Labour radical “comes out” as EU patsy

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

29 July 2015 [article updated subsequently]

Per me si va nella città dolente;

per me si va nell’ eterno dolore;

per me si va tra la gente perduta….

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’ entrate!

This is the way to the city of mourning,

This the way to eternal suffering,

This the way to the company of the damned….

Abandon all hope, ye that enter!

Canto III, lines 1 to 3 and line 9 of the Inferno by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). This is the introit the poet nails over the Gate to Hell. However, it still works if you substitute Brussels for Hell.

Labour radical “comes out” as EU patsy

 

Corr, Blimey! Who would have thunk it?

Jeremy Corbyn, the only leftwing candidate for the empty seat at the top of Britain’s moribund so-called “Labour” Party has “come out” as a supporter of the European Union.

What a let-down!

Corbyn is currently polling pole position to become the party’s next leader, the other three candidates being dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries who have no interest for us.

The result of the leadership election ballot will be announced  in mid-September. Previous leader Ed “gawk” Miliband fell on his sword after leading the party to its waterloo in the UK parliamentary election on 7 May 2015, when the governing Tory Party swept back into power with an overall majority.

As a main plank of its programme while in office, the Tory government is to negotiate with its 27 EU partner governments with a view to securing a relaxation of EU restrictions that currently hamper Britain’s desire to do whatever it wants regardless of EU club rules. Following the negotations, an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is to be held by the end of 2017.

In a bombshell statement published in the UK Guardian newspaper yesterday 28 July 2015 in response to demands from Labour Party members that he come clean about his attitude to the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn declared:

“Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”

According to a Guardian report interpreting this statement, Corbyn was making it clear that he has no plans to abandon Britain’s membership of the EU but intends to campaign for reform from within.

It is more than ironic that Corbyn has outed himself as as Euroconformist precisely at a time when the entryism that he is advocating has proved itself an out-and-out non-starter elsewhere in the European Union.

Has he not heard about the Greek tragedy?

In Greece a political party (Syriza) with an anti-austerity platform virtually identical to Corbyn’s won parliamentary elections in January 2015. Not content with the European Union as it stood, these naive optimists  immediately set about negotiating with their [imaginary, it turned out] European allies to reform the union in a manner that would benefit ordinary Greeks and thereby set an example for similar improvements in the lot of European citizens throughout the continent. [Compare Corbyn’s statement above]

What happened to Syriza?  Well, if Corbyn doesn’t know, he should get out more.

In the first place, contrary to expectation, it turned out that the Greeks did not have any allies. Not a single one among their 27 “partner” states.

Why?

Well, the European Union is a fundamentalist market-based organisation where mammoth free-wheeling corporations lord it every time over the needs of the continent’s ordinary citizens.  The other 27 EU member states, therefore, simply looked the other way when the Greeks came begging for the straitjacket of austerity to be eased. And for good reason. The other EU governments – eg in Spain, Portugal and Ireland – have been hell-bent on screwing their own citizens. Why should they want to give some slack to Greece?

In the second place, the small-fry Greeks were unrealistically sanguine about the chances of “negotiating” on equal terms with the big boys of the European Union.

This is what we said in our post of 23 February 2015 Η ελπίδα δέν έρχεται on the failure of four weeks of Greek negotiations with the European institutions (and the International Monetary Fund):

“…..the greenhorn negotiators of Syriza – the party has only existed since 2004 – were too callow to be a match for the wily and experienced bureaucrats of “the [European] institutions”.

Antigone1984 predicted as much in our post Soon you’ll be able to hope again  (Η ελπίδα έρχεται) published on 24 January 2015 [on the eve of the Greek parliamentary elections in which Syriza triumphed]:

‘If Syriza were a genuinely party of the far left, would it not leap at the chance to throw down the gauntlet once and for all to the privateering European establishment and, in doing so, set an example for other similar parties the length and breadth of the continent?

But no. They are going to remain within the EU, they are going to remain within the eurozone, and they are going to negotiate “firmly but politely” with whoever will talk to them in the Eurocrat establishment…

Negotiations with the Eurocrats? They will smother you with open arms. These guys are the past masters of negotiations. They could negotiate the hind legs off a donkey. It will be like wading through treacle. As members of a new party from a peripheral country with no experience of government, Syriza’s negotiators will be like minnows in a pond of piranhas. At best they will dance circles round you, at worst they will tear you to pieces. Good luck!’

And so, alas, it came to pass.

…..the Syriza government seemed to believe that it would be welcomed with open arms at the negotiating table. They had only to talk to the eurocrats, demonstrate what good Europeans they were (by not wanting to leave the EU or abandon the euro), explain that, like any orthodox EU state, they were enthusiastic supporters of market-based economic growth – and the eurocrats would be bowled over with admiration and would give them whatever they wanted….

This was naïve in the extreme.

The principle aim of the dominant rightwing current in today’s EU is to achieve a balance or surplus in the public accounts and to achieve this, where necessary, by slashing public spending, privatising state assets and “reforming” labour relations by outsourcing public services, cutting benefits, making it easier for employers to sack workers, reducing pensions and raising the pension age.

Syriza swept to power in Greece as a result of promises to the electorate that, in many respects, it would do the direct opposite: give free electricity to the poor, re-employ sacked workers, halt privatizations, and increase pensions and the minimum wage.

It is an indisputable fact that such humanitarian proposals are anathema to the penny-pinching capitalist politicians that are running the EU on behalf of international big business.

So why did Syriza expect the red carpet to be rolled out for it when its representatives rocked up in Brussels or other European capitals?”

And why today is Jeremy Corbyn setting out on the same road?

It is true that Britain is a big hitter, economically and politically, when compared to Greece, which at best accounts for only 2 per cent of EU output. However, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. None of the 28 EU states is strong enough to beard the massed ranks of the other 27 members. It is an unequal struggle which can have only one outcome.

That is why Corbyn’s new-found Europhilia is sad as well as being misguided.

He had so much going for him.

According to Wikipedia, Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (born 26 May 1949) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the London constituency of Islington North since 1983. He is also a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition. Sponsored in parliament by several trades unions, he is also in favour of animal rights.

In fact, there can hardly be a progressive movement in Britain to which this politician has not given his public support over the years.

Here’s Wikipedia again:

“Corbyn is a self-described socialist and anti-poverty campaigner. He has campaigned strongly against tuition fees in England, the creation of academies and private finance initiative schemes. He supports the renationalisation of railways, the introduction of a living wage, a higher rate of income tax for the wealthiest in society, and an increase in corporation tax to fund public services such as free higher education.”

He als0 wants Britain to be a republic and is in favour of reforming the UK parliament by abolishing the House of Lords (the unelected upper chamber) and ensuring equal representation of men and women in the House of Commons (the elected lower chamber).

Corbyn campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and is opposed to what he regards as apartheid – involving discrimination against the Arab minority – in Israel. He is a long-standing supporter of a United Ireland. He has spoken in favour of the radical “Bolivarian” government in Venezuela and called for the late dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, to be put on trial. Corbyn is also said to favour dialogue between the UK and Argentina in respect of the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, over which both countries went to war in 1982.

He has also argued that the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands,  British Indian Ocean territory, should have the right to return to their homeland. They were forcibly expelled by the UK Government around 1970 to allow the United States to set up a strategic military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands.

Still according to Wikipedia, inn April last year Corbyn wrote an article supporting Russia’s positions on NATO and the crisis in Ukraine and asserting that the “root of the crisis” lay in “the US drive to expand eastwards”. He described Russia’s actions as “not unprovoked”.

He has also opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He supports refugees, travellers and dalits (members of the lowest caste in India) and has campaigned against racism, fascism and imperialism.

With views like these, so at variance with the reactionary politics of the Labour Party establishment, it is hardly surprising – and entirely praiseworthy – that Corbyn has had frequent run-ins with the Labour Whips (parliamentary thought police whose job is to ‘whip’ dissidents into line) during his 32 years as a Member of Parliament for that increasingly rightwing non-socialist party.

What’s not to like? As far as Antigone1984 is concerned, Corbyn ticks all the boxes.

The fact that his candidacy is conspued by the usual suspects is definitive proof that this guy is good.

For example, the money-grubbing former Labour Party leader Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007) has said that Labour supporters whose hearts were telling them to vote for Corbyn needed a heart transplant. Blair is commonly referred to as “Son of Thatcher”, so zealously did he continue the rightward shift in British politics started by Margaret Thatcher, the reactionary “Iron Lady”, who was Tory Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.

Lord Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992, the man who helped Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher knock the stuffing out of the country’s mineworkers  in the great strike of 1984-1985, has come out in support of Andy Burnham, a rightwing cipher, as next Labour leader, warning that “the Trotkyite left and the Telegraph right. which he alleges have”malign purposes”, are seeking to infiltrate the contest in Corbyn’s favour.

Another Lord, Peter Mandelson, an arch-crony of Blair’s, has echoed his master’s putdown of Corbyn.

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

As to be expected, the Financial Times (which has just sold itself to the Japanese), is none too keen on Corbyn either. Commentator John Lloyd, writing in “the pink’un” on 30 July 2015, said: “Mr Blair was right to say last week that Mr Corbyn would be a disaster. As a candidate for high office, he would be politically and economically eviscerated, both at home and abroad.”

Nor is it to be wondered that hackette Polly Toynbee, a slavering cheerleader for the Labour Party establishment, also slagged off Corbyn in an article published in the Guardian newspaper on 4 August 2015.

As my late father used to say, “What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?”

Antigone1984 prefers the assessment by Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union: “We think that it is time for a change for Labour. The grip of the Blairites and inviduals like Peter Mandelson [a notoriously rightwing Blair acolyte] must now be loosened once and for all. There is a virus within the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote.”

Our only quibble – and it is a big one – is to ask why Corbyn and his ilk did not leave the Labour Party yonks ago and form their own genuinely leftwing party? The handful of dissidents (including Corbyn) in the parliamentary Labour Party has regularly clashed with party bosses – but have achieved diddly-squat. The little dogs barked but the party caravan barrelled on. The rebels were allowed to have their say – if they could find an audience – but nothing of any substance that they said was taken up by the party politburo.

While the Corbyn campaign is currently building up a head of steam, the candidate may or may not emerge as party leader when the result of the ballot is announced on 12 September. If he is not elected, too bad. He will most likely sink back into the relative obscurity from which he has just escaped. However, if, in a turn-up for the books, he does win the crown, he will have metamorphised from disregarded trouble-maker into the party’s big kahuna – with considerable freedom to shape party policy in line with his long-held principles.

Hence the tragedy of his cave-in to the European Union. As party leader, he will have exchanged his party strait-jacket for an even tighter one manufactured in Brussels.

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’ entrate!

You can say that again, mate!

We see another danger looming for Corbyn in the event that he is elected Labour Party leader. It seems from press reports that Corbyn wants his shadow cabinet to form an “inclusive” team and so will revive the former tradition of allowing Labour Members of Parliament to elect the shadow cabinet.

Antigone1984 is always in favour of elections – it is one of our core themes – but we believe that, if the shadow cabinet is to be elected, then the electorate should consist of all party members,  not the tiny contituency represented by existing Members of Parliament (MPs). These MPs were selected as candidates before the parliamentary election on 7 May when the rightwing dominated the party. As a result,  they are likely, on the whole, to take an establishment standpoint. Any such election limited to the ranks of the party’s MPs will provide a golden opportunity for the party’s rightwing, miffed at losing the leadership contest, to stuff the shadow cabinet with Corbyn opponents who will stop at nothing to stymie the party’s leftward shift.

A man with views not entirely dissimilar to those of Corbyn, Michael Foot, who was Labour Leader from 1980 to 1983, also wanted his shadow advisers to form a inclusive “big tent”. He included within his shadow cabinet big beasts of the Labour right, including Denis Healey and – yes, it’s him again – Neil Kinnock. When Foot resigned as leader in 1983 after Labour lost the parliamentary election that year, Kinnock took over as leader and immediately set about expunging leftwing members and ideas from the party – a process later completed by none other than Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

As we have pointed out above, both Kinnock and Blair, not surprisingly, are visceral opponents of Corbyn.

The writing is on the wall, Mr Corbyn.

You have been warned.

Antigone1984:

Europe again! Oh dear! Always cropping up like a bad halfpenny when you least want it.

In response to yesterday’s dramatic admission by Corbyn that he intends to toe the line on Europe, tugging his forelock piously to the gods of the Brussels Pantheon, here are three three observations from our previous posts.

The following is an extract from our post published in Athens on 24 January 2015 Soon you’ll be able to hope again(“Η ελπίδα έρχεται”) on the eve of the last Greek parliamentary elections :

“The European Union is a centralized market-subservient economic organization with some add-on environmental and social policies, which in any case are being rapidly watered down as the tightening strait-jacket of “ever closer union” removes the need to pay lip-service to non-market interests. Witness the ongoing negotiations, backed by all 28 EU governments despite widespread popular opposition, to forge a free trade agreement – the notorious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – between the EU and the USA (the instigator of the talks, the dominant partner and the likely chief beneficiary). The aim is to tip the balance away from democratic regulation of markets by sovereign governments and towards a giant intercontinental economy dominated not by small firms (the key business model in Greece) but by giant global mega-corporations. Disputes between democratically elected governments and corporate behemoths would be decided by special supranational business courts biased towards the unregulated private market.”

 The following extract comes from our post Gary Cooper and the Sheriff of Athens published on 9 February 2015.

“…Antigone1984 is very much opposed to the realization of a scenario that would lead to the creation of a United States of Europe. Quite the contrary. We have consistently argued in favour of the disintegration of the European Union as well as of the eurozone within it and for the reversion to a group of fully sovereign European nation states free to trade with one another as the whim takes them but with the power to direct their own economies as they see fit and to take their own political decisions in the interest of their own citizens without fear of interference from a power-crazed empire-building Eurocratic elite holed up out of touch in its Belgian ivory tower.

It is for this reason that  (Hélas Hellas!) we regard Syriza, the political party which now dominates the new coalition government in Greece, as simply a progressive social democratic party and not – despite its partly Marxist origins and its naive cheerleaders among leftwing groups elsewhere in Europe – a radical leftwing anti-capitalist anti-market party. Instead of “negotiating” to remain organically within the supposed comfort zone of the European Union and the euro-currency bloc, both fundamentally capitalist constructions, a radical leftwing party could not have failed to seize this historic opportunity to break free and reclaim full national sovereignty in an economy based on cooperation, deprivatization, the egalitarian distribution of wealth and income, patriotic industrial protectionism and participative democratic decision-making. 

As to Jeremy Corbyn and his “allies”, whoever they may be, “renegotiating” the fundamentals of European policy, try replacing “Syriza” with “UK Labour Party” in this extract from our post Felipe Gonzalez published in Athens on 10 June 2012 in the midst of the previous Greek parliamentary elections:

“In a recent interview with Le Monde,  Syriza’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Rena Doulou, said she wants the Greek people to become “a model of resistance to financial capitalism”. The party, she said, wants to put the accent on a spirit of public and cooperative enterprise with a view to sustainable growth and the satisfaction of social needs. Syriza will reform public finance, provide incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises, and create jobs (particularly in hospitals and schools). As a result, “instead of being Europe’s guinea-pig,” she believes that Greek society would become a new model for the people of Europe – “a model which resists the logic of financial capitalism”.

Syriza seems to be blissfully unaware that every country that joins the European Union must agree to run a free-market economy. The market economy is the bedrock upon which the European Union rests. Even if transitional arrangements allowing temporary state intervention are permitted, in the long term the state (representing the people) must hand over the running of its economy to private businesses. That is why, throughout Europe today, successful state-run railways, postal services and utilities are currently being handed over, often at bargain-basement prices, to private firms.”

It seems as if Corbyn is blissfully unaware of the black hole into which Syriza and its negotiators have disappeared.

As we said above, he should get out more.

 ——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. 5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Architecture, Europe, Greece, Politics, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anyone for Uruguay?

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

25 May 2015

CONTRA SPEM

Tout le malheur des hommes vient de l’espérance.”

Assertion by Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-born French writer and Nobel literature laureate, in his disquisition on rebellion and revolution (“L’Homme révolté”, 1951).

“Antigone1984… is very much opposed to political optimism for which there is no basis in fact. One gets a whiff of this in the recourse of the Italian Communist theoretician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) to “optimism of the will” when faced with “pessimism of the intellect”. The sainted British Labour Party leftwinger Tony Benn (1925-2014) was another notorious exponent of culpable optimism. We remember him telling a meeting in Brussels during the catastrophic 1984-1985 UK mineworkers’ strike that “we [the left] have won” when it was already blindingly obvious that we had lost big-time. Think also of the legendary prediction by Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989) at the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): “¡No pasarán! [They shall not get through!] she said of the advancing forces of the rightist insurgent Francisco Franco. To which the subsequently victorious Franco is said to have retorted: ¡Ya hemos pasado! [We have already got through!]. At Antigone1984 we prefer to call a spade a spade, not a shovel.”

The above is an extract from our blog “H ελπίδα έρχεται”   (“Soon you’ll be able to hope again”) published in Athens on 24 January 2015. It was with this over-optimistic slogan that the left-leaning Syriza party headed into the Greek general election exactly four months ago today. Sadly, as we predicted at the time, despite Syriza’s victory at the polls, it took only a week for those hopes to be dashed as the party’s raggle-taggle army of naïve greenhorns locked horns to their cost with the ruthless bean-counters of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Greece today is even more of an economic basket-case than it was before the election.

The profession of unblinking optimism, whatever the circumstances, was a key duty of party apparatchiki schooled in Marxist-Leninist doctrine at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The good comrade, indoctrinated to believe in the “scientific” inevitability that the proletariat will ultimately triumph, was trained always to look on the bright side.

The idea is that morale will crumble if party members are allowed to indulge in the “bourgeois” luxury of seeing things as they are.

Antigone1984 adopts a different position. Opposed to wishful thinking, we do our best to analyse the political situation as it actually is and not on the basis of how we would prefer things to be. If our analysis provides grounds for optimism, then we are optimistic. If it does not, then we tell it like it is.

The light at the end of the tunnel may be the light of the oncoming train.

We take the view that it is deceitful to fake an optimism for which you do not believe there is evidence. In trying to convince people that there are grounds for hope when you do not believe this to be the case you are doing them no service.

It is a version of that old chestnut of immorality: “the end justifies the means”:  we can maintain a cavalier attitude towards the truth because our ultimate aims are laudable.

Bullshit.

Hope-mongers are already at work on the British left following the triumph of the reactionary Tory Party in the parliamentary election on 7 May 2015 (covered in our last four blogs).

Since the catastrophic defeat of the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties in that election, waste-of-breath voices are being heard on the left commending our vacuous old friend “hope”. A paid-up member of the hope-mongering tendency is commentator Owen Jones, a star “leftie” hack on the Guardian newspaper and, paradoxically, a supporter of the non-socialist Labour Party to boot. On 8 May, the day after the election, Jones cobbled together an article entitled “A nightmarish result – but a politics of hope could arise from these ashes”. Here we go again. It is no accident that Jones is a torch-bearer for the late Tony Benn (mentioned in our opening paragraph above) whose name was a byword for pathological optimism.

After lamenting the rightward drift of the Labour Party in the outgoing parliament, Owen concludes:

“There will be a big debate now over the future of the Labour party, and what the left does next. This country desperately needs a politics of hope that answers people’s everyday problems on living standards, job security, housing, public services and the future of their children. What is needed is a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. The future of millions of people depends on it.”

The country may “need” a politics of hope, whatever that means, but it is not going to get it. Nor is there any evidence to suggest the emergence any time soon – or indeed ever – of a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. At least not if the Labour Party has anything to do with it. No sooner were the catastrophic election results announced, than the party elite unanimously blamed the disaster on the fact that the party had not moved far enough to the right. As we have repeatedly emphasized, despite its name the Labour Party is a market-subservient party of the right, not the left, and it is moving further to the right at a rate of knots. A big debate over the future of the Labour Party. That is the last thing that party apparatchiki want. But if there were to be a debate it would not be about moving back in the direction of the historic left-inclined roots of the party, but about how far and how fast the party could move in the opposite direction.

So not many grounds for hope there then.

A letter in the Guardian newspaper on 16 May 2015 from Emeritus Professor Roger Carpenter of Cambridge University refers to the infighting among the right-wing epigoni of the Labour Party elite who are now scrabbling to succeed the fallen party leader Edward “Loser” Miliband:

“When the ambitious little apparatchiks come out of their woodwork and vie with each other in support of  ‘aspiration’ (greed and selfishness) and Tory values generally, is it not time for those who care about creating a society that is fair, civilised, compassionate, and protected from the power of the big corporations to agree that this terminally corrupted and aimless organisation, the Labour party, should be left to die quietly? Is it not time to start again?”

The fact is that the Labour Party has long been a spent force. The recent election gave it the coup de grâce. The loss of all but one of its Scottish seats means that it is unlikely, in the foreseeable future, if ever,  to be able to win enough seats in any subsequent election to form a majority government. It has often been argued that if Labour lost its Scottish seats the Tories could be in power permanently. Forthcoming changes in constituency boundaries are also likely to reinforce the Tory advantage.

Nor is there any sign of the emergence in Britain of any other significant movement aspiring to don the leftwing mantle that has been cast off by Labour. There is no counterpart here of the new social democratic parties in Europe, such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain. Leftwing grouplets (such as Left Unity or the Socialist Workers’ Party) do exist, of course, but their membership is minute, their policies are unoriginal and unimaginative and they have no political traction. Moreover, because of its socialist origins, as long as the Labour Party exists, there will be gullible people who will continue to support it in the misguided belief that what it was once it still is. As long as that remains the case, the Labour Party will continue to monopolise the space that could otherwise be occupied by more left-leaning groups. The Labour Party is the elephant in the room. That is why the demise of the Labour Party, the sooner the better, is a pre-condition for the emergence of genuine opposition to rightwing politics. In Greece it was the implosion of the country’s discredited socialist party (PASOK), which had sold out like the Labour Party in Britain, that gave Syriza its chance. However, the death of the Labour Party, if it happens, is likely to be a long drawn-out affair. There is no sign that it will happen any day now.

The immediate outlook, then, in the period between now and the May 2020 deadline for the next parliamentary election is – as former London mayor Ken Livingstone said in our last blog on 18 May – “five more years of pure evil”.

Vicisti, Galilaee!

In these circumstances, with the electorate having given the green light to the most reactionary government since the 18th century, what is the leftwing activist to do?

Что делать? What is to be done?

  1. Opting out of the political arena, on the assumption that no progress is currently possible, one can sit at home and cultivate one’s garden. This was the solution proposed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus of Samos (d. 270 BC) to deal with the plight of the isolated individual freeman of his day. Unlike in the heyday of the “polis” city-state, which gave direct democratic rights to all citizens, the Hellenistic commoner had no political importance in the vast cosmopolis brought into being by the conquests of Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC). French philosopher and gardener Voltaire (d. 1778 AD) also advocated retiring from the world to cultivate one’s garden. Cultivating one’s garden need not be taken literally. It can mean turning away from the world to spend time developing one’s intellect and talents. Confucian civil servants in imperial China, when they left or lost office, often withdrew to their provincial estates where, parlayed into Taoists, they communed with nature and wrote poetry.

2.The other option, for those who can, is to emigrate to more hospitable climes.

In “Exile’s Return” (1934) the US critic Malcolm Cowley (d. 1989) chronicled the flight to Europe of talented young Americans escaping the philistine post-war USA of Presidents Harding and Coolidge: “Harold Stearns (d.1943), editor of the pessimistic “Civilization in the United States”, wrote an article for the Freeman in the early 1920s called “What should a young man do?” …his answer was simple and uncompromising. A young man had no future in this country of hypocrisy and repression. He should take ship for Europe, where people know how to live. Early in July 1921, just after finishing his Preface and delivering the completed manuscript to the publisher, Mr Stearns left this country, perhaps forever. His was no ordinary departure: he was Alexander marching into Persia and Byron shaking the dust of England from his feet. Reporters came to the gangplank to jot down his last words. Everywhere young men [including Cowley] were preparing to follow his example.”

Following the electoral triumph of the Tories in Britain this month, progressive Britons face the same imperative. Reaction has triumphed. There is no place for liberals in a country where the candle of liberty has been snuffed out. Even as we write these lines, arch-repressive Home Secretary Theresa “Fangs” May is fast-tracking a bill which threatens to categorise all opponents of the government as criminal extremists.

Our advice is stark: get out if you can while you can.

But where to?

In our globalised homogenised marketised world, where diversity is repressed and conformity dictated, there are few hiding places for the free spirit. Certainly not America with its permanent war culture, its judicial executions and its reactionary timocratic politics. Not Europe either with its bankster economy and its foreign and defence policies outsourced to Washington. Obviously not Russia or China – both dictatorships – either.

It seems to us that there are currently only two countries in the world which might offer a modicum of freedom to the political exile.

One is Iceland (330 000 inhabitants) with its progressive attitude towards asylum and free speech.

According to Wikipedia, Iceland generally has a free-market economy tempered by capital controls. It also has “relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks highly in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013 it was ranked as the 13th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index.”

However, Iceland might perhaps be a tad on the cold side for softies from more southerly climes.

The other possible bolt-hole is Uruguay with its 3.3 million inhabitants. Not exactly round the corner, but then again nothing’s perfect.

This is an extract from Wikipedia’s entry for Uruguay:

“Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, e-government, and equally first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class, prosperity and security. On a per capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peace-keeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per capita income and inflows of FDI. Uruguay is the third best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It’s regarded as a high-income country (top group) by the UN, the only one in Latin America. Uruguay is also the 3rd best ranked in the world in e-participation. The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013, acknowledging the innovative policy of legalising the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed, outstanding regionally and performing well globally on personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues.

Drawing on Switzerland and its use of the initiative, the Uruguayan Constitution also allows citizens to repeal laws or to change the constitution by popular initiative, which culminates in a nationwide referendum. This method has been used several times over the past 15 years…to stop privatization of public utilities companies; to defend pensioners’ incomes; and to protect water resources. A 2010 Latinobarómetro poll found that, within Latin America, Uruguayans are among the most supportive of democracy and by far the most satisfied with the way democracy works in their country.”

Maybe someone can suggest other bolt-holes.

In any case, good luck to y’all.

And will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in China, Europe, Iceland, Politics, Russia, UK, UN, Uruguay, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five more years of pure evil

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

18 May 2015

“FIVE MORE YEARS OF PURE EVIL”

Mindful of the fact that predictions are necessarily tentative, let us look into our crystal ball and try to glimpse what the implications of the UK parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015 are for those Britons that are not card-carrying members of the elite.

The omens are ominous.

Having failed to snag an overall majority in the last parliamentary election in May 2010, the viscerally rightwing Tory Party has had to govern for the past five years in coalition with the pro-free-market Liberal Democratic Party, its junior partner, which supposedly exercised a moderating influence. Now, however, the brakes are off. Provided that they retain their overall majority in votes in parliament, the Tories have carte blanche to do their worst.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone of the Labour Party did not mince his words. It will mean “five more years of pure evil”, he said (as quoted in the Guardian newspaper two days after the electoral debacle).

Spot on, Ken!

By contrast, on 8 May, after briefing Queen Elizabeth II on the good news at Buck House, the newly elected Tory Prime Minister David Cameron returned to his offices at 10 Downing Street to announce that the Conservatives (Tories) would govern as “a party of one nation” (Financial Times 9/10 May).

If you believe that, you need your head testing.

In fact, he will govern exclusively in the interests of the corporate interests that, wielding their financial muscle and exploiting their control of the media, returned him to power.

During the last six months before the election, the door-bell to 10 Downing Street never stopped ringing as the country’s most egregious financial kleptocrats vied with each other to hand over shedloads of ackers for the Tories’ electoral war-chest.

They made their investment. Their ship came in. Now they want the dividend.

In an article in the Financial Times on 9/10 May, Jonathan Guthrie said: “Company bosses, some of whom backed the Tories in an open letter, now hope for payback from a party on whose donor lists hedge funds are heavily represented”.

According to Guthrie, the chief executive of a big outsourcing company was hopeful the Conservatives would “open up” the UK’s National Health Service by handing over routine administration to private contractors.

Of the City of London, the UK’s financial hub, Guthrie says: “Viscerally and tribally its sympathies are with the Conservative party. A surprise electoral majority for the Tories was therefore greeted with jubilation – albeit mostly in private – and a more visible surge in stocks…The benchmark FTSE 100 index jumped 2.3 per cent…Somewhere in the City, braying bankers were surely sloshing Champagne around.”

Liam Frawley, a recruitment consultant interviewed in a pub near the Bank of England, told the Financial Times: “The Conservatives support business, so there’ll be more jobs for me to fill and I can go on holiday to the Bahamas.”

Private Eye’s post-election edition (no. 1392) also documented the good news:

“It was no shock that the stock market welcomed the arrival of a Conservative majority government…Outsourcing companies [private firms to which the government outsources public services for loadsamoney] rocketed, including miscreants G4S and Serco, whose share prices rose 7.35 and 5.95 per cent respectively….Capita fared well too, improving 6.72 per cent. Defence outsourcer Babcock, which is involved in upgrading Trident [Britain’s redundant fleet of nuclear war submarines], surged 9.4 per cent…The outsourcers’ joy was exceeded only by that of the estate agents, especially in the capital. London agency Foxtons rose 8.99 per cent and Savills 9.81 per cent. So the markets’ view of the election result? Accelerated selling of public services and more jam at the pricey end of the property market. Business pretty much as usual, then.”

Did anyone say “pork barrel”?

The following, in the view of Antigone1984, is the best-case scenario as the lights go out and Britain returns to the Dark Ages of unfettered capitalism red in tooth and claw:

1. The very first thing that Cameron announced once the scale of his success had become apparent was the government’s intention to abolish the 1998 Human Rights Act, which transposed the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. The Tories hate the fact that a non-UK body, the European Court of Human Rights, is the final court of appeal where interpretation of the convention is concerned. This ties in, of course, with the hatred of large sections of the Tory Party for anything remotely connected with European integration. The government apparently wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a “British Bill of Rights”. However, human rights, if they mean anything, apply by definition to all human beings. The Tories appear to believe that British human rights can somehow be differentiated from from universal human rights as if Britons were somehow not entirely human and therefore not entitled to benefit from the rights applicable to all other human beings. This is, of course, a doctrine dearly loved by dictatorial regimes the world over: “We have our own human rights. We don’t need yours.” It is more than ironic that the Tories are proposing to dispense with universal human rights in a year that marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, the foundation stone of our civil liberties, which was signed under duress at Runnymede by England’s bad King John on 15 June 1215.

2. Savage privatization will continue and accelerate. The ongoing sell-off of the National Health Service to the private sector and foreign medical giants will be expedited. Ditto the postal service (the Royal Mail). Ditto the prisons and the probation service. Ditto the employment offices. And so on ad infinitum. All publicly owned organizations will have to draft plans for privatization. The government’s supporters (“friends”) and financial backers will, of course, get first bite at the cherry. The ultimate aim is to abolish the public sector altogether, the government’s role being reduced to light administration of the private businesses earmarked to replace it. The speed of the revolving door between the civil service and private businesses will be ramped up.

3. Public spending will be slashed. Central government is proposing to expand dramatically the already savage cutbacks in spending on benefits for the poor and the jobless. Following its swingeing reduction in benefits during the last five years, the Department for Work and Pensions has already got the green light to prune a further colossal £12 billion from the benefits bill. Local authorities will also be in the firing-line as their grants from central government are pared to the bone. As a result, local services will be mangled at best or abolished outright. Think refuse collection, health and safety, food inspection, traffic regulation, street lighting, care for the disabled and the elderly, etc. A spate of suicides will ensue as social derelicts chuck in the towel.

4. The deep security apparatus within the British state will be brought out of the shadows and mainstreamed. Secret surveillance of all citizens’ actions and communications (emails, telephone calls, private conversations inside one’s home) will become routine and bugging will be universal. The remnants of judicial restraint on police action will be removed. If that does not cow opposition, then emergency powers will be invoked. Dissent will be suppressed by zero-tolerance policing, recusants being thrown into jail with the slavering cooperation of the judiciary (the merciless judicial crackdown on rioters in London in August 2011 is a portent of things to come). Should this come to pass, the representatives of what remains of the token official opposition – the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, etc – will, of course, give their full backing to the government not only for fear of being thought limp-wristed and insufficiently macho but also because, as rightwing parties despite the moniker, they fully endorse the gadarene rush towards undiluted capitalism.

5. No time will be lost in attacking the handful of moderately independent media organizations that have survived so far. Thus, albeit centrist and market-supportive, the Guardian newspaper is likely to have a more difficult time as it finds itself in the cross-hairs of government snipers. However, the main focus of Tory ire will be the BBC, long a Conservative bugbear. Although by any standards, the BBC is a cautious conventional middle-of-the road media organization, it is still theoretically independent of government and this is what rankles. Moves are already afoot to slash its budget.

6. In addition to the £12 billion of further welfare cuts mentioned above, the new government is planning to lop a further £13 billion off departmental budgets. Culture, the arts and heritage are expected to be among areas hard hit.  Since the coalition of Tories and Liberal Democrats took power in 2010, arts budgets have been slashed. Sajid Javid, a person with no apparent cultural qualifications whatever, was appointed Secretary of State for Culture. While school budgets are supposed to be ring-fenced against the new cuts, government interference in school governance and curricula will continue unabated: the rush to privatize education, removing schools from local authority supervision will go on and the government will pursue its philistine crusade to purge from school curricula those subjects (such as art) which do not contribute directly per se to economic growth.

And so on…..

A letter from reader Olive Townsley published in the Guardian newspaper on 13 May following the electoral nakba on 7 May made a connection with celebrations held the next day to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day – 8 May 1945 – marking the end of the Second World War in Europe as Germany surrendered to Allied Forces:

“Among all the tributes paid to the generation that endured, fought and won the second world war, one is conspicuously absent. This was also the generation that voted out Churchill and his Conservatives and gave us the Labour landslide of 1945. Attlee’s government [Clement Attlee, Labour Prime Minister 1945-1951, defeated Churchill as the war ended] remains unique in carrying out what it had promised – the NHS, free education for all up to university level, nationalisation of the railways, the coal and steel industries, etc. The present electorate of the UK has now given the Tories the opportunity they have long desired – to complete the dismantling of the welfare state. Shame on us!”

Antigone1984:

Looking ahead, we can do no better than refer to the spine-chilling prophecy made by Welsh Labour MP Neil Kinnock, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science, in a speech made at Bridgend, Glamorgan, on Tuesday 7 June 1983.

This was two days before a UK parliamentary election at which Labour was resoundingly defeated. Margaret Thatcher – aka the Iron Lady or Attila the Hen – was re-elected Prime Minister and hence was enabled to forge ahead with her root-and-branch marketisation of the British economy.

Kinnock himself was elected Labour Party leader in October 1983. Disowning his leftist past, he shifted the party to the right, setting his face against the epic coal strike of 1984-85 and paving the way for the party’s subsequent abandonment of socialism under “son-0f-Thatcher” Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (Labour Party leader from 1994 to 1997 and Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007).

This is the prediction Kinnock made at Bridgend. It is as valid today, following Cameron’s victory, as it was Thatcher’s time.

“If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–

– I warn you not to be ordinary

– I warn you not to be young

– I warn you not to fall ill

– I warn you not to get old.”

 

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The people have spoken, the bastards!

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

17 May 2015

“The people have spoken, the bastards!”

These are the immortal words of Dick Tuck (b. 1924), an aspirant for nomination as Democratic Party candidate for the 1966 election to the California State Senate, on learning that he had lost to George Danielson.

However, they provide one way of looking at the triumph of the British Conservative (Tory) Party in the UK parliamentary election on 7 May 2015 in which the Tories, snatching an overall majority against the odds, confounded pollster predictions of a hung parliament by winning a slender overall majority of seats (see our post of 8 May 2015 Refuseniks).

This is how Janan Ganesh summed up the Tory victory in the Financial Times on 9/10 May:

“Mr Cameron has electoral success to savour, and the right has something more precious and lasting: ideological encouragement. Governments that cut public spending upset voters, which is why they tend not to do it. So when a Tory party led by men of infuriating privilege hacks away at the state for five years and ends up with even more seats than it had to begin with, history will take note. This election is a precedent to be invoked by fiscal hawks and free-marketeers for decades to come.”

Yes, after centuries of supposed democratic reform the rank-and-file electors of this tiny insular third-rank kingdom have voted for the party of the bankers, hedge fundsters, big business, big money, inherited wealth, hierarchy and privilege.

The puppet masters at the summit of the party – the Conservatives are nicknamed “Tories” after a small island off the coast of Northern Ireland that was allegedly a haunt of pirates – come almost to a man from an exclusive privately educated money-bags elite of inter-connected families and businesses that claim a right to govern as their birthright.

The party’s big kahuna, David “Dave” Cameron, of stockbroker stock, trained for his role in society at Eton College, the UK’s most prestigious private school conveniently situated under the walls of the royal palace of Windsor Castle. He is himself a lineal descendant of William IV, who was king from 1830 to 1837.

Yet this is what the “little people” voted for – an Eton boot boy and a party of toffs.

The Tories are also often referred to as the “nasty” party. It is easy to see why.

The just treatment of minorities, including the poor and the disabled, is generally regarded as the hallmark of a civilised society.

By this touchstone the outgoing Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition produced a government that was the diametrical opposite of civilised.

When the allegedly indestructible all-singing all-dancing capitalist economy hit the buffers in 2007-2010 as a result of mafia banksters passing off dud bonds as blue-chip securities, the political response was to bail out the banks with public money – stuffing the shysters’ mouths with gold – and then, in Europe at least, to recoup this largesse by imposing savage austerity in the form of public spending cutbacks on the population at large. As was well said at the time, it was “socialism for rich banksters and capitalism for everyone else”.

In Britain, however, austerity was especially focused on one particular segment of the population after the Tory/Liberal Democratic coalition came to power in 2010, namely the poor and disabled who, for want of decent jobs owing to the recession caused by the failure of the global banking system, depended on state benefits to which they were fully entitled under the safety net devised precisely for this purpose by earlier governments of every political persuasion.

During their five years in office – May 2010 to May 2015 – the UK coalition government made it a priority to cut away the safety net providing minimal subsistence for the most vulnerable sectors of the population. The result was to drive millions of poor Britons, including thousands of families with children, into destitution and homelessness. Families were broken up and dispersed into sleazy “bed-and-breakfast” ghettos around the country. The disabled poor fared no better. The halt had their crutches kicked from under them: government-commissioned overseers ordered them to walk the streets in search of non-existent jobs. Nor was deafness or blindness an excuse for not seeking a job (even though the recession, combined with globalisation and unrestricted immigration, had dramatically reduced the number of jobs available). For many suicide was the remedy of last resort.

It is precisely for political parties that formed a government with this appalling record of inhumanity that millions of Britons voted in parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015.

How to explain this?

Firstly, there is the obvious answer. Nasty governments are voted into power by nasty citizens. History is littered with examples of electorates that have given the thumbs-up to vicious scape-goating tyrants. One cannot turn a blind eye to the possibility that the electors in question, smug and self-satisfied, derive a vicarious sadistic pleasure from witnessing the sufferings imposed by the state on those to whom the hand of destiny has dealt a losing number in the lottery of life. In the Middle Ages, when miscreants were publicly exposed in the stocks, upright citizens would pelt them with stones. Schadenfreude they call it in Germany – and the Germans know what they are talking about.

Others may not be sadistic, but are simply selfish and self-interested. They put No. 1 first, second and third and have no interest in or sympathy with the fate of their fellow human beings. When they vote, they vote solely for whatever outcome they think will most benefit themselves, any benefit being seen invariably in crude financial terms.

Another category of electors involves those whose personal and political attitudes diverge widely. Such people often show great personal kindness to those with whom they personally come into contact but at the same time find it in no way a contradiction to support, theoretically and at the ballot box, the most vicious of political ideologies. We have known rabid racists, for instance, who subscribe to the most repugnant racist theories but who are quite happy, for instance, to accept invitations to the weddings of members of ethnic groups who are personally known to them. These people – and they are by no means all at the bottom of the social scale – seem oblivious to the need for a common thread between how they behave towards individuals they know personally and the stance they take in respect of political generalizations of the same ilk.

Then again there are others who are frankly not interested in politics and, as a result, lack an informed acquaintance with political developments. Such people may easily be taken in by the last item of propaganda they have heard on television or read in a newspaper. Unlike rocket science or string theory, politics is not complicated or difficult but you do need to know something about it in order to make an informed choice between the alternatives on offer.

The newly elected UK government, for instance, is proposing to redefine human rights to chime with its national party-political ideology. Politically speaking, human rights are of mega-importance. Support for human rights is the bedrock of any civilised state. However, if your main interest is golf or bridge, spinning vinyl or going to the cinema or if you are completely tied up with the time-consuming business of earning a living, human rights may not seem all that relevant to your life and you might be inclined to leave them to the government to sort out. Highly imprudent, in our view, and politically irresponsible – politicians should at all times be held to account for their actions – but understandable in the circumstances.

In this context, the media plays a role of primordial importance. In most of the world, including the so-called western democracies, the media are owned either by the state or by individual private businesses. They will invariably support the owner’s views. Facts or opinions at variance with those views will not receive coverage. In Britain the press, mostly owned by business groups, largely back the establishment, particularly at election time. The needs of the poor or disabled do not figure prominently in their calculations. If they are mentioned at all, it will usually be in the context of a story about fraudulent benefit claims, however unrepresentative these may be. Understandably, people without a fair knowledge of politics or of how the media operates can easily be bamboozled.

Finally, there are the tribal voters. These people vote for a particular party regardless of specific policies either because this is what they have always done or because it is what their families before them have always done. As a US elector once said, “If Governor Walters is right, I shall vote for him because he is right. If Governor Walters is wrong, I shall vote for him because he is a Republican.”

In any case, in the UK the electors have spoken, the die is cast and the fat will soon hit the pan.

It goes without saying, of course, that the first-past-the-post single-seat-constitutency voting system is rigged egregiously in favour of the two biggest parties. The number of seats won fails – deliberately – to reflect the proportion of votes cast country-wide for each party contesting the election.

It can be argued, therefore, that the system is unfair and the result open to question.

It should also be borne in mind that the Tories won the election despite garnering the votes of less than a quarter (24.4%) of the electorate.

Democracy? Hardly.

Antigone1984:

This is what Giles Fraser, former Vicar of Putney, said in his “Loose canon” column in the   Guardian newspaper on 9 May:

“Right now I feel ashamed to be English. Ashamed to belong to a country that has clearly identified itself as insular, self-absorbed and apparently caring so little for the most vulnerable people among us. Why did a million people visiting food banks make such a minimal difference? Did we just vote for our own narrow concerns and sod the rest? Maybe that’s why the pollsters got it so badly wrong: we are not so much a nation of shy voters as of ashamed voters, people who want to present to the nice polling man as socially inclusive, but who, in the privacy of the booth, tick the box of our own self-interest.”

Just so.

 

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Germany, Ireland, Politics, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refuseniks

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

8 May 2015

The abstentionist bloc in the British electorate registered a resounding success in the UK parliamentary elections yesterday 7 May.

Politically, this is of primordial importance since a good turnout by the abstentionists cocks a snook at the electoral system and undermines the crumbling f0undations of the democratic facade.

Thus, 15,738,205 people – at 33.9% just over a third of the UK electorate – boycotted the poll.

This is a far higher larger percentage of the electorate than supported any of the political parties taking part in the poll.

A total of 11,334,920 people – only 24.4% of the electorate – backed the victorious Conservative (Tory) Party.

The runner-up Labour Party was backed by 9,347,326 voters – only 20.1% of the electorate.

The third most popular party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), had the support of 3,881,129 voters – 8.4% of the electorate.

The fourth most popular party, the Liberal Democrats, appealed to 2,415,888 voters – 5.2% of the electorate.

Next (fifth) came the Scottish National Party (SNP) with 1,454,436 voters – 3.1% of the electorate.

The Green Party (sixth), the only other party that scored over a million votes, was supported by 1,157,613 voters – 2.5% of the electorate.

[A technical point:

Share of the vote means the percentage of total votes actually cast in the poll (ie excluding abstainers) that have been won by a particular party. Proportion of the electorate refers to the percentage of the total number of those eligible to vote, ie it includes both those who have actually cast their votes and those who have abstained.]

On the basis of these figures, those stalwart citizens who boycotted the poll, standing firm against self-interested special pleading by party hacks and the media claque, turn out to represent the views of the largest proportion of the British electorate involved in the poll.

At this point, simple-minded observers with an axe to grind will claim that those who abstained will have done so for a variety of reasons – that there is no consistency in the views they may hold.

Right on. Just so!

Precisely the situation that obtains in every political party.

All political parties are a coalition of views, some members wanting to prevent the passage of a new railway across their back garden, others wanting to save humanity from hunger and want.

So it is too with the noble band of abstentionists.

Like Antigone1984, many will, rightly, take the view, that there is no point in taking part in the ballot because it will have no effect: “If voting changed anything, it would not be allowed.”

Others – sometimes the same people – will refuse to take party because the voting procedure is not democratic. Yes, you heard right. In our so-called democracy what we lack is democracy. Particularly and above all when it comes to the ballot box.

Take the party which gained the third largest number of votes in yesterday’s ballot – the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The Labour Party was backed by 9,347,326 voters – 20.1% of the electorate. It gained 232 seats in yesterday’s election.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), had the support of 3,881,129 voters – 8.4% of the electorate. Yet it gained – believe it or not – only one seat in parliament.

The Liberal Democrats (8 seats gained) and the Greens (only one seat) also singularly failed to gain seats in proportion to the number of people who voted for them.

By contrast, with 1,454,436 voters, only 3.1% of the electorate, the Scottish National Party scooped up 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Bully for them! The SNP’s policies are, in our view, more or less right on.

But it is hardly democracy.

For a comprehensive tally of the results you could do worse than check out the BBC table at UK election parliamentary election results 2015 (BBC).

The following account of the results is largely based on a summary by the BBC on 8 May, the day after the election.

The Conservatives have 331 seats – five more than are needed  (326 ) for a majority in the 650-seat  House of Commons (the lower and most important chamber of parliament).

 Mr Cameron’s rivals Ed Miliband (Labour Party), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democratic Party) and Nigel Farage (UKIP – UK Independence Party) have all resigned as party leaders following their parties’ failure to gain enough seats .

Many of the big beasts in the outgoing parliament lost their seats.

 With all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives have ended up with 331 seats in the House of Commons – 24 more than at the last parliamentary election in May 2010.

 Labour have ended up with 232 seats, the Liberal Democrats 8, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 56, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19.

The Conservatives snagged a 36.9% share of the UK national vote (ie the total number of votes actually cast in the election), Labour 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, the Liberal Democrats 7.9%, the SNP 4.7%, the Green Party 3.8% and Plaid Cymru 0.6%.

 Turnout was 66.1%, marginally up on 2010 and the highest since 1997.

The victory by the Conservatives, who depended on the support of their junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, in the outgoing government, means they will be able to govern without the need for a coalition or a formal agreement with other parties.

George Osborne, who is expected to remain chancellor, said the Conservatives had been “given a mandate to get on with the work we started five years ago” and would follow the “clear instructions” of the British public.

Antigone1984:

Ominous!

 ——–

You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Politics, UK, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

None of the above

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

6 May 2015

NONE OF THE ABOVE

With the UK parliamentary elections due to take place tomorrow 7 May 2015, today we respond to the question to which the entire UK electorate, the press and media, politicians and political pundits have been agog to know the answer for the past six months: how will Antigone1984 vote?

The key parties coveting power in these elections in England are the viciously rightwing Conservative “Tory” Party (currently the dominant party in a coalition government), the viciously rightwing Labour Party (which has promised the electorate that if it wins the election it will be at least as rightwing as the Conservatives), the viciously rightwing Liberal Democratic Party (currently the junior partner in the coalition government), the UK Independence Party (which, rightly, wants Britain to secede from the European Union but which, in other respects, is to the right of the Conservative Party) and the Green Party (which has a batch of humane policies but has failed to demonstrate that it will not sell out to the establishment, as green parties have consistently done in other countries, if ever it were to get a sniff at power).

In these circumstances, so far as assiduous readers of this blog are concerned, the long-awaited answer to the question of how Antigone1984 will vote tomorrow is a no-brainer.

It is “none of the above” – political shorthand for the decision by an elector to reject all parties on the ballot paper and to boycott the poll.

Antigone1984 does not support any of the parties mentioned above and so will not be taking part in the ballot.

The aim is to detract from the legitimacy of the outcome.

The larger the proportion of the electorate that abstains, the less legitimate the result of the election.

It is to be hoped that the percentage of abstentionists will be larger than the percentage of votes for any of the key parties mentioned above. Fingers crossed. If that turns out to be the case, it can be argued that the abstentionists have won the day, representing the largest body of opinion among the electorate.

If Antigone1984 were to have voted, we would have voted in England as that is where we are registered on the electoral roll. However, these elections are for the parliament of the United Kingdom (aka Britain), which also includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The key parties in the Province of Northern Ireland are the rightwing, historically reactionary Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the left-leaning republican Sinn Fein Party. Both parties are uneasy bedfellows in a coalition provincial government. If Antigone1984 had a vote in Northern Ireland, we would certainly not support the DUP but we are not certain that we would plump for Sinn Fein either given its violent past and a gut feeling that its leadership is devious and untrustworthy. We might well boycott the election as we are doing in England.

The key parties in Scotland are the left-leaning Scottish National Party (SNP), which currently dominates the Scottish regional parliament, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. In Scotland we would vote for the SNP, for which the polls are predicting a landslide victory.

In Wales the Conservative and Labour Parties are fighting it out together with the small leftwing nationalist party Plaid Cymru. In Wales we would vote for Plaid Cymru.

Antigone1984:

We have revealed above how we view the various parties contending for power in tomorrow’s election in the United Kingdom.

However, in line with our mission statement when this blog was launched in 2011, we want to make it crystal-clear that this is a personal view based on our experience of politics and our assessment of the current political situation in Britain today. In particular, we are not making any recommendations. In a democracy it is for each elector to make up their own mind on the basis of their own experience and their assessment of the political situation.

For our general view of politics in the west, readers who have not yet done so might usefully check out our blogpost of 20 July 2102 Partitocracy v. Democracy . This puts our view of tomorrow’s election in context. It may be summed up in the dictum: “If elections changed anything, they wouldn’t be allowed.” The post also gives our take on the political class. Generally speaking, in our view, public service is a euphemism for opportunism and self-seeking. Our countries are governed not by the best elements in society but by the worst. The scum of the earth is a phrase that comes immediately to mind.

We are also often asked why, as a leftwing blog, we will under no circumstances support the UK Labour Party. For the answer to this question we refer to our blogpost of 7 December 2013 “New comet or damp squib?”.

In that post we argued that for any genuine leftwing party to become a force to be reckoned with on the hustings, there is no alternative but to mount a full-on no-holds-barred attack on that wolf in sheep’s clothing – the Labour Party.

We take the view that until the Labour Party is driven from the political stage the chances for socialism in this country are precisely nil.

The Labour Party has not been a socialist party since Keir Hardie died in 1915.

The Labour Party has ceased to be a progressive party since the Attlee Government fell in 1951.

For decades the Labour Party has been a rightwing conservative party with policies virtually indistinguishable from those of the Tories.

None the less, even as it slithers ceaselessly towards the right, the Labour Party is still seen – by many activists as well as by much wider a-political swathes of the population – as the sole possible channel for progressive politics in this country.

As long as the Labour Party can continue to exploit its historical reserve of leftish goodwill, it will hoodwink enough of our citizens to prevent any threat to the red-blooded capitalism that it now espouses.

In the teeth of decade upon decade of evidence to the contrary, it is an illusion to believe that the politically bankrupt principle-free Labour Party is, somehow or other, going to pull a socialist rabbit out of its capitalist hat. It is not going to happen.

That is why we believe that a key activity of any leftwing grouping today must be to mount against the Labour Party a full-spectrum all-out onslaught with the ultimate aim of driving it out of existence.

Only with the demise of the Labour Party – only then – will an opportunity arise for the development of progressive politics in this country.  Then and only then will it be possible to tap into the popular support that undoubtedly exists for the creation of a just and fair society in this our country.”

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012) 
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

Posted in Ireland, Politics, Scotland, UK, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Η ελπίδα δέν έρχεται

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

Special editorial note: Apologies to readers for a rather long post. This is because it concerns what we consider to be a key moment in the political development of Europe. The dramatis personae include King Leonidas at Thermopylae, a disciplinarian German headmistress, and Manolis Glezos, a World War II hero who tore down the swastika flag that the troops of the Third Reich had hoisted over the Acropolis in Athens. After analysing the content and causes of the present discontents, we consider the reactions of the various parties involved, the likely repercussions in Greece and elsewhere and, finally, what we believe ought to have happened.

23 February 2015

NEOLIBERAL JUGGERNAUT CRUSHES GREENHORN GREEK REBELS

The little dogs barked but the European caravan moved on regardless.

“Η ελπίδα έρχεται”

Soon you will be able to hope again.

It was in line with this ubiquitous campaign slogan that Syriza, the winning party in the recent Greek parliamentary elections on 25 January 2015, pledged to put an end to the savage austerity that had plunged vast numbers of Greeks into homelessness, joblessness and poverty.

A new slogan is now required in view of Syriza’s abject capitulation last Friday to tight-fisted money lenders from Frankfurt, Brussels and Washington as it humbly acquiesced in yet another turn of the thumscrew of austerity in exchange for a few more miserable crumbs from the tables of the new masters of the universe, the international bankster mafia:

“Η ελπίδα δέν έρχεται”

Hope? You must be joking.

 U-turns are par for the course in politics, but the cave-in by the new Greek government to the diktats from flint-hearted Germany and its tightwad accomplices less than a month after it came to power in parliamentary elections on 25 January has taken place at warp speed. It is arguably the fastest and most comprehensive volte-face in by a political party in recent history. Syriza has fallen in with a request from its creditors to throw overboard its entire electoral programme and to ditch systematically all pre-election pledges to the Greek electorate.

Throughout the election campaign and during the four weeks since the ballot brought the “radical” Syriza party to power that party’s leaders repeatedly pledged an immediate end to externally-imposed austerity and swore to the people of Greece that “Greeks will no longer be humiliated” by its dunning creditors.

On Friday 20 February 2015 at a meeting of the 19-state eurozone (a single-currency bloc within the 28-nation European Union) the Greek representatives tore up, one by one, every loud-mouth promise they had made to their electors in a humiliating climb-down that represented an unconditional surrender to their intransigent paymasters led by Germany.

On Friday Syriza agreed to make an all-consuming bonfire of its myriad white-knight pledges to ride to to the help of  the country’s poor, homeless, hungry, cold and jobless. Simultaneously, it dashed the hopes of millions of decent people around the world that Greece might provide the model for a brave new world of justice and humanity by taking a determined and principled stand against the uncaring savagery of global neoliberal orthodoxy. Alas, it was not to be.

Syriza is now a busted flush and Greece is stuffed.

U-TURN AFTER U-TURN

In particular, Syriza had vowed during the election campaign that:

  • it would no longer negotiate with the hated triad (officially “troika”) of creditors (the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, the European Commission in Brussels and the International Monetary Fund in Washington) that had imposed draconian cuts in Greek public spending – “fiscal waterboarding” – in exchange for a loan bail-0ut. On Friday it agreed to do just that, the only change being a cosmetic one, namely that “the “troika” will now be referred to as “the institutions”;

 

  • the bail-out with its austericidal conditions (the hated “memorandum of understanding”), which is due to expire on 28 February, would be replaced by a six-month bridging loan without strings attached. On Friday “the institutions” (ie the former “troika”) refused to provide a bridging loan without strings attached and Greece, on its knees and short of cash, was forced to agree to accept an extension for only four months of the existing bail-out together with its austerity-based conditions ;

 

  • it would negotiate the cancellation of part of Greece’s public sector debt and seek a longer term in which to repay the remaining capital and interest. Neither of these requests have been granted.

 However, that is not all.

The extension of the bail-out agreed in broad outline on Friday 20 February will not take place unless two further conditions are met:

(1) The Greek government has been ordered to present “the institutions” by this evening 23 February with an acceptable list of the reforms (proposals for cutting public spending and raising public revenues) it intends to implement over the four months in question;

(2) If these reforms are acceptable to “the institutions”, extension of the loan will then be subject to a final hurdle. It must be approved by the parliaments of Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Estonia.

In the event that all these conditions are fulfilled and the bail-out extension is granted, during the four months of its existence Greek compliance with the bail-out conditions will continue to be policed, as hitherto, by “the institutions” (the new name for the hated “troika”). However, as a concession to Athens, the Greek government will have the flexibility to make some changes to the conditions, subject to approval by “the institutions”, provided that these changes do not lead to budgetary imbalances, i.e. public spending over and above the limits set under the bail-out;

Over the four months of the extension a further bail-out is to be negotiated with “the institutions” in the context of a continued programme of “reforms” (i.e. public spending cutbacks, a slimming down of the civil service and the privatization of state assets).

So after three weeks of “negotiations” with “the institutions” the Greeks have ended up with….diddly-squat.

Apart, that is, from a name change for “the troika”.

Well done, chaps!

After a lot of huffing, puffing and hollering by the Greeks, the naughty school children of Syriza who had been threatening to break the school rules have been whipped into line by the German headmistress, Angela Merkel, and her fellow martinets.

Why has this happened?

FOUR REASONS WHY SYRIZA COCKED IT UP

Well, in the first place, Syriza threw away its bargaining chips before it went into the negotiations. This was the most glaring of mistakes and it is hard to imagine how they could have done it.

Syriza had one thing and one thing only that its creditors wanted. They wanted it to stay in the European Union and the eurozone. Even if one country alone, e.g. Greece, were to leave the eurozone, this would mean that membership of the bloc was not irreversible. The standing of the euro in the financial markets would be seriously impaired as a result. And other eurozone members might be tempted to pull out if the going got tough for their economies.

So what did Syriza do?

Even before it entered into the current negotations with its creditors – indeed throughout the election campaign and in fact as long ago as the last parliamentary election in June 2012 – Syriza repeatedly committed itself to staying within both the European Union and the eurozone. In an interview with Helena Smith in the London Guardian on 14 February, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said: “I cannot possibly separate the fate of this country from the fate of Europe”, adding that Athens was never going to ask to leave the euro, which would be tantamount to “falling off a cliff”.

So “the institutions” knew that they had nothing to lose by taking a tough line on Syriza’s pleas for debt forgiveness. Syriza had already given up in advance the one bargaining chip that would have given its adversaries pause for thought.

The Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is an academic economist supposedly specializing in game theory (the study of negotiating tactics). However, he turns out, when tested in the fire, to be all mouth and no trousers. Or, as the Texans say, he’s all hat and no cattle.

Given that Varoufakis is the lead negotiator for the Greeks and hence the person mainly responsible, on the Greek side, for the current debacle, one can hardly refrain from feeling sorry for his students. They’re not going to learn much.

Secondly, the greenhorn negotiators of Syriza – the party has only existed since 2004 – were too callow to be a match for the wily and experienced bureaucrats of “the institutions”.

Antigone1984 predicted as much in our post Soon you’ll be able to hope again(“Η ελπίδα έρχεται”) published on 24 January 2015:

“If Syriza were a genuinely party of the far left, would it not leap at the chance to throw down the gauntlet once and for all to the privateering European establishment and, in doing so, set an example for other similar parties the length and breadth of the continent?

But no. They are going to remain within the EU, they are going to remain within the eurozone, and they are going to negotiate “firmly but politely” with whoever will talk to them in the Eurocrat establishment – but not with the hated triad (euphemistically called the “troika) of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that imposed the hated austerity “memorandum” on Greece. They do not seem to realize that the European Commission and the European Central Bank are part of the European establishment and even the managing director of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, is a French politician.

Negotiations with the Eurocrats? They will smother you with open arms. These guys are the past masters of negotiations. They could negotiate the hind legs off a donkey. It will be like wading through treacle. As members of new party from a peripheral country with no experience of government, Syriza’s negotiators will be like minnows in a pond of piranhas. At best they will dance circles round you, at worst they will tear you to pieces. Good luck!”

And so, alas, it came to pass.

Thirdly, the Syriza government seemed to believe that it would be welcomed with open arms at the negotiating table. They had only to talk to the eurocrats, demonstrate what good Europeans they were (by not wanting to leave the EU or abandon the euro), explain that, like any orthodox EU state, they were enthusiastic supporters of market-based economic growth – and the eurocrats would be bowled over with admiration and would give them whatever they wanted. Which was a loan without strings attached.

This was naïve in the extreme.

The principle aim of the dominant rightwing current in today’s EU is to achieve a balance or surplus in the public accounts and to achieve this, where necessary, by slashing public spending, privatising state assets and “reforming” labour relations by outsourcing public services, cutting benefits, making it easier for employers to sack workers, reducing pensions and raising the pension age.

Syriza swept to power in Greece as a result of promises to the electorate that, in many respects, it would do the direct opposite: give free electricity to the poor, re-employ sacked workers, halt privatizations, and increase pensions and the minimum wage.

It is an indisputable fact that such humanitarian proposals are anathema to the penny-pinching capitalist politicians that are running the EU on behalf of international big business.

So why did Syriza expect the red carpet to be rolled out for it when its representatives rocked up in Brussels or other European capitals?

It was truly loathsome to see pictures of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras being glad-handed by European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker at his Brussels bunker only a week or so before Juncker and his cronies knifed Syriza in the jugular.

Even more shocking was the photograph of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis being greeted shortly after the Greek election by a supercilious George Osborne, the British finance minister, outside the Treasury in London. Varoufakis was on a whistle-stop tour of European finance ministries to drum up support for Syriza’s stance against austerity. He got little change out of “socialist” French President François Hollande or “socialist” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but at least it was reasonable to expect they might have helped, but what benefit did he expect to get from lobbying George Osborne, the protagonist of the rightwing British government’s vicious five-year crackdown on anyone who is poor, workless, homeless or disabled?

Syriza did not seem to be aware of the antagonism that their proposals for helping the poor in Greece would stir up inside governments which were themselves trampling their own poor in the gutter.

Nor, fourthly, did Syriza appear fully to register the determination of Europe’s rightwing governments to prevent the anti-austerity rot spreading to other European countries with similar levels of poverty to that of Greece, such as Portugal and Spain. In fact, there is no shortage of European funding to prop up the public finances of a country such as Greece where output represents a mere 2% of the EU’s GDP. However, if they gave in to Greece, they fear that this would encourage profligate populist demands elsewhere. So Greece had to be put firmly in its place at the outset so as to prevent the contagion spreading. Now that this has been done, the ground has been cut from under the feet of populist left-leaning parties elsewhere, such as the new “Podemos” in Spain, now polling as the party with the highest percentage of support among the Spanish electorate. Podemos is campaigning on a platform that is as contradictory as that on the basis of which Syriza has come to grief: it wants to end austerity while remaining, like Syriza, inside the apparently comforting bulwark of the European Union and the eurozone. It is not by accident that the rightwing Partido Popular party in government in Spain fully endorsed Germany’s determination to knock the stuffing out of Syriza.

A PYRRHIC VICTORY

Back in Athens, how has the Syriza government represented its defeat to the Greek people?

Instead of admitting defeat and his political impotence, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras indulged in an orgy of spin-doctoring.

“We won a battle, not the war,” he told television viewers on Saturday 21 February 2015. “Yesterday we took a decisive step forward by abandoning austerity, plans for restructuring [the Greek economy] and the troika.”

The truth is that he lost the war as well as the battle. Instead of taking a step forward, he took a major step backward by agreeing to continue virtually unchanged the savage austerity and restructuring programme forced on the preceding government by its external creditors.

It has to be conceded that he did achieve the astonishing feat of getting the moniker of Greece’s creditors changed from “troika” to “institutions”. Bravo! Or “wunderbar!” as his German adversaries will doubtless have told him.

Despite this apparently sensational success, the Prime Minister curiously felt the need to warn his fellow citizens that “we have a long and difficult time ahead”.

The deal is widely regarded as a major climb down for the PM, who won power vowing to reverse budget cuts.

In a report in the London Guardian on Friday night 20 February 2015 after the deal was sealed German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who has refused to concede an iota to Greek demands, said that Syriza would have to back austerity measures that it had vowed to repeal. “The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time explaining the deal to their voters,” he said.

Just over a week earlier, according to a BBC report earlier, on 12 February 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had adopted a more emollient tone, saying that a compromise was possible in the stand-off with Greece over its bail-out terms.

But Mrs Merkel also told reporters as she arrived for a conference with the other 28 leaders of the EU that “Europe’s credibility depends on us sticking to rules”.

Mrs Merkel suggested there was negotiating room:

“Europe always aims to find a compromise and this is the cornerstone of Europe’s success,” she declared.

Here Antigone1984 must confess to a making an assumption that turns out to have been wildly off-beam. On the basis of around two decades of experience within the European institutions, we assumed that the end result of the talks between Germany and Syriza would be a messy compromise whereby both sides would come away feeling that they had been short-changed but that enough had been gained to justify sealing the deal. At least this is what has happened on every such occasion that we can recollect in the past.

Not this time.

This time there was no compromise. Merkel was lying. This was a massacre. The Germans wiped the floor with their opponents and made them sweep the mess up afterwards. Tsipras and Varoufakis got nothing, Merkel and Schäuble took everything – hook, line and sinker. It was an unmitigated defeat for the Greeks.

THERMOPYLAE

This was Thermopylae all over again.

This time, however, instead of fighting the aggressors to the last man like the Spartan king Leonidas and his valiant 300 hoplites in the pass under Mount Oeta in 480 BC, king Tsipras and his epigoni caved in immediately at the first whiff of gunpowder, abandoning their weapons and taking to the hills.

Not for them the glorious epitaph that the poet Simonides penned for the heroes of Thermopylae:

Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε

κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

 

Traveller, let the Spartans know that

Here we lie, having done what they told us to do.

 SO WHAT NOW?

Syriza is now finished as a progressive political force. Its leaders have shown themselves to be a bunch of amateurs who failed to get out of the starting blocks.

There are various possibilities:

RESIGNATIONS

Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza Prime Minister, could take personal responsibility for the tragedy and resign. Dream on. We think this unlikely. A man who is happy to jettison his election pledges at the first hint of trouble is unlikely to act on principle. Having now had a taste of power, he is likely to want to keep it. Power goes to the heads of the powerful, leading in particular to the self-deluding egocentric conviction that “the country will go to the dogs without me”. This despite the fact that the country has already gone to the dogs and it is Tsipras who bears a large share of the responsibility for it.

While we are on the subject of failed politicians falling on their swords, what about Tsipras’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis buying a one-way ticket back to Texas where he has just given up a post as an economist at the state university in Austin? According to an interview with him by Helena Smith in the London Guardian on 14 February 2015, Varoufakis “can marvel at the wondrousness of capitalism”. In an essay of his own published in the same organ on 18 Febuary, Varoufakis maintains that an implosion of European capitalism “should be avoided at all costs” and that the task of the left is “to embark upon a campaign for stabilising European capitalism”. Thus, he has chosen “not to propose radical political programs that seek to exploit the crisis as an opportunity to overthrow European capitalism, to dismantle the awful eurozone, and to undermine the European Union of the cartels and the corrupt bankers.” No, on the contrary, the left must “forge alliances with reactionary forces ” in order to “stabilise Europe today”. Within views like these – oh so reminiscent of the calls from the sell-out social democrat parties for “responsible capitalism” – it is hardly suprising that Varoufakis is persona grata at a university in one of the most conservative states in the land of our great leader across the pond.

NEW ELECTIONS BEFORE THE SUMMER

New parliamentary elections before the summer, possibly once the conditions for the next (third) bail-out are read out to Athens during the forthcoming “negotiations”. This is what Antonis Samaras, the defeated New Democracy party Prime Minister, is said to have predicted in the event that he lost the recent elections. At which point New Democracy is likely to be voted back into power.

NEW ELECTIONS SOON

New parliamentary elections in the immediate future. This would be triggered if Syriza lost its majority in parliament. This could result from one of three developments:

MUTINY FROM WITHIN THE RANKS

Firstly, the Left Platform (the left-wing of Syriza) abandons the party because of the betrayal of the party’s election promises by the Syriza leadership. Depending on how this happens, it could deprive Syriza of a majority in parliament. It is the only logical step for the Left Platform to take. If it now gives carte blanche to the Syriza leaders to continue in government after its abject surrender to the Europeans, then it too should pack up and go home. Syriza, full of sound and fury, a model for naïve wishful-thinkers throughout the European left, will have turned out to be a toothless tiger, signifying nothing.

Rumbings have already started within Syriza and indeed from the beating heart of the party.

In a report published this afternoon in the 24 February edition of the French newspaper Le Monde, Manolis Glezos, a Syriza Member of the European Parliament, shot down his Prime Minister’s tendentious boasts.

Mr Glezos, aged 92, is famous throughout Greece for his resistance to the Nazis in World War II. In 1941, with a colleague, he tore down the swastika flag that the occupiers had planted on the Acropolis of Athens. Mr Glezos is not particularly well-disposed towards the current financial invaders of his country either.

“To change the word ‘troika’ to ‘institutions’, the word ‘memorandum’ to ‘agreement’ and the world ‘creditors’ to ‘partners’ does not change the status quo ante in any way,” said Mr Glezos.

“More than a month has gone by and the promise [Syriza made to the Greek people] has still not been carried out. It gets worse and worse. As far as I am concerned, I beg the people of Greece to forgive me for having contributed to this illusion [that Syriza would do what it had pledged to do].”

Mr Glezos called for a debate within the party lickety-split on the direction being taken by Syriza and the developments now taking place.

Mr Glezos was immediately rubbished by Tsipras’s entourage as an old dodderer. “Mr Glezos is perhaps not well informed as regards the reality of the difficult negotiations in which we are involved,” they said.

Another party loyalist, Dimitris Papadimoulis, invited Mr Glezos, effectively, to shut his mouth and toe the party line. This is, of course, the classic response of party apparatchiks when individual members of a party call into question controversial decisions by the party hierarchy. An affront to democracy, it should be ignored in all circumstances.

PATRIOTIC GREEKS

Secondly,  the 13 patriotic rightwing “Independent Greeks” with whom Syriza, two seats short of an absolute parliamentary majority, has formed a coalition government, may also leave the government. They have been strongly opposed to the humiliation of Greece by the Europeans and in particular the Germans. It remains to be seen whether the blandishments of a place in the cabinet will override their principled antipathy to Syriza’s capitulation to the country’s bean-counting external pay-masters.

UNREST IN THE STREETS

Thirdly, neither can one discount the possibility of unrest in the streets once the population wises up to the extent to which Syriza has betrayed them. Serious street violence could topple the government. The rightwing parties, such as New Democracy, PASOK (the discredited self-styled “socialist” party) and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, will seek to exploit such unrest. It is virtually certain that Athens will row back on its commitment to halt the hated sell-out of state assets to the private sector – resulting in lay-offs, reduced wages and impaired working conditions – that had been started by the previous rightwing government at the instigation of the triad. Once this filters through to the rank-and-file in Greece’s still militant trade unions, union bosses can be expected to call their members out on to the streets. A voter interviewed by Le Monde for its 24 February edition told the paper: “As far as I am concerned, the volte-face by Varoufakis and Tsipras has been a disappointment. I voted for them so that they could put an end to austerity – not for them to prolong it for four months or even longer!”

WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED?

We make no apologies for reproducing below an argument we recently made in our post Gary Cooper and the Sheriff of Athens published on 9 February 2015.

“…readers of this blog will…be aware that Antigone1984 is very much opposed to the realization of a scenario that would lead to the creation of a United States of Europe. Quite the contrary. We have consistently argued in favour of the disintegration of the European Union as well as of the eurozone within it and for the reversion to a group of fully sovereign European nation states free to trade with one another as the whim takes them but with the power to direct their own economies as they see fit and to take their own political decisions in the interest of their own citizens without fear of interference from a power-crazed empire-building Eurocratic elite holed up out of touch in its Belgian ivory tower.

It is for this reason that  (Hélas Hellas!) we regard Syriza, the political party which now dominates the new coalition government in Greece, as simply a progressive social democratic party and not, despite its partly Marxist origins and its naive cheerleaders among leftwing groups elsewhere in Europe, a radical leftwing anti-capitalist anti-market party. Instead of “negotiating” to remain organically within the supposed comfort zone of the European Union and the euro currency bloc, both fundamentally capitalist constructions, a radical leftwing party could not have failed to seize this historic opportunity to break free and reclaim full national sovereignty in an economy based on cooperation, deprivatization, the egalitarian distribution of wealth and income, patriotic industrial protectionism and participative democratic decision-making. 

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Economics, Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Politics, Spain, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment