The world’s largest military alliance seems annoyed about Russia’s “lack of transparency” over military drills at a very “delicate time.” NATO, however, has its own long history of war games all over the globe.
Western politicians have leveled criticism at Russia for planned drills on its own territory, seemingly glossing over the many joint military exercises Western powers, namely the US and NATO forces, have conducted on foreign soil over the years.
This week, US and South Korean forces began their annual joint military drills, which will last until mid-April. The Foal Eagle exercise is conducted near Iksan and Damyan, South Korea.
The drills prompted a stern reaction from North Korea, which slammed the exercises as “a serious provocation” that could plunge the region into “a deadlock and unimaginable holocaust.”
The US joined Greece, Italy, and Israeli forces at Ovda air base in southern Israel for the ‘Blue Flag’ air-training drills in November 2013. The drills were called the “largest international aerial exercise in history,” by Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
According to Israel National News reports the exercises are geared towards “simulating realistic engagements in a variety of scenarios, based on Israel’s experience with air forces of Arab armies in previous engagements.”
Poland and Latvia
NATO’s ‘Steadfast Jazz’ training exercise was held in November 2013, in Latvia and Poland. The drills included air, land, naval, and special forces.
Over 6,000 military personnel from around 20 NATO countries and allies took part in the largest NATO-led drills of their kind since 2006.
In October, NATO also held anti-aircraft drills in Bulgaria, along with the Greek and Norwegian air forces. The exercises were held to test responses in conditions of radio interference, according to the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.
In May 2013, the US joined 40 other countries in the Persian Gulf for maritime war games. The US Navy said the mass exercises are aimed at “enhancing capability to preserve freedom of navigation in international waterways.”
The drills provoked a sharp response from the Iranian government who voiced concerns at how the maneuvers came in the run-up to the Iranian elections.
In August 2012, US Marines joined Japanese troops for military drills in the western Pacific. The drills were held in part in Guam, a US holding, just as an old territory dispute reemerged between Japan and China over islands in the East China Sea.
“China will not ignore hostile gestures from other nations and give up on its core interests or change its course of development,” the Chinese Communist Party stated in response to the drills, warning the US and Japan not to “underestimate China’s resolve to defend its sovereignty.”
The US joined 16 other nations in May 2012 for military exercises in Jordan near the Syria border. The ‘Eager Lion’ drills included 12,000 soldiers from the participating countries, Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia among them.
Denying accusations that the violence in Syria had nothing to do with the drills, the US claimed it was “designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships through a joint, entire-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges.
In August 2010, the US Navy joined Vietnamese forces for drills in the South China Sea, to the dismay of China. Sovereignty claims in the South China Sea have long been a subject of debate and animosity among Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia, though China’s territorial declarations have been the most aggressive.
Ukraine welcomed a fleet of NATO warships for a two-week period of military drills in July 2010. Operation ‘Sea Breeze-2010′ focused on joint anti-terror exercises, despite Kiev’s decision not to enter the NATO alliance. Some 3,000 international military personnel were said to be a part of the drills.
Ukraine began hosting the Sea Breeze exercises in 1997, as part of its commitment to join the alliance. In 2009, the Ukrainian parliament voted against the drills, curtailing then-President Viktor Yuschenko’s efforts to seek NATO membership.
In May 2009, 15 NATO countries held a series of controversial military exercises in Georgia less than a year after it launched an offense against its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia called the maneuvers “dubious provocation” saying it may encourage the country’s regime to carry out new attacks.
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 (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’. 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.
 Joshua Chaffin, “Europe: United by hostility”, Financial Times, 15/10/2013
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
By Takis Fotopoulos | The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, Vol. 9, Nos. 1/2 (2013)
1. The integration of Greece into the EU is the real cause of its catastrophic crisis
The almost complete destruction of the lower classes in Greece is not due to the causes usually attributed to it by the “Left”.In fact, contrary to the misleading “explanations” provided by this Left and the Right alike, the actual cause is the full integration of the Greek economy into neoliberal globalization, through its accession into the EU. This has meant the complete transformation of Greece into an economic and political protectorate of the Transnational Elite. The catalyst for this crisis was Greece’s unofficial default, which, however, was merely the consequence of the destruction of its production structure, as a result of the opening, and liberalization of markets imposed by the EU, following Greece’s entry in 1981. It is therefore no wonder that both the Left (apart from the Communist Left) and the Right––in fact, the entire Greek establishment––are fully united in not challenging the main cause of the present economic destruction: Greece’s membership in the EU.
In other words, contrary to the deceptive pre-election promises of SYRIZA, (which is an organic part of the Euro-left that has just chosen its leader, A. Tsipras, as its candidate for president of the EU Commission), there is no way that an EU/EMU Member State could refuse to apply the policies imposed by neoliberal globalization, as borne out by History with Mitterrand, Lafontaine, Hollande, et. al. It is equally disorienting to state, as SYRIZA does, that, if elected to power, it would revert the catastrophic legislation imposed by the well known ‘Troika’ (representing the IMF, the EU and the ECB) in the past three years or so.
The above deceptive promises are based on the myth that neoliberalism is some kind of a mistaken ideology or a doctrineupheld by “bad” politicians such as Thatcher, Merkel, Blair, etc. However, neoliberal globalization is, in fact, a systemic phenomenon implying, also, that the EU members’ economic growth does not rely anymore mainly on the domestic market but on the international market (within the EU and without) and that it is the Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) that control world production and trade, and–– through the Transnational Elite ––the international political, military and cultural institutions. So, only if the EU governments were taken over by the Euro-Left and they then forced the TNCs based in EU to operate solely within the EU area––imposing in the process strict social controls on the movement of capital and commodities from the other economic blocks (i.e. those of the Far East and America)––only then could the European economy be indifferent to its own level of competitiveness and live in the Euro-Left’s nirvana, happily ever after. In fact, however, EU is moving in exactly the opposite direction of further integration within the New World Order (NWO) defined by neoliberal globalization! This is clearly shown by the current negotiations between EU and US for a Transatlantic Free Trade Area.
2. Capitalist globalization can only be neoliberal
The Euro-elites simply cannot afford to lose more of their competitiveness. In fact, the real reason for the creation of EU and later of the Eurozone had nothing to do with the ideals of freedom, democracy, human values and the rest of its ideology, as EU’s history has clearly shown. It was the growing gap in competitiveness (in terms of EU’s share of world exports) during the 1980s, which led the Euro-elites to speed up the integration procedures, which were mostly dormant up to then. The EU economic failure was clearly due to the fact that the competitiveness of its commodities was increasing at much slower rates than those of is competitors, particularly in the low cost countries of the Far East.As supporters of the EU and its integration were claiming at the time, only a market of continental dimensions could provide the security and the economies of scale that were necessary for the survival of the European capital in the hyper-competitive global market that was just emerging at the time.
However, despite the high degree of integration achieved by the ‘Single European Act’ in the 1990s, and even despite the creation of the Eurozone, its decline in competiveness continued. Thus, whereas the share of Euro-exports to world exports was 35.8% in 1990, ten years later, it has fallen to 29.7% and by 2010 it has fallen further to 26.3%!In other words, within two decades, the Eurozone countries have lost more than a quarter of their competitiveness, measured in terms of their share in world exports. Although the Euro-elites are well aware of the fact that a significant part of their ‘loss’ of exports is, in fact, due to their de-industrialization––because of the move of industrial capital by the TNCs (most of them based in the metropolitan countries including the Eurozone ones) towards the low-cost paradises of China, India and the rest–– this is obviously no consolation to their own workers (and electorates), which benefit very little (if at all!) by globalization!
The present EU policies therefore, are not the result of a conspiracy or a satanic plot of the elites to exploit further the European workers but simply of the fact that the opening and liberalization of markets required by globalization, so that TNCs could expand their activities further, inevitably led to the present neoliberal policies implemented by every country fully integrated into the New World Order. To put it simply, globalization in a capitalist world can only be neoliberal and the rest is mythology adopted by today’s bankrupt world “Left”––apart from the genuine (but diminishing) anti-systemic Left.
3. Competitiveness is the rule
If, therefore, we accept the premise that the Euro-elites have no other option but to improve their competitiveness within the globalized economy, the next question is how competitiveness can be improved. There are two main ways in which a country’s competitiveness could improve: either by changing relative prices; i.e. squeezing the prices of locally produced commodities with respect to those produced abroad by squeezing wages and salaries, or by improving productivity of locally produced commodities, which may lead to lower cost of production without reducing real wages and salaries or to better quality products, etc. Changing relative prices in the former way is the easy solution, as it could be implemented, almost at a stroke, in case a country controls its own currency and Greece itself has repeatedly resorted to devaluation policies in the post-war period to improve, temporarily, its competitiveness. In case, however, a country does not control its currency, as is the case of Greece in the Eurozone, the only other option, given its historically low level of labor productivity because of the lack of investment in research and development, is the presently implemented policy of squeezing wages and salaries in the hope that the cost of production will fall accordingly. In fact, the level of Greek productivity of labor, for instance, has always been historically much lower than that of the Eurozone (in 2006 it was just 77% of the average Eurozone one, something which is not that much peculiar if we take into account the fact that the proportion of productive investments to the GNP is much higher in the European ‘North’ than in the ‘South’ in general and Greece in particular.
So, if we start with the premise that the uneven levels of competitiveness and productivity are unavoidable in an economic union like the EU, which consists of countries at highly different levels of development (as they have been historically formed within a very uneven development process like the capitalist one), then we may easily understand the causes of the crisis in countries like Greece. The fact, therefore, that a Eurozone country like Greece, facing a problem of low competitiveness, cannot devalue its currency (i.e. change its relative prices without the need for suppressing domestic wages and incomes) is not the cause of the crisis. This may be the cause of a similar competitiveness crisis of an advanced capitalist country like Germany but not of a country like Greece where low competitiveness is a development problem. Particularly so, when the Greek entry to the EU and later to the Eurozone had, itself, significantly exacerbated the development problem by effectively dismantling the productive structure of the country, as its infant industry and agriculture were not capable to compete with the imported commodities, following the opening and liberalization of markets imposed by the Single Market. Under these conditions, even a Greek exit from the Euro and a devaluation of the drachma that will be re-introduced in its aftermath, could only have temporary effects on Greek competitiveness, unless mass investment in its productive structure takes place at the same time, which is far from guaranteed in an internationalized market economy.
4. The EU as a mechanism to transfer surplus from its “South” to its “North
In other words, competitiveness at the core Euro countries, which are characterized by higher levels of labor productivity than in the South, mainly depends on keeping wages and prices under control, so that German commodities continue to be competitive (because of their higher quality and so on) compared to similar commodities produced in East Asia and beyond. On the other hand, competiveness in the European periphery, which consist of countries with lower levels of labor productivity, like Greece, mainly depends on improving productivity through new investment on R&D. Therefore, the competitiveness problem in the South is mainly a development problem and refers to the need of creating a strong productive base, which will not be formed within the process of uneven capitalist development (as today), but within a process of social control of the economy to create a self-reliant economy.
Yet, despite the fundamental difference concerning the causes of low competitiveness between the “North” and the “South” of the EU, in the framework of the post-Maastricht Europe, a common policy was adopted for all member countries––a policy that was determined by the needs and the interests of the North. Thus, the Single Market did not mean the unification of peoples, as the EU propaganda presented it, not even the unification of states, but simply the unification of free markets. ‘Free markets’, however mean not only open markets (i.e. the unhibited movement of commodities, capital and labour), but also flexible markets (i.e. the elimination of any obstacle in the free formation of prices and wages, as well the restriction of state role in the control of economic activity, which implies the drastic restriction of the element of ‘national economy’. This was the essence of the neoliberal globalization characterizing the new institutional framework of the EU; i.e., that the state control of the domestic market of each member state (which was drastically restricted within the Single Market of 1992) was not replaced by a corresponding EU control of it, apart from some (mostly nuissance) regulations on uniformity, etc. In other words, the new institutions aimed at the maximization of the freedom of organized capital, whose concentration was facilitated in any way possible, and the minimization of the freedom of organized labor, whose co-ordination was restricted in any way possible and mainly through the unemployment threat.
If Germany is indeed the country which was on the receiving end of the greatest benefits from joining EU and the Eurozone, whereas the countries of the European South received the least benefits out of it, this was far from accidental or due to the bad designing of the Eurozone as post-Keynesians and other reformists (including the Euro-Left!) argue. When the Eurozone was institutionalized at the beginning of the new millennium Germany already enjoyed relatively high levels of labor productivity and competitiveness and the new currency essentially has ‘frozen’ the relative deviations between the advanced North of the Eurozone and the much less advanced South (parts of which were, in fact, underdeveloped). Then, the Single Market itself, under conditions of a common currency, brought about a relative equalization of commodity prices and a certain increase in wages in the South, as workers were struggling to maintain the real value of wages and at the same time to narrow the gap in wages with Northern workers. On the other hand, German employers were in a much better position to suppress wage rises because of the difference in labor productivity they enjoyed due to advanced technology and investment in R&D, but also due to better relative prices. As Wolfgang Münchau put it, “Germany entered the Eurozone at an uncompetitive exchange rate and embarked on a long period of wage moderation. Macroeconomists would say Germany benefited from a real devaluation against other members”.If we add to this, that the countries in the South no longer had the power to devalue their currencies, whereas Germany did not have any need to devalue its currency as long as it could keep wage rises in pace with labor productivity increases, then we can understand why (and how) the Eurozone essentially functions as an economic mechanism to transfer economic surplus from the countries of the European South to those in the North and particularly Germany.
5. The disorienting role of the “Left”
The obvious conclusion is that it is impossible to take any radical measures to exit from the current economic (and not only!) disaster, without a unilateral exit from the EU along with a cancelation of the debt (for which the people were never asked anyway), as well as the discarding of all legislation imposed by the Troika and the adoption at the same time of the necessary geostrategic changes. Only this way, Greece could retrieve the minimum required economic and national sovereignty for a strategy for economic self-reliance, which is necessary for the permanent exit from the crisis, through building a new productive structure to meet its needs.
This means that the views that we could implement another policy even within the Eurozone, as SYRIZA suggests, or that it would suffice to exit from the Euro (without the parallel direct and unilateral exit from the EU) to implement a radically different economic strategy (as other Left organizations suggest), are completely misleading. This is because, as I tried to show above, the cause of the present economic catastrophe in Greece is neither the austerity policies of the Troika, as the supporters of the former view claim, nor the poor design (and implementation) of the Euro that led us to deficits and massive debt, as argued by the supporters of the latter view.
Thus, supporters of the former view (Laskos and Tsakalotos), in fact, reproduce the myths of an obsolete internationalism according to which the struggle of the European proletariat within the EU will reverse the austerity policies, despite the fact that, after almost five years of economic crushing of the popular strata, there has not been even a single (“official” or unofficial) European strike against these policies! On the other hand, the supporters of the latter view (Flassbeck and Lapavitsas), acting as the “Plan B” of the Euro-elite––in case it is forced to expel (temporarily or permanently) Greece from the Eurozone––argue for a Greek exit from the Euro, but not from the EU. However, in both cases, the failure of the proposed policies can be taken for granted, although the consequences will not be identical.
Thus, in the first scenario of a SYRIZA-based government (which looks likely following the Euro elections that could well function as a catalyst for general elections) it is a matter of time for its failure to become evident, if it insists on its pro-EU and pro-Euro policy. Despite its present rhetoric, it would simply have to follow the same economic policies as the present government, perhaps with a minor relaxation of austerity policies (assuming that the Euro-elites will find a way to cancel part of the Debt to make the rest of it payable). As markets will remain open and liberalized under a Syriza government (the party never challenged this fundamental tenet of neoliberal globalization), labor markets will also continue to be flexible. However, open and liberalized markets mean:
- wages and salaries will be kept at around their present minimum levels, or, at least, these levels will be the basis for any future increases strictly linked to productivity rises;
- Public Health and Education will never recover from their present dismantling, as the government will have to continue implementing the present Eurozone strict fiscal policies to keep budget deficits under strict controls;
- the selling out of the social wealth of Greece, following privatizations of essential services like electricity, water, transport, ports and airports, communications (and now even Greek islands!) will not be reversed, making the implementation of any effective social policy to protect the victims of globalization impossible;
- Unemployment may marginally fall from the present almost 30% of the working population (and 60% of young people) only to the extent that foreign investors will be attracted by the present extremely low wages/salaries and the ‘political stability’ that SYRIZA might secure. However, given the strong competition on this front by other low-wage countries in the Balkans and beyond (East Asia), unemployment is bound to be stabilized at very high levels for any foreseeable future, with young Greeks having either to work in Greece’s “heavy industry” (as the establishment calls tourism) or emigrate.
Clearly, this Latin-Americanization (or Balkanization) of the Greek economy will become permanent under SYRIZA’s pro-EU policy, and in the elections to follow a (likely brief) period of SYRIZA in power, the party will probably have the fate of the social democratic party PASOK, which has effectively been demolished. In fact, this would simply be the belated end of the Euro-Left in Greece, following the similar end of this kind of “Left” in the rest of Europe, in the era of globalization. Yet, the International “Left” is unable to see all this and would be ready to celebrate the possible victory of SYRIZA in the next elections,whereas Leo Panitch, (writing for the well known international “Left” newspaper which fully supported all the criminal wars of the Transnational Elite in the last two decades) is so enthusiastic about the new kind of ‘progressive’ reform SYRIZA represents that he became almost lyrical when reading that Tsipras “spoke in terms of the ‘historic opportunity’ that now exists for a left alternative to the current capitalist ‘European model’. This, at the very moment when the same Tsipras is also indirectly praised by the New York Times, the leading organ of the Transnational Elite, presumably as a ‘serious’ Left politician worthy of its trust, compared to the ‘loony left’ they so despise:
“Mr. Tsipras…has backed away from past rhetoric about abandoning the euro and said he does not want Greece to drop out of the 18-country zone that uses the currency. But he does want a fundamental reworking of the terms of Greece’s bailout funds, worth 240 billion euros, or about $328 billion.“Our intention is to change the framework, not smash the euro”, he said.
On the other hand, in the case of the second scenario; i.e., of a Left government that decides a Greek exit from the Euro (but stays in the EU), the image would be much more blurred, as the reintroduction and significant devaluation of the reintroduced drachma would initially bring in some positive results. But, these would be completely temporary, unless they were accompanied by a parallel radical restructuring of the productive structure, based on social decisions and not left to the market forces, as both scenarios implicitly or explicitly assume. And this brings us back to the need for a strategy of self-reliance that presupposes a Greek exit from both the Euro and the EU.
The main reason why both approaches are not only wrong, but also completely misleading, is that they are not based on the fact that the current devastating crisis is due to structural reasons having everything to do with the uneven capitalist development process, which is further exacerbated in the era of neoliberal globalization and the consequent policies implemented by the EU, and very little to do with the broader financial crisis, austerity policies, or the debt itself and the ways to deal with it.
Thus, as far as austerity policies are concerned, it is obvious that they are a consequence and not the cause of the devastating crisis. The solution, therefore, to the “problem” is not just the redistribution of income at the expense of profits and in favor of wages, as (supposedly is the conclusion drawn by a “Marxist” kind of analysis), as this inequality is nothing new but an inherent characteristic of the capitalist system. Unsurprisingly, despite growing world inequality during the era of neoliberal globalization, the system has enjoyed a sustained period of expansion throughout this period, with world GDP rising at an average 2.9% in the 1990s and 3.2% in the period up to the beginning of the latest financial crisis (2000-08).Furthermore, the only case that a systematic redistribution of income against the rich took place in a capitalist system was when the tax burden was shifted to the rich during the social democratic period (approx. 1945-1975). However, this kind of redistribution is simply not feasible anymore in the NWO of Neoliberal Globalization, since Trans-national Corporations can easily move to tax havens like Ireland, India, etc. leaving massive unemployment and poverty behind them.
Yet, neither the deficits and the consequent debts were created by reckless fiscal policies nor, as more sophisticated variations on the same theme maintain, because of the fact that the German elite were suppressing wage rises at a time when the other elites in the Eurozone, and particularly the elites in the Euro periphery, were doing the exact opposite. This policy, according to the same argument, had created an artificial competitive advantage and consequent Balance of Payments (BP) surpluses in Germany and, vice versa in the European South; i.e., low competitiveness and BP deficits. This, in turn, had led to excessive borrowing by the peripheral countries, (made easy by the fact that it was backed up by a strong currency, the Euro) up to the moment that the fiscal “bubble” burst, when the consequent shortage of liquidity made lending to these countries much tighter, leading to the well known debt crises in countries like Greece. Not surprisingly, the Euro-elite, has just decided to adopt an even tighter economic control of the Euro-members, through the Banking Union.
6. Concluding remarks
The crucial, therefore, issue arising is the following one: can a small Euro-peripheral country like Greece afford not to implement the policies of neoliberal globalization today? Or, should, (as the present “Left” suggests), the millions of unemployed and poor wait for a radical change in the balance of forces in the EU and the Eurozone, so that a new pan-European Left government proceeds with the ‘progressive’ reforms suggested by its supporters? Alternatively, should they better wait for a new socialist revolution in order to proceed with genuine socialist policies, as suggested by the dwindling anti-capitalist Left? My sympathies would, of course, be (as have always been) for an anti-systemic Left, as it is the only one which struggles against its full integration into the system and the NWO. Yet, it is obvious to me that, today, this Left is no less millenarian than the integrated into the system “Left”, and as such is equally useless to the victims of globalization, who every day lose even more of their hope for any better future, many of them increasingly resorting to suicide.
Under these conditions, it is clear to me that only if a country broke away from the internationalized market economy and pursued a policy of self-reliance, it could retrieve the necessary degree of economic and therefore national sovereignty, so that it is the people who will be determining the economic process; i.e., which economic and social needs are met and how, instead of leaving this life-and-death issue to ‘market forces’ and the Social Darwinism they inevitably imply. This, for a country like Greece would imply the need for the creation ‘from below’ of a Popular Front for Social and National Liberation(instead of relying on the professional politicians of the “Left” or of the Right), which will formulate a program for the radical changes needed to achieve the short term aim of restoring full social control on all markets, unilaterally cancelling the Debt and all related legislation imposed by the Troika, as well as a unilateral exit from the EU. Although socialization of the banking system and of the de-nationalized industries, particularly those covering basic needs (energy, water, transport, communication, etc.) will be necessary even at this early stage, yet, the medium-term aim will have to be economic self-reliance, so that the basic needs of all citizens are met through the rebuilding of the economic structure according to social needs rather than according to market demand. On the other hand, the issue of the systemic change; i.e., whether Greece would be in the future a state-socialist society, an Inclusive Democracy, or a radical kind of social democracy, will be determined by the people themselves at a later stage once the present crucial problems concerning their survival have been sorted out.
In fact, Greece will not be alone in such a struggle against the NWO and neoliberal globalization. Not only the peoples in other countries in the European periphery and beyond would follow its example when they realize that there is a way out of the present catastrophe, HERE and NOW, but also the peoples who already fight against neoliberal globalization would also join the common struggle against the New World Order of neoliberal globalization. In fact, this struggle is already intensifying from Latin America (Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, et. al.) up to the Eurasian peoples of the ex-USSR, and the peoples in the Arab countries (I do not, of course, mean the pseudo-revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt or the engineered insurrections in Libya and Syria),who shed their blood every day in the struggle for their national and social liberation.
 See e.g. the recent book by two members of the SYRIZA leadership, ( one of them a member of Parliament representing the party), Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos, Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis, (Pluto Press, Sept. 2013).
 Takis Fotopoulos, “Greece: The implosion of the systemic crisis”, The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter 2010); see, also, Greece as a protectorate of the transnational elite, (Athens: Gordios, November 2010).
 see for the meaning and significance of the Transnational Elite in administering the NWO, Takis Fotopoulos, Subjugating the Middle East: Integration into the New World Order – Vol. 1: Pseudo-Democratization, (Progressive Press, 2014), Part I.
 Thus, whereas the EU share of world exports was stagnant between 1979 and 1989 , the US share increased by 3.5% and the Far Eastern share increased by a massive 48% ,(World Bank, World Deνelopment Report 1991, Table 14).
 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002, (Table 4.5) & World Development Indicators 2012, (Table 4.4).
 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2008, Table 2.4.
 Heiner Flassbeck and Costas Lapavitsas, Left-Wing Strategies to Solve the Euro Crisis, (Rosa Luxemburg Foundation:: Berlin, May 2013, and full version in “The systemic crisis of the euro – true causes and effective therapies”.
 See e.g. Andreas Bieler, “Crucible of Resistance: Class Struggle Over Ways Out of the Crisis”, Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 926 January 10, 2014; Reproduced also in Global Research.
The New York Times, 12/1/2014.
 Takis Fotopoulos, “The myths about the economic crisis, the reformist Left and economic democracy”, The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, Vol. 4, No. 4, (October 2008).
 ‘Big step’ reached in rescue plan for eurozone banks, BBC News, 12/12/2013; See, also, Maria Snytkova, “European countries lose bank sovereignty”, English Pravda, 2012/2013
 see Takis Fotopoulos, “Neoliberal Globalization and the need for popular fronts for national and social liberation”, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 9, No. 1/2 (2013), (under publication).
 Takis Fotopoulos, Subjugating the Middle East: Integration into the New World Order – Vol. 2, Engineered Insurrections, (Progressive Press, 2014).
A previously unknown Greek far-left group has claimed responsibility for the shooting of two members of the country’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group.
Golden Dawn members Emmanuel Kapelonis, 22, and Giorgos Foundoulis, 27 were killed in a drive-by shooting outside the local branch of the far-right party in the suburb of Neo Iraklio in a northern suburb of Athens.
The far-left group, calling themselves “Fighting Peoples’ Revolutionary Forces”, said the two were shot in retaliation for the recent murder of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas.
“The attack was an act of retaliation for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas,” the group said in an 18-page statement published on a local news website.
Fyssas was fatally stabbed by suspected Golden Dawn member George Roupakias outside a café in Keratsini, western Athens in September.
The musician’s killing triggered a wave of protests across Greece and prompted strong statements by the country’s political leaders.
“We will not allow our country to become a place to settle scores,” Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias said in a statement.
Since Fyssas’s murder, the leader of Golden Dawn and two of its lawmakers have been jailed pending trial on charges of running a criminal group.
Golden Dawn rose from a fringe group to win nearly seven percent of the vote in the 2012 general elections, and has seen its support rising to around 12 percent since then due to its widespread criticism of immigration and austerity reforms in the debt-stricken country.
Counterterrorism officials are investigating the authenticity of the group’s claim, local media report.
Greek officials fear the killings could affect the country’s future by sparking a new round of retaliation and further fueling social unrest.
The Greek Coastguard has intercepted a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship with around 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles on board. The intended destination of the vessel, halted near the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean, remains unknown.
The cargo ship Nour M, intercepted on Thursday night, was taken to the island of Symi the following morning under the escort of Coastguard vessels, where it was soon thereafter led to the island of Rhodes.
The vessel’s Turkish captain and seven crew members, two of whom were Turkish and five of whom were Indian, were placed under arrest, coastguard sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).
The cargo was both larger than that declared on the ship’s manifest, and the ship did not have the proper UN documents to deliver cargo to a conflict zone. The Greek Coastguard issued a statement saying attempts to catalogue the firearms and munitions on board were ongoing.
“The exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified,” the coastguard statement read. Apart from the large quantity of firearms, the ship was also allegedly carrying a “large” quantity of explosives. A probe determined the ship had previously been used for drug trafficking.
Sources told ANA-MPA that the vessel had set sail from Ukraine, although the ship’s final destination remains unclear. Although the ports of Tartus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya had both been declared as destination ports to marine traffic systems, the Turkish Mediterranean port city of Iskenderun was declared as the destination port by the ship’s captain.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said they are attempting to determine if the Nour departed from the country.
Maritime expert Mikhail Voitenko told Ukraine’s Vesti that the ship likely picked up its cargo in Istanbul.
“I think it was there for no other purpose than to get the weapons. It is also strange that it took the ship two weeks to get from Nikolaev [Ukraine] to Greece when the trip takes a maximum of five days. What it was doing and where it was doing it at the time: that is the question.”
Voitenko said the vessel was likely detained as the result of a tip-off.
“That we have this ship sailing through the Black Sea is strange, but through Greek [territorial] waters it went in a straight line, so police had no reason to detain the ship,” he said.
A report by Transparency International has revealed the extent of worldwide corruption over the last two years, with Israel and Greece showing the highest levels among developed countries. Politicians are considered the most corrupt among all sectors.
The Global Corruption Barometer 2013, conducted by the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog, is a sampling of over 114,000 opinions of people from 107 countries. The survey asked participants about corruption and the institutions engaged in it.
The report shows that corruption numbers have increased over the last two years, along with the number of people exhibiting distrust toward their governments and law enforcement agencies.
Before the 2008 financial meltdown, 32 per cent of people believed their governments to be effective at tackling corruption. That figure has now fallen to just 23 per cent. Transparency International said in a press release that the report “shows a crisis of trust in politics and real concern about the capacity of those institutions responsible for bringing criminals to justice.”
The survey asked participants to rank the corruption levels of various institutions from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not corrupt at all” and 5 being “extremely corrupt.”
Political parties were perceived to be the most corrupt institutions worldwide, scoring 3.8 out of 5. Police forces came in second place with a score of 3.7. Public officials, civil servants, and the parliament and judiciary came in third place, scoring 3.6.
The media came in ninth place, although it was voted to be the most corrupt sector in Britain. The UK media has lost the respect of many residents in recent years – around 69 per cent of survey participants now believe the media is corrupt, compared to just 39 per cent in 2010.
“This very sharp jump is in large part due to the series of scandals around phone hacking, the Leveson Inquiry, and the concentration of media ownership,” said Robert Barrington, head of the British wing of Transparency International.
Business and private sectors, along with the healthcare sector, came in at eighth on the corruption scale, with the education system not far behind. The military and NGOs took the 10th and 11th places.
Although religion came in last place on the corruption scale, it still ranked among the most corrupt in certain countries, including Israel, Japan, Sudan and South Sudan.
Of all OECD members surveyed, the corruption levels of Greece and Israel came in first and second place respectively, with their political and cultural institutions ranking at the top of the corruption meter.
Over 80 per cent of Israelis believe that one must have contacts very high up in the public sector in order to get anything done. Transparency International says it sees “deep-rooted failures of governance” in Israel. A similar figure was seen in Lebanon, Russia, and Ukraine.
Arab countries have seen a rise in corruption since their 2011 uprisings, although public anger against corrupt officials was what sparked the Arab Spring in the first place. The expectation of having cleaner, more transparent regimes did not match the countries’ political and business realities.
Of the four countries that experienced regime change in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen feel that corruption has only increased since 2011. While 64 per cent of Egyptians think corruption is on the rise, a staggering 80 per cent of Tunisians believe that to be the case within their country. Eighty-four per cent of Lebanese citizens believe corruption to be on the rise in within their nation, while only around half of Libyans believe that corruption is worsening.
Egypt leads the pack in anti-police sentiments, largely because police violence has injured so many people over the past year. The 80 per cent disapproval rating dropped to only 45 per cent when Egyptians were asked about the military, which just several days ago ousted former Islamist-backed president Mohamed Morsi.
To glean more analysis on the increasing slide into corruption and public distrust of political institutions, RT talked to Finn Heinrich, who is director of research at Transparency International in Berlin. He sees the world as split into two major trends. The first is petty corruption and bribery in the southern hemisphere – mostly Africa, where citizens feel there is no other way to take care of one’s day-to-day needs. The second is corruption on a more official level, which is witnessed in the northern and western parts of the world – mainly in business and politics governed by financial greed.
As a way out of the situation, Heinrich believes “you really need to be in it in a long-term. You can’t expect quick gains from the fight against corruption. So, I think what we see in many of those countries are the upheavals which you find in many countries, including many post-communist countries, after revolution where old systems are no longer intact and new systems are yet to be built. So, corruption is on the rise. We hope that the new leaders, compared to their predecessors, are really taking the challenge of setting up systems of transparency and accountability much more serious.”
Heinrich thinks that only an integral and comprehensive effort can last, and that effort must include both the government and its citizens.
Transparency International is the world’s foremost organization on fighting corruption. It has 90 chapters worldwide, which aim to raise awareness and establish methods of tackling corruption and measuring its harmful effects.
More than two dozen workers have been injured in a dispute over unpaid salaries in southern Greece when their supervisor shot them, police reports.
The incident took place on Wednesday near the village of Manolada, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of the capital, Athens.
Police Captain Haralambos Sfetsos said the shooting occurred after at least one of three foremen opened fired on a crowd of about 200 migrant strawberry pickers, who demanded six months’ back pay.
Thirty workers most of them from Bangladesh were wounded in the shooting. Eight of those hurt are in serious condition in hospital.
The owner of the farm, who was not present at the time of the incident, has been taken into custody for questioning while arrest warrants have been issued for the three foremen, who are all Greek.
On March 16, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights rapped Greece for not having tough measures to combat a surge in racist violence in the country.
The Manolada area has reportedly been at the center of several cases involving violence against migrant workers in recent years.
In 2012, two Greek men were arrested for beating an Egyptian worker, ramming his head in a car window and dragging him for about one kilometer.
Migrants on farms in the area went on a four-day strike in 2008 to protest salaries as low as five euros a day and unsanitary living conditions.
Video clip (apparently filmed in 2002) demonstrates clearly how agent provocateur-police officers frame peaceful demonstrators to get them arrested.
On this video, an undercover cop pushes a non-violent bystander (a journalist according to the video) against uniformed police officers to get him arrested, and then the masked provocateur leaves the scene without the cops bothering him/her.
Police (at least) in the UK, Canada, US, Italy, Greece have been caught using provocateurs at demonstrations. This is done to get an excuse to put an end to the demonstration, and to restrict people’s right to protest in the future.
You can find videos of some of these events by searching the internet, use the words “police agent provocateurs + name of the country”.
Not every police officer is in on this. This is mainly being orchestrated by a relatively small group of corrupt insiders who in reality work for high-level organized crime, usually called the “shadow government” or “deep state”.
“Police agent provocateurs” are also the reason why violent-activism is counter productive: If there isn’t enough radical behavior at demonstrations, the police might actually stage some. So if there is a far-right/left group willing to stage riots against the establishment, the “deep state” controlling the establishment is getting just what THEY WANT out of the these extreme-groups.
- Undercover ‘agent provocateurs’ assault man at Montreal protest (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Greek metro workers have defied a court order to return to work and have staged the sixth day of strikes over the government’s spending cuts.
Athens was without a metro service on Tuesday for four to five hours, which comes in continuation to the protest started on Thursday over the planned cuts to metro workers’ salaries.
A Greek court ruled against Athens Metro Workers’ Union’s planned strikes and permitted the government to use force to make personnel return to work.
Union officials call on the government to abolish the planned changes to the public sector’s pay scales, which comes as Athens implements measures to satisfy its eurozone creditors.
Reductions in public sector workers’ incomes have made it harder for Greeks to make ends meet.
“With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros,” Metro Workers’ Union Head Antonis Stamatopoulos said.
“We cannot live on what we earn,” he added.
Stamatopoulos said that apart from stopping the changes to the pay cuts, the only way the government could make them return to work would be through force.
“Civil mobilization? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work,” Stamatopoulos said.
Parliament introduced new austerity measures in December 2012, which eurozone finance ministers approved for bailout packages of 9.2 billion euros on Monday and 34.3 billion euros last month.
Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive protests in many European countries.
Greece faces the unenviable choice between accepting the terms of “the Troika” and facing the continuation and deepening of a socio-economic crisis, which includes five years of negative growth, over 23% unemployment, an astronomical rise in poverty (from less than 15% to over 40%) and mounting suicides, or a rejection of the “memorandum”, and a likely cut-off of Eurozone funding and capital markets with virtually few reserves to cover salaries, pensions or public services.
While the immediate cost of a break with catastrophic conditions imposed by Eurozone bankers may be high, it opens up the possibility of transforming the internal and external relations and structures which led Greece to ground zero.
Crises as Opportunity?
The prolonged and unending downward spiral of the Greek economy and living standards, the disastrous and destructive policies pursued by the formerly dominant two parties (PASOK and New Democracy) has conclusively demonstrated that Greek “capitalism” and EEC integration has been an unmitigated disaster; tried tested and failed to meet the minimum standards of human existence. Only dogmatic true believers in the innate virtues of ‘capitalism’ and the EEC can continue to prattle about the “need” to continue the same “austerity” policies which have devastated the lives of 80% of the people, closed half the business establishments in the country and failed to provide jobs for half of the young labor force (under 30 years of age).
The profound crisis demonstrates the need for basic changes in the organization of the economy, the urgency for new political leadership and the desire for a new political system responsive to the vast majority.
The old ruling oligarchies are totally discredited. The existing links to the EEC only bleed the economy: providing loans which deepen debt and which pass through the economy to overseas bankers. EEC ‘integration’ is in fact a great suction pump which depresses the economy and living standards in order to extract wealth for overseas bondholders.
No capitalist or politician of the old order provides any redeeming argument. In the past they plundered the economy; in the present they extract and transfer wealth abroad; and for the future they can only promise more of the same.
The basic challenge is not the abysmal conditions of the present but the opportunity that exists for a fundamental transformation. The problem is fashioning a transition from an unmitigated disaster to an equitable, dynamic and participatory economy. The problem facing a transition is the flawed structural and behavioral features of contemporary Greek society, polity and economy. Greece is deeply embedded with the legacy of a culture of pervasive state-party corruption and kleptocracy and bloated expenditures for the military and cliental bureaucracies. Most important Greece is dominated by rent seeking economic elites which pretend to be capitalists, but profit from state and overseas handouts from the Eurozone bankers and states.
To effect a transition requires that we first face the negative legacy of the past in order to see what proposals are viable and necessary.
The Negative Legacy and Debt Default: Greece is not Argentina
Many radical critics of the ‘austerity’ and debt crises in Greece cite the “Argentine example” of debt default, (over $100 billion dollars) and its ability to fashion a successful recovery and growth model based on ‘self-financing’. The critical advocates ignore the profound differences in the economic and social structures of the two countries as well as their respective locations in the regional economies.
Argentina, at the bottom of its crisis, was actually in a worse situation than Greece today. Unemployment hovered between 25% – 30% and over 50% in many working class districts, compared to 24% in Greece. Poverty levels in Argentina exceeded 45%; in Greece they exceed 35%. The depression in Argentina led to a negative growth rate of approximately 20% over the 3 year duration, equal to the loss in Greece over the past 5 years.
Despite starting from a more difficult and worse situation Argentina had several strategic advantages.
In the first place, in Argentina the ouster from power of the crises driven ruling elite was affected by a mass popular uprising (December 2001 – January 2002). In Greece, while mass demonstrations have certainly politicized, mobilized and radicalized a part of the electorate, the radical coalition vying for power (SYRIZA), has taken the electoral route. Secondly, the Argentine upheaval was a continuous process as mass unemployed picketers (piqueteros) blocked all roads and transport as a negotiating tool to ensure that resources were transferred from debt payments to unemployed workers’ family allowances and in reviving the economy. In Greece the vast army of unemployed has neither the organized capacity to sustain constant transport blockage nor can they count on neighborhood and trade union organizations for anything more than repeated one day work stoppages and marches.
Argentina immediately drastically devalued its currency – eliminating the dollar peg – from one to one, to three to one and vastly increased the competitiveness of Argentine export products. The center-left regime encouraged the substitution of local products for costly imports. Argentina, unlike Greece was not part of a currency union and could set its own currency rate. Greece, is bound to the euro and will have to convert to the drachma in order to take control over its finances, currency rate and monetary and investment policy tools.
Argentina possessed a substantial industrial – manufacturing sector, idled by the crisis, but with the worker-engineering-management capacity to respond to a new stimulus program. In addition, Argentina had a dynamic highly competitive agro-business sector, a world leader in beef, grains and soya, as well as energy (oil) and mineral wealth, which the center-left regime could activate.
Greece, during its 30 year membership in the European Union actually saw its meager and backward manufacturing and agricultural base shrink, in the face of cheap and better imports from developed capitalist countries like Germany, France, Holland and elsewhere. Unlike Argentina, Greece received billions of dollars in “transfers”, compensation funds to upgrade its economy and competitiveness and prepare it for full integration (lowering of tariff barriers). However, the “transfers” were not channeled into productive activity either by the two ruling parties or by the ‘capitalists’ and ‘farmers’. The ruling parties used the transfers to build extensive electoral patronage machines; they squandered funds for overpriced state contracts to provide builders engaged in non-productive building projects (including the multi-billion dollar swindle around the Olympic Games). Tens of thousands of unemployed graduates and party loyalists bloated the national, regional and local bureaucracy, increasing consumption, blocking any meaningful productive activity.
Capitalists designed “productive projects” and then transferred EU- loans and handouts to local and overseas real estate investments and luxury purchases. The Greek elite transferred loans to London, Swiss and Cypriot bank accounts – while the government signed off as ultimate guarantor.
In the agriculture sector, many property holders were doctors, dentists, lawyers and high officials who used the ownership of a few dozen olive or orange trees to receive low interest loans, import tax free luxury 4 x 4 vehicle imports and to build second or third vacation houses. Many farmers who received loans and grants, purchased land for homes for their married children or for extra room to rent to tourists or to send their sons and daughters to overseas universities.
Most important, the economic elite – bankers, ship owners, construction-real estate – politicians, speculators skimmed off billions from the EEC transfers in the form of illicit loans to cronies and in the form of fees, management charges for credit dealings and pension funding.
The European bankers, government officials and exporters were acutely aware that the “transfers” were being pillaged – but they went along, for obvious reasons of economic and political gain: lucrative interest payments flowed into their coffers; exporters took over Greek consumer markets; bankers and investment houses found willing pension fund manager’s ‘open’ to dubious investments. Even tourists enjoyed the sun and imports which reminded them of home: wiener schnitzel, English ale, Dutch feta. Moreover, Greece spent 15% of its budget on the military, serving NATO goals and bases.
Contrary to superficial appearances, Greece was not ruled by capitalists, small business people and farmers’ as some political scientists claim. Greece was ruled by an extensive class of kleptocrats, tax evaders and rentiers who pillaged, borrowed, consumed and invested overseas. Technologically Greece was among the most backward agro-manufacturing countries. Its overseas trained and educated professionals, returned and ‘adapted’ to the kleptocratic-rentier culture: most held several positions in public-private activities, guaranteeing a mediocre performance and conflicts of interests.
In summary Greece is not Argentina. A Greek default is an absolute necessity to begin the process of transition toward a productive and equitable economy. But the horrendous Greek legacy raises a whole series of new problems and challenges with few economic resources and in the absence of leading productive classes.
The Difficult Road Out of Crises
Any road map out of the Greek crises will be difficult, complex, and arduous – given the “scorched earth” economy which a left government (LG) will inherit. The first and most basic concern of a LG is to end the policies and especially the agreements with the “Troika” that demand further mass firings of public employees, the reduction in social services, the cuts in minimum wages and pensions. A new LG needs to impose a series of emergency measures to avoid economic bankruptcy.
It is absolutely clear that European bankers and regimes want to punish Greece for transgressions of their “austerity pact”. If Greece should succeed in renouncing the austerity pact, the Euro bankers fear that other countries – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and Ireland might follow suite.
Greece should suspend debt payments, impose tight capital controls and freeze bank deposits to avoid capital flight, in the face of the Troika cut-off of funding. The LG should convoke a series of emergency commissions to (1) secure alternative sources of emergency financing from several reserve funds with Euro holdings. They must seek loans from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China and other states not beholden to the Troika (2) make an inventory of available and potential productive enterprises – bankrupt or troubled firms, indebted enterprises – and convert them into state sponsored worker-employee operated co-operatives (3) investigate public debt to determine what can be classified as ‘legitimate’ (loans channeled into productive employment) or illegitimate (loans that enriched speculators, corrupt contractors, political leaders) (4) investigate and attach overseas holdings of wealthy Greeks who were engaged in multi-year multi-million tax evasion and who accumulated illicit income via unpaid loans and money laundering. Greek auditors should proceed to demand that Eurozone creditors should collect debt payments from the bank accounts of wealthy Greeks who laundered and deposited funds in London, Zurich, Frankfurt, New York and elsewhere.
The principle of the LG should be “those who borrowed the loans and profited, should pay them”. The European bankers who lent to corrupt politicians and business kleptocrats must assume the loss, for failing to exercise “due diligence” – oversight into the viability of the activity they were financing. After all private business ‘justifies’ its profits by the “risks” it takes. In the case of Greece, Euro-bankers’ demands that private bank loans and repayments be “guaranteed” by the state (no matter how badly they were managed) risk ‘moral hazard’: Guaranteeing bankers’ profits, irrespective of their ‘soundness’, encourages a repetition of reckless speculation such as had transpired in Greece over the past 30 years.
The LG should repudiate illegal debts (the vast majority) and renegotiate and roll-over the rest over an extended time frame, pending an economic recovery.
What should be recognized is that past Greek governments (despite being formally elected) engaged in illegitimate activity which prejudiced the sovereignty, productive capacity and livelihood of an entire people.
What is not acceptable is to force an entire people to sacrifice their lives because a minority of Greeks borrowed and didn’t invest or pay their debts to overseas creditors. Currently the kleptocratic millionaires are given “cover” and their illicit multi-billion Euro bank accounts and real-estate holdings are protected by the banks demanding payments from the Greek government. Their current demands are based on a savage demolition of living standards for a whole people. For outstanding obligations, the Greek LG can transfer tax debts of Greek tax evaders to creditors, letting them attach the overseas accounts of their Greek clients.
The LG can self-finance a recovery by drastically changing budget priorities: mainly by slashing its military budgets. Greece’s military expenditures as a percentage of its total budget, is one of the highest in the European Union. By eliminating expenditures for NATO operations, overseas military expeditions and numerous military bases, a LG can prioritize industrial and service investments.
Greece needs a (1) growth tax – a flat tax on the self-employed – professions, shop keepers, hotels, etc. – to ensure that they pay their share in financing the new economy. While the very rich engaged in mega swindles and evasions, it was also the case that the 50% self-employed sector imitated their behavior at the micro-level (2) a tourist tax – at airports, ferry-docks, tour ships stops – with tight oversight and or replacement of corrupt tax inspectors/collectors and customs officials who take a big cut of proceeds. Incarceration of corrupt officials should be mandatory. (3) A real estate tax which reflects the real value of land and property, especially of unused or uncultivated lands. (4) A tax on financial transactions and an end to tax exemptions for major banks, corporations and so-called property developers.
Exploiting Unused or Underutilized Human Resources
The new government has many sources of ‘human capital’ – hundreds of thousands of unemployed young educated people who can be mobilized for work in productive activity through selective public investments in priority areas, especially outside of the “greater Athens region”.
There are many regions and islands which have the potential to provide income and employment, properly addressed. One of the most salient is in food processing; one of the many perversities of the Greek economy is the production and export of apples and citrus products to Germany and the import of juices. Another is the failure to link local food and manufacturing to the 14 million tourist sector. Most food and furniture is imported; most vacation packages benefit overseas multi-nationals and foreign transport agencies. As a result the Greek economy and labor force derives a small share of total income from its “leading sector”.
The New Economy Cannot be Built with Kleptocrats of the Past
As mentioned above, Greece had few if any real entrepreneurs, who invested their own profits, invested in research and development and modernized their plant.
Public sector enterprises were overloaded with the unemployed ‘party members’, many virtually ‘no shows’; and many public sector unions engaged in nepotism and multiple-employment at the expense of efficient services, profitability and long-term development strategies. Public sector enterprises require a kind of re-nationalization’, to generate revenues and income to finance new jobs in new enterprises. Management of public enterprises should be transferred from the hands of stagnant ‘life time job-holders’ to dynamic workers – entrepreneurial – engineering management teams looking to broaden the scope and quality of activity within the new economy.
Pension funds and other savings must be mobilized alongside the billions retained by the state’s debt default to pay current expenses (pensions, salaries, basic imports etc.), to stimulate the revival of production among enterprises which show a willingness to rebuild the economy and collaborate in activating production and employment. Public profits should finance worker takeovers of factories and services abandoned by their previous owners, of which there are thousands.
The public sector must take the lead in investing, servicing and producing to create “confidence” among the small and medium size producers. The public sector must take the lead in negotiating with potential lenders and economic partners outside the Eurozone: new markets and financial arrangements will be necessary if the Eurozone cuts off all funding as a consequence of debt default or a moratorium.
The danger is that SYRIZA follows through on the default and has no alternative emergency plan in place to respond to a Eurozone cut-off. In the face of an EU/IMF offensive and lacking an alternative, a sector of SYRIZA (ex. PASOK public sector unionists) may back-track and seek to accept some form of “renegotiated” pact … which would divide and undermine the prospects for a truly viable and radical transformation and condemn Greece to its catastrophic downward spiral.
SYRIZA has been raised to a serious contender for state power by the most devastating capitalist crisis to affect a Western European country since WWII. It gained adherence through its dynamic grass roots organizing and the relative cohesion of its disparate components. It’s clear and forthright exposé of the corruption and pillage of the dominant parties and its image as a party with ‘clean hands’ has propelled it forward among a broad spectrum of classes, regions and generational groups. However, the very depth of the crisis, the total pillage and emptying of the treasury by the kleptocratic political-business class and the dismantling of the entire productive sector and the transfer of billions of Euros abroad by the millionaire rentier class, has created an immensely difficult terrain from which to launch the necessary transformation. The new government can and must guarantee the sovereignty of the nation by rejecting imperial dictates and end any further degradation (“austerity”) of the Greek people. Emancipation requires that first and foremost the new leadership takes the lead in making sacrifices: cutting out all the perks of office, salaries and overseas commitments. The new social priorities demand severe cuts in military budgets – bases, NATO, arms purchases. The new leaders must tell the Euro-bankers to collect payments from the accounts of the overseas billionaires who borrowed, bled the country and are now sheltered in the same banks.
The Left must move from criticism to practical deeds; from theorizing to creating jobs! Greece with a new government can put an end to open-ended austerity and decay. It can and must change its place in the international economy. In the final analysis, it is Greece’s last best hope.
A century ago, so many Greeks were arriving in Chicago that Hull House hired someone who spoke the language to learn their stories. Businesses run by Greeks were popping up west of the Loop in what is now Greektown and the UIC campus.
But the Jews found Chicago first, coming steadily from the 1840s onward.
What both groups have in common is a strong bond for their homelands – Greeks frequently sending money home to family members and buying land, Jews supporting the efforts to create a Jewish homeland in the Middle East and supporting Israel since its creation.
“We have two of the most significant diaspora groups in Chicago, both Jewish and Greek,” said Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council in Chicago.
The instability in the eastern Mediterranean recent years has brought Greek and Jewish communities in Chicago and across the U.S. together through an emerging trilateral alliance among the U.S., Greece and Israel.
“There is a need for an alliance. What is happening in the Middle East is affecting what is going on regionally and globally,” said professor Eytan Gilboa, director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Gilboa, a world-renowned expert on international communication and U.S. policy in the Middle East was in Chicago this week as part of “Today’s Middle East: Challenges, Leadership, Communication,” which is charged with tackling a range of topics ranging from Iran’s weapons program to the special ties Israel has with Greece and Poland. The program ends Sunday.
At one of the events Wednesday, titled, “Greece, Israel and the United States: An Emerging Trilateral Alliance in the Middle East,” co-sponsored by the Greek consulate and National Strategy Forum, a set of panelists discussed challenges in the Middle East and the importance of strong ties among the countries.
“This is a strategic relationship; this is a relationship that will last forever. This is where the Greek, Israeli, Cypriot, and U.S. partnership can make a difference,” said Zemenides, whose group is one of the most influential Greek organizations in the U.S.
Gilboa and Zemenides stressed the importance of communicating to Greek and Jewish communities about the emerging alliance in face of challenges.
“Greeks and Jews have worked together for centuries,” Zemenides said. “If they work together you can influence U.S. policy and can create stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Insecurities faced by Israel and Greece today stem from Turkish assertiveness in the Mediterranean, nuclear proliferation, Iran’s weapons program, piracy in the high seas, terrorism, the Arab Spring, energy security and economic crisis.
“If you look at the map there is geopolitical-strategic change taking place. You can then understand the reason for improved relations,” Gilboa said.
All these events have caused great instability: So how can the emerging trilateral alliance stabilize the region and ensure the interests of the U.S., Greece and Israel?
By increasing the economic, military and energy ties taking place today and in years to come.
In 2010 prime ministers from both countries visited the other as a way to signify stronger diplomatic relations.
Benjamin Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to officially visit Greece. There he and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, discussed many topics such as an increase of military and economic ties.
This past April the U.S., Israel and Greece conducted joint military exercise in the Mediterranean named Noble Dina, simulating potential confrontations with Turkey.
On a less ominous note, Greece received a boost to its tourism sector last year thanks to 420,000 vacationing Israelis who took new non-stop flights from Israel to Greece. As Turkey and Israel’s relationship soured in 2009, Greece opened its doors to Israelis who normally vacation in Turkey.
On another front, energy cooperation among Israel, Greece and Cyprus has increased as well, with the discovery of natural gas off the shores of Israel and extending to Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon. The area known as the Levant Basin Province has enough natural gas for globalwide use for one year. Officials say they realize that the cooperation among Cyprus, Greece and Israel over the find increases the possibility of future confrontations with Turkey.
Though Greece is located outside the Levant Basin, it has shared national and economic interests with Cyprus.
The Greek-Israeli relationship was not always so cozy.
Before 1990, Greece was the only European member nation that did not have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Before then, Greece’s foreign policy was influenced by Arab states with whom it had important economic ties.
“We need an-on-the ground realistic assessment, we are on the outside looking in,” said Richard Friedman, president and chair of the National Strategy Forum, who moderated the event.
“We have honed in on the difficult issues and the people who have assembled in this room suggests to me that we have informed citizens,” Friedman said in his closing remarks to the 50 Greek and Jewish leaders in the audience.
“That is the whole purpose that we are all here. That is why we welcome Bar-Ilan University. What we are doing here is communicating.”
According to both Gilboa and Zemenides, economic constraints on countries have made alliances such as these attractive. Greece, Israel, the U.S. and even Cyprus have navies that make them Mediterranean powers. Combined, they can increase their influence.
“This alliance is fundamentally, culturally, historically, geo-strategically on the same page and it has to be encouraged,” Zemenides said. “We have to have stability in the eastern Mediterranean otherwise the world is in trouble.”
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