Tag Archive: EU

Jul 20 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Tale of Two Countries

By NY Brit Expat

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only (Charles Dickens, 1859, A Tale of Two Cities, Book I, Chapter 1).”

Feb 01 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Mouse Has Roared – Greece post-Elections by NY Brit Expat

The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected.  This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.

However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).  

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Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany.  Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!  

Nov 04 2012

The Lies of Neoliberalism; Governments Don’t Create Jobs or Economic Growth by NY Brit Expat

It may be my masochism, but I actually watched the Presidential debates. I also regularly watch the news over here in the UK. Cameron and his cronies constantly spout this argument that governments cannot create economic growth. During the Presidential debates, Mitt Romney even went a step further; he argued that governments cannot create employment. The Tory argument is a bit more sophisticated, but both arguments have their roots in the fantasies of neoliberal economics of which both the Tories and the Republicans have adopted in its most fundamental form; their arguments also tie into the perspective of reduction of the central government budgets along the lines demanded by the IMF and the introduction of austerity measures to ensure these results. Except, and this is a big exception, neither of these governments have been forced to do so by the IMF.

Given that these statements are not only historically inaccurate, but bordering on the patently absurd, it never ceases to amaze me that challenge from the mainstream media is not forthcoming. Even more so, during the debate, President Obama did not respond to the absurd statement by Romney; in fact, he also raised budget deficit reduction which essentially means cutting state employment and social services. The Labour Party does not disagree with the Tories; they only say that austerity must be done more slowly and Ed Balls (the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) has said at the Labour Party conference that, if elected, they had no intension of reversing the austerity measures forced upon the British populace by the Con-Dem government.  Essentially, all of the mainstream parties are singing the same tune; honestly, different tonalities of the same argument do not change the fact that the underlying tune is the same.

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To someone that is living in the real world, in other words, someone that actually heard about the New Deal, that knows the role of government in ensuring economic growth during the post-war period in Europe, who knows damn well that state (or public) sector workers exist and that the government’s purchase of goods and services from the private sector and investment in the private sector help to ensure economic growth it makes me wonder if they think that we are extremely stupid.  

May 21 2012

The Mouse that Roared! Greece’s Struggle Against Austerity by New York Brit Expat

We live in interesting times … Those on the left following the  situation in Greece were treated to an interesting spectacle in the last election in Greece on May 6th 2012. As expected, those mainstream parties that supported the EU/IMF/ECB memorandum (http://www.reuters.com/…) imposing even more harsh austerity on the country were punished: New  Democracy’s (the conservatives, centre-right) votes from 33%-19%, PASOK’s (the Greek socialist party) share fell from 43%-13%, LAOS fell below the 3% needed for securing seats (right-wing nationalist party) all lost seats in the election (greek election results).  This represents in many senses a significant rejection of the mainstream political forces that have been ruling Greece since the end  of the rule of the colonels (1967-74, for a history of modern Greece  see, History of modern Greece) and particularly of the austerity that they have been imposing on the people of Greece over recent months.

Cheat Sheet (to keep track of the players):

SYRIZA: coalition of the radical left, led by Alexis Tsipras

New Democracy: Conservative, centre right neoliberals, led by Samaras

PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Socialist party led by Venizelos

KKE: Communist Party of Greece

ANTARSYA: Coalition of Greek Anticapitalist Left, hard left

Golden Dawn: Chrysi Avgi, Greek Fascist Party, neonazis

DIMAR: Democratic Left, centre left to left wing, led by Fotis Kouvelis

LAOS: right wing nationalists

Independent Greeks: Right-wing split off of New Democracy, anti-austerity

May 06 2012

François Hollande Est le Président de France

“Europe is watching us, I am sure that when the result was announced, in many European countries there was relief, hope and the notion that finally austerity can no longer be the only option.

“And this is the mission that is now mine — to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity, in short, a future. This is what I will say as soon as possible to our European partners and first of all to Germany, in the name of the friendship that links us and in the name of our shared responsibility.”

“We are not just any country on the planet, just any nation in the world, we are France.”

~François Hollande, President-elect of France~

François Hollande is the new President of France defeating Nicholas Sarkozy. With half the votes counted, M. Hollande won a narrow victory with 50.8% to Sarkozy’s 49.2%, as per the French Interior minister. According to exit polls, the vote is closer to 52% for M. Hollande.

Crowds roared at the center-left candidate’s campaign headquarters as the exit poll results came out Sunday evening.

“Many people have been waiting for this moment for many long years. Others, younger, have never known such a time. … I am proud to be capable to bring about hope again,” Hollande said in his victory speech.

Celebratory car horns blared along the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

“It’s a great night, full of joy for so many young people all across the country,” said Thierry Marchal-Beck, president of the Movement of Young Socialists.

Hollande will be the nation’s first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

His victory and the elections in Greece and Germany are sending economic shock waves through Europe:

François Hollande’s election threw down the gauntlet to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who has railroaded the eurozone into agreeing a new “fiskalpakt” treaty enshrining Germany’s austerity doctrine.

The economic doctrine of austerity, to cut the burden of state spending to free up the economy, has ruled supreme with the support all of Europe’s leaders, the European Union and financial markets.

But political leaders were on Sunday night conceding the consensus had been shattered beyond repair.

With Europe’s economies plunging further into recession and as unemployment in the eurozone breaks record levels, voters demands for a new approach had finally become to great to ignore.

The popular backlash to EU imposed austerity to the centrist New Democracy and Socialist parties in Greece threatens the existence of the euro itself.

While in Germany, Chancellor Merkel was sent a message from German voters:

Exit polls by German broadcaster ARD put Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats at 30.5 per cent, just one per cent more than the left-wing Social Democrats.

But the Free Democrats, Mrs Merkel’s ailing coalition ally, scored a lowly 8.5 per cent, meaning that the coalition that has ruled the rural state on the Danish border since 2009 faces the prospect of being unseated.

Experts predict that the Social Democrats will try to cobble a coalition together with the Greens, the third biggest party, in order to take control of the state. [..]

While the Free Democrats appears to have avoided the humiliation of being wiped out all together in Schleswig-Holstein the continuing unpopularity of the party could force Mrs Merkel to search for a new coalition partner come next year’s federal elections.

I don’t think this is a surprise to most Europeans. It should be a clear message to the leaders of countries who are considering only austerity measures as a solution to debt.

May 04 2012

The French Presidential Election 2012: A Pause Before the Vote

The French Presidential election will take place this Sunday, May 6. Meanwhile, the campaigning has ended Friday evening with the Socialist challenger, François Hollande, still predicted to defeat current President Nicholas Sarkozy:

The last Ipsos poll for French television and Le Monde puts Hollande on 52.5% with Sarkozy closing the gap but still behind on 47.5%. The poll was taken before the dramatic decision by centrist François Bayrou to throw his weight behind Hollande in the second round.

The vast majority of voters appear to have made up their minds, with 92% saying they know who they will vote for, and 82% saying they will definitely turn out.

Many are seeing this as not just a referendum about Sarkoszy’s “hyperactive” style but the start of a revolt against austerity which many now believe has slowed the recovery from the recession. Wolfgang Münchau wrote in the Financial Times that Hollande is start of progressive insurrection:

. Nicolas Sarkozy does not look like a president, talk like a president, or act like a president. But there is a better reason why he deserves to be ejected. He won the 2007 campaign with a promise of ambitious economic reforms. He was one of the few European politicians with a mandate for big changes. He flunked it for a reason that already became apparent during the 2007 campaign: he was hyperactive. Reforms are for boring politicians. [..]

The main reason why I look forward to a Hollande presidency is for its impact on Europe. At present, all the large, and many of the small, eurozone countries are governed by centre-right governments. Angela Merkel is their undisputed queen. Mr Hollande is not going to be a comfortable partner. On some issues, such as the fiscal pact, he will challenge her outright.

I would welcome a Hollande presidency on the grounds that it would introduce a much needed shift in the toxic narrative about the eurozone crisis and its resolution. According to this narrative, the crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. Its prescription is austerity and economic reforms. The tool to achieve the former is the fiscal pact, which Mr Hollande has said he will not sign unless it is complemented by policies to boost economic growth.

I wish that Mr Hollande would go further because austerity will snare countries in a low-growth trap. No set of structural policies will change this. I understand the political reason why he does not want to go further. He does not want his presidency to start with an existential fight with Germany – and the dreaded prospect of another panic attack by global investors.

While, as Paul Krugman as noted, the prospect of a Hollande presidency has generated some “hysteria” in the financial world:

Today’s FT is all Hollande, all the time. Some of it is sensible; some of it is like, well, this piece by Josef Joffe, which declares that Hollande’s likely victory is “a bleak prospect for all but new Keynesians and old socialists.” [..]

Joffe is, however, useful as a guide to the German view, which is basically that we got ourselves competitive and restored growth, so why can’t everyone else. Somehow he never mentions that Germany’s recovery in the 2000s was driven by a huge move into trade surplus; is everyone supposed to do the same thing, all at once? What’s the Germany for “fallacy of composition”?

The voting ends at 8 PM Paris time and the results will be reported here Sunday afternoon around 2 PM EDT.

Apr 26 2012

The French Presidential Election 2012: A Rejecting of Austerity?

With the first round of elections over, the campaign for the Presidency of France between the two top candidates, François Hollande and Nicholas Sarkozy begins under the cloud of most of Europe in economic recession. Just how much the latest news of England slipping back into recession under the weight of the Cameron government’s austerity measures along with increased taxes, remains to be seen but there are signs that it is already having an impact:

To the left: a likely new direction for France and Germany

If a new austerity-sceptic alliance emerges across the Channel, will Cameron and Osborne end up as Europe’s last deflationists?

Quite suddenly, there is talk of change in the eurozone’s economic strategy and, in particular, of the need for urgent action by the European Union to reverse the downward spiral of negative growth and rising unemployment. The likelihood that François Hollande will be elected as president of France next weekend has injected an important note of dissent into the pro-austerity consensus. Even more important than the French elections, however, may be the indications that even the political debate in Germany is now changing its tune.

The opposition German social democratic SPD hopes for election victory in the key state of North Rhine Westphalia on 13 May, as well as in the German general election next year. The SPD has already signalled that it will support the French Socialists in support of an investment-led EU strategy to boost growth and jobs. Moreover, the German social democrats and the German Green party also back the creation of euro-bonds and using the proceeds of a tax on financial transactions to finance a return to growth.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is a bit nervous about a Hollande government:

It is unclear at this time whether next year’s German general election will lead to an SPD/Green coalition government or to a “grand coalition” of the SPD and Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But Angela Merkel has already sent some of her top advisers to Paris to explore the proposals of the French Socialists and to see to what extent she and a future President Hollande might be able to salvage a Franco-German partnership in the EU.

The conservative German government is resolutely opposed to any formal re-negotiation of the “stability and governance treaty” which has been cited to justify the crippling austerity measures imposed on Greece and other eurozone “peripheral” economies. But Hollande is now focussing on a series of “additional measures” rather than actual “changes” to the treaty. These additional growth measures would include a major boost to the resources of the European Investment Bank to allow it to put far more capital to work, especially in the hardest-hit economies. Second, the French Socialists would like to see the European stability mechanism given the status of a bank, so that it can receive funding from the European Central Bank and thus be better able to contain any future crisis affecting the euro. Third, they argue for widening the mandate of the ECB so that it is obliged to pursue growth objectives as well as price stability.

Unsurprisingly, a number of sympathetic noises off are being heard from Rome, Madrid and other EU countries, where centre-right governments which are struggling against economic suffocation by obsessive austerityitis.

President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is behind Hollande 54% to 46% in the polls, has said that there would be no coalition with the far right wing National Front Party, whose candidate, Marine Le Pen garnered 17.9% of the vote placing third:

“There will be no pact with the Front National,” he told France Info radio, adding there were too many issues on which they disagreed to imagine giving the party cabinet posts. The Front National has called for France to quit the euro and a hold a referendum on the death penalty, both far from Sarkozy’s manifesto.

“There will be no Front National ministers, but I refuse to demonise men and women who in voting for Marine Le Pen cast a crisis vote, a vote of anger, a vote of suffering and a vote of despair. I have to listen to their message and take them into account, and not think it’s time to hold my nose,” Sarkozy said.

Currently the National Front holds no seats in the French Parliament but hope to change that in the up coming national elections in June.

Geographically, Le Pen has broadened Front National support beyond her father’s heartlands in the south, and polled well in villages and rural constituencies across the country as well as on the outskirts of cities. She did well in the depressed former industrial areas of the north and east, but also saw increases in support in rural areas beyond Bordeaux and in Normandy. The prospect of Front National gains has left Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, a broad coalition of centre right and rightwing factions, scrapping over what tack to take to hang on to their seats. The party is already divided and facing an internal battle over its future if Sarkozy loses the election

There will obviously be a battle for Le Pen’s 6.4 million voters with the far left accusing Sarkozy of drifting too far to the right, making some ugly comparisons:

The communist paper L’Humanité sparked a row with its front page comparing Sarkozy to Marshal Pétain, the leader of France’s Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime in the 1940s, who was convicted of treason after the second world war.

The paper said Sarkozy’s decision to hold his own Labour Day rally in Paris on 1 May to celebrate what he termed “real” work, as opposed to the traditional, trade-union-led rallies by the left, harked back to a Pétain-style discourse. Pétain – whose motto was “travail, famille, patrie” (work, family, country) – had aimed to reclaim 1 May for the right.

Max Staat wrote: “Sarkozy isn’t Pétain, happily, but the similarities point to the dangers for our country of the president-candidate adopting the theses of the extreme right.”

And you thought American political campaigns were ugly. Fortunately, the election is May 6, eleven days and all campaigning  ends on Friday May 4.

Click on image to enlarge

Apr 02 2012

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Emergency Alert-OWS Occupies the US. Congress

Reprinted from: Daily Kos

In an unprecedented move, we are delaying the publication of our regular Anti-capitalist meet-up diary to bring you a special report.  Four hours ago, several hundred US citizens and residents, reportedly members of OWS (Occupy Wall Street), occupied both chambers of the United States Congress.

Corporate media sources have refused to report the event until control can be reestablished by authorities. However, according to Al Gazeera, who just started running a live stream an hour ago, the occupiers entered both houses and forced the Senate into the House of Representatives Chamber for a joint session.  We can only speculate whether the occupiers used guns to force the Senators into the Chamber or simply took over using the force of their numbers. We understand they dismantled the microphones in the chamber and began a General Assembly using the human microphone.