Saturday, June 27, 2015

Now Playing, Limited Engagement, at the Odeon: Slick Alexis in "Illegal Illegitimate Odious"

--Hey Yanni, Wanna see me pull a rabbit out of my hat?

Alexis Tsipras, one time star of student government and summer stock before graduating to bourgeois government and dinner theater, has pulled off what one of his predecessors could only dream of doing: posing the demands of the EU for the impoverishment of current and future generations as a referendum for the "people" to vote upon.

George Papandreou thought he would put those terms in a referendum back in 2011 only to get called to Cannes and on the carpet by Nicolas and Angela Sarkozy-Merkel.  Good dog that he was, and is, Papandreou abandoned the idea of a referendum, and his premiership.

Papandreou thought he was saving his country, first with the referendum proposal, and then in resigning his premiership. Self-delusion is the most important element of self-aggrandizement.

Tsipras' target is not quite as lofty, but his aim is better.  His actions are about saving himself and his party, or rather his position in the party.  By calling for the referendum, Slick Alexis avoids a confrontation with the "left" of Syriza and finesses the possibility of split that will lead to a no-confidence vote in his government.    The proposal for a referendum is the one action Tsipras can take to the parliament for authorization that does not risk party discipline

The referendum is proposed for July 5,  five days after the current memorandum expires, and with it any further release of funds under the terms of that agreement.  So....

...all those "left" posers who have been arguing that "there is no alternative;" that Syriza has to negotiate an extension to the memorandum, not matter how painful,  or "things will get worse," now have to explain away the fact that apparently there is an alternative, and all it takes is a referendum.

...all those socialist/keynesian/democratic/responsible "leftists" who have been arguing that Greece is a "dependent economy," inextricably tied to, not Europe, but the European Union, will now have to explain that why, if Greece is a "dependent economy," the vote should not be for approving the Troika's demands.

Not that things won't get worse.  Not that thing's haven't already become worse.  But "getting worse" is irrelevant when the current and future condition of social welfare, of living standards, of health care, of education, was, is, and will remain catastrophic

So what matters is the action taken by and through the organizations of  the class that is forced to confront the continuing catastrophe for what it is-- capitalism. 

For the six months of its elected life, Syriza has struggled mightily, in a mirror image of the bourgeoisie's proposals for a "stronger" monetary, fiscal, and economic union, to "ringfence" the issue of the sovereign debt:  to separate the debt from the preservation of capitalism.  The Troika was having none of that.  They knew that no such separation exists-- that the debt is the product of dependence; is the connection of Greece's economy to the European Union;  compresses the entire history of Greece's relations with the "Great Powers" of Europe.

Syriza is a failure.  The referendum is Syriza's admission of failure. The referendum should not be boycotted. It must be converted from a vote on the Troika's demands into a repudiation of the debt in its entirety; a repudiation of the European Union for what it is-- a bloc of the bourgeoisie; the repudiation of the euro for being what it is-- the means of transferring wealth from the weak to the strong; the repudiation of Syriza for being what it is-- a vehicle for obstructing the social revolution against capital.  

June 27, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

trouble with a small-case p

In response to this, published by the International Marxist Tendency:
In reality, the only alternative to the utopian strategy of searching for an agreement with the lenders is what the comrades of the Communist Tendency of Syriza call a “socialist rupture”. That is, to repudiate the debt and  take measures to expropriate the capitalist, bankers, landlords and ship owners, so that the wealth of society can be put in the hands of those who produce it, under a democratic plan of the economy. Breaking decisively with capitalism is also the only policy which could rekindle the enthusiasm which existed in the initial days of the government, both in Greece and throughout Europe. That is the only way forward.
Louis proyect, the genuflected Marxist, has produced this:
In reality, this is where their troubles would really begin.
Priceless.  GDP down by a quarter, pensions reduced by half, municipal services stripped bare, along with the countryside, unemployment at 40 percent for those under 25, if the economy were at a dead stop that would be a vast improvement, and the troubles  only really start if the debt and the debt memorandums are repudiated; if capital is expropriated.  

That's some Marxism, all right.  "On your knees," says the unrepentant proyect.  "Eyes on the floor... or else."

Or else what?  Pensions are going to be cut more?  Unemployment is going to go up?  More hospitals won't be able to obtain more supplies?  Exactly what is going to begin that hasn't already begun?  Exactly what "troubles" are going to be inflicted that have not already been visited upon the population?  And what troubles will not be intensified  if Greece reaches an agreement with the Troika? 

I'd label proyect a social-democrat, but there's no evidence that proyect does or says anything for any reason other than his need for self-aggrandizement.  He lacks the empirical knowledge, and the ideological coherence to even qualify for the Socialist International.  Proyect's a dissembler intent on acting out his fantasy of creating a party that acts as the political equivalent of a "socially responsible" investment fund. 

Of course, the IMT, while calling for a "break with capitalism," hedges (take a lesson, proyect, you wannabe CFA) in that IMT does not call for a decisive break with Syriza, the current capitalist government,  advocating instead "the only policy which could rekindle the enthusiasm which existed in the initial days of the government [emphasis added] both in Greece and throughout Europe."

There can be no decisive break with capitalism without a decisive break with Syriza.

June 22, 2015 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reasons To Be Uncheerful

Three months ago, the Hellenic Parliament in Greece decided to establish the Truth Committee on the Public Debt to examine the origin of the accumulation of that negative value, of capital's anti-matter called debt, that has, pretty much, sucked Greece into a black hole.

The "left" welcomed the establishment of such a committee, ignoring the poor record such truth committees have in actually changing anything, which probably explains why the left was so pleased.

Well, the committee has released its preliminary report, which is available in English here.  The committee concludes:

1. The "economic adjustment" program (don't you love that? Reminds me of the cop who was going to give me an attitude adjustment once he got his hands on me) "was and remains a politically oriented program." 

All that economic stuff, about macroeconomic variables, GDP growth, debt projections, competitiveness?  That, says the committee, is all μαλακίες, you should pardon the expression after you look it up.

2. The committee concludes that not only is Greece incapable of paying back the debt; it should not pay back the debt because the debt imposed by the Troika is "a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece....Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious." 

The legality of the debt makes little difference.  This is not a struggle to be settled in and by a court.   The debt is capital; is the expression of capital; is designed to serve capital.  This is a struggle of labor with the condition of labor called capital.  

The debt can't be repaid, as the bourgeoisie well know, as the committee has concluded.  But whether or not it is physically possible to pay the debt is immaterial, irrelevant  to the debt collectors.  Debt does not always have to be repaid.  Debt must always be enforced.

3. According to the report, "the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media.  Yet the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of the public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions."

No shit, Sherlock.  The committee members should have been detectives.  Next thing you know, the committee will tell us that investment banks and hedge funds are corrupt, greedy, incompetent, and self-serving.  Just like government.

That the Greek public debt was unsustainable was well known and known well before 2010.  If there's a conspiracy, it must qualify as the worst kept secret; the most open, publicized conspiracy since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Everybody knew the debt was unsustainable.  So what?  Nothing capitalism does does it do for sustainability.  Everything it does it does for profit.  

So... the committee findings  aren't exactly revelations; and these non-revelations are not about to produce any epiphanies.  Do the findings present a "problem" for the Troika?  Are the institutions of  capital about to reverse course, seek forgiveness, repent of their evil, usurious ways?  Forgive Greece its debts? Sure, and people in hell are going to get ice water breaks every ten minutes.

Do the committee findings present a "problem" for the Syriza government?  Now that's an interesting question, because a) the findings are the findings of a parliamentary committee and might conceivably be used by some recalcitrant sorts in that body to introduce actions in opposition to payment of the debt b) such actions can become a vote of confidence on the Syriza policies and c) the one thing the report does accomplish, intentionally or not, is that the debt, the memorandums, the Troika, the "adjustment" policies cannot be separated from the larger issues of participation in the European Union, adherence to the single currency; nor separated from the largest issue of all, the maintenance of Greek capitalism and Greek ruling class.

Syriza staked its future on promoting, prophesizing, the separation of the debt issue from the larger issues.  It has in its "new vision" merely consumed and regurgitated the dog's vomit of all those separations flogged by faux-Marxists throughout the history of the last 100 years.  We've had the opposition of "national liberation" to  social  revolution; we've had the separation of "productive capital" from "parasitic capital;" of "national bourgeoisie" from "imperialist, international bourgeoisie."  We've had the distinction of "entrepreneur" from "monopolist;" "industrial capital" from "finance capital," "fictitious" from "real" capital.

We've had the separation of "speculators" from "producers."  And most recently we've had the separation of "oligarchs" and "tax evaders" from....I guess non-oligarchs and tax payers... as the core of the criminal conspiracy against "growth and development."

Back in the 1990s during the Asian economic implosion, evil currency "speculators" were to blame.  It was these speculators that brought an entire region to its knees by....doing what the bourgeoisie love to do, trade.  Well, look if trade cannot, in and of itself, create value, but can only express the value expropriated the exchange that determines production, then trade in of itself, including speculation cannot create the devaluation of that underlying process.  Speculators then, oligarchs now.  Same-same.  Manifestations, not determinants.

The truth is that the debt represents the compressed whole of capitalism.  More specifically, Greece's public debt cannot be separated from its membership in the EU, from its adherence to the monetary union, from its condition of capitalism within the larger network of capitalism, all the PhDs, political economists, Marxist economists, in the world to the contrary not withstanding.  That includes you, Varoufakis.

The "truth committee" is  a parliamentary committee, so not very much is to be expected in terms of action.  But there is an opportunity for action outside the parliament, in the cities which have been subjected to two demands from the Syriza government for the transfer of local financial reserves to the national accounts.  For the most part, these demands have been ignored by the local governments, many of which are led by conservative mayors and administrators.

The Interior Minister of the Syriza government has announced that he intends to take punitive measures against those municipal governments and institutions refusing to forward financial reserves in accordance with the national government's demand.  Now the "left"  the truly so-called "left" which has raised and praised Syriza's banner; which has excused, rationalized Syriza's commitment to servicing the debt, and at the same time applauds the parliamentary Truth committee's designation of the debt as "illegal, illegitimate, and odious" has some explaining to do, like: how can it support the national government's demand  on local and municipal agencies when a) since the first memorandum in 2010, national government funding to municipalities has been reduced by 60 percent b) the funds forwarded to Syriza will be used to service an illegal, illegitimate, and odious debt? 

While the so-called left tries to explain away its commitment and loyalty to the very agent of the force it thinks it opposes, the opportunity opens for workers' organizations to create popular assemblies with no confidence in either or both Syriza and the existing local governments.  These assemblies can organize to protect the remaining municipal services by taking over the local government agencies, and securing the financial reserves through seizure of the financial institutions.

But here's something else:  Greece is just the tip of the iceberg that's about to tip over and show the other 83% that was hidden underwater.  QE in the EU will not restore "growth."  The "emerging market" economies led by Brazil will continue to sink. US manufacturing will lead the US economy into another reversal, one more contraction.  We're eight years into this, and we've hardly scratched the surface of that odious thing, I mean relation, called capitalism.  We ain't seen nothing yet.

June 19, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

It Don't Mean a Thing...

...when a columnist for the Financial Times, Wolfgang Münchau, urges the Syriza government to adopt a course far more radical than that government, its "left" wing, and/or all of its "left"supporters propose.  It don't mean a thing when the advocate of political economy is more radical than the radical political economists, and with more intent than "accidental" Marxists.  

It don't mean a thing because all the "different" solutions  offered by Münchau, the left-wing of Syriza, the left-supporters of Syriza, that whole collection of idiot movie-reviewers, sniveling post-graduate bloggers, foot-kissing specialists in solidarity,  purveyors of socialist inaction, left forum spectators and participants, presume and require the same thing:  paralysis of the working class.  There Is No Alternative, and there will be none.    

At least Münchau can count.  At least he can do the math.  At least he calculates the cost of the troika's terms to Greece's economy.  That cost is a mere 12.6% reduction in GDP over four years with the debt to GDP ratio rising to 200 percent (not very far from where it is now).  For an economy that's lost over 25% of its GDP, that doesn't sound too bad, does it?

At least he knows that, in the abstract terms of political economy, Greece would be better off defaulting on its debt to the troika; that Greece, in the abstract terms of GDP, capital flow, etc. would be better off exiting the eurozone.  In abstract terms.  But that's what political economy, radical political economy, socialist political economy, Keynesian political economy, Austrian political economy, "responsible" political economy, "irresponsible" political economy is:  a philosophy of the abstract that capitulates to the world of the concrete.

In the world of the concrete, the struggle never is a struggle for, of, by policies.  It is always and forever a struggle of class relations.   Urge away Wolfgang.  Apologize away, you unrepentant never- close-to-Marxists you.  Plead away, you allied, democratic, left-wing, doctored, independent, international, socialists for your two, three, many Syrizas, because failure is your currency; your means of purchase for participating in the markets. It don't mean a thing. 

The bourgeoisie lack many things-- scruples, integrity, imagination, humanity-- but they do not lack for knowing what it took to make them, what it takes to make them, and what it takes to keep them what they are; the ruling class.  

That's their goal; their single goal to which entire populations, nations, continents are held as collateral.  You don't like the terms of repayment? Too bad.  You can't get rid of the debt without getting rid of the bourgeoisie, as Syriza so aptly demonstrates, as Syriza is simply the most current object lesson.

You don't want your pensioners to be any more impoverished than they already are with the 45% cut in pensions?  Too bad.  Tell them to move, to flee Greece. Tell them to get on those boats we're confiscating from human traffickers and go back to Africa, where we all come from.    

What you want don't mean a thing.  What anybody wants don't mean a thing until  what a class wants is to replace the rule of capital, of capital's organs, economic and political, with organs of its own; until that class is organized, by its own resistance, as an anti-ruling class.

That practical organization of the anti-ruling class begins with forcing the issue of repudiating the sovereign debt in its entirety to the parliament floor; voicing no support for the Syriza government.  

It don't mean a thing, unless you're ready to swing. 

June 15, 2015