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Could a phoenix rise from the LibLabCon ashes?

The FT “few question Mr Corbyn’s seriousness and integrity”; Boris Johnson’s verdict: thoughtful, caring and principled


Extracts from an article by George Parker, the FT’s political editor:

Mr Parker said that, in a Europe where anti-austerity parties are on the march, Jeremy Corbyn offers a more radical approach, capturing some of the leftwing anger of Syriza or Podemos: “I have been in Greece, I have been in Spain. It’s very interesting that social democratic parties that accept the austerity agenda and end up implementing it end up losing a lot of members and a lot of support.” He continued:

“He often turned out to be right in the causes he pursued though it did not always feel that way:

  • He backed the jailed Nelson Mandela;
  • spoke up for the people wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA pub bombings in the UK; opposed Mr Blair’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003
  • and engaged with “friends” in Hamas and Hizbollah in pursuit of Middle East peace.

At the time he ‘earned criticism’ but, Parker adds an accolade, “few question Mr Corbyn’s seriousness and integrity . . . he offers ideological  certainty” – in other words he knows his mind and speaks the truth – a rare commodity in today’s politics.

Boris Johnson would say that wouldn’t he?

Writing in the Sun Boris Johnson, London mayor, says: Of course, he won’t actually win this leadership election. His ideas would be economically ruinous and would impose huge new taxes on working people”.

He may well be quite wrong: Corbyn may win this leadership election; his implemented policies could lead to increased employment and higher taxes on those who can afford them may well be used constructively.

Johnson says that the reason Jeremy Corbyn strikes such a chord with the electorate can be summed up in one word: Authenticity: “Whatever you say about the veteran MP for Islington, he has thought about his positions. He cares. And he puts his principles into practice” and asks: “Can you really say he has been as eccentric as all that?

  • He spent decades campaigning for higher minimum wages for workers.
  • Yes, he was one of the early campaigners against apartheid. Quite right, too — these days Mandela is regarded as a kind of modern saint.
  • Yes, he was in favour of bringing the IRA to the negotiating table, a view treated as semi-treacherous at the time.
  • These days he looks prescient — Martin McGuinness meets the Queen and no one bats an eyelid. Yes, he abominated the Iraq war and rebelled countless times against the government of Tony Blair.
  • But these days you look at what is happening in Iraq and Syria — the almost daily bombings and massacres — and you have to respect his judgment.

“The reason he is doing so well is that by comparison with the other Labour leadership candidates — a bunch of relatively anaemic, gelatinous and vacillating opportunists — Jeremy Corbyn looks passionate and principled. And that has lessons for everyone in politics”.

Not convinced? Watch him on Newsnight:

Britain’s last best hope

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.

Multinational vultures cluster round Greece’s carcase, picking off airports, ports, tourist resorts, energy assets and utilities

The sentence of privatisation, which Britain has found inefficient and expensive in most cases, has been passed on Greece.

On July 12, the summit of eurozone leaders dictated terms to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who accepted all, including the sale of Greece’s remaining public assets.

Business Insider reports that Eurozone leaders demanded that Greek public assets be transferred to an independent fund renamed the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), to help to make the scheduled repayment of the new loan and recapitalization of banks and other assets. The fund was set up in July 2011 after the Greek sovereign debt crisis and opposed by Syriza, which suspended most planned privatisations when it came to power.

Ben Chu (the Independent) reports that Germany originally proposed that HRADF be run from Luxembourg by a German state bank, prompting accusations on social media of a German “coup”.

‘Big-ticket items’ listed on the HRADF’s website for interested buyers

athens airport

  • state lottery,
  • horse-betting,
  • Olympic venues,
  • Athens International Airport,
  • 37 regional airports,
  • Port of Piraeus and 100% of the shares of 11 other ports,
  • many marinas,
  • tourist resorts,
  • state real estate especially on picture-perfect islands,
  • thermal springs on the mainland,
  • hotels with high historical and cultural value in privileged locations,
  • Greek real estate holdings in New York, Washington and Belgrade
  • And the Public Power Corporation S.A., which provides energy to four-fifths of the country’s population.

Other companies which may be sold include a natural gas importer and distributor, three oil refineries, Athens water company, the postal provider, ELTA, more than 400 miles of roads, TRAINOSE (railroad and bus transport) and ROSCO which maintains Greek trains.

Ben Chu adds that the IMF estimates Greece’s saleable state assets were worth around half the sum needed and that the proceeds from future privatisations are likely to be only €500m a year: “At that rate the €50bn would not be reached for 100 years”.

A ‘smoke and mirrors’ measure?

His conclusion: “(T)he fund is more like a face-saving measure by Germany, designed to give the impression to German voters that the Greeks will pay for their own bailout”.

But where will this leave Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was elected largely on a promise to stop and reverse high-profile privatization of valuable state-owned assets?

And how do the Greek people regard these measures?


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. 


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’ ”.

Establishment urged to ‘Keep calm in the face of European populism’ – Greens, SNP, NHAP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP please note

99%-3Knives are out for ‘populism’

First debase its meaning:

A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite, becomes ‘a political ideology claiming’/‘asserting’ that it speaks for the common people’, (FT editorial, 28th December), adding:

“They must persuade voters that core elements of the populists’ platforms are incoherent and unrealistic. If implemented, they would harm the economies, social fabric and international standing of their nations”.

The writer adds that an ongoing search will be made for ‘skeletons’ in the cupboards of senior ‘populists’ which can be used to discredit them – standard political tactics beloved of our British ‘Whips’.

The clearest and most objective account of affairs in Spain and Greece was found in a Bloomberg article by Charles Penty in Madrid:

Podemos, a new movement that grew out of street demonstrations against politicians and banks, won five seats in the European Parliament as Spanish voters lent their voice to protests against mainstream parties. It was co-founded earlier this year on the model of Syriza, now leading polls in Greece, by Professor Pablo Iglesias, other academics and participants of the Indignados movement, born after the 2008 financial crisis.

In September, the Wall Street Journal marvelled: “Something extraordinary is going on in European politics. The populist rebellion saw fringe parties secure almost 25% of the seats in the European Parliament in May”, adding that Podemos is the preferred option for 18% of those likely to vote in Spain, citing an opinion poll by Spain’s state-controlled Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.

Global finance might be on the verge of losing this freedom and facing some borders soon if the latest polls from Spain, Greece and Slovenia prove to be an accurate forecast.

Cameron's real changePodemos calls for political control over the European Central Bank and unlimited purchases of government bonds and appears to be a natural ally for Alexis Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party, which won the biggest share of the vote and six seats in Greece.

In November Srecko Horvat shed some light on Syriza, the most popular party in Greece, with an 11% lead over New Democracy commenting: “If an early general election were held in February, there is almost no doubt that Syriza would finally be able to form a government”.

The FT advises politicians to “renounce the discredited game of making patently undeliverable promises in order to win office. If it is too much to expect them to come fully clean about their past occasional incompetence, they can at least say humbly that they will try their best next time to meet higher standards”.

Not a word is said, however, about the corruption which so often exposed in Britain, and currently making headlines in Spain: see the Economist.

gravy trainThe Spain Report, which accepts no advertisements, opting for original, independent, focused, quality, in-depth news reporting and editorial analysis, comments:

“The contrast between cold-hearted market-focused eurocrats and the will and passion of the poorer people in southern Europe will be very stark indeed.

The FT reassures vested interests: “In most countries, populist parties relish their outsider status and prefer slogan-making to the compromises essential to democratic government”.

Could the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and NHAP, driven by a concern for the public good,  manage to work with and influence UKIP for the better? It would be well worth the effort.