By Eugene McCarten Taken from this months Socialist Voice at http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-right2change.html The trade unions that, together with the communities resisting the imposing of water charges, have been the mainstay of the Right2Water campaign have taken a bold initiative in launching the Right2Change consultative process. They are sponsoring what will be a whole series of public forums
NERI’s Quarterly Economic Observer Autumn 2015 was described at its launch as a manifesto for growth. The economic think tank decided this year rather than doing a pre-budget submission, of which it has detailed proposals out on already, it would focus medium to longer term growth strategies and policy areas for Governments to pursue. Section 4 discusses
By Luke Ming Flanagan MEP IRELAND AGAIN PUTTING ON THE ‘RICH MOUTH’ In the early 1940s, during another Emergency, it was that great Irish Times columnist Myles na gCopaleen (Brian O’Nolan) who gave us ‘An Béal Bocht’, the Poor Mouth – pretending you’re much worse off than you actually are. Earlier this year, in the
This document is the outcome of an extensive consultation process between individuals, community groups, trade unionists, political parties and independent representatives – all of whom have been involved in the anti-water charges movement. Approximately 150 detailed submissions were received and two separate conferences of 200 activists made amendments to the policies identified. The purpose of
Very early in the present crisis the CPI argued against nationalising the banks, on the grounds that this would be socialising tens of billions in debts, would bankrupt the state, and would create conditions for a general downward restructuring of the economy. The party introduced and popularised the slogan “Repudiate the debt” as the clearest
NERI’s Quarterly Economic Observer Autumn 2015 was described at its launch as a manifesto for growth.
The economic think tank decided this year rather than doing a pre-budget submission, of which it has detailed proposals out on already, it would focus medium to longer term growth strategies and policy areas for Governments to pursue.
Section 4 discusses policies for long-run economic growth in the Republic of Ireland:
The economy’s potential to grow depends on its ability to generate productivity gains year-on-year. The Republic’s productivity growth has been falling since the 1980s.
The best way to sustain growth in productivity over the long-term is to invest in education and skills, in productivity enhancing infrastructure, and in the production and diffusion of new technologies.
We propose a set of policies designed to increase the economy’s future potential output. For example, we propose the establishment of an infrastructure bank, increased funding for research and development and early years learning, increased support to prevent child poverty, and a phasing out of most though not all government subsidies and tax breaks.
Growth in per capita output also depends on growth in employment and the number of hours worked across the economy. We propose a number of reforms to reduce barriers to labour market entry. Examples include subsidies for childcare and the gradual tapering of family supports along with income.
Budgetary projections suggest the primary government expenditure share of economic output will, by the end of the decade, be at a very low level by NERI modern historical standards. While acknowledging the need for reform of the tax system, we urge the government to reconsider its plans to cut the overall level of taxes in Budget 2016 and to take a more strategic and long-term approach to growing the economy.
The document also provides a very useful policy reforms that will increase productivity and output. This is on page 9 and 51 of the document.
By Luke Ming Flanagan MEP
IRELAND AGAIN PUTTING ON THE ‘RICH MOUTH’
In the early 1940s, during another Emergency, it was that great Irish Times columnist Myles na gCopaleen (Brian O’Nolan) who gave us ‘An Béal Bocht’, the Poor Mouth – pretending you’re much worse off than you actually are.
Earlier this year, in the throes of another Emergency, another great Irish Times columnist, Fintan O’Toole, has given us its 21st century equivalent, ‘An Béal Saibhreas’, the Rich Mouth, a practice first indulged in by this current government when they blandly (and blindly) proclaimed to the world that Ireland is doing fine, thank you very much, we don’t need or want any debt relief.
Last week, in no less a forum than the United Nations General Assembly, official Ireland was again putting on ‘An Béal Saibhreas’, the Rich Mouth.
I sent the following e-mail on Wednesday last to Declan Gallaher, the Irish Permanent Representative to the EU here in Brussels (essentially our Ambassador), who had asked to meet me:
Unfortunately I can’t meet you this week, hectic schedule. I do however have a request.
Tomorrow, Thursday September 10th, the UN General Assembly will be presented with a set of proposals titled ‘Basic Principles for Sovereign Debt Restructurings’, which have already been adopted in Committee. This is a very important step along the road to establishing an international legal framework that will allow troubled countries to emerge from their indebtedness in a fair, structured and controlled manner, and remove the ability of vulture funds to undermine deals done with the majority of creditors.
Last year, and shamefully in my view, Ireland voted against such a move; I’m asking now that Ireland support these proposals that will be presented tomorrow and further, that in November, when a new ‘Modalities Resolution’ is proposed that will eventually lead to the multilateral legal framework for Sovereign Debt Restructuring, Ireland would again support the initiative.
Luke Ming Flanagan MEP
Next day I received the following reply:
Dear Honourable Member,
Following the discussion of this issue at Coreper yesterday the EU has adopted a common position in relation to the proposal concerning ‘Basic Principles for Sovereign Debt Restructurings’. The agreed EU common position is to not vote in favour of this proposal. Ireland will be among a large number of EU Member States abstaining from the vote later today in New York. No EU Member State will be voting in favour of the resolution.
Ireland will continue to engage on this matter with our EU colleagues and with the G77 countries.
With best regards,
THE BACKGROUND TO THIS PROPOSAL
If you get into financial difficulty at either a personal or a business level there is a way out, either through personal bankruptcy or business bankruptcy. At the sovereign level however, and as those of trapped in the eurozone have learned to our cost in the last few years, for insolvent or near-insolvent nations, no such facility currently exists. That needs to be corrected, and that’s what this proposal was all about.
Currently, if a sovereign country gets into severe debt difficulty and needs relief, this can be done only with the voluntary agreement of the creditors. Unlike personal or business bankruptcy, there are no courts to assess the debts and the difficulty of repayment, to make fair and binding decisions on ‘haircuts’ for the creditors, and to then enforce those decisions. This would spread the pain across creditors and debtor, would then enable the distressed sovereign to get back on its feet, a fresh start.
In the absence of such a facility we witness a developed European country, Greece, forced to its knees by a Troika that then feigns concern for the citizens subsequently brutalised; we see another advanced economy, Argentina, forced by an American court into a situation last year of involuntary redundancy, because a vulture fund purchased some of the holdout creditor debt from Argentina’s genuine default of 2001, then swooped to demand full payment, though they themselves had paid merely cents on the dollar for that debt.
PRESSING NEED FOR AN INTERNATIONAL COURT
The major problem at the moment is that whether in a ‘controlled’ default, as in Greece, or a unilateral default, as in Argentina, the ordinary people are going to suffer immensely. With the creditors calling the shots, demanding payment no matter the social cost, the people are forced to carry a massive and disproportionate burden.
Were this proposal in the United Nations to be carried through, however, this burden – while still being painful – would be considerably lessened.
It was designed by what’s known in the UN as the G-77 group of countries, originally 77 developing nations that came together back in 1964 but now with 134 countries. Traditionally, those sovereigns most vulnerable to insolvency came from that group – no more. Ireland recently found itself in that position and there is no guarantee it won’t happen again.
Even the much-criticised IMF, those with the most experience in sovereign debt ‘restructuring’, accept that there is a problem here but all their efforts to set up any such international court for sovereign insolvency settlement has been stymied by the very powerful creditor nations, nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and so on. If they wouldn’t allow the IMF set up such a court, rest assured they will resist any efforts to so do by the United Nations, which would have even stronger willing standing.
Ireland though should be fully behind this proposal, not because of selfish self-interest, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Instead, and as evidenced by Declan Kelleher’s mail above, we have chosen to hide behind the tainted skirts of the EU.
As outlined above, the countries who DON’T want to see this proposal go through are those with the greatest vested interest in seeing troubled sovereign nations under the heel, to be exploited in every way possible.
These are the countries with whom Ireland has now aligned itself. As with Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and the rest who aligned themselves similarly against Greece in the recent crisis, it’s yet another example of this government playing ‘The Rich Mouth’.
Yet again, this government has sold us out.
Luke Ming Flanagan MEP
This document is the outcome of an extensive consultation process between individuals, community groups, trade unionists, political parties and independent representatives – all of whom have been involved in the anti-water charges movement. Approximately 150 detailed submissions were received and two separate conferences of 200 activists made amendments to the policies identified.
The purpose of this process is to help facilitate a new type of politics which will deliver a fairer Ireland for all. One that is based on the principles of democracy, equality and social justice. We have identified ten basic policy principles which we believe should be the minimum obligation for any progressive Irish government. The right to water, decent work, housing, health, debt justice, education, democratic reform, equality, a sustainable environment and national resources, are a priority for the people of Ireland.
The full document is available at http://www.right2water.ie/sites/default/files/media/Right2Change%20Policies.pdf
Very early in the present crisis the CPI argued against nationalising the banks, on the grounds that this would be socialising tens of billions in debts, would bankrupt the state, and would create conditions for a general downward restructuring of the economy. The party introduced and popularised the slogan “Repudiate the debt” as the clearest anti-imperialist class position, which attempted to challenge both the Irish establishment and the European Union and indeed the global financialised economy.
Seven years later the crisis has not gone away, either for working people or for capital. Instability remains, and working people continue to be made to pay for capital’s problems. The banks, in particular AIB and Permanent TSB, are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but both are returning slowly to profitability and have provisions made—taxpayers’ money—for their debts (impaired loans, distressed assets, non-working book, etc.).
So, given that the state imposed the burden of such gigantic losses on our shoulders, now that there are signs of profitability should we not be arguing for holding the banks as public entities, not just to pay back the money received but as valuable state assets to help pay for vital services, as lending agencies that can be directed towards strategic and sustainable investment and as part of a progressive future housing policy?
The banking industry in Ireland previously had a public side, which was used for strategic investment and a degree of planned economic development. The privatisation of this is a small part of the beginning of the collapse of the industry.
Obviously a government led by Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil will not do this; but is the correct progressive policy to demand a continued majority public holding of AIB and PTSB?
Fine Gael’s and Fianna Fáil’s policy has been for the state to provide for the losses and to privatise the profits through either share sales or outright privatisation at the appropriate time. The banking policy of both these parties has been to drive up house prices. NAMA is premised on this basis; and for the provisions to be adequate for the bad books of these banks, house prices must not drop and preferably should rise.
For house prices to rise, supply needs to be restricted, and demand needs to outweigh supply. The more demand, the quicker the increase in house prices. To a large degree this has succeeded and is part of the reason for the improved state of Irish banks, but at the deliberate cost of increased homelessness, exorbitant rents, and the total waste of vacant and unoccupied dwellings and buildings remaining unused around the country.
At the electoral level, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil know who their voters are, and many of these are in negative equity, not homeless, and so they have done their political calculations on the impact of their banking policy, and it suits their electoral agenda.
Their policy of socialising losses and privatising profits is class-based and has been implemented with violence and aggression against working people and communities.
We opposed the socialisation of losses. Should we not also oppose now the privatisation of profits?
Taken from http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-banks.html
“Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.”—Paul Mason
Paul Mason has conjured up a very 21st-century formula for the replacement of capitalism. It combines all the elements of a problem-free route to “postcapitalism,” rather than the old techniques of revolt, revolution, and working-class power, and relies—it seems—on the facility of the internet to permit the free transfer of information combined with the ability of human beings to devise forms of exchange that evade the capitalist market.
His latest book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, energetically puffed by the Guardian, was published on 30 July. It sets out “a project, the aim of which should be to expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance.”
He calls it Project Zero, “because its aims are a zero-carbon-energy system; the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of necessary work time as close as possible to zero.”
His aim is “to build alternatives within the system; to use governmental power in a radical and disruptive way; and to direct all actions towards the transition—not the defence of random elements of the old system.”
For this contemporary model of painless revolutionary change Paul Mason has drawn from the Marxist method of historical materialism the conception that capitalism arose within the existing framework of feudal society.
Thus, within present-day capitalism something like all the conjunctural factors that in an earlier epoch dissolved the bonds of feudal obligation—labour shortages arising from the Black Death, the subsequent raising of wages, the increased tempo of merchant activity, the plunder of the Americas, the growth of banking and credit, market-driven modes of thinking—are to be replicated by a new corrosive factor, that of information.
So far so distinctly utopian. Having abandoned the cumbersome Marxist notion that the bearers of the new ideas that arise with social systems—emerging and distinct classes—are obliged to overthrow the political and state power of their historically redundant class enemies, Paul Mason has cast around for a new agent of historical change. In his schema, information will sweep all opposition before it.
How much easier Oliver Cromwell would have found his task of destroying the feudal power of the King if he had a Google account! Would not our Catholic King and aristocracy have feared a Twitter storm more than Cromwell’s Ironsides? And in turn, would not Cromwell himself be easily defeated by a tsunami of Leveller Facebook likes?
Postcapitalism is possible, he argues, “because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed—not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.”
To suggest that further automation is stalled because our social structure cannot bear the consequences is true enough. Capitalism makes a mockery of the uncounted millions whose boundaries between work and free time—eroded by zero-hour contracts and unemployment—are already bearing the costs of a capitalism that cannot match human resources to productive labour.
The reserve army of labour—whose aged parents cannot obtain affordable care and whose children cannot find affordable housing, and who themselves are forced often into emigration—will be surprised to find there is a reduced need for work and even more surprised to find, in the absence of wages without work, that the relationship between the two is loosened. To them, and the millions whose security is guaranteed for no more than a week or a month, it seems rather tight.
Where Paul Mason is on firmer ground is on the role he ascribes—in the manner of the factors that destabilised feudal social and class relations—to external shocks to the system. These he identifies as energy depletion, climate change, ageing populations, and migration.
The point, however, is that it is the inbuilt tendencies of contemporary capitalism itself that mean that these seismic movements cannot be managed. Thus their nominally external character is a function of the system itself.
For a journalist whose latest tasks entail on-the-spot reportage of the ways in which governmental office alone is an insufficient condition for the overcoming of class power, Paul Mason’s revisionist project is original in finding new ways to imagine out of existence the very concrete factors that might impede the natural working through of his utopia.
In the case of Greece, the will of the people means nothing in the face of capitalist class power organised at the national, continental and international levels.
His notion that “collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that only work when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system” has a charm of its own, but—valuable though the long existence of co-operative forms of production, distribution and exchange is within actually existing capitalism—there is no example of them transcending the logic of the market, evading the determinants of the banking system, or escaping the regulatory framework of the state (or transnational institutions like the EU).
Although I can still remember my mum’s co-op divi number from nearly five decades ago (39887), I cannot imagine Britain’s worthy but ailing co-operative sector as the decisive factor that might corrode the sinews of capitalism.
Paul Mason speaks to the hopes and aspirations of a whole new generation of people whose entry into struggle—forced on them by the failures and contradictions of capitalism—has transformed the political life of Britain and other developed capitalist countries.
He is right in arguing that “by creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being.”
And in referring to the changes in political consciousness that factory production brought about among workers he alludes to Marx’s notion of the working class as the agency of revolutionary change and even to Lenin’s attention to the revolutionary potential of Bolshevik factory organisation—but only to replace these dynamic elements in a real revolution with “a project based on reason, evidence and testable designs.”
The unwillingness of our masters to countenance even a mildly Keynesian economic strategy to stabilise the Greek economy rather undermines the quaint notion that reason alone will cause Madame Merkel to smile on Comrade Tsípras or Gideon Osborne to operate the levers of the economy in favour of British workers, no matter how educated and connected they may be.
Almost absent within Paul Mason’s mise-en-scène is the key agency of class rule. The state is the silent and invisible actor, save for a brief and benign walk-on part as enabling the transition to postcapitalism.
Postcapitalism, he argues, “will need the state to create the framework—just as it created the framework for factory labour, sound currencies and free trade in the early 19th century.”
Left unexplained is how the actually existing state might be compelled to do his thing; and equally unexplained—with his new revolutionary class of information workers chained to their keyboards—is how the coercive power of the capitalist state—which is not limited to its mercenaries but rests also on ideas that have as much currency in the media and the sphere of information as any other—might be overcome.
Full report available at http://www.nerinstitute.net/blog/2015/08/26/new-research-on-market-income-and-its-distribution/
August 26, 2015 by Micheál Collins
The latest NERI Research inBrief examines the underlying distribution of market income in the Republic of Ireland.
Market income captures the income received by employees as earnings, the profits of the self-employed and other ‘unearned’ income including rental income, private pension income, investment income and interest income. It is in effect the pre-distribution of income; that which arises before the redistributive mechanisms of taxation and welfare step in.
The key points from the analysis, which use the latest available data which is for 2013, are:
- The median (middle) market income was €23,701 while the mean was €32,042.
- The distribution of market income is concentrated on incomes of less than €50,000 per annum – representing 80% of all earners.
- 15% of all those with a market income, about 290,000 people, receive less than €5,000 (the average direct income for this group is €2,000 and most receive less than €1,000).
- 50% of those with a market income receive between €5,000 and €35,000.
- The top 10% of recipients have an income of more than €65,000.
- The top 5% of recipients have an income of more than €85,000; this group approximates to the top 100,000 earners in the state.
The below was written by Nick Dearden in 2011 and published in Red Pepper at http://www.redpepper.org.uk/samir-amin-at-80/
Many of Samir Amin’s writings are available at https://monthlyreview.org/author/samiramin/
Samir Amin is one of the world’s greatest radical thinkers – a ‘creative Marxist’ who went from Communist activism in Nasser’s Egypt, to advising African socialist leaders like Julius Nyerere to being a leading figure in the World Social Forum.
Samir Amin’s ideas were formed in the heady ferment of 1950s and ’60s when pan-Africanists like Kwamah Nkrumah ran Ghana and Juliuys Nyrere Tanzania, when General Nasser was transforming the Middle East from Amin’s native Egypt and liberation movements thrived from South Africa to Algeria.
Africa looked very different before the International Monetary Fund destroyed what progress had been made towards emancipation and LiveAid created a popular conception of a continent of famine and fecklessness. Yet through these times, Amin’s ideas have continued to shine out, denouncing the inhumanity of contemporary capitalism and empire, but also harshly critiquing movements from political Islam to Eurocentric Marxism and its marginalisation of the truly dispossessed.
Amin believes that the world capitalism – a rule of oligopolies based in the rich world – maintains its rule through five monopolies – control of technology, access to natural resources, finance, global media, and the means of mass destruction. Only by overturning these monopolies can real progress be made.
This raises particular challenges for those of us who are activists in the North because any change we promote must challenge the privileges of the North vis-à-vis the South. Our internationalism cannot be expressed through a type of humanitarian approach to the global South – that countries in the South need our ‘help to develop’. For Amin, any form of international work must be based on an explicitly anti-imperialist perspective. Anything else will fail to challenge structure of power – those monopolies which really keep the powerful powerful.
Along with colleagues like Andre Gunder Frank, Amin see the world divided into the ‘centre’ and the ‘peripheries’. The role of peripheries, those countries we call the global South, is to supply the centres – specifically the ‘Triad’ of North America, Western Europe and Japan – with the means of developing without being able to develop themselves. Most obviously, the exploitation of Africa’s minerals on terms of trade starkly favourable to the centre will never allow African liberation, only continual exploitation.
This flies in the face of so much ‘development thinking’ which would have you believe that Africa’s problems come from not being properly integrated into the global economy which has grown up over the last 40 years. Amin believes in fact Africa’s problem stem from it being too integrated but in ‘the wrong way’.
In fact, as long as the monopolies of control are intact, countries of the centre have had few problems globalising production since the 1970s. Sweatshop labour now takes place across the periphery but it hasn’t challenged the power of those in the North because of their control of finance, natural resources, the military and so on. In fact, it has enhanced their power by reducing wages and destroying a manufacturing sector that had become a power base for unionised workers.
So there is no point whatever in asking countries of the centre to concede better trading relationships to the peripheries. Amin is also concerned at environmental activism which too often becomes a debate about how countries of the centre manage their control of the world’s resources, rather than challenging that control. It is vital that Northern activists challenge the means through which the ruling class in their own society exerts control over the rest of the world.
Of course, this is not just a project for activists in the North – far from it. The theory for which Amin is most famous that of ‘de-linking’.
De-linking means countries of the periphery withdrawing from their exploitative integration in the global economy. In a sense it is de-globalisation, but it is not a form of economic isolation – something which African socialist leaders too readily fell into. Rather it means not engaging in economic relationships from a point of weakness.
Amin argues that Southern countries should develop their economy through various forms of state intervention, control of money flowing in an out of their financial sectors and promoting trading with other Southern countries. Countries must nationalise financial sectors, strongly regulate natural resources, ‘de-link’ internal prices from the world market, and free themselves from control by international institutions like the World Trade Organisation. Whatever problems come with nationalised industries, it is the only possible basis for a genuinely socially controlled economy going forward.
After 30 years of being told that their problems would be solved by exporting more, privatising their natural resources and liberalising their financial sectors, many developing countries would today do well to heed Amin’s advice. Instead, too many countries have bought into a de-politicised narrative which posits ideologically loaded terms like ‘good governance’, ‘poverty’ and ‘civil society’ carefully disguising questions as to how poverty happened, what interests governance serves, or the legitimacy of organisations claiming to speak on behalf of the dispossessed.
Amin does not believes that the ‘rise’ of China, India and other emerging economies has in any way broken the power of the oligopolies, in fact that power has only become more concentrated. But there have been important changes. Imperialist powers have realised competition between themselves is not helpful and have created a sort of collective imperialism which is expressed through institutions like the WTO and IMF.
Capitalism, ‘a parenthesis in history’
Capitalism is experiencing a profound long-term crisis to which Amin believes it has no solution short of political barbarism. He describes this form of capitalism as ‘senile’.
This crisis is characterised by an increased dependence on finance, which means less and less money is being made from productive activities, and more from simple ‘rent’. It is a far more direct means of stealing wealth from the majority of the world. The accompanying form of politics means that democracy has been reduced to a farce in which people are spectators in an elite drama – that is when they’re not fulfilling their proper role of consuming.
Capitalism necessarily requires an ongoing process of dispossession so that it can accumulate and continue to expand. Capitalism could not have developed without the European conquest of the world – the availability so many ‘spare’ resources was vital. The safety value for many of those dispossessed from European land was the ‘new world’ which allowed mass emigration – though of course others died in droves, witness the Irish potato famine.
So as much as many of the dispossessed might aspire to the lives of those in advanced capitalist countries, it is simply not possible. Nor can traditional Marxists be correct when they say capitalism is a necessary stage on the path to socialism – a view which Amin describes as ‘Eurocentric’.
Industry cannot incorporate more than a small fraction of humanity, but it does require the resources that that humanity depends upon. So the only way that capitalism can move forward is through the creation of a ‘slum planet’ – a sort of ‘apartheid at the world level’. Amin sees the dispossession of the peasantry across the peripheral countries will become the central issue of the twenty-first century.
This is one reason why Amin see the role of the peasantry in the South – almost half of humanity after all – as key to determining the future. The strength of movements around food sovereignty, against land grabbing and supporting the rights of indigenous peoples, give support to this theory. But for Amin, agriculture is not merely a big opportunity, the existence of the peasantry presents capitalism with an insurmountable challenge.
Amin believes the road to socialism depends on reversing this trend of dispossession meaning, at national and regional levels, protecting local agricultural production, ensuring countries’ have food sovereignty and de-linking internal prices from world commodity markets. This would stop the dispossession of peasants and their exodus into the towns.
Only this revolution in the way the land is seen, treated and access can lay the basis for a new society. This also means ditching the idea of ‘growth’ as it is spoken about today and by which all world economies are judged, which really benefits only a minority of the world population. The rest of humanity is “abandoned to stagnation, if not pauperisation”.
The long road to socialism
Perhaps this makes Samir Amin sounds rather idealistic in his approach, but this is far from true. Amin explicitly rejects the idea of a ‘24 hour revolution’ – a single insurrectionary act which ushers in a period of socialism. Indeed he accepts there may well be a need to use private, even international capital, in order to diversify Southern economies. The important thing is control. For this reason Amin also refuses to use the phrase “socialism of the 21st century” focussing on the need for “the long route of the transition to socialism”.
But that’s not to say there have not been significant victories. Interestingly, Amin is less interested in developments in Latin America, which he believes contain risks of repeating the mistakes of many national liberation movements on the 1950s and 60s in becoming a form of “popular statism”.
Amin is more interested in Nepal as an possible future model to look towards. He also sees the Chinese revolution as an incredibly significant event in directly challenging the basis of capitalism and in the struggle for democratic socialism, most especially in its “abolition of the private property of land” and the formation of powerful communes and collectives.
Amin’s somewhat romantic view of the Chinese revolution is certainly challenging to Western sensibilities, but his underlying view that the formation of democracy must go beyond a narrow political project, and that peasants – and especially women – through collective organisations, might be better placed than Western individualists to define a really progressive vision of democracy needs to be properly taken on board by activists.
Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.
He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.
Amin’s view is that organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, with their cultural and economic conservatism, are actually viewed positively by the US and other imperialist governments. And he doesn’t limit his critique to Islam either, launching similar criticism on political Hinduism practiced by the BJP in India and Political Buddhism, expressed through the Dalai Lama.
Samir Amin decribes himself as a ‘creative Marxist’ – “to begin from Marx but not to end with him or with Lenin or Mao” – which incorporates all manner of critical ways of thinking even ones “which were wrongly considered to be ‘alien’ by the dogmas of the historical Marxism of the past.”
These views are surely more relevant today than when Amin started writing. A creative Marxism takes proper account of the perspective and aspirations of the truly dispossessed in the world, break out of historical dogmas and rejects attempts to stick together a broken model, but equally sees the impossibility of overthrowing this model tomorrow. Fortunately Amin seems more prolific than ever – and well worth the read.
Another brilliantly insightful article by James Petras available at http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=2044 and reprinted below in full:
First, the denial came as tragedy: When the Greek majority elected Syriza to government and their debts increased, the economy plunged further into depression and unemployment and poverty soared. The Greek people voted for Syriza believing its promises of ‘a new course’. Immediately following their victory, Syriza reneged on their promise to restore sovereignty – and end the subjugation of the Greek people to the economic dictates of overseas bankers, bureaucrats and political oligarchs. Instead Syriza kept Greece in the oligarchical imperialist bloc, portraying the European Union as an association of independent sovereign countries. What began as a great victory of the Greek people turned into a tragic strategic retreat. >From their first day in office, Syriza led the Greek people down the blind alley of total submission to the German empire.
Then the tragedy turned into farce when the Greek people refused to acknowledge the impending betrayal by their elected leaders. They were stunned, but mute, as Syriza emptied the Greek treasury and offered even greater concessions, including acceptance of the illegal and odious debts incurred by private bankers, speculators and political kleptocrats in previous regimes.
True to their own vocation as imperial overlords, the EU bosses saw the gross servility of Syriza as an invitation to demand more concessions – total surrender to perpetual debt peonage and mass impoverishment. Syriza’s demagogic leaders, Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras, shifting from fits of hysteria to infantile egotism, denounced ‘the Germans and their blackmail’ and then performed a coy belly-crawl at the feet of the ‘Troika’, peddling their capitulation to the bankers as ‘negotiations’ and referring to their overlords as . . . ‘partners’.
Syriza, in office for only 5 months brought Greece to the edge of total bankruptcy and surrender, then launched the ‘mother of all deceptions’ on the Greek people: Tsipras convoked a ‘referendum’ on whether Greece should reject or accept further dictates and cuts to bare bones destitution. Over 60% of the Greek people voted a resounding NO to further plunder and poverty.
In Orwellian fashion, the megalomaniac Tsipras immediately re-interpreted the ‘NO’vote as a mandate to capitulation to the imperial powers, accepting the EU bankers’ direct supervision of the regime’s implementation of Troika’s policies – including drastic reductions of Greek pensions, doubling the regressive ‘VAT’ consumption tax on vital necessities and a speed-up of evictions of storeowners and householders behind in their mortgage payments. Thus Greece became a vassal state: Nineteenth century colonialism was re-imposed in the 21st century.
Colonialism by Invitation
Greek politicians, whether Conservative or Socialist, have openly sought to join the German-led imperial bloc known as the European Union, even when it was obvious that the Greek economy and financial system was vulnerable to domination by the powerful German ruling class.
From the beginning, the Greek Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) and their Conservative counterparts refused to recognize the class basis of the European Union. Both political factions and the Greek economic elites, that is, the kleptocrats who governed and the oligarchs who ruled, viewed entry into the EU as an opportunity for taking and faking loans, borrowing, defaulting and passing their enormous debts on to the public treasury!
Widely circulating notions among the Left that ‘Germany is responsible’ for the Greek crisis are only half true, while the accusations among rightwing financial scribes that the ‘Greek people are spendthrifts’ who brought on their own crisis is equally one-sided. The reality is more complex:
The crash and collapse of the Greek economy was a product of an entrenched parasitic rentier ruling class –both Socialist and Conservative – which thrived on borrowing at high interest rates and speculating in non-productive economic activities while imposing an astronomical military budget. They engaged in fraudulent overseas financial transactions while grossly manipulating and fabricating financial data to cover-up Greece’s unsustainable trade and budget deficits.
German and other EU exporters had penetrated and dominated the Greek markets. The bankers charged exorbitant interest rates while investors exploited cheap Greek labor. The creditors ignored the obvious risks because Greek rulers were their willing accomplices in the ongoing pillage.
Clearly entry into and continued membership in the EU has largely benefited two groups of elites: the German rulers and the Greek rentiers: The latter received short-term financial grants and transfers while the former gained powerful levers over the banks, markets and, most important, established cultural-ideological hegemony over the Greek political class. The Greek elite and middle class believed ‘they were Europeans’ – that the EU was a beneficent arrangement and a source of prosperity and upward mobility. In reality, Greek leaders were merely accomplices to the German conquest of Greece. And the major part of the middle class aped the views of the Greek elite.
The financial crash of 2008-2009 ended the illusions for some but not most Greeks. After 6 years of pain and suffering a new version of the old political class came to power: Syriza! Syriza brought in new faces and rhetoric but operated with the same blind commitment to the EU. The Syriza leadership believed they were “partners”.
The road to vassalage is rooted deep in the psyche of the political class. Instead of recognizing their subordinate membership in the EU as the root cause of their crisis, they blamed ‘the Germans, the bankers, Angela Merkel, Wolfgang Schnauble , the IMF, the Troika… The Greek rulers and middle class were in fact both victims and accomplices.
The German imperial regime loaned money from the tax revenues of German workers to enable their complicit Greek vassals to pay back the German bankers… German workers complained. The German media deflected criticism by blaming the ‘lazy Greek cheats’. Meanwhile, the Greek oligarch-controlled media deflected criticism of the role of the parasitical political class back to the ‘Germans’. This all served to obscure the class dynamics of empire building — colonialism by invitation. The ideology of blaming peoples, instead of classes, is pitting German workers against Greek employees and pensioners. The German masses support their bankers, while the Greek masses have elected and followed Syriza – their traitors.
From Andreas Papandreou to Alexis Tsipras: Misconceptions about the European Union
After Syriza was elected a small army of instant experts, mostly leftist academics from Canada, the US and Europe, sprang up to write and speak, usually with more heat than light, on current Greek political and economic developments. Most have little knowledge or experience of Greek politics, particularly its history and relations with the EU over the past thirty five years.
The most important policy decisions shaping the current Syriza government’s betrayal of Greek sovereignty go back to the early 1980’s when I was working as an adviser to PASOK Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. At that time, I was party to an internal debate of whether to continue within the EU or leave. Papandreou was elected on an anti EU, anti NATO platform, which, like Tsipras, he promptly reneged on– arguing that ‘there were no alternatives’. Even then, there were international and Greek academic sycophants, as there are today, who argued that membership in the EU was the only realistic alternative- it was the ‘only possibility’. The ‘possibilistas” at that time, operating either from ignorance or deceit, were full of bluster and presumption. They denied the underlying power realities in the structure of the EU and dismissed the class capacity of the working and popular masses to forge an alternative. Then, as now, it was possible to develop independent alternative relations with Europe, Russia, China, the Middle East and North Africa. The advantages of maintaining a protected market, a robust tourist sector and an independent monetary system were evident and did not require EU membership (or vassalage).
Above all, what stood out in both leaders, Andreas Papandreou and Alexis Tsipras, was their profound misconception of the class nature of the dominant forces in the EU. In the 1980’s Germany was just beginning to recover its imperial reach. By the time Syriza-Tsipras rose to power (January 2015), Germany’s imperial power was undeniable. Tsipras’ misunderstanding of this reality can be attributed to his and his ‘comrades’ rejection of class and imperial analyses. Even academic Marxists, who spouted Marxist theory, never applied their abstract critiques of capitalism and imperialism to the concrete realities of German empire building and Greece’s quasi-colonial position within the EU. They viewed their role as that of ‘colonial reformers’ –imagining that they were clever enough to ‘negotiate’ better terms in the German-centered EU. They inevitably failed because Berlin had a built-in majority among its fervently neo-liberal ex-communist satellites plus the IMF, French and English imperial partners. Syriza was no match for this power configuration. Then there was the bizarre delusion among the Syriza intellectuals that European capitalism was more benign than the US version.
EU membership has created scaffolding for German empire-building. The take off point was West Germany’s annexation of East Germany. This was soon followed by the incorporation of the rightwing regimes in the Baltic and Balkans as subordinate members of the EU – their public assets were snapped up by Germany corporations at bargain prices. The third step was the systematic break-up of Yugoslavia and the incorporation of Slovenia into the German orbit. The fourth step was the takeover of key sectors of the Polish and Czech economies and the exploitation of cheap skilled labor from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and other satellite states.
Without firing a shot, German empire-building has revolved around making loans and financial transfers to the new subordinate member states in the EU. These financial transactions were predicated upon the following conditions: 1) Privatization and sale of the new member states’ prized public assets to mainly German as well as other EU investors and 2) Forcing member states to dismantle their social programs, approve massive lay-offs and meet impossible fiscal targets. In other words, expansion of the contemporary German empire required austerity measures, which transformed the ex-communist countries into satellites, vassals and sources of mercenaries – a pattern which is now playing out in Greece.
The reason these new German ‘colonies’ (especially Poland and the Baltic States) insist on the EU imposing harsh austerity measures on Greece, is that they went through the same brutal process convincing their own beleaguered citizens that there was no alternative – resistance was futile. Any successful demonstration by Greek workers, farmers and employees that resistance to empire was possible would expose the corrupt relationship between these client leaders and the German imperial order. In order to preserve the foundations of the new imperial order, Germany has had to take a hardline on Greece. Otherwise the recently incorporated colonial subjects in the Baltic, Balkan and Central Europe states might “re-think” the brutal terms of their own incorporation to the European Union. This explains the openly punitive approach to Greece – turning it into the ‘Haiti of Europe’ analogous to the US’ long standing brutalization of the rebellious Haitians – as an object lesson to its own Caribbean and Latin American clients.
The root cause of German intransigence has nothing to do with the political personalities or quirks of Angela Merkle and Wolfgang Schnauble: Such imperial leaders do not operate out of neurotic vindictiveness. Their demand for total Greek submission is an imperative of German empire-building, a continuation of the step-by-step conquest of Europe.
German empire-building emphasizes economic conquests, which go hand-in-hand with US empire-building based on military conquests. The same economic satellites of Germany also serve as sites for US military bases and exercises encircling Russia; these vassal states provide mercenary soldiers for US imperial wars in South Asia, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
Syriza’s economic surrender is matched by its spineless sell-out to NATO, its support of sanctions against Russia and its embrace of US policies toward Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Germany and its imperial partners have launched a savage attack on the working people of Greece, usurping Greek sovereignty and planning to seize 50 billion Euros of vital Greek public enterprises, land and resources. This alone should dispels the myth, promoted especially by the French social democratic demagogue Jacques Delores, that European capitalism is a benign form of ‘social welfarism’ and an ‘alternative’ to the savage Anglo-American version capitalism.
What has been crucial to previous and current versions of empire-building is the role of a political collaborator class facilitating the transition to colonialism. Here is where social democrats, like Alexis Tsipras, who excel in the art of talking left while embracing the right, flatter and deceive the masses into deepening austerity and pillage.
Instead of identifying the class enemies within the EU and organizing an alternative working class program, Tsipras and his fellow collaborators pose as EU ‘partners’ , fostering class collaboration – better to serve imperial Europe: When the German capitalists demanded their interest payments, Tsipras bled the Greek economy. When German capitalists sought to dominate Greek markets, Tsipras and Syriza opened the door by keeping Greece in the EU. When German capital wanted to supervise the take-over of Greek properties, Tsipras and Syriza embraced the sell-off.
There is clear class collaboration within the Greek elite in the destruction of nation’s sovereignty: Greek banker oligarchs and sectors of the commercial and tourist elite have acted as intermediaries of the German empire builders and they personally benefit from the German and EU takeover despite the destitution of the Greek public. Such economic intermediaries, representing 25% of the electorate, have become the main political supporters of the Syriza-Tsipras betrayal. They join with the EU elite applauding Tsipras’ purge of left critics and his authoritarian seizure of legislative and executive power! This collaborator class will never suffer from pension cuts, layoffs and unemployment. They will never have to line up at crippled banks for a humiliating dole of 65 Euros of pension money. These collaborators have hundreds of thousands and millions stashed in overseas bank accounts and invested in overseas real estate. Unlike the Greek masses, they are ‘European’ first and foremost – willing accomplices of German empire builders!
Tragic Beginnings: The Greek People Elect a Trojan Horse
Syriza is deeply rooted in Greek political culture .A leadership of educated mascots serving overseas European empire-builders. Syriza is supported by academic leftists who are remote from the struggles, sacrifices and suffering of the Greek masses. Syriza’s leadership emerged on the scene as ideological mentors and saviors with heady ideas and shaky hands. They joined forces with downwardly mobile middle class radicals who aspired to rise again via the traditional method: radical rhetoric, election to office, negotiations and transactions with the local and foreign elite and betrayal of their voters. Theirs is a familiar political road to power, privilege and prestige. In this regard, Tsipras personifies an entire generation of upwardly mobile opportunists, willing and able to sellout Greece and its people. He perpetuates the worst political traditions: In campaigns he promoted consumerism over class consciousness (discarding any mobilization of the masses upon election!). He is a useful fool, embedded in a culture of clientelism, kleptocracy, tax evasion, predatory lenders and spenders – the very reason his German overlords tolerated him and Syriza, although on a short leash!
Tsipras’ Syriza has absolute contempt for democracy. He embraces the ‘Caudillo Principle’: one man, one leader, one policy! Any dissenters invite dismissal!
Syriza has utterly submitted to imperial institutions, the Troika and their dictates, NATO and above all the EU, the Eurozone. Tsipras/ Syriza reject outright independence and freedom from imperial dictates. In his ‘capitulation to the Germans’ Tsipra engaged in histrionic theatrics, but by his own personal dictate, the massive ‘NO to EU’ vote was transformed into a YES.
The cruelest political crime of all has been Tsipras running down the Greek economy, bleeding the banks, emptying the pension funds and freezing everyday salaries while ‘blaming the bankers’, in order to force the mass of Greeks to accept the savage dictates of his imperial overlords or face utter destitution!
The Ultimate Surrender
Tsipras and his sycophants in Syriza, while constantly decrying Greece’s subordination to the EU empire-builders and claiming victimhood, managed to undermine the Greek people’s national consciousness in less than 6 months. What had been a victorious referendum and expression of rejection by three-fifths of the Greek voters turned into a prelude to a farcical surrender by empire collaborators. The people’s victory in the referendum was twisted to represent popular support for a Caudillo. While pretending to consult the Greek electorate, Tsipras manipulated the popular will into a mandate for his regime to push Greece beyond debt peonage and into colonial vassalage.
Tsipras is a supreme representation of Adorno’s authoritarian personality: On his knees to those above him, while at the throat of those below.
Once he has completed his task of dividing, demoralizing and impoverishing the Greek majority, the local and overseas ruling elites will discard him like a used condom, and he will pass into history as a virtuoso in deceiving and betraying the Greek people.
Syriza’s embrace of hard-right foreign policies should not be seen as the ‘result of outside pressure’, as its phony left supporters have argued, but rather a deliberate choice. So far, the best example of the Syriza regime’s reactionary policies is its signing of a military agreement with Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post (July 19, 2015), the Greek Defense Minister signed a mutual defense and training agreement with Israel, which included joint military exercises. Syriza has even backed Israel’s belligerent position against the Islamic Republic of Iran, endorsing Tel Aviv’s ridiculous claim that Teheran represents a terrorist threat in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Syriza and Israel have inked a mutual military support pact that exceeds any other EU member agreement with Israel and is only matched in belligerence by Washington’s special arrangements with the Zionist regime.
Israel’s ultra-militarist ‘Defense’ Minister Moshe Yaalon, (the Butcher of Gaza), hailed the agreement and thanked the Syriza regime for ‘its support’. It is more than likely that Syriza’s support for the Jewish state explains its popularity with Anglo-American and Canadian ‘left’ Zionists…
Syriza’s strategic ties with Israel are not the result of EU ‘pressure’ or the dictates of the ‘Troika’. The agreement is a radical reversal of over a half-century of Greek support for the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people against the Israeli terrorist state. This military pact, like the Syriza regime’s economic capitulation to the German ruling class, is deeply rooted in the ‘colonial ideology’, which permeates Tsipras’ policies. He has taken Greece a significant step ‘forward’ from economic vassal to a mercenary client of the most retrograde regime in the Mediterranean.
H.D. Dickenson on Marxist economics and political economy
‘A socialist society, which is trying to build up the basis of a modern industrial economy, realizes this very clearly. The creation of physical capital (“means of production”) involves a real cost to the community—a foregoing of potential present enjoyments. In a truly human society, where the fruits of abstinence were enjoyed (collectively) by those who abstained, the neo-classical theory of capital and the return to capital (“interest” in Böhm-Bawerk’s terminology) would come into its own. As it is, the economists of the U.S.S.R., Poland and Yugoslavia are painfully re-discovering the true doctrine of capital and interest. (“Interest” is not, of course, paid to individuals as personal income, but is simply used as an accounting device in order to regulate the allocation of fixed capital to various enterprises.)’
Published by New Left Review in 2003 the full article is available below.