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European politics: does Germany want a failed-state buffer region to absorb or discourage the immigrant influx?

The hundreds of visitors who came to read an earlier article on Greece, reblogged on Global Research, might be interested in this proposition:

Richard and Janet in Delphi celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary

Richard and Janet in Delphi celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary

Richard Heinberg was in Greece from June at the invitation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which had organized a conference on philanthropy and sustainability.

The Foundation is doing remarkable work in helping the people of Greece deal with their ongoing economic crisis.

Stavros Niarchos has spent $100 million so far on jobs-creating projects in technology innovation and cultural preservation, and has promised another $200 million for the years to come.

He continues: “These ancient people built in stone and inscribed their ideas on tablets. Yet how fragile their achievements proved to be in the face of economic decline and the onslaughts of invaders … “Any way you look at it, the people of Greece are headed toward misery. And you can see it on their faces . . . “

“In the end, this is an end-of-growth dilemma. If Greece’s economy were still expanding at its 1990s rate, there is at least a chance that the government could repay its debt. But that kind of growth is now unachievable. And as the whole global economy sputters, it is nations like Greece, which live largely from tourism and import all their oil, that will likely confront growth limits first” . . .

Is Germany willing to see Greece—and maybe eventually another country or two—exit the euro, and perhaps the European Union as well, so as to create a failed-state buffer region to either absorb or discourage the immigrant influx?

A summary of the final paragraphs of Richard’s article follows. Refugees from political chaos in the Middle East, and from worsening African poverty, have fed rapid population growth in Athens (and Istanbul as well). Immigration has led to the requirement for more investment in schools, roads, and other infrastructure, and hence more borrowing to finance such projects.

This is a problem for Europe as a whole, but it’s the entry points (Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain) that bear the brunt. No doubt European nations situated further north would like a firewall against this tide of immigrants, which can only expand as the century wears on.

One man speculated that an unspoken subtext of the debt crisis might be that Germany is willing to see Greece—and maybe eventually another country or two—exit the euro, and perhaps the European Union as well, so as to create a failed-state buffer region to either absorb or discourage the immigrant influx.

Greece offers an opportunity to study the challenges and opportunities of the end of economic growth for those in the “developed” world. But it’s more than a historic test case; Greece is a nation of 11 million people who face real hardship. Wish them well; you might be next.

Read his article here: http://www.postcarbon.org/greece-diary/

Do governments “callously and deliberately neglect” food producers to avoid alienating corporate party funders?

Farmer suicides noose

Ms Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, says British farming is one of the Government’s key successes – though farmers are taking their own lives at a rate of one a week, according to many sources, though officialdom is reticent about this.

The Times of India reports that Maharashtra’s farmer suicide count in the six-month span from January to June this year stood at 1,300 cases, the state’s revenue department figures show.

Respected analyst Devinder Sharma points out that indebtedness and bankruptcy tops the reasons behind these suicides; followed by family problems and farming related issues. In both countries the authorities try to evade the real issue and blame the availability of shotguns, pesticides and so on.

Snapshots from a presentation to the UN summarises the real reasons:

farmers suicide some reasons3

British and Indian governments daren’t offend the party funding middlemen and corporate end-buyers who – without lifting a finger – profit from the food produced at the expense of the hard-working producers who are often obliged to sell at a loss.

More respect from the new Greek government

At least – the Financial Times points out – in Greece, Syriza is allowing some leeway to those producing the most essential goods. They are refusing to increase the financial burdens on farmers, who at present pay 13% per cent income tax, compared with the general 25% rate, and receive special treatment for fuel and fertiliser expenses.

With 12.4% of the country’s labour force employed in producing food and cotton and a thriving fishing industry, the new Greece government is showing some grasp of essentials and priorities – would that the British and Indian governments showed similar respect for their most important workers.

Jeremy Corbyn: an honest politician who cares for the 99%

jeremy corbyn

Corbyn is a true socialist, and a strong anti-poverty advocate. His words about Greece apply to Britain as well

jeremy corbyn text

He is and has always been against:

        • NHS privatisation
        • lighter banking regulation,
        • the Iraq war
        • introducing tuition fees in England,
        • academies
        • private finance initiatives
        • Gaza–Israel conflict
        • corporate tax loopholes

      He is and has been for: 

        • the release of the Guildford Four
        • the release of Nelson Mandela
        • the release of Birmingham Six
        • renationalisation of railways
        • a higher minimum wage
        • a higher rate of tax for the wealthiest
        • an increased corporate tax rate to fund public services
        • Palestine Solidarity Campaign
        • the rights of the forcibly-removed Chagossians to return to their territory

He has the spirit of the postwar Labour government and, after speaking about his own beliefs, records their achievements on television, here:

jeremy corbyn rt 1                                                                                               

At hustings up and down the country Jeremy Corbyn is being cheered on. See a brief clip on education from the contenders’ evening in Birmingham. It was interesting to see Andy Burnham applauding Corbyn whilst the other contenders looked askance. According to the Telegraph, the MP for Islington North ‘wows’ audience .

99%-3

Readers who feel so moved may donate to his campaign costs and wish him well on September 12:

https://jeremyforlabour.nationbuilder.com/donate

 

Can we learn from Syriza, despite the jeers of the ‘narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy’?

Eurozone officials recently had to call off a visit by bailout inspectors to Athens, after Greek authorities objected to a trip similar to previous audits by the “troika” — the trio of creditor institutions (IMF, EC, ECB).

left unity syrizaSeventy people in Birmingham, including a delegation from the Spanish Podemos, came to a Left Unity meeting to hear Marina Prentoulis of Syriza speak about the situation that the new anti-austerity government is facing in Greece.

Even though – as LSE economist, Francesco Caselli writes in the FT – collecting taxes is central to any attempt to rebuild the Greek government’s ability to secure revenues meeting the needs of an industrialised economy, EC uncivil servants were said to have “laughed out loud” and described the Greek proposal to combat value added tax evasion as “quite hilarious, if it were not so tragic”. Caselli comments:

prof francesco caselli”Greece is at the mercy of a narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy ignorant of local culture and history and incapable of recognising truly creative, promising, innovative ideas that might help Greece out of its horrendous predicament”.

“Anyone with the slightest experience of life in countries where value added tax is routinely flouted (a category that clearly does not include the officials in question) knows that no matter how sternly the government promises fines and punishments for the evaders, nothing will change until the deeply ingrained culture of tacit acquiescence by customers is broken”.

Caselli mentions two successful measures which yielded large tax receipts and, “perhaps more importantly, did much to shatter the culture of passive acquiescence”:

  • In the 1990s Italy fined customers who left a shop without a receipt,
  • and Argentina exchanged receipts for lottery tickets.

He adds: “It is a fair bet that eurozone officials would have laughed out loud if confronted with such ideas. Far better to carry on destroying the economy and living standards with the current litany of cuts in employment, social transfers and social services”.

The Global Minotaur, a monster born in the ‘70s, became the ‘engine’ pulling the world economy from the early ‘80s to 2008

News of Zed Books’ free e-book from the new finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has been received.

Yanis Varoufakis 2The Troika – a group of auditors representing the Commission, the European Central Bank and IMF – has been shaken this week by Syriza’s election victory in Greece.

Promising a backlash against EU fiscal policy, Alexis Tspiras’ young leftist party intends to address the austerity regime punishing Europe.

At the centre of the political storm is Yanis Varoufakis, a former economics professor, appointed as finance minister of the new Greek coalition government. Varoufakis has already described austerity as a form of “fiscal waterboarding”, and promised that Syriza will “destroy the Greek oligarchy system”. He has outlined what he sees as the cause of the financial crisis – and his plans for pulling Greece out of it – in his book The Global Minotaur.

global minotaur coverIn recognition of this sea-change in European politics, Zed Books have released a special free e-book containing key extracts from The Global Minotaur, America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy (a modified sub-title). Europe After the Minotaur outlines Varoufakis’ economic and political thinking and his belief that Europe can move beyond cuts and austerity.

Varoufakis shows how today’s crisis in Europe is one inevitable symptom of a global ‘system’ which is now as unsustainable as it is unbalanced. With clarity and conviction, he lays out the options available for reintroducing reason into a highly irrational global economic order. 

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To download your free copy of Europe After the Minotaur, follow this link.

For the common good: economists advocate a moral vision to rescue our manipulated, extractive and highly unequal economy

mark mazowerMark Mazower, a British professor of history based at Columbia University, writes in the FT that the moral reasoning that lay behind the Greek election result began from a simple insight: that the economic trauma of the severity Greece has suffered is destroying society:

“With youth unemployment above 50%, an entire generation is being consigned to the scrap heap. At the same time, the notion of the common good is being sacrificed through forced sell-offs of state-owned lands as well as businesses, with the prospect of ecological destruction as a result.

“What is the moral vision the creditor nations propose?

“Frugality is not a policy. And if finance is to serve Europe rather than run it, a notion of the common good needs to be restored. The alternative is an increasingly fractious continent”.

Urban Britain also has a disturbing level of youth unemployment and has sold its state-run utilities for a pittance to foreign companies

michael wilkesTo replace our “desiccated, manipulated, disloyal, extractive and highly unequal economy that has been allowed, and – by some administrations – encouraged”, Birmingham-based economist Emeritus Professor Michael Wilkes advocates a new discipline, socionomics, 

A citizenry of good intent

He acknowledges that the social and moral education needed to produce a citizenry of good intent that will make the socioeconomic system work properly and sustain it for future generations, and that winding back globalisation will take longer and will involve more people and organisations and other countries.

Wilkes advocates certain steps that could be taken immediately:

  • the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation,
  • the introduction of living wages,
  • the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance,
  • the undertaking of thorough corporate reform
  • and the recreation of an active, interventionist and self confident public sector.

He concludes: “These measures would represent leadership in its finest form. This, and the promotion of the concept of stewardship in place of the present self serving forms of ‘leadership’ ”.

Population change? Regime change is difficult, so . . .

In this country,  politicians/corporates have often turned to education in the form of stage-managed consultations about controversial issues such as genetically modified crops and nuclear power. 

In Clare Short’s time, one DFID series actually had the minutes/findings of the workshops written in advance. 

The chairman and chief executive of Enron International, Rebecca Mark, disclosed that she had spent a substantial sum in India ‘educating’ the people, but refused to say who received the money.

 Robert Shrimsley jokes that it is now time to replace the existing population with a technocratic electorate: 

“EU commissioners are surely working on the details now. It won’t be easy. The Greeks have lived in Greece for some time and there is bound to be some resistance. But by putting their own interests before the European project, they have shown themselves unfit for office. 

“There will be some dispute over whether it is necessary to sack the entire population or just enough to ensure a working majority in elections. 

“Chancellor Merkel is understood to have offered to do whatever is necessary to make this plan work – and is ready to redesignate up to 11m Germans as Greek nationals to ensure a smooth handover. 

“They will not need to live in Greece but will be offered holiday homes and depicted as the heirs to Sparta, returning to restore frugality, greatness and dedication to the single currency. On arrival they will flock into Athens waving banners, secretly prepared in German factories, demanding “more cuts” and “fiscal compact now”.” 

Stymied by recalcitrant populations that refuse to commit mass suicide 

R. Vijayaraghavan adds that “Population change” has now entered the political lexicon, in addition to “regime change”.  

Hopefully tongue in cheek, he commends Robert Shrimsley’s FT “Sack the people” for showing the way for the neo-imperialists to help their puppet prime ministers or presidents in other countries, who are “constantly being stymied by recalcitrant populations that refuse to commit mass suicide.”

In a world tailored for the few, corporations hover over Greece, held captive by ‘odious debt’

The UK arms industry, underwritten by the taxpayer via the Exports Credit Guarantee Department has – with other European exporters – saddled the Greek people with debts for military hardware. Greece will now be required to hand over the country’s airports, ports, motorways, water and sewage systems to enrich the corporate world and its political allies. 

EKathimerini (English Edition), the online edition of a daily newspaper published in Athens, tells us

“Thousands are living on the streets, doctors in Athens hospitals are handling only emergencies, bus drivers are on strike, schools are still short of textbooks, thousands of state employees are demonstrating against their dismissal, and every householder has endured a 20% surcharge on electricity bills. But the military has survived unscathed . . . thanks to Franco-German pressure. A table in the FT shows that the size of the country’s military establishment per capita is second only to that of Russia.” 

Blackmailed? 

It is reported that official figures show that EU countries sold Greece over €1 billion of arms at the same time as negotiating its first bail-out back in 2010. Several sources have alleged that the EU bail-out was explicitly tied to these arms deals. In particular, there is alleged to have been concerted pressure from France to buy several stealth frigates. An aide to the former Greek leader, George Papandreou, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuter’s news agency: “No one is saying ‘Buy our warships or we won’t bail you out.’ But the clear implication is that they will be more supportive if we do.” 

UK sales to Greece 

Earlier in March EU Observer noted that the UK has supplied Greece with aircraft and ground vehicle parts, electronic equipment, missiles and over €13 million of chemical or biological toxic agents, riot control agents, radioactive materials – and the University of Plymouth has rejoiced online at forming an ‘exciting international partnership’ providing academic training to the Greek military. 

Paul Hayden commented in the Guardian: “One cannot help but speculate that if Greece’s military spending had been reined in sooner, it would not be experiencing the dramatic crisis it is going through now. And the Greek people, instead of facing austerity measures that have reduced living standards by 30%, might have been able to take a more moderate and sustainable route to reform.” 

Human welfare has been sacrificed to the diktats of the financial system 

Nick Dearden, director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, wrote that “By forcing Greece to speed up its €50 billion privatisation programme, all sorts of goodies – from airports, ports and motorways to water and sewage systems – will come up for sale to be snatched up by the financiers of the countries imposing the policies.  Human welfare has been sacrificed to the diktats of the financial system . . .” 

Do Argentina, Ecuador and Iceland show a better way forward?

Mr. Dearden noted that after the Second World War Germany received massive debt cancellation and its repayments on the remaining debt were explicitly linked to the country’s growth – but no such generosity is being shown now. He observed that when governments default, audit their debts or insist on their own terms for repayment – from Argentina to Ecuador to Iceland they have fared better: 

“. . . they have made some attempts at regaining their sovereignty from the whims of an unstable financial system.”

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What do we call a system which requires the electorate to suffer for the mistakes of politicians and financiers?

As mass demonstrations in Greece reach a crescendo, the contempt a Times columnist poured on the Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese and Italians – and by implication on the English ‘lower classes’ who enjoy holidays in those countries – is rightly denounced on a lively blogspot.

The Times columnist borrowed a phrase from our politicians, pointing out that ‘decent hard-working’ northern people in the rest of the eurozone countries might have to bail out the Greeks. 

The blogger sees this assault on the people of Greece “by those with extended waistlines and bank-balances that contrast with their atrophied moral consciences” as revealing the worst aspects of the UK Establishment. 

As she points out, the people of UK and Greece have a common grievance: they have been deprived of a democratic opportunity to choose how the economic crisis should be tackled. 

The latest article on the blog challenges the assumption that governments and financial systems are separate, describing the outworking of the closely related political and financial system when, after the 2007-8 financial crisis, the financial problems of the private sector became a debt crisis for states: 

“As states poured money into the sector they were forced through their ideology of privatised money to borrow from the ‘financial market’- the banks whose debt they had just rescued . . . Banks have made money lending to states through the front door who had just rescued them through the back door.” 

Many English workers, like their Greek counterparts, are expected to suffer for the mistakes [or worse] made by their governments and financial corporates. In this country we complain, largely in private, and meekly accept the unjust burden of debt – whereas the Greeks have the guts to stand up and face the truth. 

 

What will be the outcome in both countries?