Caught Between Scylla And Charybdis: The Effects Of Greece’s Loss Of Sovereignty

Photo: occupy.com

For the last several months, Greece’s international creditors – the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – had been at a standoff over debt relief, budget targets and various reforms, including taxes and pensions, thereby delaying the completion of a long overdue bailout review that should have been done in October 2016. The standoff added extra pressures to an economy that has been in recession for eight straight years, and even revived fears of a “Grexit” as bank runs had returned in full steam. In the meantime, the Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras was playing the role of a mere observer in a tug-of-war between two institutions that are in full control of the country’s finances, and merely trying to accommodate the demands of both sides.

Since the start of the current financial and economic crisis in Greece, which goes back to 2008 (although the actual outbreak of the debt crisis occurs in early 2010), the country’s GDP has shrunk by about 26 percent. Unemployment jumped to as high as 28 percent in 2013, and has now stabilized at 23 percent, but more than 42 percent of the population has “dropped below the poverty threshold of 2005.”

This harsh reality is the price the country is paying for its fiscal derailment as a member of a currency union (the euro) and the imposition of three consecutive bailout programs by the EU and the IMF. These bailouts have been accompanied by draconian measures of fiscal consolidation (austerity) and a radical neoliberal agenda which includes sharp cuts in wages, salaries and pensions, liberalization of the labor market and blanket privatization.

From the beginning, the bailout plans were never intended to rescue the Greek economy, but rather to avoid a financial meltdown on the continent, as several European banks had recklessly loaned to the public sector since Greece adopted the euro in 2001. Indeed, virtually all of the funds that have been provided to Greece since 2010 have gone towards the repayment of international loans – first to the European banks, and then to the country’s official creditors – rather than towards the economy.

But let’s return to the present: the standoff between EU and IMF over the “best way” to deal with Greece’s current financial and economic catastrophe, which finally came to an end a couple of weeks ago, with the Greek government agreeing to a new round of austerity measures which amount, essentially, to a fourth memorandum.

Spreading False Hopes About Recovery and Vague Promises About Debt Relief

Having grossly miscalculated the impact of the fiscal policies it proposed on the Greek economy, the IMF has been extremely reluctant to join in the third bailout program (agreed to and signed by the pseudo-leftist Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras), sensing that Greece will never be able to repay its loans. The country is essentially bankrupt, and the prospects for a return to the private credit markets any time soon are not very promising, as there are no signs of recovery on the horizon. At some point, small rates of growth will inevitably be registered solely because of the economy having hit rock bottom, but this is not the case at present.

Still, illusions of a recovery have been the hallmark of both the Syriza government and of the conservative government that preceded it. But this should not be surprising. Spreading false hopes to the citizens of a bankrupt nation that has lost its sovereignty is the last refuge of political scoundrels, of governments and their officials who have opted to become lackeys of the international elite rather than lead their people to resistance and to the overthrow of financial regimes imposing debt bondage.

Indeed, for the last few months, senior-level officials in the Syriza government, such as Minister of Economy and Development Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, were propounding that growth had made a comeback and that the crisis was over before the official statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016 were finally released in early March 2017. However, those figures showed the Greek economy had contracted again by 1.2 percent.
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Resistance In The Age Of Trumpism: An Interview With Gerald Epstein

Gerald Epstein is Professor of Economics and a founding Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

With Donald Trump in power, US society is likely to witness in the next four years a regression of social progress and environmental damage unlike anything the country has seen in the course of its modern history. In this context, progressives have their hands full and only massive resistance may halt the march to the precipice. But any effective strategy of resistance requires linking theory and praxis. It is imperative that we understand the dynamics in US society that brought Trump to power. It is imperative that we also understand what Trump actually represents and whether Trumpism is here to stay. Then we can think of the most effective ways to challenge the sort of political gestalt in Trump’s miasma.

In this exclusive interview, radical political economist Gerald Epstein addresses these issues and offers his insights on how we can resist Trumpism. Gerald Epstein is professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of scores of books and articles on the political economy of contemporary capitalism.

C.J. Polychroniou: The rise of Donald Trump to power took a lot of people by surprise, although there were strong indications for a long time now that the conditions in the United States were ripe for the emergence of an authoritarian leader. Still, the actual reasons for the rise of a fake populist in power remain rather puzzling, so I’d like to start by asking for your views on what led to Trump’s stunning victory.

Gerald Epstein: As you say, conditions of working people have been deteriorating in the US for many decades now, creating fertile ground for leaders outside the political establishment to offer anti-elitist explanations and offer apparent solutions for people desperate for them. This helps to explain both the Bernie [Sanders] and the Trump phenomena. But when you add on top of these the deep racist, sexist and xenophobic undercurrents that have always been present in American society and which are low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked and utilized by a demagogue, you have Donald Trump…. In short, the Democratic Party’s embrace of neoliberalism, which continued with Hillary Clinton, is a big part of the story. Still, one should not forget the devastating roles that the Republican Party played in the last eight years as they gained more and more power — not just in Congress, but also in state and local governments in many parts of the country. They were able to do this by exploiting Democratic failures, but also by a money-fueled long-term strategy by extreme right-wing capitalists, such as the Koch brothers and others. Without this massive financial input and a long-term strategy, this victory would not have occurred. More specifically, their electoral strategy in the last four to eight years … was to incapacitate the government from helping poor and working-class people, while enriching the powerful and the elite — and then blame the Democrats for the fall out. Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, and Scott Brown, governor of Wisconsin, as well as the Republican Party in Congress in Washington, DC, pursued this seemingly kamikaze approach to governing. Amazingly, it succeeded. It shoved poor and working people more and more into the dirt as cuts were made to public investments, benefits, living standards. But rather than blaming the Republicans, many of these Americans voted against the Democrat — Hillary Clinton.

This means that only a very weak party (the Democrats), a very weak candidate (Hillary Clinton) and a huge amount of luck — the rise of Trump, [former] FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute attack on Clinton and an Electoral College system that delivered the presidency to Trump despite losing the vote by 3 million votes — could have ultimately ended in Trump’s victory. But the fact that he would have gotten so close even without these intervening factors underlines the deep rot in the system, including the Democratic Party’s neoliberalism and the role of massive amounts of right-wing money combined with a long-term, revolutionary political strategy.

But to see the real underlying causes of Trumpism, we have to dig a bit deeper. All of the above is taking place in a context of a 30- to 40-year transformation of the US’s place in the global economy — a transformation that would have required an economic policy directed toward managing it for the working classes and the poor, rather than for finance and the elite, which is what happened as I described earlier. The relative decline of the US as a site of production, the rise first of Japan, China, India and other countries in the developing world, and the intermittent competition with Europe and other countries meant that the economic institutions that the US relied on in the early post-World War II era could no longer deliver the goods to both working-class Americans and the capitalists. The Democrats and Republicans both went with the capitalists and a neoliberal faith in markets, rather than engaging in the reshaping of US institutions to thrive in a more competitive global environment. The mixture of financialization and subsidized support for US multinational corporations, and all kinds of free rides for elites, ultimately brought us to the age of Trumpism.
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Fatima Suleman ~ Affordability And Equitable Access To (Bio)Therapeutics For Public Health

Prof. Fatima Suleman

On 16 May Prof. Fatima Suleman gave her inaugural lecture as the new Professor to the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity at Utrecht University, entitled: Affordability and equitable access to (bio)therapeutics for public health. Prof. Suleman works at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa and connects the theme of development and equity with accessibility of medicine, pharmacy and health economics.Read the highly interesting text of the inaugural lecture or watch the video of the livestream!

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Harrie Timmerman ~ (Nog steeds) Tegendraads

Aangezien de eerste druk van mijn boek Tegendraads (Rozenberg Publishers, 2007, 978 90 5170 853 0) is uitverkocht, heb ik dankbaar gebruik gemaakt van de mogelijkheid om dit boek als e-book te herdrukken. De reden daarvoor is dat politie en justitie, hoewel er de laatste jaren meerdere gerechtelijke dwalingen aan het licht zijn gekomen, niet willen toegeven dat zij fouten maken. Laat staan dat zij daarvan willen leren teneinde nieuwe blunders te voorkomen. Waardoor ze nog steeds levens van onschuldige mensen ruïneren.

Aangezien er in de afgelopen tien jaar in de beschreven zaken wel nieuwe ontwikkelingen zijn geweest, zal aan de desbetreffende hoofdstukken nieuwe tekst worden toegevoegd. In de oorspronkelijke tekst zijn ook type- en taalfouten verbeterd.

Het eerste hoofdstuk, getiteld Over de auteur, is geschreven door mede-auteur Willem de Haan. Vandaar dat hierin over mij in de derde persoon wordt geschreven en citaten van mij worden aangehaald.

Zowel in de nieuwe als oude tekst heeft Bart FM Droog bij de e-bookversie de rol vervuld van redacteur. Dankzij hem is de tekst (nog) duidelijker geworden, waarvoor mijn hartelijke dank.

Lees hier  (Nog steeds) tegendraads van Harrie Timmerman, het ruim 300 pagina’s tellende boek van Harrie Timmerman, in de Verplichte kost-reeks van de NPE, als gratis downloadbaar pdf-document.

Er is inmiddels ook een webversie-verschenen, waarin enkele tv-documentaires en radio- en tv-interviews met Timmerman zijn opgenomen. Zie:

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TED ~ Rutger Bregman ~ Poverty Isn’t A Lack Of Character; It’s A Lack Of Cash

“Ideas can and do change the world,” says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea’s 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked — and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all.

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Omrop Fryslân ~ Niet geknecht ~ It ferhaal fan it Friesch Dagblad yn de Twadde Wrâldoarloch

Wat soesto as nijsmedium dwaan yn tiden fan oarloch? Hoe hâldst dy steande en hoe fier giest mei yn wat de besetter wol, sûnder datst dyn prinsipen los litst? It is wêr’t it Friesch Dagblad yn de Twadde Wrâldoarloch mei wraksele, lykas alle kranten yn Nederlân yn dy tiid. As iennige deiblêd hie it Friesch Dagblad de moed om de krante stop te setten yn 1941.

Ien fan de ferslachjouwers en plakferfangend haadredakteur by it Friesch Dagblad út dy tiid, Jan de Haan, hat as in deiboekferslach de ûntwikkelingen stap foar stap beskreaun. Hoe’t de krante hieltyd mear ûnder druk fan de Dútsers setten wurdt en hoe’t de meiwurkers dêr nachts wekker fan lizze. De dilemma’s dêr’t se mei te krijen hawwe en hoe’t dêr oer diskusjearre wurdt. Hoe’t der drige wurdt mei in ferbod op it útbringen fan de krante en it gefaar dat se op in stuit rinne om arrestearre te wurden. En dan hoe’t de krante him ‘niet geknecht’ wurde lit en de ear oan himsels hâldt troch de krante stop te setten.

De oantekeningen waarden nei de oarloch oardene en as brosjuere útbrocht: ‘Niet geknecht’. It Friesch Dagblad en Omrop Fryslân hawwe yn oparbeidzjen mei-inoar in film makke fan it ferhaal. De taal en wurden dy’t De Haan brûkt hat yn syn ferhaal, binne tekenjend foar de tiid en it grifformearde karakter fan it Friesch Dagblad fan doe, en hawwe liedend west foar it meitsjen fan de film. De orizjinele tekst is ynsprutsen troch Thijs Feenstra, dy’t we noch kenne as feedokter yn Baas Boppe Baas. De sênen binne tekene troch yllustrator Laurens Bontes fan Ljouwert. Dêrneist is der in nije útjefte makke fan de brosjuere, mei tekeningen út de film en in neiwurd fan Lútsen Kooistra, útsprutsen op syn ôfskied as haadredakteur fan it Friesch Dagblad op freed 21 april.

Sjoch: http://www.omropfryslan.nl/programma/niet-geknecht
Sjoch ek: http://interviewsdehaan.blogspot.nl/2015/04/niet-geknecht-van-jan-de-haan.html

Het verhaal van het Friesch Dagblad in de Tweede Wereldoorlog

Wat zou jij als nieuwsmedium doen in tijden van oorlog? Hoe houd je je staande en hoe ver ga je mee in wat de bezetter wil, zonder dat je je principes loslaat? Daarmee worstelde het Friesch Dagblad in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, net als alle kranten in Nederland in die tijd. Als enige dagblad had het Friesch Dagblad de moed om de krant stop te zetten in 1941. Omrop Fryslân maakte een film bij het verhaal, die zaterdag 22 april is uitgezonden.

Een van de verslaggevers en plaatsvervangend hoofdredacteur van het Friesch Dagblad uit die tijd, Jan de Haan, heeft als een dagboekverslag de ontwikkelingen stap voor stap beschreven. Hoe de krant steeds meer onder druk van de Duitsers wordt gezet en hoe de medewerkers daar ’s nachts wakker van liggen. De dilemma’s waar ze mee te maken hebben en hoe daar over gediscussieerd wordt. Hoe er gedreigd wordt met een verbod op het uitbrengen van de krant en het gevaar dat ze op een gegeven moment lopen om gearresteerd te worden. En dan hoe de krant zich ‘niet geknecht’ laat worden en de eer aan zichzelf houdt door de krant stop te zetten.

De aantekeningen werden na de oorlog geordend en als brochure uitgegeven: ‘Niet geknecht’. Het Friesch Dagblad en Omrop Fryslân hebben samen een film gemaakt van het verhaal. De taal en woorden die De Haan gebruikt heeft in zijn verhaal, zijn tekenend voor de tijd en het gereformeerde karakter van het Friesch Dagblad van toen, en zijn leidend geweest voor het maken van de film. De originele tekst is ingesproken door Thijs Feenstra, die we nog kennen als veearts in Baas Boppe Baas. De scènes zijn getekend door illustrator Laurens Bontes uit Leeuwarden. Tevens is er een heruitgave gemaakt van de brochure, met tekeningen uit de film en een nawoord van Lútsen Kooistra, dat ook wordt uitgesproken tijdens zijn afscheid als hoofdredacteur van het Friesch Dagblad op vrijdag 21 april.

http://www.omropfryslan.nl/persbericht/niet-geknecht

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Ubuntu And Natural Resources Management ~ Some Reflexions

The tragedy of the commons” was the first topic in the subject- environmental science at my university. Although I agree with Hardin (1968) that the “Tragedy of the Commons” is foreseeable with uncontrolled population growth and pollution which is threatening life as we know it. I am unconvinced about his counsel on privatisation of land as a means to better manage the environment. Which implies that communal land would be more difficult to manage and privatisation of land is the answer for improved environmental management.

In Africa, historically, land belonged to the community that lived on it. Land was communal and communalism promoted sharing of resources and managing them together. Humans and animals were not separate from the environment and communalism encouraged a collective sense of responsibility to conservation. It runs far deeper, into African way of thinking and philosophy, into cultural beliefs, ethics, values and indigenous knowledge.

A co-managed forest in Liwonde, southern Malawi (above) compared to one that is managed by the State (below) a few kilometres away.

When we talk about communalism, the African philosophy of “Ubuntu”, which is an Nguni Bantu term meaning “I am because you are” is of relevance. Ubuntu is often translated as “humanness,” and “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu

In Zulu language, is literally translated as “a person is a person because of people”. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were very influential among other people in promoting Ubuntu philosophy. Desmond Tutu has explained Ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours .”That implies that because we are all part of a greater whole, hence we are all interconnected. Human existence depends on interconnectedness and not on isolation. This interconnectedness can be extended from between humans to include the land and the environment in which humans live.

Rural communities in Africa depend on natural resources in their livelihood, therefore, how land is managed is of particular concern as it has human well-being implications. Communities such as the San people, who lived as close as possible to nature exhibit the spirit of communalism and Ubuntu. In fact, their tribes do not have Chiefs and their spirit of community is so strong that they make decisions for the tribe based on consensus. They live in such harmony within themselves and in nature and are a living testimony that it is indeed possible for people to come together to solve problems collectively for the greater good of their community and the environment. It is possible to practise Ubuntu and live harmoniously and thrive. Read more

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