Friday, 30 January 2015

From the horse's mouth - Syria speaks

Alexis Tsipras' Open Letter To Germany: What You Were Never Told About Greece





Most of you, dear [German] readers, will have formed a preconception of what this article is about before you actually read it. I am imploring you not to succumb to such preconceptions. Prejudice was never a good guide, especially during periods when an economic crisis reinforces stereotypes and breeds biggotry, nationalism, even violence.

In 2010, the Greek state ceased to be able to service its debt. Unfortunately, European officials decided to pretend that this problem could be overcome by means of the largest loan in history on condition of fiscal austerity that would, with mathematical precision, shrink the national income from which both new and old loans must be paid. An insolvency problem was thus dealt with as if it were a case of illiquidity.

In other words, Europe adopted the tactics of the least reputable bankers who refuse to acknowledge bad loans, preferring to grant new ones to the insolvent entity so as to pretend that the original loan is performing while extending the bankruptcy into the future. Nothing more than common sense was required to see that the application of the 'extend and pretend' tactic would lead my country to a tragic state. That instead of Greece's stabilization, Europe was creating the circumstances for a self-reinforcing crisis that undermines the foundations of Europe itself.

My party, and I personally, disagreed fiercely with the May 2010 loan agreement not because you, the citizens of Germany, did not give us enough money but because you gave us much, much more than you should have and our government accepted far, far more than it had a right to. Money that would, in any case, neither help the people of Greece (as it was being thrown into the black hole of an unsustainable debt) nor prevent the ballooning of Greek government debt, at great expense to the Greek and German taxpayer.

Indeed, even before a full year had gone by, from 2011 onwards, our predictions were confirmed. The combination of gigantic new loans and stringent government spending cuts that depressed incomes not only failed to rein the debt in but, also, punished the weakest of citizens turning people who had hitherto been living a measured, modest life into paupers and beggars, denying them above all else their dignity. The collapse of incomes pushed thousands of firms into bankruptcy boosting the oligopolistic power of surviving large firms. Thus, prices have been falling but more slowly than wages and salaries, pushing down overall demand for goods and services and crushing nominal incomes while debts continue their inexorable rise. In this setting, the deficit of hope accelerated uncontrollably and, before we knew it, the 'serpent's egg' hatched – the result being neo-Nazis patrolling our neighbourhoods, spreading their message of hatred.

Despite the evident failure of the 'extend and pretend' logic, it is still being implemented to this day. The second Greek 'bailout', enacted in the Spring of 2012, added another huge loan on the weakened shoulders of the Greek taxpayers, "haircut" our social security funds, and financed a ruthless new cleptocracy.

Respected commentators have been referring of recent to Greece's stabilization, even of signs of growth. Alas, 'Greek-covery' is but a mirage which we must put to rest as soon as possible. The recent modest rise of real GDP, to the tune of 0.7%, signals not the end of recession (as has been proclaimed) but, rather, its continuation. Think about it: The same official sources report, for the same quarter, an inflation rate of -1.80%, i.e. deflation. Which means that the 0.7% rise in real GDP was due to a negative growth rate of nominal GDP! In other words, all that happened is that prices declined faster than nominal national income. Not exactly a cause for proclaiming the end of six years of recession!

Allow me to submit to you that this sorry attempt to recruit a new version of 'Greek statistics', in order to declare the ongoing Greek crisis over, is an insult to all Europeans who, at long last, deserve the truth about Greece and about Europe

So, let me be frank: Greece's debt is currently unsustainable and will never be serviced, especially while Greece is being subjected to continuous fiscal waterboarding. The insistence in these dead-end policies, and in the denial of simple arithmetic, costs the German taxpayer dearly while, at once, condemning to a proud European nation to permanent indignity. What is even worse: In this manner, before long the Germans turn against the Greeks, the Greeks against the Germans and, unsurprisingly, the European Ideal suffers catastrophic losses.
Germany, and in particular the hard-working German workers, have nothing to fear from a SYRIZA victory. The opposite holds. Our task is not to confront our partners. It is not to secure larger loans or, equivalently, the right to higher deficits. 

Our target is, rather, the country's stabilization, balanced budgets and, of course, the end of the grand squeeze of the weaker Greek taxpayers in the context of a loan agreement that is simply unenforceable. We are committed to end 'extend and pretend' logic not against German citizens but with a view to the mutual advantages for all Europeans.

Dear readers, I understand that, behind your 'demand' that our government fulfills all of its 'contractual obligations' hides the fear that, if you let us Greeks some breathing space, we shall return to our bad, old ways. I acknowledge this anxiety. 

However, let me say that it was not SYRIZA that incubated the cleptocracy which today pretends to strive for 'reforms', as long as these 'reforms' do not affect their ill-gotten privileges. We are ready and willing to introduce major reforms for which we are now seeking a mandate to implement from the Greek electorate, naturally in collaboration with our European partners.

Our task is to bring about a European New Deal within which our people can breathe, create and live in dignity.

A great opportunity for Europe is about to be born in Greece. An opportunity Europe can ill afford to miss.


Greece: SYRIZA's 40-point program




See also SYRIZA's 2014 governmental program: "Greece: What a SYRIZA government will do"


May 27, 2012 -- The following is translated from the daily bulletin of Italy’s Communist Refoundation Party, which has published the official program of the Greek coalition of the radical  left, SYRIZA. The text was first translated by and posted at The Greanville Post. It is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal in the interests of informing the discussion on the left response to the Greek crisis.
* * *
1. Audit of the public debt and renegotiation of interest due and suspension of payments until the economy has revived and growth and employment return.
2. Demand the European Union to change the role of the European Central Bank so that it finances states and programs of public investment.
3. Raise income tax to 75% for all incomes over 500,000 euros.
4. Change the election laws to a proportional system.
5. Increase taxes on big companies to that of the European average.
6. Adoption of a tax on financial transactions and a special tax on luxury goods.
7. Prohibition of speculative financial derivatives.
8. Abolition of financial privileges for the Church and shipbuilding industry.
9. Combat the banks' secret [measures] and the flight of capital abroad.
10. Cut drastically military expenditures.
11. Raise minimum salary to the pre-cut level, 750 euros per month.
12. Use buildings of the government, banks and the Church for the homeless.
13. Open dining rooms in public schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to children.
14. Free health benefits to the unemployed, homeless and those with low salaries.
15. Subvention up to 30% of mortgage payments for poor families who cannot meet payments.
16. Increase of subsidies for the unemployed. Increase social protection for one-parent families, the aged, disabled, and families with no income.
17. Fiscal reductions for goods of primary necessity.
18. Nationalisation of banks.
19. Nationalisation of ex-public (service & utilities) companies in strategic sectors for the growth of the country (railroads, airports, mail, water).
20. Preference for renewable energy and defence of the environment.
21. Equal salaries for men and women.
22. Limitation of precarious hiring and support for contracts for indeterminate time.
23. Extension of the protection of labour and salaries of part-time workers.
24. Recovery of collective (labour) contracts.
25. Increase inspections of labour and requirements for companies making bids for public contracts.
26. Constitutional reforms to guarantee separation of church and state and protection of the right to education, health care and the environment.
27. Referendums on treaties and other accords with Europe.
28. Abolition of privileges for parliamentary deputies. Removal of special juridical protection for ministers and permission for the courts to proceed against members of the government.
29. Demilitarisation of the Coast Guard and anti-insurrectional special troops. Prohibition for police to wear masks or use fire arms during demonstrations. Change training courses for police so as to underline social themes such as immigration, drugs and social factors.
30. Guarantee human rights in immigrant detention centres.
31. Facilitate the reunion of immigrant families.
32. Depenalisation of consumption of drugs in favor of battle against drug traffic. Increase funding for drug rehab centres.
33. Regulate the right of conscientious objection in draft laws.
34. Increase funding for public health up to the average European level.(The European average is 6% of GDP; in Greece 3%.)
35. Elimination of payments by citizens for national health services.
36. Nationalisation of private hospitals. Elimination of private participation in the national health system.
37. Withdrawal of Greek troops from Afghanistan and the Balkans. No Greek soldiers beyond our own borders.
38. Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
39. Negotiation of a stable accord with Turkey.
40. Closure of all foreign bases in Greece and withdrawal from NATO.
 * * *

The exit from the crisis is on the left


1. Creation of a shield to protect society against the crisis:
  • Not a single citizen without a guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benefit, medical care, social protection, housing, and access to all services of public utilities.
  • Protection of and relief measures for indebted households.
  • Price controls and price reductions, VAT reduction, and abolition of VAT on basic-need goods.
2. Disposal of the debt burden:

The national debt is first and foremost a product of class relations, and is inhumane in its very essence. It is produced by the tax evasion of the wealthy, the looting of public funds, and the exorbitant procurement of military weapons and equipment.
We are asking immediately for:
  • A moratorium on debt servicing.
  • Negotiations for debt cancellation, with provisions for the protection of social insurance funds and small savers. This will be pursued by exploiting any available means, such as audit control and suspension of payments.
  • Regulation of the remaining debt to include provisions for economic development and employment.
  • European regulations on the debt of European states.
  • Radical changes to the European Central Bank's role.
  • Prohibition of speculative banking products.
  • A pan-European tax on wealth, financial transactions, and profits.
3. Income redistribution, taxation of wealth, and elimination of unnecessary expenses:
  • Reorganization and consolidation of tax collection mechanisms.
  • Taxation of fortunes over 1-million euros and large-scale revenues.
  • Gradual increase, up to 45%, of the tax on the distributed profits of corporations (SA).
  • Taxation of financial transactions.
  • Special taxation on consumption of luxury goods.
  • Removal of tax exemptions for ship owners and the Greek Orthodox Church.
  • Lifting of confidentiality for banking and merchant transactions, and pursuit of those who evade taxes and social insurance contributions.
  • Banning of transactions carried out through offshore companies.
  • Pursuit of new financial resources through efficient absorption of European funds, through claims on the payment of German World War II reparations and occupation loan, and finally via steep reductions in military expenses.
4. Productive social and environmental reconstruction:
  • Nationalization/socialization of banks, and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers’ control, in order to serve developmental purposes. The scandalous recapitalization of the banks must stop immediately.
  • Nationalization of all public enterprises of strategic importance that have been privatized so far. Administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control, and democratic planning. Support for the provision of Public Goods.
  • Protection and consolidation of co-operatives and SMEs in the social sector.
  • Ecological transformation in development of energy production, manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture. These reforms will prioritize nutritional abundance and fulfillment of social needs.
  • Development of scientific research and productive specialization.
5. Stable employment with decent wages and social insurance:
The constant degradation of labour rights, coupled with embarrassing wage levels, does not attract investment, development, or employment.
Instead, we are calling for:
  • Well-paid, well-regulated, and insured employment.
  • Immediate reconstitution of the minimum wage, and reconstitution of real wages within three years.
  • Immediate reconstitution of collective labour agreements.
  • Instigation of powerful control mechanisms that will protect employment.
  • Systematic opposition of lay-offs and the deregulation of labour relations.
6. Deepening Democracy: democratic political and social rights for all:
There is a democratic deficit in the country. Greece is gradually being transformed into an authoritarian police state.
We are calling for:
  • The restoration of popular sovereignty and an upgrade of parliamentary power within the political system:
    • Creation of a proportional electoral system
    • Separation of powers
    • Revocation of ministerial immunity
    • Abolishment of economic privileges for MPs
  • Real decentralization to create local government with sound resources and expanded jurisdiction.
  • The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of self-management under workers’ and social control at all levels.
  • Measures against political and economic corruption.
  • The solidification of democratic, political, and trade union rights.
  • The enhancement of women's and youths’ rights in the family, in employment, and in public administration.
  • Immigration reforms:
    • Speeding up the asylum process
    • Abolition of Dublin II regulations and granting of travel papers to immigrants
    • Social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection
  • Democratic reforms to public administration with the active participation of civil servants.
  • The demilitarization and democratization of the Police and the Coast Guard. Disbandment of special forces.
7. Restoration of a strong welfare state:
Anti-insurance laws, the shutdown of social services, and the steep fall in social expenditures under the Memorandum have turned Greece into a country where social injustice reigns.
We are in need of:
  • An immediate rescue of the pension system, to include tripartite financing and the gradual consolidation of separate pension fund portfolios into one public, universal system of social insurance.
  • A raise in unemployment benefits until the substitution rate reaches 80% of the wage. No unemployed person is to be left without unemployment benefits.
  • The introduction of a guaranteed minimum income.
  • A unified system of comprehensive social protection covering the vulnerable social strata.
8. Health is a Public Good and a social right:
Health care is to be provided for free and will be financed through a Public Health System. Immediate measures include:
  • Support and upgrades for hospitals. Upgrade of health infrastructures of the Social Insurance Institute (IKA). Development of an integrated system of first-level medical care.
  • Covering the needs of medical treatment in both personnel and equipment, in part by stopping lay-offs.
  • Open and cost-free access to medical treatment for all residents in the country.
  • Free pharmaceutical treatment and medical examinations for low-income pensioners, the unemployed, students, and those suffering from chronic diseases.
9. Protection of public education, research, culture, and sports from the Memorandum's policies:
With regards to education, we are calling for:
  • Consolidation of universal, public, and free education, including coverage of its urgent needs in infrastructure and personnel at all three levels.
  • Compulsory 14-year unified education.
  • Revocation of the Diamantopoulou Law.
  • Assurance of self-government for Universities.
  • Preservation of the academic and public character of Universities.
10. An independent foreign policy committed to the promotion of peace:
The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country's independence, peace, and security.
We propose:
  • A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
  • Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
  • Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
  • Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.
Furthermore, on the basis of international law and the principle of peaceful conflict resolution, we will pursue improvements in Greek-Turkish relations, a solution to the problem of FYROM's official name, and the specification of Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The incumbent economic and social system has failed and we must overthrow it!

The economic crisis that is rocking global capitalism has shattered the illusions. 

More and more, people understand that capitalist speculation is an inhuman organizational principle for modern society. It is also widely acknowledged that the private banks function only for the benefit of the bankers, harming the rest of the people. Big business and bankers absorb billions of euros from health care, education, and pensions.

An exit from the crisis requires bold measures that will prevent those who created the crisis from continuing their destructive work. We are endorsing a new model for the production and distribution of wealth, one that will include society in its totality. In this respect, the large capitalist property is to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.

We are changing the future; we are pushing them into the past!

We can prevail by forging unity and creating a new coalition for power with the Left as a cornerstone. Our strength in this endeavour is the alliance of the People: the inspiration, the creative effort, and the struggle of the working people. With these, we will shape the lives and the future of a self-governed people.

Now the vote is in the hands of the People! Now the People have the power!

In this new election, the Greek people can and must vote against the regime of the Memoranda and the Troika, thus turning over a new page of hope and optimism for the future.

For Greece and for Europe, the solution is with the Left!


The New Greek Finance Minister Has Some Questions For The World's Journalists




It was a confusing day for Europe, for the new Greek foreign minister, and now for Greece's new finance minister who hours ago posted a question on his blog to the world's journalists:







A question of respect (or lack thereof)… – the Greek veto over Russia that never was
On the first day in our ministries, the power of the media to distort hit me again. The world’s press was full of reports on how the SYRIZA government’s first foreign policy ‘move’ was to veto fresh sanctions on Russia. Now, I am not qualified to speak on foreign affairs but, nonetheless, I must share this with you at a personal level. Our Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, briefed us that on his first day at the job he heard in the news bulletins that the EU had approved new sanctions on Russia unanimously. The problem was that he, and the new Greek government, were never asked! So, clearly, the issue was not whether our new government agrees or not with fresh sanctions on Russia. The issue is whether our view can be taken for granted without even being told of what it is! From my perspective, even though (let me state it again) I am certainly not qualified to speak on foreign affairs, this is all about a question of respect for our national sovereignty. Could journalists the world over try to draw this important distinction between protesting our being neglected from protesting the sanctions themselves? Or is this too complicated?

All fair questions. And then at almost the same time we read the following, first from Bloomberg:
  • EU DECISION ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS WAS UNANIMOUS, MOGHERINI SAYS
And then from Reuters:



European Union foreign ministers extended existing sanctions against Russia on Thursday, holding off on tighter economic measures for now but winning the support of the new left-leaning government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.
... 
The run-up to the Brussels talks was dominated by Greece, whose new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, took power on Monday and complained that his government had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened. But at the meeting, colleagues said new foreign minister Nikos Kotzias had swiftly dispelled suggestions that Greece would automatically torpedo any sanctions effort.
According to Italy's foreign minister, Kotzias announced to the meeting: "I am not a Russian puppet."

It appears Greece was consulted after all:







While the Greeks did call for the decision on tighter sanctions to be delayed, they were not alone: other countries such as Italy and Austria also favored a delay, diplomats said, while Britain and the Baltic states wanted a clearer commitment to imposing new sanctions quickly. "We are not against every sanction," Kotzias said later. "We are in the mainstream, we are not the bad boys."

And even Germany is now "less concerne



German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed frustration with the ambiguity of the Greek position before the talks: "It is no secret that the new stance of the Greek government has not made today's debate any easier," he said.After he met Kotzias in private, German officials said he was less concerned.

So following all this, we too have a few questions of our own: i) was or wasn't Greece consulted; ii) if yes, did Greece agree to join the unanimous European statement while declaring it is "not a Russian puppet"; and finally iii) while Greece may not be a Russian puppet, is Greece still a European puppet?


Opinion piece
The limits of what can be expected from the SYRIZA government
by Wayne Hall

29 January, 2015



http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.gr/2015/01/syriza-voting-to-join-realm-of-shared_28.html

The above analysis of the politics of SYRIZA and its government does not say anything that is untrue, but it leaves out of account a number of points that are relevant in estimating the political potential of the new Greek government.

For a start, SYRIZA does not touch on any taboo “conspiracy theory” issues, such as 911 and/or the militarization of climate. They have systematically and resolutely refused to engage any of them. They line up with the side of the climate debate that attributes all anomalous “natural” phenomena to “global warming” (of course the other side of that debate is also manipulated).

On Ukraine and Russia there are also limitations to what they can say or do. The senior member of SYRIZA most committed to policies not hostile to Russia, Nadia Valavani, who was foreign policy spokesperson before the election, has now been assigned to economic issues.

Giulietto Chiesa, the journalist and former Europarliamentarian who, I would say, has a “Vineyard of Saker” political orientation 
http://main.cse-initiative.eu/?p=242 , tried to work with SYRIZA in Greece and its equivalent in Italy but has been, and is, treated like a persona non grata by them. I don’t think there is anything personal about this. It is a reflection of political differences.

SYRIZA has continued the traditional Greek “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” orientation towards the Kurds, which in the new post-ISIS geopolitical environment involves a convenient alignment with American and international policies of border changes at the expense of Turkey. Greek and Turkish geopolitical interest are arguably converging, with the two countries having more potential common interests than diverging interests. Of course this is a complex issue but categories of “left wing” and “right wing”, while not entirely irrelevant, also probably do not have as much importance as is attributed to them by SYRIZA.

On the subject of “empowerment of citizens’ participation”, SYRIZA’s declared politics deserve more rigorous thought than they are getting. “Citizens’ participation” in a context of corporate mass media control is no guarantee of politics that are in the objective interests of citizens. It can be a Trojan horse facilitating imposition of policies by foreign-controlled NGOs. Possible first steps towards dealing with this problem have been put forward and discussed to a very limited extent 
https://epamaegina.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/independent-citizens-assembly/ but the discussion has not acquired any traction within SYRIZA. SYRIZA’s policies in this area are as vague as they are in other parliamentary parties.



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