Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Cat in the Box: Quantum Social Democracy and the Uncertainty Principle

Richard Seymour, VIB, wrote on SIP Louis Proyect's chat-list:

No formal count was taken at this meeting, but according to Stathis Kouvelakis, 30 MPs were out of the room when the vote was taken and 40 abstained or voted against.  If this is right, then a third of those present voted against.  He recounts that most speakers - some 80 MPs - criticised the deal, in an emotional and turbulent meeting that went on for 12 hours.

Tsipras would be smart not to bring this to a parliamentary vote.  The centrist opposition want it to be voted on because they want to split Syriza and pass the deal.  The KKE want it to be voted on because they want to split Syriza and take their place as the dominant left party.

It was shrewd and characteristic of Tsipras’s leadership style to take an informal vote on this.  Because he could have just forced it through and gone ahead with a parliamentary vote without listening to anyone, which would possibly have split Syriza in a big way.  But the scale of dissent, the difficulties it creates for the agreement, and the clear rejection of the ‘famous victory’ line that Tsipras peddled, has saved Syriza’s honour.  The Left Platform have been shown to be wholly correct in their approach, while the cheerleaders and the told-you-so sectarians now look a bit silly.

I am not one to ever say "I told you so," and as I have demonstrated earlier, I'm not nearly important enough to be an irrelevant sectarian.  But since I specifically and repeatedly advocate forcing a vote of confidence in the Syriza government on the floor of the parliament, I wonder if I'm now one the "silly lookers"?

I'm not sure, and not being sure means being uncertain, and being uncertain calls to mind Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and that evokes quantum mechanics, playing dice with the universe, thought experiments and whether the cat in the box is dead or alive.

I have to wonder what's "wholly correct" about the approach of the "The Left Platform" if it provides an indication to Tsipras that he should by-pass parliament and simply impose the reform package, because that "would possibly have split Syriza in a big way"?  Unless it is to keep Syriza in power.

Well, we have the answer now to the earlier question about a vote of confidence.  Seymour is definitely voting his confidence in the Syriza government by rejecting a vote of confidence.  The cat in the box may be dead, but Seymour doesn't want anyone to open the box and find out.

So I propose a thought experiment for our supporters of Syriza, supporters of the Syriza "Left Platform," supporters of a government of, by, and for Syriza:  It goes like this:

Supposed the relative strengths in the Syriza-ANEL coalition were reversed; suppose Syriza was the junior partner and ANEL was the senior partner.  Suppose ANEL had "co-opted" Syriza into its government.  Suppose Syriza had agreed to the coalition and a ministry based on the shared opposition to the 2012 MFFA and the reforms associated with it. With Syriza, ANELforms a government based on maintaining the combined parliamentary majority.

Now suppose ANEL, the major partner, did what Syriza has just done: reverse its opposition to an extension of the bailout; agree to maintaining the conditions of the MFFA; submitting the same package of reforms to the Eurogroup.

What would the response be of our quantum social-democrats, our VIBs, our SIPs, our quasi-Marxists?  Would anyone on the left argue that the government's actions actually represent a "victory" for Greece?  That the ANEL government had won the all-important concession of time for Greece?

Would our never-close-to-being Marxists excuse, or rationalize, the ANEL actions with "the bosses are too strong?"

Would anyone on the "left"-- would any one member or supporter of "The Left Platform" argue that Syriza should stay in the coalition and not expose the ANEL-Syriza government to a vote of "no-confidence"?

Would anyone suggest that it was important of ANEL to conduct a "straw poll" and based on the reluctance of some parliament members, by-pass bringing the package to a vote in the parliament in order to keep the government in power?

Would anyone suggest that a "straw-poll" meaning less than nothing was an act of valor, saving the "honor" of the government?

Well, end of thought experiment.

So what's the difference between the hypothetical ANEL-Syriza government doing what the actual Syriza-ANEL government has already done?  Syriza includes socialists?  Syriza is more secular?  If socialism or secularism are the determining characteristics of Syriza, then those determining characteristics should preclude an alliance with ANEL in any way shape or form.

Clearly, socialism and secularism are not those critical components. It is, and is solely, Syriza's supposed opposition to the MFFA and the so-called reforms. 

Which brings us to the interesting possibility, where the cat in the box is half dead and half alive-- where, while the "Left Platform" may falter in fear before the prospect of splitting Syriza, ANEL will not, and ANEL holds the balance of power; ANEL can force a vote of confidence.

I don't know if ANEL is venal enough to be bought off by Tsipras in order to avoid ANEL's defection, but if ANEL does decide to walk, all the "honor-saving" by the "Left Platform" stands exposed as the meaningless action we know it to be.  ANEL gets to claim that it alone represents the aspirations of the Greek people for the end of the bailout and to the package of "reforms."

And if ANEL doesn't walk, and as the dissent within Syriza threatens to burst the boundaries of straw polls, ANEL's importance to Tsipras increases, and the "new type of socialist mass non-vanguard democratic popular party" becomes more and more dependent on a right-wing, nationalist, racist party of the old type.

The "Left Platform," and its supporters, with their limited valor, have put themselves and the cat, not in the box, but in the trick bag.  And there's no getting out without destroying the bag.  That much is certain. The cat's dead.  The cat's alive.  It doesn't matter.

February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Yani and the Hand Jive

I know a cat named Doctor Yani...
He's got a real cool job, jivin' for money
He knows just what makes the eurozone tick
He does that hand jive just for kicks

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015,  the Syriza government of Greece presented its "first comprehensive list of reform measures" to the president of the Eurogroup.  The Eurogroup is what  the committee made up of the finance ministers of countries using the euro as currency is called when it actually meets.

Section III of the list of reforms is identified as "policies to promote growth," and number one, with bullets, among those policies is:
Privatisation and public asset management-- To attract investment in key sectors and use the state's assets efficiently, the Greek authorities will:
--Commit not to roll back privatisations that have been completed.  Where the tender process has been launched the government will respect the process according to the law.
On Wednesday, February 25, 205 the Telegraph reported that George Stathakis, holding the economy portfolio in the Syriza government, had declared:
We will cancel the privatisation of the Piraeus Port.  It will remain permanently under state majority holding.  There is no good reason to turn it into a private monopoly, as we made clear from the first day.
The deal for the sale of the Greek airports will have to be dramatically revised. It all goes to one company .  There is no way it will get through the Greek Parliament.
Stathakis was joined in his opposition by the energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, who stated:
 There will be no energy privatizations.
Always ready with the snappy retort, Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble responded:
Greece will not get a single penny until it complies with its obligations

This is the second time the story's been floated regarding cancelling the privatization program of state assets.  Now confusion, disorder, and disagreement among government ministers isn't exactly unexpected in a new government of a party that is an amalgam of centrists and leftists. And the amalgam itself is bound to fracture, or collapse, under the crush of events.

That fracturing has already begun.  However the back story of the official "commitment" to privatization and to its opposition is that the program itself has been, is, and will continue to be an abject failure.  Originally proposed to generate some €50 billion in revenue by the end of 2015, as of 2014 the program reported less than €8 billion in sales, with revenues of less than €5 billion.  
It's not just the fact that the program has failed, but the fact that the program cannot succeed.  The program cannot generate revenues sufficient for Greece to pay off its debt, no matter how "efficiently" it is run; regardless of the properties that are offered for sale. 

The program is a liquidation sale of encumbered properties, the value of which is directly proportional to the stability of the economy circumscribing the properties.  The sales themselves tend to destabilize that environment and thus we have another iteration of the "death spiral" of overproduction, where depressing value depresses value. 

Before and upon assuming government, Syriza explicitly recognized that none of the "reforms" required by the Troika could or would allow Greece to repay the debt.  Liquidation sales are never designed to repay the face value of the debt.   Prior to taking power, Syriza correctly identified the Greek economy as insolvent with the privatization program being a liquidation process of bankruptcy, rather than a debt repayment process. 

The point of the privatization process was, and is, liquidating the accumulated social value of the ports, the properties, the infrastructure networks, in order to drive the cost of labor below its value, below its "price" of reproduction.

Wolfie told Yani you'll ruin my zone
You and the hand jive have got to go
Yani told Wolfie 'Don't be so sour'
I'll deliver the whole country in 24 hours
Nothing in the package of reforms imposed under the 2012 agreement will permit Greece to repay its debt obligations.  Nothing in the package of reforms submitted by the Syriza government will provide Greece with enough revenues to repay its accumulated debt.  That is part of the reason Varoufakis didn't provide any numbers to accompany the so-called reforms.  The debt simply cannot be supported.   

Consequently the only realistic, practical "economic" program is at one and the same time the only rational radical social program.  Both begin with repudiating the debt in its entirety.  Both necessarily involve scrapping the MFFA of 2012 completely.  Both require bringing Syriza's "reform package" to the floor of the parliament for a vote of confidence.  

The forcing of a vote of confidence is not designed to ensure a change of ministers, substituting Stathakis and Lafazanis for Tsipras and Varoufakis.  Nor is it about ensuring a change of parties. The issue is not that Syriza has "betrayed the revolution," or "betrayed the workers."  Syriza never represented a "revolution" nor the workers.  Syriza reversed its political message upon achieving power, as the conditions in Greece are indeed revolutionary and Syriza is indeed not.

The vote of no confidence in the Syriza government is essential for changing the locus of power from the institutions of the bourgeoisie, like parliament and the ministers,  and towards the mobilization of neighborhood, factory, and social assemblies as platforms for the advance of a class-wide program. 

Yani sent a package to the city of Brussels
Intending  to flex his virtual muscles
"It's a virtual economy," he said with glee
"Pretend and extend" is our curren-cy 

Some where there has to be some thing both more hilarious and more pathetic than the twists and turns of our VIBs, our SIPs, our counter punchers, our tomb raiders, repentant film reviewers as they try to spin Syriza's pig ear into a silk purse.  We get told "Sometime the bosses are too strong." We're told how sometimes even real revolutionists have to make bad deals.  Then we're told, sometimes by others, sometimes by the same "Well, it's not a defeat after all.  Hell, it's a victory."  Then we're told "Varoufakis is a fucking genius."  

Even others tell us, after acknowledging that indeed Syriza did capitulate, that "honor" has been rescued by 30 or 40 Syriza members of parliament, who in an informal caucus either voted "no"  or abstained during a "straw poll" regarding the reform package.  This, you see, tells Tsipras that submitting the package for parliamentary approval will very clearly become a no-confidence vote for his government.  Therefore, Tsipras will simply impose the agreements with the Troika, without submitting them to parliament, while the "Syriza left" has saved Syriza's "honor," and the honor of all the left by abstaining or voting no in a meaningless straw poll.  

Shows just how little honor there really is among these thieves.  And shows you how meaningless is the support offered by these New Blairites for "democracy" for "elections"  for "parliament."  Now  maneuvering to prevent new elections, to by-pass parliament is the new democracy.  

If intelligence and integrity were dynamite, our VIBs, SIPs, counter punchers, tomb-raiders, znet pundits, our New Blairites wouldn't have enough, collectively, to blow their noses.  

And that ain't no jive. 

February 27, 2015


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

24 hours late, and € 240 billion short

1. A day late and more than a dollar short, Yanis Varoufakis submitted a "program" of reforms to the Eurozone finance ministers (Eurogroup) regarding the Greek government's development and implementation of tax policies, public finance management, revenue administration, public spending, social security reform, public administration and corruption, instalment schemes, labor market reforms, product market reforms, better business environment, judicial system reforms, banking and non-performing loans, privatisation and public asset management, statistics, and last and certainly least,  the humanitarian crisis where Yanis sums it up perfectly, puts a cherry on it, wraps it with a bow, seals it with a kiss--
The Greek government affirms its plan to:  Ensure that its fight against the humanitarian crisis has no negative fiscal effect.
Upon reading that, Wolfgang Schäuble, a tear in his eye,  sent a telegram to one Dieter Kaufmann stating:  Je suis Charlie. Tout est pardonné!

2. The submission of the "reform" package was a clever bit of stagecraft in that it gave the appearance that the Syriza government was negotiating on behalf of Greece as an equal among equals; partners among partners; as if in fact there is or was any substance to the negotiation process itself. 

Syriza had already affirmed that Greece was not an equal among equals; that there were no "partners" only the debtor and the debt holders; that "negotiations" were but a charade.  The government had assumed power demanding an end to the conditions of the 2012 Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement.  The finance minister had "killed" the Troika of the ECB, the Eurogroup, and the IMF overseeing the disbursements and assistance to Greece.  And then...

And then, when faced indeed with the end to the MFFA; when faced with no further extension and no further disbursements, the Syriza government "flipped":
The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.
The "reforms" submitted by Syriza are simply "pretend measures," as in "I'll pretend I'm saying something, and you pretend you're listening." 

What counts is who controls the cash flow; and there's no pretending there. 

That the very act of submitting such a document "pretending" to so many reforms in so many areas to an external agency answers all the questions anyone might have about "partners," "equals," "sovereignty;" that the existence of the document and the process prove what the parties  hope to obscure--namely that fools and cynics are no less essential to capital accumulation than fear and greed--didn't stop Yanis from submitting the document with a straight-face.  And the Eurogroup from accepting it, equally straight-faced.

Wolfgang, however, in the privacy of his office, howled with laughter.  "More rabbits!" he said.  "I want more rabbits!"

3.  The document itself is supposed to be the basis for a review to be concluded within the next four months regarding Greece's worthiness to receive further disbursements from the Troika.  If drafting this comprehensively vague document caused the Syriza to run a day late, the actual development and execution of the so-called reforms will take much more than four months if in fact they are ever developed anywhere other than on Varoufakis Macbook.

But that's the point.  The so-called reforms and plans aren't reforms and plans.  They are "white noise" to cover the continued subjugation of the population to servicing the debt. 

The Greek government "promises...."  The Greek government will "modify...."  The Greek government will "modernize..." The Greek government will "devise and implement..." The Greek government will "enhance...," "strengthen...," "staff...," "augment..." "augment and review...," "identify...," "control...," "phase out...," "establish...,"  "turn the fight...into a national piority...," "target, tackle, reduce, activate, rationalize, promote, improve, calibrate, step-up, utilize, collaborate, commit not to roll back privatizations that have been completed, safeguard, review, adopt, achieve, expand, phase in (to balance the phase out), remove, pursue, honour, guarantee, address, evaluate..."

Nowhere in the document is there any analysis of how much the strengthening, enhancing, staffing, reviewing, etc. will cost nor how much benefit it will provide.  Not a single projection, not a single estimate, not a single number. 

Nowhere does the document specify when and how it will accomplish a single one of its promise, intentions, programs.  

The point of the document, at least as Syriza would like to imagine it and sell it to those interested in buying, and eating, an air sandwich, is to provide a basis for the government to a)prove its compliance with the obligations agreed to in the various MoUs and facility agreements that direct the disbursement of funds b)request some sort as yet undefined, and unclear, mitigation in the obligations Greece is attempting to prove it has satisfied, and can satisfy.  

That is the inherent, and irresolvable conflict in the document submittal and review process, and that is why the language being used is so fundamentally imprecise, irresolute-- and traffics in ignorance. 

The language that is used in this document is exactly the language used by corporations when they want to market their gutting of pension plans, health care benefits, work rules, wages, as "improving efficiencies," "eliminating waste"  "maximizing choice." 

Here's the "thing"-- and the bottom line, the only bottom line to be found in this ridiculous submission by a huckster government:  There is nothing there except the preservation of the creditors' demands on the debtor.

February 24, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015


The Syriza government has postponed submitting its proposed list of "reforms" to the European Union.  The "reforms" were due today, Monday, 23 February, but the Syriza ministers won't be ready until tomorrow.  Indeed.  That--"won't be ready until......"-- describes Syriza's leadership perfectly.

Not that it makes one bit of difference what the Syriza government submits.  All that matters is what the EU is willing to accept.

You will recall that way back when in 2009 and 2010 some of us sectarian, socialism now, ultra-left types where sectarianly and ultra-leftly calling for the immediate repudiation of the debt.  When the recent contest for parliamentary power took place,  we, incurable sectarians/Bordiga-ists/ultra-leftists/DeLeonites, urged no support for Syriza's program because that program did not call for repudiation of the debt.

We were told by those so much wiser, gentler, more generous, more open: "Your sectarian/Bordiga-ist/ultra-left/DeLeonite demands are a dead end.  Demands must seek to unify the broadest sectors of the population.  We know Syriza is anti-capitalist because Syriza says so.  It's ideology is anti-capitalist.  But it must work to obtain widespread support.  Consequently the responsible course is to support Syriza's campaign promise that Syriza will terminate the terms and conditions of the 2012 bail-out."

Stop me if I'm speaking out of turn here, or if I am not faithfully rendering the tale as told by the idiots of the "responsible" "non-sectarian" left, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

OK to continue?  Good.

Syriza declared it would terminate the conditions of the bailout, and it has not done so.  Instead it has agreed to the continuation of the terms of the bailout.

So now what?  What should the response be of the "left," of the working class, of those who make-up the "left wing" of Syriza?

That's a practical question and requires a practical proposals.  It is essential  to develop a program that can actually be fulfilled.  It is imperative to schedule tasks so that maximum efficiency is applied to any problem. 

The Syriza government maintains its role as the agent of capitalism in Greece only to the extent that it can win votes in the parliament, votes either approving initiatives and changes directly or/and votes providing the funding to support initiatives, changes, programs.

Consequently those to the "left" of Syriza can introduce a bill repudiating the debt in its entirety and see what kind of support it generates.  It will certainly be a divisive issue within the Syriza organization.

Alternatively, when the Syriza ministers propose the budget for funding the state and the state's programs over the next year, the "left" can demand that payments on the sovereign debt be eliminated from the budget.

Either way, either track is itself, and will bring about, a vote of confidence on the Syriza government.

Bringing about that vote of confidence on the Syriza government is the fundamental, critical, inescapable task falling to the "left-wing" of Syriza, and those parties who claim to be to the "left" of that left.  No progress can be made without calling into question and gauging the support for the legitimacy of the Syriza government.

Right here at home, wherever that home may be, we can do the same with our myriad little Syriza supporters, Tsipras wannabees, Varoufakis fashion followers.  We, the ultra-left/sectarian/Bordiga-ist/DeLeonite "we" can ask them:  Immediate Repudiation of the Debt?  Yes or No?  Vote of Confidence in the Syriza Government?  Yes or No?  

You can do this at home, at the homes of others, at parties, meetings, fora or forums, at bars, in restaurants, chat lists, blogs... in fact you can do it anywhere. I find it to be a wonderful ice-breaker when meeting someone I really want to chat-up, as in:  "Say those are really great shoes you're wearing.  How do feel about Greece repudiating its sovereign debt immediately and entirely?"

I tried it some hours ago over on Richard Seymour's blog with two of my favorite people, one being Seymour, the other being that self-designated unrepentant buffoon and Paul Simon body double, Louis Proyect.   While Seymour, notorious for that notorious British reserve has been mum, Proyect has provided an answer to the debt question. Said Proyect:
Sartesian, this is not like someone declaring bankruptcy in the USA because they can't pay their Visa credit card debt, and then getting new cards two years later. Nations like Greece operate on a different basis even if a neo-Deleonite like you can't figure that out. 
No shit, Sherlock?  Who would have thunk?  Imagine that.  Nations like Greece operate on a "different basis." Actually, as I believe Herr Schäuble just made abundantly clear to Yanis Varoufakis, nations do not act all that differently.  "Pay me" is the imperative.  If you have to sell your children to pay me, then sell your children.  Maybe you'll get a good price.  If you have to burn your house down to get the insurance payment, make sure you have money enough for gasoline.  If you have to pimp your sister... well you remember the Natasha trade, don't you?

But here's what I did figure out, with a little help from that sectarian dogmatist K.Marx:  Nations act in the interests of their ruling classes.  The ruling classes act in the interests of their property.  Those interests are determined by a mode of production, that is to say the condition of labor.  Regardless of whatever ideological "bent" Syriza might have, because the mode of production in Greece, and Europe, is capitalism, because the ruling class in Greece is the bourgeoisie, Syriza has acted in the interests of that ruling class. Syriza has called its own legitimacy into question, and we have the answer.

So practically speaking, we are confronted with the necessity for testing, questioning, and opposing the legitimacy of the Syriza government through the perfectly proper parliamentary process of voting:  on the payments to the Troika; on the Syriza government's actions on behalf of maintaining capitalism. 

February 23, 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Sense of Urgency

A comrade, and I use this word only when it is warranted, has remarked elsewhere that he has rarely seen me so engaged as I am with the issues raised by events in Greece.  Indeed, he's right-- to the extent that all my other engagements, posts, analyses, are and are supposed to be preparation, practice for the "real thing"... the real thing being class struggle, the point when "economics" is exposed as a social relation of production, and the social relation of production is exposed as...temporary, destructive, and self-destructive. 

If Marx's Capital was itself not an elaboration of, and not itself elaborated by The Class Struggle In France 1848-1850 and the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte then Marx's critique of capital would have no practical significance.  If value were not simultaneously the origin and goal of capital and its obstacle, then there would be no conflict between means and relations of production, and no historical necessity for proletarian revolution.

But it, Capital,is and was. Value is, and the conflict inherent in value production, the conflict between means and relations of production is embodied in the actions of living, breathing, classes.

The comrade, and I use the word only when it is warranted, is right.  I am engaged precisely as I was in 1972, 1973  when I was arguing that the UP government in Chile was leading the working class into a death trap.  I am engaged precisely as I was in 1974 when the Portuguese revolution was pre-empted by the military,  all those "in the know," just knew that proletarian revolution was never on the agenda and to advocate such a course was pure "sectarianism."

1973 marks the onset of the bourgeoisie's great offensive against the working class worldwide.  The onset of the offensive was punctuated by two critical assaults by the bourgeoisie-- 1) the OPEC price spike, attacking living standards of the working class, and inaugurating the great asset-liquidation jamboree of capital  2)the military assault by the armed forces of Chile against the working class.

The working class in Greece is nowhere near as organized, as forthright, as militant as the workers in Chile.  The self-organization of the working class in Greece does not have the "luxury" of two years to manifest its ability, its strength, its need to organize the economy, the conditions of labor and the conditions of society, as socialist.  More urgent, more critical, more imperative then is the appeal to the workers of Greece to appeal to the workers of France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy to repudiate immediately and entirely the inter-sovereign debts, the economics of austerity, and the institutions of capitalist union. 

The European Union is not Europe.  A workers struggle against the European Union is the last best hope for "Europe."

Greece is to the first quarter of the 21st century what Chile was to the last 30 years of the 20th century.

Make or break. 


February 22, 2015

When All Is Said and Done...

When all is said and done I miss, I mourn Dean Smith more than I mourn Erwin Marquit.  Actually I don't mourn Marquit one fucking bit.  There will be a hundred and one poser pseudo communists to take his place.

Smith  contributed more to human emancipation than Marquit, with  his allegiance to the Communist Party, and his support of the Democratic Party (in particular, Marquit was a supporter of  the late senator Wellstone), ever did.

Real people are always preferable to phony communists, or real Communists.

February 22, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Speaking Of...

...SIPs, VIBs, GameBoys, Morons, Dabblers, Dilettantes...

Dig this.

After Syriza does what Syriza does, we get this from the VIB, Richard Seymour:
It’s a serious retreat, but less on the matter of debt (this bit is just kicking the can down the road) as on the question of troika control. That’s a serious setback. Syriza are, of course, in a fucking awful position and have been trying to hold out a decent position. But the concession on this point is a significant defeat, *even if* the deal doesn’t insist on total austerity and even if it includes reference to the humanitarian crisis and social justice. The reforms they plan have to gain the approval of the troika, and that’s just a terrible situation to be in.
So, yes, now is not a time to be euphoric. It’s a time for the Syriza left and forces to the left of Syriza to push hard for Grexit.

How's that for a penetrating, incisive criticism of Syriza?  "Awful position," "decent position"?  How's that for a thorough explanation of where Greece has been and where it's going?  Ranks right up there, doesn't it, with "Yes, We can" from 2008, and Jesse Jackson's "Keep Hope Alive" from an earlier bygone era? 

Awful position, decent position? What bollocks.  Syriza was in exactly the position it wanted to be, it campaigned to be.

Our boy Lollipop Seymour thinks that now is the time for the Syriza left to push for a Grexit?  I wish I could say Lollipop was just taking the piss, but he's not.

Exactly how is a "Grexit" going to a)be accomplished b)work c)help?

Syriza, whom Lollipop hailed as the materialization of the angels of our better natures, couldn't be "compelled" by its "left" or by "the left" to stand its ground on ending the bailout terms from 2012, and now Lollipop thinks an exit from the EU is in the cards?  Any minute now he'll karaoke a rendition of "Tomorrow" from Annie.

Syriza's whole ploy was the attempt to decouple the issues of debt and austerity from the issue of capitalism; to pretend that the former(s) could be mitigated, and reversed, without confronting and abolishing, the latter.

Now Lollipop wants to repeat the performance by "pushing hard" for a "Grexit," pretending that Greece's membership in the European Union can be decoupled from confronting and abolishing capitalism.

To "push" even a little bit for Greece to exit the EU via the parliamentary road, as opposed to class struggle, requires first a vote of no confidence in the Syriza government.  So question number uno for all our disappointed Syriza supporters:  Do you advocate, support, voting no-confidence in the current Syriza government?  I know my answer to that question.  I don't know how any supporter of Syriza will answer that question.

If the no-confidence vote does succeed, then what?  Usually  a new government, or new elections, follow such a vote.  So what government will our VIBs, SIPs, etc. support this time around?  What parties are capable of forming a government based in and on the current institutions of Greek capitalism that will also compel that "national" capitalism to sever ties with the European Union?

No such party exists.  Those without manners, those loud, rude, nasty types, might remind all concerned that New Democracy originally campaigned against accepting the austerity connected with a bailout.   New Democracy replaced the PASOK government based on opposition to the requirements of a bailout.  How did that work out?

The European Union is not Europe, no more that NAFTA is North America.  And, to bring the point home, a social movement in Mexico that proposes disengagement from the NAFTA accords as a "remedy" to the poverty and privation of the people of Mexico without confronting, in fact as a means to not confront,  the core relations of capitalism in Mexico is worse than a waste of time.

Wait...there's more.  It gets better, I mean worse.  We have the peripatetic movie-reviewer Louis Proyect providing the following bit of explanation to one of his list-members who wondered why Syriza would make "such a concession":
 On 2/20/15 7:04 PM, A.R. G wrote:
Fine. But why did they make this concession?

Because they buckled under pressure obviously. If you think that Marxism prevents you from accepting rotten deals, you need to read up on Brest-Litovsk. Here's Trotsky on the treaty that was imposed on a war-ravaged and exhausted USSR:

"That we could no longer fight was perfectly clear to me. When I passed through the trenches on my way to Brest-Litovsk the first time, our comrades, in spite of all advances and encouragement, were quite unable to organize any significant demonstration of protest against the enormous demands of Germany; the trenches were almost empty – no one ventured to speak even conditionally of a continuation of the war. Peace, peace at any price! Later, on my return from Brest-Litovsk, I tried to persuade the president of the military section of the All Russian Central Executive Committee to support our delegation by a “patriotic” speech. “Impossible!” he exclaimed, “quite impossible; we cannot return to the trenches; we would not be understood; we would lose all influence.” As to the impossibility of a revolutionary war, there was not the slightest difference of opinion between Vladimir Ilyich and myself."

In Greece today, the enemy is not armed with bayonets but Euros.
You know what I love about this?  Actually, nothing.  But I do have to point out the distortion of history that our boy Blowhard deploys to justify his adherence to class-collaboration and the eternal capitulation to capital.  You see, the Bolsheviks didn't campaign for continuing the war, even on revolutionary grounds.  In the struggle to transfer all power to the soviets, the Bolsheviks, and their allies had campaigned for quitting the battlefield.  And the Bolsheviks did just that, walking away from Brest-Litovsk and its odious terms, and were then compelled to accept more odious terms in remaining true to its program of ending participation in the inter-capitalist war.

Nothing in Syriza's actions is analogous to the events surrounding Russia's withdrawal from the war.

But history is just so much bunk to our game-theorists; our academic economists; our lollipops and blowhards.  Stalinists rewrite history; our leftists make it a jingle for self-advertisements.  Wankers them. All.

February 20, 2015


Note:  This is the official statement from the Eurogroup, from its own website. 

Eurogroup statement on Greece

Press contacts
Simone Boitelle
+31 613218891

The Eurogroup reiterates its appreciation for the remarkable adjustment efforts undertaken by Greece and the Greek people over the last years. During the last few weeks, we have, together with the institutions, engaged in an intensive and constructive dialogue with the new Greek authorities and reached common ground today.

The Eurogroup notes, in the framework of the existing arrangement, the request from the Greek authorities for an extension of the Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA), which is underpinned by a set of commitments. The purpose of the extension is the successful completion of the review on the basis of the conditions in the current arrangement, making best use of the given flexibility which will be considered jointly with the Greek authorities and the institutions. This extension would also bridge the time for discussions on a possible follow-up arrangement between the Eurogroup, the institutions and Greece. 

The Greek authorities will present a first list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, by the end of Monday February 23. The institutions will provide a first view whether this is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review. This list will be further specified and then agreed with the institutions by the end of April. 

Only approval of the conclusion of the review of the extended arrangement by the institutions in turn will allow for any disbursement of the outstanding tranche of the current EFSF programme and the transfer of the 2014 SMP profits. Both are again subject to approval by the Eurogroup.

In view of the assessment of the institutions the Eurogroup agrees that the funds, so far available in the HFSF buffer, should be held by the EFSF, free of third party rights for the duration of the MFFA extension. The funds continue to be available for the duration of the MFFA extension and can only be used for bank recapitalisation and resolution costs. They will only be released on request by the ECB/SSM. 

In this light, we welcome the commitment by the Greek authorities to work in close agreement with European and international institutions and partners. Against this background we recall the independence of the European Central Bank. We also agreed that the IMF would continue to play its role. 

The Greek authorities have expressed their strong commitment to a broader and deeper structural reform process aimed at durably improving growth and employment prospects, ensuring stability and resilience of the financial sector and enhancing social fairness. The authorities commit to implementing long overdue reforms to tackle corruption and tax evasion, and improving the efficiency of the public sector. In this context, the Greek authorities undertake to make best use of the continued provision of technical assistance. 

The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely. 

The Greek authorities have also committed to ensure the appropriate primary fiscal surpluses or financing proceeds required to guarantee debt sustainability in line with the November 2012 Eurogroup statement. The institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account. 

In light of these commitments, we welcome that in a number of areas the Greek policy priorities can contribute to a strengthening and better implementation of the current arrangement. The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions. 

On the basis of the request, the commitments by the Greek authorities, the advice of the institutions, and today's agreement, we will launch the national procedures with a view to reaching a final decision on the extension of the current EFSF Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement for up to four months by the EFSF Board of Directors. We also invite the institutions and the Greek authorities to resume immediately the work that would allow the successful conclusion of the review.

We remain committed to provide adequate support to Greece until it has regained full market access as long as it honours its commitments within the agreed framework.
Well, Simone,  since you ask.... yeah there is something wrong with this page.  Everything is wrong with this page.  That you even have a page is wrong.  That you are a group is even more wrong. 

February 20, 2015

NSFW(s) 2

From the Financial Times
Greece and its eurozone bailout lenders agreed [to] an 11th hour deal to extend the country's  €172 billion rescue programme for four months avoiding bankruptcy for Athens but setting up another potential stand-off in June when a €3.5 billion debt payment comes due...
The decision to request an extension of the current programme is a significant U-turn for Alexis Tsipras, the Greece prime minister, who had promised in his election campaign to kill the existing bailout.
In addition, it includes no reduction of Greece's sovereign debt levels, another campaign promise.  Discussion on debt restructuring are likely as part of follow-on talks ahead of another bailout programme, which must now be agreed before June. 
As part of the agreement, Athens vowed that it would continue to produce a primary budget surplus--taking in more than it spends when interest on debt is not counted--but Mr. Dijsselbloem left open the possibility that the surplus targets could be lowered. 
'The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability as assessed by [bailout monitors]," the eurogroup agreement read.
Critically, the agreement commits Athens to the 'successful completion' of the current bailout review, although it allows for Greece to negotiate its economic reform agenda.  The reforms must be approved by bailout monitors, and the final agreement on the measure is to be completed by April. 
The deal also unexpectedly requires the eurozone's bailout fund to take back €10.9 billion in funds currently sitting in Greece's bank rescue facility, an unusual move that reflect the lack of trust between Athens and its eurozone lenders.  The money would still be available for bank recapitalisation, but it would be disbursed by eurozone authorities rather than Athens, as was previously the case.

I take no pleasure in the abject capitulation of the Syriza ministers to the petty, vicious, and miserable system they serve. Whatever humiliation our pretty boy ministers experience is nothing compared to the continued and forthcoming immiseration of the workers and poor of Greece.

Nor do I think this abject capitulation and humiliation will have the slightest influence on the dilettante dabblers and babblers, the very-important-bloggers, the self-important-posers, the know- nothing and see-less, the unrepentant morons, the "green leftists," the Link-ers, the international socialists, erratic marxists, semi-Trotskyists, sort-of Leninists who endorsed the "spirit of Athens," and who found in Syriza's equivocation and ignorance a "new entry" for revolutionary organization and action.  

Nothing solidifies a repetition compulsion like failure.  So when Podemos advances its campaign for "left government," proclaiming as it will that it, Podemos, "has learned the lessons of Syriza," that entire bozo circus will pack itself, floppy feet, bulb noses, squirt bottles and all into that Volkswagen Beetle, provided by Frau Merkel, and drive on the same road, but off different cliff, this one in Spain.

I am here to say what I've said before:  repudiate the debt in its entirety, and immediately-- in Greece, Spain, Germany, France, the UK-- everywhere.

February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pro Bono

Hudson: That's it, man. Game over, man! Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that? 

Aliens, 1986

Certainly the Syriza government in Greece doesn't need my advice, my free advice.  The government has the world's smartest man as minister of finance, loads of academics staffing offices high and low, and the crème de la crème of investment banking groups. Lazard, advising it on matters of debt management, fiscal programs, and fashion policy. But being ever so positive, cheerful, helpful,  and unsectarian, I just have to help.  Sue me

Because there's this report from the BBC.  Apparently, Herr Rollerblade playing bad cop to... well to nobody's good cop has wheeled away from the bargaining table killing floor.

Greece was playing for time, believing after all that time is money.  Unfortunately, older more experienced players agreed.  "Indeed," said Wolfgang, "and you're out of both."

So here are a couple of suggestions for Yanis and Alexis.  One- whatever you're going to do, do it quick.  Two-  slap immediate capital controls on all institutions, corporations, and individuals freezing the movement of funds, securities, deeds, titles to properties out of Greece.  Three-- once the controls are in place, repudiate the debt in its entirety.  Four-- end participation in the IMF, World Bank, NATO etc.

Before anybody catches his or her breath,  neutralize the armed forces by compulsory enrollment of all ranks below that of sergeant into a workers union of enlisted personnel.

Then call upon all citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 to enlist in the military on a "reserve" basis.

Break not only your use of the euro, but any peg of your new currency to the euro or the dollar.

Best advice you'll ever get.

February 19, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gangsta Paradise

1.  Paul Krugman, political economist par excellence, meaning of course, he's the best at being superficial and mediocre, has published a column in today's New York Times comparing Syriza's Greece to Weimar's Germany.   Those VIBs,  wannabee Howard Stern mini-mes, green reds (and vice-versa), international socialists,  Jeffrey Sachs embracers, rebuild the 4th internationalists,  all so busy applauding Syriza with both hands have yet to cite comrade political-economist Krugman's column, despite the fact that like Krugman,  superficial and mediocre is them at their very best.  Apparently, while endorsing a bridge loan is ok for these never-close-to-being Marxists, endorsing a Mediterranean Weimar is a bridge too far.

It's an ironic analogy, Syriza Greece to Weimar Germany, irony being what happens when ignorance meets history.  After all, in this iteration, Greece is demanding war reparations from Germany, and Germany is adamant that Greece fulfill the terms of the 2012 Versailles agreement despite the toll the payments exact on the viability of the economy, and on the welfare of the populace.  Isn't that ironic?

It's capitalism, where ignorance of  history is a science, and we call the science "political economy." (See, for example, the career path of Alan Greenspan)

2. To Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Rollerblade Schäuble, "The problem is that Greece has lived beyond its means for a long time and nobody wants to give Greece money anymore without guarantees."   Short version:  "Pay me."  That's all the political economy Wolfgang, or anybody else, really needs to know. 

However, Herr Rollerblade's analysis doesn't exactly correspond to the reality. As a matter fact, Greece, that is to say the agents of the bourgeoisie of Greece being therefore at the same time agents for the bourgeoisie in general, "conducted" the economy of Greece along the lines of the business model endorsed, recommended, and otherwise imposed by those political economists of the invisible hand; the ideologues of free markets; those slick, facile, vicious, greedy fucks who make the P2 Masonic Lodge look like a foundling hospital.

We have all heard the invisible handlers rail against taxes on profits, as such levies strangle the willingness of entrepreneurs to "take risk," to "create wealth."   Well, they were listening in Greece where for every year from 2003 to 2012 tax rates on corporate profits as a portion of GDP have been below the average rates for the OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) as a whole.

Moreover, that rate in Greece has declined steadily from 2.8  percent of GDP  in 2003 to 1.12 percent in 2012.

Similarly taxes on personal income as a percent of GDP in Greece have been about half the rate for the OECD as a whole.

Workers in Greece certainly did not live beyond their means, or beyond the productivity improvement they provided to Greek industry.   Labor productivity improvements in Greece, measured as GDP output per hour worked, equal or exceed those rates for the OECD in every year between 2000 and 2009.   Labor productivity growth in Greece was among the highest in OECD countries for this entire period.

Trade?  Exports of goods and services increased from 18.6 percent of GDP in 2003 to 23.6 percent of GDP in 2008.  In 2013, exports accounted for 30 percent of GDP, but of course, with the GDP down by one-quarter, the value of the exports is below that of 2008.

3. So we have any economy that certainly isn't taxing anyone's income or property or profits at a burdensome rate (provided you exclude the regressive taxes on consumption which increased 25 percent 2000-2012).  We have a labor force whose productivity is certainly not a drag on the economy.  We have an economy that is increasing its exports.

We also have an economy that was increasing its imports, at a rate, and mass, greater than exports, and the terms of trade were to the benefit of Greece's partners.. Half  of Greece's trade is with other members of the European Union, and the import of manufactured goods is the largest single category of that trade. Greece's ability to service its debt since 2012 has been based on the dramatic reduction in imports, that is to say manufactured goods for consumption and/or further production.

The value of manufactured imports increased 60 percent between 2005 and 2008.

The driving force behind this increase in manufactured imports  prior to 2009 was the concentration of fixed capital formation in Greece's household and dwelling sectors.

Greece's dedication of fixed capital percentages to the industrial sectors, for machinery and equipment, has historically been below that of its trading partners, until 2006 and 2007. Commitments of fixed capital to the transportation and the constructions sectors have been greater than that of its trading  partners.

The model that Greece was attempting to "emulate" was a "post-industrial" model where Greece would, so its political economists and ruling class thought, would prosper by capturing a portion of the wealth circulating through the European Union through tourism, through hotels, through hosting, transporting and clearing commercial transactions, which would be accomplished through the construction transportation networks; and the construction and purchase of homes by those wealthier capitalists unfortunate enough to live in the colder and greyer climes of Europe.  Our slickster trickster politicians and economist thought they would turn Greece's disadvantage, its relative lack of industrial power, into a comparative advantage. 

Here our political economists thought they were "flipping" the lesson of uneven and combined development and that Greece could skip over "industrial capitalism" and move directly to "post-industrial capitalism" all the time preserving, maintaining, enhancing the power of Greece's bourgeoisie.

Of course there is no such thing as "post-industrial capitalism," no more than boutique production can ever escape the laws of capitalist accumulation.

Ironic, isn't it, irony being what happens when ignorance meets history?  "We're erratic Trotskyists," proclaimed the political economists.  "We'll take the telescope, but not the revolution."

4.  Herr  Rollerblade talks about the obligations Greece must execute.  He talks about the obligations as being "a plan" to "make Greece competitive."  Making Greece competitive is about as non-sensical as the previous "plan" to make Greece "post-industrial."  In a world where capitalism is beset by overproduction in sector after sector, from textiles to flat screen TVs, making Greece "competitive" while preserving capitalism is an absolute impossibility.  The programs imposed upon Greece by the 2012 memorandum are programs of devaluation, asset stripping, asset liquidation, and outright destruction.

That is the function debt plays in this "moment" of capitalism; it is the reason why the debt must be serviced, and the agents of capital.

It is also the reason any advance of the workers and poor of Greece begins with the simultaneous repudiation of the debt in its entirety, and the repudiation of the claims made by Syriza for "reparations."  Demands for the payment of claims by the bourgeoisie, whether of the "Weimar" type or the "Entente" type, are claims of capital on capital for capital.

5. The Syriza government is not a "workers government," representing some sort of intermediary or transition to workers power. The Syriza enthusiasts forget or are oblivious to the obvious that what makes a "workers government" is not what is going on inside the government buildings, but what is going on outside.  The only viability that such a  government can attain is derived from the self-organization of the workers into the associations that will replace the government itself.

The struggle in Greece has not yet advanced to that level.  It will.  Syriza will have no role to play in that advance.  And that won't be the least bit ironic. 

February 16, 2015