Any serious analysis of mass migration as a phenomena has to provide an in depth study as to the effects of the process, of who benefits and who gains and whether it is a natural phenomena[i] or an organised movement[ii] which serves the neo-liberal agenda.
Greece once more is in the eye of the storm. During 2015 around 750,000 have passed through Greece on their way to Northern Europe. The borders have essentially become non-existent. Another 3 million are expected to arrive in 2016. Is this a natural phenomena (product of wars or economic displacement) or something more sinister? A new world order agenda to reduce wages in the EU as it is now in stark competition with the USA and China? Replacing a century and a half of unionised labour?
Greece suffered extensively as a result of two decades of wars, in the first half of the 20th century as a consequence of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and World War I and as a result of World War II and the subsequent Cold War (Truman doctrine was inaugurated in Greece) and civil war. As such it has been prone to mass movements of populations from abroad to Greece and vice versa and two examples stand out. The population transfers as a result of the Asia Minor expedition of the early 20’s that saw a couple of million arrive in Athens from Attaturk’s Turkey and the tens of thousands of Greeks that emigrated after the end of the civil war to find work in the factories and mines of Germany, Belgium and France.
From the mid 1960’s to approximately 1990 no large population movements occurred apart from the displacement of Greek Cypriots from Turkey’s invasion into Cyprus. What did occur and what isn’t mentioned ever is the first wave of globalisation created by the Greek merchant ship owners who had Greek flagged crews on their fleet which was mainly used to carry goods East to West and who developed enormously during the period of the embargo on Saudi Arabia in the 1950s.
They were closely linked to the City of London in terms of insurance and financing of loans for developing the merchant fleets and were at the cutting edge of labour reform. With the advent of new technology and the reduction in manning on merchant shipping, alongside the creation of schools for shipping in the Philippines and Central America, Greek flagged ships became a rarity. Most of the personnel were from the ‘third world,’ unless they were the captains or port engineers. Labour costs were driven to the ground way before the fall of the Soviet Union and in the 1990’s this essentially became the blueprint for neoliberal labour relations worldwide.
The military junta of the late 1960’s early 1970’s pioneered the first wave of cheap labour from Pakistan for agriculture but this was regulated and at the time the Drachma wasn’t a convertible currency so the export of currency was minimal and controlled by the government of the day.
Entrance into the EEC
Greece’s entrance into the EEC in 1981 occurred under the guise that it would develop both its agriculture and its heavy industry. Nearly four decades later its agriculture has been decimated and its heavy industry destroyed. Instead of Greek agricultural products being protected in the EU wide market the opposite occurred. Greek supermarkets were taken over by larger chains and they started to import produce the world over. This destroyed agricultural labour costs which led directly to the mass importation of cheap labour. We recently had the odious situation of Asian farmers living with animals to pick strawberries in Greece and being shot for asking for wages. [iii]
Fall of the Soviet Union
When the Soviet Union fell there was a mass wave of illegals that arrived from Albania.
Statements alluded to the recent leader of New Democracy Samaras, made at the time when Greeks had two homes and multiple cars led to a massive wave of Albanians to arrive. Initially they were few but then they kept on coming and the crescendo reached the Olympic Games building projects of the early 2000.
Greek bosses started to prefer and select Albanian immigrant workers for cost as well as hours worked. Insofar as there was a building boom, they were needed and older Greek workers became foremen. Just as mechanisation in shipping led to smaller shipping crews required with more simple instructions, so the changes in building construction led to less workers required with a smaller skill set. By 2000 there were allegedly around 800,000 Albanians alone, but official figures always underestimate. According to estimates by the police there are currently 94 different nationalities present in Greece. In the first decade of the 21st century around 1.5 million Albanians gained legal status in Greece and this year all children born in Greece can gain nationality.
A Greek Parliamentary Committee was set up in 1993 to analyse the issue of mass migration and the demographic crisis. All the major parties signed it (PASOK, New Democracy, KKE and Sinaspismos – Syriza’s precursor[iv]).
Olympics Building Boom
Between 1999 and 2004 a mass building program of works occurred for the Olympic games. Thousands of companies were created and tens of thousands of new immigrant workers came. “The entrance of the new immigrants in the labor movement, which covers now around one third of the total number of laborers who are occupied in Greece,” explained the Greek TUC Report[v] in 2002.
In other words 33% of the working people are immigrants. From this many have concluded that the borders of Greece are hermetically sealed. Greece is a Fortress inside a European fortress! Someone could ask what percentage should the 33% of cheap laborers be, so as to theoretically accept that borders are open? 100% of all laborers, 200%, 500%, an endless figure? Not that we expect a reply to this
‘Whoever continues to talk about open borders is either consciously lying or doesn’t have a consciousness of reality’ was a common refrain at the time alongside what was written on walls all over Athens: ‘Worker, the bosses like racism.’
Just think about it. More than two million (and more) immigrants who live in Greece, a number which represents 20% of the total population, is a ‘conscious lie’! Whilst truth is that Europe closed its borders a long time ago, stopped immigration, became a Fortress. The simple Greek worker who believes in the opposite doesn’t have a consciousness of reality! As this reality isn’t one which is witnessed daily in their journeys on public transport, in factories, on ships, on building sites and public works, but that which exists in the realms of fantasy.
Is there competition for work amongst Greeks and immigrants?
‘No, jobs are not taken by immigrants.’ That is what we are told by the anti-racist globalists. Greek capitalists didn’t bring them to replace the more expensive and demanding Greek workers but for them to do the jobs which the well fed locals refuse to do! The foreign workers who work in Greece apparently occupy positions that are exclusively those of unskilled laborers such as cleaning duties, cleaners or building work and agricultural work for men.
Allegedly new migrant workers were required for work in occupations that were new in the expanding labor market, such as building sites. Even if we assume that was the case, building sites aren’t new occupations and unemployment always existed between 7-10% during the first decade of the 21st century.
As the ‘reality’ for which we don’t all have a ‘consciousness’ is that before the immigrants arrived in Greece there were no house servants, no building workers, fishermen, no one dug any fields or worked in making furniture!
Let us contemplate the ‘logic’ of the ahistorical globalist: that before 1990 the Greek worker didn’t work; he knitted and waited for the arrival of immigrants to stand upright and become a new labor aristocracy. Now he has found a new occupation: ‘managers of consumerism,’ avoiding every labor intensive activity, just like the writers on immigration in the neoliberal era avoid every intellectual activity, with the end result of creating paper-thin arguments, full of contradictions.
Greek labor fought for labor standards. Ship owners destroyed them.
The whole of the history of the Greek labor movement and of every country is based primarily on one-two militant sections of workers with a history and tradition, with a socialist tradition and perspective for another world. The dockworkers and building workers before they were globalised were the advanced guard of class struggle. They were the example to be copied by all the other sections. Whoever sits to read a little history will see that the dockworkers and sailors were the first in Greece during the 2nd world war that created Workers’ Committees which decided and forced the ship owners onto their regime on the ships. They reached such a level of class militancy and dynamism that the bosses couldn’t recruit or sack who they wanted or when they wanted. Their fame spread in all the significant shipping fleets around the world and the dockers and sailors in many countries followed the example of the Greek dockworkers.
Greece occupied around 25% of the shipping fleet of the Western world and it is no coincidence that the ship owners tried to break the power of the dockworkers and ships crews. This was finally achieved by the rise of PASOK in power (in the early 1980’s) and the policies of the KKE who wrote off the leadership of the dockworkers and supported the party of ‘change’ (which is how PASOK called themselves). The ship owners created schools of sailors in the Philippines and slowly but surely started to replace Greek crews with hungry, politically subdued and educationally backward workers so as to escape from the high labor contracts, and the special provisions regarding unhygienic and dangerous labor, pre-determined hours of work and introducing on the ships a regime of the Roman galleys, once more.
The ship owners from their base in the City of London have in store a future identical to the one above for the whole of the working class. With the use of foreign crews they achieved what they hadn’t in four decades. They gained from the paltry wages they paid. More significantly they achieved a significant strategic defeat on the whole labor movement in Greece opening the path to the subjugation of all sectors, using as a lever neoliberal mass immigration. This task will be undertaken when every relationship with militant and revolutionary traditions of the Greek labor movement are broken with the replacement of the natural carriers of these traditions not by the 33% of the Greek TUC report but by 100%, with the support of the ‘leftist’ globalists.
People don’t ask to whom do the jobs belong. To the Greek workers or to their bosses? If the Greek boss had 5 Greek workers on an X wage and he sacks them recruiting 15 immigrants, he didn’t create 10 new positions but divided 5 wages to 15 people. With such logic (if anyone can call it that) they claim with all honesty that unemployment in Greece has remained stable and during certain periods even been reduced!… What a nice picture for Greek capitalism.[vi]
With 1/3 of the labor force being immigrants, with only 2,000 Greek seafarers left out of an estimated 100,000 in 1970, everything is going fine. For whom? This isn’t really the issue. Due to the immigrants the wages on the building sites –as everywhere else in the private sector – are now under the level of the 1980’s. Hours of work have gone through the roof. Thus the beggar became a ‘strong Greece.’ Greece from being at the bottom of the EU, due to the expansion of immigrant labor, is now somewhere in the middle. First among last, great is its glory (but these borders keep on closing whilst the EU keeps expanding).
We are told that the use of immigrants hasn’t occurred due to the profit collapse of gross sales by companies, but because of the expansion of the market. We needed immigrants in booming capitalism. You see, without them the Greek worker would be lazy. He wouldn’t get off the couch to pick a grape (despite doing this for thousands of years) or to clean a hospital.
Foreign workers do not take jobs from Greeks, this is the common refrain, as the market has developed and unemployment remained the same. But if the market truly developed, would unemployment remain the same? The unemployed remain unemployed in a period of growth of the economy? So who takes all the new jobs (if they truly exist) as they aren’t being taken by Greeks? Whilst some economists present a picture of economic boom of capitalism and the appearance of new jobs, unemployment remains static. In other words development doesn’t equal a drop in unemployment. Immigrants don’t then take the jobs of Greeks. Or are they taking the new jobs and therefore a drop in unemployment is impossible, despite development?
Trying to justify the unjustifiable and to state that the presence of immigrants has no social, political or economic consequences in the neoliberal era, but only brings to the surface the racist nature of Greek people, globalists who justify mass immigration are being led by mathematical precision into the camp of the apologists of capitalism, in its greatest crisis of history, which is attempting to survive transforming the planet into an arsenal of racial conflicts and planetary slavery. The industrial bourgeoisies in globalised capitalism will try to replace the hands it uses with cheaper and cheaper pools of labor, using the endless pools of illegal labor wherever it can on the planet. Not to improve the standard of life of the hungry and dispossessed but to destroy whatever was achieved by struggle by Western workers and to globalize immiseration.
Riots over Illegal Immigration
Two areas, one in the central Athenian working class district of Ag. Panteleomonas, and another in the port town of Patras, have finally broken center-stage in political life. Starting off by people living in the areas, they protested against the mass invasion, occupation and enforced ‘multiculturalism’ of the Greek globalist oligarchy whose starting point is the City of London.
Initially unable to know what to do and frightened of being blamed for racism they complained to the official authorities about the squatter camps of hundreds of illegal immigrants camped in town squares, in children’s play areas, outside churches. The mass number of illegals meant that not having any work, crime skyrocketed in these areas, people were frightened of moving about in their areas, local businesses were forced into closure, property prices catapulted downwards and communal areas were being used by people to defecate, take drugs, drink, even have sex in full public view. Globalization had finally arrived.
The press initially started a mass wave of criticism blaming the victims for the crimes. The authorities provided no facilities for the hundreds thousands of illegals. Why should they? They don’t live in working class areas. After all multiculturalism is for the poor, not the rich. Over a sustained period of six months the protestors were vilified by all: by the media, by the government, by the leftists, but not by the Greek people. They stood on their side, in every conversation on the street, in the markets, even by the first large wave of immigrants. There were Albanians who signed petitions against the multicultural wave from Afghanistan, Somalia, Morocco, Pakistan, Nigeria, Chad, Bangladesh etc. The numbers are now currently standing at around 4 million new immigrants in a country of 10 million, in 2009.
The government’s loyal followers in the form of the leftists started a mass campaign to brand the citizens of the central Athens district of Ag. Panteleomonas as ‘racists,’ ‘fascists,’ and ‘Nazis.’ They held demo after demo in the area trying to hound out the hundreds of local protestors.
The focal point was the biggest Orthodox Church in Greece and the children’s play area in its garden. They would not be cowed or browbeaten though. They fought back, with posters, leaflets, petitions leading up to a national protest in Omonia Square central Athens. After 9 months of struggle and after the disastrous Euroelections for the ruling parties of both right and left, they have finally achieved half their aims.
The square has been cleared and the illegal immigrants have been forced to move on. Of course they haven’t gone to the northern rich suburbs of Athens where the businessmen and politicians live, but the whole country has heard about them now. It’s become a national issue where before, it was a side issue. The KKE and the leftists in tow have stood on the opposite side of the class war with the government.
The fake Left has refused to participate or take up any of the issues. They have been forced to admit like the government that there is a problem. The 3,500-strong petition that was gathered (in November 2008) was of course ignored when circulated.
It will be extremely difficult to justify the current mass waves of sustained illegal immigration that currently number around 200,000 a year (2010 onward). When we had Muslim protests in Athens, this further weakened the position of illegal immigration. The Greek working class has no reason to accept wave upon wave of migrants when it itself cannot survive.
By 2009, the percentage of votes going to extreme rightwing parties was minimal and their representation in the Athens council elections (central districts where most of the immigrants congregated) was minor. The arrival of the Troika meant the parties of the extreme centre (PASOK, New Democracy) which adopted the economic genocide of Greece started to fragment and from a high point of combined votes of 85% of the electorate dropped to around 30% (in the 2012 elections) and the political vacuum created meant people voted for parties of the alleged extreme left and right. Retro-fascists in the form of a party called Golden Dawn gained national prominence and the myth created around this party was that it was fighting for state power, when it had no such intentions. It arrived on the scene due to the political vacuum created.
Just as most of the heavy industries of the EU went to Asia due to high labour costs, so the high cost of Greek labour led to the importation of wave upon wave of immigrants who took over whole industries: farming, catering, building, home care, hotel work and so on. Many bosses preferred cash in hand work with no contractual ties and achieved what they always wanted: a labour movement with no history and zero memory. This they achieved in a majority of sectors and wherever there is some industry left, Greeks remain at most 20% of the labour force.
When New Democracy took over the elections in 2012, it was under pressure, due to another round of riots in central Athens after the murder of a Greek by lumpen Afghanis for a video camera as he was taking his wife to give birth. This forced New Democracy to take emergency measures to limit the globalist inflows of migrants who congregated with nothing to do in all the central town squares. This forced Manolis Glezos (historic leader of the Left who helped tear down the German flag from the Akropolis during the occupation) to make a statement against the Left stating it has adopted mass immigration without any criticisms. [vii]
Anyone visiting Athens between 2008 and 2012 would have noticed the total absence of tourist police (they never existed), hundreds of unlicenced immigrant street sellers everywhere, tens of migrants going round in shopping trolleys taking old metal, hundreds involved in daily muggings and in particular many crimes against old people who couldn’t defend themselves, whilst we also had the arrival of teenage prostitutes from Africa pushed by pimps 50 meters from a central police station, just south of Omonia Square.
This in a country that suffered extensively during the German occupation losing around 10% of its overall population, with such violence being unknown against old people by hungry and starving Greeks. These were the social effects of neoliberal globalisation on the immigration side. It would also be absurd to believe that so many people could survive in an era of de-industrialisation just by arriving in Greece. The export of the Euro (hard currency) is of course the pull factor, but this would have a detrimental effect on the actual economy as wages were pinned to the floor and local companies would face the full weight of global competition as was witnessed by the mass importation of low priced goods from Asia. A return to a national currency would reduce the presence of such large numbers of migrants only because the currency of the country would no longer have a global trading status.
Dublin II and Frontex
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century an agreement was reached called Dublin II which stated that all new immigrant arrivals would have to be registered in the first country of arrival. For a decade this was argued against by the parties from the Left. The argument was that Greece could not become a depository of lost souls. In other words, once in, new migrants should be free to travel anywhere within the EU. So why even bother paying fig leaf to borders. Why not just set up direct flights to Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Congo for example, and ask who wants to fly to Europe? There would a lot less stress and a lot less corporate propaganda, but how could the powers that be sell this process?
Brussels has a no pushback policy implying that at anytime one is in the territory of the EU one has to be processed forwards, everything else is illegal. That also implies that the navy of each country which is in the Mediterranean has to accept anyone at sea. As the states don’t want to openly admit they desire the mass movement of populations from Asia and Africa into the EU, they like the fact that this is organised on a for profit basis by smugglers and hundreds drown every now and again. It serves their globalist agenda.
The unregistered process serves big business well, as a section of workers has no papers, and bosses can use them as a way of lowering wages across the board.
At around the same time another organisation Frontex was set up, based in Poland, whose aim was to process and register the hundreds of thousands that would arrive in the EU.
Syriza’s rise to power with Independent Greeks
If Turkey does not accept repatriation Greece cannot be the EU’s reservoir of lost souls. This was the new common refrain. Without officially abolishing Dublin II, Germany gave the green light for millions to arrive in the EU. Syriza complied.
Tens of thousands have arrived and there seems to be no let up in the situation.
What is the real agenda? Solving Germany’s demographic problem or weakening European elites? Evidence exists for both[viii] options.[ix]
There were indications that this was Syriza’s actual program: opening the borders and facilitating the mass importation of labor. It works insofar as tens of thousands don’t stay in Greece. Each new migrant is given a travel document to leave Greece within 30 days. Priority is only given to Afghanis, Iraqis and Syrians. The non-EU countries bordering Greece like the former Yugoslavia, have been targeted perhaps to bring it into the EU. Immigrants could in theory just go to wherever they wanted via Bulgaria as there are no borders with Greece. Merkel wanted Brussels to centralize the mass movement of migrants and for each member state to receive constant flows and for Frontex to decide who is registered as an asylum seeker so individual states lose control of their own territory.
The future will be explosive, just like the past.
One cannot argue the political elite did not understand the issues related to mass immigration and the demographic problems of Greece or the fact that neighbouring states have laid claim to Greek land. A whole parliamentary committee was set up and it produced a report in 1993 signed by all the major parties.
The open borders regime introduced with the election of Syriza has meant around 1 million have entered the EU via Greece (officially 740,000) in 2015. The EU commissioner on immigration who happens to be Greek (another ‘natural’ phenomenon) Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that “the end of the Schengen Treaty will mean the beginning of the end of Europe. We have thrown down the walls and we are seeing that some people are putting them up again,” reported Kontra newspaper on December 4, 2015.
Turkey is expected to receive 3 billion Euros in order to ship across 3 million more migrants in 2016 whilst Greece has agreed to house and feed 50,000 and set up another 4 processing centers on top of the 11 reception centers created in 2012.
The plan is to reintroduce Dublin II whereby migrants are kept in country of arrival for 18 months before being allowed to leave. The expulsion of Greece from Schengen is the new propaganda tool, just like Grexit before it, to force Greece to accept joint naval operations in the Aegean sea with Turkey, to accept sole responsibility of borders to Frontex and lose all rights of national sovereignty.
A weak state with porous borders: a new – found banana republic, without taking into account the host nation. How will they be housed and fed? Various programs are mentioned with respect to this, housing benefits and a minimal food subsidy. So do they have as an aim to house tens of thousands in empty properties that have been abandoned by owners due to the financial crash in Greece. Who will fix up these properties that are in decay? They will house thousands provisionally in old Olympic stadiums or ones still functioning eg. Galatsi, Faliro or the old Olympic Airport in Athens. Four new processing centres are to be set on Aegean islands but only one so far is functioning. No private housing has yet been set up, reported the ProtoThema newspaper on December 6.
The EU is founded on four core principles: freedom of movement of capital services, capital, and goods. Any logjam in any of them implies the EU starts to unravel. This is what the globalist elites want to avoid at all costs and will try their hardest to achieve.
We had before movements of populations into the EU that were related to decolonization, with Algeria and Vietnam being the two most prominent cases at stake.
Over 100,000 Algerians arrived who were part of the security services of occupied Algeria and a similar situation developed when up to 2 million Vietnamese left Vietnam in the mid-70s when the US occupation collapsed there. Parallels with our times exist in the departure of Iraq’s Kurds in the early 1990’s organized by the then Secretary of the Conservative Party of Great Britain Jeffrey Archer. Nowadays for Western imperialism to gain influence in each society it occupies, priority is given to all these local quislings like the campaigns to allow Afghani translators free access to the UK by the British Army. [x]
All these issues are pie in the sky schemes without taking into account local reactions. One cannot relocate Asia and Africa into the EU under ‘humanitarian’ guises or ‘welcome all refugees’ to justify a globalist neoliberal free for all. One can start a process, attempt to control it by using riot police to stop people’s reactions, but in the long term there will be civil wars. The USA is a special case. It was created from scratch as an area whereby each successive wave of migrants replaced another, creating multi-ethnic ghettoes in a period where stability was guaranteed by America’s global status. In declining capitalism only ethnic ghettoes can be created which are in conflict with each other over declining resources and the idea that a new order can be created which doesn’t resemble the old order of the past is indeed a fantasy by those who have given up hope in another world and support the neoliberal order of the current one.
In John Kerry’s recent visit to Athens, his only visit was to an NGO serving mass immigration called Melissa. There were zero protests against his visit.
[i] George Soros on EU expansion, free trade zones and mass immigration: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rebuilding-refugee-asylum- system-by-george-soros-2015-09,
[ii] Hungarian PM blames Soros’ NGOs for refugee crisis: https://www.rt.com/news/320192-soros-orban-hungary-usa/
[iii] Greece’s migrant fruit pickers: ‘They kept firing. There was blood everywhere’ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/01/greece-migrant-fruit-pickers-shot-they-kept-firing
[iv] Greek Parliamentary Committee on Mass Immigration: http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2013/08/the-left-knewparliamentary-committee-on.html
[v] Debate on State of Greek Labour 2004 http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2015/12/debate-on-state-of-greek-labour-2004.html
[vi] Illegal Immigration and the NWO in Greece
[vii] Manolis Glezos: The Left covers the Illegal Low Lifes: http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2014/05/manolis-glezos-left-covers-illegal-low.html
[viii] Report states why population of EU which is 6% of global population has to become around 14% http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/ageing/r eplacement-migration.shtml
[ix]Russian politician on EUs alleged refugee crisis: http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/top-russian-politician-explains- who-behind-europes-refugee-crisis-nikolai-starikov-video
[x] Jeffery Archer and Kurds http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/jul/26/iraq.archer 25 years later same * different people… http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/john-major-lord-archer-and-real-story -of-how-british-people-backed-kurds-in-1991/
Russia should show some good will and offer Ukraine a “good friend” rate on its $3 billion debt, suggests EU Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas.
When asked during a Wednesday radio interview, if showing good will implies allowing Kiev not to pay its sovereign debts, the ambassador was ambiguous.
“No, you have to pay the debts. Of course. But sometimes, like good friends, sometimes we have to write off. Therefore, we have made the proposal and agreed to write off 20 percent of Ukraine’s debts. I personally think that it would also be good will from Russia to follow the example of the EU and the US,” Usackas told Vesti FM.
In November, Moscow offered Kiev a three-year installment plan that included no payment this year, and three €1 billion payments in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In exchange for the offer, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded guarantees from the US, the EU and international financial organizations. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said this week Ukraine’s Western partners have refused to provide such guarantees.
Commenting, Usackas said the EU and the US have made a 20 percent debt write-off and postponed the payout date by four years and that Russia hasn’t agreed to those terms.
The interviewer asked why the International Monetary Fund so easily changed its lending rules for Ukraine and promised to continue bankrolling Kiev despite the possible non-payment of sovereign debt to Russia, and why Greece, as an EU member, doesn’t get the same privilege.
“This is our business,” replied the EU ambassador, adding that the loans given to Greece are much bigger.
Ukraine’s debt to Russia is due December 20. Moscow has warned Kiev it will file a lawsuit if it fails to pay after a 10-day grace period expires.
Turkish warplanes abruptly ceased violating Greek airspace after downing a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber on November 24. Previously, air intrusions made by Turkish fighter jets took place on a daily basis and amounted to thousands a year.
The data comes from a diplomatic source in Athens, cited by RIA Novosti.
The last time Turkish warplanes were spotted in Greek airspace was on November 25, when six jets, two of them carrying weapons, entered the neighbor’s aerial domain.
Intrusions of Turkish jets into Greek national airspace remain a constant headache for Athens. Turkey and Greece, while partners in NATO, have been adversaries for centuries. The two nations have warred with each other before and still have territorial disputes.
In particular 2014 was marked with a sharp increase of Greek airspace violations by the Turkish Air Force, which amounted to 2,244 incidents. From January to October 2015, Greece’s airspace was violated by Turkish warplanes 1,233 times, including 31 flights over Greek territory itself, according to the Greek Air Force’s headquarters. In November, before the downing of the Russian bomber, there were at least 50 registered airspace violations.
Turkish jets habitually intrude into Greek airspace over disputed islands in the Aegean Sea, provoking the Greek Air Force to scramble fighter jets to intercept. Such airborne rendezvous often end with mock dogfights, with pilots performing real lock-ons of their air-to-air missiles onto their NATO partner’s aircraft.
Athens has repeatedly raised the matter at NATO meetings. Greece’s representative to NATO last reported Turkish violations of their national airspace on November 24. The reaction of other NATO member states has been usually to sit on the fence, and Ankara continued to test Athen’s patience.
When Turkey shot down the Russian bomber on Tuesday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikas Kotzias expressed solidarity with Russia in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
“Athens agrees with the Russian president’s assessment on Ankara’s hostile actions, which are contrary to the goals of the anti-ISIS coalition,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, as reported by RIA Novosti.
Greece, according to its Foreign Ministry, “especially comprehends provocative moves by Turkey given regular multiple violations of Greek air space by Ankara lasting for years.”
According to Greece’s General Staff, on November 24, the day a Turkish F-16 fighter jet fired an air-to-air missile at Russia’s bomber, the Turkish Air Force made no violations of Greek airspace for the first time in a long period.
Once the Russian warplane went down in flames, “there was zero activity of Turkish aviation in Greek FIR in the Aegean Sea, and it is understandable why,” RIA Novosti cited a diplomatic source in Athens.
The Turkish Air Force also halted strikes on Syrian territory after Russia deployed S-400 long-range air defense complexes at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia, from where the Russian Air Force strikes Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Greece is looking to work with Israel on developing the latter’s energy industry and transporting natural gas across Europe, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters after a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“One of the main issues in our talks were the opportunities arising in the fields of energy, the fields of energy in the East Mediterranean,” said Tsipras. “We are considering ways on cooperation in research, drilling and transportation of gas from Israel to Europe,.”
The recent discovery of a large offshore gas reserves close to the city of Haifa could turn Israel from a consumer into a supplier of natural energy.
Tsipras also met with President Reuven Rivlin during his first trip to Israel, with the two discussing the threat of terrorism.
“ISIS is not only in Syria and Iraq, but spreading to the whole western world, who must take responsibility and say that we cannot live in a world in which ISIS exists,” Rivlin said at a joint press conference.
While in Jerusalem for the meeting with Rivlin, Tsipras wrote in the president’s guest book that it was a “great honor to be in your historic capital and to meet your excellencies.” The comment was significant given that most countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A former Israeli diplomat called the move “unprecedented, especially for a European leader.”
The Greek Foreign Ministry has confirmed receipt of a request from Washington, asking that Russia be denied use of Greek airspace for aid flights to Syria, Reuters reported.
The announcement came from the Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman, who added the US request was being considered.
On Sunday, a diplomatic source in Athens told RIA Novosti that Greece had refused to close its airspace to Russian planes carrying humanitarian aid to Syria.
On Saturday, the US embassy asked the interim Greek government to prohibit flights of Russian aircraft in the Athens FIR, the country’s airspace. The Greeks refused, so as not to worsen relations with Russia, the source said.
The RIA source added that Russia had requested to use Greek airspace for humanitarian flights to Syria, September 1-24. Athens reportedly agreed.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos have signed a security cooperation agreement between the two countries.
This came during a meeting on Sunday between the two ministers, according to Israel Radio.
Ya’alon praised the present military and security cooperation between Israel and Greece, which he says is expressed in the joint military exercises conducted by the armies of the two countries.
The Israeli air force held joint military exercises with its Greek counterpart last April that took place in Greek airspace and lasted for several days.
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.
Paris – On July 12, Greece surrendered abjectly and totally. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had promised to combat the austerity measures that are driving the Greek people to ruin, poverty and suicide, betrayed all his promises, denied the will of the people expressed in the July 5 referendum, and led the Greek parliament to accept an agreement with the nation’s creditors even worse than all those that had already caused the economy to shrink and which further abandoned the last scraps of national sovereignty.
Yes, Greece surrendered unconditionally, as has been thoroughly and eloquently expressed here on CounterPunch and elsewhere. But one crucial question appears not to have been adequately answered. To whom, exactly, did Greece surrender?
A common answer to that question is: Germany. The poor Greeks surrendered to the arrogant Germans. This theme has served to revive anti-German feelings left over from World War II. Frau Merkel is portrayed as the heartless villain. One thing is sure: the animosity between Greece and Germany aroused by this debt catastrophe is proof that the “European dream” of transforming the historic nations of Western Europe into one single brotherly federation, on the model of the United States of America, is a total flop. The sense of belonging to a single nation, with all for one and one for all, simply does not exist between peoples whose languages, traditions and customs are as diverse as those between Finns and Greeks. Adopting a common currency, far from bringing them together, has driven them farther apart.
But was this disaster actually dictated by the wicked Germans?
In reality, very many Germans, from the right-wing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble all the way to the former leader of the left party “Die Linke” Oskar Lafontaine would have preferred a very different solution: Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. Schaüble was thinking of German finances, while Lafontaine was thinking of what would be best for the people of Greece – and of Europe as a whole.
Between those two extremes, a German compromise could have averted the abject surrender of July 12, by organizing Greece’s return to its national currency, the drachma.
Indeed, by the time of the Greek referendum, a majority of European Union creditor governments would have preferred to see Greece leave the Eurozone.
The one government that crowed with victory over the Greek surrender was the French government of François Hollande. In last minute negotiations, France took the position that Greece absolutely must be kept in the Eurozone, in order to “save Europe”. French commentators are jubilant that Hollande “stood up to Merkel” and saved both the sacrosanct “Franco-German couple” and the European Union itself by insisting that Greece stick to the hard currency that is killing it.
So can we conclude that Greece surrendered to France?
Let’s not be ridiculous. The French debt rivals that of Greece, with the difference, of course, that France has a real economy. France owns the largest share of Greek debt after Germany. But nevertheless, France is also eventually threatened by the Eurozone rules that are imposing debt servitude on southern European member states. France is in no position to dictate economic policy to Germany.
And that observation brings us around to the factor that has been overlooked in the case of Greece: the relationship of forces within the “trans-Atlantic community” and its military branch, NATO.
The United States has been relatively discrete during this crisis, but Washington’s will is known. Greece must stay tightly within the European Union, for geopolitical reasons. Just look where Greece is, and what it is: an Orthodox Christian country with traditional good relations with Russia, located on the Mediterranean not so far from “Putin’s Russia”. Greece must not be allowed to drift away. Period.
Another question that has been totally overlooked: is it possible for a NATO member country to shift policy in a way contrary to U.S. interests? Is it free to move toward truly friendly relations with Russia? Greece has seen a military putsch in the not so distant past. The command and control of NATO member countries is closely monitored by the United States military.
Since former President Nicolas Sarkozy reversed General de Gaulle’s strategic move to ensure national independence and returned France to the NATO command, France has indeed aligned itself with Washington to an unprecedented extent. With his brief show of “standing up to Madame Merkel”, François Hollande was in fact carrying out the policy of Victoria Nuland.
The European Union (including Germany) will continue to wrestle with its “Greek problem”, while Greece will continue to be strangled by the European Union.
The European surrender to the United States occurred about seventy years ago. It was welcomed as a liberation, of course, but it has turned into lasting domination. It was simply reconfirmed by the July 12, 2015, Greek surrender. And that surrender has been enforced by an increasingly hegemonic ideology of anti-nationalism, particularly strong in the left, that considers “nationalism” to be the source of all evil, and the European Union the source of all good, since it destroys the sovereignty of nations. This ideology is so dominant on the left that very few leftists dare challenge it – and Syriza was leftist in exactly that way, believing in the virtue of “belonging to the European Union”, whatever the pain and suffering it entails. Thus Syriza did not even prepare for leaving the Eurozone, much less for leaving the European Union.
As a result, only “right-wing” parties dare defend national sovereignty. Or rather, anyone who defends national sovereignty will be labeled “right-wing”. It is too easily forgotten that without national sovereignty, there can be no democracy, no people’s choice. As the Greek disaster obliges more and more Europeans to have serious doubts about EU policy, the mounting desire to reassert national sovereignty faces the obstacle of left-right stereotypes. Much of the European left is finding itself increasingly caught in the contradiction between its anti-nationalist “European dream” and the destruction of democracy by the EU’s financial bureaucracy. The Greek drama is the opening act of a long and confused European conflict.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book, Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, will be published by CounterPunch in September 2015. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
European creditors should either write down a massive amount of Athens’ debt or give Greece a 30-year grace period if they want it to recover and repay, according to a Reuters’ report citing International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials and a secret study.
Taking into account Greece’s growing financial needs, its debt situation is “unsustainable,” according to the latest IMF projections contained in a confidential report obtained by Reuters. The new data, sent by the IMF to EU governments late on Monday after a new Greek bailout plan was agreed upon in principle, states that the 86-billion-euro program will not save Greece from financial collapse.
The updated debt sustainability analysis, which is said to have been released by the fund now that several media outlets have leaked the data, calls for a considerable portion of the Greek debt to be written off.
“The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date – and what has been proposed by the ESM [European Stability Mechanism bailout fund],” the IMF paper says.
According to the leaked study, Greece’s debt will peak at nearly 200 percent of economic output in the next two years, standing at 170 percent of GDP even by 2022. Previously published estimates had put the figures at 177 percent and 142 percent respectively.
The IMF now estimates that Athens’ gross financing needs will rise above the “safe” 15 percent of GDP threshold and continue rising in the long term. Moreover, even those projections “remain subject to considerable downside risk,” the study said
A 30-year grace period on servicing the Greek European debt, including new loans, would have to be provided by the European creditors, as well as a significant maturity extension, the IMF believes. Otherwise, the creditors would have to make annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on their loans, the report says.
Greece is in need of much greater debt relief than European governments are willing to acknowledge, and this measure is needed to let the Greek economy recover, a senior IMF official told Reuters late on Tuesday.
“I don’t think this is a gimmick or kicking the can down the road… This is a dramatic measure to take the entire European stock [of debt] and reprofile it,” for Greece to have a chance of “getting some growth back,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
For the IMF to remain involved in financial aid for Greece, its debt must be deemed “sustainable” by the fund – something which the latest study does not believe possible.
“Borrowing at anything but AAA rates in the near term will bring about an unsustainable debt dynamic for the next several decades,” the paper says, challenging the assumption voiced by some European officials that in 2018 Greece will already be able to meet some of its financing needs by going to the markets.
The publication of the IMF report comes on the heels of other disclosures, such as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble revealing that some members of the government in Berlin would have preferred that Greece take a “time-out” from the eurozone rather than give it another bailout.
Meanwhile, the new debt sustainability figures for Greece had reportedly been given to European finance ministers on Saturday – well before the Monday deal was concluded.
The timing of the leak coincides with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s attempt to convince his parliament that accepting the deal is the only option if Greece is to remain in the euro and avoid economic collapse.
Tsipras gave a live TV interview defending the deal ahead of Wednesday’s parliamentary session that is to decide the issue. The outcome of the vote is far from certain, with many of the Syriza leader’s fellow party members unhappy with the new bailout plan.
While revealing he “does not believe in” the bailout plan, Tsipras argued that the deal was the only way for Greece to stay in the EU – something that he said was a “one way street” option imposed on the Greeks. However, he claimed that he had still managed to win certain concessions such as avoiding wage and pension cuts and securing ‘fresh money’ from European states.
“This has nothing to do with economics. It has nothing to do with putting Greece back on the rails towards recovery.”
— Yanis Varoufakis, Jul 13, 2015
Alexis Tsipras, along with his crew of negotiators, had done much with little. His Syriza government had been fighting a war of attrition with creditors and, with the hectoring Yanis Varoufakis, parried them for weeks. But the European credit system does, however, demand more than its pound of flesh. It demands those who do not play by the rules – and these rules are of the most dubious import – surrender their sovereignty.
On Tuesday, Tsipras faces an internal revolt after making a three year deal with Eurozone leaders that would see the accumulation of more debt – another 86 billion euro bailout – to service an already crippling burden. It also sees greater involvement of the International Monetary Fund, the grand bugbear of austerity finance.
Instead of exiting a system weakened by its own internal contradictions and failings, Greece is to partake in another mistake wrapped in the rhetoric of pro-European kitsch. In what is tantamount to placing a gun to the head of Greece’s sovereignty, parliamentarians will have till Wednesday to finalise what effectively amounts to a suicide pact.
The accord effectively sees the German-led Eurozone group demand control of Greek finances without the provision of debt relief or even a vague sense of genuine debt restructuring. This is a creditor’s vision on steroids, absurdly ambitious and destructive.
Varoufakis saw it coming, calling it “worse” than any other deals placed on the table before. “I trust and hope that our government will insist on debt restructuring, but I can’t see how German finance minister [Wolfgang Schäuble] is ever going to sign up to this. If he does, it will be a miracle” (New Statesman, Jul 13).
Independent Greek leader Panos Kammenos had made his opposition to another round of austerity concessions crystal clear and unimpeachable. “In a parliamentary democracy there are rules and we uphold them.” Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Deputy Labor Minister Dimitris Stratoulis have both expressed public opposition to the measures and risk the sack. Given the calculations in store, Tsipras will have to rely on the pro-European opposition parties, who were resoundingly beaten in the referendum.
The entire arrangement reeks of a seizure of sovereignty, the use of debt bondage and creditor supervision instead of the customary weapons associated with a military invasion. Further to the usual barbarities of savaging the local economy, be it increases in value added taxes, cutting pensions and the placing of automatic spending constraints, a jumbo sale of 50 billion euros worth of public assets is being forced upon Greece. Greece, in other words, is effectively being told to sell itself into private hands.
Money obtained from that sequestration of assets is to be placed in a trust fund that will be beyond government hands, another absurdly dangerous measure that will remind Greek citizens where their referendum voice has gone. Tsipras could only say that the agreement had “averted the plan for financial strangulation.” In truth, the Eurozone leaders had rounded up on him in a feast of vengeful savagery, instigating moves that will further cause a constriction in the economy.
Merkel’s austerity fanatics have not covered themselves in glory. They have supervised a sickly vision of capture and control, using austerity as their weapon of choice. Merkel has herself been asked to compare the brutal agreement being demanded of Greece to Germany’s own Versailles Treaty of 1919, where indebtedness and bondage took centre stage in a punitive arrangement. “I won’t take part in historical comparisons, especially when I didn’t make them myself.” Sleepwalking in history can prove to be a dangerous habit.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, forgetting his own reservations about the legitimacy of the Troika’s demands, threw up the customary straw man in the argument. Grexit was to be avoided at the cost of Greek sovereignty. “The agreement was laborious, but it has been concluded. There is no Grexit.”
Astonishingly, he suggested that the compromise had seen “no winners and no losers. I don’t think the Greek people have been humiliated, nor that the other Europeans have lost face. It is a typical European arrangement.”
This, says Varoufakis, is precisely the problem. The Troika was insincere from the start, refusing to genuinely deal with the crisis while offering inconceivably crushing terms. Bad faith was their game; illegitimacy was their spirit. (Varoufakis repeatedly noted throughout negotiations that the Eurogroup has no legal standing, yet possesses enormous power over individual Europeans.) “The other side insisted on a ‘comprehensive agreement’, which meant they wanted to talk about everything. My interpretation is that when you want to talk about everything, you don’t want to talk about anything.”
The next chapter in this poorly minted odyssey, one of tragic proportions, is whether the Greek parliament gives its approval to the accord. The Germans will take their turn on Friday, with Merkel having to butter MPs up with a needlessly punitive arrangement that is nothing more than economic sadism. Should the package pass in these parliaments, we would have seen a financial coup d’état in the making, and one that weakens all parties. Now that promises to be an all too typical European arrangement.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: email@example.com
In recent weeks, there has been much discussion about what to do about Greece. These questions become all the more relevant as the country attempts to float a multibillion-euro bond issue later this week. The Financial Times has called this fund-raising a critical test of Greece’s credibility in financial markets as it battles with a spiraling debt crisis and strikes. The “credibility” of the financial markets is an important consideration in a country which has functionally ceded its sovereign ability to create currency, and thus remains dependent on the vagaries of the very banking institutions which helped create the mess in the first place.
Maybe Greece should secede from the European Union and default on its euro debt? Or go hat-in-hand to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to beg for loans while promising to clean up its act? Or to the stronger Euro nations, hoping for charitable acts of forgiveness? Unfortunately, all of these options are going to mean a lot of pain and suffering for an economy that is already sinking rapidly.
And it is questionable whether any of them provide long term viable answers. Polls show that given the perception of fiscal excesses of Greece and the other countries on the periphery, the public in Germany opposes a bailout of these countries at its expense by a significant margin. Periphery countries such as Ireland that have already undertaken harsh austerity measures also oppose the notion of a bailout, despite-nay, because of — the tremendous pain already inflicted on their own respective economies (in Ireland’s case, the banks are probably insolvent as well). The IMF route is also problematic, given that Greece probably doesn’t qualify under normal IMF standards, and many euro zone nations would find this unpalatable from an ideological standpoint, as it would mean ceding control of EU macro policy to an external international institution with strong US influence.
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted an article by Simon Johnson and Peter Boone, lamenting that the demands being foisted on Greece and other struggling Euronations would “massively curtail demand, lower wages and reduce the public sector workforce. The last time we saw this kind of precipitate fiscal austerity — when nations were tied to the gold standard — it contributed to the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s”. Where we disagree with Johnson and Boone is the suggestion that the IMF be brought in to craft a solution. Any help from this organization will come with tight strings attached — indeed, with a noose around Greece’s neck. Germany and France would be crazy to commit their scarce euros to a bail-out of Greece since they face both internal threats from their own taxpayers and external threats from financial vampires who are looking for yet another nation to attack.
Here’s a more appropriate action: declare war on Goldman Sachs and other global financial firms that created this mess. Send the troops, the planes, the tanks, and the ships. Attack every outpost of the saboteurs on European soil. Blockade the airports and ports. Make Wall Street traders and CEOs fear for their lives, or at least for their freedom to travel. Build some Guantanamo-like facility to hold these enemy financial combatants until they can be tried, convicted, and properly punished.
OK, if a literal armed attack on Goldman is too far-fetched, then go after the firm using the full force of the regulatory and legal systems. Close the offices and go through the files with a fine-tooth comb. Issue subpoenas to all non-clerical staff for court appearances. Make the internal emails public. Post the names of all managers and traders on Interpol. Arrest anyone who tries to board a plane, train, or boat; confiscate their passports; revoke their visas and work permits; and put a hold on their bank accounts until culpability can be assessed. Make life at least as miserable for them as it now is for Europe’s tens of millions of unemployed workers.
We know that the Obama administration will not go after the banksters that created this global financial calamity. It has been thoroughly co-opted by Wall Street’s fifth column-who hold most of the important posts in the administration. Europe has even more at stake and has shown somewhat more willingness to take action. Perhaps our only hope for retribution lies there.
Some might believe the term “banksters” is too mean. Surely Wall Street was just doing its job-providing the financial services wanted by the world. Yes, it all turned out a tad unfortunate but no one could have foreseen that so many of the financial innovations would turn into black swans. And hasn’t Wall Street learned its lesson and changed its practices? Fat chance. We know from internal emails that everyone on Wall Street saw this coming-indeed, they sold trash assets and placed bets that they would crater. The crisis was not a mistake-it was the foregone conclusion. The FBI warned of an epidemic of fraud back in 2004-with 80% of the fraud on the part of lenders. As Bill Black has been warning since the days of the Saving and Loan crisis, the most devastating kind of fraud is the “control fraud”, perpetrated by the financial institution’s management. Wall Street is, and was, run by control frauds. Not only were they busy defrauding the borrowers, like Greece, but they were simultaneously defrauding the owners of the firms they ran. Now add to that list the taxpayers that bailed out the firms. And Goldman is front and center when it comes to bad apples.
Lest anyone believe that Goldman’s executives were somehow unaware of bad deals done by rogue traders, William Cohan reports that top management unloaded their Goldman stocks in March 2008 when Bear crashed, and again when Lehman collapsed in September 2008. Why? Quite simple: they knew the firm was full of toxic waste that it would not be able to continue to unload on suckers-and the only protection it had came from AIG, which it knew to be a bad counter-party. Hence on March 19, Jack Levy (co-chair of M&As) sold over $5 million of Goldman’s stock and bet against 60,000 more shares; Gerald Corrigan (former head of the NY Fed who was rewarded for that tenure with a position as managing director of Goldman) sold 15,000 shares in March; Jon Winkelried (Goldman’s co-president) sold 20,000 shares. After the Lehman fiasco, Levy sold over $6 million of Goldman shares and Masanori Mochida (head of Goldman in Japan) sold $56 million worth. The bloodletting by top management only stopped when Goldman got Geithner’s NYFed to produce a bail-out for AIG, which of course turned around and funneled government money to Goldman. With the government rescue, the control frauds decided it was safe to stop betting against their firm. So much for the “savvy businessmen” that President Obama believes to be in charge of Wall Street firms like Goldman.
From 2001 through November 2009 (note the date-a full year after Lehman) Goldman created financial instruments to hide European government debt, for example through currency trades or by pushing debt into the future. But not only did Goldman and other financial firms help and encourage Greece to take on more debt, they also brokered credit default swaps on Greece’s debt-making income on bets that Greece would default. No doubt they also took positions as the financial conditions deteriorated-betting on default and driving up CDS spreads.
But it gets even worse: An article by the German newspaper, Handelsblatt, (”Die Fieberkurve der griechischen Schuldenkrise”, Feb. 20, 2010) strongly indicates that AIG, everybody’s favorite poster boy for financial deviancy, may have been the party which sold the credit default swaps on Greece (English translation here).
Generally, speaking, these CDSs lead to credit downgrades by ratings agencies, which drive spreads higher. In other words, Wall Street, led here by Goldman and AIG, helped to create the debt, then helped to create the hysteria about possible defaults. As CDS prices rise and Greece’s credit rating collapses, the interest rate it must pay on bonds rises-fueling a death spiral because it cannot cut spending or raise taxes sufficiently to reduce its deficit.
Having been bailed out by the Obama Administration, Wall Street firms are already eying other victims (and for allowing these kinds of activities to continue, the US Treasury remains indirectly complicit, another good reason why one shouldn’t expect any action coming out of Washington). Since the economic collapse is causing all Euronations to run larger budget deficits and at the same time is raising CDS prices and interest rates, it is easy to pick off nation after nation. This will not stop with Greece, so it is in the interest of Euroland to stop the vampires now.
With Washington unlikely to do anything to constrain Goldman, it looks like the European Union, which is launching a major audit, just might banish the bank from dealing in government debt. The problem is that CDS markets are essentially unregulated so such a ban will not prevent Wall Street from bringing down more countries-because they do not have to hold debt in order to bet against it using CDSs. These kinds of derivatives have already brought down an entire continent — Asia — in the late 1990s , and yet authorities are still standing by and basically doing nothing when CDSs are being used again to speculatively attack Euroland. The absence of sanctions last year, when we had a chance to deal with this problem once and for all, has simply induced even more outrageous and fundamentally anti-social behavior. It has pitted neighbor against neighbor-with, for example, Germany and Greece lobbing insults at one another (Greece has requested reparations for WWII damages; Germany has complained about subsidizing what it perceives to be excessive social spending in Greece).
Of course, as far as Greece goes, the claim now is that these types of off balance sheet transactions in which Goldman and others engaged were not strictly “illegal” under EU law. But these are precisely the kinds of “shadow banking transactions” that almost brought down the global financial system 18 months ago. Literally a year after the Lehman bankruptcy — MONTHS after Goldman itself was saved from total ruin, it was again engaging in these kinds of deals.
And it wasn’t exactly a low-level functionary or “rogue trader” who was carrying out these transactions on behalf of Goldman. Gary Cohn is Lloyd “We’re doing God’s work” Blankfein’s number 2 man. So it’s hard to believe that St. Lloyd did not sanction the activities as well in advance of collecting his “modest” $9m bonus for last year’s work.
If these are examples of Obama’s “savvy businessmen“, then heaven help the global economy. The transaction highlighted, if reported that way in the private sector, would be accounting fraud. Fraud – “Go to jail, do not pass Go” fraud. That senior bankers had no problem in structuring/recommending/selling such deals to cash-strapped governments should probably not surprise us at this point. However, it would be interesting to know if the prop trading desks of those same investment banks, purely by coincidence of course, then took long CDS (short the credit) positions in the credit of the countries doing the hidden swaps. A proper legal investigation by the EU could reveal this and certainly help to uncover much of the financial chicanery which has done so much destruction to the global economy over the past several years.
In this country, we have had a “war on terror” and a “war on drugs” and yet we refuse to declare war on these financial weapons of mass destruction. We all remember Jimmy Carter’s “MEOW”-the attempt to attack creeping inflation that was said to sap the strength of the US economy in the late 1970s. But Europe-and indeed the entire globe-faces a much more dangerous and immediate threat from Wall Street’s banksters. They created this mess and are not only profiting from it, but are actively preventing recovery. They are causing unemployment, starvation, destruction of lives, and even violence and terrorism across the world. They are certainly more dangerous than the inflation of the 1970s, and arguably have disrupted more lives than Osama bin Laden-whose actions led the US to undertake military actions in at least three countries. That should provide ample justification for Greece’s declaration of figurative war on Manhattan.
However, in an ironic twist of fate, it was just announced that Petros Christodoulou will take over as the head of Greece’s national debt management agency. He worked as the head of derivatives at JP Morgan, and also previously worked at Goldman-the firm that got Greece into all this trouble!
Dimitri Papadimitriou has recently made what we consider to be an important plea for moderation of the hysteria about Greece’s debt. Writing in the Financial Times, he complained that “The plethora of articles in your pages and others, some arguing in favour and other against a bail-out, contribute to market confusion and drive the country’s financing costs to record levels. It is not yet clear that a bail-out is even needed, but this market confusion is rendering the government’s ability to achieve its deficit goals ever more difficult.”
Indeed, we suspect that the same financial firms that helped to get Greece into its predicament are profiting from — and stoking the fires of — the hysteria. He goes on, “what Greece really needs now is a holiday from further market confusion being created by contradictory, alarmist public commentary”.
Greece, Euroland in general, and the rest of the world all need a holiday from the manipulation and destruction of our economies by Wall Street firms that profit from speculative bubbles, from burying firms, households, and governments under mountains and debt, and even from the crises that they create. Governments all over the globe should use all legal means at their disposal to ferret out the bad faith and even fraudulent deals that global financial behemoths are foisting on us.
Roosevelt Institute Braintruster Marshall Auerback is a market analyst and commentator.
L. Randall Wray is Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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.