Sunday, January 24, 2016

On Proudhon by Karl Marx January 1865

P. J Proudon's The Philosophy of Misery, or the System of Economical Contradictions (1846) contains a long section on competition which attempts to show that because the aims of communism are hostile to competition, communism is utopian, that it is merely a dream. (We quote from the English Edition of 1888

" competition is as essential to labour as division, since it is division itself returning in another form, or rather raised to its second power.. competition is in a word is liberty in division and in all the divided parts (Page 223) Competition is a principle of social economy, a decree of destiny, a necessity of the human soul.. (p229) " Man rouses from his idelness only when want fills him from anxiety; and the surest way to extinguish his genius .. is to take away from him all hope of profit and of social distiction which results from it (page 234) competition on its useful side should be universal and carried to its maximum of intensity. (page 251).

"Can competition in labour be abolished ? It would be as well worth while to ask if personality, liberty, indivudual responsibility can be supressed (page 258) there can be no question of destroying competition, as impossible as to destroy liberty: the problem is to find its equilibrium,
I would willing say its police (page 261)

" They ( the communists) say : emulation is not competition. But emulation is nothing but competition itself. There is no emulation without an object: just as there is no passional initiative without an object, and as the object of every passion is analagous to the passion itself, woman to the lover, gold to the miser, crown to the poet - so the object of industrial emulation is profit. Why substitute for the immediate object of emulation, which is personal welfare, that far away and almost metaphysical motive called general welfare, especially when the latter is nothing without the former and can result only in the former.

"My sole reply to him ( the communist) shall be : In denying competition you abandon the thesis: henceforth you have no place in the discussion.

The question is the solution of the problem of competition - that is the reconciliation of egoism with socal necessities: spare your moralities (page 225-6)

But if they the ( the communists) now fall back upon the hypothesis of transformation of our nature, unprecedented in history.. its is nothing more than a dream... a contradiction given to the most certain economic sciences; and my only reply is to exclude it from the discussion (page 228)

Man may love his fellow well enough to die for him; he does not love him well enough to work for him"

Because of its hostility to competition " Communism is the very denial of society in its foundation" and the communists are "incessantly confounding matters of reason with those of sentiment" (page 283)

The above may have been written by the great annd fearless revisionist Marxist Ota Sik himself.

But let us see how the unrepentent Communist Karl Marx replied to the Philosophy of Misery in the Misery of Philosophy (1848) and we will see the aptness of his reply to the present day philosophers of misery, the solemn, long faced, mournful and miserable ideologists of market socialism.

"M Proudhon begins by defending the eternal necessity of competition against those who wish to replace it with emulation. Competition is emulation with a view to profit. Is industrial emulation necessarily emulation with a view to profit, that is competition ? M Proudhon proves it by affirming it. ( page 163)

"If the immediate object of a lover is a woman, the immediate object of industrial emulation is the product and not the profit."

"Competition is not industrial emultion it is commercial emulation.In our time industrial emulation exists only with a view to commerce. There are even phases in the life of modern nations when everybody is seized with a sort of craze for making profit without producing. This speculation craze which recurrs periodically, lays bare the true character of competition, which seeks to escape the need for industrial emulation (page 165).

The distinction between competition and emulation is of crucial importance. "Competition is not industrial emulation, It is commercial emulation" " The immediate object of industrial emulation is the product and not the profit".

This distinction between competition and emulation is blurred by all varities of opportunism. It is easy to see why revisionists should wish to blurr it so as to make competition appear as a category of production as such instead of being mere a category of the commercial system.

On the other hand there are some so called anti revisionists who represent Stakhanovism, for example as a system of competition instead of industrial emulation. Thus revisionism and petty bourgeois Utopianism blur this vital distinction.

Bu it is clear that industrial emulation, in which the object is the product, is entirely different from , and of infinitely more significance in the development of the productive forces than, competition, whose object is profit made on the sale of the product.

As for Proudhon's good and bad sides of competition which recurrs in modern revisionism, and the notion that what is required is to abolish the bad side of competition, while maintaing and developing its good side;

" They all want competition without the lethal effects of competition. They all want the impossible, namely the conditions of bourgeois existence without the necessary consequences of those conditions (page 213)

The "bad side" is an integral part of the competitive relationship.Thee is no possibility of retaining the competitive realtionship while eliminating is "bad side".

Proudhon saw it as a necessity of thre human soul that only competitive struggle for profit roused man from ihe innate tendency to idelness and stagnation.

This notion also recurs as a fundamental part of political economy of modern revisionism. The effect of the bourgeois system is represented as the cause of the bourgeois ( or market socialist ) system in human nature.

Marx commented;

" the bourgeois man is to them the only possible basis of every society; they cannot imagine a society where men have ceased to be bourgoeis (213).

"M. Proudhon does not know that all history is nothing but a continuous transformation of human nature" (page 165)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Carl Ichan's warning "Danger Ahead" High Yield Bonds are Junk Bonds and going over the cliff

2007 - 2008 returning with high yield bond market crisis - ignore Carl Ichan at your peril.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

China’s central bank has devalued the yuan for the third day running, adding to fears of a currency war.

The People’s Bank of China cut the reference rate of the yuan against the dollar by 1 per cent – smaller than the cuts that so shocked financial markets earlier this week.

It is a continuation of what the bank on Tuesday called a “one-time correction” of almost 2pc, part of a move to make the yuan closer to a free-floating currency whose value is determined by the markets.
Devaluation is aimed at boosting struggling Chinese exports, and is the latest in a series of measures by the central bank to attempt to kickstart sluggish growth.

The exchange-rate changes are also aimed at aiding the adoption of the yuan as a reserve currency by the International Monetary Fund.

Thursday’s announcement means that 6.4010 yuan buys one US dollar, a 1.1pc drop in value compared to Wednesday’s 6.3306.

Stockmarkets in London, Paris and Frankfurt were jittery following Wednesday’s second devaluation announcement, all closing down, though the FTSE 100 was up slightly on Thursday.
Asian markets were mixed, though China’s Shanghai index was up %1.76 on the day.
Many economists said the decline in the yuan is too small to help Chinese exports due to weak global demand.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

China's central bank has devalued the national currency, the yuan, to its lowest rate against the US dollar in almost three years

(News item 11 August 2015)
China's central bank has devalued the national currency, the yuan, to its lowest rate against the US dollar in almost three years. The lender said the move was a "one-off depreciation" of 1.9% in a move to make the exchange rate more market-oriented.
It comes in the wake of a string of weak economic data from the world's second largest economy. At the weekend, China reported a sharp fall in exports and a slide in producer prices to a near six-year low in July.

Exports fell by 8.3% in July, far worse than expected and the producer price index was down 5.4% from a year earlier. The midpoint for the yuan is now set at 6.2298 to $1, up from 6.1162 yuan on Monday.

The People's Bank of China (POBC) manages the rate through the official midpoint, from which trade can rise or fall 2% on any given day

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


“We created the first cracks in Europe's neoliberal hegemony. We have to give a definitive answer on whether a leftist government can exist in a liberal, conservative Europe,” Tsipras said

Statement of the International antiEU Forum of left and popular forces

We call for awakening and unity of the all popular, democratic and left forces against the EU.

The tragic capitulation and decline of the Greek government, which is directly linked to the radical left, needs to generate alarms in all popular, democratic and left forces in Europe.

A government that was elected to overturn austerity, agreed on the same or worse austerity measures, after 5 months of "negotiations".

A government that promised to return to the Greeks their dignity and lost popular sovereignty, accepted the ultimate humiliation, such as the dismissal of the Minister of Finance on the Eurogroup on 27/06/2015 and the international humiliation of the Prime Minister at the summit of the Eurozone countries ( 13/07/2015). The most humiliating part for the Greek people was the return of a much more severe and punitive version of the Juncker proposals, which had been rejected with the promissing and combative NO in the referendum of 5th July, a week before!

We should not forget that the government of SYRIZA-ANEL was seen as hope by the struggling people in Europe. But messages of pessimism and frustration finally prevailed, after Tsipra’s capitulation.

As it was stated in the AntiEU forum in Athens on 26-28 June, the underlying deficit of this government is the illusions about the ability to win popular sovereignty and abolishing austerity and memorandums within the EU and especially the eurozone.

This government is currently implementing memorandums in full cooperation with the forces of the right and of neoliberalism (ND, PASOK, Potami) and in complete conflict with the radical and militant left in Greece. Let alone that it opens the way to the fascist Golden Dawn which presented itself as the main force against the lenders.

The popular, democratic and left forces in Europe can not continue as before. We must do away with the illusions and destructive logic of a left that does not understand that the fight against the EU is the most important struggle for the emancipation and progress of the peoples of Europe.

It is crucial in each country to strengthen the fight against the EU. To build the popular, democratic and left front and the movement for exiting the Eurozone as the decisive step in the struggle to secede from the European Union.

We need to increase the internationalist initiatives, coordination and pan-European campaigns against the antidemocratic EU and its super neoliberal –weapon, the euro.

On these needs the International antiEU Forum of the popular, democratic and left forces will take, the next time, the appropriate initiatives.


For an alliance of national liberation fronts

by Stefano Fassina, MP, former Italian deputy minister

We reproduce here an opinion piece by Stefano Fassina, Italian MP and former deputy minister of finance, which appeared on the website of Yanis Varoufakis. He calls for the ordered disintegration of the eurozone in order to save the EU. Given that he was one of the leading figures of the left wing of the ruling PD it is an extraordinary development of utmost importance.

We fully support the demand for the orderly disintegration of the eurozone. Also the reference to positions held in Germany against the bailouts with a tendency to social chauvinist undercurrents (which in difference to Fassina we believe do not prevail) is a correct democratic argument. "If you do not want us we are ready to go." The Euro establishment including dominant Berlin, however, will not accept this as they have no alternative to the eurozone.

Eventually we do not want to preserve the EU (like Fassina does) as we believe that breaking with the Euro regimes going for a left Keynesian programme (which we see as the next step) will require the break with the EU altogether.

We should not forget that the Maastricht treaty as the very foundation of the Euro regime is an outright anti-Keynesian compact.

The burning Greek tale has a general political value. Lets start from the content of the Statement of the Euro Summit held on July 12th, before making any political assessments. It is impossible to hide the unsustainability of the provisions from economic and fiscal perspectives.

Notwithstanding the adjustments won by the Greek delegation in Brussels, the imposed measures are brutally contractionary, as well as regressive on the social ground.

The macroeconomic compensation measures risk to be basically non-existent. The financing foreseen for the third bailout is devoted to recapitalizing banks and paying debts to the ECB, the IMF and private lenders.

Nothing goes to capital expenditure, while the credibility of the European Commission in helping the Greek government mobilize up to €35bn for investments in 3-5 years has to be weighed against its inability to find the minimal resources for the "Juncker Plan". And finally, the commitment to restructuring the Greece’s public debt opens a perspective that in any event won’t have real effects until 2023, the end of the grace period granted by the European states on their respective loans.

What lessons can we learn from the course of Greece? Alexis Tsipras, Syriza and the Greek people have the undeniable historical merit of having ripped away the veil of Europeanist rhetoric and technical objectivity aimed at covering up the dynamics in the eurozone. We now see the power politics and the social conflict between the financial aristocracy and the middle classes: Germany, incapable of hegemony, dominates the eurozone and pursues an economic order that is functional to its national interest and to those of big finance.

There are two points to be faced here.

The first: neo-liberal mercantilism dictated by and centred on Berlin is unsustainable.

The devaluation of labour, in alternative to national currency devaluation, as the main route to real adjustments results in a chronic insufficiency of aggregate demand, persistently high unemployment, deflation, and burgeoning public debt.

In such a framework, beyond the borders of the dominant nation-state, the euro leads to a hollowing out of democracy, turning politics into administration on behalf of third parties and entertainment.

Is this route reversible? This is the second point. Its hard to answer yes. Unfortunately, the necessary corrections to make the euro sustainable appear to be unfeasible for cultural, historical and political reasons. National public opinions have opposing views and confliting positions, made more distant by the agenda dominating in the eurozone after 2008. The views and positions prevalenting among the Germans are facts. German people deserves respect as any other people. In Germany, like everywhere, democratic principles matter within the only relevant political dimension: the nation-state.

The first two points of analysis lead to a unconfortable truth: We need to acknowledge that the euro was a mistake of political perspective. We need to admit that in the neo-liberal cage of the euro, the left loses its historical function and is dead as a force committed to the dignity and political relevance of labour and to social citizenship as a vehicle of effective democracy.

The irrelevance or the connivance of the parties of the European socialist family are manifest. Continuing to invoke, as they do, the United States of Europe or a pro-labour rewrite of the Treaties is a virtual exercise leading to a continuing loss of political credibility.

What should be done? We are at a crossroads of history. On one hand, the path of continuity bound to the euro, that is, acceptance of the end of middle-class democracy and welfare States: a precarious balance of underemployment and social anger, threatened by very high risks of nationalistic and xenophobic rupture. On the other, a shared decision, without unilateral acts, to move beyond the single currency and the connected institutional framework, above all to fix the democratic accountability of monetary policy: a mutual beneficial solution, despite a difficult, uncertain path, with painful consequences at least in the initial period.

Germany has understood this and, still mindful of its history, indicates a way out to avoid a chaotic breakup of the eurozone and uncontrollable nationalistic drifts (already worrisome both among Germans and in their regard): a multilateral agreement to move beyond the single currency, as exemplified in the proposal of "assisted Grexit" written by Finance Minister Schäuble and endorsed by Chancellor Merkel. It implies not abandoning Greece to itself, but "an exit accompanied by haircut of public debt (impossible under the current Treaties) and technical, financial and humanitarian assistance."

The choice is a dramatic one. The road of continuity is the explicit option of the grand conservative-led coalitions and "socialist" executives (in France and Italy for instance). The road of discontinuity may be the only one for attempting to save the European Union, revitalize the middle-class democracies and reverse the trend of the devaluation of labour. For a managed dis-integration of the single currency, we must build a broad alliance of national liberation fronts, starting from the eurozone's Mediterranean periphery, made up of progressive forces open to the cooperation of the democratic right wing sovranist parties. The time available is increasingly short.

Syriza's "Austrity no, Euro yes" based on deception from very beginning

Alavanos on the third bailout plan for Greece

"One third of Greek people in favour of euro exit": Alekos Alavanos was one of the leaders of Syriza and the first to advocate the exit from the eurozone. He later form the movement Plan B.

Journalist [Mrs Xenakis]: Mr. Alavanos, you 'welcomed' the Brussels agreement with harsh characterizations. You spoke about "betrayal of the people. "Now, after some days, I would ask you if you insist in this very sharp thesis and why?
Alavanos: In the referendum, the question was clear: Yes or No to the plan Juncker. And the message of the people was clear: a sweeping NO. A week after, the government signed the Tsipras Memorandum, which is much worse than the plan Juncker. Let's imagine something very similar: while, in the 1974 referendum, the people of Greece had voted against the king, a week after Konstantine returned not just as a constitutional king but as emperor. If this is not treason, then what is treason?

J: Many say that what succeeded Mr. Tsipras was the best he could in the current conditions.
A: I hear government officials to say that they have experienced a "coup." All of us we know that during the 1967 coup of colonels the Left was the first to resist, paying heavy price, fighters lost their lives, tortured, exiled, imprisoned. It is completely absurd in which way the leadership of Syriza tries to defend itself speaking about a "coup" of the Germans and others. Their behaviour was perfectly predictable, they have done the same with Papandreou in Cannes, in 2011. When Sarkozy had caught him by the collar.

J: Had the prime minister another option in front of so many reactions, and what consequences would has produced this other option for Greece?
A: The whole policy of SYRIZA from 2012 onwards, when they abandoned their position "the euro is not taboo" is based on a cynical lie: We can abolish austerity and the same time stay in the eurozone. This led to a policy agreeable for large sections of people because it did not involve ruptures, but it was a policy totally unrealistic. This policy, for which the party of Syriza bears full responsibility, would necessarily lead to "cloudy Sunday" of 7/12.

J: Yet, even after this Third Memorandum, prime minister seems to enjoy the confidence of a large part of his party but also even the tolerance of the opposition ...
A: Do not jump the gun. The people is confused after the latest events, they feel a big disappointment because the hope and encouragement of the first few weeks of Syriza governance develops into a wild situation with the third memorandum. Let them think.....

J: You are of those who believe that the prime minister get carried away by Mr. Varoufakis? He gave him great freedom of movement, while not supposed to do that?
A: Certainly persons play an important role, especially in periods of negotiations, during which are required intelligence, resourcefulness, seriousness, ability to make alliances and mostly clear objectives and an alternative plan. The jerky movements, the Scottish shower, to say other words out of the country and other words within the party, the absence of clear policy and plan b were not typical features of only a governmental player but overall government policy.

J: You know very well the Left. Do you expect to be developments that will lead to fragmentation?
A: I expect the very opposite. I think finally, unforgivably late indeed, that a social current, which in surveys appears between 30% to 40%, could be expressed through a united front of the people for the liberation of our country from the eurozone, for salvation and reconstruction, for the right to work.

J: What do you believe about the national consensus government scenarios?
A: "National consultation" already exists. The ruling majority consists at this very moment of a part, the larger, of Syriza, the far right of ANEL, New Democracy, PASOK and the River party. We have already gotten a taste of the bitter fruit. A taste perhaps even more sour than we had with the national unity of DIMAR, another party of left origin, ND and PASOK. The experience of Greece shows that the euro devouring each party which supports it, even when operating in conditions of national unity.

J: Do you think Mr. Tsipras will try to make a turn toward center-left and become a leading figure in this space lacking leadership?
A: I don’t believe that it is possible not only for left but even for center-left nor for social democratic policy. The euro, the debt and the memorandum impose ruthless policies in a society that thirsts for jobs, decent income, adequate health care, quality education.

J: You were the first politician who talked about the need to return to the national currency. Do you still believe that Greece should move toward national currency, despite in the polls the majority of people say that the euro is the only way?
A: Unfortunately you are right in what you say about the people. You know, every dominant economic and political class has a dominant narrative. When this class is on rise this narrative is positive, as was the case with the old Karamanlis in the 1980's and the European project. When this class collapses its narrative becomes negative, and it is trying to instill terror regarding the alternative. So, we hear incessantly, from Barack Obama to [very known Greek tv journalist] Paul Tsimas, that the exit from the eurozone will go us back to the Stone Age. The people, however, processing of their new experiences and they are released. With regard of this alternative, we, as Plan B, don’t assert any primacy. But we have our conscience quiet, because we have outlined, in a significant extent, the steps of an alternative government policy outside of the eurozone, based mainly on valuable studies of "Dimitris Batsis Institute".

Appeared first in "Parapolitika" (18/07/2015), translated by Adriadni Alavanou.


Source of Documents : Anti Imperialist Organisation




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Debt Spiral

Why is there so much debt in the world?
How is money created, and who creates it?
How did banks come to have such enormous power?

It turns out that these questions are related, and answers to them are given in this French documentary, produced by the public service Franco-German television channel, Arte.

The film analyses the problem of debt in the modern economy, tracing the origin of private debt to the beginnings of civilization and the rise of public debt to the wars of the Middle Ages.

It then goes on to describe how, from the 1970s onward, with the advent of neoliberal capitalism, debt became the uncontrollable motor of the modern world economy, and how we have all become its prisoners.

To make this illuminating documentary accessible to English speakers and those with a working knowledge of English, I have translated it and provided it with English subtitles.

The documentary was made in 2014, but, tragically, one of its contributors, Bernard Maris, was murdered in the terrorist attack on the offices of 'Charlie Hebdo' in Paris in January 2015.

Colin Wingfield

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Poland : The Good Fight of the Polish Farmers by F William Engdahl

Poland’s farmers are in a very important and very good fight with their government and with their parliament. They are literally fighting for the future health and safety of their families, their grandchildren’s generation, their countrymen and even for the health and safety of the rest of the European Union that believes they have a right to enjoy eating healthy, nutritious food.

In the week of February 12, all across Poland, thousands of farmers with tractors protested the right-wing Polish government’s planned farm legislation. Many were organized by the farmers’ arm of the Solidarność trade union organization. More than 150 tractors have blockaded the A2 motorway into Warsaw since February 3, hundreds more have closed roads and are picketing governmental offices in other regions. The farmers are vowing to continue the struggle until the government agrees to enter talks with the union and commit to addressing what they see as a crisis in Polish agriculture. And they are right.

ICPPC directors, Jadwiga Lopata and Julian Rose, joined more than 200 farmers at a Solidarity protest in Kielce, South East Poland. The actions represent a dramatic escalation of protests that have been taking place on a smaller scale across the country over the last year. Edward Kosmal, chairman of the farmers protest committee for West-Pomeranian Region said: “We are ready for dialogue. We look forward to meeting with you Prime Minister and beginning a comprehensive government commitment to solving the problems of Polish agriculture. If you do not enter into a dialogue with the Union, we would be forced to tighten our forms of protest.”

What is of vital importance are the demands of the farmers to the new government of Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. They are four:

Land rights: implement regulation to prevent land-grabs by Western companies and to protect family farmers’ rights to land.

Beginning 2016 the government plans to allow foreign buyers to buy Polish farmland for the first time.

Legalize direct sales of farm produce: the government must take action to improve farmers’ position in the market, including the adoption of a law enabling direct sales of processed and unprocessed farm products (Right now Poland has the most exclusionary policies in Europe around on-farm processing of food products and direct sales, making it impossible for family farmers to compete with bigger food companies. Oppressive ‘food hygiene’ and other regulations effectively prevent small scale farmers from selling their produce on-farm and in local markets, where their mostly organic but ‘uncertified’ produce is widely respected as of higher quality than food gown on modern industrial agribusiness farms.

Ban the cultivation and sale of Genetically Modified Organisms in Poland. A new EU rule passed in the European Parliament in January essentially leaves it up to national governments to permit GMO planting or not. Poland

Extend inheritance laws to include land under lease as a fully legal form of land use.

Defending honest agriculture

In an official statement Solidarność declared, “We demand a legal ban on GMO crops in Poland. The value of Polish agriculture, unique in Europe, is the unpolluted environment and high quality food production. That’s decisive concerning our competitiveness in global markets.”

Following a meeting with Poland’s Minister of Agriculture, Marek Sawicki, on February 11, the protesting farmers widened their protest to demand Sawicki’s resignation when he refused point blank to entertain any change of policy. Significantly, the protesting farmers, who vowed to bring 100,000 to the streets of Warsaw in the next days to continue the pressure, claimed the Polish government was spending money on senseless aid to Ukraine that should in fact be going into supporting Poland’s agriculture. The farmer protests to date are the largest and longest in modern Polish history.

At stake is more than the survival of small family farmers in Poland. Aside from the soils of Russia and of Ukraine, Poland is one of the few places in Europe with highest quality soil that has not been destroyed by massive dosages of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Ukraine’s rich agriculture land, as part of the rape of the country by the IMF and western agribusiness will soon be sold off for the first time to foreign corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, ADM and others where cultivation of GMO crops will proceed unhindered. That makes the battle for Poland’s farm culture even more vital to the future of food security in Europe.

Poland’s “pro-business” government is eager to lure foreign agribusiness giants into the country, something the Polish farmers know well will destroy them as well as the high-quality traditional Polish family farm. Already, Smithfield Farms of the USA, the world’s biggest pig producer, bought Poland’s Animex SA in 1999. Smithfield now runs a string of 16 or more huge hog farms where conditions have been described as “horrendous.” With growing environmental pollution pressures in the US against the massive fecal pollution of its factory farms that typically house tens of thousands of hogs in tight cages until they are slaughtered, Smithfield has sought countries where pollution laws are more lax such as Mexico.

As well, Aviagen, one of the world’s largest industrial factory farm producers of chickens, has moved into Poland. Their German parent company, PHW Group of Lower Saxony and its daughter, Lohmann/Aviagen Cuxhaven, were fined for massive violations of the German animal welfare protection laws in their facilities where day-old chicklings are run on assembly belts in the thousands, sorted, thrown out, feet cut off, others run through meat grinding machines live with feathers.

Such is the nature of agribusiness today, a project of the Harvard Business School and the Rockefeller Foundation begun in the USA in the 1950’s to do to agriculture what the Rockefellers did to oil—create a global agribusiness cartel of a handful of companies so powerful they run over national health and food safety laws with impunity.

The new laws that are slated to take effect in 2016 would open Poland’s doors wide to destruction of one of the highest-quality food production in Europe. That would be a ridiculous thing.

Indeed, Poland’s NATO-loyal Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister are rather stupid.

With neighbor Ukraine about to destroy the rich soils of Ukraine by allowing Monsanto and western agribusiness to rape the land with their chemicals like glyphosate and GMO, if Poland’s government goes ahead as they say, Russia stands to be the big winner in the long term.

On February 4 the Russian Government submitted a bill to Parliament that would ban cultivation and breeding of genetically modified organisms (GMO). The bill bans “the cultivation and breeding of genetically modified plants and animals on the territory of the Russian Federation, except for the use in expertise and scientific research.” Further, importers of GMOs would have to register and the government would be enabled to prohibit the import of such products to Russia after monitoring their effects on humans and the environment.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Costas Lapavitsas : The Syriza Strategy has come to an End

In a joint interview with German daily Der Tagesspiegel and ThePressProject International, Syriza MP and economist Costas Lapavitsas says that the time has come for Greece and its partners to understand that “they are flogging a dead horse”.
Instead, they should work together on “an exit that will be negotiated and consensual”. The first step? “After 5 years of scaremongering and misinformation, there has to be at last a genuine public debate”.

By Elisa Simantke and Nikolas Leontopoulos

It is not new that Costas Lapavitsas, professor at SOAS in London, has been actively advocating Grexit – though this is the first time he does so since he was elected MP with Syriza in January 2015. His views were once again shunned not only by political opponents but also by ministers of his own party.

However, even if one disagrees with Lapavitsas’s ideas about the currency, it’s hard to dismiss his assessment - confirmed from developments in the past few weeks - that the Eurozone doesn’t seem to allow any real middle way between austerity and a Grexit: “The leadership of the party knows that it has a very tough choice ahead of it: Do we persevere with the programme that we proclaimed to the Greek people? Or do we submit to what the institutions, the Brussels Group, the troika, whatever you want to call it, want us to do? These two things are incompatible.”

His two recent interviews with ‘Bild’ newspaper in Germany and ‘Jacobin ’ magazine in the US triggered a flurry of reactions in Greece: «Α plan of folly with drachma and gas rationing!» (link in Greek ) titled ‘moderate’ TOC, followed by similar headlines in country’s most media.

How wise is it for a debate that has been dominating the columns of the world’s newspapers and the plenaries of the continent’s parliaments to remain a taboo in the country it mostly concerns? No matter whether Grexit would ultimately be a catastrophic strategy or “the only logical solution”, the point conveyed through this joint interview to Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel and ThePressProject International is that, “there has to be a genuine public debate at last”.

What’s your opinion on the negotiations so far? How is the government doing?

The Syriza strategy has been - and it remains - that a change in the political alignment of forces in Greece, in Europe, or generally, would act as a catalyst in the Eurozone. This strategy has now come to an end. The real question is how long it will be before people understand it.

I was always extremely skeptical of it. I always argued that it isn’t just about political alignment, there are institutional mechanisms and the logic of the monetary union. And those who believe that a simple change of politics is enough to transform this, were mistaken and I think this has been confirmed.

What we’ve seen is that the institutional framework of the Eurozone and the ideological machinery attached to it are not susceptible to arguments that come from electoral realignments. So the agreement of the 20th of February at the Eurogroup reflects that.

Do your party members notice that this strategy has come to an end?

Syriza is a big organization which has grown very rapidly. It reflects society. It isn’t some kind of traditional party of the left, and therefore there is a variety of opinions and of political conscience.

I think that the leadership of the party knows that it has a very tough choice ahead of it: Do we persevere with the programme that we proclaimed to the Greek people? Or do we submit to what the institutions, the Brussels Group, the troika, whatever you want to call it, want us to do? These two things are incompatible.

So there is no middle way?

There is no middle way. The Eurozone will not allow it. Do I think the leadership was surprised? Yes, I suspect they were to a certain extent. Because my reading of the situation is that the leadership genuinely believed that you could change the political alignments, you could change electoral arithmetic, and on this basis change Europe, change European policies.

So what should the Greek government do in your opinion?

Greece needs to consider the true alternative path which is to leave this failed monetary union. It is clearly the only way that was there from the beginning – which is basically exit. If you are going to apply such a programme, as Syriza has proclaimed, which is not radical – Syriza’s programme is just moderate Keynesianism -, you need to think seriously of how you are going to get out of the confines of the Eurozone.

Do you think Syriza has the mandate for it?

A straight answer is no. Syriza has a mandate to fulfil its programme. Indirectly, not directly, it has a mandate to keep the country in the Eurozone. But this question was never openly posed to the Greek people.

Is the solution a referendum?

The first thing to do is not so much discuss the idea of a referendum but actually that of the alternative strategy. There has to be a genuine public debate at last. That’s not easy because for five years this country has been subjected to the most incredible misinformation and scaremongering campaigns. So the atmosphere has been very badly poisoned. It is not impossible to have this debate now but it is much more difficult than a few years back.

In my judgement, the best strategy right now is what I call a consensual and orderly exit. Not a contested exit.

 Can you elaborate on that?

I think Greece should set a target for itself to negotiate an exit basically without rupture, without falling out, without fighting, without unilateral actions. This would mean: Exit takes place and Greece seeks deep debt restructuring.

Q: Why would the EU-partners accept? This exit has two elements that the EZ doesn’t want: the exit itself and the debt restructuring.

I am not entirely certain the EZ doesn’t want exit. I suspect that it does. And in my judgement if a country asked for a negotiated way out, it might as well receive in it. Germany, Schauble, back in 2011 was in favor of a negotiated exit.

The price for the EZ should be debt restructuring. But they are two more very important elements: the protection of the exchange rate and protection of the banks. These are essentially costless for the ECB because Greece is a small country.

What would Europe win out of it?

Peace and quiet. (Pause…) For a period.

Why only for a period?

Because the monetary union in my judgement is a major historical failure. It’s Europe’s biggest failure in decades. And it will not last. But obviously it might last long enough for Greece to be dead. Of course the EZ proponents believe it is going to last forever. It is a historical delusion. Monetary unions don’t last this long. Let them believe it. Fine.

Would the EU as a political construction survive if countries exit the monetary union?

In 15 years the monetary union has undone all the goodwill generated in Europe by the EU. The state of relations in the European countries today is probably worse than it’s been for decades. The state of affairs between Germany and Greece is appalling, absolutely atrocious. And this because of the euro.

This is proof that this money doesn’t generate solidarity, this money creates divisions. And this is again the biggest evidence of its failure. Now stubbornness, unwillingness to recognize the failure of it in the last five years is making things worse. What the EU has done in the last 5 years is to tie itself even more closely around the common currency instead of deeply restructuring it. It has actually made it harder. So yes if now the common currency fails, which I think it will, then the EU will be in question, that’s the price to pay for the historical mistake of the common currency.

So for Greece, does leaving the EZ also mean leaving the EU?

The most important is to differentiate between the EU and the EZ. In this country, and in most of Europe, a sustained confusion has been going on for years. That the membership of one equals the membership of the other. It’s of course absurd because there are members of the EU which are not members of the European monetary union. If Greece leaves the euro, it doesn’t have to leave the EU at the same time. If the Greek people want to leave the EU, let them leave the EU. But that’s a separate question. This conflation has been deadly and it’s been used ideologically...


There were binding mechanisms even before the monetary union...

The previous regimes were not successful but, compared to the disaster the common currency has been, the previous regimes were beacons of success. The bottom line: Europe needs a monetary system that allows for monetary flexibility. It is complete nonsense to impose a system of monetary inflexibility and at the same time to create flexibility through labour markets and the private sector. But the most profound reason for the failure of the euro is of course German policy.

Why that?

Germany is the country that is the most delinquent in Europe. Not Greece, not Spain, not Italy. And certainly not France. France is playing far more by the book than Germany. Germany has been not keeping the rules and I can make it very simple for you: Germany often accuses Greece - Schauble for instance does - that Greece has been living beyond its means. It’s true. But Germany has also been systematically living below its means, and this is how exports are generated, not because of technology, productivity and all that. That’s why it is so successful.

But when you are in a monetary union it cannot be a bad thing to live above your means and a good thing to live below. The real rule must be to live by your means. So Germany has not kept the rules and the price is paid by the German people. I understand full well how the German people live. I know very well that wages have not risen for years, that one third of the labor force lives under precarious conditions. Precarious employment, wages below productivity...,

So what you are saying is that the euro has not been good for the German people either...

This also explains why the German people are annoyed and angry when it comes to sending money abroad, paying for others. Of course, I would be angry too in that position: you live in a very tight way, you count your beans and then somebody comes and tells you, you have to pay.

On the other hand, German exporting business, the German banks, this is a different story. They ‘ve done very well. But that’s for the German people to sort out.

Do you think the Germans are kept in fear with a purpose? If you are a German you are always told “things will get worse”. Germany – we are told- is not performing as it could, Europe is not performing as it could, there is China, there is India, the globalization...

Globalization is one of those words that means all and nothing. There has been a consistent policy on the part of the German establishment to scare the German public and the German workers, to keep them in fear of tomorrow and of unemployment in particular, there is no doubt. The original idea back in 1998-1999 when unemployment was high is that we accept low wages to restore employment within the confines of a monetary union. Now the argument seems to be ‘we accept low wages to compete with the Chinese’. There is no end to this. The truth is low wages are not good for Germany. Germany needs a policy of boosting domestic demand. This is neo-mercantilism, the belief that growth comes from abroad only, that the only wealth is exports.


Are you making the same point about Greece? Is domestic demand the key to return to growth? How should Greece get back on its feet?

There are three stages. First, as I said, is the negotiated, consensual, orderly exit.

Second stage is recovery and that would depend very much on recovery of domestic demand which is very heavily repressed in this country. There are vast resources lying unused. Small and medium enterprises would be reactivated, that’s what would really restart the Greek economy. Not exports - this worship of exports is nonsense.

But obviously that is not really a path for sustainable growth. What Greece would need after that would be an industrial policy to restructure its productive base, to integrate itself in the world economy on a different basis. That would take a few years.

But Greece would be still part of a common market, as a member of the EU. So it is not so easy to go back to domestic demand and to the SMEs, because it would have to kick out the big companies that could still sell cheaper.

I believe that Greece could out-compete imports very easily. Unfortunately, wages have been destroyed during the last 5 years due to bailout policies. A devaluation of 15-20% (but no more since as I said the ECB would defend the exchange rate) would give a tremendous competitive advantage. Wages would then gradually rise again.

What are the chances for that to happen? For Greece to choose that path?

At 2010 I said there are 3 possible solutions. Austerity, ‘the good euro’ and exit. I said that the most likely solution would be austerity and this would be a disaster. As for the good euro strategy (i.e., that you achieve Keynesian policy within the confines of the euro – the strategy of Syriza), I said that the chances of this occurring were close to zero. The strategy of exit is the only logical one. The real issue is will it be contested or orderly? I don’t know. But exit there will be at some point.


Q: How can it be orderly when now even implying that the negotiations are not going well brings panics and fear of a bank run?

The first thing to happen is for the EU and Greece to understand that they are flogging a dead horse. After 5 years of torture, it is time to finish. This strategy has come to an end. Some sense please. So when I say a strategic aim this is what I mean. People have to come to terms with it. And those who refuse to see, it is because of ideological reasons, because this ideology is poisoning the debate.

What is this ideology?

It is not neoliberalism, it is Europeanism. The idea of Europe as this transcendental entity which is good for all of us and we all belong to it. This great fiction that has emerged in the dominant countries and has come to penetrate the weaker countries.

I am socialist, old style, with the old meaning of the word, the idea of the United States of Europe and of European solidarity is a socialist idea and I share it. Obviously it has also been a Nazi idea, used by Hitler. No one has the monopoly of the idea of a unified Europe.

I don’t believe in a single European people, there is no European demos, and there shouldn’t be. Europe is about plurality, many different languages, cultures. Since when was it desirable for all of us to be just European, to be one thing?

These are illusions and ideologies. I don’t see a political convergence, I see the rise of fascism, the rise of the extreme right, I see extreme tension. Front National in France is at 30% of the vote, and the way things are going, I would not be surprised if the next president of France were a fascist.

If the euro was such a bad idea, why is there this “stubbornness” - as you called it - across Europe to support it? What are the interests behind the idea?

Money is the embodiment of non-economic relations as well. It embodies social relations, it has identity attached to it. This often means national identity. The Americans are the dollar, the British are the pound, the Germans used to be the Deutsche Mark. The euro particularly in the countries of the periphery has come to mean being European. You see it also in the Baltic countries. So there is an element of identity and an element of international policy.

But why the core countries of the EU are so much attached to the idea of the common currency?

I think the core doesn’t know how to get out. A bad mistake was made 15 years ago, and the risks of getting out are perceived as very high. At the same time, some special interests, the exporting sector, the banking sector, are strongly defending it because it has served their strategy.

A shorter version of this interview was published in German in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.