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‘The Economic and Political Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ by S.Mavroudeas – INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT

In the recent issue of INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT it is included an article authored by me and titled ‘The economic and political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic’.

It can be assesed, downloaded (and even listened to through the LISTEN button) via the following link:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21598282.2020.1866235

Research Article

The Economic and Political Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stavros Mavroudeas Received 11 Jun 2020, Accepted 28 Jul 2020, Published online: 03 Feb 2021

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 epidemic has triggered a twin (health and economic crisis). The first is caused by the “metabolic rift” (capitalism’s uncontrollable and insatiable commodification of nature) that leads to the modern “emerging epidemics” of zoonoses. The economic crisis was already simmering but lockdowns triggered and aggravated its eruption. Furthermore, it argues that socialism is better equipped to confront health crises due to its superior state economic capacity, better co-ordination mechanisms and focus on the well-being of the labouring classes’ majority of society. Additionally, this commentary explains that this twin crisis will aggravate the current state of intra-imperialist conflicts and will intensify the process of “de-globalisation.” Confronting this situation the Left and the Communist movement should not become subservient to intra-bourgeois conflicts (as anti-neoliberalism argues) but pursue class politics against capitalism and at the same time fight so as the burden of the crisis is paid by capital and not labour.

Additional links:

https://www.academia.edu/45049218/The_Economic_and_Political_Consequences_of_the_COVID_19_Pandemic

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349029121_The_Economic_and_Political_Consequences_of_the_COVID-19_Pandemic

The Political Economy of Modern Epidemics by S.Mavroudeas – MARXIST STUDIES, YORK UNIVERSITY

Marxist Studies in a Global and Asian Perspective (MSGAP) is a research initiative within the York Centre for Asian Research: https://ycar.apps01.yorku.ca/msgap/

Working Hypotheses for the Political Economy of Modern Epidemics

Working Hypotheses for the Political Economy of Modern Epidemics

By Stavros Mavroudeas

1. During the last 30 to 40 years, capitalism has become more and more prone to epidemics, in contrast to the prevailing belief that the advances in medicine and the creation of universal and developed health systems had put an end to such phenomena. Especially after 1975, we have the appearance of the ‘emerging epidemics’, i.e. dozens of new diseases, mainly due to viruses, with a frequency that has no analogue in history. These new epidemics are mainly zoonoses, i.e. animal viruses transmitted to humans.

2. The general explanation of this phenomenon lies in the Marxist thesis on the ‘metabolic gap’, that is, in the realistic argument that capitalism drastically worsens human-nature relations as it blindly promotes the commodification and exploitation of the latter, ignoring natural limitations and social consequences. This thesis does not imply accepting various outrageous ecological views on the return to nature and de-growth, which ignore the fact that (a) all human socio-economic systems intervene and metabolize nature and also that (b) this metabolism is necessary for ensuring even the basic survival of large sections of the human population. But it does mean that capitalism is uncontrollably expanding this metabolism as its central motive is the profitability of capital, which operates with a blind logic (‘après moi la deluge’: I do not care about the system’s survival so long as I get my profit).

3. But this general explanation does not suffice to explain this increase of epidemics during the last 30 to 40 years and needs to be supplemented with historical conjunctural determinations. We can reasonably identify the following factors. First, the uncontrolled growth of (otherwise necessary) industrial agriculture has led to the use of problematic hygienic methods that, however, enhance capitalist profitability and has already caused significant problems (e.g. salmonella). Secondly, due to the internationalization of capital (the so-called ‘globalization’), increasing competition internationally imposes the dominance of these production methods as they involve lower costs. Third, the uncontrolled growth of the capitalist agro-industrial complex dramatically limits virgin areas and brings humanity into contact with diseases and viruses that were previously restricted there and concerned small indigenous communities. The latter had either acquired relative immunity to them or the epidemics were limited to these communities and did not spread significantly. Fourth, the internationalization of capital with the proliferation of transport and communication routes between remote areas of the world facilitates the rapid transmission of epidemics throughout the world, while in the past was more limited and therefore more controllable. Fifth, the commodification of the use and consumption of exotic species enhances zoonotic diseases.

4. Most of these new epidemics (a) do not have strict class barriers but (b) have class asymmetric effects. They do not have strict class barriers because they are transmitted through consumer goods (in the diet) and social gathering and therefore classical methods of class segregation cannot be easily applied (e.g. ‘letting the plebeians die in their ghettos’). However, they have asymmetric effects as workers are more exposed to infections (e.g. ‘front-line workers’), have more unhealthy working and living conditions (e.g. buying cheaper and worse quality consumer products) and of course inferior health care.

5. The neoconservative capitalist restructuring of the past four decades weakened the public universal health systems as it has privatized (mostly indirectly) parts of them and their functions, reduced their funding and strengthened the private health sector. But the public universal health systems are only who can bear the large costs of treating the whole population during epidemic waves because this task is too expensive and non-profitable to be undertaken by the private health sector. That is why the latter, in the face of such epidemics, withdraws and remains only in ‘fillets» that promise significant profitability (extra profits), e.g. research in treatments, drugs and vaccines.

6. Dealing with any new epidemic—and until therapies and vaccines are found—requires restrictions on social and especially economic activities. These restrictions cause a recession or even a crisis in economic activity. This poses a crucial dilemma for capital: which curve to flatten? Meaning that it oscillates between dealing with the health crisis (which aggravates the economic crisis) or vice versa.

7. At the same time, however, capital treats this situation not only as a risk but also as an opportunity. In this way, it is experimenting more and more intensely with the creation of a ‘new’ economic and social normality that will strengthen its profitability and dominance.

8. At the social level, the ‘new normality’ means the imposition of ‘social distancing’ literally as a new dystopian way of life. However, it has a significant benefit for the capitalist system as it intensifies individualization and acts as a deterrent to collective popular mobilizations. Epidemic outbreaks produce mass social psychologies of anger and fear. The first leads to rebellion against the system that leaves society helpless. The second leads to submissiveness towards state power. For the Left, it is crucial to rely on the former and turn it from a blind emotion to a logical understanding (consciousness) and a program of struggle. At the same time, it must not underestimate the latter as there are objective health risks; but without accepting the dystopia of ‘social distancing’. This contradiction has a class dimension that is also manifested differently in countries with diverse levels of capitalist development. The working classes, under the threat of unemployment and poverty, often choose to return to work (even under the threat of an epidemic) in the face of ‘social distancing’: the dilemma of ‘dying of hunger or the virus?’. In contrast, middle-class strata with relative reserves of wealth and obsessions with the ‘quality of life’ become fanatical supporters of the most extreme forms of restriction of social and economic activities and even admirers of literally fascist control measures. Correspondingly, in developed capitalist economies, these layers are stronger and strongly influence developments. In contrast, in less developed capitalist economies (or in politically backward countries such as the United States), the working and popular strata are pushing for a return to work—as long as they have no political conscience to articulate their demands more fully and direct them against the capitalist system.

9. At the economic level, the ‘new regularity’ means extensive experiments with teleworking. The latter offers advantages but also poses problems for capital. Among the advantages are ability to limit and streamline production costs (particularly regarding wage and non-wage costs). Regarding wage, telework can lead to many categories of employees. Especially in the service sector and less in manufacturing, some jobs can be done through telework at home. Here two possible cases appear. In the first, tele-workers belong to the company but are paid lower wages. In the second, tele-workers may be formally independent and employed under a piecework pay system (a method of remuneration that increases surplus-value extraction). In both cases, there is a reduction in wage costs and savings in fixed capital costs. A consequence of all this experimentation is the rapid rise in unemployment (the augmentation of the reserve army of labour), resulting in further wage compression. The problems concern the ability to exercise managerial control and exert continuous pressure to increase productivity. Tele-work can cause difficulties in both these intertwined fields. In the case of piecework pay, the pressure to increase productivity can be facilitated by demanding higher production. But the downside is that there should be even a small increase in pay. In the case of typically waged tele-work productivity increases benefit more easily capital. But the exercise of managerial control is more difficult; and, thus, continuous productivity increases are more difficult to be achieved. That’s why management experiments extensively with cameras, recording operations, multiple teleconferences etc. However, all these processes of controlling and intensifying work require significant time loss and are also costly.

10. In contrast to these experiments by capital, the labour movement and the Left must demand the use of computer and telecommunications tools in order to reduce working time and increase work-sharing. Thus, instead of increasing, to reduce unemployment. At the same time, the use of these tools can only be helpful if they enhance human cooperation and interaction and, of course, help (instead of purging) human contact and collective processes.

————————————————–

This piece will appear as a commentary in the forthcoming issue of the Greek journal Marxism Textbooks.

Stavros Mavroudeas is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Social Policy at Panteion University, Greece. (s.mavroudeas@panteion.gr)

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341684298_Marxist_Studies_in_a_Global_and_Asian_Perspective_MSGAP_is_a_research_initiative_within_the_York_Centre_for_Asian_Working_Hypotheses_for_the_Political_Economy_of_Modern_Epidemics

 

‘The coronavirus pandemic and the health and economic crisis’ by Stavros D. Mavroudeas

The coronavirus pandemic and the health and economic crisis

Stavros D. Mavroudeas

Professor of Political Economy

Panteion University

Department of Social Policy

e-mail: s.mavroudeas@panteion.gr

blog: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stavros.mavroudeas

twitter: @ StavMavroudeas

 

Athens, 25/3/2020

 

A double crisis: health and economic

Today, humanity is in the throes of a coronavirus pandemic resulting in a huge health crisis. At the same time, however, the global economy is entering a recessionary path that is now characterized as economic crisis from almost all sides. So, it is justified to talk about a double crisis, both health and economic. Obviously, the former has immediate priority as it involves massive loss of human lives. But in addition to its direct impact on human lives, it also has major economic implications. These economic implications have important consequences for social well-being, and this also have indirect – though not directly fatal – health effects.

A first question is how the health and economic crisis are linked. They are obviously intertwined; but are they identical or not? And more specifically, is the health crisis the cause or just the excuse of the economic crisis?

A second crucial issue concerns who pays the cost of this double crisis. It is also obvious that because today’s societies are made up of social classes with mainly conflicting interests, the economic costs of health and economic choices are a field of struggle between these classes. It is also to be expected, if one puts aside the hypocritical non-social analyses of Orthodox economics, that the ruling capitalist class seeks to pass at least the greater part of the burden of this double crisis on the backs of the vast working majority of society. Only in this way will not its profitability – that is the essential reason for the functioning of the capitalist system – be undermined.

The third crucial question is what should be the position of the Left and the labor movement towards this double crisis and its aftermath.

The final numbers of the day are displayed above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands empty as the building prepares to close indefinitely due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New York, U.S., March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The pandemic is not the cause but the trigger of the economic crisis

Nowadays the global stock markets are collapsing and the real economy is already returning to recession despite the frantic efforts of most governments to support them. Already, the first signs point to a decline in production and an increase in unemployment.

Today’s Orthodox economics (i.e. the New Macroeconomic Consensus [1] ) argues that this return to recession (and possibly to the crisis, e.g. El Erian (2020)) is caused by the exogenous event of the coronavirus pandemic. Indicatively, all major international economic organizations projected for 2020 steady if not increasing growth (e.g. the IMF’s January forecast saw the world economy grow from 2.9% in 2019 to 3.3% in 2020). With the outbreak of the pandemic all these forecasts are being revised downwards and negative growth rates are now predicted. As aforementioned, for Orthodox economists this forthcoming recession (or even crisis) does not arise from the organic problems of capitalist economies but from the exogenous factor of the pandemic. After all, the attribution of crises to external factors is the basic way Orthodox economics are interpreting economic crises.

But more careful analyses, such as those of Marxist Political Economy, point out that today’s pandemic is basically the straw that broke the camel’s back: it provoked the eruption of the pre-existing problems of capitalist accumulation. In a nutshell, the 2008 crisis was caused by the declining capitalist profitability and the consequent over-accumulation of capital, i.e. the accumulation of excess capital that could not be sufficiently profitably invested (Carchedi & Roberts (2018)). The crisis had been preceded by a period of economic euphoria that relied heavily on the operation of fictitious capital [2] . The capitalist system has attempted to overcome this crisis by abandoning the neoliberal dogma that the market is self-equilibrating and by resorting to state interventionism. The latter has been manifested through both loose monetary policy (i.e. lowering interest rates and increasing money supply) and expansive fiscal policy (i.e. increasing public spending and investment). The second was sharply curtailed after the crisis was over and fiscal austerity returned as budget deficits (in order to support capitalist profitability) had soared. Loose monetary policy has continued to this day and has exhausted its potential. Thus, after the practical zeroing of interest rates, the unorthodox monetary policies (quantitative easing, etc.) began and when they were exhausted, the negative interest rates were adopted. The result was a completely paradoxical situation where debt (public and private) was rising while stock markets were constantly rising (i.e. expectations for better future economic returns or, in Marxist terms, for increased extraction of surplus-value and hence profits). However, the real economy showed that it was unable to fulfill this bet. Typically, the industrial sector – that is the heart of productive activities – was already in recession long before the pandemic broke out.

The pandemic was the reason for the explosive emergence of all these pre-existing problems. The reasons are obvious. The massive and uncontrolled loss of human lives reduces the workforce and has a negative impact on both production and consumption. In addition, measures to tackle the pandemic have serious economic implications. Particularly the so-called ‘social distancing’, traffic prohibitions and the consequent stoppage or the operation significantly below capacity of much of the economy have obvious negative consequences.

The political economy of the coronation: smoothing out what curve?

For the capitalist system there is a contradictory relationship between the health measures needed to deal with the health crisis and their economic impact; especially in times of economic instability. This has been explicitly recognized by many Orthodox analysts. Characteristically, both the Economist (2020) and El Erian (2020) point out that measures to tackle the pandemic have a high economic cost that aggravates the recession. The interpretation is obvious. In the event of an epidemic it is necessary to limit or even completely shut down many economic processes, which results in a reduction in the product produced.

There is a typical dispute among Orthodox economists as to whether the prolonged halt of many economic activities has an impact on the economy through supply or demand. Marxist political economics overcomes this misleading dilemma that resembles that of the Columbus’ egg. Extended halt in economic activity leads to a reduction in the profitability of capitalist enterprises as fewer products are produced. This decline is further exacerbated because consumption decreases as disposable income shrinks and consequently even declining production does not find sufficient buyers. In addition, these problems of the real economy have multiple negative effects on both the financial system and public finances [3] .

Gurinchas (2020) delineated this contrasting relation very accurately: ‘the normalization of the contamination curve inevitably leads to the deterioration of the macroeconomic recession curve’.

Baldwin & Weder di Mauro (2020) combined Gurinchas’ two curves in the following single diagram:

 

The horizontal axis measures the time since the occurrence of the first case of coronavirus infection. The vertical axis measures the number of infections in its positive segment and the severity of the economic recession in its negative segment. The upper part of the diagram shows that if no containment policies are applied then the incidences will be more but also the retreat of the epidemic will be faster. By contrast, containment policies lead to far fewer cases of infection but at the same time prolong the duration of the epidemic. At the core of this case is the notion of ‘herd immunity’ [4] . Of course, both Gourinchas and & Baldwin Weder di Mauro argue that the choice of implementing containment policies is obligatory as otherwise the cost of human lives would be exorbitant. The lower part of the diagram is drawn on the basis of the assumption that containment policies intensify the economic recession while their absence makes it milder.

There are a number of problems with the above analysis, which are characteristic of the one-sided and deeply socially conservative conception of Orthodox Economics.

First, there is no certainty that the economic downturn would be milder without containment policies. Mass infections – and in addition deaths – have a serious impact on both the available workforce and its ability to perform productive work. Keeping businesses open amid a pandemic with the apparent increase in both sick and dying will not leave the rest of the workforce unaffected. On the contrary, it is more likely to lead to avoidance on the one hand and intense trade unionist actions on the other hand., with the worst-case scenario likely to result: an aggravation of the epidemic and at the same time a halt of the economy.

Second, this analysis ignores the political and economic dimension of the problem, and in particular the fact that different socio-economic systems have different capacities to deal with such epidemics. This has a direct impact on the obvious inability of the private health sector (compared to the public health sector) to cope with the crisis.

A capitalist economy can stand a smaller period of stoppage of the economy comparing to a socialist economy or even state capitalism. As D.Trump put it for the US economy, ‘it is not built to be shut down’. The fundamental reason is that capitalist enterprises operate for profit; or else they have no reason to exist. Consequently, they cannot operate at a cost of production level and moreover with losses. Unless someone else subsidises them to keep operating, they are going to close. On the contrary, a socialist economy can survive without achieving surplus (profits) by simply covering production costs. For the same reasons it can survive longer even with economic losses. Also, the socialist state can bear much greater burdens than its counterpart in capitalism as the former has much greater economic size and power. The case of state capitalism is intermediate. In this case, the capitalist state bears some of the burden of private capitalist enterprises and therefore essentially subsidises their survival under conditions of economic duress. Consequently, in the socialist case the distance between the two curves (economic recession with or without containment policies) is shorter. The case of state capitalism is in between the two above.

From the previous point follows that socio-economic systems based on a public health sector are better able to cope with the epidemic problem. By analogy, capitalist economies that have a large and efficient public health system face the problem better than those that have a weak public health system and rely mainly on the private health sector (e.g. the US).

Economic costs and health policy: suppressing or mitigating the pandemic?

The aforementioned Orthodox analysis sets out the general framework within which health policies to deal with the coronavirus epidemic are discussed. The context of the discussion is very clear from the recent study of the Imperial College (2020) epidemiological research team. This study identifies two alternative health policies.

The first policy is called suppression and aims to halt the epidemic in its tracks with drastic measures. Its main tools are the extensive stoppages of economic, social and political activities (e.g. closing businesses and services other than those strictly necessary, prohibition of movement).

The second policy is called mitigation and aims to make the epidemic milder. Its core tools are targeted stopping of specific activities rather than generalized prohibitions. To a large extent, this second policy is combined with the ‘herd immunity’ hypothesis.

But the Imperial College study, despite its support for the first policy, points out that the epidemic may initially be suppressed but, if no medication and/or vaccine has been found, it may return when the containment policies are lifted. This means that the country should re-apply containment policies. This creates a vicious cycle of imposing and removing containment policies.

So far different countries adopted different health policies. China, which first responded to the epidemic, quickly implemented a draconian suppression policy. Most Western countries initially underestimated the problem – despite China’s precedent – and followed mitigation policies. However, Italy’s tragedy soon obliged most European countries to change course and adopt the suppression policy. Only the Anglo-Saxon countries (USA, UK) continued for a longer period the path of mitigation policies. However, recently the UK was also obliged to change direction. And the US seems to be dragging its feet along the same path.

But second thoughts always remain. Characteristically, the Economist (2020) argues that ‘the policy of mitigation costs many human lives while the policy of supression may be economically unsustainable’. Indeed, the Economist (2020), in the Briefing section, puts it even more emphatically: ‘supression strategies can work for a while’. This is how it prepares for the alternative: it may now be politically impossible for governments to follow mitigation policies and remove restrictions on economic activity. But if the economy risks collapse then there will be no other choice than dropping suppression and adopting mitigation policies.

Thus, on the basis of this argument, it concludes that unless a cure for the coronavirus epidemic is found soon, there will necessarily be a shift towards mitigation.

There is a minor but not insignificant dimension to the above-mentioned discussions. This concerns the ability of the health system to manage the epidemic with either a suppression or a mitigation policy. Gourinchas (2020) describes it accurately in the following diagram.

The ability to effectively implement either of the two above-mentioned health policies depends on the ‘capacity’ of the health system (i.e., practically, the number of ICUs and nursing staff). Also, another important parameter is the degree of protection of the medical staff (i.e. its proportion that gets infected during the epidemic and is practically out of combat). It is obvious from the above but it has also be proven in the current epidemic that countries with stronger and larger public health systems are better off than countries with weak privatized health systems [5] . Interestingly, this public-private dimension is almost completely absent from today’s Orthodox economic debates.

Economic and Health Policy: The End of Neoliberalism and Continuing Neo-Conservatism by Other Means

The current coordination of the economic and health crisis leads to some crucial conclusions.

First, it is clear that Neoliberalism has failed miserably. In economic policy, the notion that the market is self-equilibrating and the state should withdraw from the economy has succeeded in increasing the degree of labour exploitation (that is, the rate of surplus value in Marxist terms) but it has failed to cope with the over-accumulation of capital. Thus, the profit rate has not recovered sufficiently. Additionally, its dogmatic view that economic crises are exogenous makes Neoliberalism particularly incapable of formulating economic policies for overcoming crises. By analogy, regarding the health sector, its attempt to privatize public health systems (either directly or indirectly by fragmenting them and creating competition between their segments and by reinforcing public-private partnerships) has seriously damaged them.

The obvious failure of Neoliberalism in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis marked its substitution by the social-liberal New Macroeconomic Consensus. The current crisis makes this succession even more evident. Since the first signs of the coming crisis governments are not adopting only loose monetary policies but also shifting to expansive fiscal policies. In the case of the EU, the coronavirus epidemic led to the disengagement of public spending and deficits from the constraints of the Stability and Growth Pact. Even more striking is the relaxation of restrictions on the countries of the eurozone that are in economic adjustment programs (such as Greece).

Indeed, as the long-run use of monetary policy has led to its exhaustion, the center of gravity of economic policy shifts to fiscal policy as extensive fiscal support packages are announced. Moreover, something unthinkable in the neoliberal times is happening: official voices contemplate the nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy [6] .

In addition, industrial policy [7] is returning explicitly, and in a very active and discreet manner. Indicatively, in the context of the epidemic crisis large sums of money are directed to the health sector; and corresponding vertical industrial policy is not only praised but practically implemented. It should be noted that while Neoliberalism abhors industrial policy in general, its successor (the New Macroeconomic Consensus), at least initially preferred only horizontal industrial policies. Now its pendulum is moving towards vertical industrial policies.

Secondly, there are increasing signs of the forthcoming failure of the New Macroeconomic Consensus as well. The policies it promoted – with the return of a measured state interventionism and the systematic anti-cyclical use of all state policies – may have averted the catastrophe on the eve of the 2008 global crisis but it failed to rectify the very deep contradictions and problems of the capitalist economy. These problems are already evident in the inability of its economic policies to avert the economic crisis that is being triggered by the coronary epidemic. In addition, in the field of health policies, the New Macroeconomic Consensus practically continued the policy of austerity and direct and indirect privatization of the health system.

Thirdly, dealing with the health and economic crisis is extremely costly. In capitalism who will bear these costs is a field of intense class struggle. For the ruling capitalist class, this combination of the two crises is both a danger and an opportunity. It is a danger because any such combination threatens the fundamental functions of the capitalist economy. But it is also an opportunity as the system is experimenting with new forms of labour relations and wages. Teleworking is a newly-found vice. Capital tries to discover how many job categories can effectively relegated to this and what new tools of control are required in order to sustain (and even increase) productivity. Reducing wage costs (through flexible employment, subcontracting, direct wage reductions, and reducing wages, pay per piece, etc.).) and further deregulation of labour legislation is already a field for such tests.

In the short-run, the system places the economic burden of dealing with the health crisis on the capitalist state. In this way it is being ‘socialised’ in the sense that other social classes, apart from the capitalists, share it (usually disproportionately) through taxation. Hence, the state subsidizes private businesses that close or work under severely limited capacity. It also covers most of the wage costs of these businesses through various labour allowances. At the same time, however, labour law, in particular as regards redundancies, is practically diminished to smithereens [8].

In the med-run, the system’s concern is how to address the growing fiscal deficits and debt created in the effort to tackle the combination of the two crises. In the long-run, however, the center of gravity is shifted towards the drastic structural changes that it attempts to establish in order to cover its losses and restore capitalist profitability and accumulation.

It is obvious that for labour, that is the great working majority of our societies, this ‘new new normal’ that capital is trying to impose represents an even more dystopian future than the coronavirus epidemic itself.

 

The Left and the Labour Movement in front of the double Crisis

For the Communists, the Left and the labour movement, today’s situation poses serious challenges.

Firstly, the answer to the health crisis can only be that the most drastic measures must be implemented, whatever their economic costs. Capital, when faced with the economic crisis, it has pronounced through prominent officials that bourgeois governments must do ‘whatever it takes’; meaning to implement whatever economic measure is necessary. But facing the health crisis capital has second thoughts comparing the human to the economic damage. The Left and the labour movement must demand that all required containment measures should be taken irrespective of their economic costs. Simultaneously, the economic activities that are necessary should comply with the strictest health measures.

Secondly, the economic cost of the double crisis should not be borne by the working class but by capital. The socio-economic system in which we live belongs to the latter. Much of modern diseases and epidemics has social causes stemming from capitalism’s quest for profits. And finally, the ruling class has accumulated during the recent decades huge stocks of wealth that, because of overaccumulation, it is ‘gambled’ in the financial system. On the contrary, the wage in the aggregate product has steadily and substantially decreased during all these recent decades. Consequently, the crisis is caused and should be paid by the dominant class.

Thirdly, the Left and the labour movement must see clearly who the real adversary is. The usual lachrymose anti-neoliberalism and the pleas for more state interventionism do not challenge the capitalist policies. They simply support the change of the system’s administrators. Neoliberalism has died and the (bourgeois) state – which has never left on crucial issues – has already returned. But today’s social-liberal Orthodoxy simply promises to the working class some aspirins as cure for the socio-economic cancers that the system creates. It is this returning state interventionism that generously supports capital and seeks to pass the burden on workers. And it is the dominant neo-Keynesian policies and perceptions that are the vehicle of this change today. In the face of all this the Left and the labour movement must fight for profound structural changes. In principle, the costs of the double crisis should be borne by capital. In addition, key areas of economic activity must be de-commodified and their products and services be provided through public systems. The case of health case is today the perfect case in point. The establishment of public health systems (with strong funding and staffing and without indirect forms of privatization) is an urgent need; especially given the frequency of contemporary major epidemics. The financing of these schemes must be based on robust progressive taxation systems.

Fourthly, the Left and the labour movement must stand firmly against the ‘new new normality’ that capital is trying to impose. The weakening of labour protection laws must not be tolerated and the latter must be further strengthened. Particular attention must be paid to the intended change in employment relations through telework and the new forms of control and intensification of work that the capital seeks to impose (see Manacourt (2020)).

Last but not least. The coronavirus pandemic and the imposed ‘social distancing’ have severely restricted political and social rights. It is already evident that the system is experimenting with these limitations both for their general application and for new forms of ideological manipulation of the people. The Left and the labour movement must firmly repulse these efforts.

 

REFERENCES

Baldwin R. & Weder di Mauro B. (2020), Introduction to Baldwin R. & Weder di Mauro B. (eds.), Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis , London: CEPR Press

Carchedi G. & Roberts M. (2018), World in Crisis , Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Economist (2020), ‘Closed by covid-19: Paying to stop the pandemic’, The Economist 19 March

El Erian M. (2020), ‘The Coming Coronavirus Recession and the Uncharted Territory Beyond’, Foreign Affairs 17 March

Gourinchas PO. (2020), ‘Flattening the Pandemic and Recession Curves’ in Baldwin R. & Weder di Mauro B. (eds.), Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis , London: CEPR Press

Imperial College (2020), COVID-19 Response Team https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/196234/covid19-imperial-researchers-model-likely-impact/

Manacourt V. (2020), ‘Working from home? Your boss is watching ‘, Politico 3/18/20 https://www.politico.eu/article/working-from-home-your-boss-is-watching/

Mavroudeas S. & Papadatos F. (2018), ‘Is Financialization a Hypothesis Theoretical Blind Alley?’, World Review of Political Economy vol.9 no.4. https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/is-the-financialization-hypothesis-a-theoretical-blind-alley-s-mavroudeas-d-papadatos-world-review-of-political-economy/

[1] The New Macro Consensus has gradually succeeded at the end of the 20th century Neoliberalism after the latter failed to address the long-standing problems of capitalist accumulation. Its dominance became stronger after the global crisis of 2008, which largely sealed the failure of Neoliberalism. The New Macroeconomic Consensus combines New Keynesianism (which recognizes the possibility of short-term imbalances due to rigidities in some markets) with elements of Neoliberalism (rational expectations, long-term market equilibrium). The New Macroeconomic Consensus, in contrast to Neoliberalism, believes that short-term imbalances require state economic intervention. It argues that there is a need for a more strategic economic role for the state as opposed to the traditional Keynesian interventionist state and the Neoliberal dogma of the state’s complete withdrawal from the economy. In this context, it considers that monetary policy is the main economic tool in the short-run, while fiscal policy has a supporting role. But gradually, after the crisis in 2008 and with the coming today’s recession, the role of fiscal policy is constantly being upgraded. In addition, the need for a vertical and discrete industrial policy is recognized.

[2] Fictitious capital is essentially a bet on future profits that it is being discounted today (for a more detailed analysis see Mavroudeas & Papadatos (2018) ). These bets are subject to intra-capitalist trading and, in conjunction with credit money, can engineer periods of exorbitant economic expectations and increased accumulation. If these bets succeed then capital accumulation proceeds normal. But if the real economy does not fulfill them, then economic crises arise.

[3] Weak profitability and/or bankruptcy of productive companies affect adversely both the banking sector (as non-performing loans rise) and the capital market (as stock prices collapse). Simultaneously, the contraction of economic activity entails a reduction in public revenue and, in contemporary times, an increase in fiscal deficits and inability to pay public debt.

[4] The ‘herd immunity’ hypothesis argues that the faster spread of an epidemic will lead to faster production of antibodies by the human population. It will have a great initial human cost but will bring about a faster end of the epidemic.

[5] It is noteworthy that the indirect privatization of the Italian public health system through its fragmentation into separate regions (in competition with each other) has caused serious problems of co-ordination and regional imbalances; especially during the early critical stages of the epidemic.

[6] The case of Alitalia’s nationalization in Italy is exemplary.

[7] The term Industrial Policy describes a wide range of government objectives and actions to promote the economic functioning and sustainability of specific sectors of the economy. It is by its very nature interventionist. Neoliberalism argues that it is ineffective and in fact it should not exist as it ‘distorts the free functioning of the market’. There are two broad categories of Industrial Policy: (a) horizontal (general regulations and policies for the whole economy without affecting the balance between individual sectors of the economy) and (b) vertical (focusing on specific sectors and applying discriminatory (i.e. differentiated) regulations and policies that change the balance between individual sectors of the economy).

[8] It is noteworthy that in the case of the Greek economy there is already a decline in employment by approximately 40,000 jobs. In addition, there is strong evidence of a massive conversion of full-time to part-time contracts.

 

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340163045_The_coronavirus_pandemic_and_the_health_and_economic_crisis

 

https://www.academia.edu/42319128/The_coronavirus_pandemic_and_the_health_and_economic_crisis

An interview on Italy, Greece, the Left and Marxism – VOX POPULI

This is the English transcript of an interview that will appear in VOX POPULI (https://revolucionvoxpopuli.wordpress.com/) translated in Italian

 

VOX POPULI interview

December 2019

 

  1. You stood out in 2016 with the famous letter against SYRIZA, indicated as a subject falsely aimed at change. In particular, you accused SYRIZA of having negotiated with the EU, thus accepting the logic and structure of the Troika program. The conditions that were then emerging and which you lucidly predicted consisted in the analysis of the Rescue Plan for Greece, where the interests of two large economic blocks, the European and the American, were played out. In particular, if the first feared for a debt cut, being in favor of a renegotiation on the terms of expiry and on the interests, the second favored the net cut of the debt in order to guarantee itself a hegemonic economic and political block (exploiting the influence of global deleveraging and of the debt’s haircut on EU’s official interest rates). Always according to your letter, the constraint of the steel cage of austerity was the result of the mediation between these interests. To what degree does this strategic decision have influence today and how much can Greece call itself the contemporary field of mediation – and irresponsible speculation – between the interests of Europe in the fiscal compact and the neoliberalism of Maastricht and Lisbon and the new policy of the American power under the Trump doctrine?

 

The contemporary tragedy of Greece has two major and one minor instigators. The minor instigator is the Greek bourgeoisie. It entered the European imperialist integration project aspiring that this will elevate it within the pyramid of imperialism through its partnership with the more advanced Western European capitals. This ‘big idea’ backfired terribly as its odds were very demanding and the Greek capital could not face up to this challenge. The eruption of the 2008 global capitalist crisis (a falling profitability crisis) and the subsequent 2010 Greek debacle (which appeared as a fiscal crisis although it was caused by both Greek capital’s falling profitability and its imperialist exploitation by the more developed Western capitals) put an end to this ‘big idea’ and demoted the Greek capitalism within the international imperialist pyramid. Of course, the Greek people pays the cost for this failure.

However, Greek is a middle-level capitalism and also a sub-imperialist economy. The latter means that, although it is able to exploit economically less developed capitalisms in its neighboring areas (e.g. Balkans), it is subject to imperialist dominance by more developed capitalisms. In the post-war era two are the main imperialist dominators of Greece. The first one is the US which assumed this role from Britain in the midst of the Greek civil war. The second is the agglomeration of Western European capitals forming the basis of the EU; with the contradictions and conflicts that exist between them. When the European integration project was under the auspices of the EU (approximately till the 1980s), the US left the primacy in economic matters to the EU although it kept the overall geopolitical hegemony. When European capitals attempted to deepen their integration, expand and ultimately challenge the US hegemony the previously mentioned arrangement fell apart. The 2008 crisis intensified the imperialist rivalry between them. The Greek capitalist crisis became one of the grounds on which the US-EU tug-of-war (conflict cum compromise) takes place.

In the beginning of the crisis both hegemons agreed on the austerity policies of troika’s Economic Adjustment Programmes. The representatives of the two hegemons (the IMF for the US and the ECB and the EU for the Europeans) had equal leverage in troika’s decision-making. However, the economic risks were unequal as the European loans were greater and less secure than those of the IMF. Moreover, when the urgency of the initial phase of the crisis passed, different and opposing strategies emerged between the US and the EU. The former put on the table the issue of debt restructuring which the latter strived to avoid. Also, significant differences merged between the conditionalities and the policy proposals of the IMF and the European side. In a nutshell, Greece became one of the battle grounds of the US-EU rivalry. Slowly, the IMF started distancing itself from the Greek debacle. The Trump administration exacerbated US unilateralism and aggressiveness. This led today in the earlier repayment of IMF’s loans and the assumption by it of the role of the advisor. On the other hand, and ironically, although the Europeans bore the greater part of loans and risks, it was the US capital that made the bigger inroads in the Greek economy.

The Greek bourgeoisie tries to equilibrate between its two imperialist patrons. On the one hand, it is part of the EU and subject to its dictums; particularly given its down-graded status to that of an almost failed state. On the other hand, the US has a very strong economic position in Greece and also is the crucial geopolitical and military factor in the Greek – Turkish regional rivalry. Indicatively, the SYRIZA government tied itself unashamedly to the US but shied away from agreeing with the IMF’s demand for a debt haircut. So long as the US – EU rivalry increases – and the current global economic downturn increasingly points towards this – then the Greek bourgeoisie wil be in a terribly difficult position because it will have to choose side.

 

  1. SYRIZA has demonstrated of not being able to cope with the European stakeholders since the first talks with the Rescue Plan Commission: during this period the ostracization of Varoufakis was the great question mark for European Marxism (obviously, not that Varoufakis was a Marxist thinker!). What has really happened? Why did Tsipras chase away the man who could give the appearance of being the professional of the party and an inflexible authority regarding European affairs? Was Varoufakis a victim of Tsipras, of Europe or of his possible inconclusiveness?

 

It never ceases to amaze me the interest that continues to exist in the Western Left about Varoufakis. It is either a matter of political and ideological disorientation and/or of misinformation. In Greece it is evident nowadays that he and his personal political fiefdom (the caricature of a political party called MERA 25) are not part of the Left. He is a terrible opportunist and maverick. In theory he is a lesser Keynesian. But he changes masks according to the audience he is addressing. He even said that he is an erratic Marxist (sic!) although he is too erratic and too conservative to be a Marxist. He has well-known ties to the US liberal establishment. As a Finance Minister he agreed with the 80% of troika’s programme. His negotiation tactics with the EU was an utter mess: simply political pose and personal showing off without any serious strategic direction. His party is a personal fiefdom representing middle and small bourgeoisie strata that are socially radical and politically conservative. It has collected other political wannabees and opportunists and have little in common apart from personal ambitions. It exists mainly through the social media and, of course, it has no foundation in mass movements.

He was enlisted in the SYRIZA team, when the latter was preparing to assume the government, almost out of the blue. The main reason that Tsipras personally imposed him upon the previous economic team was Varoufakis’ international backing from circles of the US liberal establishment. As a Finance Minister Varoufakis proved very self-centered and served badly both SYRIZA and his international backers. In toto, he did more for himself than he did for his partners and backers. For this reason, once SYRIZA realized that the US was using it in their tug-of-war with the EU and was not pushing seriously for a debt haircut, the use-value of Varoufakis was exhausted. Moreover, his flamboyant posing made him a suitable sacrifice for the necessary capitulation to the troika. Varoufakis attempted to accommodate himself in the new situation – he even voted for a first version of the third austerity programme – but it was too late for him. Furthermore, it seems that it had exhausted also his use-value for his foreign backers because he was proved to be too self-centered and too incompetent for policy-making. The only thing that, for the time being, he is useful is as a political (and basically electoral) tool.

 

  1. The same (in reference to Varoufakis) was protagonist of an almost cinematographic controversy, which posed the problem of how to react if the banking system and the monetary authorities turn their backs on a government, blocking the mechanisms for creating and transferring the liquidity that regulate the daily economy? From here the issue regarding the top secret Plan B narrated by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, in which Varoufakis decided to involve a professor of Information Technologies from the Columbia University, in order to hack the computer system of the Greek Tax Agency and get control of the platform. He wanted to use an electronic infrastructure to transfer money between the Greeks in case of emergency, as Varoufakis clearly admits, creating a parallel banking system as a payment system capable of keeping the economy in gear for a little while. This measure was never approved, and according to our economic sensitivity (however limited) it could turn out to be a buffer solution: in your opinion, would such a strategy make sense to be adopted? Or rather, did it have a possibility of being successfully applied? Would you support it or would you suggest approaching the situation in another way?

 

Let us clear things first.

The so-called plan X of Varoufakis was simply an idea. Ironically, even close associates of him betrayed that it never existed as an operational plan. The basic idea was to organize a public system that could collect directly payments for citizens for covering their payments to the state. This would be independent from the banking system, which was grosso modo controlled by the ECB through the Bank of Greece. Then, this public system could evolve to make payments by the state and thus provide an alternative payments system. Such a mechanism needs time to be organized. It can give some limited degrees off freedom from the EU and the ECB. However, it cannot stand if it is confronted by the main financial system. In the best case it can sustain the state’s fiscal solvency for a limited period. Concluding, this plan could possibly buy some time – if it was operational – against EU’s pressure. But ultimately it will crumble so long as Greece remained withing the EU.

Concluding, this Varoufakis’ idea was another piece of half-baked wizardry. Furthermore, it was never formally accepted by SYRIA as it was afraid of doing even so.

However, the idea of using a parallel currency within a Left programme of disengagement from the EU and socialist transition can be useful. An economy of a country that revolts against the international imperialist order would face an unmerciful international pressure. This would probably mean that it would be cut off from international currencies necessary for buying much needed foreign goods. In such a case, the revolting country would need to safeguard and use with prudence whatever foreign reserves it has. In such cases the creation of two parallel currencies – one for foreign transactions and one for internal transactions – is a well-known tool. The Soviet Union (and also Cuba and others) have used it. Of course, there are other tools that can be used in conjunction or stand-alone (e.g. multiple exchange rates). The Greek revolutionary Left has discussed such ideas as part of a transitional programme. However, these tools can work only outside the EU and its EMU. They are useless if you remain shackled to it.

  1. In reference to the previous question, we cannot forget to mention the recent debates on the difficulties concerning leaving the EU (and we’re taking for granted this is even possible) and ask you a couple of questions about it. Your and Sergio Cesaratto’s article on the Italian website SinistraInRete describes how the Greek economic recovery was described by the European authorities as possible only through the strict austerity (prescribed first by the Troika, now under the supervision of the MES) bringing you to a unanimous conclusion: it’s not possible to rectify the fallacious Greek productive model imposed by the consequences of the access to the European single market, if not outside the current EU. Is, therefore, in your opinion, the EU completely unreformable? If so, how serious are the risks for exiting the EU according to your estimates, both for Greece and for Italy?

 

The European integration project is an imperialist project. This is its DNA. It was created as such; and more specifically as the economic and political back bone of the West in Europe in the face of the Eastern bloc. At that period, it was under the auspices of the US. It evolved as a separate imperialist pole essentially after the collapse of the Eastern bloc; although this tendency was already latent within it before. Its economic mechanism rests upon the imperialist (economic) exploitation of less developed economies. Its political record is equally dismal. Elites and big conglomerates dominate its functions.

This imperialist project cannot be reformed. This is a myth only for idiots. It has been floating for several decades – remember the euro-communist babblings – and it has been disproved by reality.

Moreover, this project is today in deep crisis. It cannot stand up to its main adversary, the US. It is riddled with internal problems and contradictions. Because of these, it is even more dangerous as it attempts to solve its problems by putting their burden on the backs of the peoples of Europe and other regions.

For countries like Greece and Italy breaking out form the shackles of the EU is indeed very difficult. It can certainly not be done the easy way because EU’s shaking house of cards cannot afford even minor disengagements from it. It is afraid that it would generate a domino process and lead to its total disintegration. For this reason, it reacts so violently against any such threat. Nevertheless, for the peoples of Europe – and particularly for those of the peripheral countries – there is no other way apart from struggling to disengage from this reactionary edifice. It is there only possibility for achieving a better future; if not for them at least for their children.

 

  1. It has been hypothesized, outside the institutions, to make the banking sector European by setting up a common clearing house in such a way as to be able to rebalance the profound inequalities between the member states’ economies. There has often been speculation about a common program to combat poverty supported via centralized fiscal policies and the abolition of harmful statutes, such as those relating to the policies that maintain the natural unemployment rate (the Lisbon Treaties is a primary case of such statutes). Do you think that those measures can be functional for a program of radical transformation of the European Union (potentially revolutionary, if you will) or are they just a pious illusion? There have also often been talks of creating alternative currencies valid only within national borders. In Italy this argument has been passed off as the political program of the right on the mini bonds, a non-forced “currency” given by the securitization of new debt: keeping the political instrumentalization of the topic aside, is the use of an alternative currency parallel to the euro a possible option to be used to move forward (this obviously requires a revision of the European treaties concerning the characteristics of the single currency), in your opinion?

There are many proposals by bourgeois perspectives that try to fix some of the growing problems and contradictions of the EU. The creation of a banking union (that is of a common supervisory mechanism and a common deposits’ insurance mechanism) that would unify the country-members’ banking systems and make them more stable. Another proposal are the common EU bonds (that will make borrowing costs the same). One problem of all these proposals is that they oblige the dominant euro-core economies to pay. But the very European integration project has been created for them to be better off. For this reason, they face their resolute opposition. Only in some cases (e.g. banking union) some limited and basically cosmetic steps have been taken.

Regarding the mini-bot proposal, I do not consider it as serious. Essentially, it resembles to the Varoufakis’ plan X and suffers from the same problems and deficiencies. I have refered to them in a previous question.

 

  1. In addition to the Europe of the fiscal compact and the trap of cofinancing, impossible to spend in a timely manner for Italy because of the risk of the infringement procedure, is there still hope for a European project?

As I said before, I do not think that there can be a common project of a social Europe within the framework of the EU.

But also, I think that it is highly improbable to emerge a common European movement leading to another direction. The class struggle in the various European countries is very differentiated and exhibits very uneven levels. Hence, in each country the class struggle – and within it the struggle for disengaging from the EU – will take its own path and its own timing.

  1. Do you consider the Eurosceptic program of communist or leftist political groups like the KKE and France Inoumise credible? In Italy, the Eurostop platform, for example, adopts the Euro-Mediterranean Dawn project of Marxist professor Luciano Vasapollo. Have you heard about this proposal and what are your thoughts about it? Is it a viable option?

To my knowledge, these are different positions.

The Greek KKE has a terribly hypocritical position. It argues that disengaging from the EU is insignificant because there will still be capitalism. So, it practically makes the absurd argument that first you achieve socialism and then you leave the EU. Of course, it hypocritically bypasses the argument that you cannot build socialism unless you have broken out from the EU first. KKE adopts this position today (contrary to its previous historical position about disengaging from the EU) not out of idiocy but out of political conformism. It knows very well that the anti-EU position is an anathema for the Greek bourgeoisie and KKE does not want to face its wrath as it is well established within the official political system. Marx had written that the Church of England does not care if you dispute the 99 out of its 100 articles of faith. However, it becomes wild if you dispute 1% of its property. KKE prefers to mouth big leftish declarations but abstains from challenging crucial elements of the bourgeois system.

The position of France Insoumise is different and it is typical of a short-sighted euro-scepticism that cannot challenge the EU. All those leftist Eurosceptics argue that there is a progressive alternative if you leave the European Monetary Union (EMU) but you stay within the EU (that is the Common Market and the political structures). This is an utterly stupid – if not hypocritical – position. The core of the imperialist and the economically exploitative mechanism of the European integration lies in the Common Market. The euro is a complimentary aspect. Also, the political mechanism of the European integration has in its genes the bourgeois prerogatives.

Finally, regarding proposals like that of L.Vasapollo I think that they are too good to be true. As I said before, the class struggle and the political consciousness of the working class and the popular strata is very different and uneven even in the euro-Mediterranean countries. Hence, their trajectories are quite different and not easy to converge. So, I do not see as feasible – at least at the time being – such a proposal.

 

  1. In 2004 you published a text which is almost impossible to find in Italy, «Forms of existence of abstract labor and value-form». Could you give us a view of your interpretation on the Marxian theory of value in relation to new schools of study (such as TSSI, the SSS or, closer to us, the Neue Marx Lektüre begun by Rubin and Pashukanis and completed by the works of Reichelt and Backhaus )?

This is a very big issue and cannot be addressed here. I will give only a few hints.

I consider that the essence of value is abstract labour. The latter is defined in the sphere of production and – at a first level – independently from money. Of course, in its full development, abstract labour is expressed through the general equivalent (that is money). For this reason, I maintain that Marx’s distinction between the internal measure of value (that is labour) and the external measure of value (that is money) is correct. Thus, approaches that identify directly abstract labour with money (like the New Solution to the Transformation Problem, or the value-form theorists) are erroneous.

I totally disagree with the Neue Lekture and M.Heinrich’s endeavours. They too equate abstract value with money. Moreover, they totally misrepresent Marx by arguing either that he did not had a Labour Theory of Value (as their habitual popularizer D.Harvey has written) or that he had a monetary theory of value. First, it has been shown not only by me but also by others, that their analysis has nothing to do with Pashukanis and especially Rubin. Rubin has explicitly said that the essence of value is abstract labour and it can be conceived independently from money. The Neue Lekture and their fellow-travelers are doing a terribly misrepresentation of his views. Second, the argument about a monetary theory of value is absurd and leads, ultimately, to the abandonment of the concept of value as redundant. The first so-called ‘Rubin School’ (Benetti, Cartelier etc.) has followed this road. The value-form theorists also did the same. Moreover, the Neue Lekture writers exhibit an unbelievable ignorance of the actual workings of a capitalist economy and simply occupy themselves with dubious philological interpretations of Marx’s works. Overall, I think that the Neue Lekture does a terrible disservice to Marxism. It disintegrates it as a coherent system. And its political connotations are equally disastrous: it leads Marxists to be the handmaidens of bourgeois reformism.

Finally, regarding the TSS, I do not agree with the way the model time.

  1. Do you consider the opposition to the EU of sovereignist organizations such as Salvini’s League credible/sincere/honest/reasonable/conceivable?

Well, I think that in several more developed European capitalisms (not in Greece) there are strong fractions of their bourgeoisies that are disappointed by the course of the European integration. More specifically, they are angered from the growing power of Germany and the cluster of economies around it. These are the main forces behind LePen and Salvini. These forces aspire to some other international alliances and usually look towards the US (see for example Boris Johnson). In this sense there maybe sincere in their confrontation with the EU. There may also strike some form of compromise (temporary or not).

In all cases this is a different road – and also a rival one – to that of the Left and the people. Their course is for a differently structured capitalism. And the costs for this transformation will be paid by the working class and the people. The road of the Left should be to struggle for disengaging from the EU as a first necessary step for creating socialism.

 

  1. How do you judge the recent victory of the center-right in Greece and what consequences will there be in your country’s relationship with European institutions?

SYRIZA, with its opportunism and its subservience to bourgeois interests, paved the way for the recent big victory of New Democracy. This right-wing government proceeds with a very aggressive policy. In terms of economic policy there is no serious difference between SYRIZA and ND. The directions of economic policy in Greece are being dictated by the Economic Adjustment Programme. The only thing that both the previous and this governments can do is to redistribute some of the so-called super-surplus (that is blood money stolen from the people and accumulated on top of the Programme’s targets). Both SYRIZA and ND gave tax allowances to capital. Their only difference is that SYRIZA taxed the small bourgeoisie and the upper working class and gave some peanuts to the precariat. The ND changes this by giving some peanuts to the small bourgeoisie and the upper working class.

In political and institutional matters, the ND proceeds with far-reaching reactionary changes (privatisations, police repression, trade unions laws, entrepreneuralisation of education etc.). This has already produced mass popular reactions. For the first time, after the stagnation of the SYRIZA era, there are again mass mobilisations and demonstrations in Greece.

The economic situation is on a razor’s end. There is no serious recuperation from the crisis and the economy lives on drugs. The debt problem remains huge. Apart from the internal causes, a possible new world economic crash would leave the Greek economy in tatters.

In these conditions, the EU on the one hand accommodates a bit ND’s policies. But on the other hand, it issues stern warnings and exerts pressure. It wants to avoid having to tackle an Italian problem together with a Greek problem; for example. But it does not want to leave Greece footloose because this will create a bad example to others and also new problems.

The US plays its cards both in the entrepreneurial front but also in the geopolitical one exerting its leverage in the Greek – Turkish rivalry.

 

‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’: Interview in the Catalan website DIRECTA

The following is the transcript of my interview for the Catalan website DIRECTA (04/02/2016). Its title is ‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’.

The interview is in Catalan. A grosso modo english translation follows.

———————————————————————————————–

La Directa

https://directa.cat/actualitat/stavros-mavroudeas-syriza-sesta-enfonsant-perdent-suport-popular

Stavros Mavroudeas: “Syriza s’està enfonsant i perdent el suport popular”

Coincidint amb la vaga general a Grècia publiquem una entrevista a l’economista grec Stavros Mavroudeas
Stavros Mavroudeas durant l’entrevista a Atenes
Helena Vàzquez

Stavros Mavroudeas va estudiar a la Universitat d’Atenes, va continuar els seus estudis a la SOAS-Universitat de Londres i finalment va doctorar-se a la Birkbeck College (a Anglaterra). Actualment treballa com a professor d’economia política a la Universitat de Macedònia, a Tessalònica. És autor de diversos llibres i es considera una persona activa a l’esquerra. Ha aparegut en alguns programes de televisió representant el Front Anticapitalista de l’Esquerra-Cooperació per l’Enderrocament (Antarsya), amb qui assegura simpatitzar.

La victòria de Syriza d’ara fa un any va ser un fet esperançador per a l’esquerra europea, també per l’esquerra grega?

Primer s’ha de distingir entre la gent que està organitzada i la gent que simplement pertany a l’esquerra. Per a la majoria de forces organitzades Syriza no era una esperança. Això es relaciona amb els seus orígens, que vénen de l’eurocomunisme, però també amb els coneguts lligams amb l’establishment. Per la majoria de gent que pertany a l’esquerra, en canvi, immersos en mig d’una crisi, amb pobresa, i amb un govern molt autoritari, Syriza es veu d’una altra manera.

«Syriza no és el típic partit de l’esquerra. És com una galàxia de petits grups, amb els seus propis líders que representen uns interessos particulars»

La possibilitat que alleugerés les polítiques d’austeritat i l’autoritarisme del moment es convertia en una esperança. Ara bé, en el moment en el qual Syriza trenca les seves promeses obertament i es rendeix davant la UE comença a perdre progressivament el suport de la gent comú de l’esquerra. Això en gran mesura va passar a les darreres eleccions en la que no es presentava com una força antiausteritat sinó com un mal menor davant del Pasok.

En relació al programa econòmic de Syriza, veiem que els seus posicionaments respecte a l’euro i el deute han variat. Per què?

Per tal d’entendre-ho cal veure què és Syriza. No és el típic partit de l’esquerra. És com una galàxia de petits grups, amb els seus propis líders i amb els seus lligams amb la societat, que representen uns interessos particulars. Per aquest motiu mai ha pogut tenir un programa econòmic coherent.

Va començar dient el 2012 “potser pensem en la possibilitat de desfer-nos de l’euro”, intentant seduir a l’esquerra. Per contra, a mesura que s’apropava al poder sabia que això era una línia vermella per a la burgesia grega, de manera que va oblidar la idea de trencar amb l’euro i parlava de frenar les polítiques d’austeritat dins la UE i l’eurozona. Quan va irrompre al poder va jugar la carta de negociar fortament amb la UE. Finalment va rendir-se deixant clar que no hi havia cap altra camí que el d’implementar els programes d’austeritat, el mateix que deien els governs anteriors. Per tant Syriza s’ha renovat i ha aparegut com un gerent més lleu de les polítiques d’austeritat que la troika.

«La UE no és res més que la unió dels capitals europeus dels països dominants»

Així, Syriza té una vincles molt clars amb el capital?

Claríssims. Ara és evident. Un any abans no ho era tant. La burgesia grega està dividida en diverses fraccions, ara bé, hi ha una gran divisió entra el gran capital. Per una banda, hi ha els anomenats “nous grups emergents” que creixen a finals del vuitanta i a principis del noranta sota l’administració de Costas Simits (Pasok) i després amb Nova Democràcia. Per l’altre els antics benefactors de l’administració d’Andreas Papandreou (Pasok) que es convertiren ens els perdedors amb l’ascens dels nous. Totes les fraccions del capital, al principi de forma encoberta, han donat suport a Syriza. Una vegada Syriza va ser escollida, l’altra fracció està jugant un joc de xoc-i-negociació amb Syriza també.

És Syriza l’exemple que en el capitalisme d’avui no pot estar entre dues aigües?

Sí, representa el fracàs de la idea que es pot democratitzar la Unió Europea (UE). La UE no és res més que la unió dels capitals europeus dels països dominants. Són els països de l’euro-centre els que imposen els seus propis interessos i prerrogatives a la resta, als capitals més dèbils i a la gent, evidentment.

L’economista Stavros Mavroudeas a Atenes / Helena Vàzquez

 

En un article recent al The Guardian, Costas Lapavitsas, exmembre de Syriza i ara el cervell del programa econòmic de LAE (Laiki Enotita), sembla ser bastant indulgent amb Syriza. Explica que el gran problema del partit va ser no saber desafiar l’euro.

Aquest és també el gran problema de Costas, i ho hauria d’haver sabut millor des del principi i no promoure i donar suport a Syriza com ho va fer.

Ell ho sabia?

Clar que ho sabia. Si no n’era conscient llavors s’hagués hagut de mantenir al marge. Si estigués a la seva posició, hagués donat suport Syriza i hagués contribuït a portar-la al poder llavors el mínim que podria fer és demanar perdó i oferir la meva autocrítica, una cosa que no he vist per part d’en Costas.

Parlant d’ell, en els teus treballs tu has estat molt crític amb les posicions post-keynesianes i marxo-keynesianes a l’hora de resoldre el dilema de la UE i la UEM (Unió Econòmica i Monetària).

Hi hagut un debat molt fort, vigent avui dia, dins l’espectre econòmic de l’esquerra grega. Hi ha els que, jo inclòs des d’un punt de vista marxista esgrimim que la UE no pot rectificar-se i que, per tant, considerem que l’esquerra ha treballar per tal que Grècia deixi la UE. En segon lloc, hi ha els que diuen que hem de mantenir-nos a la UE però sortir de la UEM, com en Costas. Finalment hi ha els que defensen mantenir-nos a la UE però canviar les seves polítiques d’austeritat.

Les dues últimes corrents van integrar-se dins de Syriza i les dues van fallar, fins i tot les que veien una sortida de la UEM a través d’un divorci consensuat. No es pot acordar de comú acord un divorci amb Wolfgang Schäuble! Només podrà donar-se en els seus propis i “bàrbars” termes. Crec que per l’esquerra d’avui és bastant clar, ha de batallar per una sortida completa de la UE.

Entre les dues últimes corrents que han participat a Syriza i les que no s’amaga una forma particular d’entendre la crisi?

Les dues corrents que he explicat que han participat dins de Syriza entenen la crisi com una crisi del deute. Això seria causa o bé un dèficit fiscal inviable o un dèficit comercial igualment inviable. Els dos fenòmens portarien a un dèficit per compte corrent. Aquestes serien les posicions keynesianes, post-keynesianes o Marxo-keynesianes. Per alta banda, la corrent que posposa sortir de la UE segueix una perspectiva marxista. Defensa que el deute és una conseqüència i no una causa i la crisi té unes arrels més profundes que es troben en l’esfera productiva. Aquestes qüestions són les que després es reflecteixen en les finances públiques. És a dir, els problemes de l’economia real reboten a les finances públiques i al deute extern. Per contra, les altres dues corrents diuen que no hi ha problemes en l’estructura productiva, per aquesta raó no toquen el mercat comú.

«Crec que Varoufakis és massa erràtic per ser marxista»

Darrere de com entenem el funcionament del capitalisme hi ha una forma particular d’intuir com s’ha de reorganitzar la producció per què sigui democràtica. No veig una preocupació excessiva per part de Lapavitsas a l’hora de pensar en el potencial transformador d’una sortida de l’euro.

En Costas ha abandonat realment el marxisme i s’ha traslladat al post-keynesianisme. Ha proposat el seu propi pla per salvar l’economia grega al voltant de sortir de la UEM. Aquest pla no diu res, no concreta, sobre la reestructuració de l’esfera productiva de l’economia. A més, suggereix moltes coses, fins i tot parla de socialisme. Però mai mostra com el seu pla condueix a una transició socialista. De fet, quan parla de socialisme (i poques vegades ho fa) ho veu com una cosa en el futur a molt llarg termini sense cap vincle coherent al seu pla. Però, com va dir John Maynard Keynes, en “el llarg termini tots estarem morts” …

I ara li toca a Yanis Varoufakis… es mereix l’etiqueta de marxista erràtic?

Crec que Varoufakis és massa erràtic per ser marxista.

Quin és la seva posició a Grècia?

Ell ve de Giorgos Papandreu Pasok. Va ser assessor del govern que va portar la Troika a Grècia. Per descomptat que ell ho va deixar en aquell moment i va anar a Syriza. Varoufakis és keynesià, però no d’una forma clara. Ell no té una teoria, ni tan sols una anàlisi coherent. Predica el “agnosticisme radical”, que en realitat vol dir que no necessitem una teoria; només una anàlisi conjuntural. Això el porta a dir moltes coses que es contradiuen entre sí amb molta facilitat. A Grècia ara és una cosa del passat.

Mavroudeas és professor d’economia a la Universitat de Macedònia, a Tessalònica / Helena Vàzquez

 

Però ha impulsat aquest “Pla B” a escala europea.

S’estarà movent a l’estranger però a Grècia ha perdut tota credibilitat.

Què en penses d’aquesta proposta?

Hi ha un intent per Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Stefano Fassina i Oskar Lafontaine per crear un moviment en l’àmbit europeu que aglutini als euroescèptics de l’esquerra, permetin-me dir així. Ells es mostren escèptics sobre la integració europea, però creuen que pot ser democratitzada. No entenen que la UE és una estructura reaccionària que no pot ser reformada sinó només destruïda; i aquesta és la tasca de l’esquerra.

Per acabar, perspectives a curt termini i opcions per l’esquerra?

Per ara Syriza s’està enfonsant ràpidament i està perdent el suport popular. Al mateix temps, un bloc neoliberal coherent s’està construint al voltant de Nova Democràcia. Aquest bloc pressiona la capitulada Syriza per moure-la encara més a la dreta, per tal de salvar-se la seva pell acomodant la burgesia i la UE. Això vol dir que l’espectre polític oficial s’està movent ràpidament cap a la dreta. Alhora, la societat està polaritzant ràpidament entre rics i pobres. Això porta a una enorme discrepància entre la representació política i l’estructura social. Això deixa espai per l’esquerra, la veritable esquerra. L’esquerra ha d’avançar audaçment per oferir a la gent treballadora una proposta política i “propopular”: sortir de la UE per complet i reestructurar l’economia grega per avançar cap al socialisme.

 

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Stavros Mavroudeas: ‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’

– The victory of Syriza, one year ago, was an encouraging fact for the European left; was it also for the Greek left?

First you must distinguish between people who are organized and people who simply belong to the left. For most organized forces Syriza was no hope. This is related to its origins, it comes from Eurocommunism and has well-known ties with the establishment. For most people who belong to the left, however, immersed in the middle of a crisis, with poverty, with a very authoritarian government, Syriza was understood in a different way.

The possibility of relieving the austerity policies and authoritarianism at that moment seemed as a hope. However, in the moment in which Syriza breaks its promises openly and capitulates in front of EU begins to gradually lose the support of ordinary people on the left. This largely happened in the last elections in which he portrayed itself not as an anti-austerity force but as a lesser evil against PASOK and ND.

 

– Regarding the economic program of Syriza, we see that it has moved its positions against the euro and debt. Why?

To understand this we must see what Syriza is. It is not the typical party of the Left. It’s like a galaxy of small groups with their leaders and their ties with enterprises, representing private interests. For this reason he has never been able to have a coherent economic program.

It began in 2012 saying «maybe we consider to get rid of the euro», trying to seduce the left. Later, as it approached to the power, it knew that this was a red line for the Greek bourgeoisie, so he forgot the idea of breaking with the euro and spoke to stopping austerity policies within the EU and the eurozone. When he reached the power it played the card of negotiating strongly with the EU. Finally surrendering making it clear that there was no other way than to implement austerity programs, the same as said by the previous governments. So SYRIZA revamped itself to the people as a milder manager of the troika austerity policies.

 

– So, Syriza has very clear links with the capital?

Clearly. This is now evident. A year earlier it was not so. The Greek bourgeoisie is divided into various factions; however, there is a great division inside the big capital. On one hand, there are the so-called «new emerging groups» that grew in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s under the administration of Simitis’ PASOK and after New Democracy. On the other hand they are the older beneficiaries of the Andreas Papandreou PASOK administrations. The latter became the losers with the rise of new ones. These old fractions of the capital have given support to Syriza, in the beginning covertly. Once Syriza was elected, the other faction is playing a game of clash-and-negotiation with Syriza as well.

 

– Syriza is the example that capitalism today can’t be in between two waters?

Yes, it represents the failure of the idea that it is possible to democratize the European Union. The European Union is nothing more than the union of European capital of dominant countries. The euro-centre countries impose their own interests and prerogatives to the others, the weaker capitals and people, of course.

 

– In a recent article in «The Guardian» Costas Lapavitsas, a former member of Syriza’s and now having a role in the economic program LAE (Laiki Enotita), seems to be pretty indulgent with Syriza. He explains that the big problem was that didn’t know how to challenge the euro.

This is also the big problem with Costas. He should have known better from the beginning and not to promote and support Syriza as he did.

 

– He knew it?

Of course he knew it. If he was not aware of that then he should have stayed aside. If I were in his position, if I had helped the political fraud that is Syriza to gain power then, the least I could do would be to apologize and offer my self-critique, something that I haven’t seen by Costas.

 

– Speaking of him, in your work you’ve been very critical of the Keynesian and post-Keynesian proposals about solving the problems of the EU and EMU.

There was a strong debate, and it still remains today, within the spectrum of the economists of the Greek left. Firstly, there are those (me included) who, from a Marxist point of view, argue that the EU cannot be rectified and therefore the left should propose that Greece leaves the EU. Secondly, there are those who say that we must remain in the EU but leave the EMU, (as Costas). Finally there are those who argue to remain in the EU but to change its austerity policies. The last two currents joined in Syriza and both failed; even those that proposed an exit from the EMU through a consensual divorce. It is impossible to get a decent agreement of a divorce from Schauble! This can only occur in his own barbaric terms. I think that the role of the left today is quite clear: the left should fight for a complete disengagement from the EU.

 

– In between the last two trends that have participated in Syriza and those who didn’t there was a particular way of understanding the crisis?

The two currents that participated in Syriza understood the crisis as simply a crisis of debt. This was caused by either an unviable fiscal deficit or and equally unviable trade deficit. Both led to a current account deficit. Their analyses followed Keynesian, post-Keynesian or Marxo-Keynesian perspectives. On the other hand, the current that proposed leaving the EU follows the Marxist perspective. It argues that debt is a consequence and not a cause and that the crisis has deeper causes that lay in the productive sphere. These causes are then reflected in the public finances. That is, the problems of the real economy determine public finances and external debt. By contrast, the other two currents say that there are no problems in the Greek productive structure; therefore they do not touch the European Common Market.

 

– Last of how we understand the workings of capitalism there a particular way to intuit how to reorganize production to make it democratic. I do not see an excessive concern on the part of Lapavitsas when thinking about the transformative potential of an exit of the euro.

Costas has actually abandoned Marxism and moved towards post-Keynesianism. He has proposed his own plan to save the Greek economy constracted around leaving the EMU. This plan does not say anything serious or concrete about the restructuring of the productive sphere of the economy. Furthermore, he suggests many things, he even speaks about socialism. But he never shows how his plan leads to a socialist transition. In fact, when he speaks about socialism (and he rarely does so) he sees it as something in the very long-term future without any coherent link to his plan. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, in «the long term we are all dead»…

 

– And now it is the turn of Yanis Varoufakis ..Does he deserve the self-given label of an erratic Marxist?

I think Varoufakis is too erratic to be Marxist.

 

– What is his position in Greece?

He comes from Giorgos Papandreou PASOK. He was an advisor to the government that brought the Troika in Greece. Of course he left it at that time and went to Syriza. Varoufakis is Keynesian but not in clear way. He doesn’t have a theory, not even a coherent analysis. He preaches ‘radical agnosticism’ which actually means that we do not need a theory; just a conjunctural analysis. This leads him to say many things that contradict each other very easily. In Greece now he is a thing of the past.

 

– But he has promoted ‘Plan B’ in Europe.

He can be moving around abroad but in Greece he has lost all credibility.

 

– What do you think of this proposal?

There is an attempt by Jean-Luc Mélenchon [co-founder of Partie Gauche (left)], Stefano Fassina [future leader of Sinistra (Future left)], and Oskar Lafontaine [ founder of Die Linke (the left)], to create a movement in a European level that gathers the Eurosceptics on the left, let me say it like this. They are skeptical about European integration but think that it can be democratized. They do not understand that the EU is a reactionary structure that can’t be reformed but only destroyed; and this is the task of the left.

 

– Finally, what are the prospects in a short-term and which are the options for the left?

For now Syriza is crumbling rapidly; losing popular support. At the same time a coherent neoliberal bloc is being built around New Democracy. This bloc presses the capitulated Syriza to move even further to the right (in order to save its skin by accommodating with the bourgeoisie and the EU). This means that the official political spectrum is moving rapidly to the right. At the same time the society is rapidly polarizing between the rich and the poor. This leads to a huge discrepancy between political representation and social structure. This leaves room for the left, the true left. The left must venture boldly to offer to the working people a realistic pro-popular political proposal: leaving the EU completely and moving to restructure the Greek economy as a pre-condition for socialist transition.


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CounterPunch: perchè Syriza sta colando a picco in Grecia

Counterpunch riporta l’intervista del sito catalano Directa a Stavros Mavroudeas, professore di economia politica all’università della Macedonia, sullo stato della politica e del dibattito economico greco. La radicalità del professore marxista fa da controcanto agli scontri della settimana scorsa e alla crescente instabilità del paese ellenico.

di Stavros Mavroudeas, 09-02-2016

D. La vittoria di Syriza, un anno fa, è stato un fatto incoraggiante per la sinistra europea; lo è stato anche per la sinistra greca?

Mavroudeas: In primo luogo dobbiamo distinguere tra persone riunite in un’organizzazione e persone che semplicemente si sentono parte della sinistra. Per le forze più organizzate Syriza in nessun modo era una speranza. Questo per via della sua origine, Syriza nasce dall’Eurocomunismo e ha legami ben noti con la classe dirigente. Ma dalla maggior parte delle persone che appartengono alla sinistra, tuttavia, immerse nel bel mezzo di una crisi, con la povertà e un governo molto autoritario, Syriza è stata recepita in modo diverso.

In quel momento la possibilità di alleviare le politiche di austerità e l’autoritarismo sembravano una speranza. Tuttavia, nel momento in cui Syriza rompe apertamente le proprie promesse e capitola davanti alla UE, inizia a perdere gradualmente il sostegno della gente comune di sinistra. Questo è ciò che è in gran parte accaduto nelle ultime elezioni, in cui Syriza si è presentata non come una forza anti-austerità, ma come un male minore contro PASOK e ND.

D. Per quanto riguarda il programma economico di Syriza, vediamo che ha cambiato le sue posizioni nei confronti dell’euro e del debito. Perché?

Mavroudeas: Per comprenderlo dobbiamo vedere cos’è Syriza. Non è il tipico partito della sinistra. E’ una galassia di piccoli gruppi con i loro leader e i loro legami con le imprese, che rappresentano interessi privati. Per questo motivo non è mai stata in grado di avere un programma economico coerente.

Ha cominciato nel 2012 dichiarando che «possiamo ritenere opportuno sbarazzarci dell’euro», cercando di sedurre la sinistra. Più tardi, mentre si avvicinava al potere, sapeva che questa era una linea rossa per la borghesia greca, così ha abbandonato l’idea di rompere con l’euro e ha sostenuto di voler fermare le politiche di austerità all’interno dell’UE e della zona euro. Quando ha raggiunto il potere ha giocato la carta della negoziazione di forza con l’UE. Alla fine ha ceduto mettendo in chiaro che l’unica via era implementare i programmi di austerità, la stessa cosa che sostenevano i governi precedenti. Così Syriza si è rilanciata come mite responsabile delle politiche di austerità della troika.

D. Quindi, Syriza ha collegamenti molto espliciti con il capitale?

Mavroudeas: Chiaramente. Adesso è evidente. Un anno fa non era così. La borghesia greca è divisa in varie fazioni; tuttavia, c’è una grande divisione all’interno del grande capitale. Da un lato, ci sono i cosiddetti «nuovi gruppi emergenti» che sono cresciuti alla fine degli anni ’80 e all’inizio degli anni ’90 sotto l’amministrazione PASOK di Simitis e dopo Nuova Democrazia. Dall’altra parte ci sono i più anziani beneficiari delle amministrazioni PASOK di Andreas Papandreou. Questi ultimi sono diventati i perdenti con l’ascesa dei nuovi. Queste vecchie frazioni del capitale hanno dato sostegno a Syriza, all’inizio di nascosto. Una volta che Syriza è stata eletta, anche l’altra fazione ha iniziato a giocare una partita scontro-e-negoziazione con Syriza.

D. Syriza è l’esempio che il capitalismo oggi può avere un solo vincitore?

Mavroudeas: Sì, rappresenta il fallimento dell’idea che sia possibile democratizzare l’Unione Europea. L’Unione Europea non è altro che l’unione del capitale dei paesi europei dominanti. I paesi del centro impongono i propri interessi e prerogative agli altri, capitali e popoli più deboli, naturalmente.

D. In un recente articolo su «The Guardian», Costas Lapavitsas, un ex membro di Syriza che adesso ha un ruolo nel programma economico del LAE (Laiki Enotita) [Unione Popolare, in italiano, ndT], sembra essere abbastanza indulgente con Syriza. Egli dice che il grande problema era che non si sapeva come uscire dall’euro.

Mavroudeas: Questo è il grosso problema anche con Costas. Egli fin dall’inizio non avrebbe dovuto essere così ingenuo da promuovere e sostenere Syriza come ha fatto.

D. Lo sapeva?

Mavroudeas: Certo che lo sapeva. Se non ne era a conoscenza avrebbe dovuto restare in disparte. Se fossi al suo posto, se avessi aiutato la truffa politica che è Syriza a raggiungere il potere, allora il minimo che potrei fare sarebbe quello di chiedere scusa e fare autocritica, cosa che non ho visto fare da Costas.

D. A proposito di lui, nel tuo lavoro sei stato molto critico nei confronti delle proposte keynesiane e post-keynesiane per risolvere i problemi della UE e dell’UEM.

Mavroudeas: C’è stato un dibattito forte, e continua ancora oggi, all’interno dello spettro degli economisti della sinistra greca. In primo luogo, ci sono quelli (me compreso) che, da un punto di vista marxista, sostengono che l’UE non può essere corretta e quindi la sinistra dovrebbe proporre che la Grecia esca dall’Unione europea. In secondo luogo, ci sono quelli che dicono che dobbiamo rimanere nell’UE, ma lasciare l’eurozona (come Costas). Infine ci sono quelli che sostengono di rimanere nell’UE, ma cambiando le sue politiche di austerità. Le ultime due correnti erano unite in Syriza ed hanno entrambi fallito; anche quelli che hanno proposto l’uscita dall’unione monetaria attraverso un divorzio consensuale. E’ impossibile ottenere un accordo decente di divorzio da Schauble! Ciò può avvenire solo ai suoi barbari termini. Credo che il ruolo della sinistra oggi sia piuttosto chiaro: la sinistra dovrebbe lottare per un disimpegno totale dall’UE.

D. C’era un particolare modo di intendere la crisi tra le due tendenze che partecipavano a Syriza e quelli che non partecipavano?

Mavroudeas: Le due correnti che hanno partecipato a Syriza hanno inteso la crisi semplicemente come una crisi del debito. Ciò è stato causato da un deficit fiscale impraticabile o da un deficit commerciale altrettanto impraticabile. Entrambi i deficit hanno portato ad un disavanzo delle partite correnti. Le loro analisi hanno seguito una prospettiva keynesiana, post-keynesiana o marxista-keynesiana. D’altra parte, la corrente che ha proposto di lasciare l’UE segue la prospettiva marxista. Essa sostiene che il debito è una conseguenza e non una causa e che la crisi ha cause più profonde che si trovano nella sfera produttiva. Queste cause sono poi riflesse nei conti pubblici. Cioè, i problemi dell’economia reale determinano le finanze pubbliche e il debito estero. Per contro, le altre due correnti sostengono che non ci sono problemi nella struttura produttiva greca; quindi non giungono a toccare il Mercato Comune Europeo.

D. Gli ultimi di quelli che sostengono che capito il funzionamento del capitalismo c’è un modo particolare di intuire come riorganizzare la produzione per renderlo democratico. Non vedo una preoccupazione eccessiva da parte di Lapavitsas quando si pensa al potenziale di trasformazione di una uscita dell’euro.

Mavroudeas: Costas effettivamente ha abbandonato il marxismo ed è andato verso il post-keynesismo. Ha proposto il suo piano per salvare l’economia greca costruito intorno all’uscita dall’UEM. Questo piano non dice nulla di importante o concreto sulla ristrutturazione della sfera produttiva dell’economia. Inoltre, egli suggerisce molte cose, parla anche di socialismo. Ma non mostra mai come il suo piano porti ad una transizione socialista. In realtà, quando parla di socialismo (e raramente lo fa), lo vede come qualcosa nel futuro, a lungo termine, senza alcun collegamento coerente col suo piano. Ma, come diceva John Maynard Keynes, «nel lungo periodo saremo tutti morti» …

D. E ora è la volta di Yanis Varoufakis ..merita l’etichetta che si è dato da solo, di marxista imprevedibile?

Mavroudeas: penso che Varoufakis sia troppo imprevedibile per essere marxista.

D. Qual è la sua posizione in Grecia?

Mavroudeas: Viene dal PASOK di Giorgos Papandreou. E’ stato consulente del governo che ha portato la Troika in Grecia. Naturalmente ha lasciato la posizione in quel periodo ed è andato con Syriza. Varoufakis è keynesiano, ma in modo non chiaro. Non ha una teoria, nemmeno un’analisi coerente. Predica un ‘agnosticismo radicale’ che significa in realtà che non abbiamo bisogno di una teoria; solo di un’analisi congiunturale. Questo lo porta a dire molte cose che si contraddicono a vicenda molto facilmente. In Grecia ora è una cosa del passato.

D. Ma ha promosso ‘Piano B’ in Europa.

Mavroudeas: egli può viaggiare in continuazione all’estero, ma in Grecia ha perso ogni credibilità.

D. Cosa pensa di questa proposta?

Mavroudeas: C’è un tentativo da parte di Jean-Luc Mélenchon [co-fondatore di Partie Gauche (sinistra)], Stefano Fassina [futuro leader di Sinistra Italiana (sinistra)], e Oskar Lafontaine [fondatore di Die Linke (sinistra)] di creare un movimento a livello europeo che raccoglie gli euroscettici di sinistra, mi permetta di dirlo a questo modo. Sono scettici circa l’integrazione europea, ma ritengono che possa essere democratizzata. Non capiscono che l’UE è una struttura reazionaria che non può essere riformata ma solo distrutta; e questo è il compito della sinistra.

D. Infine, quali sono le prospettive a breve termine e quali sono le opzioni per la sinistra?

Mavroudeas: Per ora Syriza si sta sgretolando rapidamente; sta perdendo il sostegno popolare. Allo stesso tempo, è stato costruito un blocco neoliberista coerente attorno a Nuova Democrazia. Questo blocco preme Syriza, ormai arresa, perchè si sposti ancora più a destra (per salvarsi la pelle soddisfacendo la borghesia e l’UE). Ciò significa che lo spettro politico ufficiale si sta muovendo rapidamente verso destra. Allo stesso tempo, la società si sta rapidamente polarizzando tra ricchi e poveri. Questo porta ad una enorme discrepanza tra la rappresentanza politica e la struttura sociale. Ciò lascia spazio alla sinistra, alla vera sinistra. La sinistra deve osare coraggiosamente per offrire ai lavoratori una realistica proposta politica pro-popolare: lasciare del tutto l’UE e andare verso la ristrutturazione dell’economia greca come pre-condizione per la transizione socialista.

 

Lessons from the Greek debacle: A left euro-skepticism or a left popular front against the EU?

Address to the

Autumn University

of the

Parti de l’émancipation du Peuple

Nice, 7-9 November 2015

 

Lessons from the Greek debacle:

A left euro-skepticism or a left popular front against the EU?

 

Stavros Mavroudeas

 

The recent Greek elections (25/9/2015) offer some valuable lessons for not only the Greek Left and the popular movement. SYRIZA – the darling of the Western Left that has been portrayed as a model – performed a blatant somersault and unashamed betrayed the popular expectations that brought it to government. SYRIZA began as a left euro-skeptic party that disputed the neoliberal and austerity policies of European Union (EU), questioned aspects of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and promised that there can be an alternative within the EU.It banked on people’s disgust with EU’s structural adjustment programs but also on its fear of exiting from this trap without a clear and convincingly delineated alternative. The end result is now well known. After almost six months of theatrical gestures SYRIZA – faced with the unyielding position of the EU – capitulated unconditionally betraying even the vociferous popular NO to EU’s blackmail expressed in the referendum of the 5th of July. On top of that SYRIZA added insult to the injury by blackmailing itself the Greek people to vote for it in the 25th of September elections: this time not as a reformer of EU’s policies but as the milder facilitator of its policies. The results of these recent elections show clearly the limits of euro-skepticism and how it can easily betray the popular cause.

The global capitalist crisis of 2007-8 is the first big crisis of the 21st century. Its outbreak upset further the unequal development of the world capitalist system and aggravated intra-imperialist conflicts between its main poles.

The structural crisis of the Eurozone (and the rest of the EU as the former represents the hard core of the latter) is one of the main regional crises that ensued in the aftermath of the global crisis. It denotes the internal and external problems of one of the main challengers of US global hegemony. EU’s dominant powers – the euro-core countries – reacted by unloading a great portion of the crisis’ burden on the dominated sub-imperialisms of the euro-periphery; thus aggravating the crisis of the latter further. The imposition in many of the latter of restructuring policies – particularly through adjustment programs by troikas – has dramatically exacerbate class tensions in these countries, as distinct from the euro-core countries where restructuring is milder.

The aforementioned difference has some critical political implications and creates a political North – South divide in Europe – on top of the economic one. In the euro-core countries it is the extreme right-wing and even neo-fascist parties that benefit from the crisis. On the contrary, in most of the euro-periphery countries it is parties to the left of social-democracy that gain support. The main reason for this political divide is that in the euro-core countries the Left (social-democracy excluded since it is a systemic force) has faced successive defeats that weakened it and in the end made it an appendage to social-democracy. Moreover, as the European imperialist integration and the EU is the system’s major long-standing project, the Left in the euro-core countries has become integrated in this. For this reason it cannot attract the popular discontent with the EU and its anti-popular structures and policies. For this reason it is the extreme Right – till recently outside the official political spectrum – that can deceive the popular masses and, with the implicit or explicit support of segments of the bourgeoisie, lead them to the slippery road of nationalism.

On the contrary, in most euro-periphery countries – apart from those of the now defunct Eastern bloc that has tarnished the name of socialism – the Left has remained outside the political mainstream. Thus it kept its militant traditions and is, too a great extent, against (or skeptic) regarding the European imperialist integration. For this reason it is the Left and left popular and social movements that are the main vehicles of popular discontent against the EU.

This peculiarity of the Euro-South has not gone unnoticed by EU’s hegemonic imperialist countries and the domestic bourgeoisies. In Greece the open declaration by systemic mouthpieces of the need to put ‘an end to the Greek specificity’ is a typical example. Thus the system resorts to a two-pronged attack. On the one hand it attacks directly the Left and popular movements and attempts to discredit them as irresponsible that endanger the ‘European paradise on earth’. This course proceeds through fear and intimidation and attempts to subdue the popular discontent against the EU.

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On the other hand, the system attempts to incorporate this discontent by channeling it to euro-skeptic but not anti-EU parties and political formations. The recent proliferation of euro-skeptic fractions and formations is tantamount to that. These formations dispute aspects of the European imperialist integration and even go against the EMU. But they shy away from denouncing the EU altogether. SYRIZA is a typical example of this slippery road. It shows how euro-skepticism cannot soften EU’s anti-popular structures and policies but it can diffuse – at least for a period – the popular discontent.

Left euro-skepticism argues that it EU is not an anti-popular structure per se but it has been dominated by neoliberalism. It consciously hides that EU’s – and European Economic Community’s before – policies were anti-labor before the onset of neoliberalism in the 1980s. It also consciously conceals the fact that EU is a structure based on specific powers and interests and not the ‘common European house’. If these interests are endangered their agents will prefer to demolish the structure rather than alter it. Euro-skepticism begins with the myth that there can be non-austerity and pro-labor policies within the EU. When this myth is challenged then euro-skepticism moves hesitantly to dispute the EMU but not the EU. This latter proposal is also a blind alley. Particularly for the euro-periphery countries it is nonsensical to leave the EMU and remain in the EU. This is the worst scenario from all. It means that you require a consensual divorce while remaining a dominated part of the wider structure. As shown in the Greek case, the only way this can happen is through a Schauble plan that moves a country to a currency zone depending on the euro (like the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II)) while remaining under implicit and explicit austerity Memoranda. In this scenario the dominated country ends up with additional burden instead of being liberated.

Euro-skepticism is an easy ‘opponent’ for the system. It lulls the popular movement that a smooth course is achievable and, when this is disproved, it throws it into disarray and submission. Again the Greek debacle is a typical example of that. On the one hand, SYRIZA played its treacherous game. And, on the other hand, the Left –despite being anti-EU – failed to create a mass popular movement against the EU that would offer immediate practical solutions to people’s problems and grievances. The Left, and particularly the militant extra-parliamentary Left (as expressed by ANTARSYA) openly and honestly declared its opposition to the EU. However, it failed to organize this as a coherent and practical project and as a political proposal for the toiling popular masses.

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This lesson has to be learned; particularly by the Greek Left. SYRIZA’s betrayal and its open implementation of a third even more anti-popular and recessionary austerity program are already fomenting popular anger. This was not expressed in the last elections but it is already simmering as the new measures erode further popular income and increase poverty and immiseration. If the Left fails to create a mass popular socio-political anti-EU front that will gather the popular discontent then it might be a polished extreme Right that will highjack it and channel it back into the system.

SYRIZA betrays the resounding NO vote of the Greek people and signs a 3rd troika austerity program

SYRIZA betrays the resounding NO vote of the Greek people and signs a 3rd troika austerity program

The Left should create a popular front against the EU

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In the 5th of July 2015 the huge majority of the Greek people (61%) rejected the insolent demands of the EU for the extension and deepening of the austerity and pro-capital restructuring policies in Greece. These demands were codified in the so-called Juncker Plan for Greece that set barbaric terms for the extension of the previous austerity program (the 2nd Economic Adjustment Program for Greece) in exchange for releasing much delayed tranches of the troika loans to Greece. These tranches were urgently needed for repaying instalments of previous loans by the troika. As I have argued in a previous note (‘The Greek referendum and the tasks of the Left’) SYRIZA was led unwillingly to call this referendum because of the failure of its unrealistic program for a ‘decent compromise’ with the EU and for ‘staying in the Eurozone at any cost’. Moreover, the whole affair proved beyond any doubt that EU is a capitalist and imperialist integration that cannot be reformed towards serving peoples’ needs.

The referendum’s victory with such huge margin was unexpected even for the NO supporters. In the short one-week campaign the Greek economic and political elites unleashed a blatant terror and misinformation campaign through their mass media purporting that a NO vote would destroy Greece and that EU’s terms should be unconditionally accepted. In this unconcealed blackmail the Greek politico-economic elite was directed and abetted by the EU with direct interventions by J.C.Juncker, the German government and the rest of EU’s high priesthood. Moreover, the EU proceeded to literally slowly strangle the Greek economy by curtailing, through the ECB, the injection of liquidity to the moribund – because of the troika policies – Greek banking sector. This led the SYRIZA government – on top of foolishly (?) emptying the state coffers for paying previous troika installments – to impose capital controls the very day that pensions were going to be paid. This alienated significant portions of the middle and lower strata and turned the previously almost sure NO victory to a gamble.

On top of that, SYRIZA for almost half the campaign week dragged its feet; flirting with canceling the referendum, revoking its support for NO and with several of its prominent members and ministers covertly helping the YES coalition. Only the last two days SYRIZA actually threw its support behind the NO campaign. Last but not the least, the Communist Party also facilitated the elite’s assault by campaigning for a null vote or abstention; a move that cost it dearly in its electoral support. Only the independent and extra-parliamentary Left and grass-roots initiatives and movements fought from the very beginning for NO.

Despite all these adversities, the NO ended winning by a landslide. It was a silent landslide because in the mass media and the public debate there was a suppressing dominance of the YES instigated by the Greek politico-economic elite and by the incompetent acts of SYRIZA (particularly the banking ‘holiday’, the capital controls and the problems in paying pensions and wages). It was also a class landslide in that the working people, the peasants, the lower middle strata and overwhelmingly the unemployed youth voted for No whereas the bourgeoisie and the upper middle strata voted for YES (see http://www.publicissue.gr/en/2837/greek-referendum-2015-no-voter-demographics/).

It is now evident that SYRIZA’s leadership and systemic centers did not welcome this landslide. They expected the win of NO or YES to be by a small margin that would facilitate them to argue that there is no popular support for a confrontation with the EU and thus proceed to an agreement with EU’s high priesthood. As all evidence suggests the NO landslide caused panic not only to the politico-economic establishment and the EU but also to the SYRIZA leadership. Thus, immediately the day after SYRIZA threw away the referendum result and its clear message for a confrontation with the EU despite the financial strangulation by the EU and the pain already felt by ordinary people. A.Tsipras convened a meeting of the leaders of parliamentary political parties (excluding the neo-nazi Golden Dawn) which had either openly (New Democracy, PASOK, River) or implicitly (Communist Party) opposed the NO vote. In this meeting they all agreed – with the exception of the Communist Party – to field a new proposal to the EU that was exactly on the same lines of the rejected in the referendum ‘Juncker plan for Greece’. Moreover, after a few initial skirmishes, SYRIZA accommodated itself again with the systemic mass media that have implemented the terror campaign for YES.

EU’s high priesthood replied to SYRIZA’s new overtures by toughening its position and demanding even more austerity and anti-popular measures and threatening with the immediate strangulation of the Greek banking sector and even a Grexit. In front of this assault SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras capitulated unconditionally and they themselves proposed a new 3rd austerity and restructuring troika program for Greece. This was a complete somersault the extent of which was unexpected even by most of SYRIZA’s harsher critics. It denotes that SYRIZA’s leadership aimed from the very beginning for a deal with the EU which they knew that it would be barbaric and they simply played for time in order to consolidate their power and their position in Greek politics. The EU played along but also indicated – and the SYRIZA leadership was fully aware of it – that a delayed deal would be more costly. In a nutshell the SYRIZA leadership delayed in order to gain ‘political capital’ at the expense of ‘economic capital’. Its last gamble was the referendum. Once this trick back-fired the SYRIZA leadership blinked and retreated in panic. It proposed not simply an extension of the previous troika austerity program under the conditions of the ‘Juncker plan for Greece’ but a new 3-year program in exchange for either a debt haircut or a debt reprofiling, a new loan and some funds for development aid.

On the other side of the fence, the EU had its own internal antagonisms. While all of them were united in blackmailing Greece to capitulate they were divided in how much pain they were to inflict after the capitulation. The French and the Italians, reminiscent of their own economic problems and the fact that their turn might come soon, were keen on milder terms. They were supported in this by the distant but non-negligible pressures by the US. The latter does not actually care about the Greek case as such but it uses it as a lever to weaken German hegemony and the ability of the EU to dispute its economic supremacy. One of the major issues of disagreement between the US (and the IMF) and Germany is whether the Greek program would involve a debt haircut or not; the former press for it and the latter bitterly oppose it.

In the end, a very onerous (for Greece) provisional deal was struck. First, in order to ‘regain the debtors’ trust’, the SYRIZA government should revoke all legislation contradicting the troika austerity program and also legislate through fast track procedures (that violate parliamentary rules) deep cuts in pensions and wages, extensive privatizations and the transfer of public property worth 50bn euros to an independent company (that initially was humiliatingly suggested to be based in Luxemburg but afterwards agreed to be in Athens). This first move essentially means that the conditions of the 5th review of the old troika austerity program should be fulfilled. Second, once this done, the EU and the ECB should slowly restore liquidity to the Greek banking sector and release some of the due funds in the form of a bridge-loan. Third, only after the legislation of several other austerity measures new negotiations would begin negotiations for a new 53bn euros loan. This new loan would comprise by old tranches, some new funds from the ESM and a 35bn euros very dodgy development plan. This last item is supposed to comprise of already available National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds that were not actually absorbed because of the deep recession of the Greek economy and the lack of proposals and supplementary national funding. Of course, all these would be under strict conditionality and a return of the despised troika in Athens for close scrutiny and control. In these future negotiations there is a vague reference that some alleviation of the Greek total debt (through either reprofiling or haircut) would be considered.

The new austerity measures are extremely recessionary and anti-labor. They cost more than 13bn euros only for the 2015-6 period that would worsen the crisis of the Greek economy. Moreover, they would be paid by the working people and the lower middle strata. Several other pro-capital structural reforms are included (e.g. mass firings, semi-automatic mechanisms for fiscal cuts if the public budget is derailed). The new 3rd austerity and restructuring program would push Greek economy and society further down towards impoverishment and Balkanization. They will definitely foment popular discontent as already shown from the current popular mobilizations.

This grave situation poses a serious challenge for the Greek Left. One futile course is followed by the SYRIZA left. They voted against the deal but support the government and refuse to leave the party. This will expose them to popular wrath as willing or unwilling accomplices to the new austerity. The second futile course is that of the Communist Party that preaches the coming of socialism as a solution to everything while at the same time recognizing that this is not on the current agenda. At the same time refuses to fight against the EU because it considers this as intra-capital antagonism. This alienates it from and rank and file communists and the working people as it does not offer a solution to the immediate popular problems and a transitional program for social change. If these two dead alleys prevail then only the extreme Right would remain as the receiver of popular discontent and wrath against the EU and its austerity.

It is of paramount importance for the Left not to leave the field free to the extreme Right as it had happened in West Europe. A Left popular front against the EU should be urgently organized. This should involve political forces and grassroots popular organizations, fight austerity and capitalist restructuring and strive for the total disengagement of Greece from EU (that is for a popular Grexit involving leaving the whole structure and not solely the monetary union). It is the task of the independent and militant Left and the combatant forces of labor to instigate this front.

 

* Stavros Mavroudeas is a Professor of Political Economy in the Economics Department of the University of Macedonia.

e-mail: smavro@uom.edu.gr

web: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

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Republished in

Counterpunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/16/syriza-betrays-greeces-no-vote-why-the-left-should-form-a-popular-front-against-the-eu/

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Anti-imperialist Camp

http://www.antiimperialista.org/node/244741

2015-07-04_0-58-37

 

Politica&EconomiaBlog

http://politicaeconomiablog.blogspot.gr/2015/07/un-commento-dalla-grecia-in-inglese.html

2015-07-05_11-44-05

Naked Keynesianism

http://nakedkeynesianism.blogspot.gr/2015/07/syriza-betrays-resounding-no-vote-of.html

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 Tendance CLAIRE (pour le Communisme, la Lutte Auto-organisée, Internationaliste et RévolutionnairE)

http://tendanceclaire.npa.free.fr/breve.php?id=13896#

BandeauTC

The Greek referendum and the tasks of the Left

The Greek referendum and the tasks of the Left

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For six months, after its January 2015 election victory, the SYRIZA government began negotiations with the EU. In these negotiations SYRIZA was confronted with the stubborn and increasing intransigence of EU and its companion institutions (the ECB and the IMF). SYRIZA very soon accepted the logic and the structure of the troika program; that is the Economic Adjustment Program for Greece popularly called the Memorandum. It simply tried to modify it by making it less front-loaded (i.e. delaying the implementation of reductions in pensions and hidden wage cuts, reducing fiscal primary surplus targets and thus making fiscal policy less austere). It also asked for facilitating debt servicing (by rolling back debt, leveraging and ‘financial engineering’) and an increase in aid funds (through the fictitious Juncker plan) that would help to jumpstart the moribund after 6 years of austerity Greek economy. Last, it shyly asked for some commitment for a future reduction of the Greek debt. The EU, as soon it diagnosed this conciliatory mood by SYRIZA and since the whole game was played in its ground, begun pressing it for additional concessions. The more that SYRIZA slide towards capitulation the more the EU demanded. In the end it was politically infeasible for SYRIZA to accept all of EU’s demands, even despite its humiliating compromises and its blatant betrayal of even its mediocre electoral program. This led to the breakdown of the negotiations and the call, by the SYRIZA government, of a referendum on the troika’s demands.

The breakdown of the negotiations between Greece and the EU proved beyond doubt the true nature of the EU: it is the enforcers of the interests and prerogatives of the dominant capitalist powers of Europe. It imposes neoliberal austerity policies on the people and weaker countries of Europe for the benefit of capitalist profits.

Moreover, the negotiations’ breakdown demonstrates the unrealistic character of the SYRIZA government program for a ‘decent compromise’ with the EU that would be ‘neither a clash nor a capitulation’ and for ‘staying in the Eurozone at any cost’. If you want to stay in the Eurozone and the EU you have to capitulate to the demands of its dominant powers. There is no other way. Thus, even the 47-pages long SYRIZA proposal for a milder version of the troika austerity program was indignantly rejected.

The failure of the SYRIZA strategy and the simmering popular discontent with the return of the troika austerity policies obliged the SYRIZA government to reject the troika demands and put them to the public vote through a referendum. At the same time the SYRIZA leadership argued that in case of a ‘NO’ it would approach again the EU for new negotiations.

SYRIZA failed not only strategically but also tactically. It did not touch the deep state structure that continuous to be manned by obedient servants of the Greek oligarchy and, on top of that, SYRIZA used more of them in several crucial positions. For example, SYRIZA did not acquire control of the central bank and also accepted or even appointed several ‘men of the system’ in the directorship of commercial banks and other crucial public enterprises. SYRIZA emptied the state coffers by stupidly paying all the due tranches to IMF and the international creditors. Thus, once the referendum was called the EU, in close co-operation with the Greek bourgeoisie, created a condition of asphyxia for the banking sector and obliged SYRIZA to impose very severe capital controls on the very day that the huge mass of Greece’s badly paid pensioners (that support also another big portion of the population) were paid. In this way a referendum that was going to be an easy NO to troika’s demands victory was turned into a close call.

On top of that the Greek bourgeoisie immediately created its own united front (by setting aside political and economic differences), mobilized every means available (mass media, bosses’ pressure on employees etc.) and embarked on a blatant terror, slant and misinformation campaign. Its aim is to terrorize the rest of the population (and particularly these significant segments of the middle strata that have survived the crisis and had not been proletarianised) that unless Greece surrenders unconditionally to the EU then all hell would break loose.

Against this assault SYRIZA oscillated for a critical period toying (because also of internal pressures) with the idea of canceling the referendum and offering more concessions to the EU which the latter – having smell blood – humiliatingly rejected. Only then SYRIZA began to embark on a campaign to win the referendum but at the same time assuring that afterwards a deal will surely be struck with the EU.

In the rest of the political spectrum of the Greek Left only the main forces of the extra-parlamentary Left took up the challenge and energetically fight for a massive popular No to the EU. The Communist Party, betraying all the communist traditions in Greece, declared that it will put in the ballot box its own ticket. Practically, this means that is suggests an invalid vote and it implicitly helps the YES campaign.

Sunday’s referendum is a crucial battle. What is at stakes is whether the Memorandum’s barbaric restructuring of the Greek economy and society will continue or another course will be inaugurated.

This conflict is being fought along very clear class lines. This is almost obvious if you stroll around in Athens’ neighborhoods or in work places. In bourgeois areas and in managerial functions there is an unforeseen mobilization of even apolitical people in favor of YES. On the one hand, in working class and popular quarters there is an evident majority of NO. Middle class areas tend to divide between haves and have nots.

The prevalence of systemic forces of the YES, irrespective of whether SYRIZA remains or not in the government, would mean that Greece would move towards our poorer (and further impoverished by the EU) Balkan neighbors and compete with them in a ‘race to the bottom’ who would be more cheaper – in wage costs and asset prices – in order to get a small reward from EU’s masters.

A victory of the NO would block this course. It will come only through the return of the mass popular mobilization that existed before everything was erroneously delegated to a SYRIZA electoral victory that was proved inefficient. This will also dispute SYRIZA’s unrealistic and conservative attempts for a new renegotiation of the Memorandum program. It will bolster popular confidence that the EU and the Greek bourgeoisie are not unbeatable and that another course outside the shackles of the EU is feasible.

It is the responsibility of the militant Left and the vibrant forces of the working class to take this battle on their hands.

* Stavros Mavroudeas is a Professor of Political Economy in the Economics Department of the University of Macedonia

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Published in COUNTERPUNCH 3-7-2015:

The Greek Referendum and the Tasks of the Left

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Published in With Sober Senses

http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/international-news/the-greek-referendum-and-the-tasks-of-the-left.html

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Published in Anti-Imperialist Camp

http://www.antiimperialista.org/Syriza_hesitating

2015-07-04_0-58-37

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Published in Alejandro Valle Baeza

https://vallebaeza.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/the-greek-referendum-and-the-tasks-of-the-left/#respond

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Published in Naked Keynesianisn

http://nakedkeynesianism.blogspot.gr/2015/07/the-greek-referendum-and-tasks-of-left.html?spref=tw

NAKED KEYNESIANISM

 

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Translated in an abbreviated version for Il Manifesto

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published in

http://politicaeconomiablog.blogspot.it/2015/07/unanalisi-dalla-sinistra-alla-sinistra.html

2015-07-05_11-44-05

and

Sollevazione

http://sollevazione.blogspot.it/2015/07/il-referendum-ed-i-problemi-nella.html

sollevazione

La sinistra critica di Syriza, ma ferma sul NO

Stavros Mavroudeas*

Per sei mesi dopo la sua vittoria elettorale del 2015 il governo di Syriza ha negoziato con l’UE. In queste trattative Syiza si è confrontata con l’ostinata e crescente intransigenza della Troika. Syriza ha molto presto accettato la logica del programma della Troika, noto come Memorandum. Syriza ha cercato di modificarlo per renderlo meno brutale (per esempio ritardando la riduzione delle pensioni e riducendo gli obiettivi di surplus primario). Syriza ha anche richiesto una ristrutturazione del debito e un aumento dei fondi per lo sviluppo (attraverso il fantasioso Piano Junker) con lo scopo di far ripartire la moribonda economia greca. L’UE, una volta intuito lo spirito conciliatorio di Syriza, ha cominciato a premere per ulteriori concessioni. Alla fine è risultato politicamente impossibile per Syriza accettare tutte le richieste europee, nonostante gli umilianti compromessi. Questo ha condotto alla rottura dei negoziati e alla convocazione da parte di Syriza di un referendum sulle richieste della Troika.

La rottura delle trattative dimostra il carattere irrealistico del programma volto a un “compromesso decente” con l’UE che non fosse “né uno scontro né una capitolazione” e per “stare nell’Eurozona a ogni costo”. Se un paese vuol stare nell’Eurozona e nell’UE deve capitolare alle domande dei suoi poteri dominanti. Così, persino la proposta di 47 pagine di Syriza per una versione più moderata del programma di austerità della Troika è stata sdegnosamente rifiutato.

Syriza ha fallito non solo strategicamente, ma anche tatticamente. Essa non ha intaccato la struttura profonda dello Stato che ha continuato ad essere gestita da funzionari obbedienti all’oligarchia. Il governo ha svuotato le casse dello Stato pagando tutte le tranche del debito al FMI e ai creditori internazionali. Sicché, un volta indetto il referendum, l’UE in stretta cooperazione con la borghesia greca ha creato una asfissia per il settore bancario obbligando Syriza a imporre un severo controllo dei movimenti di capitale lo stesso giorno in cui si dovevano pagare i pensionati greci. In tal modo un referendum che poteva diventare una facile vittoria dei NO alle domande della Troika si presenta ora con un esito incerto.

Per giunta la borghesia greca ha immediatamente creato un fronte unito, mobilizzato ogni mezzo disponibile e intrapreso una campagna di disinformazione sfacciatamente terroristica e tendenziosa. Il suo scopo è di terrorizzare il resto della popolazione affermando che a meno che la Grecia si arrenda incondizionatamente alla UE, si scatenerà l’inferno

Di fronte a questo assalto Syriza ha giocato con l’idea di cancellare il referendum offrendo ulteriori concessioni all’UE che – avendo odorato il sangue – le ha respinte in maniera sprezzante. Solo a quel punto Syriza a cominciato a impegnarsi per vincere il referendum, ma rassicurando allo stesso tempo che un accordo sarebbe stato successivamente stipulato con la UE.

Nella sinistra greca le maggiori forze extra-parlamentari hanno raccolto la sfida per un massiccio voto popolare per il NO all’UE. Il Partito Comunista, tradendo tutte le tradizioni comuniste della Grecia, ha suggerito di invalidare il volto, un aiuto implicito alla campagna per il Si.

Il conflitto che viene combattuto segue chiaramente line di classe. Questo è evidente se ci si aggira nei sobborghi di Atene o nei posti di lavoro. Nei quartieri borghesi o fra i dirigenti c’è una imprevista mobilitazione in favore del Si. Fra la classe lavoratrice e nei quartieri popolari c’è invece una evidente maggioranza di NO.

La prevalenza elettorale del Si significherebbe che la Grecia si assimilerebbe vieppiù ai più poveri vicini balcanici. Una vittoria dei NO bloccherebbe questo destino e metterebbe in discussione il tentativo di Syriza, irrealistico e conservatore, di rinegoziare un nuovo memorandum.

* Stavros Mavroudeas è Professore di Economia politica presso l’Università di Macedonia (Grecia) ed è autore di numerosi contributi Postkeynesiani.

web: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

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OXI: Il Referendum e i Problemi nella Sinistra Greca

 

OXI: Il Referendum e i Problemi nella Sinistra Greca

di Stavros Mavroudeas

Stavros Mavroudeas è professore di Economia politica presso l’Università di Macedonia (Grecia) ed è autore di numerosi contributi Postkeynesiani. Milita tra le file di M.AR.S. (acronimo di METOPIKI ARISTERI SYMPOREUSI, che possiamo tradurre come Marcia Comune per un Fronte di Sinistra) A il movimento che si è caricato sulle spalle l’organizzazione del Forum di Atene.

referendum oxiPer sei mesi dopo la sua vittoria elettorale del 2015 il governo di Syriza ha negoziato con l’UE. In queste trattative Syiza si è confrontata con l’ostinata e crescente intransigenza dell’UE e delle istituzioni associate (BCE e FMI). Syriza ha molto presto accettato la logica e la struttura del programma della Troika, cioè del Programma di aggiustamento economico per la Grecia noto come Memorandum.

Syriza ha semplicemente cercato di modificarlo per renderlo meno brutale (per esempio ritardando l’implementazione della riduzione delle pensioni e mascherando i tagli salariali, riducendo gli obiettivi di surplus primario e rendendo così la politica fiscale meno austera). Syriza ha anche richiesto una facilitazione nel servizio del debito (attraverso forme di ristrutturazione) e un aumento dei fondi per lo sviluppo (attraverso il fantasioso Piano Junker) con lo scopo di far ripartire la moribonda economia greca dopo 6 anni di austerità. Infine ha timidamente chiesto qualche impegno circa una futura riduzione del debito Greco.

L’UE, una volta intuito lo spirito conciliatorio di Syriza e dato che l’intera partita si giocava sul suo terreno, ha cominciato a premere per ulteriori concessioni. Quanto più Syriza scivolava verso una capitolazione, tanto più l’UE pretendeva. Alla fine è risultato politicamente impossibile per Syriza accettare tutte le richieste europee, nonostante gli umilianti compromessi e il tradimento sfacciato del suo pur mediocre programma elettorale. Questo ha condotto alla rottura dei negoziati e alla convocazione da parte di Syriza di un referendum sulle richieste della Troika.

La rottura delle trattative prova oltre ogni dubbio la vera natura dell’UE: essa impone gli interessi e le prerogative dei poteri capitalistici dominanti in Europa. Essa impone le politiche di austerità sui popoli e sui paesi più deboli a beneficio dei profitti capitalistici.

Inoltre, la rottura delle trattative dimostra il carattere irrealistico del programma del governo di Syriza volto a un “compromesso decente” con l’UE che non fosse “né uno scontro né una capitolazione” e per “stare nell’Eurozona a ogni costo”. Se un paese vuol stare nell’Eurozona e nell’UE deve capitolare alle domande dei suoi poteri dominanti. Così, persino la proposta di 47 pagine di Syriza per una versione più moderata del programma di austerità della Troika è stata sdegnosamente rifiutato.

Il fallimento della strategia di Syriza e lo strisciante malcontento popolare per un ritorno delle politiche di austerità della Troika hanno obbligato il governo a respingere le domande della Troika e a metterle ai voti attraverso il referendum. Allo stesso tempo la leadership di Syriza ha sostenuto che nel caso di una vittoria dei NO essa proporrà nuove trattative all’UE.

Syriza ha fallito non solo strategicamente, ma anche tatticamente. Essa non ha intaccato la struttura profonda dello Stato che ha continuato ad essere gestita da funzionari obbedienti all’oligarchia e, come se non bastasse, Syriza li ha collocati in molte funzioni cruciali.

Per esempio, Syriza non ha acquisito il controllo della banca centrale nominando persino molti “uomini del sistema” alla direzione di banche commerciali e di altre imprese pubbliche cruciali. Syriza ha svuotato le casse dello Stato pagando stupidamente tutte le tranche del debito al FMI e ai creditori internazionali.

Sicché, un volta indetto il referendum, l’UE in stretta cooperazione con la borghesia greca, ha creato una condizione di asfissia per il settore bancario obbligando Syriza a imporre un severo controllo dei movimenti di capitale lo stesso giorno in cui si doveva pagare una massa enorme di pensionati greci (mal pagati e con a carico una grande fetta di popolazione).

In tal modo un referendum che poteva diventare una facile vittoria dei NO alle domande della Troika si presenta ora con un esito incerto.

Per giunta la borghesia greca ha immediatamente creato un fronte unito (mettendo da parte le differenze politiche ed economiche), mobilitato ogni mezzo disponibile (mass media, pressione dei manager sui dipendenti ecc.) e intraprendendo una campagna di disinformazione sfacciatamente terroristica e tendenziosa. Il suo scopo è di terrorizzare il resto della popolazione (e in particolare quei significativi segmenti della classe media che sono sopravvissuti alla crisi e non si sono proletarizzati) affermando che a meno che la Grecia non si arrenda incondizionatamente alla UE, si scatenerà l’inferno.

Di fronte a questo assalto Syriza ha oscillato per un lasso di tempo critico giocando (anche per pressioni al suo interno) con l’idea di cancellare il referendum offrendo ulteriori concessioni all’UE con quest’ultima che – avendo odorato il sangue – le ha respinte in maniera sprezzante. Solo a quel punto Syriza a cominciato a impegnarsi per vincere il referendum, ma rassicurando allo stesso tempo che un accordo sarebbe stato successivamente stipulato con la UE.

Nella rimanente parte dello spettro politico della sinistra greca solo le maggiori forze extra-parlamentari hanno raccolto la sfida e lottato con energia per un massiccio voto popolare per il NO all’UE.

Il Partito Comunista (Kke), tradendo tutte le tradizioni comuniste della Grecia, ha suggerito di invalidare il voto, e questo significa un aiuto implicito alla campagna per il Sì.

Il referendum di domenica è una battaglia cruciale. Ciò che è in ballo è se la barbara ristrutturazione dell’economia e della società greca continueranno o se un altro percorso verrà inaugurato. Il conflitto che viene combattuto segue chiaramente linee di classe. Questo è quasi evidente se ci si aggira nei sobborghi di Atene o nei posti di lavoro. Nei quartieri borghesi o fra le funzioni manageriali c’è una imprevista mobilitazione, persino di gente apolitica, in favore del Si. Dall’altra parte, invece, fra la classe lavoratrice e nei quartieri popolari c’è una evidente maggioranza di NO. La classe media tende a dividersi fra coloro che ancora godono di benessere e quelli che l’hanno perduto.

La prevalenza elettorale del Si, sia che Syriza rimanga al potere o meno, significherebbe che la Grecia si assimilerebbe vieppiù ai più poveri vicini balcanici (ulteriormente impoveriti dall’UE), concorrendo con loro in una gara al ribasso di chi realizza costi del lavoro e offre attività finanziarie più convenienti alla fine di ricevere una piccola ricompensa dai padroni dell’UE.

Una vittoria dei NO bloccherebbe questo destino. Essa si potrà realizzare solo attraverso una mobilitazione popolare di massa che esisteva prima che ogni cosa fosse erroneamente delegata a una vittoria elettorale di Syriza che si è rilevata deludente. Questo metterebbe anche in discussione il tentativo di Syriza, irrealistico e conservatore, di rinegoziare un nuovo memorandum.

La vittoria del NO rafforzerebbe la fiducia popolare che l’UE e la borghesia greca non sono imbattibili e che un altro percorso fuori delle catene dell’UE è praticabile. È responsabilità dei militanti della sinistra e delle forze più attive della classe lavoratrici prendere questa battaglia nelle loro mani.

* Traduzione di Sergio Cesaratto

 

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