Petras :: 04.30.2017

Introduction

While the Right faithfully supports the policies and interests of its ruling class supporters, the Left has systematically betrayed their political platform promises and deceived its working class, salaried employees, small business and regional supporters.

Historic reversals have happened in rapid succession by Leftist leaders, including greater oligarch control over the economy, more dictatorial political domination by imperial powers (US,EU), increasing inequalities and poverty, and ‘Leftist’ support for imperial wars.

In some cases leftist leaders have gone beyond their rightist opponents by passing even more extreme reactionary policies upon assuming power.

In this essay, we will identify some of the turncoat leftists: The ‘Champions of Betrayal’.

Secondly we will review their policy reversals and the consequences for their working class and rural supporters.

Thirdly, we will present a case study of the world’s worst ‘Left’ traitor today: Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece.

In the final section, we will discuss some of the possible explanations for the trend of political reversals by left leaders.

Turncoat ‘Leftists’ of the Early 21st Century

There are numerous examples of former guerrilla movements, leftist regimes and political leaders who gained mass popular support on the promise of radical structural transformations and who turn around to embrace the interests of their oligarchical and imperial adversaries.

An entire generation of radicals from the 1960’s and ’70’s started on the left and, by the ’80’s and 90’s ended up in ‘centrist’ and rightwing regimes – even becoming collaborators with the extreme right and the CIA.

Former guerrilla fighters, who turned centrist and rightwing, became Cabinet Ministers or Presidents in Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Chile.

El Salvadoran guerrilla commander, Joaquin Villalobos, later collaborated with the CIA and provided ‘advice’ to the ‘death squad’ President of Colombia.

The list of late 20th century traitors is long and dismal. Their policy betrayals have caused great hardship for their mass supporters who suffered socio-economic losses, political repression, arrests, torture, death and a profound distrust toward ‘left’ intellectuals, political leaders and their ‘promises’.

The 21st Century: Starting on the Left and Ending on the Right

The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a revival of left regimes and political parties in Europe and Latin America.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), led by the great peasant leader Manual Marulanda, had 20,000 fighters and millions of supporters. In 1999, it had advanced to the outskirts of the Capital, Bogota. The reality today is a dramatic reversal.

In France, the Socialist Party adopted a left program and elected Francois Hollande as President in 2012. He promised to raise taxes on the rich to 75% in order to finance a massive jobs program. He promised to extend progressive labor legislation and to defend national industries. Today his credibility is near zero.

Throughout Latin America, Leftists were elected to head governments, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and El Salvador. With the possible exception of Bolivia and Ecuador, they have been ousted by their rightwing partners or opponents.

In Spain, Portugal and Greece, new radical leftist parties emerged with promises to end the brutal European Union-imposed austerity programs, and launch profound, class-based, structural transformations. Here history is repeating itself with another series of betrayals.

The Revolutionary Armed of Forces of Colombia (FARC): From Revolution to Surrender

By June 2017, the FARC leadership had disarmed its fighters, abandoning millions of peasant supporters in regions formerly under their control. The FARC’s signing of the Peace Pact with the Santos regime led to neither peace nor a real pact. Dozens of activists are already being murdered and hundreds of leftists and peasants are fleeing for their lives from death squads connected to the Santos regime. Assassinations occurred throughout the negotiation process and afterwards. Guerrilla fighters, who turned in their arms, now face kangaroo trials, while peasants who apply for agrarian reform are driven from their farms. Rank and file FARC fighters and militants are abandoned with their families in the jungle without homes, jobs and security from the death squads. US military bases and advisers remain. The entire socio-economic system is unchanged. Only the Cuba-based guerrilla ‘leaders’ are guaranteed security, two comfortable seats in Parliament– which has been denied– and the praise of the US government!

FARC leaders and chief negotiators, Ivan Marquez and Timoleon Jimenez, are clear contenders for the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’.

France’s President Hollande: An Imperial Collaborator Flushed down the Toilet

President Francois Hollande’s tenure was not far behind the FARC’s betrayal. Elected President of France in 2012 under the Socialist Party, he promised to ‘tax the rich’ by 75%, extend and deepen workers’ rights, reduce unemployment, revive bankrupt industries, prevent capitalist flight and end France’s military intervention in Third World countries.

After a brief flirtation with his campaign rhetoric, President Hollande went on a pro-business and militarist rampage against his voters:

First, he deregulated business relations with labor, making it easier and quicker to fire workers.

Second, he reduced business taxes by $40 billion Euros.

Third, he imposed and then extended a draconian state of emergency following a terrorist incident. This included the banning of strikes by workers protesting his anti-labor legislation and the double-digit unemployment rate.

Fourth, Hollande launched or promoted a series of imperial wars in the Middle East and North and Central Africa.

France under Francois Hollande initiated the NATO bombing of Libya, the murder of President Gadhafi, the total destruction of that nation and the uprooting of millions of Libyans and sub-Saharan African workers. This led to a massive flood of terrified refugees across the Mediterranean and into Europe with tens of thousands drowning in the process.

President Holland’s neo-colonial project oversaw the expansion of French troops into Mali (destabilized by the destruction of Libya) and the Central African Republic.

A clear promoter of genocide, Hollande sold arms and sent ‘advisers’ to support Saudi Arabia’s grotesque war against impoverished Yemen.

President Hollande joined the US mercenary invasion of Syria, allowing some of France’s finest nascent jihadis to join in the slaughter. His colonial ambitions have resulted in the flight of millions of refugees into Europe and other regions.

By the end of his term of office in 2017, Holland’s popularity had declined to 4%, the lowest level of electoral approval of any President in French history! The only rational move he undertook in his entire regime was to not seek re-election.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: ‘Traitor of the Year’

Despite the stiff competition from other infamous leftist traitors around the world, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wins the ‘Global Traitor of the Year’ award.

Tsipras deserves the label of ‘Global Traitor’ because:

1) He made the quickest and most brutal turn from left to right than any of his venal competitors.

2) He supported Greece’s subjugation to the dictates of the Brussels oligarchs privatization demands, agreeing to sell its entire national patrimony, including its infrastructure, islands, mines, beaches, museums, ports and transports etc.

3) He decreed the sharpest reduction of pensions, salaries and minimum wages in European history, while drastically increasing the cost of health care, hospitalization and drugs. He increased VAT, (consumer taxes) and tax on island imports and farm income while ‘looking the other way’ with rich tax evaders.

4) Tsipras is the only elected leader to convoke a referendum on harsh EU conditions, receive a massive mandate to reject the EU plan and then turn around and betray the Greek voters in less than a week. He even accepted more severe conditions than the original EU demands!

5) Tsipras reversed his promises to oppose EU sanctions against Russia and withdrew Greece’s historic support for the Palestinians. He signed a billion-dollar oil and gas deal with Israel which grabbed oil fields off the Gaza and Lebanon coast. Tsipras refused to oppose the US -EU bombing of Syria, and Libya – both former allies of Greece.

Tsipras, as the leader of the supposedly ‘radical left’ SYRIZA Party, leaped from left to right in the wink of an eye.

The first and most revealing indication of his turn to the right was Tsipras’ support for Greece’s continued membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO during the formation of SYRIZA (2004).

SYRIZA’s ‘left’ mouthed the usual platitudes accompanying EU membership, raising vacuous ‘questions’ and ‘challenges’ while talking of ’struggles’. None of these ‘half pregnant’ phrases made sense to any observer who understood the power of the German-led oligarchs in Brussels and their strict adherence to ruling-class imposed austerity.

Secondly, SYRIZA had played a minor role, at best, in the numerous trade union general strikes and worker and student led direct action in the run-up to its electoral victory in 2015.

SYRIZA is an electoral party of the lower middle and middle class, led by upwardly mobile politicos who had few if any ties to shop-floor factory and agrarian struggles. Their biggest struggles seemed to revolve around internal factional wars over seats in Parliament!

SYRIZA was a loose collection of squabbling groups and factions, including, ‘ecology movements’, Marxist sects and traditional politicos who had floated over from the moribund, and corrupt PanHellenic Socialist Party (PASOK). SYRIZA expanded as a party at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis when the Greek economy collapsed. From 2004 to 2007 SYRIZA increased its presence in Parliament from 3.5% to only 5%. Its lack of participation in the mass struggles and its internal squabbles led to a decline in the 2009 legislative elections to 4.6% of seats.

Tsipras ensured that SYRIZA would remain in the EU, even as its self-styled ‘left wing’, the Left Platform, led by ‘Marxist academic’ Panagiotis Lafazanis, promised to “keep an open door to leaving the EU”. Alexis Tsipras was first elected to the Athens city council, where he publicly attacked corrupt and demagogic rightwing colleagues while taking private lessons in power from the oligarchy.

In 2010, the rightwing PASOK and far right New Democracy agreed to an EU dictated debt bail-out leading to massive job losses and the slashing of wages and pensions. SYRIZA, while outside of power, denounced the austerity program and gave lip-service to the massive protests. This posturing allowed SYRIZA to quadruple its representation in parliament to 16% in the 2012 election.

Tsipras welcomed corrupt ex-PASOK members and financial advisers into SYRIZA, including Yanis Varoufakis, who spent more time motorcycling to upscale bars than supporting the unemployed workers in the streets.

EU ‘memorandums’ dictated the privatization of the economy, as well as deeper cuts in education and health. These measures were implemented in shock waves from 2010 through 2013. As an opposition party, SYRIZA increased its seats 27% in 2013 … a scant 3% behind the ruling rightwing New Democracy. In September 2014, SYRIZA approved the Thessalonika Program promising to reverse austerity, rebuild and extend the welfare state, restart the economy, defend public enterprises, promote tax justice, uphold democracy (direct democracy no less!) and implement a ‘national plan’ to increase employment.

The entire debate and all the resolutions turned out to be a theatrical farce! Once in power, Tsipras never implemented a single reform promised in the Program. To consolidate his power as head of SYRIZA, Tsipras dissolved all factions and tendencies in the name of a ‘unified party’ – hardly a step toward greater democracy!

Under ‘Dear Uncle Alexis’ control, SYRIZA became an authoritarian electoral machine despite its left posturing. Tsipras insisted that Greece would remain within the EU and approved a ‘balanced budget’ contradicting all his phony campaign promises of public investments to ‘extend the welfare state’!

A new EU bailout was followed by a jump in unemployment to over 50% among youth and 30% of the entire labor force. SYRIZA won the January 25, 2015 parliamentary elections with 36.3% of the electorate. Lacking a single vote to secure a majority in parliament, SYRIZA formed an alliance with the far-right ANEL party, to which Tsipras gave the Defense Ministry.

Immediately upon taking office, Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras announced his plans to renegotiate Greece’s bailout and ‘austerity program’ with the EU oligarchy and the IMF. This phony posturing could not hide his impotence: Since SYRIZA was committed to staying in the EU, austerity would continue and another onerous ‘bailout’ would follow. During ‘internal meetings’, members of SYRIZA’s ‘Left Platform’ in the Cabinet called for leaving the EU, reneging the debt and forging closer ties with Russia. Despite being totally ignored and isolated, they stayed on as impotent ‘token leftist’ Cabinet Ministers.

With Tsipras now free to impose neo-liberal market policies, billions of Euros flowed out of Greece and its own banks and businesses remained in crisis. Both Tsipras and the ‘Left Platform’ refused to mobilize SYRIZA’s mass base, which had voted for action and demanded an end to austerity. The media’s gadfly, Finance Minister Varoufakis, put on a sideshow with grand theatrical gestures of disapproval. These were openly dismissed by the EU-IMF oligarchy as the antics of an impotent Mediterranean clown.

Superficial as ever, the Canadian, US, European left-wing academics were largely unaware of SYRIZA’s political history, its opportunist composition, electoral demagogy and total absence from real class struggle. They continued to blather about SYRIZA as Greece’s ‘radical left’ government and attended its PR functions. When SYRIZA flagrantly embraced the EU’s most savage cutbacks against Greek workers and their living standards affecting everyday life, the highly paid, distinguished professors finally spoke of SYRIZA’s ‘mistakes’ and ladled the ‘radical left’ from this stew of opportunists! Their grand speaking tours to Greece were over and they flitted off to support other ’struggles’.

As the summer of 2015 approached, Prime Minister Tsipras moved ever closer to the entire EU austerity agenda. ‘Dear Alexis’ dumped Finance Minister Varoufakis, whose histrionics had irked Germany’s Finance Minister. Euclid Tsakalotos , another ‘radical’ leftist, took over as Finance Minister, but turned out to be a malleable lieutenant for Tsipras, willing to implement any and all EU-imposed austerity measures without the antics.

By July 2015, Tsipras and SYRIZA accepted a harsh austerity program dictated by the EU. This rejected SYRIZA’s entire Thessalonika Program proclaimed a year earlier. The entire population, and SYRIZA’s rank and file members grew angrier, demanding an end to austerity. While approving a ‘belt tightening’ austerity program for his electoral mass base throughout the summer of 2015, Tsipras and his family lived in luxury in a villa generously loaned by a Greek plutocrat, far from the soup lines and hovels of the unemployed and destitute.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras implemented policies earning him the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’. His was a duplicitous strategy: On July 5, 2015, he convoked a referendum on whether to accept the EU’s bailout conditions. Thinking his ‘pro-EU’ supporters would vote ‘Yes’, he intended to use the referendum as a mandate to impose new austerity measures. Tsipras misjudged the people: Their vote was an overwhelming repudiation of the harsh austerity program dictated by the oligarchs in Brussels.

Over 61% of the Greek people voted ‘no’ while merely 38%voted in favor of the bailout conditions. This was not limited to Athens: A majority in every region of the country rejected the EU dictates – an unprecedented outcome! Over 3.56 million Greeks demanded an end to austerity. Tsipras was ‘admittedly surprised’ . . . and disappointed! He secretly and stupidly thought the referendum would give him a free hand to impose austerity. He put on his usual grin as the voting results were announced.

Less than a week later, on July 13, Tsipras renounced the results of his own referendum and announced his government’s support for the EU bailout. Perhaps to punish the Greek voters, Tsipras backed an even harsher austerity scheme than the one rejected in his referendum! He drastically slashed public pensions, imposed massive regressive tax hikes and cut public services by $12 billion euros. Tsipras agreed to the infamous ‘Judas memorandum’ of July 2015, which increased the regressive general consumer tax (VAT) to 23%, a 13% food tax, a sharp increase in medical and pharmaceutical costs and tuition fees, and postponed the retirement age by five years to 67.

Tsipras continued on his ‘historic’ rampage over the suffering Greek people throughout 2016 and 2017. His regime privatized over 71,500 public properties, including the historic patrimony. Only the Acropolis was spared the auction block…. for now! The resulting unemployment drove over 300,000 skilled and educated Greeks to migrate. Pensions slashed to 400 Euros led to malnutrition and a three-fold rise in suicides.

Despite these grotesque social consequences the German bankers and the regime of Angela Merkel refused to reduce the debt payments. Prime Minister Tsipras’ groveling had no effect.

Sharp tax hikes on farm fuels and transport to tourist islands led to constant marches and strikes in cities, factories, fields and highways.

By January 2017 Tsipras had lost half of his electorate. He responded with repression: gassing and beating elderly Greeks protesting their poverty pensions. Three-dozen trade unionists, already acquitted by the courts, were re-tried by Tsipras’ prosecutors in a vicious ’show trial’. Tsipras supported the US-NATO attacks on Syria, the sanctions against Russia and the billion-dollar energy and military agreements with Israel.

Short of the Nazi occupation (1941-44) and Anglo-Greek civil war of (1945-49), the Greek people had not experienced such a precipitous decline of their living standards since the Ottomans. This catastrophe occurred under the Tsipras regime, vassal to the Brussels oligarchy.

European, Canadian and US leftist academic tourists had ‘advised’ SYRIZA to remain in the EU. When the disastrous consequences of their ‘policy advice’ became clear… they merely turned to advising other ’struggles’ with their phony ’socialist forums’.

Conclusions

The betrayals by ‘Leftist’ and ‘radical leftist’ leaders are partly due to their common practices as politicians making pragmatic deals in parliament. In other cases, former extra-parliamentary and guerrilla leaders were faced with isolation and pressure from neighboring ‘left’ regimes to submit to imperial ‘peace accords’, as in the case of the FARC. Confronting the massive build-up of the US supplied and advised armies of the oligarchs, they folded and betrayed their mass supporters.

The electoral framework within the EU encouraged leftist collaboration with class enemies – especially German bankers, NATO powers, the US military and the IMF.

From its origins SYRIZA refused to break with the EU and its authoritarian structure. From its first day of government, it accepted even the most demonstrably illegal private and public debts accumulated by the corrupt right-wing PASOK and New Democracy regimes. As a result SYRIZA was reduced to begging.

Early on SYRIZA could have declared its independence, saved its public resources, rejected its predecessors’ illegal debts, invested its savings in new jobs programs, redefined its trade relations, established a national currency and devalued the drachma to make Greece more flexible and competitive. In order to break the chains of vassalage and foreign oligarch imposed austerity, Greece would need to exit the EU, renounce its debt and launch a productive socialist economy based on self-managed co-operatives.

Despite his electoral mandate, the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras followed the destructive path of Soviet leader Michel Gorbachev, betraying his people in order to continue down the blind ally of submission and decay.

While several leaders offer stiff competition for the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’, Alexis Tsipras’ betrayal has been longer, more profound and continues to this day. He broke more promises and reversed more popular mandates (elections and referendums) more quickly than any other traitor. Moreover nothing short of a generation will allow the Greeks to recover left politics. The left has been devastated by the monstrous lies and complicity of Tsipras’ former ‘left critics’.

Greece’s accumulated debt obligations will require at least a century to play out – if the country can even survive. Without question, Alexis Tsipras is the ‘Traitor of the Year’ by unanimous vote!!!

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Greece’s Syriza Party playing double game on Palestine issue: Activist

Press TV – October 18, 2016

Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza Party has called on the government to recognize the state of Palestine. Back in December, the parliament approved a non-binding resolution, urging the government to formally recognize the Palestinian statehood. If implemented, Greece would become the first European country to follow Sweden’s lead which officially recognized Palestine in 2014.

Talking to Press TV, Joe Catron, an activist with International Solidarity Movement, has described the announcement as “a tremendous victory” for Palestinians and solidarity activists who have made Palestine a popular issue in Greece.

But at the same time, he drew attention to the fact that this is only “a symbolic move” which comes on the heels of other steps taken by Syriza to boost its ties with Israel.

“Since Syriza took power, we have seen it sign [an] agreement with Israel which is comparable only to Israel’s existing agreement with the United States,” he said. “We have seen it move to increase its energy cooperation with Israel and [have] even seen Syriza prime minister refer in writing, during a visit to the occupied Palestinian Jerusalem al-Quds, to it [the city] as Israel’s historic capital.”

He further noted that Syriza is playing a double game over Palestine by trying to cement its ties with Tel Aviv on the one hand; while taking limited pro-Palestine steps on the other.

“I do not think that Israel is happy to see any steps taken internationally in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinians, including this one. [But] I think they probably prefer it to any alternative that might include its isolation, for example Greece ending its energy ties. That is something that, I think, they would take more seriously,” Catron added.

According to the activist, it is up to Palestinians to decide whether such symbolic steps are worth celebrating or they are simply distractions from more concrete measures that might produce results.

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syriza’s Two Mistakes and Two Lessons

By John Halle | Outrages and Interludes | July 16, 2015

That Syriza has made mistakes isn’t in dispute: they themselves have admitted to two main ones.

1) They failed to recognize, despite early warnings from party members such as Costas Lapavistas, that the EU was negotiating in bad faith.  The EU’s intention was never to reach an agreement but to destroy Syriza and with it the hope that the victims of the endless bleeding of austerity had any democratic recourse. Furthermore, the negotiations were themselves a tactic in that, as former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis now admits, they prevented him from focussing on the one thing which Syriza could have used in its negotiations: a viable plan to exit the Eurozone in a way which minimized disruption to the economy and maximize the chances that it would return to health in the shortest possible time.

2)  We now know from Varoufakis that Syriza  had “a small group . . .  within the ministry, of about five people” that were planning in secret for a Grexit. This was, as he concedes, not even close to what was required to effect a viable transition to a new currency. Of course, no serious person should have any illusions that a Grexit would be “easy”, even with a massive investment in staff and infrastructure, any more than recovering from a major earthquake, hurricane or bombing of a nation’s major cities by a foreign power. Rather, just as a government is expected to prepare for disasters whether these are acts of god or attacks from hostile foreign powers, Syriza was derelict in failing to plan for what Varoufakis now accepts was “a coup” albeit executed not by “tanks” but by “banks”.

1) The Bankruptcy of “Speaking Truth to Power” Liberalism

Despite Syriza’s self-definition as “the party of the radical left”, much of its leadership and many of its advisers would reject the designation, more accurately being categorized within our political lexicon as liberals. Among these is Varoufakis’s close friend and UT Austin colleague Jamie Galbraith who described himself as “a reasonable and hopeful observer” of  Syriza’s initial negotiations with the E.U.  Rather than dismiss German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a right wing ideologue Galbraith praised her for “having made some of the mildest comments of any German politician,” and for having “chosen with care” her words on the subject of debt relief which, according to him, she had not rejected.

Galbraith’s report of the negotiations gave further grounds for hope that “the German government, having taken a very tough line through the process, took a step back from that tough line in order to secure a basic framework agreement for going forward.”

As we now know, the softening on the German’s hard line was a liberal chimera. Galbraith now recognizes that “the negotiations were a bit of a farce all along” and has admitted that he should have recognized that Chancellor Merkel was always “completely unreceptive.”

Varoufakis, while famously defining his political orientation as “Marxist” (albeit “erratic”) evidently shared Galbraith’s liberal confidence in the good will of the Eurocrat negotiators. This is apparent in his surprise when his attempts to reason with them were unsatisfactory-to put it mildly. According to his recent interview in the New Statesmen,

“It’s not that (they) didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.”

What is on display is the disenchantment of liberals who operated on a presumption of good intentions and underlying rationality of elite technocrats. Radicals such as Lapavistas do not. For them, providing “arguments” to the institutional representatives of capital makes no more sense than addressing a hyena with its fangs clamped on one’s jugular. The hyena is acting not according to reason but according to its fundamental nature and so are the capitalist hyenas who were Syriza’s negotiating partners.

It was foolish to negotiate with any other expectation, as both Varoufakis and Galbraith now have effectively conceded.

2) Goldman Sachs DOES care (if you raise chickens)

A second explanation for one of Syriza’s crucial mistakes involves assumptions made by segments of their left, as opposed to (neo-) liberal wing, which includes Varoufakis and others who he refers to as “committed Europeanists.” By that he means that they are committed to the longstanding principle of left internationalism and cosmopolitanism. They also tend to view favorably the comparative advantage accruing to globalized trading networks which provide the economies of scale making possible large efficiencies in production of basic goods and also in making available raw materials at low cost. While their position is reasonable, it also has a negative side in that internationalists tend to denigrate the potential of local, small scale experiments in alternative economic systems of the sort which have been championed by Richard Wolff and Gar Alperowitz among others under the heading of worker self directed enterprises and workplace democracy.

Why this matters is that it is apparent that some form of what Wolff and Alperowitz are proposing will be crucial in the event of a Grexit. Prior to a national currency being re-established, local networks of production and exchange of the sort which globalization has long since eradicated will need to be revived and again made viable. That includes, incidentally, various forms of local food production of the sort denigrated by the verticalist left under the widely circulated meme “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens.”

In fact, whether Greece will collapse into chaos and starvation will have to do with whether they are able to reduce their reliance on imported goods ramping up local production in all spheres including most crucially in food production-not as a neo-Calvinist moral imperative but to maintain a minimal caloric intake. It is likely that many small scale initiatives will need to be launched and developed to accomplish that, some along the lines the WW II Victory Gardens whose production equalled that of all commercial sources of vegetables during the war years. Of course, Goldman Sachs would like nothing better than for Greek efforts at self-reliance to fail which is to say they hope the Greeks don’t raise chickens-and starve for not having done so: the exact opposite of facile, leftish conventional wisdom.

Conclusion: No War but the Class War

While small, the Victory Gardens were not an insignificant contribution to a nation in a state of war. And, to reiterate the point, the comparison of a state of war to what will be required under a Grexit is entirely appropriate.

For while some of us want to avert our eyes, the left always recognized that the war by the rich against the poor is a war just as much as any other. An economic war does not involve missiles, antipersonnel weapons and M-16s. Its weapons are state enforced privatization schemes, debt swaps and interest rate manipulation. Rather than puncture wounds, severed limbs and  the casualties take the form of thousands of unnecessary deaths due to inadequately staffed and supplied hospitals, bacterial infections due to inadequately maintained sewage treatment facilities and collapsing buildings, food poisoning epidemics due to the mass layoffs of inspectors in regulatory agencies. An almost endless list can be compiled itemizing the social collapse resulting from economic warfare carried about by fountain pens rather than guns. Varoufakis has now woken up to the reality that his country has been attacked by an axis of foreign powers, that they are bent on its destruction and have one goal in mind: claiming the spoils of victory, disbursing to their owners in the investor class. It is time the rest of the left joined him there and here-on our feet and ready to fight them, in whatever way we can.

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Problem of Greece is not Only a Tragedy: It is a Lie

By John Pilger | CounterPunch | July 13, 2015

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values — and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.

Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands – which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt – as Argentina did successfully — and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” – the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote: “Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism …

“I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated …. Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory].

“What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself …?”

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” – when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change – he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind – but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”, Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Greece’s Downfall and Redemption

By Finian Cunningham – Sputnik – 29.06.2015

Decades of exorbitant military spending account for Greece’s present downfall under an Olympian-sized debt. European governments and news media portray the problem of Greece’s financial woes as public spending profligacy.

The truth is that Greece’s debt mountain has been incurred from years of wasteful military splurging. That is the tragic downfall of the country, which European creditor governments and the mainstream news media tellingly ignore.

But in this understanding of Greece’s modern tragedy, there is hope for democratic renewal and redemption. Because that realisation permits a radically different option to restore Greece’s economy in a way that is rational and achievable, without piling up more debt and misery for the population. Instead of more austerity imposed on workers and pensioners, the solution is for Greece to embark on a massive disarmament programme to overturn decades of reckless militarism.

Greece’s outstanding total debt is around $320 billion – or 175 per cent of its national economic output (GDP). Its creditors – the Troika of European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – are insisting that the Athens government must oversee more public cuts.

The reality is that austerity is only driving the Greek economy into further depression and debt.

That inevitably means more and more of the Greek people’s sovereign rights whittled away to the point of becoming a vassal state dictated to by foreign governments and finance capital.

As a foreboding sign of things to come, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ latest offer of raising corporation taxes in place of cutting pensions was slapped down last week by the Troika.

The imperious demand for more austerity has now forced the Greek government to put the choice to the public in the form of a proposed referendum on the EU’s bailout terms, to be held on July 5.

Greece’s debt crisis appears to be heading to an even sharper crisis point. But the Greek origin of that word “krisis” also has a positive connotation of decisive event. The Greek people should reject the never-ending debt addiction that the EU creditors and IMF have hooked the country on. For that way only foreshadows increasing austerity and anti-democratic dictate.

What the Greek people can turn to is a realistic and altogether more democratic and humane option – of demanding their country slash its monstrous military spending.

Even after five years of economic catastrophe, Greece’s annual military budget amounts to $4 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That translates to 2.2 per cent of the nation’s GDP – a colossal drain on the economy.

To put Greece’s military spending into perspective, it is double the ratio that most other EU countries currently spend on defence. For example, Germany spends 1.2 per cent of GDP, Italy 1.1 per cent, Netherlands 1.2 per cent and Belgium 1.1 per cent.

If Greece were to cut its outsized military budget by half that would generate $2 billion in one year alone, which would pay off its immediate bill to the IMF and help the country reach a 1 per cent budget surplus that the Troika has set for 2015. In other words, that source of finance would obviate any further need for cutting pensions and workers’ salaries.

Why the Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras, which claims to be a radical socialist coalition, does not pursue this more imaginative and democratic alternative is a curious question. Last week, Tsipras offered to cut the military budget by $200 million – or a mere 5 per cent. But the offer was rebuffed by the IMF because it stated that its rules do not permit interference in a country’s defence policy. To which Tsipras and the Greek electorate should respond with their own rebuff of IMF absurdity – especially evident with the IMF’s throwing billions of dollars to the regime in Kiev which is waging war on the eastern Ukrainian population.

But that’s only a trifling start to addressing the Greek tragedy. The Greek people have legal and moral grounds to repudiate the entire debt mountain as illegitimate or, as economists would say, “odious debt”.

During the decade up to the onset of crisis in 2010, Greece was regularly spending 7 per cent of its GDP on military. Some estimate that during that decade the country spent a total of $150 billion on defence – or half of the current debt pile.

As Greek economist Angelos Philippides told the Guardian back in April 2012: “For a long time Greece spent 7 per cent of its GDP on defence when other European countries spent an average 2.2 per cent. If you were to add up that compound 5 per cent [difference]… there would be no debt at all.”

Moreover, Greece’s past military expenditure was mired in corruption.

In October 2013, ex-defence minster Akis Tsochatzopoulous of the previous PASOK government was jailed for 20 years in a bribery case involving $75 million in kickbacks.

And here is an ironic twist in this Greek tragedy. The biggest European weapons dealers to Greece are German and French companies. In the Tsochatzopoulous scandal, German company Ferrostaal paid a fine of $150 million for its part in using bribes to clinch the sale of four submarines.

It was an open secret that Greece’s military largesse was for years stinking with corruption. Yet the German and French authorities did nothing to derail this gravy train. The Berlin and Paris governments continued to ply Greece with loans because the country was using the money to buy massive amounts of weapons from their manufacturers.

Today, the single biggest institutional creditors to Greece are Germany and France. Those countries stand accused of criminal irresponsibility in racking up Greece’s debt precisely because so much of the money was being spent to prop up the German and French economies through lucrative arms sales.

It is a monumental irony that German leader Angela Merkel is most vehement in lecturing Greece about “living within its means”. Rather than directing corrective action at the source of the problem, it is Greek workers, pensioners, the young and infirm who are being made to pay for the largesse that they actually never saw.

If the Greek people repudiate the entirely artificial debt crisis, it would restore their country’s economy on a sound footing. Of course, the country’s bloated military will not be happy with that. The danger of a military coup is a real threat given the country’s history of fascist dictatorship during the US-backed “regime of the colonels” between 1967-1974. Perhaps this is what the Syriza government is afraid of.

And, to be sure, the Troika of EU leadership, ECB and IMF will be intensely displeased if the Greek people go for the radical alternative of rejecting debt and austerity. However, in the battle shaping up, the Greek people have natural justice on their side. They should and can reject debt slavery and dictate. By doing so, Greece may redeem the meaning of “Demos Kratia” – People Power. And what a beautiful denouement in the Greek tragedy that would be, not only for the people of Greece but right across all the debt-ridden Western countries.

Greece is hailed as the ancient birthplace of democracy. Two millennia on, it could also be the very place for its renaissance.

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Tsipras and the Vampires

By Boris Kagarlitsky | CounterPunch | July 2, 2015

For five years now Europe has been troubled by the problem of the Greek debt. It all began with a relatively modest sum estimated at 15-20 billion euros, though at the time coping even with this debt seemed beyond the country’s capacity. Instead of simply writing off the debt, the “Troika” consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered Greece a program of economic assistance in exchange for carrying out “urgent reforms”.

The results of this program, and of the help it provided, speak for themselves. Greece’s economy contracted by 27 per cent, and the debt rose to 320 billion, despite a partial write-off. From an original 60 per cent of GDP, the debt thus reached 175 per cent. Meanwhile, neither the Troika nor the previous Greek government acknowledged the obvious failure. The Troika not only insisted on continuing and even radicalising its clearly pointless actions, but also proposed treating the economic ills of other eurozone countries (Italy, Spain and Portugal) on the basis of the Greek model.

The actions of the Troika seem far less absurd if we reflect that the billions of euros intended to “save Greece” never reached that ill-fated country but were deposited immediately in German and French banks. Under the pretext of servicing the Greek debt a huge financial pyramid was created, analogous to a Ponzi scheme or to the MMM and GKO pyramids in 1990s Russia, but on a much greater scale. Meanwhile, part of the money that finished up in the banks was sucked directly out of Greece, while a further part came from the pockets of West European taxpayers. For decisions made effectively in Berlin and Brussels, with the approval of Paris, the citizens of other Eurozone countries were forced to pay. The victims included even the inhabitants of Spain and Italy, as well as of countries such as Austria and Finland that had no relation whatever to the events concerned. A sort of all-European pipeline was constructed, and used to siphon off state funds for the benefit of German and French financial capital.

With the coming to power of the left-wing government formed by the SYRIZA party and headed by Alexis Tsipras, hopes arose in Greece that the endless series of large and small economic, social and moral catastrophes which the country had suffered since 2008 would finally come to an end. Even if the situation did not improve, things would at least proceed differently. SYRIZA had been elected with a clear mandate to end the policies of economic austerity, to put a stop to the privatisation and commercialisation of the public sector, and above all, to give Greeks back their self-respect by conducting tough, principled negotiations with the creditors who in recent years had behaved toward the country as though they were an occupation administration. SYRIZA, moreover, was considered in Europe to be pro-Russian; during the election campaign representatives of the party had repeatedly voiced disagreement with EU policy toward Russia, criticising the imposition of sanctions and condemning the new political order imposed in Ukraine following the political overturn of February 2014.

The first agreements concluded by the new Greek government with its creditors showed, however, that in practice everything was turning out quite differently. The representatives of Athens made heated declarations, and then, after securing only minimal amendments, proceeded to sign the next agreement dictated by the creditors. In part, this inconsistency resulted from the contradictions of the mandate obtained by Tsipras and his colleagues. They had promised to put an end to the economic austerity that was killing demand and production. But they also pledged to keep the country within the Eurozone and the EU, stressing that a default on foreign debts had to be avoided. This way of formulating the question handed Greeks over to the mercy of their creditors.

To pay off the debts is simply impossible.

Moreover, a re-launching of the economy is technically inconceivable unless the harsh rules imposed by the ECB are rejected, along with its insistence on a dramatic increase in competitiveness unaided by a lowering of the exchange rate. Since it has been understood from the outset that the ECB will not agree to sharply lower the euro exchange rate solely in order to save Greece, it is clear that in technical terms there is not the slightest chance of a successful exit from the dilemma without Greece quitting the Eurozone and returning to the drachma. The only real question has been whether this exit will be planned, organised and prepared in advance, or whether it will be chaotic and disastrous. The situation is very similar to the one in Argentina in 2001, when after a default the peso had to be decoupled from the dollar if economic growth was to resume.

Nevertheless, even discussing this sole realistic scenario, let alone making preparations to carry it out, has been banned; if such a course were followed, the German and French banks would stand to suffer, along with the reputations of the EU leaders. So long as the Greek government accepts these conditions, it is in the situation of a doctor who undertakes to treat a cancer sufferer without infringing on the “lawful interests” of the tumour and without placing obstacles in the way of its growth. Or, it is like a person who negotiates with vampires on how much of his or her blood they will drink. In each case, the prior interests recognised are those of the vampires.

For the sake of fairness, it should be acknowledged that to a certain degree the contradictions of SYRIZA’s position reflect those of Greek society itself. On the one hand, many Greeks are outraged and want changes, while on the other, people are afraid to risk their middle-class comforts, even though these comforts are diminishing by the day. So long as substantial numbers of the population still have savings in euros, these people are paralysed by fear that their money will be lost or devalued. It is one thing to attend demonstrations demanding that the creditors “respect the country”, and quite another to be ready, right now, to accept particular sacrifices and risks for the sake of one’s own future. It is true that there is no other way out, but both the authorities and society need to think and talk about this openly. Through making statements that try to satisfy everyone, the Tsipras government has instead driven itself into a trap.

The problem is not so much that drastic and humiliating conditions have repeatedly been imposed on Greece by its creditors, as that these agreements are not solving the dilemma but exacerbating it. The debt crisis is worsening, and the sum owed is increasing – both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of the economy as the latter shrinks under the impact of the crisis. Consequently, any new agreement simply assumes that a new crisis will arise after a few months. Each time, this new crisis is more destructive.

While lacking the resolve to answer the EU leaders with an emphatic “no”, Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister, the economist Giannis Varoufakis (an import from the University of Texas), cannot fail to understand that agreeing with the Troika will also turn out disastrously for them. Before their eyes, just such a capitulation only two years ago transformed the powerful social democratic party PASOK from the country’s leading political force into an outsider.

Tsipras has sought to manoeuvre, doing his best to please everyone. He has reassured the creditors, indulged the petty-bourgeois illusions of voters, and delivered radical speeches to meetings of left activists. While promising everyone the maximum possible, his government in practice has tried to sabotage some of the agreements signed with the Troika, particularly in cases where the signatures were affixed by earlier administrations. But the ministers have lacked the courage even to suggest that these agreements might be abrogated, or that the government might openly refuse to carry out their stipulations. A notable example of the Greek government’s diplomatic approach is the position it has taken on the question of sanctions against Russia. Under the rules of the EU, Greece could simply block these sanctions in the summer of 2015. This demand was raised by members of the SYRIZA party itself, when they voted en bloc in the European Parliament against anti-Russian resolutions. But in the heat of the next round of negotiations between the Troika and the Greeks, at a time when Tsipras himself was in St Petersburg explaining to Russian colleagues the prospects for the development of special relations with Athens, his representatives in the EU gave their backing to the sanctions. Addressing the public, Greek diplomats then stated that they had fought like lions on behalf of Russian interests, and that it was only because of their persistence and principled character that the sanctions had been extended for a mere six months, instead of twelve months as the Germans had demanded.

Tsipras’s policy of compromise can be explained in part by a desire to win time in expectation of the elections in Spain, where the left coalition headed by the Podemos party had a serious chance of success. Spain is a far more influential country than Greece, with a far stronger economy, but is suffering from a very similar if less severe crisis. If Podemos were to come to power, Athens would be able to escape from its international isolation. In addition, the Left Bloc in Portugal has a definite chance of success. In other words, an opportunity has appeared to establish an international coalition of Mediterranean countries opposing Berlin and Brussels. But among the public in Spain and Portugal, Tsipras’s own actions and his evident weakness have raised questions about the advisability of placing trust in the left alternative, thus weakening the hopes of the left in those countries.

Within the European left milieu, sympathy nevertheless remains for SYRIZA as a party that finds itself in extremely difficult circumstances. Against the background of many years of setbacks for the European left, Tsipras’s initial successes inspired hopes which people are reluctant to abandon. The SYRIZA leader’s principle, of first making radical speeches and then of giving way to the superior forces of his opponents, seemed to be justified. Not only in other parts of Europe but in Greece as well, the popularity of Tsipras’s government increased. People not only refrained from condemning him, but pitied him as the hostage of vampires against which he was time and again proving powerless.

To fool pseudo-lefts and provincial petty bourgeois is not particularly difficult, but financial vampires do not fall for such tricks. The sabotage aroused righteous indignation in the creditors, who steadily increased the pressure. The agreements which the Greeks signed with the creditors after SYRIZA came to office were no better than those endorsed by the previous government, and had the same results.

In June, when the next round of payments fell due, there turned out to be no money in the budget.

A further restructuring of the debt was essential. In exchange, the Troika demanded the acceptance of a new “reform package”, by comparison with which all the preceding austerity measures seemed mere warm-up exercises. At one and the same time wages and pensions would have to be cut, taxes would need to be raised, and all concessions would have to be stripped from tourism, which amid the destruction of industry and the decline of agriculture remained the only relatively stable sector of the economy. The country would sink inevitably into a new spiral of recession. For SYRIZA, this would mean not only abandoning all its election promises, but also submitting to public humiliation, with the obvious prospect of defeat at the next elections. This, indeed, was what the creditors were seeking.

On June 22 Greece effectively capitulated. The government agreed to extract more revenue from the Value Added Tax, raising it to 0.93 per cent of GDP, and to increase taxes on shipping companies (in other words, to make trips between Greek islands and the mainland more expensive). A cut to pensions was also promised, though the Athens authorities asked to be allowed to introduce the changes involved over time rather than immediately.

The only point on which the Greek negotiators demurred, in order to save face, was a demand that the Value Added Tax be raised to 1 per cent of GDP. In other words, the extent of their resistance was a whole 0.07 per cent. The Greek side meanwhile agreed that company tax should be levied at the rate of 28 per cent, instead of 29 per cent as it had initially suggested to the Troika. The Greeks also asked to be allowed to keep defence spending at its former level; this matched the general requirements of the NATO bloc, of which Greece is part.

The game, it might have seemed, was over. The world financial press celebrated, and prices rose on the share markets. In Athens, there was even a demonstration by members of right-wing parties supporting the creditors. Well-dressed citizens gathered in the central Syntagma Square, calling for pensions to be reduced. True, there were not many of these demonstrators, only about 1500, but the television managed to make the picture so impressive that even the well-known American commentator Paul Craig Roberts, a sharp critic of the policy of the financial institutions, expressed puzzlement at the way Greeks had apparently been brainwashed to the point of agreeing to their own country’s humiliation.

Then the unexpected happened. German representatives declared their dissatisfaction at the speed with which the European Commission welcomed the new offers from Athens. Under pressure from Berlin, Tsipras’s offers were rejected. The Greeks had surrendered, but as it turned out, the Germans were not taking prisoners.

The Eurocrats not only refused to agree to the symbolic concessions needed by Tsipras and Varoufakis if they were to save face, but like gangsters with a client who is behind in paying protection money, began making new demands. With its back to the wall, the Greek government suddenly displayed a courage born of despair. Tsipras delivered a fiery speech to the people, and called a referendum. Greeks would decide for themselves whether to agree to the demands of the creditors. The last PASOK prime minister, George Papandreou, had planned to do something generally similar, but the creditors applied pressure to him, and he renounced his attempt. The upshot was that Papandreou lost his reputation, his job as premier, and even his position at the head of his own party. Knowing the fate of his predecessor, Tsipras showed more consistency. A further inducement for him was the fact that even before the eurocrats had rejected the “compromise” he had offered, a revolt had broken out in the SYRIZA ranks, and it was clear that if the agreement with the Troika was to get through parliament, it would only be with the votes of the rightists.

This time, the deputies of the conservative New Democracy party tried to block the vote on the referendum. But eventually they returned to the chamber, and the resolution was adopted. On July 5 Greeks are to decide on whether or not to agree to the conditions of the financial vampires.

It is significant that the Troika characterised the use by the Greeks of this democratic procedure as a rejection of the agreement. Troika representatives then called off the talks and declared that “aid” to Greece would cease from June 30. This means that regardless of the outcome of the referendum, a technical default from July 1 is inevitable, and this in turn will lead almost automatically to Greece’s exit from the eurozone and return to the drachma.

The chance that the supporters of austerity would win the referendum, illusory in any case, has now vanished completely.

What was bound to occur has now actually happened, just as in Argentina in 2001, where all political forces tried desperately to avoid a default and exit from the dollar zone (the Argentinian peso was tied to the US dollar), but where this occurred anyway. In both Argentina and Russia, financial collapse was followed by a few dramatic and chaotic months, after which an economic recovery began. The situation in Greece is somewhat more complex, but in Greece as well the shift to an inevitably devalued drachma opens a range of possibilities. Cheap resorts will attract the tourists who are now in critically short supply (Russian tourism alone in Greece has shrunk this year by 70 per cent). New prospects will open up for tourism and shipbuilding. Relations with Russia could also be placed on a more solid footing.

The situation has turned out to the benefit of Greece, but despite the actions of the country’s present leaders rather than because of them. It should, though, be recognised that Tsipras, even if he dragged out his decision until the very last moment, has nevertheless shown that he has a better claim to the role of national leader than his predecessors. The Greeks were forced to bend, but they were not broken.

What, though, can have motivated the Berlin leaders, when they refused to accept the Greek capitulation? It is possible, of course, that the German leaders simply made a mistake. The situation ran out of control because each side failed to anticipate the reaction of the other. The Greeks overestimated the rationalism of the Germans, and the Germans, the opportunism of the Greeks. The more acute a crisis becomes, the more mistakes are made; this is the general logic of the historical process. It is not excluded that the leaders in Berlin misjudged the likely results of the talks between Russia and Greece, and hoped that the Russians would supply Tsipras with money that the Greeks could use to pay off the creditors. But Tsipras left St Petersburg without having received any money, though with an agreement to build a gas pipeline that for technical reasons will be impossible to implement before 2018 (it should be noted that the Russian gas corporation Gazprom then and there announced that gas transit through Ukraine would continue after 2019, placing the profitability of the highly expensive Greco-Turkish pipeline in question).

Nor can the possibility be excluded that Berlin consciously provoked the crisis.

German analysts may have calculated that the debt bubble would burst in any case, and have decided to deflate it themselves, without waiting for events to develop spontaneously. Even if agreement had been reached on the conditions set down by the Troika, new crises would not only be “predictable with mathematical certainty” (as Varoufakis stated), but much more importantly, the proportion of the funds pumped by the German banks out of Greece would diminish with every new cycle, while the share coming from the German taxpayer would increase. In other words, political risk would be added to the risk that the debt pyramid would crumble. Members of the public in northern Europe are beginning to grasp that under the pretext of “saving Greece”, they themselves are being robbed by “their own” side. Even if northern Europeans fail to understand this, they will still mount resistance, out of reluctance to part with their money. It is also worth noting the publication of the sadly notorious Charlie Hebdo issue that came out with the headline “Drown the Greek to save Europe”.

So – was it evil intent, or a collective miscalculation?

These two explanations, though logically counterposed, may in reality serve to reinforce one another. There was a degree of ill-intent, but there were also miscalculations on both sides. We may recall that it was in precisely this fashion that war broke out in 1914. All the various parties had prepared for a war, had planned it and wanted it, but events nevertheless unfolded in a fashion completely different from what they had counted on. Control over the situation had been lost.

It appears that the same happened this time. Even if the Troika intended something along the lines of “drowning the Greek”, things will now proceed in a way distinctly different from what they anticipated. The referendum called by Tsipras is sharply altering the psychological landscape not just in Athens, but throughout Europe. Willingly or otherwise, SYRIZA has raised the banner of resistance. For the other crisis-wracked countries of the eurozone, this will provide a signal that the financial vampires of the EU are not all-powerful. The vampires themselves will be forced to undertake even harsher measures, in an effort to halt the growing collapse of the neoliberal regime installed in the EU by the Maastricht and Lisbon talks. As history teaches us, such measures ultimately serve only to exacerbate a crisis, provoking more and more active resistance. This is now occurring in the countries of the European “centre” – Italy, France, and even Austria and Germany. In the present situation, however, no other road remains open to the ruling groups in Berlin and Brussels. And before the light appears at the end of the tunnel, we are bound to plunge still further into the depths of the crisis.

All of our countries will feel the direct effects, including Russia.

Translation: Renfrey Clarke.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greek Debt Crisis and Crashing Markets

By MICHAEL HUDSON | CounterPunch | June 29, 2015

Back in January upon coming into office, Syriza probably could not have won a referendum on whether to pay or not to pay. It didn’t have a full parliamentary majority, and had to rely on a nationalist party for Tsipras to become prime minister. (That party balked at cutting back Greek military spending, which was 3% of GDP, and which the troika had helpfully urged to be cut back in order to balance the government’s budget.)

Seeing how unyielding the opposition was, Syriza’s stance was: “We would like to pay. But there’s no money.”

This kept throwing the ball back into the troika’s court. The Institutions were so unyielding that Syriza’s approval rating in the polls rose by 13% by June. Greek voters became increasingly incensed at the Troika’s demand for further pension cuts and privatizations.

Tsipras and Varoufakis were willing to pay the IMF with the IMF’s own funds, in what V. called “extend and pretend.” But their only interest in keeping current on debt was to obtain additional funding that could be used to pay domestic pensions and other basic government budgetary expenditures.

The basic tactic in such tensions between creditors and debtors is clear: once debt repayments exceed new loans, stop paying.

So when The Institutions made it clear that no more credit would be forthcoming without Syriza adopting the old Pasok/New Democracy capitulation to Troika demands, Tsipras and Varoufakis decided it was time to call a referendum eight days hence, on Sunday, July 5.

Late Friday night and into the early Saturday morning hours, Greeks ran to the ATM machines to convert their checking and savings deposits into euro notes, expecting that the end game would involve a likely 30% depreciation of the drachma – and that indeed, the ECB would stop lending to support Greek banks (the only role the ECB wanted to play).

Syriza had no love for the banks. They were the vehicles through which the oligarchs controlled the Greek economy, after all. For a month, they had been discussing how to separate the banks into “good bank” and “bad bank,” either nationalizing them (wiping out stockholders) or creating a Public Option alternative.

Most important, once out of the eurozone, Greece could create its own Treasury to monetize its spending. The Institutions called this “scrip,” but the Greeks could establish it as their national currency. They would escape from euro-austerity – except, of course, to the extent that the ECB waged economic war on Greece by imposing its own capital controls.

By going through the sham negotiations with The Institutions, Syriza gave Greeks enough time to protect what savings and cash they had – by converting these bank deposits into euro notes, automobiles and “hard assets” (even boats).

Businesses borrowed from local banks where they could, and moved their money into eurozone banks or even better, into dollar and sterling assets. Their intention is to pay back the banks in depreciated drachma, pocketing a 30% capital gain.

What commentators miss is that Syriza (at least its left) wants to be transformative. It wants to free Greece from the post-military oligarchy that evades taxes and monopolizes the economy. And it wants to transform Europe, away from ECB austerity to create a real central bank. In the process, it demands a clean slate of past bad debts. It wants to reject the IMF’s austerity philosophy and refusal to take responsibility for its bad 2010-12 bailout.

This larger, transformative picture is at the center of Syriza-left plans.

I’m in Germany now (on my way to Brussels), and have heard from Germans that the Greeks are lazy and don’t pay taxes. There is little recognition that what they call “the Greeks” are really the oligarchs. They have gained control of the old coalition Pasok/New Democracy parties, avoided paying taxes, avoided being prosecuted (New Democracy refused to act on the “Lagarde List” of tax evaders with nearly 50 billion euros in Swiss bank accounts), orchestrated insider dealings to privatize infrastructure at corrupt prices, and used their banks as vehicles for capital flight and insider lending.

This has turned the banks into vehicles for the oligarchy. They are not public institutions serving the economy, but have starved Greek business for credit.

So one casualty apart from the credibility of the eurozone, the ECB and the IMF will be these banks. Syriza is positioning itself to provide a public option – public banks that will promote the economy, and a national Treasury that will spend government money INTO the economy, not drain it to pay the Troika for having bailed out French and other banks back in 2010-1.

The European popular press is as bad as the U.S. press in describing matters. It warns of “hyperinflation” if a central bank monetizes as much as one euro of government spending in the way that the U.S. Fed does, or the bank of England or any other real central bank. The reality is that nearly all hyperinflations stem from a collapse of foreign exchange as a result of having to pay debt service. That was what caused Germany’s hyperinflation in the 1920s, not domestic German spending. It is what caused the Argentinean and other Latin American hyperinflations in the 1980s, and Chile’s hyperinflation earlier.

But once Greece frees itself from the odious debts forced upon it at financial gunpoint in 2010-12, its balance of payments will be roughly in balance (subject to some depreciation of the drachma; 30% is a number I heard bandied about in Athens last week).

To mimic Margaret Thatcher, “There is No Alternative” to withdrawing from the eurozone. The terms dictated for remaining in it was to sell off all of what remained in Greece’s public sector to European and U.S. buyers, at insider prices – but not to Russian buyers, even for the gas pipeline that was to have been sold.

Evidently the eurozone financial strategists thought that Tsipras and Varoufakis would simply surrender, and be promptly voted out of power, thereby crushing their socialist policy agenda. They miscalculated – and are now hoping to create as much anarchy as possible to punish the Greek people. The punishment is for not continuing to support their client oligarchy, which has moved most of its assets out of reach of the government.

But instead of Syriza losing credibility, it is the ECB – which refuses to create money to finance economic recovery, but only to pay the oligarchs’ banks so that they can continue to control the government. This control is now being weakened precisely because their banks are being weakened.

Greece’s Parliament last week released its Debt Truth Commission report explaining why Greece’s debts to the IMF and ECB are odious, and were taken on without a popular referendum approving these loans. Indeed, Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy obeyed Mr. Obama and Geithner when the latter insisted at a G8 meeting that the ECB ignore the IMF economists’ analysis that Greece could not pay its debts, and bail out the banks. Geithner and Obama explained that U.S. banks had placed big financial bets that Greece would pay its private bondholders, so the ECB and IMF had to lend the government the funds to pay – but had to overthrow the country’s Prime Minister Papandreou who had urged a referendum on whether Greek people really wanted to commit economic and political suicide.

Financial technocrats were put in place to serve the domestic oligarchy and foreign bondholders. Greece was under financial attack just as deadly as a military attack. Finance is war. That is this week’s lesson.

And for the first time, debtor countries are realizing that they are in a state of war.

This is why markets are crashing on Monday, June 29.

* * *

Eurozone financial strategists made it clear that they wanted to make an example of Syriza as a warning to Spain’s Podemos party, and anti-euro parties in Italy and France. The message was supposed to have been, “Avoid our austerity and we will cause chaos. Look at Greece.”

But the rest of Europe is interpreting the message in just the opposite way: “Remain in the eurozone and we will only create money to strengthen the financial oligarchy, the 1%. We will insist on budget surpluses (or at least, no deficits) so as to starve the economy of money and credit, forcing it to rely on commercial banks at interest.”

Greece has indeed become an example. But it is an example of the horror that the eurozone’s monetarists seek to impose on one economy after another, using debt as a lever to force privatization sell offs at distress prices.

In short, finance has shown itself to be the new mode of warfare. Resisting debt leverage and financial conquest is as legal as is resisting military invasion.

Michael Hudson’s book summarizing his economic theories, “The Bubble and Beyond,” is now available in a new edition with two bonus chapters on Amazon. His latest book is Finance Capitalism and Its Discontents.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He can be reached via his website, mh@michael-hudson.com

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Syriza-led Greek parliament ‘will never ratify TTIP’

At an anti-TTIP demonstration in Berlin last month. (Photo: Uwe Hiksch/flickr/cc)
By Sarantis Michalopoulos | EurActiv | February 2, 2015

The newly-elected government in Athens has always been suspicious of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and will use its Parliament majority to sink the EU-US trade pact, claims a former Syriza MEP now turned minister.

After making its voice heard in the debate over sanctions on Russia, the new government in Athens is now making its opposition known to the EU-US trade deal, TTIP.

Georgios Katrougkalos, a former influential Syriza MEP who quit his European Parliament seat to become deputy minister for administrative reform in the leftist Greek government, said the new leadership in Athens will use its veto to kill the proposed trade pact – at least in its current form.

Just before the January elections, he told EurActiv Greece that a Syriza-dominated Greek parliament would never ratify the EU-USA trade deal.

Asked by EurActiv Greece whether the promise still holds now Syriza is in power, Katrougkalos replied:

“I can ensure you that a Parliament where Syriza holds the majority will never ratify the deal. And this will be a big gift not only to the Greek people but to all the European people”.

Double veto power

The leftist Syriza party may not have an absolute majority in Parliament but its junior coalition partner seems to share the same views on the EU-US trade pact.

Syriza, which won a stunning victory at snap elections a week ago (25 January) formed a coalition with the right-wing anti-austerity Independent Greeks party, which is intent on opposing laws seen as too favourable to big business.

The coalition agreement gives the new Greek leadership an effective veto power over TTIP and other deals submitted to Parliament ratification.

Indeed, once the pact is negotiated – a process which may still take over a year –, it will be submitted for a unanimous vote in the European Council, where each of the 28 EU national governments are represented.

This means that one country can use its veto power to influence the negotiations or block the trade deal as a whole, an opportunity Syriza will no doubt use.

And even if the pact makes it past this first stage, it will then be submitted to ratification by all parliaments of the 28 EU Member States, offering opponents a second opportunity to wield a veto.

Welfare state under threat

Like many other leftists and social democrats in Europe, Katrougkalos raised serious concerns about the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, or ISDS, contained in the pact.

The mechanism is designed to protect companies’ foreign investments against harmful or illegal rulings in the countries where they operate. It gives them the chance to take legal action against a state whose legislation negatively impacts their economic activity.

Katrougkalos  underlined the uncertainty surrounding the ISDS negotiations, saying the European Commission’s precise mandate was unclear.

“An undemocratic practice of lack of transparency has prevailed from the very beginning of the negotiations,” he claimed.

The newly-appointed minister understands that TTIP’s objective was not to reduce tariffs, which are already “very low” but to make an adjustment to the rules governing other sectors. “It contributes to the elimination of some bureaucratic procedures on exports, helping this way the economic efficiency,” he said.

But he made clear that the danger lies in the fact that in most economic fields the regulatory rules are different in the EU and the US. For him, multinational companies stand to benefit the most from lower regulatory barriers, citing banks and brokerage firms, which are subject to weaker supervision in America than in Europe.

“For example we [the EU] don’t permit GMOs, data protection is significantly more important as well as the protection of national health systems,” he said, adding that any consolidation in these rules “will undermine the way the welfare state is organised in the EU.”

Independent Greeks take the same line

Meanwhile, Syriza’s coalition partner, the right-wing anti-austerity Independent Greeks party, takes a similar stance against TTIP.

In a statement issued on 4 November 2014, the then-opposition party said the deal will not live up to its promise of relaunching economic activity.

“It is supposed to be an agreement that will boost the real economy, but its main supporters are international bankers and lobbies,” emphasised Marina Chrysoveloni, a spokesperson for Independent Greeks.

“In simple words, the speculative capital will have even more freedom to move […] in a huge single market with eight hundred million people,” she concluded.

On Syriza’s side, Katrougkalos admitted there was uncertainty about how the talks will conclude but said he was confident that the trade pact “will be approved by the European Parliament”.

“The social democrats have objections on ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] mechanism but it seems they accept the trade deal’s logic,” Katrougkalos said. In his view, the centre-right European People’s Party and the Liberal ALDE “have a safe majority in Parliament”.

Read:

Tsipras promises radical change, markets tumble

Greek leftist scores victory over austerity

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-austerity Syriza wins Greek parliamentary election: Exit polls

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Leader of Greece’s left-wing Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, casts his ballot at a polling station in Athens, January 25, 2015
Press TV – January 25, 2015

Exit polls show anti-austerity party, Syriza, has won Greece’s general election, which can affect the course of austerity policies in the European country.

The exit polls announced on Sunday suggest that the radical leftist party, Syriza, has won some 35.5 percent of the votes in the Greek parliamentary election.

The sweeping victory would enable the party to rule on its own, obviating the necessity of forming a collation with other smaller parties.

This is while Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ conservative party, New Democracy, has secured around 25 percent.

Syriza is a fierce opponent of Greece’s bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and eurozone countries, and has vowed to reconsider the austerity measures that have caused mounting dissatisfaction in the country.

The polls showed that the leftist party’s popularity has increased by 25 percent in the last seven years of the spiraling financial collapse.

Samaras had earlier warned that it would be crazy to elect Syriza as it “will turn all of Europe against Greece…. They don’t understand Europe, they don’t believe in Europe.”

Greece nearly went bankrupt in 2010. It survived, however, on international rescue packages. Athens has received 240 billion euros (USD 330 billion) in international loans in return for the enforcement of austerity measures.

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Globalization and the End of the Left-Right Divide (Part I)

By TAKIS FOTOPOULOS | The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY

A new political phenomenon, which characterizes the New World Order (NWO) of neoliberal globalization and the parliamentary junta, is the effective abolition of the old political divide – established formally during the French Revolution – between Right and Left. On the Right, were all those political forces that supported the continuation and reproduction of the “establishment”, once represented by the monarchy and later by bourgeois parliamentary “democracy” and the capitalist market economy, while on the Left were those who advocated the overthrow of the establishment in the above sense, ranging from anti-monarchists to Marxists, anarchists, antisystemic ecologists (unlike today’s washed-out Greens) etc. By definition, then, the Right supported “law and order” and whatever that implied in terms of inequality, hierarchy and the privileges of the advantaged social strata, while the Left essentially fought for the overthrow of the “status quo” and ― to varying degrees ― for the equal distribution of political, economic and social power.

The main arena in which the struggle between Left and Right was taking place was the nation-state, even if the Left – particularly the Marxist (but also the libertarian) Left – was traditionally internationalist, until it adopted in practice the strategy of “socialism in one country” because of the objective conditions it faced, although in theory it remained internationalist. However, it is precisely this arena that is being eliminated by the current NWO, which is literally “pulling the rug” from under the traditional Left-Right divide. The consequences are the seismic changes that we see today across the whole political spectrum.

As regards the Left, an undeniable symptom of this phenomenon is the political bankruptcy of the traditional Left, both in the narrow sense of its electoral percentages, and, most importantly, in the broader sense of its traditional conception as the subversive mass movement that mainly attracted the popular strata, and not the privileged “Leftists” of the bourgeoisie who seek minor reforms through the degenerate “Left”, as is the case now. In other words, even though this “Left” continues to survive politically, this does not change the fact that it has been fully integrated into the NWO, as its demands are anything but subversive. On the other hand, the part of it which belongs to the communist Left theoretically makes subversive demands, which however remain theoretical, since they are not accompanied by a transitional programme and subversive political action. And this is true of any party or organization today that defines itself as Left, communist, anarchist, “Green”, etc, if it does not challenge – both in theory and in practice – the NWO itself, i.e. globalization (which can only be neoliberal within the system of a capitalist market economy) and the main international institutions implementing the neoliberal policies, such as the EU, preferring instead to wait for revolution before demanding withdrawal from such institutions and imposing economic self-reliance. That is why this entire “Left” can no longer attract the popular strata – who are the main victims of globalization – on a mass scale.

But seismic changes can also be seen on the Right, as evidenced by the fact that the traditional conservative parties of today have only survived thanks to the social strata which have clearly benefited from globalization and which therefore sustain them, while they have been losing support from the popular strata who were embourgeoised during the period of social democracy but are now getting poorer because of the mass unemployment and poverty that globalization brings! Thus, these increasingly conservative popular strata that are being crushed by globalization are now leaving the established Right but are not crossing over to the degenerate “Left” which has been fully integrated into the NWO either. Crucially, these popular strata are not joining the communist, or the pseudo-libertarian Left forces, who are supposedly fighting for self-management but who “fail” to see the strangulation of the popular strata through globalization, the EU etc going on right under their noses!

It is these popular strata which are currently shifting en masse towards nationalist parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP), to the point that even the most authoritative newspaper of the economic elite, the Financial Times, has emphasized that a wind of Euroscepticism, going as far as to raise the demand for withdrawal from the EU, is sweeping across Europe[1] (15.10.2013). Contrary to the malicious propaganda of the transnational elite, which enjoys the support of the entire degenerate Left, this does not mean that the millions of Europeans who are turning against the EU and, indirectly, against globalization itself, have suddenly become Nazis, as though we were living in the 1930s. National socialism and social democracy itself are impossible today, as both flourished during the era of the nation-state which, under globalization is dead and buried. Nor does it mean that the fact that as much as 30 per cent of the new parliament, following next year’s Euro-elections, will comprise eurosceptics, have suddenly become racists. As the FT report stresses, the exptected massive influx of Eurosceptics in the next European Parliament, which even ardent European federalists now concede, will simply mean that the nationalist parties ‘are capitalising on the economic misery and high levels of unemployment that are plaguing the continent’.[2] It is indeed characteristic that the more these parties get rid of racist or extremist right-wing elements in their politics, the more their percentages rise, as the meteoric rise of Le Pen in France showed lately.

At this crucial historical juncture that will determine whether we shall all become subservient to neoliberal globalization and the transnational elite, it is imperative that we create a Popular Front in each country which will include all the victims of globalization among the popular strata, regardless of their current political affiliations. In Greece, in particular, where the popular strata are facing economic disaster, what is needed urgently is not an “antifascist” Front, as proposed by the parties of the parliamentary junta, supported also by the degenerate “Left” (such as SYRIZA, whose leader A. Tsipras is a candidate for the post of the president of the European Commission!) which would unite aggressors and victims. An ‘antifascist’ front would simply disorient the masses and make them incapable of facing the real fascism being imposed on them by the political and economic elites, which constitute the transnational and local elites. Their criminal policies have already led to almost a third of the active population and over 60 percent of the young being unemployed, to Greek disposable income being almost halved and to a huge rise in poverty with thousands of people having committed suicide since the “crisis” began three years ago. Instead, what is needed is a Popular Front that could attract the vast majority of the people who would fight for immediate unilateral withdrawal from the EU – which is managed by the European part of the transnational elite – as well as for economic self-reliance, thus breaking with globalization.

This would allow also a genuine, new form of internationalism to be built from below, while creating the preconditions necessary for the people to decide, democratically, what kind of socio-economic system they would like in order to achieve an authentic form of popular power.

[1] Joshua Chaffin, “Europe: United by hostility”, Financial Times, 15/10/2013

[2] ibid.

~

This is an edited version of an article that was first published (in Greek) in the Athens daily Sunday’s Eleftherotypia, on 20/10/2013

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment