Archive | January 2012

Fascists Rally by the Thousands in Athens

video of this weekend’s rally:

As if the sight of thousands of fascists and their nazi salutes weren’t scary enough, there were reports of violence following the fascist rally outside parliament. Fascists in Athens are known to gather before violently assaulting migrants. Will update when I acquire the full details.

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Egyptians Direct Revolution at Regime’s Mouthpiece

video of the sit-in by revolutionaries taking place outside state-tv in central Cairo:

State-tv has been one of the primary regime weapons against the revolution and even Egypt’s christian minority. It is crucial for the protesters to negate this force in Egyptian society lying on behalf of the military rulers and stirring hatred and fear amongst Egyptians so they do not in common strength unite to challenge a corrupt military state sapping the energy and ingenuity of Egypt.

For the Regime in Greece, Austerity has Nothing to do with Reducing Debt

For several years now, successive governments have been imposing austerity that places the price for the financial crisis entirely on Greek workers, notably those in the public sector. The rationale for this is well known. Government spending must be cut, and for politicians in Greece they rather cut the wages of teachers than cease expensive military purchases of German weaponry. Beyond the self-evident injustice of this austerity program, it’s simply doesn’t work since what savings made by unemploying public sector workers are outpaced by the resulting economic contraction.

But the point of austerity isn’t debt reduction. The neoliberals in the Greek government aren’t just going after public sector workers. The Greek government is now insisting that private sector unions and employers agree to cut monthly wages and the bonuses that supplement the already low wages in existence. The Greek daily Kathimerini reports on the dispute over private sector wages that is actually uniting workers and employers against the radical neoliberal plans by the government:

“Employers and labor unions found some common ground during the first day of wage talks on Wednesday but it appears that neither side is willing to agree to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s suggestion that private sector workers’ salaries should be reduced.

‘We are on the right track,’ said Vassilis Korkidis, the head of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE). ‘The social partners agree that the minimum wage is not to blame for the recession and businesses closing down.’

Yiannis Panagopoulos, the head of Greece’s private sector umbrella union GSEE, criticized the government for suggesting that it might force a law through Parliament that adjusts salaries if it is not happy with the outcome of union and employer talks.”

With organized labor and employers both opposed to private sector wage cuts, and private sector wages having nothing to do with Greece’s public debt, it leaves bare for all to witness the ideological nature of austerity. Debt and deficits are pretexts for austerity, austerity that isn’t the cure to debt problems. It’s supply side economics being forced through in the middle of a crisis. Make the supply cheap by suppressing wages (as opposed to employer compensation) and supposedly the demand for the supply will pick up. This has nothing to do with reducing the debt of Greece. It has everything to do with an ideological commitment by policy makers to crush workers, whether during a financial crisis or not.

International Creditors Trying to Weigh Greece’s Default on Ordinary Greeks

The years of financial crisis we’ve lived through can be entirely described as people being forced to pay for the bankers’ crisis. The prospect of a default by Greece was a rare instance when the people could refuse to pay any more for the crisis and let the bankers keep to themselves the results of their disaster. However, the international creditors are hard at work trying to put together a structured default that would, in a type of controlled demolition, crash down on Greek pensioners instead of the large financial firms of London, Paris, New York, and Frankfurt.

Greek economist Costas Lapavitsas explains:

“The losses for international banks would be modest. Even so, they are angling for a higher interest rate, although their bargaining power is weakened by reliance on the state for liquidity and capital. The real blow would fall on Greek banks, which would effectively go bankrupt. The Greek state is thus desperately seeking fresh loans to replenish its banks’ capital. Much of the expected reduction of its debt would, therefore, be immediately voided. A cruel blow would also fall on Greek social security funds and small bondholders, with losses probably passing on to pensions and savings.”

This would be a false default designed to limit the cost to Greece’s foreign creditors while trying to pacify a restless public that might otherwise take matters into their own hands and force through more radical restructuring of the national debt. It wouldn’t be the debt forgiveness Greeks need in order to first reverse the austerity caused depression and then the rebuilding of the country that must follow.

Hundreds of Thousands Rally Behind Hungary’s Authoritarian Right-Wing

Some 400,000 people rallied in Budapest in support of the right-wing government. I discussed it a bit in my previous post but the significance of this has only grown on me.  A lot of the visuals of the Al Jazeera report on the Budapest demonstration aren’t so different from the anti-austerity protests, often associated with the far-left, that we saw throughout 2011. There are signs mocking the rating agencies, signs criticizing the European Union which has instituted universal austerity policies across the continent.

These masses in Hungary are the indignant as much as the youths who last year occupied squares in Madrid and Athens. These Hungarians, however, are being mobilized by far different forces. They are drawn by arguments against the European Union used by some on both the left and right. The European Union as an institution has failed people on the continent, regardless of political leanings. But right-wing and left-wing forces mobilizing against the European Union bring enormously different consequences.

For Hungarians, there is the immediate prospect of more IMF and EU intervention and the resulting austerity, and the current right-wing government hasn’t been the doormat that center-right and center-left governments have been in Portugal, Ireland, and Greece. But as much as the European Union forces its member into uniform policy of social spending cuts and privatizations, it also has mechanisms in human rights obligations among member states that act to curb the authoritarianism of the far-right. Hungary’s right-ring Orban government is running up against these European institutions that are taking legal actions against reforms by Victor Orban curbing the independence of the central bank, judicial system, even the media of Hungary.

This is why the situation in European is so important and so delicate. There is such social anxiety as the population is hurt by repeated austerity measures and the population is looking for a political vehicle to reverse their precarious state. The risk is high that the far-right will be seen as the most readily mobilized force to challenge the mainstream political consensus around austerity. We’ll have a good measure of this possibility as far-right Marine Le Pen supports the demise of the Euro as she runs for president of France. If she does very well in a country that hasn’t seen the severity of the austerity that Hungary, Portugal, and Greece has seen, politics in Europe would be shifting in an incredibly dangerous direction.

I’m only repeating my urgency of previous posts that the left must organize now, not wait for the next austerity package being passed through parliament. It must do so or else our political foe that is the neo-liberal consensus will be replaced by an opponent in the far-right ready to wage war on the weakest and most vulnerable in Europe and on anyone hesitant to join that war.

Europe’s Far-Right is Attempting to Seize the anti-Austerity Banner

2011 was marked by mass anti-capitalist demonstrations across Europe, but the first month of 2012 is taking a turn to the far-right.

In Portugal some 1,500 people were marching against the austerity policies of the government when fascists attempted to subvert the march and ultimately attacked the marchers who chanted against fascism:

The number of fascists were small, at most estimated at two dozen, but the protests wouldn’t be happening if there wasn’t already a fanatically right-wing government in power with a commitment to austerity. However, backlash to austerity doesn’t always break in favor of the left. In Germany in the early 1930s, a center-right government imposed austerity only to be followed by the Nazis promising to dismantle austerity with the banner of racist nationalism and military aggression.

Today in Hungary, there were no small numbers in the right-wing demonstration to offer a measure of comfort. Media estimates put the crowds rallying behind an authoritarian & right-wing government at 100,000. Alarmingly, a number of the demonstrators were ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries, showing Hungary’s authoritarian right-wing is mobilizing not just within Hungary’s borders, but among Hungarians outside the country, a longstanding issue of tension with Romania and Slovakia.

Back to the enormous rally, a fairly ominous banner reads: “Stand by us or you’ll be next”:

This banner can be taken two ways.  It could be directed domestically to opponents of the right-wing government who are being removed from media and judicial positions.  Or, it could be directed across Europe to other right-wing nationalist movements, challenging them to take on the right-wing caricature of a leftist political elite in Europe. It’s ominous either way.

It should all serve as a warning to the left in Europe. Take on the European Union and its neo-liberal infrastructure or risk the far-right dismantling the Europe Union and the Euro and replacing them with fascist political infrastructure.

In This Greek Crisis, Heads Bankers Win, Tails Bankers Win

Greece’s technocratic government is in the middle of tense negotiations with private sector creditors over the nation’s debts. The dynamics of these negotiations are fairly straight forward. Most private sector creditors want to see the debt Greece owes them restructured by no more than fifty percent as was originally designed at an EU summit back in October. They also want more profitable interest rates on the debt Greece owes them.

There’s also a segment of investors who want to frustrate the Greek government to the point it defaults. Some investors have bought insurance on Greek debt so that if Greece does default, these investors are rewarded quite well. This fact emboldens the private sector creditors to resist the position held by Greek and international officials who want to see Greece’s debt burden reduced much more significantly. This resistance by private sector creditors is now paying off with the Telegraph reporting that Greece will yield to the private sector’s demands.

The bankers successfully gamed the system once again. They will receive new Greek bonds with yields higher than what Greece or the EU wanted. It was either this or Greece defaults and triggers those insurance contracts which would have paid many of the same investors who will receive these new Greek bonds.

The outrageous situation was best explained by Nick Dearden, of the Jubilee Debt Campaign which has been fighting these predatory investors when they were only targeting African nations, not a European country like Greece:

“The Greek economy has been destroyed and it is shocking to see the vultures diving in for the remaining pickings. It is imperative for the whole world that Greece and other debt-laden countries demand and receive broad debt cancellation, combined with strict regulations on the activities of vultures.”