Monthly Archives: June 2012

A New Europe In Bloom?

Bloomsday

Today, 16th June, Bloomsday, there will be a demonstration at the Spire in Dublin with the theme End The Dictatorship of Fear! Support the Greek people, in advance of the Greek elections held on Sunday. That it is Bloomsday is a coincidence, but that doesn’t mean it’s a coincidence that should be ignored.

As the press release for the event noted, Joyce had a deep interest in Greek thought, literature and culture, and Ulysses would not exist without Greece. What is more, the central character, Leopold Bloom, is an internationalist who shuns corrosive and debilitating nationalism.

This is particularly relevant in light of the reigning logic of the European Union, by which member states become the containers in which the values of democracy, equality and universality are crushed by a neoliberal governance increasingly reliant on corporatist nationalism: sacrifices to the market gods must be made for the glory of Ireland Inc, one must pull on the green jersey, and so on.

These market gods have nothing to fear from people pulling on the green jersey; as Jorge Moruno suggests below, what they –or rather, the people behind them- fear is that people might stop thinking like the Citizen from the Cyclops chapter in Ulysses and start thinking like Bloom.

They are afraid of Europe

One only has to take a glance at the main media outlets when they talk about the coming Greek elections to realice that those who are in command are afraid too. They basically present the scenario along the lines of good guys and bad guys. On the one hand, the good guys are the parties of the regime – Pasok, ND- who have managed with blind obedience to the Troika, and the bad guys represent “chaos”; which is the name they have for Syriza. We have to choose between Europe or its destruction. This is how the elites of the continent take part with regard to the “festival of democracy” the coming 17th of June. Pressuring, distorting, smearing and whipping up fear in the population.  

But are they really so terrified because of a posible Greek exit from the euro? I don’t think so. Sure, this worries them, but their greatest worry is that they remain, and the box of Pandora gets opened. The real fear that the financial kleptocracy can have is that people start talking about Europe again, but in a different way. A new narrative about what Europe must or must not be, is what they want to avoid at all costs. For them there is nothing to debate: that falls within the realm of the illusory; they infantilise it, they infantilise us, but it can come to an end.

Syriza propose a debt audit, they tell us that 75% of the debt is illegal, it is odious debt and they make a call to join up with other countries who find themselves in a similar situation. They propose all this and much more without giving up on Europe, why should they have to do so? Perhaps someone claims that by returning to the drachma people’s lives will improve? That is the easy option, it is always there, but it is better to fight the battle on the terrain of complexity, to use a finer thread: we reject your vision of Europe, which is not the same as rejecting Europe.

In his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche examines in depth the causes of what can lead something to be considered good or evil, and he interprets the changes in their meaning over time. Among other matters, he points out that the etymology of the words debt and guilt start from the same root. Whoever has a debt also bears guilt, something that anaesthetises and inflicts emotional defeat on whoever owes it with regard to any intention of not paying. What is at stake is a change of positions between who is guilty and who owes whom.

If most of the debt acquired has been for the benefit of speculators and bankers, but the guarantee is public. If that money loaned money comes from the public, from the Europeans, who provide it to the banks and who in turn to provide it to the States charging a higher interest rate, who is guilty? This is the question that Syriza places on the table, and nothing about an intention of leaving Europe. But the financial machinery prefers to make us believe that exit from the euro is an abyss, before a different model of another Europe, built by its people for its people, can be set forth.

Faced with these stakes Syriza has acted with nimbleness, intelligence and daring. It has made its enemy’s demagogy into its best ally in a fine guerrilla communications move. Instead of closing ranks within the identity built for it by the media and the elites, it has preferred to do a judo move and play with the codes. In one of many posters they make fun of their accusers, saying “Syriza is to blame for everything. It’s Syriza’s fault that we’re going to get eaten by Godzilla”.

Syriza

But why vote or support Syriza? What makes it different? As the philosopher Sánchez Estop says, “Syriza represents something that power can never tolerate: the social movement that has made the the reigning social order democratically unrepresentable and morally unpresentable”. Syriza has managed to turn elections to a liberal parliament into a challenge to the regime of finance itself. Of course it remains to be seen whether it will carry out its programme, whether it will hold out and so on and so forth, but that for the moment is another matter.

Right now, Syriza is growing in the heat of the mobilisations, taking part in them, creating an institutional base that legitimates the voice of the squares. It reflects the aspiration of those below to take part in the res publica –the public thing- so that everybody and anybody can decide about what they see and do. So that the commons is shared out in common, so that those who have no part take up their part and mark out their spaces, their times and their activity: autonomy, that old Greek word.

This coming 17th of June not only will the Greeks go out and vote, it is also we Europeans who have the future of Europe at stake. Debt is the worst enemy of peace: with debt, peace is threatened throughout Europe. Democracy or barbarism. The regime of finance that subjugates the European multitudes is totally infected, it hangs on because it has not finished rotting, but it is now beginning to get gangrene. Europe has only one way out: that of amputating those at the top. Greece is the cradle of democracy and autonomy.  They are not satisfied with being a bibliographical reference, they have decided to recover the meaning of the words because they are not afraid of Europe. And with them, all of us follow behind.

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Various Authors: Why vote Syriza in the Greek elections of June 17th? (Complete Version)

Various authors based in Spain have published their reasons for supporting Syriza in the forthcoming Greek elections this Sunday. On the website La Revuelta de Las Neuronas, various authors based in Spain have published their reasons for supporting Syriza in the forthcoming Greek elections this Sunday. Their contributions are translated below.

Syriza17jun

JOSÉ LUÍS CARRETERO: To accompany the struggle of the Greek people against the anti-social measures of the Troika and of the most voracious capitalism means supporting all of its manifestations. One of these is that of Syriza. Those of us who do not share the uncritical faith in parlamentarianism as the genesis of deep social changes, but who do understand that certain things are not a matter of principles but of strategy, can consider it feasible to raise a defensive wall against the tyranny of debt and the political imposition of governments of national concentration imposed by the global oligarchy.

The present hour is too serious for pettiness or purities. It is the moment for meeting each other in the streets and the squares, to generate new embraces, to contaminate each other beyond the lines traced by senseless dogmatisms. It is in that place, dangerous and full of hope, where the working multitudes directly express their right to resistance, that we will recognise each other. That is the indispensable place that traces the borders. And, whereas effective commitment against cutbacks and misery is displayed through deeds, we will travel together the path toward dignity opened up by the Greek people and we will support all manifestations of their creativity in resistance. If we share struggles, we will share the future.

 

ANDRÉS VILLENA: The eurozone seems to be preparing to strengthen itself internally, but without counting with the Republic of Greece. The new left party represents the best synthesis between Europeanism, political solvency and criticism of the imbalances that have led us to this situation. From this force one hopes for the best negotiation with the creditor countries for remaining within, based on the condition of a proper restructuring of the debt and the possibilities of getting out of the snare that the troika has imposed on the Greek State.

 

JUAN DOMINGO SÁNCHEZ ESTOP: Rarely have I been angry at not being able to participate in elections. I know that, when these contribute toward the representation of the people, they silence the multitude by giving a voice to power. I do not accept elections that prevent me from deciding. Today, however, in Greece, for the first time in too many years, an election can constitute a decision, since one of the rising political forces, Syriza, represents something that power can never tolerate: the social movement that has made the reigning social order democratically unrepresentable and morally unpresentable.

Syriza occupies the vacuum of representation left by power, showing how the neoliberal looting of Greece, Europe and the world is incompatible with democracy, and it opens, as in Latin America, a space for the protagonism of the multitudes, of the everyday citizens. We are therefore witnessing a milestone in the difficult “conquest of democracy”. For this reason, our Greek comrades smile and power puts on a face like a funeral.

 

LILIANA PINEDA: Syriza expresses the mass rejection by the Greek people, broad and sufficiently resounding, of the antisocial economic measures imposed by the European Union, which draw on the lies they have told us to justify the destruction produced by capitalism in its final phase: the complete financialisation of economies, which cyclically promotes the formation of unsustainable public and private debt levels, with the object of appropriating everything that exists, and which only obeys the predatory interest of big transnational corporations.

 

SALVADOR LÓPEZ ARNAL: We should support Syriza, and other forces of the Greek left, out of internationalist solidarity, one of the best values of the left that has not given in, and because in Greece what is at stake -as has been at stake in other occasions and will happen in the future until the economic, political and social framework in Europe and the world is no longer what it is, an avaricious civilisation that is the enemy of humanity, of republican virtues and of Nature itself- an essential stage of the struggle that the European peoples are generating against the exploiters of workers, from the most disadvantaged sectors, against the destroyers of the Earth, against those who are prepared to consign justice, freedom and equality to the trash can of History.

Some years ago, Mrs Thatcher, a very representative figure of the soulless neoliberalism in which we are obliged to live, said it with clarity and ultraconservative arrogance: ‘Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.” And they have continued with that. Syriza, other left forces and the outraged Greek citizens, who are combative and rebellious, are not proepared to let the same vampires as always to suck their blood, our blood, and to unceremoniously break their soul and ours into a thousand pieces. They want it all, even with the risk of ecosuicide. Faust is their reference point and any trace of humanity generates guffaws in their boards of directors and their government meetings.

 

Syriza17jun2


MIGUEL MANZANERA: We need to find a new model of social organisation, since industrial capitalist civilisation is in deep decay. It is a crisis that takes on multiple dimensions in the short, medium and long term. In the short term because neoliberalism has brought us a deep economic crisis, due to the deregulation of the market and the lack of control over production, both promoted by conservative governments. The economic depression in Europe will be lasting, and the hegemony of global development will move to other continents in the medium term, especially towards the region of the Far East. In the long term, the unsustainability of capitalism will make a new mode of socialist production necessary, which makes it viable for human society to exist in balance with the earth’s resources and demands on the environment. Syriza’s victory will place the Greeks on the right road to finding rational responses to this historic juncture. That will help us all.

 

BEATRIZ GIMENO: Because finally, after a long time, it is a real opportunity to change things. Because for the first time in a long time, decades, a discourse of the left, one truly critical of capitalism and focused on a structural change, has the opportunity of reaching power; for what that means not only for the Greeks, but for all the European left. One part of it, the mainstream left, a prisoner of so many concessions to the right that it has become unrecognisable and indistinguishable from the right, and the other, conditioned until now by their lack of real power which was, on many occasions, a real inability to reach it. In this sense Syriza can mean a real ideological bombshell for capitalism; the possibility of destroying the false axiom that there is no alternative.

 

SANTIAGO ALBA RICO: A fatal snare seems to be closing in on Europe. Hostages of an exhausted system and of a mercenary and criminal economic management, the European population has become easy pickings for neo-populist and neo-fascist temptations. Is this our destiny? A return to misery and dictatorship.   Syriza all of a sudden marks another path: the very possibility of reversing, from Greece, the fatalism imposed by the banking sector and the troika. That is why a ferocious campaign tries to intimidate and terrorise the Greek electorate. That is why, furthermore, we have to understand that the victory of Syriza will be the victory, not of a party, no, but of all of us who struggle for another Europe and another possible world. It may be that there will not be another opportunity. Syriza is standing in the Greek elections; but their votes decide the future of an entire continent.

 

JORGE MORUNO: Syriza has emerged as the hope that extends across Europe, regarding the possibility of interrupting further financial automatism. Syriza is driven forward by an active and politicised citizenry, who view the break with the regime and with the neoliberal path as the only way of imagining other ways of distributing wealth and the burden of guilt.

Winning the elections assures nothing, but it is an important step. It remains to be seen how it confronts and sees off the most reactionary sectors within its borders at the same time as it contends with the troika. There is also the complicated task of keeping balance with one foot in the parliament and another in the movement. The wind looks like it can change direction, we will have to wait, but there can be no doubt that this favourable wind needs the breath of other European peoples pushing, so that it is Greece the finally pulls the rest of us along.

 

LOLA MATAMALA: I am not Greek, I don’t live in Greece, I haven’t even visited it, but I have been observing its people for nearly two years. I looked on in admiration when they took to the streets. I looked on with nervousness when I saw that they were placing their silent bodies in front of that parliament that was deciding if it would seek the second bailout. I looked on with frustration when the political arm of the banking mafia cleared the way, for the second time, for robbery. I looked on with  sadness on seeing that the occupiers of that square were invisible beings because there still exist people who are blind and have wooden hearts. Months later, in May, a sickness of it all turned into 16% for Syriza and it became the third most voted party. 

Now the Greeks, with summer about to begin, are allowed to speak once again through the insufficient -but the only one in effect under the imposed system- electoral mechanism. Syriza, which is the farthest left party in the country, has many possibilities of leading a devastated Greece towards the end of the abyss because those who belong to this party do not want to obey the Troika and they propose auditing the biggest culprit: the debt. In this way, their programme locks in premises for a just judgement  and brings back mechanisms for rowing in the direction of decent, just and coherent ways of life in a moment when it is more visible than ever how the men in black have got into the veins of the citizens of this polis born out of democracy. I write all these lines only a few kilometres from the capital of another State recently taken over by the evil dark suits. Meanwhile, I keep looking on at what the country of Athena decides. Now, I look on in hope for them too. 

 

Syriza17jun3

 

JÓNATHAM F. MORICHE: In his speech to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922, Lenin refers to the question of inflation in the young soviet republic: “we do not think that the figure is so very important, for the zeroes can always be crossed out. We have achieved a thing or two in this art.. and I am sure that in the further course of events we shall achieve much more.” The transcriber notes: ‘Laughter’. We have seen something of this mocking attitude of the Bolsheviks in Syriza’s electoral campaign. It is the same combatively joking expression of a politics that strengthens based on the conviction that the zeroes of bad economics can be legitimately and effectively cancelled by the authority of a good government.

 

And we are not simply talking about Greek zeroes: it is inevitable that a Greek debt audit like the one proposed by Syriza will become an audit of the entirety of European neoliberal phantasmagoria and of the monstrous mountain of zeroes dumped on our heads by the IMF, the ECB, the ratings agencies, the business press and the rest of the lodges and brotherhoods of the great market. If Syriza does in the end reach government and persists in its challenge to this superstitious dictatorship of the zeroes, we will see all the rage of the capitalist powers of the continent unleashed on Greece. It will be the time to intensify, multiply, diversify and interconnect all points of resistance and attack against those powers the full length, breadth and depth of Europe, until their power of aggression is sapped. It is in this dynamic of active political solidarity that the Greek experience can become a European opportunity, from its example and its defence becoming the catalyst for that federation of emancipatory political subjects that historical conditions have been demanding for some time.

 

JUAN PEDRO GARCÍA DEL CAMPO: Because a vote for Syriza in these elections is not just one more bet on the terrain of representation or governance. To vote for Syriza, at the present juncture, is not to choose its candidates to manage the future by giving them carte blanche to act in anyone’s name, but entirely the opposite: it is the way of expelling from power those managers of the new expropriation of the commons taking place at a European level and, by doing so, opening up the real possibilit of taking decisions on the commons beyond and against those who demand obedience to the dictates of “the economic”. Voting for Syriza means that the managers of governance do not get elected.

The leaders of Syriza are under no illusions in this regard and they are aware that winning elections is not equivalent to holding power. This is not a minor matter: that they view things in this way, now, is a symptom that they know where sovereignty is won (and where it is not) and in what conditions it can (or cannot) be exercised. This clarity is one more reason to think that we are not talking about a party that seeks the vote like any other, but about the real possibility of opening up a space for democracy.

 

PATRICIA RIVERO: For a long time the Greeks have been the “sudacas” [derogatory Spanish term for Latin Americans] of Europe alongside the rest of the Mediterranean countries. In Latin America, for decades and decades, the people were the victim of structural adjustment plans carried out by international organisations such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the Paris Club, while at the same time big capital crushed the resources of humans and nature. We were devoured by these beasts, we hit rock bottom, and for a long time…

But some years ago Latin America began to see the light, it believed that an alternative to the dictates of neoliberalism existed, and today the region is growing in strength, autonomy and sovereignty. When there is suffering and people have been systematically flagellated, the time comes for change and for getting out onto the street and getting angry, to break with this criminal neoliberal system. It is time for this “sudaca” Greece today, after so many falls, to see the light. The moment has come in which the voters of Europe cannot pretend not to hear the alternative message. “If the present is one of struggle, the future is ours”, said Che Guevara. Greece today has in its hands the opportunity to see that light, and that light and that future is Syriza.

 

RAIMUNDO VIEJO VIÑAS: To speak of Syriza today is to speak of the future of Europe, and of the recovery and advance of democracy, of the reopening of the political, of so many many things that a mere list of headlines would take us more than a thousand pages. For those who don’t remember, there was another 17-J, in 1953, when the workers of the GDR rebelled against the lack of life, the working conditions and the measures imposed by an authoritarian bureaucracy. 

Around that time Bertolt Brecht wrote a poem which he ended with irony: “would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?” The irreducibility of the social body to technocratic automatism, of life given to power, is no less what is at stake next Sunday. Syriza is the nearest Europe has to a rescue of the 99%. Not because it is a panacea, or a solution, not even because they are “our people”: but only (and today this is everything) because it is the option for restoring to the political arena what should never have left it.

 

ÍÑIGO ERREJÓN: The diktat of the debt and the consequent blackmail of peoples unfolds, in Europe, on a terrain fertilised by decades of narrowing down and subordination of politics to apparently technical reasoning, and of the devastation of identitarian, cultural and intellectual reference points for the left. Thus, the crisis can be represented in the dominant discourse as an atmospheric phenomenon, which threatens an  population that is undifferentiated in the impacts it suffers and in its responsibilities. If the oligarchisation of  European political systems places ever more aspects of social regulation “safely beyond” popular sovereignty, liberal technocratic discourse places the elites “safely beyond” the communities who rule.

Greece has spent years as a paradigmatic example of the gall of the ruling caste, of the blackmail of a people hit with draconian austerity measures, of the reduction of politics to a pact among elites and the exercise of discipline and production of resignation for those below. The possibility of a Syriza victory in the elections of the coming 17th June is undoubtedly the most important fact for the European left since the beginning of the century. It means, its mere possibility, a brave and emphatic “Yes we can!”: yes we can recover politics from its oligarchical kidnapping; yes we can dare to play the game -conscious of its limitations and its difficulties- against the troika and financial capital, daring to govern in turbulent times; yes we can bring about a hegemonic intervention which, in the context of the dislocation of the social that the crisis brings with it, can articulate the different troubles and sufferings in a broad and flexible national-popular identity that can successfully win the political power that is accessible by electoral means.

 

Syriza is the yes we can from the irruption of the unexpected, not under ideal conditions as per the instruction manuals, but in the really existing ones, which are complex and never ripe. It is the audacity to open up, from a situation of political decomposition, the possibility of change in favour of subaltern classes. Syriza is the warning to the European oligarchy: the latinamericanisation of European politics is a boomerang, and it brings with it the possibility of the rupturing exercise of popular sovereignty.

 

Syriza

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Various Authors: Why Support Syriza In The Greek Elections of the 17th of June? (Part 1)

Greece

On the website La Revuelta de Las Neuronas, various authors based in Spain have published their reasons for supporting Syriza in the forthcoming Greek elections this Sunday. I am translating the first five here; another ten to come.

Syriza

JOSÉ LUÍS CARRETERO: To accompany the struggle of the Greek people against the anti-social measures of the Troika and of the most voracious capitalism means supporting all of its manifestations. One of these is that of Syriza. Those of us who do not share the uncritical faith in parlamentarianism as the genesis of deep social changes, but who do understand that certain things are not a matter of principles but of strategy, can consider it feasible to raise a defensive wall against the tyranny of debt and the political imposition of governments of national concentration imposed by the global oligarchy.

The present hour is too serious for pettiness or purities. It is the moment for meeting each other in the streets and the squares, to generate new embraces, to contaminate each other beyond the lines traced by senseless dogmatisms. It is in that place, dangerous and full of hope, where the working multitudes directly express their right to resistance, that we will recognise each other. That is the indispensable place that traces the borders. And, whereas effective commitment against cutbacks and misery is displayed through deeds, we will travel together the path toward dignity opened up by the Greek people and we will support all manifestations of their creativity in resistance. If we share struggles, we will share the future.

 

ANDRÉS VILLENA: The eurozone seems to be preparing to strengthen itself internally, but without counting with the Republic of Greece. The new left party represents the best synthesis between Europeanism, political solvency and criticism of the imbalances that have led us to this situation. From this force one hopes for the best negotiation with the creditor countries for remaining within, based on the condition of a proper restructuring of the debt and the possibilities of getting out of the snare that the troika has imposed on the Greek State.

 

 

JUAN DOMINGO SÁNCHEZ ESTOP: Rarely have I been angry at not being able to participate in elections. I know that, when these contribute toward the representation of the people, they silence the multitude by giving a voice to power. I do not accept elections that prevent me from deciding. Today, however, in Greece, for the first time in too many years, an election can constitute a decision, since one of the rising political forces, Syriza, represents something that power can never tolerate: the social movement that has made the reigning social order democratically unrepresentable and morally unpresentable.

Syriza occupies the vacuum of representation left by power, showing how the neoliberal looting of Greece, Europe and the world is incompatible with democracy, and it opens, as in Latin America, a space for the protagonism of the multitudes, of the everyday citizens. We are therefore witnessing a milestone in the difficult “conquest of democracy”. For this reason, our Greek comrades smile and power puts on a face like a funeral.

 

LILIANA PINEDA: Syriza expresses the mass rejection by the Greek people, broad and sufficiently resounding, of the antisocial economic measures imposed by the European Union, which draw on the lies they have told us to justify the destruction produced by capitalism in its final phase: the complete financialisation of economies, which cyclically promotes the formation of unsustainable public and private debt levels, with the object of appropriating everything that exists, and which only obeys the predatory interest of big transnational corporations.

 

SALVADOR LÓPEZ ARNAL: We should support Syriza, and other forces of the Greek left, out of internationalist solidarity, one of the best values of the left that has not given in, and because in Greece what is at stake -as has been at stake in other occasions and will happen in the future until the economic, political and social framework in Europe and the world is no longer what it is, an avaricious civilisation that is the enemy of humanity, of republican virtues and of Nature itself- an essential stage of the struggle that the European peoples are generating against the exploiters of workers, from the most disadvantaged sectors, against the destroyers of the Earth, against those who are prepared to consign justice, freedom and equality to the trash can of History.

Some years ago, Mrs Thatcher, a very representative figure of the soulless neoliberalism in which we are obliged to live, said it with clarity and ultraconservative arrogance: ‘Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.” And they have continued with that. Syriza, other left forces and the outraged Greek citizens, who are combative and rebellious, are not proepared to let the same vampires as always to suck their blood, our blood, and to unceremoniously break their soul and ours into a thousand pieces. They want it all, even with the risk of ecosuicide. Faust is their reference point and any trace of humanity generates guffaws in their boards of directors and their government meetings.

 

 

 

 

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‘Property Owners, Not Proletarians’

Fireelroto

“Forget about the fire – what’s important is that no-one sees the smoke!”

So do you think ‘Spain’ got a ‘better deal’ than ‘Ireland’? (Sometimes it is hard to resist the liberal use of scare quotes) Do you expect the Appointed Guardians of National Sovereignty to now don their Negotiating Armour and go into battle against the combined forces of Rehn, Draghi and Merkel?

If so, hopefully the article translated below, from the Quilombo blog will prove a bucket of cold water to the face.

There will be no deal. Or, if there is a deal, it will not be a deal on your behalf. Why would it be? Do you own a bank or something?

Any deal struck will be about ensuring how financialised accumulation by dispossession can prosper in the future. Like George Carlin said about somewhere else at another time, it’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.

I don’t know how many articles from Spain I have read in the last year or so where I’ve gone, shit, the similarities here with Ireland are so striking! Well, I’m tired of pointing them out. I don’t know what good it serves any more anyway. Maybe they’re not even interesting or relevant. So I’ll let you spot them for yourself, it if takes your fancy.

 

Cecinestpas

(This is not a bailout)

The bailout of the regime

‘Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.’

-George Orwell

‘We want a country of property owners [proprietarios], not proletarians [proletarios]

José Luís Arrese, Housing Minister (1957-1960)

Let there be no doubt about it. The credit line opened to the Spanish State via the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) that comes into operation next month, and which rises to €100 billion (10% of Spanish GDP), at an interest rate of 3%, means a massive socialisation of the losses of the financial sector via an increase in public debt in the coming years. The citizens, through the State and its Orderly Bank Restructuring Fund tool (FROB) therefore guarantee the repayment of this debt in the event that a bank is unable to return the entirety of the loans it has received or if it receives an injection of capital, and let us not forget that the priority given to its payment is given legal force on account of the constitutional reform agreed by the PSOE and the Partido Popular last year and by the close monitoring by the Eurogroup, the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the European Banking Authority and the International Monetary Fund. And even though there might be greater external supervision, nothing guarantees that the FROB will meet the same fate as another late lamented fund, the Mexican FOBAPROA (link in Spanish), which ended up increasing Mexican public debt substantially and with which “not even half of what the Zedillo government promised was recovered from the total assets of the purchased portfolio” of the banks in crisis.

The greatest preoccupation of Mariano Rajoy’s government, as was previously the case with that of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has been the survival of the financial sector through the maintenance of the forms of a phantasmagorical national sovereignty. With its silences, its repeated denials, and its word games, the government wants to sell us the idea that this is not a bailout like that of Greece, Ireland or Portugal, simply because there is no contribution from the International Monetary Fund nor is there a direct intervention in the form of monitoring and regular visits from Troika functionaries (European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF). The “men in black” to whom the Minister of Finance and Public Administration Cristóbal Montoro referred. The other “bailed out” countries seem to have reacted to this agreement with the Eurogroup as an injustice, to judge by the reactions of journalists, politicians and economists. Take as an example that of the Greek critical economist Yanis Varoufakis: ‘Why should Spain, & not Ireland, avoid a crushing austerity program when borrowing for its banks? Is it not time for the Irish to rebel?’


This perception is misleading, and critics of the adjustment programmes in other countries ought not arrive at the wrong conclusions. In reality, the “men in black” are already in the government and are applying a shock therapy, under pressure, it is true, but also taking advantage of the situation. This is what Mariano Rajoy has highlighted in today’s appearance: in the past five months the Spanish government has adopted motu proprio adjustment measures that would have otherwise been imposed by the troika in a more visible fashion.
And it will probably continue to do so. The fiscal conditionality is also imposed by another procedure, that of excessive deficit, which has been reinforced with the Stability Treaty. And the guidelines of the EFSF on capitalisation of financial institutions add that ‘where appropriate, additional conditionality could draw from the future EU bank crisis resolution framework.’

The big difference is that Spain, by contrast with Greece, Portugal and Ireland, is the only country whose government is based on an absolute majority in parliament, and with an opposition, that of parties such as the PSOE or CIU, that is very well disposed to consensus. The other countries had by contrast relative parliamentary majorities or unstable coalition governments. That and the weight of the banking sector in the Spanish economy and its influence on the current political system is far greater. To the point that the fate of both is intimately related.

The financialisation of the Spanish economy has been mainly driven by the development of the tourism and construction sectors since the 1960s. Thus in both Francoism and the transition regime we can see a legal and institutional continuity, and there exists a not-so-thin blue continuous line between late Francoist developmentalism and the recent property bubble. As Isidro López and Emmanuel Rodríguez explain in Fin de ciclo (2010) (pdf in Spanish)

                                                          * * *

“their most far-reaching effects [those of the tourism-construction dyad] took place in the financial sector. From very early on, the Spanish banking groups understood that construction and tourism represented a great business opportunity. Alongside their well-known centrality to the funding of industrial equipment, they added credit to those agents responsable for the massive urban growth of the era. To add more energy to this brew, the enormous dependency of the public sector on the financial resources of the banking oligopoly brought an extraordinarily generous recompense, with one of the highest financial margins in Europe.”

The political regime that was consolidated after the Moncloa Pacts, which allowed for the control of inflation at the cost of wage increases and to the benefit of business revenues, accentuated the trend towards outsourcing, once the restructuring had taken place of an industrial sector that was uncompetitive within the framework of the international division of labour. This services economy showed a growing dependence on the financial sector, which appropriated the lion’s share of the revenues that were generated. The financial crisis of the 1970s was resolved through a concentration of capital and the consolidation of the financial oligopoly. The cycles of economic expansion from 1985-1992 and from 1995-2007 reinforced the strategy of accumulation based on revenues from finance and property, with a strong entrance of foreign capital that had been opened up through the free circulation of capital and the liberalisation of the economy within the framework of the European Union, and later on, with the adoption of the euro, thanks to the low interest rates fixed by the European Central Bank.


The financial accumulation would have been much more limited had it not been for the gradual strengthening of the (now failed) project for a society of property owners, something that Francoism had got off the ground (access to property in the form of a house and an automobile), but which the neo-liberal counter-revolution raised to the category of dogma. As happened in other countries, wage containment was compensated for through rises in the value of property assets. The peculiarity of the Spain of stagnated wages, precarious labour and heavy social polarisation is that the property of a home also became the main means of social ascent and the constitution of a life project (what higher education had previously represented). To maintain their growth and high profit rates, the finance sector had to rely on access to credit by ever growing groups of the population, especially poor and immigrant workers. In parallel we witnessed a process of financialisation of public economies, above all at a local level, with the promotion of urban megaprojects and infrastructures financed with European funds. All this gave rise to special reconfigurations of economic and political power, uniquely in Valencia and Madrid. Finally, Aznarism promoted an aggressive internationalisation of banks and privatised Spanish enterprises, which took advantage of the fraudulent privatisations carried out in Latin America at the end of the 90s to take up positions of dominance in the región, which explains in part why they have fared better in the financial crisis than the cajas de ahorro which were far more exposed to bricks and mortar.

The transition regime is not prepared to change economic logic. Its intention is that the country’s elite should hang on to the profits obtained during the latest cycle of accumulation and lay the foundations for another one, relying upon the same formula of appropriating land and the capture of financial rents with a regime of deepened labour exploitation. The banking bailout is therefore a political bailout. Of the Spanish political system, but also that of the European Union as we know it. Our government has bought time, but only that. Today, certainty has no price.

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News From The Dung Heap

A few things concerning Mick Wallace’s €2.1 million tax settlement with the Revenue Commissioners.

First, the Irish Times had a report a couple of weeks back in which a mother of six who had ‘claimed nearly €230,000 in social welfare payments’ over a period of 14 years was jailed for three years. The judge had ‘noted that all the money had been repaid, but he said a custodial sentence must be imposed’. Her solicitor, according to the report, said she ‘had been admitted to women’s refuges 40 times, sometimes with injuries, because of her husband’s drink problem’. The report said that the woman ‘wailed and screamed as she was led away to begin her sentence‘.

So it is hard to have any sympathy for Mick Wallace, to say the least, on account of his under-declaration of VAT payments, though the calls for a custodial sentence to be imposed on him emanating from some quarters strike me as meaningless in the context of a State that imprisons a mother of six in the way outlined above.

The most strident voices urging that the highest standards of ethical probity be observed by public representatives have no problem with those same representatives passing laws that privilege banking and property interests, that erode the capacity of the State to fund public services, and that condemn growing numbers of the population to unemployment, poverty, and forced emigration.

The same voices who condemn Wallace for evading tax are often the same ones who are the most stentorian defenders of Ireland’s corporation tax rates. In principle at least, there is no moral difference between what the Irish State does in allowing corporations to use Ireland as a tax haven so as not to pay taxes on profits in the countries in which they operate, and Wallace’s evasion of his personal tax obligations. In practice, the scale of the Irish State’s facilitation of tax evasion makes €2.1 million look like a thruppeny bit down the back of the sofa.

Not only does the Irish State ensure privilege for banking and property elites in Ireland above the welfare of its citizens, placing the living standards and working conditions of the population of Ireland under permanent attack, but it systematically attacks the capacity of people in other countries to ensure proper funding for public services: schools, hospitals, public transport, and so on.

The State continues to do so thanks in part to a broad consensus across politicians in all the main political parties, who, with the enthusiastic and often fanatical backing from Ireland’s mass media outlets, frequently defend this scandalous arrangement as a brand to be proud of, and an international badge of honour.

Now, it ought to be pointed out that all this is entirely legal. But it is precisely because of this that the pigeon-chested outrage at Wallace’s tax evasion should be treated with contempt. Why should anyone give a damn about standards in public office, when what all this concern with the preservation of standards in public offfice is really about is the preservation of the ability to make mass robbery look respectable?

Regarding the press attention this case is receiving, it’s likely that any politician from any political party would be subjected to a similar level of scrutiny, since a high standard of ethical behaviour is demanded of anyone who aspires to suffocate the country’s finances and privatise its assets. But there is an undeniable frisson of interest in the case of Wallace, on account of his membership of the technical group, which, whilst not a political party, is treated as one de facto by the press and by politicians who are members of major political parties in the Dáil.

Since the technical group also includes the United Left Alliance TDs, who have proven the most prominent critics of government policy within the Dáil, but who, along with Wallace, have also given their support to the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, there is also a clear interest, on the part of the political and media establishments, in tethering the case of someone who has evaded taxes to the act of mass civil disobedience and political protest on the part of hundreds of thousands of people, since it serves to undermine the credibility and weaken participation in the latter. Hence Martyn Turner’s cartoon from the Irish Times on Saturday:

Wallace

via.

Now that the Fiscal Treaty referendum campaign is over, the campaign of delegitimation against the CAWHT has resumed: in this context the Irish Independent referred to ‘tax cheats’ in a front page headline the other day. Similarly, in an RTE broadcast on Friday, Pat Kenny sought to draw an equivalence between businesspeople who avoid the payment of taxes and people who refuse to pay a tax as an act of civil disobedience and political protest, and pressed Joe Higgins on this matter, with characteristic dishonesty.

But whatever the intentions of the political and media establishments, this does highlight a problem for the CAWHT. The problem is not Mick Wallace so much as the danger that the campaign becomes indelibly associated with parliamentary politics and the struggle for electoral power.

The tendency more than ever in mass media is now to portray the Dáil as still the alpha and omega of politics, precisely when the Government of Ireland is operating as little more than a subcontractor for the Troika, but also as an irredeemable dung heap full of self-serving individuals operating in a cut-throat market competition for votes. The point of this is to maintain resignation and political apathy, but to still allow ‘respectable’ elements of political class to shout “stop thief!” (at unions, public sector workers, protesters, benefit claimants, asylum seekers), with some degree of credibility at the very moment they are plotting to ransack your future. I hope the CAWHT does not allow itself to be represented as part of this spectacle, and that will mean doing more than simply parting ways with Mick Wallace.

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The ‘bailout’ or the ‘loan’: a veritable looting – at gunpoint

An analysis of the Spanish ‘bailout’ by John Brown.

Vampire

The ‘bailout’ or the ‘loan’: a veritable looting – at gunpoint.

A cursory analysis of the general budgets of the State confirms for us the Leninist definition of the latter: ‘a body of armed men’. The figures speak for themselves (*):

-Education: €2.230bn

-Health: €3.974bn

-Citizen security and penitenciary institutions: €8.000bn

-Defence: €7.250bn

(*) Note that these figures correspond to the expenditure of the central State administration and do not include the expenditure of the autonomous communities in Education and Health (which is far greater than that of the central administration), which corresponds to competencies that are largely devolved, nor do they include the corresponding expenses for “citizen security” in Catalonia, Euskadi and Navarra. Let us keep these figures as a reference because it is the central administration that is taking on the loan/bailout.

The Spanish State (central administration) spends some €15bn in repression and population control, more than the double of education and health combined.

It is important to know what purpose these armed men serve, and what kind of distribution of wealth they guarantee in the final instance. This can also be clearly gauged from the structure of the State budgets. If we take into account that the Spanish State has requested a loan of €100bn to save the banking sector, we can make the following calculations:

€100bn is the equivalent of a little less than 10% of Spanish GDP (€1,063bn) and corresponds to nearly a third of Spanish public expenditure (€311bn). €100bn is nearly 50 years of the Education budget, or 25 years for Health.

In conclusion, in order to repay this loan, Spanish governments that accept the logic of indebtedness would have to eliminate public education and health for decades or privatise them altogether. There remains, naturally, another item from which public wealth can be transferred into private hands: pensions. These make up more than half of public expenditure: €172.38bn. In Russia, during the shock therapy, the brutal reduction in pensions or their mere non-payment caused a vertiginous fall in life expectancy due to the excess mortality among older people. The payment of the debt will therefore require a heavy reduction in pensions expenditure alongside those items that do not involve as much expenditure, but which are essential for a civilised life for citizens: health and education. Let’s not forget, of course, the mass privatisation of public assets.

As we can see, the “loan under favourable conditions” constitutes an authentic blood transfusion…made by Count Dracula to his victims.

It is urgent that we act: protecting ourselves with garlic and plunging stakes into the heart of the regime, by centring all the demands of social movements into a single one: the immediate non-payment of odious debt.

(Source data (in Spanish) here.)

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Spain: Between bailout and contestation

This is the first of a few pieces I’ll be translating over the next few days on Spain’s ‘bailout’. Written by Isidro López of the activist research group Observatorio Metropolitano, it was published on Periódico Diagonal on Saturday, in advance of this weekend’s ‘denouement’. It recognises something that the dominant political discourse in both Ireland and Spain (and probably the other countries) seeks to obscure: under the emerging European dispensation, the governments are mere intermediaries. Thus the notion that Enda Kenny (or Mariano Rajoy) is a coward or a useless representative of Irish (or Spanish) sovereign interests, for instance, is based on the idea that the National Sovereign Humpty can be put back together again in the context of better bailouts, less strenuous conditions of neoliberal governance and political parties who will fight your corner for a greater piece of the ever-dwindling pie (or pastel).

The main point of a ‘bailout’, in which the population of a country is lumbered with the burden of debts accumulated by private banks, is to place economic policy beyond politics. But we should also bear in mind an important secondary effect, which is that it enables members of the political class, who would otherwise be clearly on the side of dismantling public services, stripping away welfare state provisions and privatising everything in sight, to present themselves as tribunes for the people and protectors of the common good, as heard in the mating call of “where are we going to get the money from to fund our public services”?

In reality, the National Sovereign Humpty can’t be put back together again; and it falls to the populations of the affected countries to focus on making sure the Hayekian Humpty has a great fall instead.

 

The intervention has already happened

The financial debacle of the past week has been accompanied by permanent rumours of something along the lines of a bailout or intervention on the part of the European Union. On the whole, these rumours have in mind a bailout like those of Ireland, Greece or Portugal, a single political and economic move that guarantees the control of national economies by private agents. However, this model is unviable for Spain, given the very high costs it would entail, and, instead of this what we will see is a ‘staged’ or ‘drip-by-drip’ bailout in which partial bailout measures -right now priority will be given to those related to the threefold multiplication of the deficit that the bailout of Bankia would generate- will take place in correspondence to privatisation and social cutback measures of increasing intensity.

In this sense, the outlines of these policies have been designed and applied for numerous months now, and as such, an ‘intervention’ understood as a swift historical scission is little more than a ghostly presence. However, this way of conceptualising the bailout as a ‘red line’ is not politically innocent. It is a defence of the national sovereignty that the government supposedly enjoys, and indirectly, a way of trying to recompose the bipartite model that everyone must strive to save in order to avoid the ‘tragic’ fact of the bailout.

To assume that the bailout mechanisms are already in operation, however, de-activates this fear of the ‘terrifying intervention’ with interesting political consequences for the future. For example, the European Union has been formed via a double political articulation in which a European political sphere, removed from any democratic control, guarantees the application of the grand economic principles that structure the interests of the financial elites. Beneath this scale of government we find the national governments, subject to electoral processes on which the political costs of the crisis are dumped whilst the European arena continues with its political programme of bolstering the interests of finance.

An intensification of the political mechanisms linked to the staged bailout could bring about a fall of government and would render visible the European control over the apparatuses of State. This would, in turn, cause the partial fall of the double articulation of Europe-National states through a direct confrontation between Europe and the populations of those countries at the centre of the financial mechanism of accumulation through sovereign debt.

This is precisely what the European project has sought to avoid since it became a neoliberal project inspired by the idea held by Hayek about the European economic space: the continental and transnational elites should not have to bow to any form of democratic will. Syriza, in Greece, for example, has understood that this is the level at which the struggle for the well-being of the European politicians must take place, and it has transformed the demand for an exit from the Euro into a demand for the right to democratic non-payment of debt within the Euro, setting the scene for battle at the heart of the European neoliberal project.

In Spain, the 15M movement has the opportunity, without leaving behind any of its proposals, to move the political stage in this direction, by contributing to the elimination of a Government that is but a mere intermediary, by questioning borders that only serve as containers for the costs of the crisis, and by setting out the battle for non-payment of the debt on a continental scale.

 

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