By Bruno de Landevoisin
On the old continent, this December 29th, a succinct political showdown is scheduled to take place which may well become a defining moment for our entirely unsettled new millenium. What is at stake is none other than the prosperity of the common man pitted against the privilege of concentrated power. Lamentably, this deliberate dogmatic divide has relentlessly defined human civilization for the ages.
What is at hand isn’t so much about lofty ideals. It’s not about Socialism. It’s not about Capitalism. It’s not about Communism. It’s not about being a progressive, or a conservative or a liberal. It’s not about left vs right. Forget all those dumbed down dichotomies. It’s much more fundamental than all of that. Quite simply, it’s about People vs. Power, that’s it, nothing more. Those that have and wield institutional power, and those that do not. It’s as elementary and base as that I’m afraid.
Take a good look around, I defy you to point to a single socioeconomic construct in our supposedly enlightened and advanced society of today which is not essentially determined by that crude polarizing characterization. Whether it be our bought and paid for Political Class, our rapacious Banking Sector, our entitled Multinational Corporations, our entrenched Governmental Agencies, our marauding Military Industrial Complex, our fleecing Healthcare Providers, our muzzled Free Press, our hijacked Justice System, or our grossly overpaid CEOs, Athletes, and Entertainers, they all have one thing in common, and I assure you that it’s not the common good that they share. What they seek above all else is to expand the existing institutional dominion and their own privileges within it.
Sad to say, but at the end of the day, perhaps dog eat dog is what we humans are really best at, and the only state of being we’re actually capable of. Maybe all those exalted ideals of enlightened forms of governance are just a load of crap to make us feel better about ourselves. Judging by the overt self seeking avarice that dictates the pace of just about everything these days, it sure seems that way.
The odd thing about all of this, especially for our nation, is that America was actually born out of a revolt against the oppressive power of institutional entitlement. Does the following ring a bell:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The founding fathers’ certainly understood the suffocating and stifling nature of undue privilege. Thank God they had the enlightened foresight to see that liberating men, not subjugating them, was the most effective way to both govern and grow a nation, not to mention the righteous and moral thing to do. We’re not talking about mandating equality here, we are talking about demanding the liberty and opportunity for each of us to strive to become equals to the most admired and successful among us, should we so choose.
The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, awoke Western civilization to the advancement and empowerment of the individual over the authority of the State, which was central to our founding fathers’ declaration. This powerful liberating social-political philosophy of their times traces its roots all the way back to the ancient Greek philosophers that roamed the halls of the Acropolis pictured above. The likes of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle insisted that society should be ruled by merritt. In his most famous work The Republic, Plato makes this clear.
Interestingly, in his most famous work, The Republic, Plato critiques democracy, condemns tyranny, and proposes a three tiered merit based structure of society, with workers, guardians and philosophers, in an equal relationship, where no innocents would ever be put to death again, citing the philosophers’ relentless love of truth and knowledge of the forms or ideals, concern for general welfare and lack of propertied interest as causes for their being suited to govern. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_philosophy#Western_philosophy
“In a democracy,” the Greek historian Herodotus wrote, “there is, first, that most splendid of virtues, equality before the law.” Cleisthenes’ demokratia abolished the political distinctions between the Athenian aristocrats, who had long monopolized the political decision making process, and the middle and working class people who made up the army & the navy. This obviously did not yet included slave labor, but clearly the foundations for self governance were established, and the seeds of equality of opportunity were certainly planted by the ancient Greeks.
Having laid out the above narrative, let’s get back to the crucial showdown about to take place on the 29th of this December, 2014. As you may know, today Modern Greece is in the midst of a parliamentary procedure to elect a new president. As a parliamentary democracy, the President of Greece, much like the Queen of England, plays mostly a ceremonial role as the figurehead of State. It is the Prime Minister and Parliament that actually govern the State’s affairs. So why is this important you ask?
Well, here’s the deal. To be elected president, the proposed nominee must receive a supermajority of votes from the parliament, and should the current governing coalition fail to achieve the required number of votes, it is promptly dissolved and national elections are immediately held to elect a new government. Moreover, it is widely believed that the next ruling coalition to be voted in would likely be controlled by the popular SYRIZA party led by a new Prime Minister in Alexis Tsipras.
I’ll be perfectly blunt here. The current Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party, is exactly who the Autocrats and financial Kleptocrats in Brussels want to work with. I’ll be equally blunt here again. Mr. Tsipras of the Syriza party is their worst nightmare. We’ll get back to this shortly, as first we must wade through some procedural parliamentary protocol to get you up to date.
Thus far, two separate votes have taken place to elect the new Greek Presidential nominee, Stavros Dimas, who has been put forward by Prime Minister Samaras and is favored by Brussels. During the first round, which took place on December 17th, he received 160 votes, well short of the required 200 supermajority threshold required. The December 23rd second round also fell short of the 200 needed with 168 votes, but here’s the catch, when it comes down to a final 3rd round, which is now the case here, the supermajority tally required drops down to only 180 votes out the 300 member Parliament. So, to make a long story short, on December 29th, the current Samaras led Government needs 12 additional votes to stay in power.
The European establishment, as reflected by the 30% drop in the Athens Composite Index, is certainly not encouraged by these developments. Infact, Jean-Claude Juncker, the sitting president of the EU Commission, the man who once categorically stated that when things get serious you have to lie, has instead decided to make, a not so subtle, direct threat to the Greek people.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the EU Commission, stated during a debate that he does not want Syriza to assume power in Greece. “I think that the Greeks […] know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the Eurozone.”
Apparently, Mr. Junker feels the EU’s own institutional interests should take precedence in determining the outcome of the Greek presidential elections over the Sovereignty of Greece itself. Last I checked, the European Union was an association of Sovereign member States, not an official body presiding over internal domestic national elections. Should the people of Greece decide they want a new government in Parliament to represent their objectives and aspirations, that’s entirely their prerogative, not Junker’s.
To add some additional insight, below is a brief profile on the EU establishment’s proposed candidate for the Greek presidency. Wikipedia brings you Stavros Dimas:
In 1968 he began working as a lawyer for a firm on Wall Street, moving to the World Bank the following year, where he worked on investments in Africa and the Middle East. In 1975 he returned to Greece to take up the post of deputy governor of the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETVA), while also being a member of the committee preparing Greek accession to the EEC.
Dimas served briefly in the Prodi Commission. He was appointed European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs in March 2004, taking over the role from the previous Greek Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. A major focus of his work during this time involved making it more difficult for states to opt out of the Working Time Directive. The Greek government nominated Dimas for the incoming Barroso Commission which took office on 22 November 2004.
Sound familiar, yet another technocratic global banker background, who would have guessed it? Clearly, should Greece want to reconsider its current fiscal relationship with Brussels and the European int’l banking community by dismissing their current government, that’s entirely within their rights as a sovereign nation. Junker’s EU can certainly refuse any newly proposed solutions and initiatives, the int’l banks can decide not to play ball, but what they can not do is force the Greek people to choose a hand picked negotiating partner, that’s for the people to decide, which is exactly what is taking place at the moment.
For the record, most objective observers agree that the dictated debt regime combined with the strict austerity measures which were imposed on Greece by the TROIKA (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund), shortly after the global debt crisis had metastasized from its initial epicenter during the US Subprime meltdown debacle, has now created an entirely untenable situation for the Greek people. However, the EU doesn’t want you to understand this, they are too busy orchestrating a smear campaign painting any opposition to their self serving plans as a radical Marxism.
The fact of the matter is that you can only effectively restructure debt if their is enough income to service that debt at a reduced rate of interest, period. If the income side of the equation is not there, simply adding more to the debt load, no matter what the terms, will get you nowhere. Extending and pretending is precisely what got the int’l financiers in all this trouble to begin with. Let’s face it, you don’t solve a debt crisis with more debt, especially when you can’t pay off your existing obligations to begin with.
Below are general points of contention for renegotiation which Syriza wants to reopen with the TROIKA. Sure doesn’t sounds like something Trotsky would draft. It reads more like a resolution by existing shareholders of a corporation (in this case the Greek people) to put in place new management and restructure with creditors. In fact, it actually offers to give the EU more explicit control of the Greek banking system itself moving forward. Hardly seems radical or revolutionary to me? See for yourself:
Negotiating Stance with the Troika: Reconstruction of the Banking Sector and Debt Relief
Reconstruction of Greece’s banking sector
Offer to pass ownership and direct managerial control of Greek banks requiring recapitalisation to the ESM under certain conditions (see below). Such a transfer of ownership (i.e. common shares) and management will entail disbanding the GFSF (the Greek Financial Facility) and passing all its, newly acquired assets, onto its parent the ESM-EFSF, together with the responsibility for future recapitalisation phases. The conditions under which the Greek government will consent to this transfer include:
- No existing member of the Board of these banks must be retained.
- New Boards to be appointed by the ECB, in association with the ESM-EFSF and the European Commission; possibly under advisement from the European Banking Authority.
- The new Boards will replace top management and proceed with bank mergers and resolutions as required and under the supervision of the ECB.
- All depositors to be protected in full, whether guaranteed and not, during the period of insolvency and resolution, with a “deep insolvency” insurance fund funded by the ESM.
- Remaining shareholders and subordinated bondholders are not protected.
- Eventually, the shares of the reconstituted banks are to be sold back to the Eurozone private sector at a profit to the ESM-EFSF.
- ESM-EFSF investments for the purpose of recapitalisation of Greek banks not to count as part of the Greek national debt.
Re-negotiation of loan repayments re. Bailouts Mk1 and Mk2
- Invite the troika to negotiate a schedule of repayment for past loans that is tied to the growth rate of the Greek economy. This way the troika acquires a stake in Greek stabilization and growth.
- Use the profits of the ECB from the SMP program (up to €14 billion so far), and of the Greek Central Bank from the ELA program, to establish a Solidarity Fund to provide food relief, through a food stamps program, and minimal electricity security for eligible Greek citizens and legal residents.
Moreover, there can be little doubt that the predatory international banking institutions was clearly complicit, along with the disgracefully corrupt Greek politicians (many who still hold office) and high ranking government officials, as well as most of the Ionian elites at the highest levels of society in the near total abrogation of their financial responsibilities to their country. They completely failed the common man in this regard, who understandably counted on them for proper sustainable fiscal governance.
Simply put, the provincial woman on the streets of Athens pushing her Gyro cart up the steep hills of Kolonaki is certainly less responsible for the lamentable state of affairs her beloved country finds itself in, then those whom should have clearly known better. Yet, today she is the one being asked to bare the brunt of the terribly onerous predicament her Nation is suffering through. Meanwhile, the bankers get more free Euros, and no one is buying her Gyros.
The EZ bankers need to promptly step up to the plate here, by offer greater forbearance for their own egregious culpability in this Greek tragedy. After all, if you are going to demand harsh self sacrifice from the bottom and middle of slice of society, you best show the example at the top, particularly if you want peace on the streets. It is simply unacceptable to force feed the lions share of the sovereigns’ financial resources through the EFSF/ESM/OMT bailout mechanisms in order to desperately ressistate what are essentially failed EU banking procedures & a broken EZ monetary regime.
The entire EU financial system has to be soundly restructured, and realistically reconfigured for the long haul, as a monetary union without a corresponding fiscal union is an abomination. Finally, it is the people of the Eurozone who must have the final say on how that is to be done, for in the end, they are the ones footing the bill, not the floundering self serving bankers and bumbling self seeking technocrats.
The Eurozone monetary system the Eurocrats were in such a rush to put forth was most certainly structurally off base from the outset. Anecdotally, all one had to do was visit Athens, as I did in 2009 & 2010, and notice the excessive number of brand new yellow BMW & Mercedes taxis on the streets to realise something was too good to be true. The exporting nation’s multinational banks had accelerated the flow of cheap money into the periphery States to such a degree that they had unwittingly over stimulated the consumption of imported durable goods from abroad. Economies dependent upon excessive debt financing always end up creating unstable misallocations of capital. We may well be about to find that out ourselves, right here in the good old USA.
The Greek people understand all of this more and more with each passing day. They are turning to Alexis Tsipras, not because he’s a radical Socialist as the establishment and captured media would have you believe, but rather because he simply better represents the only viable hope and aspirations of the common man on the streets of Athens. I have recently read nearly 50 articles in the western press covering the current tenuous situation in Greece, every single one of them branded Tsipras with the word “Radical”. You would think that Lenin himself had come back from the dead to dismantle the EU’s Tsarist autocracy and execute a few top European Commission members. Talk about dirty tricks, scare tactics and obfuscation!
The following passage below was written by one of our esteemed contributors, Yanis Varoufakis, who just happens to be a close advisor to Alexis Tsipras. He’s a professor of Economics at the University of Athens, and Visiting Professor Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas Austin, USA. Yanis is clearly in the thick of it, and knows of which he speaks. Listen up.
SYRIZA, a growing political party in Greece, is an acronym that stands for “Coalition of the Radical Left.” For Americans, the idea that a party on the radical left could gain power is unthinkable, and it was for Greeks, too—until very recently. But the harsh austerity measures that the European Union imposed on Greece after its economic collapse have created extreme conditions in Greece: six in ten young people are unemployed, wages and pensions have been cut, national income has fallen by one quarter.
Europe is currently caught in a negative feedback loop, from which the established political process is unable to escape. For three years now, an endless stream of spending cuts and tax hikes has dominated the Greek Parliament’s agenda. A SYRIZA win may be the jolt that Europe needs: a victory by a pro-European party committed to keeping the country both in the Eurozone and in the European Union, but a party that, importantly, because of its radical disposition, is prepared to open up the conversation at the level of the European Council so that, at long last, European leaders address the problems they have been ignoring over the past five years. Back in June, in a New York Times op-ed, James K. Galbraith and I alleged that “SYRIZA may be Europe’s best hope,” and six months later this still holds true.
At the end of the day, is enlightened civilization about protecting the interests of institutions, or about creating institutions that protect the interest of people? You tell me. Let the Greeks decide! Just as our founding fathers threw off the yolk of our regal oppressors, so to does Tsipras want to throw off the straight jacket stranglehold imposed on them by the odious oligarchs and their financial technocrats in Brussels. Furthermore, Tsipras isn’t even calling for their overthrow, he’s simply demanding a more realistic approach to the situation at hand. What’s the problem with that Mr. Junker? Is it about people or only about institutional privilege for you sir? Will you be nefariously working to circumvent the sovereign vote by offering parliament members bribes in Syntagma square, is that what you have been reduced to?
As for me, I would be more than happy to see the cradle of democracy put the imperial autocrats and financial kleptocrats in their place, teaching them a thing or two about enlightened self governance. Perhaps the ascent of Alexis Tsipras simply reflects the frustration of the everyday common man on the street, who’s completely fed up with these self seeking oligarchs and their self serving banking elites that keep offering up the same poison pill to cure a lethal debt epidemic that they themselves were central to spreading in the first place. It’s high time somebody shakes up these all knowing, full of self importance, bogus bureaucrats.
Bring on be Le Pen, Grillo, Lucke and Farage, and let’s get it on real democracy style! For the people, of the people! Enough is enough. If we’re all going down, at the very least it should be on our own terms…………Opa!