Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* A SHORT HISTORY OF NEOLIBERALISM (AND HOW WE CAN FIX IT)
As a university lecturer I often find that my students take today’s dominant economic ideology – namely, neoliberalism – for granted as natural and inevitable. This is not surprising given that most of them were born in the early 1990s, for neoliberalism is all that they have known. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher had to convince people that there was “no alternative” to neoliberalism. But today this assumption comes ready-made; it’s in the water, part of the common-sense furniture of everyday life, and generally accepted as given by the Right and Left alike. It has not always been this way, however. Neoliberalism has a specific history, and knowing that history is an important antidote to its hegemony, for it shows that the present order is not natural or inevitable, but rather that it is new, that it came from somewhere, and that it was designed by particular people with particular interests.
For most of the 20th century, the basic policies that comprise today’s standard economic ideology would have been rejected as absurd. Similar policies had been tried before with disastrous effects, and most economists had moved on to embrace Keynesian thought or some form of social democracy.As Susan George has put it, “The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given less rather than more social protection – such ideas were utterly foreign to the spirit of the time.”
So how did things change? Where did neoliberalism come from? In the following paragraphs I offer a simple sketch of the historical trajectory that got us to where we are today. I demonstrate that neoliberal policy is directly responsible for declining economic growth and rapidly increasing rates of social inequality – both in the West and internationally – and I make a few suggestions for how to tackle these problems. […]
* ATTIC AMNESIA: THE CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN CONTEXT OF THE GREEK CATASTROPHE
By Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque
The catastrophic situation in Greece has disappeared from the headlines in recent weeks, replaced largely by lurid reports from Syria, where religious extremists aligned with al Qaeda are wreaking carnage with suicide bombers in the capital — to the cheers of America’s adamant anti-terrorists.
[Such hypocrisy doesn’t mitigate the hideousness of the current Syrian regime, of course. Why, I’m so old, I can remember when Washington sent innocent people to Assad’s torture chambers for a little outsourced “rigorous interrogation.” But as the hapless ophthalmologist teetering atop the slagheap in Damascus is now learning, no good deed — or evil favor — done on behalf of the Potomac Poobahs ever goes unpunished. Then again, the aforesaid hideousness does not gainsay the unsavouriness of the other side in the vicious Syrian civil war. I strongly recommend that readers consult As’ad AbuKhalil — the “Angry Arab” — for a clear-eyed view of both these plagued houses.)
But even though it is now off the media radar, Greece continues to groan under the draconian conditions imposed on it by Europe’s financial elite. As always, everywhere, the weakest are going to the wall: the poor, the workers, and the middle class are being brutally punished so that the rich and powerful can escape the slightest consequence for their own monumental greed, their own ravenous crimes.
Germany continues to lead the way in the harrowing of Greece, with the full backing of Washington and London, who keep chipping in with their stern condemnations of Greece’s fecklessness and lack of moral fiber. But as Richard Clogg pointed out in the London Review of Books earlier this month, this righteous hectoring by the lords of the West completely ignores the true context of the Greek catastrophe — and the atrocious modern history that lies behind it. […]
* CATALAN SOVEREIGNTY: EMANCIPATION OR POLITICS AS USUAL?
By Carlos Delclos, RoarMag
As Catalan parties square off with the federal government to claim independence from Spain, the reality of the street remains one of deferred dreams.
On 23 January 2013, the Catalan Parliament approved a so-called Declaration of Sovereignty, thus supporting the calls for independence expressed in a massive protest organized by the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya that brought Barcelona to a halt on 11 September 2012. In an uncharacteristically radical swing for a governing party that has been anything but friendly to popular demands since coming into office in November of 2011, the neoliberal Convergència i Unió party (CiU), with the support of left-wing parties favoring the right to self-determination, has opted for a policy of confrontation with the central Spanish government in Madrid.
Has the Catalan government finally caved in to the voices of the streets? Are they tuning in to some new, emancipatory potential in concepts such as sovereignty, independence or national identities? In order to answer these questions, let’s rewind a bit, see where they’re coming from and ask ourselves why it’s on the political agenda now.
The early days of the acampada at Plaza Catalunya were an astonishingly intense and productive period. To the thousands that came together to voice their indignation, the air smelled of hope, strength and solidarity (and a little bit of weed). To the kleptocratic elite throughout the Spanish state, it smelled of uncertainty, condemnation and revolt (and too much weed). As the multitude articulated their positions on an array of issues that had been sidelined for decades, new debates emerged and contrasting positions were respected in a spirit of autonomy. Yet there was one question which proved particularly difficult for the General Assembly to agree on: Catalonia’s right to self-determination.
After three days of debate, the General Assembly decided to include this basic democratic right in its demands, as had the General Assemblies of several other acampadas outside of Catalonia previously. And while the debate had been particularly draining for many of its participants, the movement came out of it stronger. Throughout the first year of the 15-M movement, Barcelona’s indignados were arguably the most radical in Spain, occupying entire housing blocks for evicted families, occupying public hospitals threatened with being closed down, and reaffirming the city’s nickname of la Rosa de Foc (“the Rose of Fire”) during the General Strike of 29 March 2011 that shut down the city. […]
* SPANISH DOCTORS, NURSES MARCH AGAINST ‘PILLAGE’ OF PRIVATIZATION, AUSTERITY
By Jon Queally, CommonDreams
‘This is pillaging of our public services, looting something we’ve all contributed to through taxes, to give it to private companies to run for profit’
Thousands of nurses, doctors and other health professionals staged protests in sixteen cities across Spain on Sunday, decrying the nation’s continued austerity policies that they say are putting real lives at risk each passing day.
Specifically, the energized protests were aimed at thwarting a proposal by the ruling rightwing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of privatizing portions of the country’s health care system.
“There is no study that shows that privatizing the management of hospitals leads to lower costs,” said Emilia Becares to Agence France Presse. The 46-year-old nurse brought her three sons, aged seven, eight and nine to the day’s protest. “This privatization hurts patients’ health care to benefit other interests.”
Civil servant Javier Tarabilla, 31, explained to the Associated Press that Spain’s welfare state was being systematically dismantled in order to be handed over to the private sector.
“This is pillaging of our public services, looting something we’ve all contributed to through taxes, to give it to private companies to run for profit,” he said.
As AFP reports, the Rajoy government has slashed “health spending by seven billion euros ($9.1 billion) a year as part of a campaign to squeeze 150 billion euros out of the crisis-racked country’s budget by 2014. […]
READ / PHOTOS @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/17-1