May 312016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Greece’s supposedly “leftist” government of so-called “hope” and “change” did it again! It saved Greece once more! Greece can continue living the European nightmare…excuse me, dream, can remain part of the vaunted “European family” and the Eurozone, and the government once again successfully completed “tough” negotiations with its so-called European “Partners,” with a capital P, as Greece’s deferential journalistic class tends to refer to them.

Let’s take a look at this new “success story” of Greece’s government of “hope” and “change.” It is a success story so big that Greece’s already insane value-added tax of 23% will be bumped up to 24% on June 1st. It is a success story so great that the unified property tax which SYRIZA, at one time, called unconstitutional and illegal and which at one time was said to be “temporary,” will now be raised and made permanent. It is a success story so tremendous that Greece’s already paltry pension and social security payments will be slashed further, despite government lies and propaganda to the contrary. Home foreclosures and auctions will resume, without anything but the flimsiest of temporary protections for the poorest homeowners. These foreclosures and auctions will take place electronically instead of in a courthouse, under cover of darkness and without warning. In the meantime, new privatizations are coming, alongside the development of a new super-fund of sorts which will manage essentially all of Greece’s publicly-owned assets and prepare them to be sold off, at bargain basement prices. And unlike most of the people of Greece, the foreign investors who will be snatching up these assets know very well how valuable a land Greece is.

Of course, all of these privatizations, foreclosures, auctions, as well as the bundling and selling of both prime and subprime loans—where have we heard that before?–will be permitted without any transfer tax or any other taxes being levied. Because when we talk about tax evasion, we are supposed to only talk about the “bad,” “lazy,” “spendthrift” Greeks, but never the “good,” “civilized” foreign saviors in suits. And of course, this was agreed to following those aforementioned “tough” negotiations between the Greek government of “hope” and “change” and the lenders. This result had also been predicted, months in advance, by economist, analyst, and member of Greece’s United Popular Front Dimitris Karousos, but was of course ignored by the international media and of course by the trashy, biased English-language editions of Greece’s media outlets.

So what if people’s homes are foreclosed and thousands of households are thrown out onto the streets? So what if heating oil and gas, already insanely taxed, are taxed some more, along with basic goods and staples through direct and indirect taxation? Who cares if the self-employed and small- and mid-sized businesses will be absolutely slaughtered as a result of these new measures that were voted into law and the avalanche of taxes that they will face? Who cares if there is now zero chance of the minimum wage to be restored to the still-low pre-crisis levels, which at one time the SYRIZA government of supposed “hope” and “change” had promised? And of course, all of this does not even take into account the automatic cuts that will be implemented if Greece does not meet the strict fiscal targets imposed by its so-called saviors. Who cares about all of this? We are talking about a success story here! Of course, though, it’s a success story for the lenders—but not for Greece or for the Greek people. But, the European dream is what everyone wanted, right? So here it is, enjoy it!

And since we are talking about what is surely such a huge, unprecedented success, that must explain why the otherwise “revolutionary” and “radical” and “non gullible” and oh so clever Greek people did not take to the streets. After all, Greece remained in Europe, remained in the Euro, people still have cheese from Holland for their sandwiches (if they can afford the 24% tax, that is), so everything is A-OK, right? That must explain why Greece’s notaries called off their strike protesting the new insurance and pension bill, as soon as that very bill was passed, allowing home foreclosures and auctions to resume. That must also explain why Greece’s lawyers, with their own protracted strike, have inconvenienced ordinary Greek people whose cases have, in some cases, been postponed for years—instead of using their legal knowledge to mobilize the population and protest austerity both old and new.

Ah, but I forgot. We had the usual round of stale, old 3 and 4 and 24 hour so-called “work stoppages,” which of course left enough time for Greece’s “labor leaders”–quotations absolutely necessary—to hit up their favorite tavernas to wine and dine. Work stoppages which have been going on for decades and decades and which not once have made the slightest bit of impact other than inconveniencing people’s lives, which might very well be their real objective, instead of any actual change. For instance, we had the workers on the Athens Metro declare a work stoppage beginning at 9 pm on the night the new measures were to be voted into law. This was enough to discourage many people from coming out to protest, not knowing if they’d have a way to return home. With a low turnout of protesters assured, the work stoppage was then lifted at the last minute, just in time for the usual mass exodus from Syntagma Square once the usual dog-and-pony show between the paid agent provocateurs and the riot police which SYRIZA was at one time going to abolish, was underway.

We of course also had the journalists’ strike as well, which of course just coincidentally happened to fall in the days of final debate before the new measures were to be voted upon by Parliament. Of course, the truth here is that even if there was no strike, there would still have been no actual journalism taking place from these so-called journalists and the media outlets they work for. But just try explaining that to grandma and grandpa in the village and to Greece’s suburban neoliberal class, who still actually think they are being informed by the newscasts that they watch.

All of this is okay though, because there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! We have the “savior” Yanis Varoufakis with his stylish pink t-shirts and his so-called “guerilla interviews,” that is, when he isn’t making “spontaneous” (quotations again necessary) appearances at the protests taking place in France or signing autographs in Spain. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said that the Greek debt would be repaid in perpetuity, who pillaged the Greek public sector’s cash reserves to pay that debt to the IMF, who imposed capital controls, and who agreed to more austerity and who voted for Greece’s corrupt pro-austerity president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This same “heroic” Varoufakis is now touting the catastrophic idea of a parallel or dual currency system for Greece as a “solution” while millions of minions lap up his every word. He is joined by the “heroic” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who also knew how to vote “yes to everything” when she was part of the SYRIZA government last year and who continued publicly supporting the government even after it sold out the referendum result of July 5th. She, too, is touting the catastrophic parallel or dual currency solution for Greece, as are fascists such as the far-right Giorgos Karatzaferis and “Sir” (quotations necessary once more) Basil Markezinis, son of a junta prime minister, both of whom have been resurrected from the political graveyard recently.

So since Greece has been saved, has remained in Europe and the vaunted Eurozone, and since there are even more “saviors” in the pipeline who will continue to save Greece well into the future, why bother protesting? The couch is nice and comfortable, is it not? And it’s easier to let the television do the thinking for you, lest you hurt your head. The same television which includes public broadcaster ERT, which is now paying private, oligarch-owned network provider DIGEA to transmit its signal digitally. A company owned by the same oligarchs that the oh so leftist SYRIZA government claims it is going to take down. The same government which will supposedly take down these oligarchs by auctioning off a limited number of television licenses to the highest bidder and the deepest pockets, while Greece’s smaller, independent local television stations are dying off, unable to afford to pay DIGEA exorbitant amounts to carry their signal. This is the same government which, unconstitutionally and in violation of European law, has shut down Greece’s National Radio-Television Committee, leaving the broadcasting landscape entirely unregulated. This is the government which claims it is restoring order to the airwaves, and there are still people who slurp up this propaganda.

Of course, television in Greece knows all about telling people horror stories from countries like Venezuela while telling people that the so-called “leftist” Alexis Tsipras wants to turn Greece just like Venezuela. What they won’t say, of course, is that Venezuela is the victim of both international economic warfare through the sharp decline in oil prices, as well as a victim of its own domestic oligarchs and cartels, who are hoarding goods to create severe market shortages in order to undermine the country’s government. What the media in Greece are also not saying is that many of these horror stories also exist in Greece today as well, in a country that is supposedly being “bailed out” and “saved” day after day by its so-called European friends and partners. What these media outlets in Greece know how to say is that Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus are supposed “success stories” for concluding their own memorandum agreements. What is not said is that the end of the memorandum agreements has not meant the end of harsh austerity, the end of record numbers of home foreclosures and evictions, or the end of mass migration out of these countries.

And while all of this is happening, I hear many in Greece moaning and groaning about why we can’t be more like the French, who we are told are out on the streets in massive numbers to protest their own anti-labor bills. However, few people, if any, think to ask…how were these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations actually organized, with blogs and websites and hashtags and public assemblies? We saw the savior of not just Greece but apparently the whole world Yanis Varoufakis speak to the protesters in France. Who invited him? Who assured his security? Who paid for his travel and lodging? How did this speech get organized in the first place, logistically and otherwise? And how did these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations spontaneously, as we are supposed to believe, spread to 55 cities in Greece and dozens more in Europe, all on the same day and at the same time? Are we supposed to believe that after such a long period of inactivity and hibernation that everyone suddenly decided that they had enough? And in the meantime, what people in Greece are blissfully unaware of is that while they are whining about their own inactivity, the rest of the world mistakenly believes that it the Greeks who are the ones fighting back, while they are the ones staying inactive! Doesn’t anybody have even the slightest curiosity as to how these perceptions are developed and maintained, and by who?

The answer is that no, most people do not question such things. Instead, in Greece, they run off to again vote for criminals and professional liars like those in SYRIZA, while others, through their abstention from the polls, essentially legitimize the victors in this electoral process instead of giving their votes to the dozens of smaller parties and movements which are struggling to exist. Those same people might participate in yet another lame 3 or 4 hour work stoppage, or by maybe taking a walk down to the center of Athens to “protest” by standing around and drinking beer, before running home to catch Greece’s talking heads on TV again. That’s Greece and that’s the majority of the Greek populace today.

May 252016
 

By Eric Toussaint, CADTM, 99GetSmart

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Part Two of the series “Greece and debt: two centuries of interference from creditors”

This series of articles analyses Greece’s major debt crises by placing them in the international economic and political context, an approach that is systematically absent from the dominant narrative and very rarely present in critical analyses. Since 1826, a series of major debt crises have profoundly marked the lives of the Greek people. Each time, European Powers formed a coalition to impose new debts in order to repay the earlier ones. This coalition of Powers dictated policies to Greece that corresponded to their own interests and those of the few big private banks and large fortunes. Each time, those policies were aimed at extracting the tax resources necessary for repayment of the debt and entailed a reduction in social spending as well as decreased public investments. In a variety of ways, Greece and the Greek people were denied the exercise of their own sovereignty. With the complicity of the Greek ruling classes, this kept Greece in a subordinate, peripheral condition.

Recall of Part One, published 12 April 2016 http://cadtm.org/Newly-Independent-Greece-had-an: Newly Independent Greece had an Odious Debt round her Neck

Modern Greece was born shackled to debt from bond issues (in 1824, 1825 and 1833) which together amounted to 245% of her GDP. Three major European Powers (Britain, France and Russia) formed a coalition that amounted to the first Troika, imposed a monarchy, putting a Bavarian prince on the throne, and subjugated the country through debt. The Troika systematically defended the interests of the big banks in London and Paris, ensuring that they would extract maximum profit from the odious debt demanded of Greece. The Greek people, who had to foot the bill for a spendthrift, bellicose monarchy, rebelled on several occasions. While they succeeded in ousting the despot in 1862 and instituting a Constitution granting them certain civil and political rights, they were not able to free themselves of the burden of debt. The major Powers kept Greece in a position of subordination, denying the Greek people the exercise of their sovereignty. The monarchy and the local ruling classes systematically attempted to divert popular discontent towards nationalism and hostilities with the Ottoman Empire.

Introduction to Part Two

According to the dominant version of history, whether untruthful or simply mistaken, during the 1880s Greece was re-admitted onto the financial markets thanks to an 1878 agreement with the creditors who held their 1824-1825 |1| debts and to policies of radical public expenditure reduction. Greece then made heavy use of fresh borrowing and significantly increased its public spending. This, the story goes, was the cause of the 1893debt crisis and suspension of payments. Greece’s inability to manage its borrowing seriously is said to have led the big Powers to impose a financial control commission to oversee the Greek budget. This story is false!

The following translated extract from Le Monde dated 16 July 2015 is an example of what is widely said: “But, as today, the country was rife with clientelism and tax avoidance by the notables. Immediately after Greek independence, the King Otto, the first king of Greece, who was imposed by the European Powers, introduced costly major works projects. The civil service took on any warm body, the army was superbly equipped… It was all paid for by generous loans [sic] from western countries. The government lost control: in 1893, almost half of the country’s tax revenues were devoted to paying the interest on the debt”. |2|

Another example can be found in the 20 June 2015 issue of the Swiss financial magazine Bilan: “Thanks to the agreement that was ratified in 1878, Greece could once again, in 1879, borrow on the financial markets. Over the next fourteen years Greece borrowed the equivalent of almost 530 million French francs from Paris, London and Berlin creditors. Less than 25% of the sums were invested in infrastructures to develop the country. The rest went on military expenditure to finance Greece’s confrontations with its neighbours (with mixed military fortunes)”. |3|

The true part of the story is that the bankers again lent money to Greece. It is also true that the Monarchy spent a lot and waged expensive military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. Most commentators, always ready to side with the creditors (like the Le Monde journalist who did not hesitate to mention ‘generous loans’, a real oxymoron) |4|, also point out that taxes were inefficiently collected.

Now let’s see what really happened: during the 1880s the bankers of the great Powers (British and French but also German, Belgian, Dutch, etc.) were favourable to lending to countries that were normalising their payments situations. They imposed one condition: the old outstanding debt must be restructured and repaid. Most of the countries who had had repayment defaults accepted these conditions that are very favourable to creditors who then opened their purses to lend money so that countries would have the means to repay old debts. Big capital, then experiencing a new phase of expansion in the dominant countries, was attracted to the new investments and lending possibilities offered by massive capital exports to peripheral countries. This was the beginning of the imperialist phase of world capitalism. |5|

Greek Bond - 1880

Greek Bond – 1880

Other debt restructuring of the same period

Debt restructuring that took place during the 1878-1890 period concerned Greece, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Peru and the Ottoman Empire.

The Greek debts from 1878 onwards. In 1878, the outstanding debts from 1824-1825 were restructured. The creditors obtained that Greece repay the equivalent of the amount she had received in 1824-1825. There was therefore no real debt reduction and Greece recommenced the payments of interest and capital. |6| Between 1879 and 1890 Greece entirely repaid the restructured debt. The debt had not been reduced because new debts were taken on in order to pay the old ones, which meant both series of debts were repaid during the 1880s.

The Costa Rican debt restructuring of 1885. In suspension of payment since 1874, Costa Rica agreed, in 1885, to a debt restructuring satisfactory to its creditors: along with £2 million they gained possession of a part of the railways and 568,000 acres of land.

The Paraguayan debt restructuring of 1885. Paraguay, which was also in suspension of payment since 1874, agreed to pay its creditors £800,000 and to concede to them 2.5 million acres of land.

The Peruvian debt restructuring of 1890. The Peruvian debt restructuring of 1890 was the biggest restructuring of debt for a Latin American country. The terms were very unfavourable for Peru: the creditors repossessed two million tons of guano (a natural fertiliser), gained possession of the whole public railway system, a shipping line on Lake Titicaca, the mines of Cerro de Pasco and, to top it all, a new loan was agreed to fund the repayment of the remainder of the debt in suspension of payment. Finally, it was in 1926 that Peru finished paying the restructuring of 1890 after the suspension of payments that started in 1876.

The restructuring of the Ottoman Empire’s debt. Following a payment default by the Ottoman Empire in 1875, the debt was partially restructured in 1881. The creditors demanded maximum repayment. To achieve this, a financial commission of experts appointed by the “great powers” was established. As Louise Abellard wrote: “An institution was created in 1881, by imperial decree, under the name of ‘The Ottoman Public Debt Administration’. This Administration gained absolute and irrevocable control over several Imperial revenues (customs and excise, taxes on alcoholic beverages, stamp duties, fishing rights, tax on silk, tobacco and salt monopolies, etc.). These revenues were to be allocated by the Administration to the payment of compensation to the creditors holding bonds issued before the default. The Administration was piloted by Europeans (British, Dutch, French, Germans and Italians) directly representing their nations’ creditors. Entirely independent of the Ottoman authorities, they were an instrument of absolute guarantee for the creditors who thus had the assurance that the old and the new investments would be reimbursed. Up to a point, the holders of the bonds, through the Administration, acted directly on Ottoman finances, in their own favour, until perceived prejudice was fully compensated (up to the end of the Empire). The Administration’s prerogatives were progressively extended to the role of guarantor for infrastructure contract payments (particularly railways)”. |7|

Debt restructuring permitted the imperialist countries to launch a new cycle of indebtedness and capital expansion

The debt restructuring that was carried out during the 1880-90s was the means by which the creditors embarked on a new phase of spreading the over-abundant capital available in the central countries (UK, France, Belgium Netherlands, Germany, etc.) all around the world. The granting of new loans was aimed at setting the repayment pump back into motion, since the countries in default needed fresh liquidities in order to repay their defaulted debts. Investments and loans were the vehicles used. In several cases, as we saw earlier with Latin American countries, restructuring took the form, partly, of property exchanged against outstanding loans. The principal criteria of the bankers, and other investors, was not at all the well-being of the debtor country and their ability to manage the funds they were loaned, or even to repay them, but the creation of maximum profitability. Their decisions were based on the necessity to invest all the funds at their disposal in making maximum profit as well as maintaining the country in a state of indebtedness and financial dependence. The creditors were assured that in case of non-payment their own country’s governments would intervene, by military means if necessary, to force the debtor country to keep up repayments and if necessary, colonize it.

In Tunisia, the Ottoman Empire and in Greece, international supervisory bodies with far-reaching authority were created by the creditor Powers (amongst whom France and Britain always occupied important or even highly privileged positions). Greece was in this position from the very beginning, as illustrated by the 1832 convention passed with Britain, France, Russia and the Kingdom of Bavaria, which created the Greek Monarchy and gave absolute priority to debt repayment. |8| An International Financial Control Commission was imposed on Tunisia in 1869 before it went under direct French control in 1881. In the Ottoman Empire the creditor Powers installed twenty local offices throughout the territory (from Yemen to Thessalonika), and employed 5,000 civil servants. Greece’s subordination to the creditor Powers – in fact written into its international “birth certificate” – has changed in form over time but still remains today: from the interference by the British, French and Russian ambassadors in the council of ministers in 1843, |9| to the creation of the International Finance Control Commission in 1898 (which functioned up to the Nazi invasion), not to forget the International Financial Enquiry Commission created in 1857 to watch over the repayment of the 1833 debt.

The impact of the international financial and economic crisis of 1890-1891 on Greece

In November 1890, the City of London was in a situation comparable to that which occurred again in the US in 2008 and which triggered off the failure of Lehman Bros., a credit crunch, an international banking crisis and a worldwide economic recession in 2009. On 8 November 1890 the London bankers held an emergency meeting to plan action, should Baring Bros. fail. On 10 November, the bankers met with the government, who established contacts with the other big Powers in order to coordinate reactions to the crisis. Baring Bros. (unlike Lehman Bros.) was saved, but the financial and economic crisis of 1891-1892 was profound. Among those who took part in saving Baring Bros. was the Rothschild bank (present in London, Paris and other European capitals and an important player in Greek debt), JP Morgan (already the biggest US bank) and JS Morgan (established in London and parent to JP Morgan, with whom they later merged). |10|

Nowhere in the articles on the 2015-2016 Greek debt crisis published by the chief organs of the international press are references to the 1893 Greek debt crisis to be found; nor any link to the international financial and economic situation and the suspension of payments decreed by the Greek Parliament at the time. The crisis that had its origins in London caused an economic recession, a fall in international trade, an international credit squeeze… Greece experienced a serious drop in its exportations and so was deprived of the foreign currency essential to funding its debt repayments. Exports of currants, which represented two thirds of Greek exports, fell by 50% between 1891 and 1893. There were two reasons for this sharp drop: 1. The international crisis and the reduction of demand in the richest countries; 2. The decisions taken in the UK, France and Russia to impose import duties on the currants entering their markets. This was in total contradiction of their own dogma professing free trade and the removal of all import-export duties. |11| The fall in revenue and blocked access to loans from British, French and German banks left Greece no option but to suspend payments. Fifty-six percent of Greece’s revenue was devoted to debt repayments. |12| Another contributing factor was a fall in the value of Greek currency against the pound sterling and other strong currencies. With a devalued currency, the real cost of the foreign debt became unsustainable.

The commentators who accuse Greece of being a country that goes easily into payment default should learn that in the 19th century, Spain suspended payment six times, the Austro-Hungarian Empire five times, Portugal three times, Prussia twice and Russia once. |13|

The military conflict against the Ottoman Empire and the restructuring that followed

The Greek monarchy and the local elite launched a disastrous military conflict against the Ottoman Empire in 1897. Evidently, the great Powers manoeuvred the two parties into war |14| in order to take advantage of their mutual weakening and increase their influence over them, particularly by using their debts. The conflict was costly and the great Powers imposed their will on Greece as much as on the Ottoman Empire. The peace treaty was signed in Constantinople (now Istanbul) on 4 December 1897 under the supervision of the UK, France and Russia (the Troika of the time, in place since 1830), the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany and Italy. |15| In 1898 another loan was made to Greece (see Box: The 1898 Bond Issue…) The Troika was again the guarantor of the loan. The loan was granted within the framework of the peace treaty and covered a big indemnity paid by Greece to the Ottoman Empire. The great Powers did good business; as they had control of the Ottoman Empire’s finances, they saw to it that the Ottoman Empire’s creditors were paid. Greece and the Ottoman Empire had the same creditors!

The 1898 Bond Issue and the subjection of Greece to International Financial Control

The Law of Control voted by the Hellenic Parliament on 26 February 1898 is identical to the draft bill drawn up by the International Financial Control Commission (IFC). Greece was obliged to accept all the creditors’ conditions. Under this Law, the IFC controlled all state revenue dedicated to servicing:
- the 1833 loan guaranteed by France, Great Britain and Russia;
- foreign loans incurred by the Greek State between 1881 and 1893;
- the new loan that Greece took on to repay the preceding ones and to pay war reparations to the Ottoman Empire.

The 1898 loan was composed of two parts:

1) A loan for war indemnity to Turkey covering 92 million French francs (4 million Turkish pounds) plus 2.3 million francs (100,000 Turkish pounds) that Greece had to pay for damage to private property.

2) A further loan to cover former debts and the deficit of the year 1897 to enable the debt to be repaid. This came to a total of 55 million francs distributed as follows:
- 26 million francs to cover the Greek State’s budget deficit for the year 1897;
- 2.5 million francs for payments owed by the Greek Government in 1898 to holders of the former foreign debt;
- 26.5 million francs to repay the floating debt or to convert it to gold.

The total new loan taken on by Greece thus came to 123.5 million francs (28.5 + 95), plus the 26.5 million francs of debt conversion. To this amount a further 20 million francs were to be added, in the form of loans as and when required, to cover the total deficit of the following years.

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Extract from the report of the International Finance Commission from 1898
Article 4 of the Law of Control drawn up by the IFC and meekly adopted by the Hellenic Parliament on 26 February 1898 stipulated that the Commission’s administrative costs, fixed at a maximum of 150,000 francs and including a sum of 60,000 francs to cover the fees of the six Delegates, should be deducted from the product of the revenues concerned. The six delegates represented Great Britain, France, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany and Italy.The IFC obliged Greece to repay 39 million drachma per year while the average total income of the State (barring loans) came to approximately 90 million drachma. That meant that 43% of State revenue went directly to debt payments. Note that no part of the new loan was intended to strengthen the country’s economy, develop its infrastructure or improve public education. The new loan was intended exclusively to pay off former debts, indemnify Turkey (which in turn needed the indemnity to repay her creditors, who happened to be the same as Greece’s) and to pay off Greece’s current deficit.

The IFC members emphasized that on average the total budget of the Ministry of Education and Cults barely attained 3.5 million drachma, while the civil list (or emoluments of the sovereign) came to 1.3 million, the budget for the police 1.7 million and the Defence (war) budget 15 million. In the IFC’s reference budget there was no specific post for public health. The railway budget was a ridiculous 84,350 drachma (7.5% of the civil list). Note that the IFC forced an IOU of more than 4 million drachma upon Greece, for the heirs of King Otto who had been overthrown by the people in 1862. The annual charge that repaying this debt incurred came to 200,260 drachma, or 2.5 times the country’s railway budget!

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Extract from the report of the International Finance Commission from 1898 – administrative costs of Greece 1892 – 1896
The Commission made it quite clear that in the future, the Greek State budget would make no provision for major public works such as improvement of sea-ports and new railway lines. The Commission considered that any undertaking likely to significantly aggravate budget charges should be postponed until such time as the country’s finances had reached stable equilibrium. This is an explicit acknowledgement of the creditor Powers’ intention to maintain Greece in a permanent state of economic underdevelopment.In Article 11 of the Law, the IFC lays claim to the following for debt repayments:
- all revenue from stamp duty, about 10 million drachma;
- all revenue from import duties collected by the Piraeus Customs, i.e. about 10.7 million drachma;
- all revenue from duty on tobacco, i.e. about 6.6 million drachma;
- all revenue from duty from the monopolies on salt, oil, matches, playing cards and cigarette paper, to which were added all revenue from the emery mine at Naxos (an island in the Cyclades), i.e. about 12.3 million drachma in total.
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Extract from the report of the International Finance Commission from 1898
Who did the IFC entrust with the task of collecting revenue from the monopolies? The monopolies over salt, oil, matches, playing cards and Naxos emery were administered by a Greek-registered joint-stock company entitled Société de régie des revenus affectés au service de la dette publique hellénique or Company for the Control of Revenues Assigned to the Service of the Hellenic Public Debt (an ancestor of TAIPED |16|). The creditors obliged Greece to place this company under the direct supervision of the International Financial Commission and to make it a sort of instrument or organ of control. Furthermore, a designated member of the international Commission would be authorized to attend sessions of the Board of Administration and the General Assembly and the Commission would be able to veto any measure it judged illegal or damaging to the interests with which it had been entrusted. |17|Article 24 stated that all monies received by the Company designated in Article 14 should be entirely paid into the Régie’s accounts at least once a week. Should the revenues mentioned above prove insufficient, the IFC had the right to deduct revenue from the Customs at Laurium (whose gross product was estimated at 1.5 million drachma), Patras (2.4 million), Volo (1.7 million), and Corfu (1.6 million), in accordance with Article 12 of the Law.

IFC members could go in person to the various offices and establishments of all the services whose revenue was concerned, to check on the full implementation of the legal and regulatory measures. They were entitled to see on demand all books, accounts and accountancy documents (Article 36). Article 38 asserted that the Law of Control itself could only be modified with the agreement of the six Powers.

The conclusions of the International Financial Control Commission’s report provide a fine example of lies and hypocrisy: “In summary, the Commission was inspired in its work by the benevolent attitudes of the Powers where Greece is concerned. In satisfying the legitimate demands of the current creditors, it has taken fully into account the financial difficulties with which the country is faced. At the same time, while it has endeavoured to surround the collection and the use of the revenues set aside for the service of the debt with such guarantees as may afford every security to capitalists, it has been at pains to conserve, to the extent possible, the independence of the Hellene nation and of her Government. The future of Greece now depends on her own wisdom. If she applies herself to being industrious, calm and peacable, to improving her Administration, to developing her agricultural resources, encouraging her nascent industry and extending her trade relations, her financial situation will rapidly recover; her beneficent influence will gradually extend into the sphere of action which is reserved for her and, aided in this noble task by the sympathies of the Powers, she will succeed, through courageous and patient efforts, in conquering in Europe’s East the rank to which the glorious memories of her past entitle her.” |18|

This is typical of the discourse used by the European Commission and the governments of the creditor countries even now, in the 21st Century.

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Extract from the report of the International Finance Commission from 1898 – Conclusions
Sources:
- the diplomatic document (in French): Arrangement financier avec la Grèce, travaux de la Commission internationale chargée de la préparation du projet / French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Paris, 1898, 223 pages,
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bp… consulted on 1 May 2016;
- the text of the Greek law implementing the dictates of the international Financial Commission, consulted on 1 May 2016.

It is to be noted that from 1870 the German bankers and Germany were increasingly involved in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire. The Greek defeat of 1897 was partly due to the military reinforcements and advice that the Ottomans had received from German officers (including generals) sent by Berlin. Bankers and diplomats were active in Athens and Constantinople. Among the countries keen to increase their influence in Athens after independence, Germany was omnipresent alongside the Troika. |19| No sooner had the peace treaty been signed and new loans granted to Greece, than the IFC imposed a new set of conditions on Greece. The Commission took up residence in Athens and took control of a large part of the Greek budget, which continued to be devoted to debt repayments. The Greek government had no authority to change the use of the income or modify taxation, without the agreement of the IFC. This bears a close resemblance to the present situation. The Commission remained in place up to the Nazi occupation of Greece in 1942! |20|

On top of the indemnity that Greece had to pay to the Ottoman Empire and that was diverted to the Great Powers, a large part of the new loan was to be used to continue repayments to the Troika countries for the 1833 loans. These repayments went on until the 1930s. According to calculations made by the economists Josefin Meyer, Carmen Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch (who are regularly associated with IMF research projects), only 25% of the sums borrowed by Greece between 1894 and 1914 were spent on regular projects (debt repayments apart) and investments. Forty percent went on debt repayments and banking commissions. The remaining 35% became military expenditure (the principal suppliers of armament were also the principal creditors and this situation persists today). |21| My own estimates show a much smaller portion of the borrowing being used for regular spending – no more than 10-15%.

Conclusions on the debt restructurings that took place in 1878 and 1898

These facts indicate that the debt resulting from the restructurings of 1878 and 1898 must be considered odious debt. The restructuring of 1878 required Greece to resume repayment of the debt contracted in 1824-1825, whereas that debt was illegal given that its terms were so overwhelmingly favourable to the creditors. This restructuring made repayment of the debt just as unsustainable and could only lead to a new crisis, which broke out in 1893. The restructuring of 1898 served to increase by several degrees the level of coercion exercised on the Greek government and its people, notably through the creation of the IFC. It enabled the six major Powers to grab a very large share of the government’s revenues while maintaining Greece in a situation of dependence toward its creditors.

An editorial comment published in the French daily Le Figaro in May 1898, describes the creditors’ strategy fairly clearly: “The maxim of the old policies was: Divide and Conquer. It has been partly replaced by the new rule: Lend them money to keep your foot on their necks. It would be interesting to make a study of it, for poor Greece, as we have had occasion to study it in Egypt, of that subtle invention of modern genius: the lender’s stranglehold on the borrower, substituted for brutal conquest using old-fashioned bayonets; judicial counsel imperceptibly becoming a counsel of wardship, of government, at first gentle and collective, then harsh and personal, for the benefit of the richest, the most tenacious, the most adroit members of the directory. We would like to observe, at its origin, the tying and the tightening of this noose of silver, the imperial instrument our century has made into its most effective weapon for political aggrandisement.” |22|

It is also important to conduct a study to determine what portion of foreign debt (debt issued in foreign currencies on the foreign financial markets, which must be distinguished from Greek loans in the local currency) was purchased by wealthy Greeks, whether residing in Greece or part of the wealthy Greek diaspora living in Istanbul, Alexandria, Smyrna and Paris. |23| It is certain that these powerful Greek elites had invested a significant part of their financial wealth in Greek securities. What that implies is that it was not in their interest to encourage their friends who succeeded one another in the Greek government to take a firm attitude with the creditors (see the Conclusions as well as the end of the inset with excerpts from Constantine Tsoucalas’s work).

Excerpt of a voucher issued by Greece in 1914, part of a loan of 500 million francs to repay previous loans

Excerpt of a voucher issued by Greece in 1914, part of a loan of 500 million francs to repay previous loans

A few keys to understanding the social and political evolution in Greece from just before the start of the First World War

Excerpts from the book by Constantine TsoucalasThe Greek Tragedy. |24| The selected excerpts give an idea of the development of social movements and the reforms won during the late emergence of a peripheral capitalist state.

“The successive tax increases on essential goods put the main burden on the workers and the middle classes, who had by now begun to organize in commercial guilds and unions. In March 1909 thousands of shopkeepers had violently demonstrated, in Athens and Piraeus, against the unequally distributed taxation. On 14 September a huge rally of over 50,000 (out of a population of under 200,000) shook Athens. While declaring their full confidence in the ‘revolution’, the Athenians went beyond the officers’ (that is, the new authorities who had just come to power [note by Eric Toussaint]) intentions. The demands for a system of progressive income taxation, the protection of production, the transformation of the civil service into a body of true public servants by the abolition of the spoils system rampant till then, an improvement in the workers’ standard of living, and a ban on usury as a criminal offence expressed the class antagonism that had been politically silent for so long. At the same time, the organization of the workers had been strengthened by the creation of numerous trade unions, and the discontent among the peasants had been growing since 1898, when the crisis in the currant trade, which had constituted a staple export, had reduced large strata of the agrarian population to misery. Unrest was especially strong in Thessaly, where the demand for agrarian reform of the large ‘estate-system’, inherited from the Turks, led to a series of violent peasant revolts, between 1905 and 1910, which had been bloodily repressed.”

(…)

“The elections of 1910 were a triumph for the new Liberal party. Venizelos formed his first cabinet, which consisted almost entirely of new men. A period of intense reconstruction and radical reform thus began.”

(…)

“The prerequisite for the reform programme of the Liberals was a constitutional reform. The constitution of 1864 was fully revised, individual liberties guaranteed, and the foundations of a ‘State of Law’ were laid. However, though some of the formal prerogatives of the monarchy were curtailed, the real powers of the King remained ambiguous, a fact which was to have explosive consequences.

On this institutional framework, Venizelos launched an impressive legislative programme. Land reform was the most urgent and difficult problem. A constitutional amendment (1911) was promulgated authorizing expropriation with compensation–though not without bitter opposition from the still powerful landowner class.”

(…) 

“Low wages were exempted from confiscation in cases of debt (1909), the trade union federations of Athens and Piraeus were recognized (1910), Sunday was made a compulsory rest day (1910), a new and rapid procedure was introduced for the adjudication of disputes between workers and management (1912), joint unions between workers and employers were forbidden (1914), and the newly established unions of workers were permitted to negotiate and sign collective labour contracts. Finally a compulsory general labour insurance scheme was introduced in 1914.”

“The fiscal system was also reorganized on a more equitable basis. Progressive taxation of income was introduced in 1911 and death duties were reorganized and greatly increased in 1914.”

Following the First World War at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Germany and Austria-Hungary were beaten, and the Greek monarchy and ruling classes thought that part of the Great Idea – Greece’s annexation of a part of Turkish Asia Minor – was about to be realised. This led to the disastrous military adventure of 1922, during which the Greek army attacked the Turkish army in its territory in Asia Minor. The result was a human and military disaster.

In 1922, “…the attempt to launch a general offensive against Kemal’s stronghold in Ankara ended in disaster. In August 1922, the Greek Army was smashed and fled in disorder before the Turks, who pursued its remnants into the sea, slaughtered thousands of Greeks, and finally set fire to Smyrna in the midst of indescribable chaos. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks were forced to flee to the neighbouring islands or the Greek mainland.”

(…)

“Ten years of war (1912-1922) had resulted in the creation of a country totally different from what it had been before. Greek territory doubled and the population grew even more spectacularly. The 1,500,000 refugees, whose social and economic integration was to constitute the greatest and most urgent problem of the country, changed the population structure completely. The urban population was greatly augmented, especially in the Athens district and the few large towns, where a numerous urban proletariat was created for the first time. Thus while in 1908 only 24 per cent of the population lived in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants, the percentage had risen to 27 per cent in 1920 and to 33 per cent by 1928. Greater Athens grew from 452,919 inhabitants in 1920 to 801,622 in 1928.”

(…)

“The urban scene had also changed drastically after the war. The long years of fighting, the influence of the Russian Revolution, and especially the tragic conditions of the urban refugees, led the working class to organize on a more radical basis. The General Confederation of Trade Unions was created in November 1918, and the Greek Socialist Party a week later. In 1922 it adhered to the Comintern, and two years later it became the Communist Party of Greece.”

(…)

“The total decay of the Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian Khedivate during the latter half of the nineteenth century enabled the Western powers to impose upon them a quasi-colonial status. It was the Greek merchants and bankers who were the major beneficiaries of this development, and between 1880 and 1910 colossal fortunes were made in the Mediterranean periphery. If the 1922 crisis eradicated the Greek element from Turkey and Bulgaria, their position remained unchallenged in Egypt and to a certain extent in Rumania, where the most influential Greek financiers continued to make their fortunes. Typically, many of the closest advisers of Venizelos in the economic and banking field belonged to this group. This undoubtedly helps to explain Venizelos’s automatic obedience to British and French diplomatic interests. It also provides a deeper understanding of the reluctance of Greek capital to centre its interests upon domestic development.”

Greece - 1832-1947

Greece – 1832-1947

8-5-1042f-1The debts from the 1920s to the Second World War
The defeat of Greece’s military adventure into Turkish territory in 1922 had dramatic effects on the civilian population. Approximately 1.5 million Greeks, the majority of whom had been living in Turkey, were forced to cross the Aegean under catastrophic conditions and return to Greece, which had lost the part of the Ottoman territory she had been granted after the First World War under the Treaty of Sèvres. |25| This massive influx of refugees led the Greek authorities to request aid from the League of Nations (the “ancestor” of the UN), which granted loans to Greece between 1924 and 1928 for a total amount equivalent to 20% of Greece’s GDP at the time. As guarantee, the League required that harsh austerity policies be applied. Both the League of Nations’ representation in Greece and that of the IFC, created in 1898, were dominated by the creditor powers, in particular Britain.

Repayment of the loans granted by the League of Nations was added to a series of other repayment obligations – the continuation of the repayment to Britain and France of the remainder of the debt of 1833 (Russia has received no repayments since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917), repayment of the debt of 1898, and repayment of the war loans granted during the First World War by Britain, the USA, Canada and France (these war loans amounted it 55% of Greece’s GDP). |26| The total debts owed by Greece were more than 100% of her GDP, and the amount paid each year accounted for more than 30% of the revenues in the Greek budget and approximately 10% of GDP. That gives an idea of the effort imposed on the Greek people and on the country’s economy.

9-4-bc0de

For as long as the international economy was undergoing a phase of growth, as during the period 1898-1913 and the 1920s, Greece was able to post a primary budgetary surplus and cover its debt repayments (that is, under IFC constraints, it managed to generate revenue in excess of expenditures excluding debt service, which meant that it could use the surplus for repayments). Greece also received capital inflows, as during any period of growth of the world economy. The creditors granted Greece new loans so that she could repay the old ones.

Greek Bond - 1925

Greek Bond – 1925

The situation changed radically starting in 1930-1931 when the effects of the new international crisis that broke out on Wall Street in October 1929 began to be felt. Greece’s revenues from exports (mainly tobacco and currants) again collapsed, several Greek banks failed in 1931, and Greece’s currency was devalued by 50% following the British decision to suspend the exchange system based on the gold standard. |27| This devaluation automatically doubled the external debt as expressed in the local currency. The State was forced to double the amount of revenues set aside for repayment of the external debt in foreign currencies. As a result, in 1932, Greece had to partially suspend repayment of the debt.

Once again, if we focus on Greece while isolating her from the international context, we are likely to wrongly interpret what has taken place, just as a great many commentators have done. Yet it needs to be kept in mind that in 1932 the UK, France, Belgium, Italy and other countries also decided to suspend repayment of war debts between themselves and the USA. Germany suspended repayment of its debt to private creditors starting in February 1932 and, in May 1933, announced suspension of payments to all creditors. Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Yugoslavia were also in suspension of payment. Not to mention fourteen Latin American countries. What is systematically ignored by the dominant media is the fact that even after the moratorium decreed by Greece in 1932, she continued to make debt repayments under the tutelage of the IFC.

The International Financial Commission’s effects 

The daily Le Monde, cited earlier, says about the IFC’s actions: “In spite of everything, the result is far from being negative: It assisted a young Greece in taking control over its tax revenues and limiting the misappropriation of foreign capital by the local elite. It also contributed to the establishment of reforms that were indispensable for the country’s modernisation.” How is it possible for someone to write such a thing? The IFC exercised a true, permanent diktat over Greece’s finances for the benefit of the creditors, which prevented Greece from defining a development project and kept the country under the yoke of structural subordination.
According to Meyer, Reinhart and Trebesch, the actual yield obtained by the holders of Greek securities purchased abroad and denominated in foreign currencies and which were in suspension of payment at one time or another is between +1% and +5%. That’s a pretty high yield for the government bonds of a country that has the reputation of being a poor payer! How can this positive yield be explained? The actual interest rates were high, the debt stock was not reduced and, despite the repeated periods of suspension of payment, the country most often continued the repayments. As a matter of fact, even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Greece, even though officially in partial suspension of payment, devoted a third of her revenues to debt repayment, which corresponds to 9% of Greece’s GDP, while during the same period Romania and Bulgaria were devoting, respectively, 2.3% and 3% of their GDP to debt service.

Conclusions

The analysis conducted in this article is not aimed at exonerating Greece’s governments and dominant class of their responsibilities. Quite to the contrary, the decision made by the successive Greek governments and by the dominant class to cave in to the requirements of the creditors and the major powers had terrible consequences for the Greek people. The Greek capitalist class, who were specialists in the realm of finance and international trade, constituted a bourgeoisie that was largely deterritorialised and never had either a true national project nor the will to promote development based on a real industrial fabric. Due to this very fact, its interests were inextricably linked to the interest of the country’s creditors. At times it even constituted a large percentage of the totality of those creditors, which explains its complicity with the representatives of the creditor powers. This is a constant fact from the 19th century up to today.

During the period we have examined here, Greece has constantly been dominated by foreign European powers. Foreign debt has been a permanent weapon used to exercise that domination. Yet as we see, that debt was clearly illegitimate, odious, illegal and unsustainable.

We’ve also seen that the successive debt crises are very closely linked to the international context and that many other peripheral countries have been subjected to the same treatment. The analysis must therefore be pursued in other areas of the world and justice must be done for all peoples subjected to debt.

Bibliography for Part Two: 
- Beloyannis, Nikos, Foreign Capital in Greecehttp://iskra.gr/index.php?option=co…
- Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt, Preliminary Report of the Truth Committee on Public Debt, Athens, 2015 http://cadtm.org/Preliminary-Report-of-the-Truth
- Delorme, Olivier. 2013. La Grèce et les Balkans, du Ve siècle à nos jours, 3 volumes, Gallimard, Paris, 2013
- Driault, Edouard and Lhéritier, Michel. 1926. Histoire diplomatique de la Grèce de 1821 à nos jours, 5 volumes, Presses universitaires de France (PUF), Paris, 1926.
- Levandis, John A. 1944. The Greek Foreign Debt and the Great Powers, 1821-1898, New York: Columbia University Press.
- Luxemburg, Rosa. 1913. The Accumulation of Capital, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1951
- Mandel, Ernest. 1972. Late Capitalism, New Left Books, London 1975
- Mandel, Ernest. 1978. Long Waves of Capitalist Development, The Marxist Interpreta­tion, Based on the Marshall Lectures given at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Press and Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, 141 p.
- Marichal, Carlos. 1989. A Century of Debt Crises in Latin America, Prince­ton, Princeton University Press, 283 p.
- Marx-Engels, La crise, col. 10/18, Union générale d’éditions, 1978, 444 p
- French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Arrangement financier avec la Grèce : travaux de la Commission internationale chargée de la préparation du projet, Paris, 1898, 223 pages. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bp…
- Pantelakis Nikos, “Crédits et rapports franco-helléniques 1917-1928”, in Actes du colloque tenu en novembre 1989 à Thessalonique, Institut d’histoire des conflits contemporains, Paris 1992
- Reinhardt, Carmen and Rogoff, Kenneth, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Princeton University Press, 2011.
- Reinhardt, Carmen M., and Sbrancia, M. Belen. 2015 “The Liquidation of Government Debt” Economic Policy, no. 82: 291-333
- Reinhardt, Carmen and Trebesch, Christoph. 2015. The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015
- Sack, Alexander Nahum. 1927. Les effets des transformations des États sur leurs dettes publiques et autres obligations financières, Recueil Sirey, Paris.
- Tsoucalas, Constantine. 1969. The Greek Tragedy, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth.

Translated by Snake Arbusto, Mike Kolikowski and Vicki Briault Manus

Acknowledgements: The author’s thanks for review and suggestions go to: Thanos Contargyris, Olivier Delorme, Pierre Gottiniaux, Jean-Marie Harribey, Daphne Kioussis, Damien Millet, Nikos Pantelakis, Claude Quémar, Patrick Saurin, Yannis Thanassekos, Eleni Tsekeri.

The author accepts full responsibility for any errors that may occur in this work.

Footnotes

|1| See the first part of this series for an analysis of Greek debts and the 1878 agreements, http://cadtm.org/Newly-Independent-Greece-had-an

|2http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/arti… (in French)

|3http://www.bilan.ch/argent-finances… (in French)

|4| In rhetoric, an oxymoron, from the Greek ὀξύμωρος (oxúmōros – de ὀξύς, “sharp, spiritual, witty” and from μωρός, “silly, stupid”, to signify “clever stupid”) is a stylistic device that brings together two terms (a noun and an adjective) of opposing signification in an apparently contradictory form, such as: a bright obscurity or a murky transparency.

|5| Amongst the classical authors, see on imperialism: Rudolf Hilferding (Finance Capital, 1910), Rosa Luxemburg (The Accumulation of Capital, 1913), Vladimir Lenin (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916), Nicolai Bukharin (Imperialism and World Economy, 1915), Ernest Mandel (Late Capitalism, 1972), Samir Amin (Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism) New York: Monthly Review Press.

|6| See Carmen M. Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch: The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015, p. 24. Greece received £1.3 million in 1824-1825; in 1878, she agreed to repay £1.2 million plus interest.

|7| See Louise Abellard, “L’Empire Ottoman face à une ‘Troika’ franco-anglo-allemande : retour sur une relation de dépendance par l’endettement” (The Ottoman Empire and the British-French-German Troika: an enquiry into debt dependency), 17 October 2013, (trans. CADTM) http://cadtm.org/L-Empire-Ottoman-face-a-une-troika(in French)

|8| See: http://cadtm.org/Newly-Independent-Greece-had-an

|9| See: http://cadtm.org/Newly-Independent-Greece-had-an

|10| See Marichal, Carlos. 1989. A Century of Debt Crises in Latin America, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 283 p. Chapter 6.

|11| See Carmen M. Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch: The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015, p. 25.

|12| See Edouard Driault and Michel Lhéritier, Histoire diplomatique de la Grèce de 1821 à nos jours (The Diplomatic History of Greece from 1821 to Today) (in French), Presses universitaires de France (PUF), 1926, 5 tomes. The 56% figure is taken from Tome IV, p. 296. The description of the Greek situation is very interesting.

|13| Idem, Tome IV, p. 301.

|14| This thesis is well-argued by Edouard Driault and Michel Lhéritier, in Tome IV, p. 385 and following. The two authors tell a very detailed version of the conflict and its outcome. cf. chapter VII.

|15| See the peace treaty and numerous annexes (all in French): http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bp…

|16| TAIPED is the Greek acronym of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund created by the Troika in 2010 to organize privatization. The funds thus garnered are to be used entirely for debt repayment.

|17Arrangement financier avec la Grèce, travaux de la Commission internationale chargée de la préparation du projet / French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Paris, 1898, p. 33. (in French only).

|18| Translation: CADTM

|19| From the end of the 1890s Germany was Greece’s principal export partner.

|20| See Carmen M. Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch, The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015, p. 15.

|21| See Table 9 from Carmen M. Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch, The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015, p. 14

|22| Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé, “Livres Jaunes” in Le Figaro, 2 May 1898

|23| According to Driault and Lhéritier, whose conclusions are based on other serious work, the Greek securities issued in France were purchased almost exclusively by Greeks residing in France and not by the French. See Edouard Driault and Michel Lhéritier, Histoire diplomatique de la Grèce de 1821 à nos jours, Presses universitaires de France (PUF), 1926, tome IV, p. 304, note 1.

|24| All passages in italics are taken from: Constantine Tsoucalas, The Greek Tragedy, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 1969.

|25| This question of what is known as the “Asia Minor catastrophe” is still the subject of intense debate today, both in the public sphere and among historians who have deconstructed the official narrative.

|26| There is not space enough here for a critical analysis of the debts demanded of Greece by the Allied powers following the First World War, but the author feels that a large share of these debts may be considered illegitimate. For an introduction to the problem, see Nikos Pantelakis, “Crédits et rapports franco-helléniques 1917-1928” in Actes du colloque tenu en novembre 1989 à Thessalonique, Institut d’histoire des conflits contemporains, Paris 1992 (in French).

|27| The Gold Standard is a monetary system in which the unit of account or monetary standard corresponds to a fixed quantity of gold. Advocates of the Gold Standard feel that it improves resistance to the expansion of credit and of debt. Unlike a fiat currency, a currency backed by gold cannot be issued arbitrarily by a government. Beginning in 1929 and the start of the Great Depression, British gold reserves were reduced to the point where the liabilities of the Bank of England were well in excess of its gold reserves. In September 1931, it decided to suspend the external convertibility of the pound and allow it it float freely. Germany, Austria and Norway followed shortly after the decision. The United States withdrew from the system in 1933.

Author

94895e0e28aa2fe25dfe55787b762569Eric Toussaint is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.

 

May 192016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

maxresdefault

Dear listeners and friends,

This week, Dialogos Radio returns after a brief hiatus! On our broadcast this week, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a timely and relevant interview with Nikos Chatziandreou of the Acropolis of Athens online campaign, for the return of the Acropolis Sculptures from the British Museum in London, to Greece.

In this week’s interview, Chatziandreou will talk about the sculptures and their historic and cultural significance, about the efforts that are taking place to secure their return and the various legal and diplomatic issues that are involved, and about his online campaign and petition calling for the sculptures’ return to Greece.

In addition, we will feature our commentary of the week segment, plus some great Greek music! All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio!

For more details, our full broadcast schedule, our podcasts and show archives, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6288.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

****************************

Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,

Αυτή την εβδομάδα, ο «Διάλογος» επανέρχεται με νέες μεταδόσεις ύστερα από ένα μικρό διάλειμμα, παρουσιάζοντας μια ενδιαφέρουσα και επίκαιρη συνέντευξη με το Νίκο Χατζηανδρέου από την διαδικτυακή καμπάνια «Acropolis of Athens», που διεκδικεί την επιστροφή των γλυπτών της Ακρόπολης από το Βρετανικό Μουσείο του Λονδίνου, στην Ελλάδα.

Στην συνέντευξη μας, ο κ. Χατζηανδρέου θα μας μιλήσει για την καμπάνια που ξεκίνησε, για την πολιτισμική και αρχαιολογική σημασία των γλυπτών, για τις κινήσεις που γίνονται σήμερα σε νομικό και διπλωματικό επίπεδο, για τα επιχειρήματα της Ελληνικής πλευράς και των Βρετανών, και για το νομικό καθεστώς των γλυπτών και άλλων παρόμοιων υποθέσεων.

Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον σχολιασμό μας για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!

Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, και το διαδικτυακό ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6278.

Φιλικά,

Διάλογος Radio & Media

May 182016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

TrumpHillary

Introduction

Over half the US electorate views the two leading candidates for the 2016 Presidential elections with horror and disdain.

In contrast, the entire corporate mass media, here and abroad, repeat outrageous virtuous claims on behalf of Hillary Clinton and visceral denunciations of Donald Trump.

Media pundits, financial, academic and corporate elites describe the prospects of her presidency as one of responsibility, national security, business prosperity and political normalcy.

In contrast, they paint billionaire Republican candidate, Donald Trump as a grave threat, likely to destroy the global economic and military order, polarize US society and destined to lead an isolated and protectionist US into deep recession.

The super-charged rhetoric, flaunting the virtues of one candidate and vices of the other, ignores the momentous consequences of the election of either candidate. There is a strong chance that the election of ultra-militarist Hillary Clinton will drive the world into catastrophic global nuclear war.

On the other hand, Trump’s ascent to the US Presidency will likely provoke unprecedented global economic opposition from the corporate establishment, which will drive the US economy into a profound depression.

These are not idle claims: The destructive consequences of either candidate’s presidency can best be understood through a systematic analysis of Mme. Clinton’s past and present foreign policies and Trump’s belief that he his the ability to transform the US from an empire to a republic.

Clinton on the Road to Nuclear War

Over the past quarter century, Hillary Clinton has promoted the most savage and destructive wars of our times. Moreover, the more directly she has been engaged in imperial policymaking, the greater her responsibility in implementing  foreign policy, the closer we have come to nuclear war.

To identify Hillary Clinton’s path to global war it is necessary to identify three crucial moments. Hillary’s bloody history can be dated initially to her de facto ‘joint Presidency’ with husband Bill Clinton (1993 – 2001).

Stage One: The Conjugal Militarist Presidency (1993 – 2001)

During Hilary Clinton’s joint presidency with William Clinton (the Billary Regime) the First Lady actively promoted an aggressive militarized takeover of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East and Eastern Africa – often under her favorite messianic doctrine of ‘humanitarian intervention and regime change’.

This justified the relentless bombing of Iraq, destroying its infrastructure and blockading its population into starvation while preparing to carve its territory into ethnic and religious divisions. Over 500,000 Iraqi children were murdered as proudly justified by then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright (1997 – 2001) and lauded by the Clintons.

In the same manner, Yugoslavia was bombed by the US humanitarian coalition air forces and cruise missiles over 1,000 times from March 24 to June 11, 2009 in the course of sub-dividing the country into five backward ‘ethnically cleansed’ mini-states. Thousands of factories, public buildings, bridges, passenger trains, radio stations, embassies, apartment complexes and hospitals were devastated; over a million victims became refugees while hundreds of thousands were wounded or killed.

The Conjugal Presidency successfully carried out the bloodiest war of aggression in Europe since the Nazi invasion during WWII, in order to subdivide an ethnically diverse and industrially advanced federation whose independent foreign policies had angered the Western corporate empire.

The Clintons launched the military invasion of Somalia (in East Africa) to impose a vassal regime, leading to the death of many thousands and a regional imperial war. Faced with desperate popular resistance from the Somalis, the Clintons were forced to withdraw US troops and bring in thousands of Sub-Saharan African and Ethiopian mercenaries – whose death would pass unnoticed among the US electorate.

From 1992 through 2001 the Clinton war machine helped set up the Yeltsin kleptocratic vassal state in Russia facilitating the greatest peace-time pillage of state resources in world history.

In the post-Soviet breakup era, over 1 trillion dollars of former public assets were seized especially by US and British-allied Zionist gangsters, Clinton-affiliated officials and ‘academics’ and Wall Street bankers.  Under Clinton’s vassalage the entire Soviet public health system was eliminated and Yeltsin’s Russia experienced a population decline of 4.3 million citizens, mostly due  to diseases, alcohol and drug toxicity, suicide, malnutrition, unemployment and loss of wages, pensions and and an unprecedented epidemic of tuberculosis and infectious diseases once thought wiped out, like syphilis and diphtheria.

Senator Hillary Clinton: War Crimes by Association- January 3, 2001 to January 21, 2009

During the George W. Bush dynastic regime, Mme. Senator Clinton supported the US war machine ‘sowing death and destruction to the four corners of the earth’ (to quote Bush Jr.), millions in Iraq and Afghanistan died or fled in terror. Bush had only deepened and expanded the mayhem that the Clinton Conjugal Presidency had begun a decade earlier.

Mme. Senator Clinton promoted the US direct and unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. Mme. Senator Clinton embraced crippling economic sanctions against Iran and she blessed Israel’s military assault against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli massacres in Lebanon.

Mme. Senator Clinton supported President Junior Bush’s aborted coup against Venezuelan President-elect Hugo Chavez (2002), a prelude to the coup attempts in Latin America that she directed later as US Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton’s Senatorial term served as a transition linking her initial joint presidential period of wars of conquest onto the next period. As US Secretary of State under President Obama she aggressively promoted global military supremacy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Naked Militarism Unleashed (2009 – 2014)

Whatever restraints Mme. Clinton faced as Senator dissolved as she ran amok during her term as Secretary of State.  Across Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, Hillary Clinton bombed, massacred and dispossessed millions of families, shredding entire societies and dismantling the institutions of organized civil life for scores of millions. She never balked at the prospect of ethnocide and even joked that NATO might become ‘Al Queda’s Air Force’ as she pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria.

A wild-eyed cackle echoed down the marbled corridors as the Foggy Bottom turned into a psycho-ward.

Mme. Secretary promoted the terror mercenary brigades invading Syria in a bid to ‘regime change’ the secular government of Al Assad, driving several million  Syrian refugees into flight. Entire ancient Syrian Christian communities were wiped out under her reign of ‘regime change’.

Mme. Secretary Clinton directed US air force bombers and missiles to buttress the despotic Saudi monarch’s drive to obliterate Yemen.

Clinton unleashed the most savage bombing against Libya destroying the country and leading to the ethnic cleansing of a million and a half of Sub-Sahara workers and Black Libyans of sub-Saharan descent.

Under the aegis of murderous jihadi warlords and tribal chiefs, Mme. Clinton joked over the torture death of the wounded captive President Gaddafi, whose nauseating, almost pornographic murder by anal impalement was documented as a kind of ‘regime-change’ snuff film. Less known is the earlier, almost Old Testament-type slaughter of several of Gadhafi’s non-political children and five small grandchildren by a deliberate US missile strike aimed at ‘teaching the dictator’ that even his smallest grandchild cannot be hidden.

Mme. Clinton, who bragged that her Biblical role-model is the ethnocidal Queen Ester, has declared unconditional support for Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and among the diaspora. Hillary endorsed and defended Israeli torture and prison camps for children, the elderly and the homeless.

Mme. Secretary sent her criminal sub-secretary Victoria Nuland (an unreconstructed Neo-Con holdover from the Bush Administration) to orchestrate the violent putsch in the Ukraine. Millions from Ukraine’s huge ethnic Russian population were dispossessed from the Donbas region. Mme. Clinton had sought to convert Russian strategic military assets in Crimea to US-NATO bases aimed at Moscow, causing the residents of Crimea to overwhelmingly reject the coup and vote to re-join Russia.

The forceful intervention  by Russian President Vladimir Putin prevented Mme. Clinton’s ethnic cleansing power grab in Crimea and the Donbas. The US retaliated by pushing for massive European Union economic sanctions against Russia.

Consistent with her pitiless Biblical role model, Mme. Clinton openly threatened to obliterate Iran with a nuclear war and incinerate 76 million Iranians to please her Uncle Netanyahu – a demented process that would poison a hundred million Arabs and perhaps a few million Israelis. Even the insane Israeli ‘Samson option’ was never dreamt of being ordered from Washington, DC!

During her tenure as Secretary of State, Mme. Clinton actively obstructed any diplomatic moves to achieve a US-Iran agreement on nuclear technology, parroting the Israeli militarist solution against regional rivals!

Mme. Clinton has remained an unrepentant enemy to the emerging independent Latin American governments. In search of vassal states, Clinton promoted successful military coups in Honduras and Paraguay, but was defeated in Venezuela. She proudly touts the death squad regime in Honduras among her foreign policy successes.

Mme. Hillary backed the death squad and narco-regimes in Colombia and Mexico, which killed over a hundred thousand civilians.

On the path to global war, Mme. Militarist has prepared to encircle Russia, stationing nuclear weapons in the Balkans and Poland. She promised that missiles would be placed in south central Europe and Ukraine.

Clinton raised the nuclear ante by hysterically claiming that the elected Russian President Vladimir Putin was ‘worse than ISIS’… ‘worse’ than Hitler.

Repeatedly threatening global war and actually making aggressive regional war should clearly have marked Mme. Hillary Clinton as unfit for the Presidency of the United States. She is politically, intellectually and emotionally unable to deal realistically with an independent Russia and any other independent power, including China and Iran. Her monomania is a course of violent ‘regime changes’, unable to evaluate any of the catastrophes her policymaking has in fact already produced.

Hillary Clinton was the proud author and director of the so-called US ‘pivot to Asia’. Clinton’s ‘pivot’ has led to a massive buildup of the US air and naval forces surrounding China’s maritime routes to its global markets and access to essential raw materials.

Clinton’s hyper-militarism expanded US war zones to cover Australia, Japan and the Philippines, greatly heightening tensions and increasing the possibility of a military provocation leading to nuclear war with China.

No US presidential contender, past or present, has engaged in more offensive wars, in a shorter time, uttering greater nuclear threats than Mme. Hillary Clinton. That she has not yet set off the nuclear holocaust is probably a result of the Administrative constraints imposed on the Mme. Secretary of State by the less blood-thirsty President Obama. These limitations will end if and when Mme. Hillary Clinton is ‘elected’ President of the United States in a process that the electorate increasingly knows is ‘rigged’ toward that outcome.

Donald Trump: the Peaceful Road to Recession

In sharp contrast to the militarist Mme. Clinton, Donald Trump, ‘the Businessman’, has adopted a relatively peaceful approach to international politics for an American presidential candidate in the current era.

Businessman’ Trump envisions productive negotiations with Russian President Putin. Employing his loudly trumpeted deal-making genius to benefit the United States, Trump predicts economic and diplomatic successes with Russia, China and other major powers.

Angered at US military allies enjoying decades of US Treasury largesse, a President Trump promises to withdraw US military bases from Asia and Europe and demanding that overseas allies ‘pony-up’ for their own defense.

What the war mongers in the mass media, academia and Washington bureaucracy, dismiss as ‘Trump’s isolationism’, The Businessman describes as rebuilding America by converting overseas military spending into domestic infrastructure projects and ‘real’ jobs in America.

Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, under his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan, does not envision wars of conquest against Muslim countries, especially since they have already led to massive floods of Muslim refugees, threatening trade and stability, and Trump opposition to the entry of more Muslim refugees into the US.  Trump’s foreign policy of limited military goals and warfare is diametrically opposed to Clinton’s total war strategy. Trump, ridiculed by his rivals for ‘his small hands’, does not appear to have Hillary’s itchy trigger finger on the nuclear button!

Trump mouths contradictory economic statements, especially his proposals to “rebuild America”, while operating in the framework of an imperial system. As President of the United States, his protectionist policies will come into direct confrontation with US and global ‘finance and monopoly capitalism’ and will likely lead to systematic disinvestment and a disastrous economic collapse or, more likely, the Businessman-President’s capitulation to the status quo.

The problem is not Trump’s pledges to tax the rich (as he occasionally promises), or expand Social Security (as he claims), but his failure to admit that these policies would lead to massive flight by the capitalist elite to avoid taxes. The major threat is that, if Trump follows-up on his America-First policies, there will  be massive capital resistance and a Congressional revolt by both finance-dominated political parties, which will paralyze any hope for his economic agenda.

Without political independence to implement his domestic economic agenda, Trump will have to face a massive investment and lending revolt from capitalists and bankers who would be very willing to drive the fragile economy into a major recession – threatening a kind of ‘domestic economic sabotage’.

Trump’s Republican Party (and certainly the Democrats) will never support a program which will force multi-national capital to sacrifice its reliance on cheap overseas labor and double digit profits in order to create American jobs and employ American workers at living wages.

A President Trump would not even secure a handful of Congressional votes to increase taxes on plutocrats to fund his proposed large-scale public works, infrastructure and job creation projects.

The Businessman President would face the full fury of the powerful military-industrial-high tech complex if and when he attempted to retire US global military forces from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The non-politician Trump’s historic rise to national political prominence has its roots in the ideas and values of the majority of working people who have been marginalized to the fringes by the media moguls and Wall Street riffraff. Today Trump’s themes and ideas resonate with the mainstream of voters.

Several dominant ideas circulate in his speeches and interviews.

First, Trump rejects ‘globalization’ (the watered-down PR term for imperialism) and ‘free trade’ (a euphemism for the transfer of profits extracted from US workers to business investment abroad).

Trump’s narrative resonates with the recent anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy’ movements opposing the power of 0.1% super rich against the vast majority.

Secondly, Trump embraces economic nationalism in his slogan “Make American Great Again”. Too many American workers and their families resent having been exploited, maimed and slaughtered to serve multiple wars in the Middle East, Asia and Europe for the interests of US warlords, bankers, Zionists and other imperial royalties. Trump argues that the entire inflated security and corporate welfare system has led to an untenable debt payments spiral.

The third theme that draws millions is Trump’s notion that the US should reject the policy of serial ‘regime change’. We should not initiate and engage in perpetual overseas wars against Muslim countries as a way to avoid domestic attacks by individual terrorists. During an early foreign policy debate, Trump shocked the political establishment when he accused the Bush Administration of deliberately lying the country into the disastrous invasion of Iraq. This ‘truth-telling’ elicited wild applause from the mass Republican electorate.

Trump’s goal is to strengthen American civilization and avoid provoking more ‘clashes of civilizations’…

The fourth, and probably most attractive, message to most Americans is Trump’s powerful assault on Washington and Wall Street elites and their academic and media apologists.

Millions of Americans have been disgusted with the Bushes, Clintons and Obamas, as well as the Morgans, Goldman Sachs and Paulsons, whose policies have exacerbated class inequalities through multiple banking swindles and financial crashes, all ‘bailed out’ by the American tax payers.

Fifth, Trump’s loud, brash exposure of the mass media’s lies and propaganda has resonated with the same deep distrust felt by the American public. His talent for talking directly and bluntly to the public and on the internet has led to his enormous appeal. He does not engage in ‘conspiracy’ but acknowledges that the Edward Snowden revelations have unmasked the government’s deceptions and its program of espionage against the people, destroying the foundations for democratic discourse.

Trump might win the election based on his ‘five truths’ and his pledge to ‘make America great again’, but more likely he will lose because he has insulted the traditional establishment, the Latinos, Afro-Americans, feminists, trade union bureaucrats and their followers from both parties. Even if he succeeds at the ballot box, his political agenda with relying on Republican elites in Washington and Wall Street, the Pentagon and the ‘international security system’ will lead to a major economic crisis. For the elite, if blocking Trump’s domestic economic agenda requires a financial crash to defend ‘globalization’, serial wars and the 0.1%, then tighten your belts!

This November, the country will face the disagreeable choice between a proven nuclear warmonger and a captive of Wall Street. I will try to keep warm, roast chestnuts and avoid thinking about Mme. President’s Looming Mushroom Cloud.

May 172016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Amerique_latine-Empire-US

Post-colonial empires are complex organizations.  They are organized on a multi-tiered basis, ranging from relative autonomous national and regional allies to subservient vassal states, with variations in between.

In the contemporary period, the idea of empire does not operate as a stable global structure, though it may aspire and strive for such. While the US is the major imperial power, it does not dominate some leading global political-economic and military powers, like Russia and China.

Imperial powers, like the US, have well-established regional satellites but have also suffered setbacks and retreats from independent local economic and political challengers.

Empire is not a fixed structure rigidly embedded in military or economic institutions. It contains sets of competing forces and relations, which can change over time and circumstances. Moreover, imperial allies and clients do not operate through fixed patterns of submission. While there is submission to general agreements on ideology, military doctrine and economic policy identified with imperial rulers, there are cases of vassal states pursuing their own links with non-imperial markets, investors and exporters.

If the global world of imperial power is complex and indeterminate to some degree, so is the internal political, economic, administrative and military structure of the imperial state. The imperial political apparatus has become more heavily weighted on the side of security institutions, than diplomatic and representative bodies. Economic institutions are organized for overseas markets dominated by multi-national corporations against local markets and producers ‘Market economy’ is a misnomer.

Military-security institutions and budgets utilize most state functionaries and public resources, subordinating markets and diplomatic institutions to military priorities.

While imperial state operations function through their military and civilian administrative apparatus, there are competitive socio-political-class, ethnic and military configurations to consider.

In analyzing the effective or ‘real power’ of the principle institutions of the imperial state, one must distinguish between goals and results, purpose and actual performance. Often commentators make sweeping statements about ‘imperial power and dominance’, while in fact, some policies may have ended in costly losses and retreats due to specific national, local or regional alignments.

Hence it is crucial to look closely at the imperial interaction between its various tiers of allies and adversaries in order to understand the immediate and long-term structures and direction of imperial state policy.

This essay will first describe the leader-follower imperial relationships in four zones: US-Western Europe-Canada, Asia-Pacific, Middle East-Africa and Latin America and identify the terrain of struggles and conflict. This will be followed by an examination of the contemporary ‘map of empire’. We will then contrast the alignment of forces between Western imperial allies and their current adversaries. In the final section we will look at the sources of fragmentation between the imperial state and economic globalization as well as the fissures and fallout between imperial allies and followers.

Tiers of Imperial Allies in the West

Western imperialism is a complex pyramidal structure where the dominant United States interacts through a five-tier system. There is a vertical and horizontal configuration of leader and follower states that cannot be understood through simplistic ‘solar system’ metaphors of ‘centers, semi-peripheries and peripheries’.

Western imperial power extends and overlaps from the first tier to the second, that is, from the United States to France, England, Germany, Italy and Canada. The scope and depth of US military, bureaucratic, political and economic institutions form the framework within which the followers operate.

The second tier of empire ties the top tier to the bottom tiers by providing military support and economic linkages, while securing autonomous levers to enlarge its own geo-political spheres.

The third tier of imperialism in the West comprises Poland, Scandinavia, the Low Countries and Baltic States. These are geographically and economically within the sphere of Western Europe and militarily dependent on US-NATO military dominance. The third tier is a heterogeneous group, ranging from highly advanced and sophisticated welfare-states like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium to relatively backward Baltic dependencies like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and Poland. They exercise few independent power initiatives and depend on protection from the Tier 1 and 2 imperial centers.

Tier four’ states include countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.  These are essentially satellite nations, who follow the leader imperial countries, providing bases, troops and tourist resorts. In general, they have no independent voice or decision-making presence in regional or global conflicts. Despite their instability and the occasional outbursts of radical dissent, the lower tier countries have yet to break with the higher tiers controlled by the EU and NATO hierarchy.

The fifth-tier satellites include recently fabricated mini-states like Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia, which act as military bases, tourist havens and economic dependencies. They are the outcome of the first-tier and second-tier policies of ‘regime change’ and state dismemberment through NATO-led wars designed to destroy any remnant of the multi-ethnic social welfare states and degrade Russian influence, especially in Yugoslavia.

Mapping the leader-follower structure of the Western empire depends on the distribution of military resources and their location along the Russian border. The US-EU Empire faces the problem of meeting rising economic demands from the multi-tiered empire, which has exceeded their capacity. This had led to shifting trade alliances and independent pressure to ‘go beyond’ the dictates of the imperial leaders.

Leader imperial states have tightened economic and political control over their followers – especially when the military consequences of empire have disrupted everyday life, security and the economy. An ongoing example is the flood of millions of desperate refugees entering Europe, as a result of US imperial war policies in the Middle East and North Africa. This mass influx threatens the political and social stability of Europe. Following the US putsch in the Ukraine and the inevitable response from Moscow, Washington ordered an economic blockade of Russia. The economic consequences of US-imposed sanctions against the giant Russian market has severely affected European exports, especially agriculture and heavy industry and caused instability in the energy market which was dominated by the now banned Russian petroleum and gas producers.

The Eastern Imperial Empire

The US imperial design in East Asia is vastly different in structure, allies and adversaries from that in the West. The leaders and followers are very heterogeneous in the East. The multi-tier US Empire in Asia is designed to undermine and eventually dominate North Korea and China.

Since the Second World War, the US has been the center of the Pacific empire. It also suffered serious military setbacks in Korea and Indo-China. With the aid of its multi-tiered auxiliaries, the US has recovered its influence in Indo-China and South Korea.

The US position, as the first-tier imperial power, is sustained by second-tier imperial allies, such as Australia, New Zealand, India and Japan.

These second-tier allies are diverse entities. For example, the Indian regime is a reticent latecomer to the US Empire and still retains a higher degree of autonomy in dealing with China. In contrast, while Australia and New Zealand retained their dependent military ties with the US, they are increasingly dependent on Chinese commodity markets and investments.

Japan, a powerful traditional economic ally of the US, remains a weak military satellite of the US-Asian Empire.

Third-tier countries include South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. South Korea is the US’s most important military dependency, despite which it has moved steadily closer to the Chinese market, as has the populous Indonesian Republic.

Taiwan, while a military dependency of the US, has stronger ethnic and economic links to China than the US.

The Philippines is a backward US military vassal-state and former colony, which retains its legacy as an imperial enclave against China. Thailand and Malaysia have remained as third-tier imperial auxiliaries, subject to occasional nationalist or democratic popular upsurges.

The fourth-tier countries within US East Asian Empire are the least reliable because they are relatively ‘new associates’. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have transformed from independent statist economies to US-Japanese and Chinese-centered markets, financial and military dependencies.

The US Empire has focus on confronting China through its military, controlling its South China trading routes and trying to form regional economic trade agreements, which exclude China. However, the imperial multi-tiered structure has been mostly limited to various US military harassment and joint ‘war games’ exercises with its clients and ‘allies’. This has had minimal economic input from even their closest allies. The US Eastern Empire has lost significant economic counterparts because of its confrontational approach to China. Its provocative trade-pacts have failed to undermine China’s dynamic economy and trade.

The US Eastern Empire may dominate its multi-tiered allies, vassals and recent converts through its military. It may succeed in provoking a serious military confrontation with China. But it has failed to re-establish a dominant structure within Asia to sustain US imperial superiority in the event of a war.

China drives the growth and dynamism of Asia and is the vital market for regional products as well as a crucial supplier of minerals, precious metals, industrial products, high tech and service activity throughout the region.

The US has occasionally turned to its  ‘fifth-tier’ allies among non-state entities in Tibet and Hong Kong and among ethno-Islamist terrorist-separatist groups in Western China, using ‘human rights’ propaganda, but these have had no significant impact in weakening China or undermining its regional influence.

The Eastern Empire can wield none of the economic leverage in China that the Western empire has with Russia. China has established more effective economic relations in Asia than Russia has with the West. However, Russia has greater military capability and a more committed political will to push back Western imperial military threats than China. In recent years, Beijing has adopted a policy of strengthening its high tech military and maritime capabilities. In the wake of the US putsch in the Ukraine and the West’s economic sanctions against Russia, Moscow has been forced to bolster strategic military-economic ties with China. Joint security exercises between Russia and China, as well as greater trade, pose formidable counter-weights to the multi-tiered alliances linking the US and EU to Japan, Australia and South Korea.

In other words, the diverse geographic multi-tiered US imperial structures in the East do not and cannot, dominate a strategic top-tiered alliance of Russia and China, despite their lack of other strong military allies and client states.

If we look beyond European and Asian spheres of Empire to the Middle East and Latin America, the US imperial presence is subject to rapidly evolving power relations. We cannot simply add or subtract from the US and Russian and Chinese rivalries, because these do not necessarily add up to a new ‘imperial’ or ‘autonomous’ center of power.

Imperial Power in the Middle East: The Multi-Tiered Empire in Retreat

The US imperial empire in the Middle East occupies a pivotal point between West and East; between the top and secondary tiers of empire; between Islamic and anti-Islamic alliances.

If we extend the ‘Middle East’ to include South Asia and North Africa we capture the dimensions of the Western imperial quest for supremacy.

The imperial empire in the Middle East reflects US and Western European tiers of power as they interact with local counterparts and satellite states.

The US-EU top tiers link their goals of encircling and undermining Russia and regional adversaries, like Iran, with the regional ambitions of their NATO ally, Turkey.

Imperial powers in the Middle East and North Africa operate through local allies, auxiliaries and satellites as they compete for territorial fragments and power bases following the US ‘wars for regime changes’.

With the US at the top, the European Union, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia comprise the second-tier allies. Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and Jordan, which are financial and political dependencies of the empire, rank as third-tier. The fourth-tier includes the Gulf states, the Kurd war lords, Lebanese and Yemeni local puppets of the Saudi Monarchy and Israel’s client Palestinian Bantustan in the West Bank.

Saudi and Western-funded regional terrorist groups aspire to fourth-tier membership following a successful ‘regime change’ and territorial fragmentation in Syria.

The terrorist enclaves are located in Syria, Iraq and Libya and play a ‘specific and multi-purpose’ role in undermining adversaries in order to restore imperial dominance.

The Middle East Empire is the least stable region and the most susceptible to internal rivalries.

Israel exercises a unique and unrivaled voice in securing US financial and military resources and political support for its brutal colonial control over Palestine and Syrian territories and captive populations. Saudi Arabia finances and arms autonomous Islamist terrorist groups as part of their policy of advancing the kingdom’s political- territorial designs in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Gulf. Turkey has its own regional ambitions and terrorist mercenaries. Within this volatile context, the US Empire finds itself competing with its auxiliaries for control over the same Middle East clients.

The Middle East Empire is fraught with powerful adversaries at each point of contention. The huge, independent nation of Iran stands as a powerful obstacle to the West, Saudis, and Israel and competes for influence among satellites in the Gulf, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Hezbollah, a powerful nationalist group within Lebanon, has played a crucial role defending Syria against dismemberment and is linked with Iran against Israeli intervention. Russia has military and trade relations with Syria and Iran in opposition to the Western imperial alliance. Meanwhile, the US imperial satellite states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt are rapidly disintegrating in the face of gross corruption, Islamist resurgence, policy incompetence and economic crises.

To speak formally of a ‘Western imperial empire’ in vast sections of the Middle East and North Africa is a misnomer for several reasons:

In Afghanistan, the Nationalist-Islamist Taliban and its allies control most of the country except for a few garrison cities.

Yemen, Libya and Iraq are battleground states, contested terrain with nothing remotely resembling a functioning imperial domain. Iraq is under siege from the North by Kurds, the center by ISIS, the South by nationalist Shi’a militias and mass organizations in contention with grossly corrupt US imperial-backed puppets in Baghdad.

The US-EU mercenaries in Syria have been defeated by Syrian-Russian-Hezbollah-Iranian forces aided by independent Kurds.

Israel behaves more like a militarist ‘settler’ predator usurping historical Palestine than a reliable imperial collaborator.

So far, the empire project in the Middle East and North Africa has been the costliest and least successful for Western imperialism. First and foremost, responsibility for the current Middle East imperial debacle falls directly on the top tier political and military leaders who have pursued policies and strategies (regime change and national dismemberment) incompatible with imperial precepts that normally guide empires.

The top tier of the US imperial-military elite follows Israeli military prerogatives, as dictated by the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) embedded within the US state apparatus. Their policy has been to destroy Islamic and Arab-nationalist structures and institutions of power – not conquer and reconfigure them to be absorbed into Western imperial institutions . . . as the US was able to do in Asia and Europe. This parrots the Israeli- settler policy of ‘erasure’ and has made the region totally unstable for imperial trade. The wanton dismemberment of the whole social-political-security institutional structure of Iraq is a prime example of the Israeli policy of ‘erasure’ promoted by US Zionist advisers on a grand scale. The same advisers remain within the top tier imperial decision-making apparatus despite 15 years of abject failure.

Western empire’s multi-tier structure, from the US and Western Europe at the top to Kosovo at the bottom, have followed imperial imperatives. In contrast Israeli imperatives direct US military power into perpetual war in the Middle East through the influential ZPC.

This divergent path and the inability to change course and rectify imperial policy has brought disastrous defeats, which have repercussions throughout the global empire, especially freeing up competitors and rivals in Asia and Latin America.

Tiers of Empire in Latin America

The US imperial empire expanded in Central America and the Caribbean during most of the 19th century and reigned supreme in the first half of the 20th century. The exceptions included the nationalist revolutions in Haiti in the early 19th century and Paraguay in the mid-19th century. After the US Civil War, the British Empire in Latin America was replaced by the US, which established a dominant position in the region, except during the successful Mexican Revolution.

Several major challenges have emerged to US imperial dominations in the middle of the 20th century.

The centerpiece of anti-imperialism was the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which provided political, ideological and material backing to a continent-wide challenge.  Earlier a socialist government emerged in Guyana in 1953 but was overthrown.

In 1965, the Dominican Revolution challenged a brutal US backed-dictator but was defeated by a direct US invasion.

In 1970-73 a democratic socialist government was elected in Chile and overthrown by a bloody CIA coup.

In 1971 a ‘workers and peasants’ coalition backed a nationalist military government in Bolivia only to be ousted by a US-backed military coup.

In Argentina (Peron), Brazil (Goulart) and Peru (Alvarez), nationalist-populist governments, opposed to US imperialism, were elected between the middle 1960’s to the mid 1970’s. Each were overthrown by US-military coups. Apart from the Cuban revolution, the US Empire successfully counter-attacked, relying on US and local business elites to back the military juntas in repressing anti-imperialist and nationalist political parties and movements.

The US Empire re-established its hegemony, based on a multi-tiered military and market directorate, headed at the top by the US. Argentina, Brazil and Chile comprised the second-tier, a group of military dictatorships engaged in large-scale state terror and death squad assassinations and forcing hundreds of thousands into exile and prison.

The third-tier was based on US surrogates, generals and oligarch-families in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The fourth-tier of satellite regimes included Central-America, except Nicaragua, and all of the Caribbean, except Cuba and (briefly) Grenada.

The US Empire ruled through predator allies and satellite oligarchs and successfully imposed a uniform imperial structure based on neoliberal policies. US-centered regional trade, investment and military pacts ensured its imperial supremacy, through which they sought to blockade and overthrow the Cuban revolution. The US imperialist system reached its high point between the mid-1970’s to the late 1990’s – the Golden Age of Plunder. After the pillage of the 1990’s, the empire faced a massive wave of challenges from popular uprisings, electoral changes and the collapse of the corrupt auxiliary neo-liberal regimes.

The US imperial empire faced powerful challenges from popular-nationalist regimes from 1999 to 2006 in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador. Dissident liberal-nationalist governments in Uruguay, Honduras and Paraguay posed their own challenges to imperial control.

The US empire was bogged down in multiple imperial wars in the Middle East (Iraq, Libya, Syria) Asia (Afghanistan) and Europe (Ukraine, Georgia, Yugoslavia), which undermined its capacity to intervene militarily in Latin America.

Cuba, the hemispheric center of the anti-imperialist politics, received economic aid from Venezuela and strengthened its diplomatic, trade and security alliances with the anti-interventionist center-left. This provided an impetus to the formation of independent regional trade organizations, which traded heavily with US imperial rivals, China, Iran and Russia during the ‘commodity boom’.

While the US imperial empire in Latin America was in retreat, it had not suffered a strategic defeat because it maintained its powerful business, political and state auxiliary structures, which were ready to regroup and counter-attack at the ‘right moment’ – the end of the ‘global commodity boom’.

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the US Empire counter-attacked, with their political-military clients taking power in the weakest links, Honduras and Paraguay. Since then, neo-liberal extremists have been elected to the presidency in Argentina; a corrupt oligarch-led congress has impeached the President of Brazil; and the ground is being prepared to seize control in Venezuela.

The US Empire re-emerged in Latin America after a decade-long hiatus with a new or re-invigorated multi-tier structure.

At the top-tier is the United States, dependent on enforcement of its control through satellite military and business elites among the second-tiercountries, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

At the third-tier are Chile, Peru, Uruguay and the business-political elites in Venezuela, linked to the US and tier-two countries.

The fourth-tier is dominated by weak submissive regimes in Central America (Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), the Caribbean (especially Santa Domingo, Haiti and Jamaica) and Paraguay.

The US has re-assembled its imperial structure in Latin American rapidly, creating an assemblage which is extremely fragile, incoherent and subject to disintegration.

The new neo-liberal regime in Argentine, the centerpiece of the empire, immediately faces the triple threat of mass unrest, economic crisis and a weak regime under siege.

Brazil’s new US neo-liberal constellation of characters are all under indictment for corruption and facing trials, while economic recession and social polarization is undermining their ability to consolidate imperial control.

Venezuela’s rightwing auxiliaries lack the economic resources to escape the demise of the oil economy, hyperinflation and the virulent internecine conflicts within the Right.

The US imperial empire in Latin America could best operate through links with the Asian-Pacific trade pact. However, even with new Asian ties the Latin satellites exhibit none of their Asian counterparts’ stability. Moreover, China’s dominant economic role in both regions has limited US hegemony over the principal props of the empire.

The Myth of a US Global Empire

The ‘narrative’ of a US global empire is based on several profound misconceptions, which have distorted the capacity of the US to dominate world politics. The US regional empires operate in contested universes where powerful counter forces limit imperial dominance.

In Europe, Russia is a powerful counterforce, bolstered by its growing alliances in Asia (China), the Middle East (Iran) and, to a limited extent, by the BRIC countries.

Moreover, Washington’s multi-tiered allies in Europe have occasionally followed autonomous policies, which include Germany’s oil-gas independent agreements with Russia, eroding US efforts to undermine Moscow.

While it may appear that the ‘imperial military, banking, multi-national corporate structure’, at a high level of abstraction, operates within a common imperial enterprise, on issues of everyday policy-making, budgeting, war policies, trade agreements, diplomacy, subversion and the capitalist market-place there are multiple countervailing forces.

The empire’s multi-tiered allies have their own demands as well as sacrifices imposed on the US imperial center.

Internal members of the imperial structure define competing priorities via domestic power wielders.

The US Empire has extended its military operations to over 700 bases across the world but each operation has been subject to restraints and reversals.

US multi-nationals have multi-billion dollar operations but they are forced to adjust to the demands of counter-imperial powers (China). They evade almost a trillion dollars of US taxes while absorbing massive assets from the US Treasury in the form of subsidies, infrastructure and security arrangements.

In sum, while the sun may never set on the empire, the emperors have lost their sight.

May 072016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

march-of-tyranny-far-left

Prologue

In 2004 I wrote Brazil and Lula: Year Zero (Edifurb:  Blumenau, Sao Paolo 2005), in which I presented my analysis of the Lula-Workers Party (PT) regime in Brazil undergoing a Grand Transformation with the first stage represented by the PT’s incorporation into a government apparatus led by of bankers and exporters (the agro-mineral elite). Two year earlier, my colleague, Henry Voltmeter, and I had published Cardoso’s Brazil: A Land for Sale (Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham MD 2003) where we described how President Cardoso had sold off the major public resources, banks, petroleum and iron resources to foreign capital for rock bottom prices. The 2002 election of President Lula DaSilva of the Workers’ Party did not reverse Cardoso’s sell-out. Indeed, Lula accepted his predecessor’s neoliberal policies – embellished them – and set about forging an alliance between the Workers’ Party and the economic elites, replacing Cardoso’s Party! For the next few years, we were attacked by the Left academic and pundit world for having dared to advance such a critique on their ‘worker president’! The consequences of what we had described as the PT’s pact with the Right are clear to everyone today: Brazil is enmeshed in swindles, scandals and coups.

Introduction

The nature of the multitude is to arrive rapidly and depart swiftly”.

For more than a decade, left-wing parties, accompanied by working class trade unions and landless rural social movements, dominated Brazil, the largest country in Latin America. Their political leaders were repeatedly elected; their trade union and rural social officials secured concessions from the state; the political process followed legal procedures adjudicating its agenda with the opposition business, banking and professional parties.

We were told the days of coups and revolutions were passed. Electoral processes, honest vote counts and mutual recognition of political legitimacy precluded any violent, dismissal and ouster of the established Left political leadership.

The Rise and Fall of the Political Left

The dominance of the Left is now only a memory! Its parties are in full retreat. Its leaders are scorned, insulted and prosecuted by their former political allies. The business allies of the past are now at their throats. Those politicians, who secured government positions in return for loyalty and votes, have fled clamoring for ‘impeachment’ and claiming deceit … while seeking new sources of patronage and plunder.

The great left political leaders, who had once bragged of 53 million voters, who were hailed in the international press for their command of a huge mass base while accommodating the interest of modern trade and business, are now condemned by the capitalist media as the cause of the current economic calamity.

The popular heroes of yesterday, who shared wealth and status with their rivals in the business elite, are now ostracized and facing show-trials for corruption.

The Trade Union and Rural Workers’ Leaders

Veteran trade union and rural leaders came to the Presidential Palace to celebrate the electoral successes of the ‘worker president’.

Once blushing with flattery, these mass leaders are now dismayed that the fiesta has ended and the music has stopped, while the workers and peasants are ordered to pay for the broken dishes and start the cleanup…

The mass popular organizations are now without allies in Congress; their voices are shut out of the bourgeois media; the domestic economy has been abandoned by the market; and the masses are in the streets clamoring for retribution against the politicians betrayal. Now trade union and peasant leaders appeal for resistance and a return to class struggle; but their followers are in retreat!

Toward an Understanding of a Historical Defeat

The rise and fall of the Left is a historical reversal, which requires a systematic analysis of a disastrous strategy. The left’s defeat cannot simply be dismissed as a betrayal by treacherous allies, corrupt party officials or plots concocted by billionaires and the US Embassy, leading up to a coup via a clearly phony impeachment process. The real question to ask is: Why did the Left allow such treachery and betrayal, culminating in a legislative ‘coup d’état’, to develop unopposed leading to reversal and rout of the Left? How could a huge multi-million-person voting machine, a vast and experienced trade union apparatus and a militant rural social movement fall defeated without even a struggle?

The Strategy of the Left

The Left parties deliberately adopted a short-term strategy of accommodation with the right, in part to avoid long-term, large-scale strategic confrontations with the defeated economic elite. For their part, the parties of the Right and their US advisors patiently chose to accept the Left’s compromises and offers of cooperation, in order to prepare for a strategic offensive when the Left’s mass of support had declined.

The Left parties embraced poorly thought-out ‘short-cuts’ to governance. They occupied government posts while cutting cozy deals with all the major power brokers of the Right.

The Left signed ‘austerity’ agreements with the IMF to restrain budgets and accept debt obligations. Members of notorious rightwing and opportunistic political parties were brought into the cabinet, assigned strategic congressional leadership positions and placed on senior presidential advisory panels in exchange for their votes to approve loans, credits and regional development projects.

The Left negotiated deals with business elites, offering them generous subsidies and high profits, while restraining workers’ demands for structural changes. They viewed this accommodation as an exchange for economic growth, wage increases and trade union recognition as a legitimate power sharer.

The Left dismissed the grassroots demands for social transformation and they opposed any popular campaign to prosecute the financial elites for money laundering and white-collar crimes. Instead, they favored incremental increases in wages, poverty funds, pensions and consumer credit.

The Left ignored the reality that such arrangements with the business elites were only a temporary truce rather than a permanent, strategic alliance.

The trade unions followed the lead of the Left political leadership. They directed their mass organizations to accept negotiations based on periodic wage increases, more funds for trade union education and subsidies for new union building complexes. The trade union leaders discouraged strikes, repressed demands for public ownership and prevented any investigation into mining, banking and agro-business corruption, tax evasions and bribery. Even the well-documented wave of assassinations of landless worker activists and the naked land grabs of ‘protected’ Indian territories went unpunished.

The business elite realized they faced a potential radical mass movement, which was under the control of an elected ‘Left’ government. They were ‘delighted’ that this Left government was so willing to accommodate capitalist demands. They cautiously decided that short-term rewards and well-placed bribes would help prepare the ground for their restoration to power and reversal of the left’s concessions.

The Left rural social movements retained their radical socialist rhetoric and mass membership, but their leadership followed the Left parties in government.

In exchange for subsidies to set-up and expand community-based rural organizations and training schools for farmworkers, the social movements mobilized their mass activists to ‘turn-out the vote’ for the Left parties’ President and Congress people.

The rural movement leaders justified their accommodation with the Left- business alliance describing the Left regime as a ‘field of contention’, where they could press for radical changes. After more than a dozen years of successful mass struggle, the radical rural movement chose to ally with the Left party apparatus! Only when the ‘Left President’ was impeached did the rural workers’ leader call for the return to class struggle!

The Left’s Short Term Gains and Long Term Losses 

The political leaders on the left, as well as trade union and rural movement leaders, all believed they had a winning strategy.  They claimed their mostly superficial ‘gains’ were ‘evidence’ of their success.  These included:

(1)  Their governance for over four administrations where they increased or maintained the left’s voting majority.

(2)  ‘Pragmatic’ political alliances with parties across the spectrum – won through various forms of bribery – as a formula for winning Congressional approval for major development contracts.

(3)  Their funding of opposition allies, which attracted ‘respectability’ and enriched both Left politicians and their electoral campaigns.

(4)  The decrease in social tension achieved by recruiting business opponents and gaining support among sectors of the capitalist class.

The Left political leaders’ strategy of accommodation depended on the economic success of the mineral-oil-agriculture export elites. This ignored the business sector’s fundamental policy of cutting social and productive investments whenever markets, profits and economic opportunities declined.

When the Left regime’s public subsidies for the export industry declined following the collapse of the global commodity market, the entire capitalist elite coalesced into a virulent Rightwing opposition.

When the previous political accommodation with capital, held together by corruption and questionable subsidies became the target, the Right launched their strategic offensive.

The fact that business, banking, media and agro-mineral elites were able to join forces so quickly and launch their attack on the Left shows how they had flourished for a decade during the commodity boom.

The entire façade of a ‘broad progressive coalition’ disappeared: The trade union and rural movement structures, linked to the Left political leaders, were incapable of mobilizing their mass base and countering the insurgent Right. For over ten years, the Left regime had cut all its political deals in Congress, in the corridors of elite power, while ignoring ‘class struggle’.

This was a ‘Left’ regime, wholly dependent on market conditions and business allies. It was unable to defend any strategic ground when the Right regained its power base.

The Left regime had retained an intact and fully functioning right administrative and judicial apparatus, composed of courts and judges, the prosecutors and investigators all aligned with the Right opposition. They were ready to undermine the regime’s congressional majority by opening ‘corruption’ investigations targeting the Left. Meanwhile, the business elite managed to intensify the consequences of the economic recession and insist that ‘recovery’ meant austerity against the poor.

The Right purchased its street crowds and mobilized its party allies, including the center, the fascists, the net-militarists, the agro-business elite and the imperial and local financial press. From Sao Paulo to New York to London they were poised to forcibly oust the elected Left President from power and jail its leaders.

Conclusion

The Left believed in the myth of democratic capitalism. They had faith that their negotiations with the business elites would increase social welfare. They operated on a platform of gradual accommodation of class interests leading to multi-class alliances and strategic conciliation between business and labor.

The historical lesson has proven otherwise – again. Business and the capitalist elite make clear, tactical short-term agreements in order to prepare a strategic counter-offensive. Their patient long-term strategy was to mobilize their class allies and overturn the electoral process – at the ripe moment.

The Left parties depended on achieving a series of ‘strategic understandings with the capitalist class’ where both would benefit at a time of peak global demand for Brazil’s commodities, instead of expanding their popular mandate by transforming the economy and domestic market.

The Left behaved as if favorable world market conditions would last forever. They lost their chance to use their 53 million-voter strength and radically change the organization and ownership of Brazil’s strategic economic sectors!

In this way, the Left imitated the Right, choosing to share its power bases through accommodation with their business-partners. These were amateurs at the bourgeois power game, who found themselves entrapped in corruption and crisis! How shocking!

It was so much easier for the Left politicians to get campaign funding through the usual practice of business payola than to campaign from door to door, factory to factory, village to village, fighting repression, elite media boycotts and armed vigilantes.

In the end, their ‘power base’ dissolved and their capitalist ‘partners’ and political ‘allies’ abandoned them: the Left President was impeached.

Victorious capital and empire neatly ended this charade of ‘market democracy’. The retreating Left parties begged for a reprieve via parliamentary vote and ended with a decisive defeat … bleating their last whimper as the door slammed shut …

Capitalists have never and will never recognize weak popular opposition. The capitalist political elite will always choose power and wealth over social democracy. The Left, in retreat, isolated and expelled from the corridors of power, now face retribution from the most corrupt and treacherous of their ‘former allies’.

They usher in a lost generation.