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Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Greek Pensions Debacle in the Era of the Neoliberal EU





By Van Gelis









From one end of Greece to another there are demos, protests, road blockades and pickets by professional associations and farmers. Their concerns are on the effects of the 3rd Bailout agreed on July 12, 2015 by all the parties in the Greek Parliament, apart from the KKE (Communist Party) and GD (Golden Dawn). Massive rises in taxations for the self-employed and a tripling of national insurance contributions are to be enacted for the continued payment of ever shrinking pensions. Each nation state has a shrinking tax base due to the rise of the transnational corporations and a zero tax regime, and as a result, the proportion the state wants to contribute to pensions is constantly being reduced.

Pensions Were gained Through Struggle

Until the late 1960’s most Greeks worked a six day week. Holiday pay wasn’t part of any package. The norm was a 9hour day. Healthcare was essentially private. Once the military junta fell in the mid-1970s to forestall a revolution wages went up, hours worked went down, holiday pay was inaugurated and a public health service was inaugurated by the 1980’s. The boss class was forced into concessions. But after joining the EU one line of work after another was opened up to competition and well paid work started to become scarce in the period when Greece started to be deindustrialised (1990 onwards).

Hence the costs of maintaining minimal welfare benefits increased whilst the cost and type of labour decreased leading to less money in state coffers. Most of these gains were accrued prior to the onset of mass migration into Greece when it was still a basic functioning capitalist nation state, not an overt colony of globalised imperialism.

The EU is squeezed between the USA and Asia

The demographic changes that are supposedly taking place as Europe’s population is living longer and is having less children are opening Pandora’s box for neoliberalism. Retirement is being set back further and further in everyone’s life (67 is the new 60), contributions are increased for those at work, and less is to be received when one reaches retirement age. In other words, more inputs across the board for a smaller outcome. We are moving forward allegedly making pensions more sustainable by heading for zero pensions or minimal basic pensions for the 85 year olds!

Latin America and Africa saw the biggest attacks on pensions since the onset of the global capitalist crisis (1973 onwards). As is noted below:

By the mid-1970's, as global economic conditions worsened after thirty years of expansion, optimism fell among policy makers and aging advocates. Economists recognized that growing numbers of poor elderly had not benefitted from the effects of economic growth and were condemned to destitution in the emerging world economy. But the experts were generally at a loss on what to do. Even advocates of welfare measures like Indian economist Amartya Sen began to doubt whether universal Western-type social security measures could have any relevance to poor, backward countries.

Many pension programs in the South stopped growing or began to contract. At first, economists blamed temporary setbacks like the oil crisis, the debt crisis, and budget deficits. Finally some concluded the problem was permanent and structural: "excessive" numbers of elderly. By the early 1980's, experts in the rich countries began to warn that countries in the South could not afford social insurance at all, or at least that major "reforms" would soon be necessary”. 1

The above arguments are being rehashed in the Greek pension crisis as a blueprint for the rest of the EU nation states. 2

It’s not easy to make overall comparisons either within the EU or between the European Union and Asia and the USA. There are more components to pensions than first meets the eye. These include the cost of healthcare, whether that is part of the deal or based on insurance (USA), whether there is a component of housing (like in the UK, Germany or France), the cost of living in each specific country, and whether there is purchasing power parity. In other words, looking at pensions on their own without taking into account other areas makes it difficult to ensure direct comparisons, but that does not mean we won’t try to evaluate from countries one has knowledge of.

According to information regarding China, only one third of the existing labour force (around 240m) will get a basic state pension. The others (500m) have nothing. 3. Under the old system based on Chinese agriculture and the lack of contraceptives and urbanisation, Chinese families had more than one child and the children would look after the parents at a later stage. Since the 1950s, China started to adopt a western style pension system where contributions made today by workers pay for those receiving retirement, which was set at 60 for men and 55 for women.

The onslaught against pensions is now entering centre stage in the USA as well with Obama’s Multiemployer Pension Act of 2015. After the massive increases in health care contributions to fund basic health care for the millions of new migrants in the USA, raiding pensions or reducing their payouts is now the new normal. After all evidence has surfaced that because the USA never had universal health care like in most of the EU, its insurance based system led to many in their 60’s going bankrupt when diagnosed with an illness that went over the insurance time limits. The bankruptcy of Detroit as well signalled big pension cuts to retirees, Greek style. 4.

Pension Reductions by Syriza… Neoliberalism in Practice

Syriza pre-electoral promises were that pensioners would be given a return to their Xmas and Easter bonus cut but instead we received five new pension cuts by Syriza in its first year in power and now the big debate is whether to cut all pensions again downwards or tax the last remaining productive sectors to extinction.


Tsipras lyingly declared “We have no aim in moving towards the 12th reduction in main pension” notes journalist N Bogiopoulos. “Can Tsipras count he adds?


a) From the 1/7/2015 (law 4334/2015) the main pensions were reduced by 2% due to the increases in ‘support of healthcare’. This was the 13th reduction after the previous 12 reductions by New Democracy and PASOK. Syriza made it.


b) From 1/9/2015 we are implementing a new way of calculating pensions which leads to reductions of the main pension by more than 2-3%. This was the 14th reduction made by Syriza


c) With law number 4336/2015 there is a 10% reduction to all those who want to get a reduced pension due to their retirement age. Take an insured woman with a 700 euros full pension and 20 years insurance as an example: if she chooses a reduced pension, at 62 she will receive a 420 euros basic pension, (a reduction of 40%), until she reaches age 67 where she will receive 490 euros. Many people in the public sector have chosen early retirement for a variety of factors such as health issues, increased work due to cuts in services or a loss of job as the company collapses. This is the 15th reduction made by Syriza


d) With the Haikalis memorandum (who was a minister in the first Syriza government), laws which were to be abolished by Syriza (such as the reduction of the basic pension from 486 to 392 under the 2nd Bailout) would no longer apply. This will be the 16th reduction by Syriza.


e) According to law num. 4336/2015 the section between the organic pension and the lowest pension is being reduced. This is the 17th reduction, made by Syriza. There were around 100 different work pension funds depending on the type of work one did and too many classifications to be able to explain the minutiae of everything.


f) According to the 3rd Bailout it dictates the immediate abolition of the EKAS pension by 20% and its total abolition by 2019. This is the 19th reduction made by Syriza.


g) According to 3rd Bailout the basic pension at E492 is frozen till 2021. That’s the 19th reduction.” 5.


The basic Greek pension is E492 without a housing component and for farmers it is around E360. The basic UK pension is £650 with a housing component if one has no private housing (for London reaches £1350pcm for a 2 bed flat). Translated to Greece the minimum amount when converted at the time this article was written (£1=E1.3) means the minimum income for a British pensioner (whether they have worked 35 years or not) is E2600 in other words a Greek pensioner will receive 1/5 of that after 35 years work as a basic pension. So when one looks at Eurostat figures and concludes Greece has the highest pension payments as percentage of GDP that is as usual being (neo)liberal with the truth.

If applied now to a Bulgarian citizen whose pension is only E100 (ie 1/5 of the Greek minimum and 1/25th of the UK basic pension) one sees again that the EU is a basket case of disparities which are then abused as there are hundreds of cases eg. of Bulgarian citizens (not only) arriving in Greece in the last decade working a bit, paying Greek national insurance contributions then transferring their pension over from Bulgaria to claim the basic Greek minimum state pension or from Albania where they claimed they minimum OGA (farmers pension) for a whole host of relatives. There are so many such cases that that would require a separate study.

Greeks had essentially two types of pension funds (state and work based). The work based pension funds were invested first in the late 1990’s in the stock market bubbles created by Wall St and its local appendages. Then they were invested in expansion of Greek businesses in the Balkans (banking, telecoms etc.) then they were cut by PASOKs Venizelos in the infamous PSI (organised by Wall St again) and most of the funds were merged into IKA (state insurance) ie. centralised. So despite a near 40 year contributions to work based pension funds they were looted dry. This wasn’t a particularly Greek phenomena. Banksters took money which pension funds had invested in Greek government bonds (E20billion) and they also took fat commissions. 6

According to Max Keiser on RT, Goldman Sachs was involved in creating CDS (insurance backed derivatives) for shareholders of a large trucking company in the USA. If the company went bust these same shareholders would make more money so they had a direct interest despite being owners of the company, in driving it to the wall. As it was the Teamsters they were able to stop Goldman Sachs in their tracks. 7


EU Disparities and Bootleg Labour

During the era when capitalism had actual growth and many were employed in unionised work where wages used to go up from year to year workers contributed inevitably into the state pension system. With the growth of part time non-unionised agency contract labour and the massive growth in cash in hand or bootleg labour (Greece had massive influxes of this type of labour in farming, hotel work and building for instance) money isn’t going into pension funds and as such they are in a negative position. Raiding pension funds to fund private sector business expansion or to pay fat cat bankster bonuses has also led to a situation whereby pensions are now a dream for those in their 20’s in particular when 50% of the youth are unemployed. There is a general feeling that the youth won’t get any pensions or there is no point in asking for pensions.

Without real jobs paying real wages no society can have a pension system worthy of its name that is beyond evident, but then again the disparities in income amongst the wealthiest individuals on the planet and the rest of the planet are also evident but what appears to be evident has no meaning in our times. When it comes to neoliberal ideology logic goes out of the window. There is no point as a previous Minister of Health Loverdos (PASOK) once said in living too long, that is the problem of pensions in a nutshell. The politician who says these things are pensioned off after serving two terms in Parliament and so are all the union bosses after two terms as general secretary. Hence they never support real change in anything as rocking any boat may imply they lose their benefits.

With disparities in the EU where minimum pensions eg. in Bulgaria are E100 and in Luxembourg for instance are E1400 ie. by a margin of 1/14 its no wonder that the EU is a total mess and the real agenda isn’t for Bulgarian pensions to become like Luxembourg’s but the other way down. As with everything else in the EU’s neoliberal free for all, it’s a race to the bottom. 8




Notes


1. Latin American systems https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/209/43228.html#1


2. Unsustainable Futures Greece Pension Dilemma Explained http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/15/unsustainable-futures-greece-pensions-dilemma-explained-financial-crisis-default-eurozone


3. Chinese Pensions http://www.clb.org.hk/en/view-resource-centre-content/110107


4. Cuts to Detroit Pensions go into Effect https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/03/03/detr-m03.html


5. http://www.enikos.gr/mpogiopoulos/362334,Syntaxeis-Oi-yposxeseis-axizoyn-oso-axizoyn-ekeinoi-poy-tis-dinoyn.html


6. PSI Euro 20 billion looting of Greek pension funds organised by Troika http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/06/24/thoughts-on-new-greek-austerity-proposal/


7. How the Teamsters beat Goldman Sachs


http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/01/08/how-the-teamsters-beat- goldman-sachs/


8. Minimum monthly pension Luxembourg E1400 http://www.pensionfundsonline.co.uk/content/country- profiles/luxembourg/95

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Greece & Euro Part Two : GREXIT a Divorce Made in Heaven



The old Left, that which came out of the Greek civil war was involved in a series of debates in the Greek Parliament in the early 1960’s. Whilst most people assume last year it was the first time such a large representation by a Left party happened in the Greek Parliament, in 1958 EDA (Enomeni  Dimokratiki Aristera United Democratic Left) led by Ilia Iliou. 1 A series of debates were held in the Greek Parliament regarding the creation of a common market which Greece would be involved in. The position at the time was crystal clear. If lilliputian Greece joined the big Northern European powerhouses it would be consumed. Without any form of protective barriers to trade, its miniscule industry would be wiped out and its agriculture destroyed by imports.  This they call competition but in reality it’s a free for all for monopolies. The most famous case in point is the fact that LIDL having been given a subsidy by the World Bank to the tune of  Euro 1 billion now sells Greek produce to Greeks cheaper than Greeks can themselves. 2

Almost two decades after the inauguration of the Euro in Greece we had the absurd phenomenon of Greek agricultural products being sold cheaper in Germany and Greece importing agricultural products from Northern Europe. Instead of securing the sale of produce made within the EU then asking for imports so domestic production doesn’t get eclipsed, the EU inaugurated a regime of percentages in production in other words each country had an amount they could produce which would be covered by the European Agricultural Policy (in order to avoid the food mountains in the 1980’s when produced was buried). Now one was paid to limit production and over the years the subsidy became less and less and the farmers became fewer and fewer, the bigger buying up the smaller and in general leading to a market that wasn’t geared to domestic needs but to what Brussels bureaucrats dictated. Being an agro-tourist economy Greece could easily have had a regime whereby first domestic production had to be consumed before imports where brought in. Butter for hotels is imported from Holland whilst Greek butter rots. The logic of illogicality is such that the Troika shut down the last Greek sugar factories and now Greece imports sugar from all places like, you guessed it ...Germany. 3 A similar process in industry occurred whereby despite EU subsidies being banned for big state organisations, France received a massive subsidy for its ports whilst Skaramanga Shipyards in Greece the biggest in the Mediterranean where not allowed one. When the Russians bid for railways they were blocked as electrification of tracks between the two main cities of Greece Thessaloniki and Athens still hasn’t occurred (100 years after Thessaloniki re-joined Greece from the fall of the Ottoman Empire!) Business, even basic capitalist business is no longer about what will provide jobs and growth in the actual Greek economy, but what serves the geopolitics of the region, French and German banks and the financial oligarchy first of all. All else comes second. These are the politics of the economic madhouse.

Post colonels Junta Left
The post-colonels Junta Left we saw that despite a formal opposition to the EU, the  Communist KKE since 1974 has made adaptation after adaptation. They participate fully in pointless Euroelections, they have gone from a position of Exit from the EU (jointly held by PASOK, KKE, Euros in the 1970s) to ‘Apodesvemsi’ (Disconnecting). They are against the return to a national currency (Drachma) arguing just like Golden Dawn that as we paid dearly to have it, losing it would cripple the working man’s finances (as if they aren’t crippled enough as it is) Up until the rise of Syriza in 2012 the KKE was the largest grouping on the Greek Left hence a brief trajectory of its past needs highlighting. But to its credit it has voted against all the EU regulations in particular Maastricht etc. (unlike PASOK and Sinaspismos- precursor to Syriza) and was involved in the anti-NATO campaigns of the 90’s over the US/UK bombardment of Serbia (restoring some of its organisation after it imploded in 1989 and 1990 due to it joining coalition governments with New Democracy and PASOK). But in practice it has adopted the core essentials of the EU: freedom of movement in trade, services, goods and capital never really putting up a fight against them in case it would be seen to be racist (infamous role in not closing down all plants of the Steelworkers strike as one employed an overwhelming majority of immigrants and kept on working the orders of the other two which were closed down due to strike action) thus leading to a loss of the strike. 4

In short both PASOK and the KKE sold out their anti-European line which was predominant in the 1970s. Socialist PASOK didn’t exit the EU  but presided over implementing all the realities of entry. It didn’t leave NATO either, but ensured due to Troika regulations that all Greek arms industry were shut down or curtailed so as to not have a competitive advantage with its bigger EU neighbours (France, Germany).

The Euro vs Drachma Debates of 2011
Illuminating in all of this is the media campaign during the spring/summer protests of 2011 debates emerged for the first time for a return to a national currency both in the occupied squares and within new political movements like Theodorakis Spitha (from which the socialist economist Kazakis EPAM emerged) and others. 5. Subsequently a breakaway from Syriza in the form of its previous leader Alavanos (Plan B) and a split from PASOK (Drachma party of Katsanevas) also emerged. Poll after poll showed a steady but increasing turn back to a national currency and an Exit from the Eurozone to be able to control national economic policy. 6

The rapid rise of Syriza in the winter of 2011 to the summer of 2012 and the collapse of the extreme centre (PASOK, ND) led to a media assault that anyone who votes for Syriza wants a return to the Drachma and that once introduced people would end up much poorer than they already are. This was before unemployment fully skyrocketed to 30% of the population and we had cut after cut in pensions and wages.

The main argument from the parties of the extreme centre PASOK and ND were that Greece could not stand on its own two feet, could not default on the debt and could not go back to a national currency. If it did that it would collapse as it has very large needs in imports eg. oil, medicines, food etc. Within this propaganda there was also an anti-communist flavour, those wanting the Drachma wanted to turn modern Greece into Albania. Subsequently this has proven to be utter garbage as evidenced by a report commissioned by the Agricultural Unions research departments. 7

Syriza had voted for Masstricht early on and was essentially absent from the debate only a few people were involved from the alleged Left Platform. They adopted a London based Greek economist C.  Lapavitsas who argued timidly for a return to a national currency, but refused to be a candidate in 2012 assuming correctly he wouldn’t probably get elected. 8

Syriza: From No Sacrifices for the Euro... to Euro at all costs
Despite allegedly repeating many times over when not in power, we will not sacrifice ourselves for the Euro the intentions of Syriza were probably clear a long time before by a close analysis of their economics team (foreign born and trained).

As was shown in the book ‘Syriza: Neoliberals in Disguise’ in early 2014, their current Finance Minister Tsakalotos never had any intention in breaking with the Euro straightjacket or even attempting to... ‘end austerity’. Tsakalotos role via his Scottish born wife and his close university days’ association with Stournaras (the current Greek ‘central banker’) was just to give a ‘left’ front so as to sell the 3rd Bailout.  The previous head of Syriza’s economics team was removed prior to the election and Varoufakis appeared as Economics Minister out of the blue (He was closely associated in the first bailout with Papandreou and his woman in the World Bank Panariti who earned her spurs in Fujimoris Peru) 9

One can say why would a 3rd Bailout (with the same  austerity medicine as the previous two) succeed where the others failed  and this brings back the old adage if you keep on repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome then you are dumb. But politics is business and there is no way as was often stated by Tsipras with respect to Papandreou Venizelos and Samaras that they never got a cut for selling debt. The issue is why would it apply to the previous three PM’s and not to Tsipras himself?

Tsakalotos arrived early in February 2015 to the British Parliament and made a presentation to a crossparty committee of MP’s chaired by the current Labour Party’s MP John Cruddas where he was asked what essentially would happen if the Troika didn’t blink. He skirted over the issue but was strong on one point. There never was a left alternative to the single currency. Only the rightists argue that. There never was a left critique of the single currency in the EU. The Euro is here to stay. All critiques of the single currency originate from right populists or outright Nazis...10

Most people are old enough to remember Britain’s entry into the ERM and its ignominious exit when Soros betted against sterling and made £1billion overnight. Most people also know that within the parties of the UK such as the Labour Party there were many who argued against the single currency (in particular the Left) as a doomed project which would unravel before all the European countries had joined a single currency. Tsakalotos was aware of these arguments as he was living in England at the time. As a child of the party that voted for Masstricht he is pro-Euro always has been always will be. The populist electoral campaign of ‘no more sacrifices to the Euro’ were just that, a campaign much like the infamous September platform of Syriza in 2014, to ensure a parliamentary victory. They had no intention of ever implementing anything radical or even attempting to do so.
In politics it’s not what one says about their self that counts or what others say about you either. It’s what you do in practice. They allowed a bank run to start from the moment they formed a government without taking any measures. Syriza paid every last penny of the Troika debt when in power, run state coffers dry then attempted to seize any other money that exists in local councils. They did this according to a plan. They also knew one week before the Referendum was announced that the EU would impose capital controls on the banks. By having pensioners queuing in 40degrees heat to get out Euro 40 daily they created mass panic. The aim was to get the population to vote yes in the OXI referendum.

YES to Europe and OXI in Referendum
About six rallies occurred both for the EU and against it during Syrizas pseudo referendum which will go down in history like the Irish one where they had to vote twice to get the appropriate EU result! The 24/7 media propaganda once more was that Greece with capital controls in the backdrop would collapse ignomiously if it left the Euro. The fact that over 150 countries on earth don’t have the Euro was neither here nor there. The first rally had some people and Syriza allowed them to march all the way to the steps of Parliament. 11 During every rally against the MoU in the previous period, protestors were either teargassed forcefully or beaten to a pulp if they tried to get near to Parliament. Apart from not being able to breathe some were clubbed on the head and needed operations or had stun grenades thrown at them where they went deaf, but as revealed by Varoufakis in an interview later, Tsipras never really wanted to win and was shocked by the volume of people that turned up to the final OXI rally, which was in size to some of the biggest rallies ever, from the heyday of PASOK in the 1980’s. As interviewed after, Tsipras stated to Paul Mason in the documentary ‘This is a Coup’ that he would have “been a hero for a day if he had said OXI”... to the 3rd Bailout. If one was a journalist not a paid Presstitute like Mason (who sold the neoliberal Syriza as a radical left movement) why did he hold the referendum in the first place and how could one just basically ignore it? Isn’t that a constitutional crime a traitorous act worthy of court martial? But no. Paul Mason and the rest of the corporate media went on to propagate the lie that Syriza faced a coup by the Eurogroup as the meeting was held for ...17hours! Everyone knows coups, like the one in Chile that Allende faced, when his team came out of Parliament fighting with guns but lost. 12

During this period Stournaras the central bankster of Greece created the myth that sections of Syriza were going to occupy the printing Euro presses in Athens and start to print Drachmas. They created a remade version of 2012. Wherever you turned there were Drachma terrorists.This task they had assigned to Lafazanis then Minister of Development.

Tsipras signed away Greece, the Greek banking system, its airports, its ports its sovereignty like a post-modern irony, the 3rd Bailout completed what the extreme centre of PASOK-ND hadn’t. When it comes to sellouts the Left always produces the greatest and most abysmal.

Syriza and the Debt
Despite setting up a Committee to oversee the Debt and producing a considerate report, the House Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou played to the gallery as the Committee wasn’t a full Parliamentary Committee but a committee under the auspices of the House Speaker, hence it was just for show as Parliament wasn’t bound by any of its decisions. 13 The report tried of course to make a distinction between odious and real debt trying to legitimise the notion that part of this debt is repayable but in reality any analysis of Greek debt which doesn’t take into account the amount of interest payments made since Greece joined the EEC in 1981 only disguises its core nature. 14 You are never supposed to repay the debt you will always owe money as that is the nature of these types of debts. Debt servitude is built into the amounts even when you pay off the original amount many times over. This key component was of course hidden by Ms Konstantopoulou. 15

When the chair of the Report Eric Toussant came to London and gave a speech regarding the issue he stated publically he had no belief that Syriza and Tsipras personally had any intention  from day one of not paying the Debt. This of course was stated once he was no longer in the pay of the Greek state but nevertheless is true as evidenced by Syrizas actual practice. The issue at stake here is that Toussant was used as fig leaf to give left credentials to the whole situation but in reality it would just be the same old neoliberal practice. 16

When Konstantopoulou came to London for the same issue but at a separate meeting she was asked did she believe Tsipras would implement the 3rd Bailout and what made the turn? She could not explain the situation. When confronted that one cannot believe in fairy tales regarding the role of Syriza and that agreement was made with the creditors a long time ago prior to Syriza assuming power and that anyone selling a debt so large must have taken a cut (after all that was Syrizas allegation regarding the previous Bailouts and the politicians that implemented them) she said we should have an ....investigation.
A big hue and cry was made regarding the debts owed by Germany, the war loan, the destruction of villages in the war etc and despite the Foreign Minister mentioning them in passing to Germanys President, no other issue came up. Syriza was just about being a more prompt payer of debts than the previous administrations by pretending of course they delayed a payment or two to the IMF. Subsequently Japan has stated it will honour war time abuse to the families of women used as prostitutes for their occupation army. Syriza didn’t even negotiate with Germany had no intention and fought for power to implement EU policy as the previous administration had reached an impasse.

Retrofascists of Golden Dawn and the Euro
Despite all the allegations to the contrary from the world’s corporate media regarding the extreme ‘far right’ in Greece, Golden Dawn is just another mainstream extreme centre party. Their origins are the American military junta of the 1960’s and their ideological origins are the collaborators in the German occupation of WW2 and subsequently the US/UK backed cold war civil war. Their politics are anything but nationalist, but just like they are termed ‘nazis’ and Syriza are termed ‘radical left’ the concept of  the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’ were promoted to cover up for the extreme centre and anyway they are in unison when it comes to the Euro. Speech after speech by their leader Mihaloliakos has defended the Euro in Parliament, with the absurd argument that first Greece must restore its industry and agriculture within the confines of the EU and then it must break free. Putting the cart before the horse if Greece could recover within the EU it would have, it can’t and it won’t, everyone recognises that apart from those in Parliament. 17 The participation in the sham Europarliament indicates their pseudo nationalism is as far as it is when it comes to a national currency. Whoever heard a nationalist movement wanting the currency of a supranational state or maintaining a currency imposed for instance by an occupation? No one. Without your own currency, your own banking system you have nothing whatsoever to dictate basic economic policy based on the needs of your industry and agriculture. But once you have no control of them as well why even bother wanting any controls on your monetary system? You don’t.

GREXIT is inevitable. The EU project is stalling.
Most people originally when the Troika arrived in Greece didn’t believe it would be possible to continue in the present form indefinitely or that the political elites would be so committed to the Euro... till death do us part. But you see the Euro isn’t Greece. It’s a geopolitical construct by the NWO aiming towards a one world government via the merger of nation states, their military, economic, social and cultural existence. It’s a long term project bigger than lilliputian Greece. Currency unions have on the whole imploded when they don’t operate as part of a unified state. That is what history has shown. The EU is not the USA and cannot become it either. Greece has a history dating back to Ancient Persia and China. To dissolve it implies erasing Greeks from history, but history cannot erase Greeks as they are part of it.

As has been noted elsewhere “the obsession concerning state debt, which has been raging since Maastricht, distracts from the systemic reasons of the crisis and implies radical cuts in state expenditure as the main remedy”. 18 Productive wealth creation via what the economy due to its geography, resources etc has is neither here nor there. Debt is being used as tool to destroy and loot the economy dry.

The most famous example is the El Dorado Gold mine in Skouries, Thessaloniki. 19. It has no real productive reason to exist as around 1m live of agro-tourism in the region yet the blueprints for the future of this alleged mine (it’s just a futures conglomerate to raise QE money from foreign stock exchanges) is to destroy the eco habitat of a large section of northern Greece and turn it into a martian landscape.

Despite not being able to tap its own oil and gas reserves Greece is locked out of  making independent deals with Russia. Twice the South Stream gas deal was turned down on orders from the US, once with Papandreou and once with Tsipras. That is the only constant in the story. Business has now become openly anti-business. There are no more any economic incentives for the productive centers in Greece only because those that run the Greek economy in Brussels etc have only one aim in mind, how to prop up the banks and via the banks the large transnationals that rule the world. As technology reduces the necessity of human labour and QE allows the notion of  bailouts for banks eternally, large transnationals borrow money to buy up their stock increasing their share price as an alternative to anything else (eg raising wages, investment etc).

That is why the poorer Greeks become the remedy is always the original cause of the capitalist crisis, the destruction of more and more jobs. In the last year 250k new jobs were created in Bulgaria by 60k Greek companies moving north of the border to take advantage of the disparities in wages, taxation and the fact that Bulgaria still has a national currency. 20 This competitive advantage is always short lived but under the circumstances where each individual businessman thinks primarily of his business surviving first and not the general good, the sacking of Greek employees further makes the crisis worse in Greece and there is less consumer spending, thus leading once more to a downward spiral. That’s why we end up having one EU, with 10 different currencies, open trade in goods services capital and labour, different interest rates for the EZ, the arrival of capital controls (for customers only not banks), the destruction of local banks and the permanent desire of the EU to keep on expanding eastwards eg Ukraine, Turkey etc. whilst we have a permanent race to the bottom. Instead of Greece aiming to become like Northern Europe its aim is now Bangladesh and Northern Europe’s aim is to become like Greece. The bigger the EU becomes the more it centralizes the more centrifugal forces pull it apart leading constantly bringing forward on the horizon the spectre of Grexit. It’s no coincidence that the Czech Premier recently said he will only join the Euro once Greece has left. It’s also no coincidence that since the Greek crisis the worlds corporate media turns up to Greece everytime there is an election and the issue of Grexit emerges. The geopolitical impact of a collapse of the Euro will have far reaching repercussions despite US manipulations of the currency by ensuring it never raises its head above the dollar parapet. We cannot keep on propping up the EU to our detriment. We need to go our separate paths.21

A GREXIT will become inevitable from the moment Greeks decide they want to live in the country and survive once more as a nation instead of decomposing internally or fragmenting to the four corners of the earth. Once that decision is taken, no power on earth can stop a GREXIT, it will become a divorce made on earth but will also be cheered in heaven. 22



Notes

EDA                                                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilias_Iliou
World Bank funds LIDL
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/02/lidl-1bn-public-development-funding-supermarket-world-bank-eastern-europe
Closure of Greek sugar factories by Troika http://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/07/16/two-hellenic-sugar-plants-closing/
Steel workers strike   http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/for-steelworker-there-is-no-going-back.html
How the IMF Broke Greece http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/dave-douglass-reviews-vn-gelis-how-imf.html
ORB International did a European poll on the return to national currencies Greeks voted by 44% for that, ie almost one in two citizens http://odosdrachmis.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/blog-post_10.html#more
President of the National Federation of Farmers Cooperatives (PASEGES) , Talks to Karemiha "even if we go to the Drachma, Greeks won't go hungry" as autarky in the country of basic agricultural products reaches ...94% http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/new-book-syriza-betrays-greeceleft.html
The Path Not Taken http://costaslapavitsas2.blogspot.gr/search/label/Articles
Varoufakis a Soros Trojan Horse?
http://m.strategic-culture.org/news/2015/01/29/a-soros-trojan-horse-inside-the-new-greek-government.html
Socialist Economic Bulletin 1996 http://socialisteconomicbulletin.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-min=1996-01-01T00:00:00Z&updated-max=1997-01-01T00:00:00Z&max-results=1
Staying in Europe N Bogiopoulos ex KKE journalist http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/staying-in-europe_24.html
This is a coup P Mason                   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRjwZvLo_hI
Greek Debt Truth Commission
http://greekdebttruthcommission.org/

14.The Greek Debt is already paid thus written off            http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-debt-is-paid-inother-words-written.html
15. Greece will be in Debt till 2073
http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/07/30/greece-will-be-in-debt-until-2073/
16. Fraud of the TruthDebtCommission https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/08/04/gree-a04.html
17. Debate on Golden Dawns defence of the Euro http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/08/13/syriza-hard-leftists-to-start-new-party-in-greece/
18. Dissolve the Eurozone            http://www.antiimperialista.org/dissolve_eurozone
19.  Skouries Gold Mine                           http://antigoldgr.org/en/category/skouries/
20. Commerce Union: 60,000 Greek Businesses Requested Move to Bulgaria - http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/07/20/commerce-union-60000-greek-businesses-requested-move-to-bulgaria/#sthash.PzkQIinC.dpuf
21. Greece and the EU who props who up?
http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/greece-and-eu-who-props-who-up.html
22. Drachma or Euro? http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/drachma-or-euro.html

Above chart shows the Drachma in 1999 and the Euro in 2015. On the left in descending order are basic necessities Green is in Drachma price as was and orange in how it is now in Euros with red being the percentage increases
Basic Wage
Heating oil
Unleaded Petrol
Cheese Pie
Frappe (Coffee)
Cigarettes
Water
Tomatoes
Fresh Milk
Feta Cheese
Bus Tickets
Car (Huyundai Accent & i30)

Monday, 11 January 2016

Greece and the Euro: A Marriage Made in Hell Part One


The initial mythology regarding Greece’s entry into the then named EEC (precursor to the EU) was that Greece would develop economically and become like the advanced countries of Northern Europe. It’s an irony of history that PASOK spent the 1970’s outflanking the KKE on the Left by marching on the streets with two key slogans: ‘Greece for the Greeks’ and ‘EEC and NATO are the Same’.  By the time the EUs single currency was wheeled out for  Greece  it was being de-industrialised and indebted at such a rate that when the IMF arrived it essentially went into a permanent coma for which it will never recover despite all the propaganda to the contrary (Stournaras ‘Grecovery’2014 and Syriza’s announced economic recovery autumn 2016).

The old Greek nation state was blown apart by a NWO transnational elite and turned into Europe’s first fully fledged debt colony tied to a currency that would usher in depression economics after the initial euphoria based on cheap credit with no sustainability linked to it in the long term. This isn’t a story of productively re-modernising a country but blowing it up and turning it into the economic equivalent of  Detroit in the Mediterranean, a post industrial post jobs hellhole where the walking dead scavenge in dustbins for food and have no reason to exist and so many have chosen not, committing suicide in the most public of ways. 1

Single Currency
The single currency is part of a wider capitalist neoliberal project based on the EU’s four core principles: freedom of movement in capital, goods, services and people. The aim of course is in creating a United States of Europe modelled on the USA.
The idea of a unified capitalist Europe is not new. It existed and was debated in the first two decades of the 20th century. 2 Nation states under capitalism had outlived their productive role and like the national companies of old, got gobbled up by bigger economic and military powers. The idiosyncratic history of Europe which saw wars as the solution to its differences, which led to two world wars, never managed to create a unified capitalist state and as noted by Lenin almost a century ago if it were to happen, it would be an ultra reactionary outcome. How can 28 EU nations with different languages, different histories and above all different levels of economic development be merged into one, without any democratic accountability or even agreement by the people that make up those same nations. Capitalism in its birth created the modern nation state. In its decay and decline it is blowing it up.

The 19 member Eurozone hasn’t as yet become 28 (total current EU members) but attempts are being made for that to occur. 3 With 9 non Euro currencies approximately a third of the EU the disparities in national minimum wages, levels of taxation, prices etc. are so large that the EU project is more like one of those large bananas one sees on  a Mediterranean holiday crashing in the sea when drunken revellers get on them and topple over.

From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed and East Germany was consumed by West Germany and the Ostmark was bought at a rate of 1 to 1 (when the real rate was around 1 to6) this cost was immense and would destroy the post war German economic miracle. Throughout the 1990s Germany run budget deficits and this cost would have to be borne by someone as the rules of the EU meant countries with the largest population had a bigger say and via the vehicle of Brussels the historic relationship of Germany and France (which was actually solidified during WW2) ensured that when the single currency was introduced, it would benefit the core, not the less economically developed periphery. The EU is not a charity. It is an economic big business empire. It would be a fallacy to believe that small countries like Greece would benefit one iota from joining it. 4

When Greece adopted the Euro at an exchange rate of 1Euro to 340Drachmas it meant everything produced in Greece was expensive and imports were priced cheaper. Greece entered at a high exchange rate much like East Germany. With cheap credit in the early years of the Euro it became cheaper to import and sell than to produce. This evaporated wages from the domestic economy due to layoffs and fuelled a debt import boom.

The moves towards the single currency were stillborn from day one, when the big three powers, Britain, France, Germany didn’t get agreement and sterling was crashed out of the ERM in the early 1990s, hence it never was a real single currency of a unified European Federal state. What was being attempted was political union ahead of economic and military (latter two had abysmally failed before) union. With the arrival of E Europe into the EU what we got was a single currency with remaining national currencies in a whole series of states. This in turn would trigger massive population movements West ie. to countries with ‘hard’ currencies, the Euro or Sterling ((UK opened its borders for instance to Polish workers before France and Germany did)

Goldman Sachs and the Euro in Greece
Greece was brought into the single currency by economic shenanigans the likes of which were organised in Brussels and Washington using the current Gods of finance Goldman Sachs. It wasn’t so much as requiring Greece to be in the single currency but ensuring it became a pole of attraction for cheap labour throughout the countries that border on to it which had had an anti-NATO past and Greece’s geopolitical location. Financial re engineering (infamous Swaps by the Simitis govt) and NATO go hand in hand. 5.One can only recount the destruction of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s as a blueprint for what would happen next.  Like crack dealers in nightclubs the first drugs are free and once hooked on finance you would end up selling everything you own for nothing. An old tried and tested method pioneered from 19th century in the Opium Wars by Britain against China. Greece had nothing to gain from joining the single currency and everything to lose.

Low interest rates initially to encourage borrowing at the start of the 2000 decade then a tripling of them by the end. But with no real welfare state, bankruptcy would literally mean that, losing everything. The Greek population would pay the price of the profligacy of the banksters and their get rich schemes.

NATO and the Olympic Games
This is a story of a small country, like a local bar owner visited upon by the city boys of the mafia in a shakedown, who has to spend to be ‘protected’ otherwise the bar is smashed up. Not paying your fees guarantees instant destruction, paying eventually leads to economic destruction. Either which way one cannot escape the vice like grip of the globalist cartels. The smaller you are the bigger your problems.

Between 1974 and today Greece has spent anything between Euro 200-300billion in arms, being one of the largest spenders on earth. At the same time its secondary schools in the Greater Athens region are shared in two shifts (morning and afternoon) as not enough were ever built and as for hospitals even before the IMFs shock doctrine roadshow made its appearance, they were wholly inadequate to service the population. 6. Now they simply don’t exist for half the population at all. Like every banana republic in history, being sold submarines that don’t work by Germany only reaffirms the story that protection rackets always work with political elites that take pride in personal enrichment above all else. One can argue that is probably why they are in the neuralgic positions, as the saying goes excrement always floats to the top and it certainly did, in more ways than one.

Greece was the smallest country ever to take on board (Coca Colas) Olympic Games the financing of which crippled the Greek taxpayer in more ways than one (many Greeks were banned from working on Olympic projects as black market labour was favoured) being part of NATO it also meant due to previous agreements (matching Turkeys arms spending by 70%)  that it would be bankrupted mathematically once all the infrastructure projects had finished and no real benefits were accrued to the basic Greek economy of the Greek worker. 7 Infrastructure projects which emphasise only infrastructure for export led growth means modern ports but decrepid old hospitals.  Modern airports but no proper housing for the masses. Massive amounts of money were funnelled abroad by the rich who were bribed by foreign corporations for govt contracts (eg. infamous arms scandals by ex Defence Minister Tzohatzopoulos-PASOK and infrastructure Siemens contracts etc). In the same period of history Greek tourism which was a mainstay of foreign income in the 1980s’ and 1990’s saw a concentration of capital via the mass building booms of the early Euro years creating 4x hotels in many locations which were supposed to be filled by foreign tourists.
If Greece had remained with the Drachma it could have competed well with all geographic neighbours that had a local currency: Bulgaria, Albania and Turkey and non geographic like Italy (which didn’t have one!) The Wall St crash of 2007/8, the collapse of the dollar and the rise of the Euro as an alternative world currency led to significant price rises and any alleged gains from the Olympic and Euro football effect of 2004 disappeared in the 2000 decade and were only arrested after the Arab spring of 2011 (collapse of Egyptian, Tunisian etc. tourism), but not in any fundamental manner (despite the allegations of 24m tourists in 2014 tax receipts are down) as structural changes occurred in the tourist economy (less employees, more cheap labour with the advent of E Europe, bigger foreign owned hotels with all inclusive package deals etc.)

Eurocrisis Roadshow and the IMF
Papandreou was elected in 2009 with a big share of the vote in the mid 40%. By the time he was booted out his party had become a rump. His electoral promise was ‘We Have Money’ but he didn’t explain by that that he would raid peoples wages and pensions. His first act was to destroy the South Stream gas project from Russia and that indicated that he would then follow a clear American NWO path.

The US crash of 2007/8 was real, the costs of the double occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq were too much to bear with no actual dividends and this materialised in the US selling junk bonds to finance its deficits due to its role as the world’s ruling hegemon, leading to a global meltdown and the collapse of the dollar. By 2010 something had to be found to stabilise the flight from the dollar.  PASOKS leader Papandreou seems to have fitted the role neatly being a US citizen by birth. Like a used car salesman who can’t offload dodgy cars, he turned little Greece into a giant ATM for the global financiers. Suddenly the Greeks were the centre of all evil known to man, not Wall St or the City of London. The Greek plumber having forgotten to issue a receipt had turned the world economy to excrement.

Greece’s fiscal deficit for 2009 would be 12.7% of GDP double what the previous govt had projected around 6%. Then this same figure would be revised upwards to 15.4% using the Greek statistical services ELSTAT. 8 This made Greece number one in the EU, though not number one in total debt’s. It’s economy was never more than 2% of the whole of the EU and to allege the 2% created a Euro crisis is beyond a joke but that is what was sold by the corporate media who are part of the system of financiers.  Total EU debt in 2010 was around Euro 10 trillion Greece’s was in the hundreds of billions. Illuminating for anyone who wants to chart the rise and fall of the Dollar in relation to the Euro from 2008 till today is the fact that whenever the Euro appreciated too much we had an exacerbation of the Greek Euro crisis. Greece became the non-existent WMD of the Euro crash.

Bailout after Bailout to keep the Euro afloat
Three bailouts later the budget deficit is near to 200% of GDP (from 120%) and total Greek debts (domestic and external) are around Euro 1 trillion. Instead of alleviating the crisis, the Troika that took over just lit a fuse detonated the Greek economy. From around 13 banks we are essentially down to 4 and they are all foreign owned now. (December 2015)

Around 40% (official and unofficial) are unemployed, wages and pensions have had on average a 50% cut and the only discussion that ever exists is how low can everything go. Indeed. In an EU with different interest rates for Euro economies (negative in Germany +2% in bankrupt Greece) minimum wages which vary from +2000 Euros in Luxembourg to as low as 200 Euros in Bulgaria (or 150 Euros in non-EU Albania which has had open borders with Greece since 1992!) Greece has now been in depression for more years in ‘peacetime’ with the Euro than any other currency or probably nation in history. One cannot realistically call it a depression anymore but a programme of economic genocide.

Greece allegedly entered the EU to gain competitive advantage in Europe wide markets for its agricultural produce. Instead the exact opposite happened. The EU paid subsidies to Greek farmers to stop actual farming and flooded the supermarkets with cheaper non-EU agricultural imports. Hence the medium and small farmer went to the wall and the big farmer was just geared to exports and land even when not in use would be taxed to pay parasitical financiers. Steel, cement, shiprepairs etc production went to the wall and all the basic manufacturing plants of the 1970s (buses, armaments, fridges etc) were destroyed. Borrowing bank issued credit to stay afloat became the new unique selling point of politicians. Every bailout would save the Greeks and every new bailout would make the situation worse than the one before.

In the 2nd part of this topic we will look at the Euro and the main political parties, how they relate to it and what they propose in terms of the productive reconstruction of the devastated Greek economy and whether there can be hope within the Eurozone and the issue of Debt.

Notes
2.     “In this sense a United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists ... but to what end? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe…” Lenin
4.     Greece (EU Facts and Figures) Mice and Men http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/greece-of-mice-and-men.html
6.     Germany’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Greek arms spending http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/19/greece-military-spending-debt-crisis